Death in Disguise delights


Death in Disguise slayed me with its first sentence:

“The Royal Victoria Hotel, Whitebridge, was widely considered to be a superior hotel for superior people, and most of the guests who stayed there would have thought it very bad manners to allow themselves to be murdered within its confines.”

How could I resist a mystery about a woman so gauche as to allow herself to be murdered under such circumstances?  I couldn’t.  I didn’t.  The author rewarded me, strewing the story with many delightful witticisms while weaving a complex and memorable mystery.

Make that mysteries. The fatal faux pas is one.  The victim’s identity, and her presence at the Royal Victoria and, indeed, in Lancashire itself, are others.  And they all tie into a murder committed some 54 years in the past, with the accused unsatisfyingly acquitted but not cleared of suspicion.  This ending is all a reader can expect, unmasking the identity of victims and villains in crimes old and new.

I’d not read the earlier Monika Poniatowski mysteries, nor the DCI Woodend series that preceded them, but I wasn’t lost.  The story had just enough hints of earlier events to pique my interest in the past without pulling me out of the present.  The setting is handled with equal ease. The “present day” mystery occurs in 1978, while the old murder took place in 1924. Nothing shouts nostalgia, nothing constantly reminds you that the present day is not, in fact, present, except that detecting does involve detecting and not simply forensic sciences.

All in all, this was a pleasure to read . . . good writing without gratuitous violence or embarrassing sexual encounters.  Hints of the unsavory provide a bit of spice without making the reader squirm in discomfort.  Nothing unmannerly, except murder, of course!

The hardcover edition is now on sale with a list price of $28.99 (USD) but an actual price of $24.09 (USD) at; the Kindle edition is available for pre-order with an expected release date of 1 August 2016, at a price of $20.93 at the time of this post.

Note:  Sis received an advanced reading copy from Severn House, via NetGalley. Sis, and Severn House, would have thought it very bad manners to expect anything more than an honest and independent review in return.

Description: When the body of an American woman is found in the Prince Alfred suite at the Royal Victoria Hotel, DCI Monika Paniatowski is faced with one of the most baffling cases of her career. The woman who called herself Mary Edwards had been a guest at the hotel for the past two weeks, having paid cash in advance. But who was she really – and what was she doing in a small town like Whitebridge? If Monika could discover why the dead woman had come to Lancashire, she would be one step closer to catching her killer. The investigation takes an intriguing twist when Monika learns of a possible link to a 50-year-old murder – but the only person who could tell her why it’s relevant is lying in a coma.

About the author:  Sally Spencer is the pen name of Alan Rustage, first adopted when he wrote sagas and convention dictated that a woman’s name appeared on the cover.  Rustage was a teacher before becoming a full-time writer. He worked in Iran in 1978-78 when the Shah was overthrown.  He writes that he got used to having rifles – and on one occasion, a rocket launcher – pointed at him but was never entirely comfortable with it. He lived in Madrid for more than 20 years and now lives in the seaside town of Calpe, on the Costa Blanca.

His first series of books were historical sagas set in Cheshire (where he grew up) and London. He has written 20 books featuring DCI Woodend (a character based partly on a furniture dealer he used to play dominoes with) and 10 or so about Woodend’s protegé Monika Paniatowski. His DI Sam Blackstone books are set in Victorian/Edwardian London, New York and Russia, and the Inspector Paco Ruiz books have as their backdrop the Spanish Civil War.

Murder darkens the City of Light

Murder in the Marais by Cara Black, a celebration of Soho Crime’s 25th anniversary


Murder in the Marais delves into the darkness of the City of Light.

The first novel in the best-selling series introduces Aimée Leduc, whose investigations rely more on hacking than detecting. She’s young, she’s beautiful, and she’s just a tad bit unbelievable – but she’s oh-so enjoyable. The mystery is complex, at times too complex and unnecessarily complicated, with a backstory that is never fully revealed and some extraneous storylines here and there.  But these are minor distractions. The strength of the story is the setting, not merely the contemporary Paris of 1998, when the mystery was first published, but also the Paris of the past when Nazis occupied most of France . . . and most of Europe.

It’s a dark mystery, with Nazis and neo-Nazis and swastikas carved on the foreheads of the quick and the dead, but the depictions aren’t too violent nor are the sexual encounters too graphic. It’s the kind of novel that, for me, was meant for e-readers, because it is so easy to look up anything that is unfamiliar for those of us whose French is rusty (or non-existent). I took several quick detours, to search for photographs of buildings Black described or translations of phrases I couldn’t quite tease out, but they were quick because I wanted to go back to the story.

I chose to read this, as I chose The Last Detective by Peter Lovesey, as part of Soho Crime’s 25th anniversary reading challenge, and I’m glad I did. Yes, it has some flaws – but it has so much promise that I’m quite eager to read the second book in the series and expect to want to read the other 14 mysteries. Soho Crime is celebrating 25 years of publishing international crime fiction with a reading challenge, and I’m reading my way through Cara Black over the next two months.

Note:  Sis received an advanced reading copy from Soho Press and NetGalley, and she’s most grateful to them for the introduction to Leduc and her guided tour of a part of Paris that Sis visited, briefly, 15 years before.

Description: Meet Aimée Leduc, the smart, stylish Parisian private investigator, in her bestselling first investigation.  Aimée Leduc has always sworn she would stick to tech investigation—no criminal cases for her. Especially since her father, the late police detective, was killed in the line of duty. But when an elderly Jewish man approaches Aimée with a top-secret decoding job on behalf of a woman in his synagogue, Aimée unwittingly takes on more than she is expecting. She drops off her findings at her client’s house in the Marais, Paris’s historic Jewish quarter, and finds the woman strangled, a swastika carved on her forehead. With the help of her partner, René, Aimée sets out to solve this horrendous murder, but finds herself in an increasingly dangerous web of ancient secrets and buried war crimes.

About the author:  Cara Black lives in San Francisco with her bookseller husband, Jun, and their dog. Black is a San Francisco Library Laureate.  The 16 books in the Private Investigator Aimée Leduc series, set in Paris, have put her on the bestselling lists of the NY Times and USA Today. Several of her novels have been nominated for the prestigious Anthony and Macavity Awards, and she has received a Washington Post Book World Book of the Year citation, the Médaille de la Ville de Paris (the Paris City Medal, which is awarded in recognition of contribution to international culture), and invitations to be the guest of honor at conferences such as the Paris Polar Crime Festival and Left Coast Crime. The Aimée Leduc series has been translated into German, Norwegian, Japanese, French, Spanish, and Hebrew. 

Cara was born in Chicago but has lived in California’s Bay Area since she was five years old. Before turning to writing fulltime, she tried her hand at a number of jobs: she was a barista in the Basal train station café in Switzerland, taught English in Japan, studied Buddhism in Dharamsala in Northern India, and worked as a bar girl in Bangkok (only pouring drinks!). After studying Chinese history at Sophia University in Tokyo–where she met her husband, Jun, a bookseller, potter, and amateur chef–she obtained her teaching credential at San Francisco State College, and went on to work as a preschool director and then as an agent of the Head Start program, which sent her into San Francisco’s Chinatown to help families there–often sweatshop workers–secure early care and early education for their children. Each of these jobs was amazing and educational in a different way, and the Aimée Leduc books are covered in fingerprints of Cara’s various experiences.

Her love of all things French was kindled by the French-speaking nuns at her Catholic high school, where Cara first encountered French literature and went crazy for the work of Prix Goncourt winner Romain Gary. Her junior year in high school, she wrote him a fan letter–which he answered, and which inspired her to make her first trip to Paris, where her idol took her out for coffee and a cigar. Since then, she has been to Paris many, many times. On each visit she entrenches herself in a different part of the city, learning its secret history. She has posed as a journalist to sneak into closed areas, trained at a firing range with real Paris flics, gotten locked in a bathroom at the Victor Hugo museum, and–just like Aimée–gone down into the sewers with the rats (she can never pass up an opportunity to see something new, even when the timing isn’t ideal–she was headed to a fancy dinner right afterwards and had a spot of bother with her shoes). For the scoop on real Paris crime, she takes the cops out for drinks and dinner to hear their stories–but it usually turns into a long evening, which is why she sticks with espresso.

Middle Sister congratulates . . .


AnneWendy is the winner of the ultimate Anne of Green Gables collection from Timeless Reads.  Congratulations to Wendy, and grateful thanks to Timeless Reads and to all my readers.

I’m reading the third book in the series, and I’m a little short on sleep because I had a hard time putting it down last night.

Saturday Savings at

Ken Follett’s Fall of Giants is on sale today

Fall of Giants, the first in Ken Follett’s The Century Trilogy, is one of the Fall of Giantstreasures languishing in my overloaded TBR folder, and, if it isn’t in yours, today is the day to consider adding it — the Kindle edition is on sale for $1.99 (USD), a savings of $8.00!

The historical epic is also available in mass market paperback. All three are available as a set (current price $30.97/USD), while the second and third books, Winter of the World and Edge of Eternity are available at their list prices, $9.99 and $18.99 (USD), respectively.

I’ve been saving the series for a day when I’ve got plenty of time to devote to it, because this series is as lengthy as the earlier Pillars of the Earth series.  But, I’ve always found Follett’s fiction to be worth the investment.

Description:  Ken Follett’s magnificent new historical epic begins, as fiveFollett interrelated families move through the momentous dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for women’s suffrage.

A thirteen-year-old Welsh boy enters a man’s world in the mining pits.…An American law student rejected in love finds a surprising new career in Woodrow Wilson’s White House.… A housekeeper for the aristocratic Fitzherberts takes a fateful step above her station, while Lady Maud Fitzherbert herself crosses deep into forbidden territory when she falls in love with a German spy.…And two orphaned Russian brothers embark on radically different paths when their plan to emigrate to America falls afoul of war, conscription, and revolution.

From the dirt and danger of a coal mine to the glittering chandeliers of a palace, from the corridors of power to the bedrooms of the mighty, Fall of Giants takes us into the inextricably entangled fates of five families—and into a century that we thought we knew, but that now will never seem the same again.…

About the author:  Ken Follett was only twenty-seven when he wrote the award-winning EYE OF THE NEEDLE, which became an international bestseller. His celebrated PILLARS OF THE EARTH was voted into the top 100 of Britain’s best-loved books in the BBC’s the Big Read and the sequel, WORLD WITHOUT END, was published in Autumn 2007. He has since written several equally successful novels including, most recently, WHITEOUT. He is also the author of non-fiction bestseller ON WINGS OF EAGLES. He lives with his family in London and Hertfordshire.

Sis has read, and recommends, all of these.

REMINDER:  Today is the last day to enter for a chance to win the ultimate Lucy Maud Montgomery collection, including the Anne of Green Gables books!  The winner will be selected this evening, after 8 p.m. CDT.

Spend summer in Sudbury Falls

Kay DriscollThis is a terrific time to discover Susan Bernhardt and her cozy mysteries – The Ginseng Conspiracy, Murder under the Tree, and Murder by Fireworks – all set in a fictional town in northern Wisconsin and each set around a different season, from Halloween to the Fourth of July.

I’ve known Susan since shortly after the publication of her first mystery, The Ginseng Conspiracy, when I first began participating in an discussion group for writers (and readers) of cozy mysteries, so I don’t claim to be unbiased when it comes to her writing. Read the reviews, or read an excerpt, and make your own judgment there. Instead, I’d like to introduce you to Susan . . . which is especially interesting as her own life, her own friends, and her own community, inspired much in these mysteries.

Susan, like the heroine of her three-book series, is a retired registered nurse who lives in northern Wisconsin. Like the fictional Kay Driscoll, Susan volunteers in her local free clinic. She and her husband, William, have two sons, and love to travel, and travel (as well as the thousands of reports she penned in her nursing career) provided an early opportunity for Susan to develop her writing skills.

“At the beginning, I kept a journal of each trip,” says Susan, who still has those journals.

Susan BSusan’s hobbies and interests including working in stained glass, bicycling, kayaking, reading – especially cozy mysteries – and traveling.  Oh, and chocolate.  Lots of chocolate.  In fact, readers should be warned that Susan’s cozies can be deadly to diets.  Kay and her friends frequent a delightful patisserie, and the descriptions of the decadent desserts they enjoy are irresistible!  (Hint: Susan shares the recipe for their favorite chocolate torte, which I have baked to much acclaim, on her website:

Susan decided to try her own hand at writing cozies after reading M.C. Beaton’s The Quiche of Death.  The result – The Ginseng Conspiracy – was published in January 2014.  After publishing the third Kay Driscoll mystery, Susan began a new mystery based in Manhattan and featuring a retired ballet dancer, Irina, who runs a ballet studio for young children.

“A normally healthy neighbor becomes ill over time, dies, and Irina sets out to prove it wasn’t from natural causes.  There’s a bit about Lithuania in the Cold War. Subplots include a lover from Irina’s college years at NYU who suddenly re-enters her life and a stranger obsessed with Irina who moves into her neighborhood in the Upper West Side,” says Susan.

Plotting the puzzle of the mystery, and all the thinking required to turn fiction into fact, is the fun part for Susan, and that part consumes her attention, whether she’s taking a shower, going for a walk or falling asleep in bed.

“When I am writing a mystery it is often all-consuming. I love writing the first draft, including anything and everything I can think of.  I want those raw thoughts down on paper.  I don’t ever edit along the way.  Writing is very exciting for me. I love to write, and I really get into it. It’s fun and extremely satisfying,” Susan shares.

The hard part, as for other writers, is promoting the books.

Susan had intended to teach, but she went into nursing after an older brother who had earned an education degree had trouble finding a job.

“There were too many teachers at the time.  Being a practical person, I went into nursing because I knew I would get a job.  I received an academic scholarship and didn’t look back. My last paid nursing job was as a public health nurse in maternal child nursing. I loved it. I worked with mothers on medical assistance, doing assessments and teaching. I also developed the first Health Check in the Home Program in the state of Wisconsin.  I’m quite proud of that.”

After completing all her college prep courses, Susan opted to take art and shop classes in high school rather than graduate early.

“I made jewelry, designed my future home, threw some clay, worked with acrylics and wood, etc.  In college, I had a roommate who was an art major.  I started painting in oil that year.  Also in college I took two drawing classes with all art majors. I received some of my lowest grades in those classes, but I loved the experience. I took guitar in college, and did manage to get an A in that,” Susan recalls.

This love of art is incorporated in Susan’s fiction, both in the Kay Driscoll mysteries and in her current mystery-in-progress.  It’s also formed a basis for some of her travels, taking Susan and her husband to the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Guggenheim museums in NYC and in Bilbao, Spain, as well as the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the Prado in Madrid, and the National Gallery in London.

“I love Impressionist art,” says Susan.  “A couple of years ago when I visited the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, I acquired an appreciation for Picasso and Cubism.”

Susan also shared some of her favorite reads:

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith – “I’m quite interested in NYC and the time period of the book, the early 20th Century. It was my favorite novel last summer.”

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron – “This book opened a whole new world of literature to me.”

The Angels Game also by Zafron, about the love of writing – “It’s also excellent.”

The Flanders Panel by Arturo Perez-Reverte – “It’s such great writing and contains wonderful description.”

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro – “It’s an exciting mystery with art as the main theme and deals with Degas, a favorite artist of mine.”

Dorothy Gilman’s Mrs. Polifax series is one of many favorites in mysteries.

Read excerpts from Susan’s series:


Soho Crime challenges readers (and reviewers)

Strongly recommended — without reservation

Last DetectiveIt started with The Last Detective.

Soho Crime, celebrating 25 years of publishing international crime fiction, has thrown down the gauntlet with a reading challenge, and I’ve accepted – beginning with the first of 16 books in the Peter Diamond series. I have two months to read my way through Peter Lovesey. I didn’t need two days to read The Last Detective.

The book won the 1992 Anthony Boucher Award for Best Mystery, and I’ve no quarrel with that decision. I was captivated from the introduction of this rough diamond detective “a genuine gumshoe, not some lad out of police school with a degree in computer studies.” Diamond disdains computers, DNA, and all the forensic sciences so beloved by today’s fans. It isn’t that he distrusts these new technologies. It’s that he recognizes what those who are infatuated with them have overlooked. Scientists don’t solve crimes. Detectives do. Diamond does.

Diamond isn’t exactly lovable – except that he is. He may be overbearing. He’s certainly overweight. He’s been accused of coercing a confession, not by use of force but by use of his forceful presence. He’s a wonderfully contradictory character, and I’m looking forward to getting to know him much better through this reading challenge. In the first book in this series, Diamond lives in Bath . . . the spa town so disliked by Jane Austen, and her heroine Anne Elliot, the heroine of Persuasion. Lovesey capitalizes on the connection, much to the delight of this Austen enthusiast. The Soho Crime novels are known for their international settings, and this one is superb – a character in its own right.

Some of today’s readers may find the story a bit slow – I didn’t – because this isn’t a mystery that is wrapped up in 48 hours. Lovesey alternates the perspective from third person to first, to third, to first, and back to third. Some readers may find this distracting. Again, I didn’t. Lovesey gives each character a distinctive voice, so the changes aren’t confusing at all.

The Last Detective is a rewarding read, with wise insights and witty dialogue and enough misdirection to keep armchair detectives on alert. In addition to all that, it’s a clean read – a police procedural that offends neither sense nor sensibility. If you haven’t read Lovesey, The Last Detective is a very good place to start.

This new edition, featuring an introduction by Louise Penny, is available in e-book ($7.99/USD for Kindle) and paperback ($9.99/USD).

Description: A woman’s body has been found floating in a large reservoir just south of Bristol. In order to solve the mystery of the “Lady in the Lake,” Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond must locate two missing letters attributed to Jane Austen and defy his superiors on the force to save a woman unjustly accused of murder. This is the first of the Peter Diamond series; it won the 1992 Anthony Boucher Award for Best Mystery Novel.

LoveseyPeter Lovesey wrote the 16 Peter Diamond mysteries, known for their use of surprise, strong characters and hard-to-crack puzzles. He was awarded the Cartier Diamond Dagger in 2000, the Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere, the Anthony, the Ellery Queen Readers’ Award and is Grand Master of the Swedish Academy of Detection. He has been a full-time author since 1975. Earlier series include the Sergeant Cribb mysteries seen on TV and the Bertie, Prince of Wales novels. The Diamond novels, set in Bath, England, where Peter lived for some years, feature a burly, warm-hearted, but no-nonsense police detective whose personal life becomes as engaging to the reader as the intricate mysteries he solves. Peter and his wife Jax, who co-scripted the TV series, have a son, Phil, a teacher and mystery writer, and a daughter Kathy, who was a Vice-President of J.P.Morgan-Chase, and now lives with her family in Greenwich, Ct. Peter currently lives in Chichester, England. Visit his website at for more.

Soho Crime has been publishing atmospheric crime fiction set all over the world for the last 25 years. Its popular series take readers to France, China, England, Laos, Northern Ireland, Australia, Japan, Germany, South Africa, Italy, Denmark, and Palestine, among other locales, with entire range of crime fiction—detective fiction, police procedurals, thrillers, espionage novels, revenge novels, stories of thieves, assassins, and underworld mob bosses. Readers can rely on Soho Crime for an adventure rich in culture and setting.

Sis received an advanced reading copy of this book from Soho Crime via NetGalley in exchange for an independent review as part of this reading challenge. Sis accepts many challenges but none to her integrity.

Father’s Day Giveaway . . .

Enter to win a free Lucy Maud Montgomery collection!

AnneThanks to Timeless Reads,  subscribers can enter for a chance to win the ultimate Kindle collection of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s stories this week at!

The publisher is the father of four girls who love the Anne of Green Gables stories, so he created a well-formatted, easy-to-use collection that combines all of the stories in the public domain in a single collection — and the collection is available to readers everywhere. ($1.99/USD at

Somehow, I’d never read either Anne of Green Gables nor any of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s timeless stories. I picked up this collection a few years ago, yet it was languishing in my TBR folders until a few weeks ago, when one of my reading friends remarked on her love for these stories. I’m rapidly making up for lost time, squeezing in one story in between other reads, and regretting that I waited so long to get to know Anne, and Montgomery.

All of these stories are available in free public domain editions which were scanned by volunteers but which were not formatted specifically for e-readers, much less for Kindles. These can be hard to read. This collection from Timeless Reads, though, is properly formatted, with all the features that involves, from active tables of content to “go to” links. It also offers links to free audio versions of the stories, and it combines all of the LMM public-domain writings in one set. I like this collection simply because it is easy to read and makes it easy to organize the books in my e-library.

The winner of the free collection will be chosen randomly, by methods that may involve the caprice of a cat or the whims of another four-legged creature.  To enter, you must subscribe* or be subscribed* to and leave a comment on this post.  Share, and boost your odds of winning by receiving an extra entry for each new subscriber you refer to the site. Simply email your friend, and email Sis at with the address or name of your friend(s) so Sis will know who to credit.

*Subscriptions are free.  Subscribers may cancel anytime.  Sis will not share your email (unless you win) with anyone, ever!  The winner will receive an email from Timeless Reads with instructions on how to claim the collection.

From Timeless Reads:

 This exciting collection has these great features

  • The complete text of eight great books featuring Anne “with an e” Shirley
  • Three additional novels from Lucy Maud Montgomery
  • One complete book of poetry by Montgomery, “The Watchman and Other Poems”
  • 142 wonderful short stories written by Montgomery
  • Links to download the unabridged audiobooks of all 11 novels for FREE!
  • The ability to easily jump to any book using the Kindle “go to” feature
  • An individual, active table of contents for each book so you can go to any chapter
  • Clean formatting, giving you full control over fonts and font sizes
  • Did I mention an unbeatable price?

All titles in this Anne of Green Gables collection, along with their publication date, are listed below.

  • Anne of Green Gables (1908)
  • Anne of Avonlea (1909)
  • Anne of the Island (1915)
  • Anne’s House of Dreams (1917)
  • Rainbow Valley (1919)
  • Rilla of Ingleside (1921)
  • Chronicles of Avonlea (1912)
  • Further Chronicles of Avonlea (1920)
  • The Story Girl (1911)
  • The Golden Road (Sequel to The Story Girl, 1913)
  • Kilmeny of the Orchard (1910)
  • The Watchman and Other Poems (1916)
  • The Short Story Collection (1896-1922)

Unfortunately, there are two books in the Anne of Green Gables series which were published later and can’t yet be included in this Kindle collection because of copyright restrictions. These are Anne of Windy Poplars (1936) and Anne of Ingleside (1939).

Thanks for checking out my Anne Stories collection. I hope you and your family enjoy these books as much as we have!

Note from Sis:  I think this collection offers so much for so little! I deleted the free public domain editions because this is easier to read, easier to use, and easier to catelogue in my collections.  I’m grateful to Timeless Reads for helping me promote my site by offering this giveaway. If you don’t win, I hope you will consider adding this to your collection anyway.

See other offerings from Timeless Reads:

Saturday Savings on a beloved memoir

Open Road discounts The Lord God Made Them All today to $2.99 (USD)

Made Them AllStrongly recommended:

Back home in Yorkshire after military duty, James Herriot sees his family and veterinary practice flourish, even as the world around him changes profoundly.  When World War II ends and James Herriot returns to his wife and new family in the English countryside, he dreams mostly of Sunday roasts and Yorkshire puddings, but new adventure has a way of tracking him down. Soon Herriot finds himself escorting a large number of sheep on a steamer to Russia, puzzling through the trials of fatherhood, and finding creative ways to earn the trust of suspicious neighbors who rely on him for the wellbeing of their beloved animals.  Herriot’s winning humor and self-deprecating humanity shine through every page, and his remarkable storytelling has captivated readers for generations.

I prescribe James Herriot’s beautiful and beloved stories about animals and the people who love them (and a few who don’t) whenever my mind or my mood needs a boost, because they always bring joy back to my life.

And a digital edition of the second volume, The Lord God Made Them All, is available today at a discount of $2.99 (USD), down from a list price of $14.99 (USD).  I’m already on my second paperback set of this series, so this is welcome news to me!  If you like animals, it should be welcome news to you, too.

The series has something for just about every reader — hilarious adventures, insightful recollections, a lasting romance, lots of wisdom, and Herriot’s love of the Yorkshire Dales and the people who live there. Plus, of course, the animals, from livestock to pets.  And all the advances in veterinary medicine over the decades of his career.

The second story begins after World War II, when James returns from the Royal Air Force and, finally, has the miraculous advances the war brought to veterinary care with the discovery and development of antibiotics.  Each chapter, as in all the books, is a stand-alone story, yet some stories continue throughout each volume.  So, you can read a chapter or two if that is all the time you have, or you can read the whole book or series.  I’ve done each.

I first encountered Herriot in the BBC series based on his books, which was broadcast on PBS stations and later on A&E.  A few years ago, I bought a collection of DVDs of the series, just so I could watch them all over again because I never tire of these stories.  If you haven’t read or watched them, this is an excellent introduction.

James Herriot is the penname of James Alfred “Alf” Wight, OBE, FRCVS (3 October 1916 – 23 February 1995), a British veterinary surgeon and memoirist, who drew from his experiences as a veterinary surgeon to write a series of books consisting of stories about animals and their owners. He is best known for these semi-autobiographical works, beginning with All Creatures Great and Small in 1972. The BBC adapted the stories for a televised series which was also titled All Creatures Great and Small, which is available on DVD from and other sellers.

Also of interest:

Search for other books in the series or related items:

Burning Proof . . . a Christian police procedural

Available in digital, hardbound and paperback editions.
Available in digital, hardbound and paperback editions.

After months of investigating the brutal homicide of a young girl, Detective Abby Hart has the evidence she needs. But when the arrest goes terribly wrong, Abby begins to doubt her future as a police officer. As she wrestles with conflicting emotions, old questions about the fire that took her parents’ lives come back to haunt her. “There is proof.” PI Luke Murphy can’t stop thinking about what Abby’s former partner, Asa Foster, mumbled just before he died. When he uncovers a clue to the murder of Abby’s parents and his uncle, he’s reluctant to tell Abby, despite his growing feelings for the beautiful detective. A decade-old abduction case brings Luke and Abby together, but will his secret tear them apart?


Burning Proof provides indisputable evidence that a police procedural can be both authentic and clean, with a multi-layered mystery that should satisfy Christian readers without compromising their standards or offending their sensibilities.

Janice Cantore, a retired Long Beach (Calif.) police officer, has created a strong female lead in Detective Abby Hart, haunted by the 27-year-old murder of her parents – a mystery that provides the backstory for the Cold Case Justice series and that connects Drawing Fire, the first book in the series, to Burning Proof and leads into the third, Catching Heat, scheduled for release this fall.

The second story opens with Hart confronting a vengeful father as she and her partner arrest a suspect in the rape and murder of his 10-year-old daughter. The father opens fire, and so does Hart, and the tragic result shatters her serenity. This sets the scene for a spiritual crisis, and faith under fire is one of the themes Cantore addresses in this story – Abby’s as well as that of another victim, a young woman who was abducted and raped as a teenager and whose assailant has never been caught. Cantore writes with authority, both as a cop and as a Christian.

Burning Proof was my first encounter with Cantore and her characters. I had a little trouble at first in keeping track of all the characters, though I suspect that will not pose a problem for those who read Drawing Fire first. (I’m going to go back and read it as soon as I can.) Cantore depicts four kinds of characters – good guys who are Christians, good guys who are not, cops who have been corrupted, and villains who embrace evil – and all four are complex characters, not caricatures.

The story ends without a resolution to the murder of Abby’s parents, but the storyline is advanced considerably and it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger. Readers should be satisfied with this story . . . yet want to read the next.

A hint of romance also extends from the first book in the series through Burning Proof and reaching into the future. Abby is engaged to Ethan, a missionary who hopes Abby will give up the quest for justice and follow him to foreign fields. But she’s also attracted to Luke, a private investigator whose uncle was killed with Abby’s parents. Luke is likewise attracted to Abby, but her engagement to Ethan is a boundary he won’t cross. This storyline is slow to develop . . . and all the more authentic for that! Nobody is rushing into anything. If you’re hoping for a quick, happily-ever-after, you may be disappointed. But, if you are yearning for a real romance where men and women take the time to separate style from substance and build a solid relationship, then you should be satisfied to let this one take its time.

One final note: This is Christian fiction. If you don’t care for Christian fiction, you won’t care for this book. I didn’t find the Christian themes to be moralistic or preachy, but I don’t think it will appeal to non-Christian readers. The characters who are Christians read their Bibles and they pray, both silently on their own and together with other Christian characters.

Sis received a complimentary advanced reading copy from Tyndale House Publishers via NetGalley in exchange for a review reflecting her own opinion. Anything else would be a sin.

About the author: A retired Long Beach California police officer of 22 years (16 in uniform and 6 as a non-career officer), Janice Cantore worked a variety of assignments, patrol, administration, juvenile investigations and training. During the course of her career in uniform Janice found that faith was indispensable to every aspect of the job and published articles on faith at work, one for a quarterly newspaper called “Cop and Christ”, and another for the monthly magazine “Today’s Christian Woman”. With retirement Janice began to write longer pieces and several novels were born. Janice is excited and honored to now be a part of the Tyndale Publishing House family. Accused, the first installment in her new suspense offering, The Pacific Coast Justice Series, was released February 1, 2012 and kicked off a brand new chapter in her writing career. In addition to suspense and action, her books feature strong female leads. Janice writes suspense novels designed to keep you engrossed and leave you inspired.

Drawing Fire: One case from her past defines homicide detective Abby Hart. With a possible serial killer stalking elderly women in Long Beach, California, Abby’s best lead is Luke Murphy, an irritating private investigator who saw a suspect flee the scene of the latest homicide. When Abby discovers that the most recent victim is related to the governor, she’s anxious to talk to him about a cold case that’s personal to her—one Luke is interested in as well. As she learns more about the restaurant fire that took her parents’ lives years ago, Abby discovers why Luke is so invested in finding the ones responsible. The more they uncover, though, the more questions they have. Can Abby find peace without having all the answers?

Catching Heat: Twenty-seven years after the deaths of Detective Abby Hart’s parents, she’s desperate to find the proof that will put the mastermind behind bars. When she joins a newly formed task force and teams up with PI Luke Murphy, Abby is sent to San Luis Obispo to work the cold case of a murdered college student. Realizing their investigation will bring them near the town where the culprit grew up, Abby decides to do a little digging of her own into the Triple Seven fire. Luke is eager to help Abby close the books on a case they both have personal stakes in. But as she uncovers long-held secrets, Abby stumbles into an explosive situation, and Luke fears that her obsession may prove deadly.

Saturday savings . . .

A 99-cent classic from Mary Roberts Rinehart


StaircaseMary Roberts Rinehart created the “Had I But Known” sub-genre in detective fiction with her classic The Circular Staircase, and it is one of my favorite classic mysteries.

I’d heard of Rinehart for decades, of course, but her mysteries weren’t sitting on shelves in the brick-and-mortar stores — nor on the shelves at the local libraries which place a premium on newly published — so ebooks gave me my first chance to read Rinehart, and  The Circular Staircase was my first. I loved it — I laughed, I savored the now-classic elements, and I wanted to read more. A lot more. I hope you do, too.

You can, of course, find free public domain editions, but this particular edition, sold by HarperCollins, is professionally (and properly) formatted. I think it’s well worth $0.99 (USD) if your budget permits.

Description:  When Rachel takes a country house for the summer with her niece and nephew, she expects to fill her days with relaxing social activities. But these plans take a turn for the sinister when, on the second night, a dead body is found at the bottom of the house’s circular staircase.

Mary Roberts Rinehart (August 12, 1876 – September 22, 1958) was an American writer, often called the American Agatha Christie, although her first mystery novel was published 14 years before Christie’s first novel in 1922. Rinehart is credited with creating the phrase “The butler did it” with her novel The Door (1930), although the exact phrase isn’t used in the novel. She also created a costumed super-criminal called “the Bat”, cited by Bob Kane as one of the inspirations for his “Batman”.

FREE bonus book:  She by H. Rider Haggard

H. Rider Haggard’s classic tale of fantasy and adventure set in a lost world ruled by a two-thousand-year-old queen
FREE when posted -- verify before purchase, please!
FREE when posted — verify before purchase, please!

Description:  On the occasion of his twenty-fifth birthday, Leo Vincey opens the locked iron box that is his birthright and finds an ancient potsherd. Following clues engraved on the relic, Vincey and the man who raised him, Cambridge professor Horace Holly, embark on a remarkable adventure that will take them from Victorian England to an uncharted region in East Africa. Surviving shipwreck, disease and hostile natives, they discover a lost civilization no European has ever encountered—or lived to describe. They have entered the realm of the cruel and beautiful Ayesha, known to those who worship her as “She-who-must-be-obeyed.” For two thousand years, the white queen has been waiting—for what, Vincey and Holly are about to find out.

One of the bestselling novels of all time, She has held readers in its thrall for more than a century. Alongside Haggard’s other classic, King Solomon’s Mines, it established the conventions of the lost world fantasy genre, and has inspired some of the greatest thinkers and writers, including Sigmund Freud, J.R.R. Tolkien, Margaret Atwood and even popular mystery writer Elizabeth Peters, who decided to create her best-selling Amelia Peabody series because nobody was still writing novels like this — and she had read all that had been written earlier.

She, A History of Adventure, was originally published in The Graphic magazine in serial form between October 1886 and January 1887 and has never been out of print, with more than 96 million copies sold in 44 different languages to date.

Also available free (when posted, please verify before purchase), is this illustrated edition: