BOOKS & BLOG: JULY 5, 2023

by | Jul 5, 2023 | 2023, Blog Posts

  • How to Kill Men and Get Away with It, Katy Brent
  • The Ferryman, Justin Cronin
  • A Pinch of Snuff, Reginald Hill
  • Dark Wizard, Jeffe Kennedy
  • The Book of Cold Cases, Simone St. James
  • Killers of a Certain Age, Deanna Raybourn
  • The Damage Done, Hilary Davidson
  • Unspeakable Acts, edited by Sarah Weinman
  • The Nothing Man, Catherine Ryan Howard
  • The Lies I Told, Mary Burton
  • The Paris Diversion, Chris Pavone

Who could resist a book with the title How to Kill Men and Get Away with It? Not this camper! Kitty Collins, wealthy from birth and an Instagram Influencer, is also beautiful and eats, drinks, and wears the latest in everything. Kitty is not in love with her life, though. When she kills a man who won’t quit pursuing her, she feels good about herself for the first time in ages. It’s like Kitty has a new hobby, one she actually enjoys . . . just like I enjoyed every page of this book.

I’ve got high esteem for Justin Cronin, who creates fascinating worlds that just suck you in. The Ferryman is such a world. On an isolated island, Prospera, where every life comes to an unnatural end, Proctor Bennett has chosen a career as a ferryman. He escorts the ill and old onto a boat where they’re taken to another island to be recycled. Otherwise, Proctor lives a life of privilege and ease. Not too surprisingly, there are those who resent Prospera’s rich and insulated, and the more Proctor questions his life, the angrier they get. Proctor is in over his head, and there’s more on the line than he ever imagined.

Reginald Hill is always a great read. A Pinch of Snuff, a Dalziel and Pascoe novel, is just as good as the rest of the series. A plot involving pornographic (and possibly snuff) films, a private club where such movies are viewed, the people involved in such an industry, and much more, make for a great read.

Dark Wizard is about much more than magic: female suppression, subjugation of the weak to the powerful, and the difficulty of having a relationship with someone who has to obey are all part of what Jeffe Kennedy’s wondering about. Lord Gabriel Phel comes from a family that’s down on its luck, and he hopes to rebuild his family’s fortunes with a great marriage. Lady Veronica Elal, who has been imprisoned until she gets married, has discovered she is a familiar and not the wizard she hoped to be. She and Gabriel must marry, and she fights it with every resource she has . . . but their world is built with inescapable rules, and in the end, Gabriel and Veronica have to fight together against the forces around them.

Simone St. James has written a lovely, twisty, novel about a woman not convicted of murder but believed to be a murderer, and the true crime blogger who wants to dig into her mind.  Beth Greer and Shea Collins are on a collision course with fate, the result of things that happened twenty years before. The Book of Cold Cases is a mystery novel and a ghost story. It’s really good.

Killers of a Certain Age was a real delight. Deanna Raybourn’s novel, which flickers from the past to the present, is the story of four aging women, former employees of the Museum, a network of assassins. The four women are retirement age, and regarded as useless, so they’re surprised when they’re sent on a paid cruise to celebrate their service. Then they discover they’re going to be killed themselves, since they know too much. Or so management thinks . . . but management will have to think twice.

Hilary Davidson’s The Damage Done, an Anthony Award winner, was a real roller coaster of a book. Lily Moore moved to Spain to do her travel-writing from there, but in actuality she wanted to escape ruining her own life with that of her drug-addicted sister, Claudia. Lily is both sad and guilt-ridden to hear that Claudia’s body has been found in the apartment Lily let her live in. When Lily goes to the morgue, she finds out the body is not Claudia’s. Where is Claudia? It this an elaborate ruse to suck Lily back into her life? Or is Claudia really dead? Who is the corpse? The questions and doubts pile up until Lily must take action.

Unspeakable Acts, subtitled True Tales of Crime, Murder, Deceit, and Obsession, is all that and more. The various writers have different skews on the true-crime genre, and of course the cases range from horrific to bizarre. If you’re a true crime buff, this is a book you need to pick up.

The Nothing Man is a more realistic serial killer novel than most. And this makes it more interesting, rather than less. Eve Black survived the murder of the rest of her family when she was twelve. Now she’s written a book about it, and who’s taking an interest? The killer, that’s who. Can Eve identify him? He thinks she can.

As a rule, I avoid books in which the protagonist is a liar, a drug addict, or an alcoholic, but I am glad I broke that rule for Mary Burton’s The Lies I Told. Marisa Stockton, who’s been sober for less than a year, is fixated with the unsolved murder of her twin, Clare. Her older sister, Brit, has handled Clare’s death in her own way, and she has little faith in Marisa’s changed way of life. As we learn more of the sisters’ past, it’s all too easy to see why Marisa has such trouble with sobriety. And the detective who tried to clear the case is about to retire. Maybe no one but Marisa cares what happened to Clare. But Marisa’s wrong. Someone close to her knows.

I am a fan of Chris Pavone’s, who writes thrillers with characters I can . . . I hate to say this . . . relate to. The Paris Diversion marks the return of a couple from The Expats, Kate and Dexter Moore. Their two sons are registered in a private international school, Kate is trying to blend in with the other mothers while keeping her secret life as a spy active, and Dexter is into day trading. But the couple is on a course for disaster, partly through their own activities and partly because of the enemies they’ve made. A suicide bomber outside the Louvre is the first domino to fall and click against a whole sequence that will bring the Moores down . . . and it’s all by design.


There are quite a few more thrillers than normal in my reading list, reflecting my trip to Thrillerfest in NYC. Besides having a great time, and feeling absolutely floored and delighted with getting the title of Thriller Master, I came home with some books, the names of more I heard of, and got to meet Chris Pavone . . . who very kindly sent me his newest, The Paris Diversion. What a great present, and what a nice guy.

Usually June and July are not busy for me, but I am having to look at my calendar every day. As you may know, our very old dog Colt got so miserable that we had to make that awful final trip to the vet. For the first time in maybe fifteen years, we are a one-dog family. (At one time, we had four.) It was sad, but in the end it was the humane thing to do.

Right after that, I had to have surgery on my foot. I have waited and waited to have my knees replaced, and had finally gotten down to the required weight, but the foot had to come first. Maybe I just need bionic legs? I’m supposed to have my stitches out tomorrow, and will have to leave the surgical boot on for another two weeks. But maybe by the time I leave for Spain on the 16th, I can wear two shoes that match. I’m attending Celsius 232. My long-time friend and assistant, Paula, will be traveling with me, which is always fun.

Next weekend, before I start packing for Spain,  I’m giving a tea for my daughter and her fiancé, and Paula is also co-hostessing that, God bless her. I am as anxious as if I were planning a military campaign. I have no idea why I’m such a nervous hostess. You have food and drinks and people come. If the house is reasonably clean, I don’t think most people are very picky, do you? If they are, maybe they’re not my kind of people, anyway.

Other July events include my second son’s birthday (we took him out to lunch), our grandson’s birthday (we have to scramble on that one), our future daughter-in-law’s birthday (taken care of), and my dear friend Dana’s birthday.

Oh, and our church has a new priest. Her first Sunday was today, and as a member of the vestry, I’ll be meeting with her later this month, also.

So wish me luck with all this, and if you happen to being to Spain for Celsius 232, come up to me and say hi.

Maybe August will be calmer.

Charlaine Harris