BOOKS & BLOG: October 14, 2023

by | Oct 16, 2023 | 2023, Gunnie Rose

  • Hemlock Island, Kelley Armstrong
  • An Inheritance of Magic, Benedict Jacka
  • The Other Devil’s Name, E.X. Ferrars
  • The Last Devil to Die, Richard Osman
  • The Accident, Chris Pavone
  • Where Dead Men Meet, Mark Mills
  • The Ward Witch, Sarah Painter
  • The Late Mrs. Willoughby, Claudia Gray
  • Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun, Elle Cosimano
  • The Court of Shadows, Victor Dixen

I like just about everything Kelley Armstrong has written, and this stand-alone horror novel is no exception. To keep her financial head above water, divorcee Laney Kilpatrick must rent the beautiful home on her very own island to strangers. When strange events drive the latest batch of renters away, she has to investigate their claims. She travels with her niece, and her ex and his sister show up, too. It’s not too surprising when they are cut off from the mainland, and also not too shocking when they discover a body . . . but there are plenty of thrills and chills along the way. Hemlock Island is a great read.

Benedict Jacka has started a new series, after his much-loved (particularly by me) Alex Verus books. An Inheritance of Magic is a coming-of-age novel, in a way. Stephen Oakwood’s mother left, and then his father vanished, leaving Stephen with just enough magical knowledge to leave him yearning for more without any way to access it. But Stephen is tenacious and hard-working, and he picks up clues in the odd places he can find. With his rising ability comes rising danger. The other magical families are not glad to find an Oakwood practicing in their midst, and the gaps in his knowledge put him in terrible situations.

E.X. Ferrars’ name is from my past reading. I was excited to see some of her books available again. The Other Devil’s Name is one of her Professor Andrew Basnett books; Basnett is an aged sleuth sometimes verging on the irritating, but the plots and the people around him are rendered in a wonderful way. Brief but not missing a characterization, Ferrars is just as good a read as she was many years ago.

Richard Osman is definitely a star. The Last Devil to Die is his fourth Thursday Murder Club mystery, and it’s just as good as its predecessors. The members of the club live in an upscale senior community in England, and they all have plenty of free time to work on any case that presents itself. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron, and Ibrahim are in fine form in this book, and each character contributes to the solving of the murder of an old friend.

Chris Pavone is one of my favorite thriller writers, and The Accident holds up his high standard. Thrillers don’t bear a lot of analysis because their action is often multi-continental and sweeping, so I’ll only say that the threatened publication of an anonymous memoir (written by someone who definitely knows where all the bodies are buried) precipitates catastrophe after catastrophe.

Here’s another thriller I couldn’t resist:  Mark Mills’ Where Dead Men Meet. In 1937, Luke Hamilton, an air intelligence officer, finds himself surviving a serious assassination attempt. He has no idea who wants him dead, or why, and none of his friends seem to know, either. Secret after secret is unearthed in this truly fast-paced novel.

Sarah Painter has deviated from her previous novels in The Ward Witch. Here we have another island, this time Unholy Island, which is full of hidden knowledge. The few tourists who come are encouraged to make their stay brief, and if a stranger stays, all kinds of things happen. Esme, the Ward Witch, is the newest arrival on the island, and her job is to make the island safe . . . but things start happening anyway. This is a book rich in character and plot, and I really enjoyed it.

Claudia Gray’s The Late Mrs. Willoughby is the second in her series featuring characters from Jane Austen’s novels (the first was The Murder of Mr. Wickham). I like these books so much. The amateur sleuths are the daughter of Catherine and Henry Tilney (Northanger Abbey) and Jonathan Darcy, son of Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy (Pride and Prejudice). Juliet and Jonathan are wonderful characters, and the mystery is very satisfying. You’ll meet characters who’ve been enlarged and embellished, and you’ll enjoy every minute.

Elli Cosimano’s Finlay Donovan books, about a divorced romance writer and her nanny, are just refreshing and wonderful. From the initial mistake made about Finlay (that she’s a hitwoman), the writer is prey to one mistake after another, and her ruthless nanny keeps Finley moving forward since they both need money. Funny and bright, these are wonderfully escapist novels.

I met Victor Dixen in Spain at a convention. He lives in the United States, but his books have only been published in Europe heretofore. The Court of Shadows is finally available in the United States. In the France of 1785,  Dixen’s lowborn heroine Jeanne is engaged in an elaborate pretense that she is actually a highborn magic user, and as such she enters the select academy for such teenagers. But the stakes are incredibly high and her aim is incredibly lethal. She is looking for vengeance for the system that killed her family. The whole royal court is vampiric, and their only goal is to keep their blood supply plenteous, so she’s up against high odds. Her choices are shocking and her survival chances doubtful . . . but Jeanne is not about to give up.


I know you haven’t heard from me in a long time. I have a great excuse. I got a knee replacement, and will get the other knee replaced in early November. This is a challenging time in my life, and my husband’s, I can tell you. Knee replacement is no easy surgery, and the recovery is a bitch. Physical therapy is a lifesaver, but not a comfortable one.

The wedding is a wonderful thing, and I can hardly wait until this time next Saturday, when my daughter will marry the love of her life. As a bonus, I’ll look good, too, since I had to lose seventy pounds to get my knee done. Win/win.

Of course, the afterglow will dim once I get the other knee replaced, but at least all the hospital stuff will be over in one year.

I hope all of you have had a chance to read All the Dead Shall Weep, and I further hope you enjoyed it. The date for publication of the next Gunnie Rose has been pushed back since I can’t sit at my desk for any length of time so I’m way behind. But I hope to be back to writing the minute I can be, and I’ll do my best to make the book worth the wait.

Charlaine Harris