A Christmas Journey (180 pages)
Reviewed by Marla Cartwright, Faculty Developer, Center for Teaching and Learning, Kaplan University
Who should read this book? Anyone who enjoys a strong female character, Victorian literature, or a “civilized” murder mystery. However, don’t let the Hallmark-esque cover art (complete with horse drawn carriage in the snow) fool you. The Christmas setting is fairly subdued until the ending.
Summary: Lady Vespasia Cumming-Gould is the young, charming, and aristocratic protagonist who finds herself spending Christmas at Applecross, the magnificent country estate of her friend Omegus Jones. The story begins with a celebratory air with a group of interesting people arrayed around the dinner table: the elderly Lord and Lady Salchester, the young widow Gwendolen Kilmuir, her beau Bertie Rosythe, brother and sister Fenton and Blanche Twyford, and young Isobel Alvie. Unfortunately, a romantic triangle emerges between Isobel, Bertie, and Gwendolen which is quickly exacerbated by a stunningly crass remark made after dinner. The next morning reveals a dead body, a broken engagement, and a room full of suspects. Through a turn of events, Vespasia agrees to accompany her friend Isobel on a grueling December journey to Scotland by train, boat, and finally, pack ponies. The ending underscores the importance of friendship and forgiveness even in circumstances nearly beyond endurance.
Why I picked this book? We visit the library like clockwork, and I like to peruse the shelves for interesting titles and plot summaries, aiming to choose at least one book from an author I’ve never heard of. I’m currently in a murder mystery/spy novel kick (previously reading several P.D. James novels, as well as John LeCarre works) so I thought a period piece might be interesting. It’s a quick read and, overall, pretty satisfying. (I did have nagging questions about how truly Victorian women, who were customarily treated like hothouse flowers, would have survived on this extremely debilitating journey. Also Vespasia is described as “devoted” to her children but through the Christmas season she not only doesn’t seem to be, but she also doesn’t think about them, send them letters, or talk about them. But these are minor points).
On a side note: I became curious about the author, Anne Perry, since our library has several shelves of her novels. Imagine my surprise to learn that her actual name is Julie Marion Hulme, and she was convicted in 1954 of conspiring to murder her best friend’s mother (which they did by bludgeoning her to death). The was a little known fact until the movie release Heavenly Creatures in 1994.
Favorite quote from the book: “For heaven’s sake, you look like a footman! She’s hardly going to give her favors to a servant! At least, not permanently!” This is a key turning point in the action.
Unlucky 13 (416 pages)
James Patterson & Maxine Paetro
Reviewed by Terresa Fontana, Adjunct Faculty, Department of Educational Studies, Kaplan University
Who should read this book? Whether you are new to James Patterson and The Women’s Murder Club or have enjoyed both for years, the newest installment in the series will not disappoint. Anyone who appreciates a good murder-mystery, with a bit of suspense and intrigue along the way, will find Unlucky 13 an enjoyable read. If you read Patterson’s The 12th of Never, you’ll be especially interested in reading this latest offering in the series. If you’re looking for an easy, uncomplicated summer read, Unlucky 13 is a terrific choice.
Summary: The storyline brings in new murder, mystery, and suspense as well as the return of one of the most sinister criminals from Lindsay Boxer’s past. As with most novels in the series, the main storyline focuses on Lindsay Boxer and her struggle as a new and hard-working mom. Lindsay is one of San Francisco’s top detectives, working on a new and gruesome serial homicide-by-bombing case with her partner and one of her best friends, Dr. Claire Washburn, the chief medical examiner; at the same time, she’s struggling to juggle her duties as both wife and new mother to baby Julie. In this addition to the series, two other members of the club also find their roles in the spotlight. Trying to recover from her break-up with Lindsay’s partner, Rich Conklin, crime reporter Cindy Thomas sets out on a dangerous mission to track down and win an exclusive story with one of the nation’s most notorious and dangerous criminals. Assistant D.A. Yuki Castellano enjoys a spontaneous courthouse wedding and sets off on a cruise to Alaska with her new husband and Lindsay’s lieutenant, Jackson Brady – a trip that turns out to be much more than they had planned. In Unlucky 13, Patterson & Paetro weave together these three separate plot lines to create one intriguing story.
Why did I pick this book? While some Patterson fans may argue that the quality of his books is declining, others – like me – realize that these summer blockbusters are meant to be entertaining, fun reads. In my “spare” time, I enjoy books that are to be simply enjoyed on the beach or in the backyard – not deep scenarios that require or inspire much thought or contemplation. Both new and old fans of Patterson and The Women’s Murder Club can look forward to Unlucky 13, and spend some time with Lindsay, her little family, and her faithful friends along the way.
Favorite quote from the book: “‘She wants to give you the evil eye, she told me.’ ‘Okay. I’m wearing my invisible force field. So.’ ‘Oh, wow. Where can I get one of those?’ ‘Walmart, where else?’ Officer Walters laughed…”