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Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House by M.C. Beaton

Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House by M.C. Beaton (2003)
Fast reading! Intrigue! Good diversion from blood and guts murder mystery. Twists and turns on English roads through towns with historic names leads to conclusion of a murder or 3.

To get a complete list of books in the Agatha Raisin series visit M.C. Beaton's website.

I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg

I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg (2010)
A charming and heartwarming  book. I laughed and I cried.  It was well worth the wait.

Check out the author's website for more about the book.

If you like Fannie Flagg's books take a look at our list of  funny mysteries to discover your next favorite read.

Mrs. Kimble by Jennifer Haigh

Mrs. Kimble by Jennifer Haigh (2003)
In her first novel, Jennifer Haigh tells of three women who marry the same man, Ken Kimble. Birdie, his first wife, struggles to hold herself together following his desertion. Then he finds Joan, a lonely heiress shaken by personal tragedy, who sees in Kimble her chance at happiness. Finally there is Dinah, a beautiful woman who is half his age. Ken Kimble is revealed through the eyes of the women he seduces and you’re not going to like him very much!

The author makes no judgments, but rather her story is a revelation of the human condition at its best and worst. She deals a steady hand of emotions, but with a deft touch. And as one review put it, “The book raises as many questions as it answers, and in that lies its true significance, a certain authenticity of voice that compels one to read on in spite—or perhaps because of—the contradictions.”

Read an interview with the author about Mrs. Kimble.

Spotlight: Man’s Best Friend

Spotlight: Man’s Best FriendWaiting for Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend by Susan Orlean (2011)? Try one of these classic stories about man’s best friend.

Lassie Come Home by Eric Knight (2003) is the classic story of a beloved collie, sold by his impoverished family, who makes his way back home to his boy. Jack London's The Call of the Wild (1981) is another story of loyalty. Buck the dog is rescued from a brutal existence as a Yukon sledge dog by John Thornton, to whom he becomes devoted. The Incredible Journey (1996) is another story, this time two dogs and a cat, that make their way over hundreds of miles of Canadian wilderness to find a home. Roger Caras’ Treasury of Great Dog Stories (1987) brings together stories by such well known authors as Mark Twain and Stephen Crane.

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party by Alexander McCall-Smith

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party by Alexander McCall-Smith (2011)
Another fun, endearing book from McCall-Smith’s “No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency” series. This one has less detective stories and is slower paced, though it picks up in the middle. It’s an enchanting read.

If you enjoy “No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency” series you might like other books on our list Mysteries: Dateline Africa.

Here is the trailer for the television series based on the book.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (2011)
From page one, this story of a big pharmaceutical company plunging into the Amazon to investigate the development of drugs and, incidentally, the death of one of its doctors intrigued me. The story gathers momentum as the scene moves from Minnesota to the jungles of the Amazon. The characters are often flawed but so human. For a real thriller offering so much to think about, try Ann Patchett.

To read an expert from the book check this article from NPR here.

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (2011)
Eleanor Brown’s likable debut has lots of family drama, a touch of Shakespeare, and a happy ending!

Dr. James Andreas, a Shakespeare scholar, has three daughters. When his wife is a diagnosed with breast cancer, he calls them home with a quotation from Titus Andronicus: "Come, let us go; and pray to all the gods/For our beloved mother in her pains." And so they return, all in their thirties, to the small college town where they were raised.

The three Andreas sisters – “dependable” Rosalind, “sexy” Bianca, “carefree” Cordelia –speaking with one voice, are the novel's first-person narrative…an unusual perspective but it works well here. With a touch of comedy the three sisters together tell the whole story, tracing each one's worries and indiscretions, yet still creating a unity, even in moments of strident confrontation. Or as the author says: "We love each other. We just don't happen to like each other very much." Ultimately it is the story of young women becoming “adults.”

And even though the happy endings are a little predictable, it is a good read. Indeed…all’s well that ends well!

Last Train from Liguria by Christine Dwyer Hickey

Last Train from Liguria by Christine Dwyer Hickey (2011)
During the 1930s, spinsterish Bella goes to the Italian Riviera to be nanny to small, eccentric Alessandro. As the years pass, the fascist government in Italy, under the sway of Germany, begins to come down upon its Jewish population—and Alessandro is Jewish. Desperate to get Alessandro and his baby sister out of Italy, Bella takes a dangerous and heartbreaking trip across Europe. This is a beautifully written and haunting story.

Set the Night on Fire by Libby Fischer Hellmann

Set the Night on Fire by Libby Fischer Hellmann (2010)
Set the Night on Fire is the first book in a long time that I literally could NOT put down. I lost a lot of sleep with this book, but it was worth it. It's part historical fiction, part thriller, and an all around well-written story.

It starts and ends in the present with the daughter of activists from the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, who is trying to deal with a family tragedy and fight for her own life with stalkers watching her every move. Eventually she finds out it all goes back to 1968. The middle of the book tells the story of what happened to her parents and their friends from 1968-70.

Watch a trailer for the book:

Saving Max by Antoinette Van Heugten

Saving Max by Antoinette Van Heugten (2010)
This is a good legal thriller that will keep readers engrossed until the last chapter. Danielle Parkman is a single mother who struggles against insurmountable odds to prove her teenage son is innocent after being accused of murder. The novel also explores the difficulties parents face when raising a child with special needs.

For more legal thrillers here is a list of books in genre  we recommend.

The Quest for Anna Klein by Thomas H. Cook

The Quest for Anna Klein by Thomas H. Cook (2011)
This novel of suspense is not fast paced or action packed, but it slowly builds to a neat conclusion. In 1939, Thomas Danforth is looking for a more meaningful and exciting life when chance introduces him to the mysterious American immigrant Anna Klein. Danforth believes that Anna is Jewish and on a secret mission for the state department to stymie Hitler’s advances on Europe. When the plan goes bust, Anna disappears.

Was she executed by the Nazis or she did she disappear into the vast prison system of Stalinist USSR? Thomas becomes obsessed with Anna and spends the rest of his life on a quest to find the real Anna Klein.

For more about this book look at this article.

The Diviner’s Tale by Bradford Morrow

The Diviner’s Tale by Bradford Morrow (2011)
The story begins with Cassandra (Cass) Brooks telling of her premonition of her brother's death which sets the scene for a suspenseful tale of family secrets; a nice setup for the mystery that follows. Cass has other unusual gifts, she is a diviner; the kind that can track down water sources. While on a dousing job she comes upon the shocking vision of a young girl hanged from a tree. When she returns with authorities to the site, the body has vanished, leaving in question Cassandra’s credibility if not her sanity.

Although it becomes easy to identify the villain of the piece, it is still a well plotted story with an interesting array of players. I came to admire the main character for her resilience and found this novel to be a good read.

For other psychological suspense novels here is a list of  staff recommendations.

Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (2010)
This Pulitzer Prize winning book is more of a collection of short stories than a novel with each chapter focusing on a particular time in a character’s life. Written in a non linear format the book spans from the 1970s punk rock scene to the distant future of 2020.  The American music scene is the focus for the diverse cast of characters that includes Sasha, a troubled young kleptomaniac and Bennie, an aging music producer. Throughout the book, the characters’ lives intersect each other and in the end everyone is connected to one another to some degree. Egan’s unique writing style allows the reader to see the characters at different points  in their lives and understand how time has changed them.

This is an intriguing and engaging novel that explores memory and the passing of time in our lives.

Check out this candid interview with the author about her book.

The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg

The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg (2009)Another Swedish author (Steig Larrson was the first.) makes her mark in the murder industry. For once, I agree with the endorsements on the book jacket: "Chilly, deceptive and lucid, just like the icy environment it describes." --The Literary Review.

The plotting, the intertwine of characters, the environment and even the ending satisfy the reader. All things work together as the story gathers momentum. Lackberg develops her characters deftly, just enough to be realistically appealing or appalling as the case may be. This is my starred mystery for summer.

Keep up to date with the latest news about the author on her blog.

Doc by Mary Doria Russell

Doc by Mary Doria Russell (2011)
Forget Val Kilmer (Tombstone), Dennis Quaid (Wyatt Earp) or Victor Mature (My Darling Clementine). This is the story of the real Doc Holliday, a well educated Southern gentleman who is exiled from his Georgia family when tuberculosis strikes. Sent to the west to recover, Doc ends up in Dodge City where he first meets his friend Morgan Earp and his upright, teetotaler brother Wyatt.

In Doc, the events before the Earps and Doc move to Arizona are played out against the wild cattle town of Dodge City where money and politics are already the powers that be. After a slow beginning that fills in Doc’s early days, this colorful and eventful story tells the story of the friendships that become a second family for the gentlemanly Doc. As the disease takes over his life it becomes almost another character in this poignant western story.