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Fortune Favors The Dead by Stephen Spotswood

This engaging debut mystery freshens up the classic detective duo blueprint of established older P.I. and young protege/typist/errand-runner,  Not unlike Nero Wolfe, Lillian Pentecost is the most sought after investigator in mid-1940s New York. Illness is slowing her down and almost on impulse she finds her Archie in Willowjean “Will” Parker.  Street-smart, gender-fluid, wise-cracking Will saves Lillian’s life one evening with the knife-throwing skills she gained from a few years with the circus. On the. spot Lillian offers Will a new career path. 

Three years on and Will has learned much from her mentor. She will need those skills for an especially tricky and sensitive case – a locked room murder in which the matriarch of a prominent family was bludgeoned with a crystal ball during a party. The suspects are numerous but none more mysterious than the medium who was present – Ariel Belestrade. 

While the mystery keeps the story flowing it’s the dynamic between Pentecost and Parker, along with housekeeper/cook Mrs. Campbell, that makes the book a pleasure. Readers will look forward to more from this intriguing found-family. 

Published October 27, 2020
Doubleday Books

An advance galley of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest opinion.

Good Veg by Alice Hart

brightly colored pink and yellow sliced vegetables and scattered green herbs on a white backgroundLinking up with Beth Fish Reads for Weekend Cooking.

Brighton-based Alice Hart presents a hefty volume of vegetarian recipes designed to let simple ingredients shine. The full title, Good Veg: Ebullient Vegetables, Global Flavors – a Modern Vegetarian Cookbook, though a mouthful, captures the contents well. As she says, “predominantly this is a book to celebrate fresh vegetables.”

Hart’s sprightly, convivial introduction lays out her relaxed food philosophy.  That laid-back  spirit is evident in many of her recipe notes as she encourages improvisation and substitution when needed. Refreshingly she understands not everyone lives near a gourmet market or ethnic grocery. Many of Hart’s recipes have an international scope with more than a

Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

It is to author Neuvel’s credit that I was most of the way through Waking Gods (book #2 of The Themis Files, after Sleeping Giants) when I realized I was not just reading, but fully absorbed in a book about GIANT FIGHTING ROBOTS. And I had not rolled my eyes. Not once.

A stellar debut can be a hard act to follow but Waking Gods fulfills the promise of its predecessor with a plot combining elements of pulp sci-fi and international thriller, with a satisfying and tantalizing conclusion promising more to come. Characters we met in Sleeping Giants are fleshed out, given more depth and backstory.

Neuvel knows just how much information to spool out to keep the pages turning. Why is Dr. Franklin missing a chunk of time? Who is the girl in the opening pages having terrifying visions? And why are more robots, larger robots, suddenly appearing in major cities around the world and just standing silently?

Review: Journal Sparks by Emily K. Neuberger

Art journalers, bullet journalers and those who just can’t pass up a beautiful blank book will find loads of inspiration in Neuberger’s colorful Journal Sparks: Fire Up Your Creativity with Spontaneous Art, Wild Writing, and Inventive Thinking.

An empty page can be daunting. As can the question, what is a journal? Neuberger fills a page with all the many things it can be (at its simplest, “anything with pages that is used to collect ideas”) and all the purposes it can have. A journal can be for everything, or it can be used “only when sitting in a tree.” The rule is no rules.

Journal Sparks invites the reader to uncap some markers and sharpen those color pencils. Lists, daily events, observations are all embellished with illustration. Neuberger’s examples,

Review: Girl in Disguise by Greer Macallister

Macallister’s lively new book Girl in Disguise, loosely based on the career of the first female Pinkerton agent Kate Warne, will please fans of historical fiction. She has crafted an enjoyable narrative of an interesting career by teasing intrigue and suspense out of limited information.

In her concluding author’s note, Macallister explains what the record shows, and where her imagination filled in the gaps. Unfortunately, she relates, the Great Chicago Fire wiped out most of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency’s files prior to 1871 – a period encompassing Warne’s entire career – so precious little remains about this pioneer.

Review: City of Light, City of Poison by Holly Tucker

Combining the research skills of an academic and a storyteller’s flair, Vanderbilt Professor Holly Tucker brings the crime-riddled Paris of the late 1600s to life in the excellent history “City of Light, City of Poison: Murder, Magic, and the First Police Chief of Paris.” At its center is the “Affair of the Poisons” which touched both the glittering heights and impoverished lows of French society.

In 1667 Nicolas La Reynie was appointed lieutenant general of police with the objective of imposing law and order on the disordered city of Paris. A flurry of ordinances cleaned the streets and lit the night. Mud taxes, animal regulations, fines for emptying chamber pots into the streets, and a special tax to place lanterns along the streets (creating the “city of light”) slowly improved the quality of life in Paris, even while causing grumbling among the citizenry.

Repost: The Farmette Cookbook by Imen McDonnell

Well, the dreaded cold came for me after all! So on this St. Patrick’s Day (after a week of sneezing, coughing, sleeping, and not much else) I am reposting this review from exactly one year ago of the delightful “Farmette Cookbook!”

Linking up with Beth Fish Reads for Weekend Cooking.

Farmettepublished March 8, 2016
Roost Books

Happy St. Patrick’s day! By coincidence I have today a cookbook written by an American big city career girl-turned Irish farm wife.

You would think with the word “whisk” in the title of this blog I would talk more about cooking and cookbooks. I should. I have cookbooks stashed all over the house, recipe cards stuffed into file boxes and piled on the counter, and when I can’t decide what to read, I pull out a cookbook and start reading that. This is just the kind of cookbook I would grab on an “I don’t know what to read now” day.

First, I could go on and on about how beautiful the publisher Roost’s books are. It doesn’t matter if the topic is crafts, food, or sheep farming they are beautifully made books that beg to be handled and admired. (This will come up every time I review a Roost book. Just saying.) The photographs in Farmette, most by the author herself, are stunning and do what good food photography should do – they make you want to head into the kitchen and start cooking.

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