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The Sirens of Suspense

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Notable 2014: item1
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HISTORICAL MYSTERY

 

CITY OF GHOSTS, Kelli Stanley (Miranda Corbie Book 3, Minotaur)

For the United States, war is on the horizon. For Miranda Corbie, private investigator and erstwhile escort, there are debts to be paid and memories—long-suppressed and willfully forgotten—to be resurrected. Enter the U.S. State Department and the man who helped Miranda get her PI license. A man she owes. A man who asks her to track a chemistry professor here in San Francisco whom he suspects is a spy for the Nazis. Playing along may get Miranda a ticket to Blitz-bombed England and answers about her past…if she survives. Through sordid back alleys and art gallery halls, from drag dress nightclubs to a Nazi costume ball, Miranda's journey into fear takes her on the famed City of San Francisco streamliner and to Reno, Nevada, the Biggest Little City in the World…where she finds herself framed for a murder she never anticipated. Forced to go underground, Miranda soldiers on alone, determined to find the truth about a murder, a Nazi spy, and her own troubling past.

 

CITY OF JASMINE, Deanna Raybourn (Harlequin MIRA)

Famed aviatrix Evangeline Starke never expected to see her husband, adventurer Gabriel Starke, ever again. They had been a golden couple, enjoying a whirlwind courtship amid the backdrop of a glittering social set in prewar London until his sudden death with the sinking of the Lusitania. Five years later, beginning to embrace life again, Evie embarks upon a flight around the world, collecting fame and admirers along the way. In the midst of her triumphant tour, she is shocked to receive a mysterious—and recent—photograph of Gabriel, which brings her ambitious stunt to a screeching halt.  With her eccentric aunt Dove in tow, Evie tracks the source of the photo to the ancient City of Jasmine, Damascus. There she discovers that nothing is as it seems. Danger lurks at every turn, and at stake is a priceless relic, an artifact once lost to time and so valuable that criminals will stop at nothing to acquire it—even murder. Leaving the jewelled city behind, Evie sets off across the punishing sands of the desert to unearth the truth of Gabriel's disappearance and retrieve a relic straight from the pages of history.  Along the way, Evie must come to terms with the deception that parted her from Gabriel and the passion that will change her destiny forever.

 

THE COUNTERFEIT HEIRESS, Tasha Alexander (Lady Emily Mysteries book 9, Minotaur)

After an odd encounter at a grand masquerade ball, Lady Emily becomes embroiled in the murder investigation of one of the guests, a sometime actress trying to pass herself off as the mysterious heiress and world traveler Estella Lamar. Each small discovery, however, leads to more questions. Was the intended victim Miss Lamar or the imposter? And who would want either of them dead? As Emily and Colin try to make sense of all this, a larger puzzle begins to emerge: No one has actually seen Estella Lamar in years, since her only contact has been through letters and the occasional blurry news photograph. Is she even alive? Emily and Colin’s investigation of this double mystery takes them from London to Paris, where, along with their friend CÚcile, they must scour the darkest corners of the city in search of the truth.

(If you enjoy THE COUNTERFEIT HEIRESS, try Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia mysteries or Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series.)

 

IN THE MORNING I’LL BE GONE, Adrian McKinty (conclusion to The Troubles Trilogy, Seventh Street Books)

The early 1980s. Belfast. Sean Duffy, a conflicted Catholic cop in the Protestant RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary), is recruited by MI5 to hunt down Dermot McCann, an IRA master bomber who has made a daring escape from the notorious Maze Prison. In the course of his investigations Sean discovers a woman who may hold the key to Dermot’s whereabouts; she herself wants justice for her daughter who died in mysterious circumstances in a pub locked from the inside. Sean knows that if he can crack the "locked room mystery," the bigger mystery of Dermot’s whereabouts might be revealed to him as a reward. Meanwhile the clock is ticking down to the Conservative Party Conference in Brighton in 1984, where Mrs. Thatcher is due to give a keynote speech.

 

NIGHT OF A THOUSAND STARS, Deanna Raybourn (Harlequin MIRA)

On the verge of a stilted life as an aristocrat's wife, Poppy Hammond does the only sensible thing—she flees the chapel in her wedding gown. Assisted by the handsome curate who calls himself Sebastian Cantrip, she spirits away to her estranged father's quiet country village, pursued by the family she left in uproar. But when the dust of her broken engagement settles and Sebastian disappears under mysterious circumstances, Poppy discovers there is more to her hero than there seems.With only her feisty lady's maid for company, Poppy secures employment and travels incognita—east across the seas, chasing a hunch and the whisper of clues. Danger abounds beneath the canopies of the silken city, and Poppy finds herself in the perilous sights of those who will stop at nothing to recover a fabled ancient treasure. Torn between allegiance to her kindly employer and a dashing, shadowy figure, Poppy will risk it all as she attempts to unravel a much larger plan—one that stretches to the very heart of the British government, and one that could endanger everything, and everyone, that she holds dear.

 

THE PRIME MINISTER’S SECRET AGENT, Susan Ella MacNeal (Maggie Hope mystery Book 3, Bantam)

World War II rages on across Europe, but Maggie Hope has finally found a moment of rest on the pastoral coast of western Scotland. Home from an undercover mission in Berlin, she settles down to teach at her old spy training camp, and to heal from scars on both her body and heart. Yet instead of enjoying the quieter pace of life, Maggie is quickly drawn into another web of danger and intrigue. When three ballerinas fall strangely ill in Glasgow—including one of Maggie’s dearest friends—Maggie partners with MI-5 to uncover the truth behind their unusual symptoms. What she finds points to a series of poisonings that may expose shocking government secrets and put countless British lives at stake. But it’s the fight brewing in the Pacific that will forever change the course of the war—and indelibly shape Maggie’s fate.

(If you like CITY OF GHOSTS or THE PRIME MINISTER’S SECRET AGENT, consider: Kathryn Miller Haines, Rebecca Cantrell [Hannah Vogel series])

 

THE STRING DIARIES, Stephen Jones (Mulholland Books)

The String Diaries opens with Hannah frantically driving through the night--her daughter asleep in the back, her husband bleeding out in the seat beside her. In the trunk of the car rests a cache of diaries dating back 200 years, tied and retied with strings through generations. The diaries carry the rules for survival that have been handed down from mother to daughter since the 19th century. But how can Hannah escape an enemy with the ability to look and sound like the people she loves? A sweeping thriller that extends from the present day, to Oxford in the 1970s, to Hungary at the turn of the 19th century, all tracing back to a man from an ancient royal family with a consuming passion--a boy who can change his shape, insert himself into the intimate lives of his victims, and destroy them. If Hannah fails to end the chase now, her daughter is next in line. Only Hannah can decide how much she is willing to sacrifice to finally put a centuries-old curse to rest.

(If you like THE STRING DIARIES, try author Elizabeth Kostova.)

 

THAT SUMMER, Lauren Willig (St. Martin’s Press)

2009: When Julia Conley hears that she has inherited a house outside London from an unknown great-aunt, she assumes it’s a joke. She hasn't been back to England since the car crash that killed her mother when she was six, an event she remembers only in her nightmares. But when she arrives at Herne Hill to sort through the house—with the help of her cousin Natasha and sexy antiques dealer Nicholas—bits of memory start coming back. And then she discovers a pre-Raphaelite painting, hidden behind the false back of an old wardrobe, and a window onto the house's shrouded history begins to open...1849: Imogen Grantham has spent nearly a decade trapped in a loveless marriage to a much older man, Arthur. The one bright spot in her life is her step-daughter, Evie, a high-spirited sixteen year old who is the closest thing to a child Imogen hopes to have. But everything changes when three young painters come to see Arthur's collection of medieval artifacts, including Gavin Thorne, a quiet man with the unsettling ability to read Imogen better than anyone ever has. When Arthur hires Gavin to paint her portrait, none of them can guess what the hands of fate have set in motion.

 

TRADITIONAL MYSTERY

 

MURDER AT HONEYCHURCH HALL, Hannah Dennison (Minotaur)

Kat Stanford is just days away from starting her dream antique business with her newly widowed mother Iris when she gets a huge shock. Iris has recklessly purchased a dilapidated carriage house at Honeychurch Hall, an isolated country estate located several hundred miles from London. Yet it seems that Iris isn’t the only one with surprises at Honeychurch Hall. Behind the crumbling fašade, the inhabitants of the stately mansion are a lively group of eccentrics to be sure—both upstairs and downstairs —and they all have more than their fair share of skeletons in the closet. When the nanny goes missing, and Vera, the loyal housekeeper ends up dead in the grotto, suspicions abound. Throw in a feisty, octogenarian countess, a precocious seven year old who is obsessed with the famous fighter pilot called Biggles, and a treasure trove of antiques, and there is more than one motive for murder. As Iris’s past comes back to haunt her, Kat realizes she hardly knows her mother at all. A when the bodies start piling up, it is up to Kat to unravel the tangled truth behind the murders at Honeychurch Hall.

 

THE OUTSMARTING OF CRIMINALS: A Mystery Introducing Miss Felicity Prim, Steven Rigolosi (Ransom Note Press)

After being mugged, Miss Prim decides to leave New York City and purchase a home in the country, where she will be safe from dangerous criminals. A devoted reader of crime fiction, Miss Prim believes that her reading of detective novels has given her all the skills she needs to become an amateur sleuth in her new home base of Greenfield, Connecticut. Miss Prim gets the chance to prove her mettle when she finds a corpse in her basement. As she investigates (with her trusty Boxer, Bruno, at her side), Miss Prim begins to suspect that someone in Greenfield is watching her every move, waiting for the right moment to strike. Will Miss Prim, with her insights into human behavior and her steadfast refusal to rely on forensic techniques (which she considers the crutches of lazy investigators), be able to choose between two devoted suitors, save herself, and bring everything to a satisfactory resolution?

(Thank you to Catriona McPherson for this recommendation!)

 

THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD, Jeff Cohen/EJ Copperman (Midnight Ink)

Samuel Hoenig answers questions for a living. And his Asperger's Syndrome makes him uniquely qualified to ferret out almost any answer there is. But his latest question is a rather odd one--who stole a preserved head from the Garden State Cryonics Institute? As in any great mystery, each answer leads to more questions. And in this case, the next question is who killed the woman Samuel finds in the freezer room? Working with Ms. Washburn, his new associate, Samuel finds this his most complex question ever. Will Samuel be derailed by an incompetent police detective? Will the head of security let the chip on his shoulder get in the way of the truth? Just what information is the director of the institute hiding? With lives on the line, it's up to Samuel to answer each and every question, and he's just the man to do it.

 

A SKELETON IN THE FAMILY, Leigh Perry (Book 2 is out now, Berkley)

Most families have skeletons in their closets. Moving back into her parents’ house with her teenage daughter had not been Georgia Thackery’s “Plan A.” But when she got a job at the local college, it seemed the sensible thing to do. So she settled in and began reconnecting with old friends. Including Sid. Sid is the Thackery family’s skeleton. He’s lived in the house as long as Georgia can remember, although no one, including Sid, knows exactly where he came from and how he came to be a skeleton. Sid walks, he talks, he makes bad jokes, he tries to keep Georgia’s dog from considering him a snack. And he manages to persuade Georgia to let him leave the house. But when she takes him to an anime convention—disguised as a skeleton, of course—he sees a woman who triggers memories of his past. Now he is determined to find out how he died—with Georgia’s help. But their investigation may uncover a killer who’s still alive and well and bad to the bone. 

 

 

TELL US YOUR FAVORITE HISTORICAL MYSTERY OF 2014 by using the Comments box further down on this page, or on our Facebook page and be entered to win one of the books mentioned above! (U.S. entrants only.)