Books:

  •  The Left-Handed Twin, Thomas Perry
  • Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone, Diana Gabaldon
  • These Silent Woods, Kimi Cunningham Grant
  • Postscript Murders, The Woman in Blue, Elly Griffiths
  • The Santa Suit, Mary Kay Andrews
  • Ignite the Fire, Karen Chance
  • Bullets and Other Hurtful Things, edited by Rick Ollerman
  • The Hawthorn Legacy, Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  • Love on the Line, Laura Castoro
  • The Man Who Died Twice, Richard Osman
  • The Last House on Needless Street, Catriona Ward

A long list, and that’s with leaving quite a few books off that I just didn’t connect with.

Thomas Perry has been writing for years, and he’s always good. I admire consistency! His Jane Whitehead books, featuring a native American guide for those who want to disappear, are especially well known. The Left-Handed Twin is part of this series. Jane is approached by a woman who is the target of a wealthy criminal. Jane uses all her skills to help the woman vanish into a new life, only to become the target of the criminal herself. Jane takes to the wilderness, figuring she’ll be safe . . . but she isn’t.

Go Tell The Bees I Am Gone is the long-awaited next installment in the Outlander series. I was so excited about receiving it, until I actually had to carry it around. It’s the first book I’ve considered sawing in half. I actually kept a pillow by my favorite chair to put Go Tell on while I read. I’m sure you’re thinking, “A Diana Gabaldon book, and all she can talk about is how heavy it is,” and you’re right. A few chapters in, and I was dreading it being over. Worth the wait, and the weight.

These Silent Woods is a tense survivalist novel by Kimi Cunningham Grant. Finch and her father Cooper live in a cabin in a remote forest on a mountain. They have been there as long as Finch can remember, and their only contacts with the outside world are a neighbor, Scotland, and Cooper’s Army buddy Jake, who comes once a year to renew their supplies. But one year, Jake does not come. The carefully constructed world they live in begins to fall apart. Then the two spot a photographer in the woods . . . and danger seems to be all around them.

Elly Griffiths is now on my list of favorite English writers. I reread The Postscript Murders (Detective Sergeant Harbinder Kaur), which comes alive with its incredible variety of characters, from Kaur herself (a gay policewoman of Indian lineage) to Natalka (a Ukrainian caregiver who finds the body of one of her favorite elderly women) to Benedict (a former priest who sells coffee on the Brighton beachfront). Then I read The Woman in Blue, one of Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway novels. Galloway is a university teacher, an archaeologist, and a police consultant . . . and she has a daughter by a married police officer. But Galloway is a thoroughly sympathetic woman, who does her best and adores her child, and I look forward to finishing all Griffiths’ books about her.

My friend Mary Kay Andrews has a deservedly huge following. Her “beach reads” are intelligently written, with considerable Southern charm, and her protagonists are woman who are smart but sometimes in a lot of trouble. The Santa Suit is about Ivy Perkins, who buys a farmhouse sight unseen while she’s in the middle of a divorce. Of course, the farmhouse is full of junk and in considerable disrepair when she arrives, but a man shows up to help her, not surprisingly. And then Ivy finds a note in the pocket of the previous owner’s Santa Suit, and sets out to discover what happened to the little girl who wrote it.

You all know I really enjoy Karen Chance’s books. Ignite the Fire: Incendiary is a continuation of the complicated story of Cassie Palmer, once a slave to vampires, now the Pythia and extraordinarily powerful, if only she knew how to wield her magic. Told at the usual Chance breakneck speed, there’s a lot of story to experience, and the second half will be told in Ignite the Fire: Inferno. I’m settling in to wait for this next installment!

I believe I’ve talked about Bullets and Other Hurtful Things before. This is a tribute anthology to my friend Bill Crider, one of the nicest and smartest people I’ve ever met. I contributed a story in Bill’s memory, and I’m proud to be part of the lineup for this very good collection of tributes. Read and enjoy!

Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ second installment in her Hawthorne books, The Hawthorne Legacy, continues the story of Avery, who has inherited Tobias Hawthorne’s billions . . . though she has never met Tobias Hawthorne. And she’s not his daughter. He does have grandsons, though, and at least two of them are interested in Avery. But they’re all interested in figuring out the puzzle of her inheritance. Can Avery survive until she reaches her majority? The forces against her are stacking up.

Love on the Line (by my friend Laura Castoro) is a reissue of one of Laura’s older books, re-edited and streamlined. It’s a story that is pertinent to now, and I’m glad it’s back on the shelves. Lawyer Thea Morgan is about to marry the Reverend Xavier Thornton, a former mega-church pastor who has accepted a pulpit in small-town Arkansas. Not only is the transition to marriage a big one, but Xavier’s congregation isn’t exactly welcoming to Thea, who looks white. They see Thea as haughty and don’t understand why she doesn’t give up her job, but rushes to Arkansas from her Texas practice every weekend to support her new husband. Thea is cast into the middle of a new life with many difficulties she never imagined. Can she save her marriage? Yes, that’s one of those rhetorical questions book covers ask – the answer is always “yes” – but in this case, it truly doesn’t seem possible!

Richard Osman’s first book, The Thursday Murder Club, was quite a hit. I really enjoyed it, so I was anxious to read The Man Who Died Twice. Though we’re meeting the Murder Club characters for the second time, this book is just as good. The terrifying Elizabeth is called upon to help an old pal who shows up in her retirement village. He’s been accused of stealing diamonds. And maybe he’s guilty. Elizabeth and her friends are caught up in a web of deception and crime, and have to think their way out of it. This is another winner.

The Last House on Needless Street keeps its secrets up until the end. This intriguing book by Catriona Ward starts with a man who lives in a boarded-up house and has no friends except a cat, Olivia, and sometimes Lauren, his daughter. This narrow world starts to spin out of control, and we can only go along for the ride. What happened to Little Girl with Popsicle? Who kills the birds in the back yard? The center simply cannot hold in this suspenseful book.

 

Blog:

 What a year it’s been. I’m not even going to get into politics, because we’re already divided enough. But the COVID scare, which seems to be permanent, the unstable weather, which is definitely permanent, and many deaths in the USA – over 800,000 – must be on everyone’s minds now that the Omicron variant is battering our shores again. There will never be another normal like the one we had.

My church lost many people this year. I have gone to more funerals than I normally attend in three years. Admittedly, we have an aging congregation, but it’s sobering to follow so many you knew to the grave.

And then we all lost Anne Rice, a writer who definitely broke barriers and raised bars with her writing about the paranormal. Vampires, witches, werewolves: all came to new life in her work.

I hope 2022 isn’t as emotionally harrowing as 2021.

I hope you all find wonderful books to read, from writers you know and writers you don’t . . . yet.

I hope inflation goes away, and shortages abate, and our country gets into turning around climate change and energy shortages.

I hope all of you enjoy my book for this year (The Serpent in Heaven) while I get started writing the next book in the Gunnie Rose series.

I hope at least one of my book series “in development” actually moves forward.

I hope the people I love stay healthy in the coming year.

It seems impossibly grandiose, but I wish all of you happiness, good health, and self-control in the coming year.

Charlaine Harris