Audley, Anselm & Elizabeth Edmondson. A Matter of Loyalty.

Seattle: Thomas & Mercer, 2017.

Elizabeth Edmondson doesn’t seem to be a very widely known author, but she’s a very good one — for all that I only discovered her stuff myself through Kindle Unlimited. She’s done a number of “suspense-romance” novels and then the “Classic English Mysteries” of which this is the third installment — and also, unfortunately, the last, since the author died in the middle of the first draft.

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Stratford, Sarah-Jane. Radio Girls.

NY: New American Library, 2016.

It’s the fall of 1926 and young Maisie Musgrave, born in Toronto and raised in New York by whomever her actress mother was able to dump her on, has returned to her adopted home of London. Moreover, after several years as one of the barely-working poor, she has just been hired as a secretary at the four-year-old BBC up on Savoy Hill. Mostly, she’s the typing assistant to the executive assistant to the Director General, John Reith, who hates being forced to hire so many women.

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Egan, Jennifer. Manhattan Beach.

NY: Scribner, 2017.

I was aware that one of Egan’s previous novels had won a Pulitzer, and that the others had all been shortlisted for one major award or another, but somehow, I hadn’t actually gotten around to reading any of them until now. But I’m a sucker for a good historical, and this one is set on the Brooklyn home front during World War II, and it’s extremely well written.

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Grisham, John. Sycamore Row.

NY: Doubleday, 2013.

Many of Grisham’s non-courtroom-oriented stories are lightweight and rather fluffy, but he’s also capable of solid writing, tense plotting, and very well-drawn characters. This one, happily, is one of those. It’s also a semi-sequel to his very first book, A Time to Kill, set in small-town northern Mississippi, an area the author knows well. It’s 1988, only a few years after the sensational trial detailed in the earlier book, in which defense attorney Jake Brigance had his house burned down and his dog killed by the KKK for defending a black man who had killed a white man in revenge.

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Gallagher, Stephen. The Bedlam Detective.

NY: Crown, 2012.

I kind of hate to admit that I’ve never heard of this author, since this is his fifteenth novel, and I confess I picked it up mostly because of the title, but I definitely lucked out. It’s a very original sort of murder mystery, with adroitly painted characters and a thoroughly believable setting. It’s the fall of 1912 in the southwest of England and Sebastian Becker is on a case. He used to be a homicide detective in London, and then went to America, where he became a Pinkerton undercover agent (and learned how to use a pistol because “they’re all gunslingers over there”) and also met and married Elisabeth, a Philadelphia girl. Nowadays, he’s an investigator for Sir James, the Lord Chancellor’s Visitor in Lunacy, who takes an official interest in any man of property whose sanity begins to appear questionable.

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Thomsen, Brian M. & Martin H. Greenberg (eds). A Date Which Will Live in Infamy: An Anthology of Pearl Harbor Stories That Might Have Been.

Nashville, TN: Cumberland House, 2001.

As a working archivist & historian for fifty years, and a science fiction junkie for rather longer than that, I’ve always been a sucker for the alternate history yarn. Change one tiny, believable thing and what are the consequences? (And the tinier and more mundane the change, the better.) The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor has long been a popular “point of departure,” if only because what actually happened seems like such a confluence of coincidence and serendipity in retrospect. The Japanese basically caught every good break it was possible to catch.

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Wilson, Robert Charles. Last Year.

NY: Tor, 2016.

I’ve always been a sucker for a good time travel yarn and this is one of the best I’ve read in some time, with a highly innovative plotline and writing of very high quality. Wilson isn’t a terribly prolific writer but everything he turns out seems either to win a major award or at least be shortlisted for one.

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Spufford, Francis. Golden Hill: A Novel of Old New York.

NY: Scribner, 2017.

It’s the fall of 1746 and Richard Smith has just arrived in the colony of New York from London, bearing with him a note of exchange for £1,000 which he intends to convert into cash at the London mercantile firm’s New York associate, Lovell & Co. That’s a lot of money — there isn’t that much in specie in the whole of the town of New York — and Lovell insists on waiting until the confirming letters arrive, so he can be sure he isn’t being scammed.

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Horowitz, Anthony. Magpie Murders.

London: Orion Books, 2016.

I’ve read two of Horowitz’s earlier books, both pastiches on Sherlock Holmes, but this one is completely different, and both its critical and its public reception has been surprising. It’s also two of the strangest murder mysteries I’ve ever read. What seems at first to be the frame story is narrated by the fiction editor of Cloverleaf Books, who has settled in for the weekend with the new ninth novel from popular mystery writer Alan Conway featuring the Poirot-like private detective Atticus Pünd.

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Le Carré, John. A Legacy of Spies.

NY: Viking, 2017.

Le Carré is still the best of the great Cold War spy novelists, though he had to change his game rather a lot after the Iron Curtain collapsed. Here, he returns to his roots with a story set mostly in the late 1950s and early ’60s. Many years ago, when he was young, Peter Guillam was the personal assistant, factotum, and gatekeeper to George Smiley, the dumpy, rather gray, middle-aged master spy of the Circus, and he was thereby privy to all the great (and usually secret) events of the long, strong struggle against the Soviet Union. Now Peter is becoming elderly himself, living in retirement on the farm in Brittany where he grew up.

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