Actor Arthur Leander has experienced a number of peaks and valleys in his lengthy Hollywood career. As he prepares to take the stage as King Lear in what will be his final performance, he’s hardly at the top of his game. Hard living and a separation from his only son have taken their toll, and Arthur succumbs to a heart attack as the audience watches. Kirsten, a young child also in the production, is traumatized by Arthur’s death and will remember this day far into the future.
When legendary but reclusive movie star Evelyn Hugo agrees to grant an interview about her forthcoming auction to raise money for breast cancer, the world anxiously waits for her words. But why would she request that Monique Grant, a relatively unknown writer, pen her first public dialogue in years? Even Monique is dumbfounded.
Showcasing her vast physical charms in combination with her relentless drive to succeed, Hugo left Hell’s Kitchen in the dust and rose to join Hollywood’s elite. Her presence both on film and in person was riveting, but, with seven husbands, her career was rife with controversy. The fact that she chose to live her later years in seclusion only feeds the public’s frenzy for details.
When promising artist Artemisia is found with a slit throat, her married lover is sentenced to be executed for the murder. But Lady Sundridge is convinced that Miles Ramsforth, patron of the arts, is innocent of killing his comely protégé—who also happened to be pregnant with his first child. On the advice of a shadowy figure, Lady Sundridge enlists the expertise of amateur sleuths Veronica Speedwell and her partner Revelstoke “Stoker” Templeton-Vane.
The pressure’s on for the detectives as the execution is scheduled in seven days. The biggest problem hinges on the existence of any number of suspects who had good reason to frame Ramsforth for the violent crime. And, to introduce several more intriguing wrinkles, Lady Sundridge is not who she claims to be. When their lives are threatened, Veronica and Stoker are certain they’re getting closer to solving the case.
A Perilous Undertaking, by Virginia’s own Deanna Raybourn, is the second in the Veronica Speedwell series. If you haven’t already read the first book, I would definitely recommend starting with A Curious Beginning. Despite the book’s setting of late 1800s England, Veronica is quite the modern woman. She travels the world solo, capturing exotic butterflies to sell to any number of wealthy collectors.
Dublin Murder Squad detectives Antoinette Conway and Stephen Moran catch the case of an attractive young woman found dead with her head bashed in. Since neither has extensive experience, a seasoned detective is assigned to assist. Initially the case looks like a slam dunk—rejected boyfriend loses his head and, in a rage, kills the woman of his dreams.
But certain facts just don’t add up. The person committing the murder used great force, and the boyfriend has a slight build and no history of violent behavior. Also baffling is that the best friend of the victim suggested there was a clandestine relationship with another man. But the most intriguing question is, why would the third detective push so hard to arrest the boyfriend when absolutely zero hard evidence exists?
August, a science teacher on break for the summer, is making a pilgrimage to Yellowstone to honor his 19-year-old son Phillip who was killed in an auto accident. The excursion had originally been planned as a father/son “trip of a lifetime.” When the RV breaks down and the repair promises to be costly, August resigns himself to the fact that he won’t have enough money to reach his destination or scatter Phillip’s ashes in the park.
In The Book That Matters Most, Ava, a French professor at the local university, is blindsided when her husband announces he’s rekindled the flame with a lover of long ago. Yes, his job often dominated their free time, and, yes, their daughter had created stress by following a rocky path of drugs and unhealthy relationships, but Ava felt these obstacles were surmountable. She had been content in her marriage.
The shock and subsequent embarrassment of the betrayal prompts Ava to sequester herself. For years, her close friend Cate had unsuccessfully tried to recruit her to join the library’s book club. When another opening becomes available, Ava views the club as a quiet avenue to venture back into the world.
True confession: I loved the television shows Thirtysomething and Parenthood, and I’d classify The New Neighbor, by Leah Stewart, as a book similarly driven by well-developed characters. So, if your cup of tea is action-packed novels over touchy-feely, spill-your-guts literature, then I’d strongly advise you to move on to another blog post!
Jennifer Young has recently moved with her young son into the house next to Margaret Riley. Although the two abodes are separated by a pond, each woman can see the other from her own back porch. At the age of ninety, Margaret is not as spry as she once was, and, over the years, her prickly personality has alienated any number of potential friends. But she’s lonely and finds herself insatiably curious about her new neighbor.
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If you like history and listening to it, here are a few highly recommended audiobooks set in World War II:
All Clear by Connie Willis
After three Oxford historians travel back in time to the year 1940, historical records indicate that at least one of them affected the past and changed the outcome of World War II. (catalog summary)
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris and is blind by age six. Her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, so she can memorize it and navigate the real streets. When the Germans occupy Paris, they flee to Saint-Malo on the coast. In Germany, Werner grows up enchanted by a crude radio he finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, which wins him a place with the Hitler Youth. Werner travels throughout Europe, and finally to Saint-Malo, where his meets Marie Laure. Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Literature. (catalog summary)
Atonement by Ian McEwan
In the summer of 1935, 13-year-old Briony Tallis wildly misinterprets the relationship between her sister Cecilia and Robbie Turner, childhood friends home from Cambridge. So when her young cousin is assaulted, Briony gives in to her hyperactive imagination and blames the atrocity on Robbie. It is a terrible decision that alters lives and fills Briony with an everlasting sense of guilt. (catalog summary)
I’ve got a severe case of wanderlust. Often I can get a healthy fix as an armchair traveler—exploring the world by reading books of others’ exotic expeditions. But NOTHING compares to globetrotting in person to locales both near and far.
A chance encounter with the legendary Sherlock Holmes alters the life trajectory of fifteen-year-old Mary Russell. In The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, by Laurie R. King, Mary literally bumps into Holmes while roaming the hills near her cottage. After the initial awkward run-in, the two are immediately drawn to each other’s insatiable curiosity and superior intellect. As both of Mary’s parents died in a horrific accident, her friendship with Holmes is a welcome respite from her days with a cold, disapproving aunt.