Hitler and the Hapsburgs: The Führer’s Vendetta Against the Austrian Royals, by James McMurtry Longo

Nine stars

After having this book recommended to me, I kept it on my shelf for a while, waiting for the ideal time to delve in. When I started it, I wondered why I had not devoured James McMurtry Longo’s tome much sooner, as it captivated me from the opening pages until the final, chilling sentiment. Even the causal reader with some knowledge of modern European history likely knows that Adolf Hitler had a strong dislike for his Austrian homeland. It is only when reading Longo’s book that I became better aware of it, and how the German dictator enacted his revenge. Modestly born, Hitler grew up in an Austria that was still ruled under the Hapsburg Empire, a collection of European countries of Central Europe. While Hitler grew and became more jaded about his country and its rulers, the Hapsburgs maintained a strong control over their peoples and lived what seems to have been quite a lavish lifestyle. It was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand—the heir to the Hapsburg Throne—that began a series of historical dominoes and lessened the power of this nightly monarchy. As power dissolved and Austria became a geographic and political plaything in the aftermath of the Great War, Hitler embraced his move to Germany, where he could rise through the ranks and eye a future return to an Austria that held his morals. Longo parallels not only the rise of Hitler with the fall of the Hapsburgs, but also pushes to show how Austrian identity—both as a country and of its citizens—soon became enveloped in the Nazi ideal. Discussion of the rise of Hitler’s Nazi Party and control over Central Europe is exemplified here, as is the dazzling ineptitude that saw the world watch. Hitler vowed to return to Austria and take what he felt he lost, a new and better Hapsburg if you will. Longo shows how he did so and yet the House of Hapsburg had the final victory, albeit delayed and rooted in the subsequent generations. Brilliant in its delivery and highly educational, this is one book that fans of modern European history will not want to miss, as well as those readers who love European monarchies.

I love learning new and interesting things about moments in history that seem to have been overanalysed. While I cannot say I knew many of the central facts that are up for discussion here, I was aware of many aspects, leaving me wanting a great deal from Longo’s book. He delivered, not only by offering a miniature biography of the young Hitler, but also paralleling the strength and subsequent fall of the Hapsburgs. Detailed analysis of the loss of control over the Empire and the dwindling of final power was brilliantly documented here, as Longo shows how monarchies rarely fade away overnight. Additional documentation on the likes of Edward VIII proved to be an added bonus and one that kept me wanting to learn even more about the ‘boy King of England’ and his apparent loose support of the Nazi leader as a political figure. Longo offers up wonderful documentation and spins it into an easily digested narrative that will have the reader wanting (and able) to forge onwards. With chapters that are quite detailed but not drowning in information so as to make the journey slow-going, Longo serves up a stellar piece here and makes the reader want to know more. I will be picking through some of the bibliographic materials and books suggested by the author, so as to learn a little more about this period. This is one royal family that deserves more of my attention in the coming months.

Kudos, Mr. Longo, for a great piece. I can only hope to find more of your work soon, which is surely on par with this tome.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

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Skeletons in the Rain, by Christian Nava

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Christian Nava for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Having been approached by the author with an ARC of the book, I was curious to see what I might discover. Finally published in English, Nava’s book portrays the rough life in Venezuela and the issues the Church has when faced with a troubled past and gangs who rule the streets. Local priest, Ismael Niebuhr, has been holding onto a secret for a long time and wants out of the small community in which he has been a guiding light. Prepared to flee, Niebuhr is confronted with a gang known across Venezuela as being ruthless. The Skulls have targeted Niebuhr and continue to ask him one poignant question. Their leader, the Mime King, is not prepared to rest until he has all the answers. As the story progresses in a series of ever-advancing flashbacks, the reader learns of a horrible abuse that befell one of the alterboys under Niebuhr, but the truth is murky and clouded in much speculation. With the Skulls advancing and learning what they need to know, Niebuhr becomes expendable, but he cannot be left to tell what he knows about someone within the Skulls. The action progresses as the truth comes to the surface, though nothing is as clear as it might seem at first. Nava offers the reader something intriguing and worth a read, even if it did not resonate as powerfully with me as I might have hoped.

I always enjoy reading new authors and have found myself agreed to read pieces that authors themselves peddle. The issue is that sometimes I cannot be sure what I am getting into when I agree, left to accept the author’s self-praise and those of my fellow Goodreads reviewers. The book had some great moments, describing aspects of life in gangland Venezuela while also working on the clichéd history of the Catholic Church.. Nava’s development of the story and characters are not necessarily diluted when translated into English, though I did not feel the strong pull to “keep reading” as much as the story moved along at such a speed that I found the pages melted away. The premise was interesting and kept me guessing, though the constant layering of flashbacks that advanced to the present moment seemed almost overdone. I agree, it is a writing style that helps reveal things slowly and some readers enjoy that, but I suppose I was not in the mindset to want that. With short chapters and an ever-advancing plots Nava keeps the reader wondering and on the edge of their seat. There is a lot of potential here and I hope Nava can weave more of his master class work with an established author into his future work. He was proud to share that with me and I can only see great things as he publishes more.

Kudos, Mr. Nava, for an interesting piece. While it did not resonate as a blockbuster win for me, I think others will devour it. I look forward to seeing more of your work in the future.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Whisper Man, by Alex North

Eight stars

In an apparent debut novel, Alex North takes readers on a chilling adventure of loss and betrayal that spans a handful of decades. Propped up by much chatter across Goodreads, the book has been on the virtual bookshelves of many, which led me to want to be part of the action. Tom Kennedy has been trying to deal with the death of his wife, which has thrust him into being a single parent. After making the decision to move away from all his emotions triggers, Tom and his son, Jake, settling into a new community and hope for the best. Their new environs are rocked by the disappearance of a school-age boy, which has parallels to a set of five murders two decades before by the ‘Whisper Man’. While the police scramble to find the little boy, the Kennedys are pulled into the centre when Jake begins having nightmares about someone coaxing him to follow while whispering in his ear. Jake and Tom are soon offered a safe house until things return to normal. The case takes a turn and soon there is a scramble for answers, just as Jake disappears. Where could he be and might Tom have to face the Whisper Man to ensure Jake’s safety? There’s something eerie underneath all this, as if Jake were a target all along and is the true plaything of this presence that is everywhere and nowhere at the same time. North surely delivers something that will keep the reader forging ahead late into the night to discover hidden truths. Recommended to those who enjoy something chilling with hints embedded in a strong narrative.

I suppose I watched from the sidelines long enough and wanted a chance to chime in on what I thought of this book that has been plastered all over Goodreads. Many have opinions, which span from sensational to downright bleak. I find myself somewhere in the middle, having enjoyed the book but am not feeling a tingle from the base of my spine and up into my brain. Tom Kennedy proves to be a decent protagonist, having taken his son and uprooted him to find a better life. Battered and bruised by his wife’s death, Tom seeks solace in a new surrounding, but soon discovers the horrors follow him, like a scent on the wind. What follows is a true test to Tom’s character as he seeks to find answers before he losing everything he loves. Others complement the story well, as North seeks to inject an eerie twist at varying points of the narrative. From the hapless coppers who turn up evidence after it has gone cold to the other school children who help create the Whisper Man persona, and even someone in the shadows who seems ready to caused havoc on a quaint community. The story is strong and moves along well, differentiating itself from other chilling thrillers with kidnapping at its core. Alex North deserves many of the accolades that are lauded upon him, though I felt a certain reserve, almost a holding back, as if this debut were an attempt to test the waters before writing a second novel to really rock the reader to the core. I will certainly keep my eyes open for more by the author and hope to be knocked off my feet.

Kudos, Mr. North, for this debut under your new name. Speculation mounts that this pseudonym allows you to reinvent yourself and I look forward to new revelations.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Killer Instinct (Instinct #2), by James Patterson and Howard Roughan

Eight stars

In another thrilling collaborative effort, James Patterson and Howard Roughan bring another thriller full of geo-politicking and some criminal elements to readers who have been hungering for another stellar novel. Dr. Dylan Reinhart is still living off the glory of uncovering a serial killer when a new situation makes his blood run cold. There has been another terrifying attack on New York City (shocking, no?!) and the casualty count is quite large. One name in particular causes Reinhart to squirm, but not simply because of the loss of life. Reunited with his old partner, Detective Elizabeth Needham, Reinhart begins to sift through the rubble—both literal and figurative—in order to find out who might be behind the attack. There are whispers that an apparent auto-erotic event that left an Ivy League professor dead could be tied into all this, though the parallels are weak. However, any time ‘Iran’ and ‘nuclear’ can be put into the same sentence, there is at least some red flag being raised. With Reinhart and Needham working every angle, they soon learn that the strike could be more than a simple act of terror, but an international play to move policy in a certain direction. However, it would seem the blast was only the beginning, with more attacks planned at unknown locations. As time ticks away, Reinhart and Needham will have to use all the resources at their disposal to get answers, but there’s a wrinkle or two they could not have expected, which sends the entire case in new and troubling directions. Patterson and Roughan do well to develop a strong story and keep the reader engrossed until the final page-turn. Recommended for those who enjoy some light thriller reading, especially the reader who enjoys Patterson when he’s on his game.

While it is sometimes a risk when James Patterson’s name appears on a book jacket, this novel is a strong collaborative effort. Everything seems to come together nicely and the end result is a book the reader can enjoy, even if they are forced to endure some cheesy jokes along the way. Dylan Reinhart and Elizabeth Needham are strong co-protagonists, working angles independently and together with much ease. Mixing some of their great personal backstories with strong character development allows the reader to feel a connection to them both, while not being left that the case is left on the back burner. The plethora of secondary characters offer wonderful tangents in an already strong piece. Patterson and Roughan serve up interesting interpretations of those working the case and stirring up trouble, including their own spin on geo-politics. The story emerges from these strong characterisations and keeps the reader engaged with the plot. Using Patterson’s short chapters and constant cliffhangers, the reader cannot help but want to forge onwards to get to the core of the story at hand. Well-paced and with just the right amount of sarcasm, this is one of Patterson’s stronger novels of the year. One can hope it is not lost in the shuffle.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Roughan, for a strong collaborative effort. I enjoy how well you work together and look forward for other joint ventures soon.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

True Believer (James Reece #2), by Jack Carr

Eight stars

Jack Carr returns with another explosive military thriller that pulls on his years in the field, as well as the current geo-political situation. After a stunning cliffhanger, Carr pulls readers right back into the middle of the story and continues to spin treacherous webs. James Reece is likely the most wanted man in the entire world, especially after his actions to destroy those who had his family killed. Armed with a terminal brain tumour, he has little to lose, but hopes to stay alive long enough to ensure no one bearing responsibility is still breathing. For the meantime, Reece chooses life at sea, sailing from the East Coast of the United States to the Eastern portion of Africa. Completely off the radar, it is Reece and the open ocean, for who knows how long. While he is battling the waves, a terror cell strikes numerous locations across Europe, though there is no one who has yet claimed responsibility. Reece is completely unaware when he lands in Mozambique and takes up helping an old friend keep the local poachers at bay, at least until he is hunted down by one of the people in his former chain of command. Interesting revelations come to light and Reece is brought back into the fold, if only temporarily. Armed with amnesty and a mission to track down those in charge of the terror cell, Reece heads to a black-ops site to train before being thrust into the middle of a deadly firefight that could have international ramifications and leave an indelible mark on how terrorism is portrayed. With little to lose, Reece finds himself being stealthy and cut throat all at the same time, though it may not be enough. Carr does a masterful job at balancing truth and fiction here, taking the reader deep into covert operatives and leaving them just on this side of what can be revealed publicly. Recommended to those who enjoy military thrillers that leave a realistic film on the brain.

I had the debut novel recommended to me by a friend on Goodreads and I could not read it fast enough. While I struggled to get into the mindset of this piece, when I was able to shake off my inner issues, I was fast enveloped into the wonders of this novel. Carr offers a wonderful way of exploring covert operations without getting too hokey. It would seem apparently that Carr uses James Reece as his alter-ego, telling his own story through the protagonist. While Reece has nothing to live for, he pushes on and finds a new lease on life, starting with some work in rural Africa. However, you cannot expect a man with such a passion for covert missions to disappear from the lifestyle with ease, which is easy to see when Reece is asked to come back and fight another day. Still emotionally fragile, Reece has a lot more left inside him before he is ready to give up. Other characters enrich the story in numerous ways, throughout the various turns the narrative takes. Carr encapsulates the story with effective characters and puts them into a variety of situations, all of which are sure to complement whatever James Reece might be doing at that time. The story was quite strong and developed at a decent pace. Carr’s ability to take the reader on a journey is like few others, which is further enriched by the obvious limitations put on him by the Department of Defence in the United States, who redacted portions of the manuscript (and which Carr has shown were removed in the final product). This injection of additional realism does not go unnoticed throughout, balancing nicely between the long and short chapters to keep the breakneck pace of the story as things progress. Carr has earned the right to be called an author in the know and I can only hope that his future writing projects are just as strong.

Kudos, Mr. Carr, for a stellar piece. Mitch Rapp and Scot Harvath do not hold a candle to James Reece, though he might let them carry his gear into battle.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Empire of Lies, by Raymond Khoury

Did not finish (no star rating)

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Raymond Khoury, and Forge Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Usually a great fan of alternate history and long one of Raymond Khoury’s work, I was hoping to find great interest in this novel, though things began to fall short from the beginning and remained troublesome for me. The premise, that the Ottoman Empire continued to gather strength and overtook much of Europe into the present day, sounded good on paper, but as Khoury wove his story, things never seemed to work for me. With a mysteriously tattooed man lurking in the shadows, I hoped for some injected excitement, but even the information he revealed left me wanting more and unable to find something intriguing. While I hate to leave a book unfinished—particularly an ARC—I owe it to myself and others not to get bogged down with something that will make me miserable or keep me from reviewing books that appeal to me. While some will surely love it, I had to let this one go 55% in and hope this was but a blip on the Khoury radar, not the new norm after a fairly lengthy time away from full novels.

Kudos, Mr. Khoury, for dreaming up an interesting premise. Delivery was off for me, so I hope others can see the empire for the castle walls, to poorly mangle a cliché!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Earthquake Doll: Revised Edition, by Candace Williams

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Candace Williams for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Having been approached by the author with a revised version of her book, I was intrigued to see what I might find and how the reading experience might shape my views on the subject she presents. Miyoko was a young girl when the Emperor declared that Japan had surrendered in the war. What would become of her family and her blessed country? As the story moves ahead seven years, Miyoko is now a teenager and seeking work. Her best option is serving as a nanny on an America military base, where she can make some money and help develop her English. She is not the only Japanese girl to do this, though the culture shock may be a little more than she expected. Hired to work with an American family, Miyoko makes a connection to the children she minds—David and Tina—as well as some of the other nannies, all while her own personal life develops. Promised her hand in marriage, Miyoko seeks to live a less traditional life and one more akin to what the Americans have brought to Japan. Still, she wants to provide the children she watches with a little lesson in Japanese culture as well, presenting them with an earthquake doll, which might be considered a tradition version of the modern ‘bobblehead’. Its body is firmly grounded with a head that bounces, used to detect tremors in the earth. With the onset of American involvement in Korea, the region is again beset by fighting and war, which will surely force Japan to choose sides, thrusting its citizens into a position of being the ally of one group and the foe of another. As Miyoko grows, she experiences many an earthquake, both literal and figurative, pushing her to become her own earthquake doll, sounding the alarm while remaining firmly rooted. Williams presents an interesting piece that is full of symbolism and cultural themes, while still being very easy to read. Recommended to those who enjoy something rich in history and full of imagery.

I was pleasantly surprised to have the author approach me, hoping that I would test the waters with the revised version of her book. I had not read the original, so I cannot draw parallels between the two, but thoroughly enjoyed my reading experience. Miyoko was quite the protagonist, offering insight into the life of a young Japanese girl who has witnessed a significant change in her country since the send of the Second World War. She is tied down to the traditions of her family and culture, but also has come to taste the new and exciting life that American presence in Japan has brought to pass. She struggles with both, but is happy to indulge a little if only to help shape her. Williams’ use of the earthquake doll to represent this new Miyoko was brilliant and the attentive reader will find a great deal of symbolism therein. Other characters serve to complement Miyoko effectively, as well as flavour the narrative effectively. Both Japanese and American influences are strong throughout, helping to create a complexity to the novel that shows the various struggles taking place. The story was well-paced and the chapters short, which proved effectively in this instance. Williams admits to drawing on her own experiences as a child who grew up on a military base in Japan, which only enriches the narrative even more. The addition of numerous Japanese words helps education the reader as they make their way through the piece. Williams has done well with this piece and I hope she can market the story to lure in many fans and new readers, both of whom will likely not be disappointed.

Kudos, Madam Williams, for a great introduction to your work. I will try some more, if only to contrast and compare with some of your other ideas.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Take it Back, by Kia Abdullah

Seven stars

Kia Abdullah pens this controversial legal thriller that will have readers pulled into the role of courtroom spectator in a rape case that could go either way, depending on who is to be believed. When Jodie Wolfe enters a women’s legal clinic, she has quite the story to tell. Meeting with Zara Kaleel, Jodie shares a story of being gang raped by a number of her fellow classmates at a recent party. Jodie, physically disabled with neurofibromatosis—a significant facial deformity—asserts that she was lured to a warehouse by four Muslim boys, where they took turns degrading her, laughing the entire time. Zara, armed with this information, begins the process by reporting it to the police, hoping that she can find justice for her client. The accused boys deny that there was any rape and one asserts that it was Jodie who came on to him, only regretting the act after it had taken place. When the incident is ready for trial, there is a media feeding frenzy, pitting the word of one Caucasian girl against the four boys, which fans the flames of racial imbalance in the United Kingdom. At trial, both sides present strong cases, though the narrative differs greatly. Zara is tried in the court of public opinion for helping to prosecute fellow Muslims, which brings shame to her family, but she remains firm that the truth must come out. With Jodie’s story soon developing holes, it is anyone’s guess who is to be believed and whose story is stitched together by last-second fabrications to save face. Justice may be blind, but it certainly is swayed by human influence, as can be seen throughout this piece. Abdullah keeps the reader stunned as they await the outcome, where the truth will offer some solace. Recommended to those who love a slowly developing legal thriller that has more twists than straightforward answers.

I had seen much about this book on Goodreads and wanted to indulge in what looked to be quite the legal thriller. While there is so much on which the attentive reader can feast, there are times when the pace drowned the momentum, rather than increasing it. Jodie Wolfe comes from unenviable means, which is seen throughout this piece. Her physical deformity is one that cannot be hidden, as is the lack of popularity she suffers because of it. She claims to have been a victim, but no one can believe that her appearance would make anyone sexually aroused in the least. Abdullah addresses this throughout in a variety of ways, as the attentive reader will see. While she holds firm to her narrative, the revelation of new and troubling evidence could put the entire case in jeopardy, forcing Jodie to come face to face with holding back the entire truth. Other characters, particularly Zara Kaleel, offer their own flavour to the story. Kaleel must face the issue of law over religious unity, something that not only creates a pariah out of her, but serves as an interesting subplot to the entire piece. Abdullah fills the pages of the book with this struggle, judged in the harshest way, to show that there are time when the truth must come out, no matter what the personal consequences that accompany it. The story was strong and offered some interesting nuances for the reader to discover. There are societal issues that are deeply rooted, as well as cultural norms that fuel the underlying momentum of the press coverage, neither of which is all that helpful. That Abdullah wishes to covey this is worth noting, at a time when quick generalisations fuel opinions, and cultural beliefs come into conflict with firmly held judicial and societal norms. While the story worked well, it was encased in massive chapters that helped dilute the impact. Abdullah might have kept the reader’s attention better with shorter and choppier segments, as she does break up the perspective throughout within each of the chapters. The premise is strong and I was eager to see how things could play out, with many subplots to keep the reader engaged and intrigued.

Kudos, Madam Abdullah, for this thrilling piece. A few tweaks and I would have been thoroughly captivated.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Court of Killers (Daniel Pike #2), by William Bernhardt

Eight stars

The latest novel from William Bernhardt is sure to intrigue many, as he mixes a strong legal thriller with some underlying societal issues. Daniel Pike is happy to still be working with his ensemble of legal minds. When a new case comes to the firm, Pike’s faceless superior presents it as campaign finance issue that has plagued the mayor of St. Petersburg. Armed with his legal toolbox, Pike and his associate make their way to the office of Camilla Pérez, who feels that she is being targeted by the alt-right for her views. What begins as a financial matter soon goes south when the police show up to arrest her for murder. It would appear that four men with loose connections to Pérez were found in an industrial oven of a bakery she owns. The evidence is piling up, but Pike is not afraid of this, sure that there is an explanation. While preparing the case for trial, Pike is the target of a few close encounters by someone behind the wheel, with threats uttered and warnings offered. He’s also set to face off against the one member of the D.A.’s office not afraid to cross swords with him, making this a case that few will want to miss. With a judge set in his ways about a woman’s place, the case moves forward, a powerful man hiding in the background and pulling the strings. Pike will have to use all his efforts to show that Mayor Pérez is not only innocent, but the victim of a smear campaign, both political and sexual in nature. In a courtroom setting that keeps the reader guessing until the jury comes forth with a verdict, the reader is set to see how Bernhardt can develop a case with ease. Recommended to those who love William Bernhardt’s writing, as well as the reader who finds solace in courtroom/legal thrillers.

I have long been a fan of William Bernhardt and his work. I remember binge reading much of his Ben Kincaid series one summer and cannot get enough of his work, when he is not busy teaching the next generation of fiction writers with his various seminars. Daniel Pike is again in the middle of a trying case, but he is ready for whatever is tossed before him. His life seems to be better grounded than in the debut novel, though it is his prowess in the courtroom that keeps the reader intrigued throughout. There are certainly strong personal development moments throughout, but Pike is a man on a mission and nothing will stand in his way of success. Other characters on both sides of the legal argument make a great impact throughout this novel, including those who would see Camilla Pérez suffer for being a strong woman. Bernhardt is able to convey many themes through the characters he’s chosen, which the reader will discover when when take the time to read the book attentively. The story is decent and the development of the plot keeps the reader wanting to know a little more. The true version of events is there for all to see, but it takes a highly attentive reader to piece things together before the sound of the final gavel. I am eager to see what is to come with the third novel, something Bernhardt promises is set for release in November 2019.

Kudos, Mr. Bernhardt, for a great piece. I am eager to see what else you have in store for your fans, a group that is surely growing with each strong book you release.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

A Better Man (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #15), by Louise Penny

Nine stars

After getting my hands on the latest Louise Penny novel, I could not wait to get started. This explosive series, set in rural Quebec, gives not only the feel of a wonderful mystery but also hones in on all things Canadian. After serving his suspension, Armand Gamache is back in his position as Chief Inspector within the Sûreté du Québec, though there is a whispered power struggle within Homicide. While many are worried about how it will resolve itself, Gamache wants only to work and agrees to investigate a query of a pregnant woman whose gone missing. When Gamache arrives, he meets the woman’s husband, a known abuser, who explains that he has no idea where his wife might be, but could not care less. Gamache gets a bad feeling about it all, but is equally distracted when Quebec’s spring thaw begins to cause issues. His community of Three Pines is set to flood, which could be devastating if the floodwaters don’t drop soon. With no signs of the pregnant Vivienne Godin, Gamache tries to determine if there may have been foul play, which is exacerbated when a body is discovered amongst some cracked ice close to a bridge. The receding waters reveal much, including a potential murder scene, with the perfect suspect who denies having anything to do with his wife’s death. Trying to connect the dots, Gamache turns to some of his fellow villagers, who use social media to coax out a slew of information. Will it be enough to convict a man who holds his wife in such low regard that she is only good as a punching bag? Additionally, the higher-ups within the Sûreté are keeping a close eye on Gamache, especially as old troubles have an uncanny way of resurfacing. Could the Chief Inspector’s return have been a set-up to bury him once and for all? A wonderful addition to this stellar series, sure to keep fans wanting more. Recommended to those who have loved Armand Gamache from the early Three Pines days, as well as readers who enjoy police procedurals with a Canadian flavour.

After a major binge of the series last summer, I was forced to wait like the rest of the Penny fans for this newest piece in the Gamache series. It was well worth the wait, though I know Penny has had some personal issues, which makes the publication of this piece even more exciting. Gamache remains on point, working through the blips that had him sidelined and trying to keep from letting the politics of the job get to him. Still eager to help, both within the Sûreté and towards his friends in the Eastern Townships, Gamache makes his mark in a variety of ways. Keen to solve crimes, he has little time for those who seek to circumvent justice or cut corners to get the answers they want. Other characters continue to evolve in the series, though the locals are more background than at the forefront of the case. There are a few new faces whose presence could become more regular, depending on how Penny chooses to advance the series. I am eager to see how this will all play out in the coming years. The story remains exciting and fresh, though there are some significant mentions of past events, which thicken the plot and the series development effectively. Penny has a wonderful handle on the series, even fifteen books in. She represents Canada and the genre so well, choosing interesting plot twists that keep the reader wondering. Established chapters and current events weave together a story that many readers will surely devour, as I did, leaving them begging for more. The need for patience is high by the time the book ends, but there is still so much to learn. Alas, it will likely be another year or so.

Kudos, Madam Penny, for dazzling your fans with another strong novel. Gamache is in good hands under your guidance.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons