The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

I absolutely loved this book! Ostensibly about an unsolved murder and disappearance that happened in 1862, this beautifully told book is really a commentary on time, and how events and people connect, despite seeming unrelated.

The book starts with an archivist, Elodie, finding a satchel with both a photograph of a beautiful woman and an artist’s rendition of a two-gabled house. The house sparks something in Elodie’s memory; something about a fairy tale she was told as a child. She’s drawn to the mystery of the house and the woman in the photograph.

Honestly, Elodie bothered me. She was incredibly naive and seemed to be fond of martyrdom. Thankfully, while the book begins with her, she’s not the main character and is actually in it very little. The main storyline is told from the point of view of Birdie, a clockmaker’s daughter. I can’t say much about her without giving anything away. Suffice it to say, she is an enthralling narrator.

The book follows several different characters living in Birchwood Manor over many years: there’s the widow with three young children; the girl from India; an artist with his muse, and several others. Despite not seeming to have anything in common, their narratives flow together like tributaries in a river, blending into one skillful tale.

The setting is as important as the events that unfold there and is used very skillfully. I was engrossed in this book, even though it’s not a genre I normally get excited over. I will be on the lookout for Kate Morton’s other books. She’s a wonderful weaver of narratives.

If you are able to get your hands on this book, you won’t be disappointed.

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Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse

My husband found this for me at the library. I almost didn’t read it, once I realized that it was written by an athlete: that would have been a mistake. It was an enjoyable book, one that flies by because it’s so much fun.

This book is, as the title suggests, about Mycroft, Sherlock’s older brother. In fact, Sherlock appears in this book for less than five pages. I really liked that. Mycroft was written as a slightly less analytical, but more emotional genius and wasn’t overshadowed by the more well-known Sherlock.

In this book, Mycroft stumbles across a series of murders that seem to involve his fiance in some way. He travels to Trinidad with his best friend, Douglas, in an attempt to track her down and get to the bottom of things.

I loved Douglas. He was wise and long-suffering, without in any way being a Watson rip-off. In fact, this whole book walked the fine line between being an homage and being a copy with ease. It was a wholly original book.

My biggest complaint about it is that it rapidly switched from being a mystery to being an adventure novel. If I had gone into it knowing that it wasn’t going to be a mystery, I would have liked it more. Now that I have a better idea what to expect, I’m happily planning on reading the sequel, Mycroft and Sherlock.

The historical aspects of the book were well researched, the descriptions of the various places were vivid, and the story was fun. It was a fun addition to the Sherlock Holmes pastiche.

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Broken Things by Lauren Oliver

Five years ago, when they were thirteen, Brynn and Mia’s best friend was murdered. Everyone thinks they did it, obsessed over a fictional world called Lovelorn. The thing is, they didn’t. In this book, Mia and Brynn decide to “go back to Lovelorn”, face their past, and try to discover what really happened.

This isn’t the sort of book I normally read. I have a very vivid imagination which means that thrillers can easily get to be too much for me. However, this was done in such a way that I was able to handle it. Not only that, but I was hooked. It’s much more than a who dunnit; it’s a study of human nature, and an examination of the many different facets of a person that the world doesn’t see.

I loved the way reality and a made-up world collided in the book as Mia, Brynn, and a few other characters tried to figure out the mystery. I was on the edge of  my seat, wondering whether the author would actually choose to divulge the answer, or leave me forever wondering.

The writing was skillful, weaving a story that was more about the survivors and how their lives were affected than about the murder in and of itself. That being said, there were a few difficult parts that I had to rush through: mainly, brief mentions of self-harm in two separate places, and a vague allusion to harassment.

I liked that the main reason the girls were suspects (aside from being the best friends) was that the murder matched one that they had described in a fan fiction they’d written; a fan fiction that no one else had read. I also thought the final few sentences in the book were flat-out brilliant.

All in all, while this isn’t a book I’ll reread, I did find it engrossing. I suggest it, but with the caveat that it does deal with some sensitive material. If you enjoy psychological thrillers, this is right up your alley.

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Crocodile on the Sandbank

                                   I have read Crocodile on the Sandbank, and the rest of the books in the Amelia Peabody mystery series, many times. I absolutely love them! They are fantastic, easy reads, perfect for when you’re in a busy season (such as the waking hours) and want a quick read.
The first book takes place in the late 1800’s, in Egypt. The feisty Amelia Peabody has decided to leave her home in England and travel. She’s reached an age where she could almost be considered a spinster, and wants to experience new places and cultures. Coming to Egypt, she encounters a mystery, complete with a kidnapping attempt and a surprisingly lively mummy.

While the mystery is certainly interesting, this is a book that you read because the characters are so enjoyable. If I’ve had a tough week, I tend to reread this book as a comfort. It’s fun and lighthearted.

Amelia Peabody is like a female Indiana Jones, only with a more acerbic wit. The other characters that you’ll meet are equally enjoyable.You’ll fall in love with this book if you give it a read.

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Wow. This is easily the most ambitious and original book I’ve read this year. I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s a mystery…ish. It’s a thriller…ish. It’s similar to Agatha Christie’s writing, yet nothing like it. It’s incredible.

Evelyn Hardcastle is going to be murdered. The main character has to figure out how it’s done and by whom. He has eight chances in eight hosts to figure it out. Nothing is as it seems and he doesn’t know who to trust. Can he even trust himself?

This book is full of twists and turns. Every time I thought I had a handle on something, the story would shift and I’d be left feeling like, for the one clue I grasped, I missed three others. The best thing about this book is how masterfully the author wove the clues and coincidences into a compelling narrative. It was very easy, after the fact, to go back and follow the clues to its solution. I hate when an ending of  a mystery is chucked at a person with zero way it could have been solved by the reader. That’s not the case with this book. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, but the answer tracked throughout the book and made perfect sense in hindsight.

I can’t believe this is Stuart Turton’s first novel; he writes with such confidence. This is one of the best books I’ve read in a very long time. I am eagerly watching and hoping for another book by this author. It was perfect!