Death Wears a Beauty Mask

Death Wears a Beauty Mask by Mary Higgins Clark

Thoughts Before Reading:

Mary Higgins Clark wrote this book way back in the ’70s, but never finished it as she wasn’t sure how to end it. She shelved it and went on to write what would be her first book and bestseller, Where Are the Children?

Years later, she took another whack at it s here we are.

Janice Broad hasn’t seen her older sister, Alexandra, in forever. They used to be so close with Janice raising her after their mother died. Then Janice moved to New York City and started her modeling career and their time together grew less. When Janice moved to the LA area for college their time shrinked smaller still.

Now Janice is married and she and her husband, District Attorney Mike Broad, are heading to spend a week of their honeymoon in London and then a week with her.

Yay! Sisters back together.

When they get to the airport, Janice isn’t there. Nor is she at her apartment, and no one knows what happened to her.

They start questioning the men who are hounding her-first Grant Wilson, her agent. Alexandra was the face of a new line, Beauty Mask, but had been having troubles. The company producing Beauty Mask was making them do constant redos, over and over again. Alexandra looked bad and tired.

Grant had been after Alexandra to marry him but she kept saying no. He thinks that she will be sing yes soon, but then she just disappeared. Now he needs her redo the Venice shoot or else the company goes belly up as Beauty Mask won’t pay up without perfection. He says he has no clue to where she is. Could it be he did something because she kept refusing him?

They then see Larry Thompson, photographer. He has known Alexandra from way back. He hates Grant Wilson and never wanted Alexandra to sign with him. He says ever since she’s joined his company, Wilson has just overworked her and worn her out.  Larry tries to make it be that they are just friends, but he seems more interested, and to me extremely bossy, then just as a friend. He is also known to have a very short fuse. Could he have exploded on Alexandra? Or been angry if she could have refused him?

Mark Ambrose is the man who owns the plane that chartered the models and Beauty Mask. He too was another man interested in Alexandra and she too spent time in Venice together. He was supposed to give her a ride to her apartment, but then Alexandra disappeared. Hmm…what happened in Venice or the airport that made her change her mind?

Hmm…

As the couple investigates, they get in a car accident, who did they talk to that felt uneasy?

Then they find out Alexandra got the time wrong and was in the same cab as them and went back to the apartment. But when they get there they found out she has been strangled to death, her face covered Beauty Mask.

But when they do the autopsy, they discover that it isn’t Alexandra, but Lisa Markey, Alexandra’s friend. What happened to Alexandra. Is she alive? Dead? Where is she?

Thoughts After Reading:

Good, really well written until the reveal that the only reason the person was trying to kill Alexandra was because they wanted beauty mask to fail to make money.

That’s it?

A bit of a letdown for me.

But other than that I thought it was really good. I liked that she didn’t go overboard on the characters. But kept the cast short and focused.

And there was this cute little salute to her other novel as if you listen to what Alexandra hears on the news, there is a little snippet about Clark’s first book Where Are the Children?

At one point the detective says I should have known who it was because _________, and I was like facepalm! Duh, I should’ve known too!

For more Mary Higgins Clark, go to Where Are You Now?

For more modeling mysteries, go to The Turquoise Trail Mystery

For more disappearing sisters, go to The Night Sister

For more mysterious honeymoons, go to Death by Honeymoon

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Psycho

Psycho

Psycho (Psycho #1) by Robert Bloch

Thoughts Before Reading:

So I am a huge fan of Alfred Hitchcock and one of my favorite films is Psycho (1960).

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I could go on and on about it, but my sister blog, janeaustenrunsmylife.wordpress.com, already reviewed it.

 So as I had become obsessed with Psycho, when I spotted the book Psycho II at a book sale I bought it.

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I had never read Psycho, but if the movie was that fantastic, then I thought the book must be and the sequel.

wrong

I did not like the sequel. To me it was not a good book at all. And ten years later I decided it was time to try and actually read the first novel that the film is based on. Now this won’t be a comparison, as that is a job for my sister blog fromprinttoscreen.wordpress.com

So here we are with Psycho.

The book was written in 1959 and is based on the Ed Gein serial killer (although Bloch claims to have written it without knowing anything about the case). The point of the novel was that an insane serial killer could live next door, and be overlooked even in a small-town.

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Plot Synopsis:

So the book starts off with Norman Bates, a 40-year old man who lives with his mother.

Yeah something’s not right with this situation.

Their property is massive and includes a huge farmhouse for the two of them, and then a motel lower down the hill.

Norman has an unhappy life with his mother, being the one to take care of her, while she is sick, abusive, and not fun to be around. The only bright spot for Norman is his books, through them he is able to escape his everyday existence.

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So Norman is having a regular day, when he hears a sound that means someone is there to check in.

We then switch to Mary Crane (Marion in the film). Mary Crane has not lived the life she wished for. She was planning to go to college but canceled that when her father died in a car accident and she decided to help at home. Her boyfriend left her when he was sent by the army to Hawaii, where he met another girl. Then her mom became sick and Mary paid for Lila’s, her sister, education. She works at Lowery’s real estate office as a secretary but that is not what she wants. She wants to be married with children.

After her mother’s death and the sale of the house, they had some extra money and Lilia convinced Mary to go on a cruise. There she met Sam Loomis, a divorced hardware store owner who inherited his father’s business and his debt. The two fell in love, but Sam doesn’t want to be married now. He wants to wait a few years until the fiances are better. Mary doesn’t like it, but decides to wait.

How she feels inside.

When a buyer walked in and bought his daughter her dream house for $40,000 in cash; Mary just snapped and stole it instead of depositing it like she was supposed to.

She travels to Sam, but decides to stop for the night instead of coming right over. Her stop? The Bates Motel.

Norman seems sweet and tells Mary that he will make them a snack. They do and talk about their issues.

Now here is what I thought was slightly weird. Norman in the film was adorable, kind-hearted looking, and like a cute little boy. I could see talking to him as he seemed safe, and in need of a friend. In this he is a bit creepy. 40-year old man with his mom, I don’t think so.

Mary decides that her plan is a horrible one and is planning to return to Fort Worth, TX. Before she leaves, she decides to take a shower, to wash off her sins.

While in the shower she is attacked and killed.

Norman has been drinking, and is depressed at their conversation as he knows that Mary is right. His life is hard and unpleasant and he should do something about it. He also has a thing for Marion and wants to be with her.

I hate my life!

Norman discovers Mary’s dead body and figures that his mother is the one behind the attack. He then cleans up the mess, tossing everything in Mary’s car; and all that into the swamp.

Sam is writing a letter to Mary, when Lila shows up on his doorstep! She comes to him looking for Mary, relating what happened and how Mary is missing. She is followed by Lowery’s private investigator Arbogast.

Hearing this news about Mary, Sam starts having second thoughts about the marriage wondering how he fell for such a woman. And does he know her as well as he thought he did?

Arbogast traces the steps of where Mary could have gone and discovers the forgotten drive that leads to the Bates Motel.

He questions Norman and asks to talk to his mother. He lets Sam and Lila know, asking them to wait for his next call. Norman reluctantly agrees to Arbogast meeting the mother,but when Norman’s mother meets Arbogast she slices his throat. Another body for the swamp.

Norman knows more will be coming, and against his nother’s wishes, he hides her in the fruit cellar.

Sam and Lila have been waiting for Arbogast but no call comes. Lila becomes worried and impatient and the two go to the Sheriff to ask for his help. There they find out that Norman’s mother is dead and buried.

If she is dead then who is in the house?

What?

The Sheriff complies with their request and heads out to question Norman. When he returns he lets the two know that Arbogast isn’t there, the mother isn’t there, and Mary isn’t there. he believes that Arbogast took off for Chicago and just forgot to call.

Lilia doesn’t believe in that and tells Sam she is heading out to the motel.

Lila and Sam pretend to be a couple traveling, but Norman knows something is up; especially with Lila looking so much like Mary.

The Sam and Lila split up and start investigating. Mary heads to the house while Sam decides to distract Norman. It works for a while but Norman knocks Sam out and heads to the house after Lila.

Sam wakes up when the Sheriff finds him. He received a call about Arbogast that made him suspicious and he came out here to look for Sam and Lila. They both hear Lila screaming and head up to the house.

Thoughts After Reading:

I didn’t like it.

Well first of all, I didn’t like Sam. He was much better in the film. Book Sam doesn’t defend her or think about helping her; but wonder if he was just taken in by a cold stone criminal. To me, I don’t think he really loves her as he continues to talk himself out of the relationship.

Marion isn’t as endearing as all she wants is to find a handsome, rich man to marry and improver her life. She meets Sam, who later she is upset to discover is not wealthy but won this cruise, and just as on hold as she. She wants to marry anyhow, but Sam refuses and asks her to wait.Mary seemed fueled by money rather than her love in trying to catch a husband and escape out of her life.

Ugh

Norman wasn’t as good as in the film. Book Norman is a 40 year old man who lives with his mother. He has been controlled by her (and abused in every way). He is overweight, impotent, intellectual on his own (but falls apart in front of mother or others), passive, and dreams of a better life (living the lives of the books he reads.) Even though he is an adult he still acts like a child, being controlled and dictated by his Mother.

To me I thought Norman in the book was good, but to be honest if I stayed at a hotel with this guy I wouldn’t spend time having sandwiches with him. I don’t know of I would even want to rent a room from him as he just sets off my creepo meter. The way he acts and talks I would keep my distance.

While the book was good it can not compare to the visuals of the film. I mean the way it was shot, the actor’s performances, they just brought the text to life in an astounding way. It was just amazing, all the right actors and director at just the right time. There is a reason why this movie became so iconic and why directors, writers, and actors are constantly trying to copy it.

For more on Psycho, go to The Girl in Alfred Hitchcock’s Shower

For more serial killers, go to Dying for a Date

For more private investigators, go to The Red Headed League

C is for Corpse

c is for corpse

C is for Corpse (Kinsey Millhone #3) by Sue Grafton

Thoughts Before Reading:

I love my mysteries to challenge me, I love it when an author has completely bamboozled me. The truth being there the whole time, but I was too busy following a red herring to figure it out.

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Now if a book cannot surprise me, they must bring my admiration instead through their amazing characters.

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This book falls into the second category.

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In this book I figured out very quickly who the murderer was, but I didn’t care. I liked Kinsey Millhone and I so enjoyed these writings of Grafton that I continued reading all the way to X.

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Plot Synopsis:

So in this book, Kinsey is still recovering from the events that occurred in B is for Burglar. Part of her physical therapy and improvement is going to gym and working on her arm.

One day she meets a young man in his ’20s, Bobby Callahan. Bobby was in a horrible accident; being covered in scars, and his face and body misshaped. He tells Kinsey that he doesn’t remember anything that happened in that time period. However, he does have this feeling of urgency that he knew something and someone was after him. He believes the car accident was an attempt on his life.

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He and Kinsey become friends and he hires her to investigate, doing a retrograde crime with very little to go on.

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Kinsey begins and meets his family; a stepsister who is a drug addict, anorexic, and probably has a ton of other issues;

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a stepfather that doesn’t know how to father and is bland;

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and his mother, a real powerhouse but also control freak.

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Three days later Bobby is dead.

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Split on whether accident or suicide, Kinsey becomes even more intent on searching for the murderer and to bring justice to Bobby.

avenged

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Thoughts After Reading

*Contains Spoilers*

So I thought this was well written, but was really sad.

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I loved Bobby. I hate when authors introduce such great characters but then kill them off. Lillian Jackson Braun is another writer that always seems to do that. They just love breaking our hearts.

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I also thought that Kinsey was a little slow on the ball here. If we know the woman who was having an affair with Bobby’s secret, it being that she and her lover killed her previous husband; hid it to look like a burglary, and he is now threatening to expose the gun used with her fingerprints: well then, I think it is safe to assume that as she remarried, she probably married her lover of the time.

duh

And as that lover is her husband, then you shouldn’t trust the husband.

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I still enjoyed the book though and think it is a great read.

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For more Kinsey Millhone mysteries, go to B is for Burglar

For more mysteries with female private investigators, go to Snagged

For more mysteries with female private investigators, go to  A Study in Scarlet

For more mysteries involving mysterious car accidents, go to Cape May Court House: A Death in the Night

Snagged

snagged

Snagged (Regan Reilly Mysteries #2)

Thoughts Before Reading:

So before I started reading this in order I read #10 Laced and #3 Iced. Both books started off with a strong beginning, but had a weak ending.

However, Decked blew me away as I just LOVED it and Snagged did the same thing. Now it has me wondering, were those just fantastic and the rest of the series so-so? Or was Laced and Iced just two duds in a wonderful series? I don’t know, but let’s move on to the review!

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Plot Synopsis:

Miami Beach has become the hot spot in which many threads will tangle together to create one intense knot.

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Richie Blossom has been trying for years to invent the perfect invention, the big one, something that will help mankind. And he might have just done that. Richie Blossom has created the most indestructible, form-fitting, one-size fit all, panty hose.

wow

I know, I wish that were real it would be fantastic.

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And of course for any of you millennials who have grown up in the techie world of casual, women used to not be bare-legged at work as it was unprofessional, instead wearing tights or panty hose.

Nowadays it just seems like you don’t see it unless it is winter.

Anyways, his run-proof, snag-proof, callus-proof, always form-fitting panty hose; was created for his deceased wife who’s thin legs always had baggy stockings.

Aw...that sucks

Aw…that sucks

And he made it just in time. Land developers are after the South Beach to create a new hotspot, and his retirement home sits on the primest location. When the owner was killed last year in an accident, they had luckily signed a lease before her demise or else they would have been kicked out. Now that year is ending, and unless they can get enough money to purchase it from the deceased landlord’s sister; they will all lose their homes.

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Not only has Richard finished this multi-million dollar invention before the deadline to purchase, this weekend Miami is holding the National Panty Hose Convention, the perfect plan to get his stuff out there.

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Meanwhile, Regan has also traveled from Los Angeles to Miami to be in her friend, Maura Durkin’s, wedding.

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Maura’s father worked for Regan’s father Luke, until he decided to move from New Jersey to start his own funeral parlor business in Miami. The families remained close through the years, even with the distance.

Besides a Panty Hose Convention and a wedding, the hotel is also hosting a Funeral Convention. As most of the family friends are in the death business, the Durkins decided it made the most sense to have them at the same time.

Read it today!

After Regan checks in and spends some time with Maura, she is sent by the bride to check on her uncle, Richie Blossom, and make sure he’s okay and doesn’t forget to come to the rehearsal dinner and other family events.

When Regan goes to bring Richie back, they find themselves almost killed by a car. And this was no accident, the car tried to hit and kill them. But why?

HMMM

Regan begins to investigate and discovers this is no isolated incident. Someone is after Richie to kill him. But is it for his panty hose formula or the retirement community?

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As Regan continues to investigate she also discovers that the landlady didn’t die in an accident, but was murdered.

Murder

Now Regan has put herself up to quite a job; find out who killed the landlady, who is trying to kill Richie, and doing her best to protect him from any future harm; all the while doing her normal duties of maid of honor.

what have i gotten myself into star trek next gen

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Thoughts After Reading:

First I really enjoyed this book a lot. I thought the mystery was well done and all the characters were a lot of fun.

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While most mystery novelists believe that a mystery = murder, I like how Clark’s work, while involving a previous murder and attempted murder, focuses more on fashion espionage.

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I really liked this book and am looking to the next books in the series that I haven’t read yet. I also want to add this book to my collection of mysteries.

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For more Regan Reilly mysteries, go to Decked

For more private investigators, go to A Study in Scarlet

For more female private investigators, go to A is for Alibi

For more espionage, go to The Princess Plot

For more mysteries taking place during a wedding, go to Bloom and Doom

The Winter People

winterpeople

The Winter People: A Novel by Jennifer McMahon

Thoughts before Reading:

I received this book in a contest, my only payment being an honest review.

Read it today!

Let me just start off and say that I found this to be a phenomenal book. Absolutely amazing. I started reading, intending to only start the novel, but found myself buzzing through it I just had to find out the end.

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Plot Synopsis:

So the story is split between two different times. First we have Sara Harrison Shea from the turn of the century, living in West Hall, VA. Young Sara is raised by her father and Auntie, a healer, who teaches her things others, including the minister, would not approve of.

Not-Good

Everything changes one day when her husband goes hunting.

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Since then West Hall has been a strange, spooky place.

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Disappearances are common in the town, along with myths and legends.

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The most mysterious being the tragic death of Sara Harrison Shea, who was found disturbingly dead just a few months after the death of her daughter.

Horrible!!!!

Horrible!!!!

In present day; Ruthie and little Fawn live with their widowed mother Alice on a country farm. Much to Ruthie’s disgust and dislike, Alice has always forced them to live their lives off the grid, no internet, no connections, etc.

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One morning Ruthie wakens to find her mother gone.

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Just disappeared out of the blue, something her controlling and protective nature would never do.

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As she searches for clues to where she might have gone to, Ruthie discovers Sara Harrison Shea’s secret diary.

Obsessed

Katherine has recently lost her husband when he died in a car accident.

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Aw…

Already saddened over the death of her child, she is even more distraught to discover her husband had a secret.

What?

He’d been coming to West Hall, VA for a while, but why? No one he knows is out here and why would he lie about it?

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As she moves to West Hall to investigate, she discovers a connection between her husband, Alice, and Sara.

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There are others who are after the diary Ruthie holds, and its great secret.

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It was a great book.

Read it today!

Read it today!

Incredibly well written, superb storytelling, fantastic characters and incredible suspense. I just loved it.

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I won’t say anymore because I don’t want to ruin it, but aw! So great!

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For more supernatural mysteries, go to Grave Peril

For more on disapperances, go to Cookie Dough or Die

For more widows looking for answers, go to The Italian Wife

For more historical fiction mysteries, go to Ticker

For more not-in-a-series mysteries, go to Sleeping Beauty

Cape May Court House: A Death in the Night

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Cape Night Court House: A Death in the Night by Lawrence Schiller

This story is based on the true story and case started by Dr. Eric Thomas against Ford Vehicles, but then took a strange twist down adultery, and possible murder.

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This case took place back in the ’90s. Dr. Thomas, his wife Tracy Rose Thomas, and 18 month old daughter Alex all got into the car to take sick Alex to the hospital. For some reason, Tracey was driving the car while being pregnant, and she was the only one killed and injured.

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The autopsy should she died from blunt force trauma, consistent with smacking her head in a car accident, however there were some suspicious marks on Tracey’s neck that brought up questions.

suspicious Hmm

Her family was shocked at the death, and also thought it was a bit strange. Why would Tracey drive, she never drove when pregnant. And right before she died, Tracey had called in the middle of the night and made her parents promise to make sure, that if anything happened to her to take her daughter.

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Things got stranger still, right after Tracey died. Dr. Thomas asked Tracey’s family, the Roses, to remove every image of Tracey or else they wouldn’t be able to see Alex again.

What?

Even more suspicious Dr. Thomas remarries his old sweetheart Stephanie, very quickly and without even mentioning it to Tracey’s family. As the Roses become more and more skeptical, they discuss their views with the cops, bringing to light the strange way in which Dr. Thomas had answered questions after the accident, even switching and mistakenly answering things.

Sad but true.

Meanwhile, Dr. Thomas decides to open a case against Ford, blaming the car company’s faulty airbags on her death.

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Of course, Ford would never wish to payout and they start investigating, discovering that Dr. Thomas had been having an affair with Stephanie long before Tracey died. And a lot of debts, debts that were paid for by her life insurance.

Interesting

Interesting

Was Tracy Thomas killed in a car accident, or was the accident a cover up for murder?

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Thoughts after Reading:

I thought it was good, the only thing I didn’t care was the endless facts on cars, car safety, etc.

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Yes, it was very dry and I just wanted to skip it all.

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But the rest of the story was very interesting, but inconclusive. As it is real life, we don’t get a nice tidy ending; in fact all we get are more questions.

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For more non-fiction, go to The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City & Sparked the Tabloid Wars

For more book reviews, go to A is for Alibi

At the Corner of King Street

At the Corner of King Street

At the Corner of King Street by Mary Ellen Taylor

At the Corner of King Street, by Mary Ellen Taylor, follows two threads: Sarah Shire-Goodwin, Scottish immigrant settling in the new colony of Virginia; and Addie Morgan, a women trying to distance herself from her family and the disease that destroyed it.

Addie Morgan’s family is cursed.

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The women in her family tend to carry traits for mental diseases, or “carry the curse” as it has been called for centuries. Addie was lucky enough to be passed over, but both her mother and older sister suffer from being bipolar. Addie has always taken care of everybody, but when her sister causes her to crash her car and nearly kills the two of them, Addie has had enough. She leaves Alexandria, Virginia; the Shire Family Salvage Company; and heads off to anywhere else.

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She finds herself working as a picker in a vineyard, later becoming the bookkeeper, and ultimately second-in-command. Here she feels she finally has a normal life with her job and her boyfriend, the vineyard owner. Everything is going perfect, until she receives a call from her sister Janet, and is sent back into the cyclone of her former life.

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After the car accident, Janet took off leaving her husband and son. Since then she has been doing drugs, drinking, and not taking her medication. She also is pregnant, and when Addie arrives on the scene, Janet has just given birth to a baby girl. Addie hopes that the baby can quickly be found a foster home so that she can return to her new life, but soon discovers that nothing in life is ever that simple.

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While Janet is committed to thirty days of a doctor’s care, Addie stays in Alexandria taking care of the new baby, and the family business. Here she meets up with an old friend, Margaret and the two stumble onto a mystery strife with superstition. In the homes they are salvaging, Addie and Margaret discover three witch bottles, a protective charm from the 18th century made to ward off a supposed witch named Faith. As they look deeper into this, they discover that this mystery is connected to Addie’s distant relative Sarah Goodwin along with the problems in the present. Addie soon finds out that the past is never far behind.

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Thoughts after reading:

I really enjoyed this novel. I liked the way that Mary Ellen Taylor made all of her characters multi-dimensional, just as complicated and interesting as they would be if they existed in real life. First we have the character of Addie who has had to grow up fast, being the one to care for her mother and sister because of their illness. After her mother’s death and her sister nearly killing her, Addie has had enough and wants to get far away in the hopes of having a normal life. When she is called back to the chaos of it all, she at first doesn’t want to help her sister or care for her sister’s baby. Addie is selfish for wanting to live her own life and not care for her family members, but it is a selfishness that has evolved from years of trying to make things better, to only have things fall even more apart. I appreciated that the author was willing to make the character not so saintly or eager to pitch in, but showing the reality of how much of a burden this disease is to the people who have it and for their family members.

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Eventually, Addie does decide to care for her niece and her reintegration into her Aunt Grace’s home, as well as trying to mend the broken relationship between her ex-brother-in-law Zeb and nephew Eric, were extremely well done. While some novels would have quickly had everyone pull together for “the good of the child”, the author had this repairing of familial bonds done slowly. Addie still has feelings of betrayal from her Aunt Grace not rescuing her from her mother’s care and the chaotic life they had lead. She also has a lot of guilt from choosing not to be a part of her nephew’s life and not fully preparing Zeb for the reality of what living with Janet is like. Aunt Grace is angry with Addie for having left her alone to work on the family, but is also angry with herself for not having the courage to mother the girls and remove them from her sister’s care. Zeb has spent many years angry with his ex-wife, but has lived a contented life raising their son. Now he has to deal with his resentment and bitterness at Janet for abandoning their family and once again throwing his world off kilter. Not only does the author make these slow transitions, but not all of these issues are resolved by the end of the book, the family still taking it one step at a time.

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I also loved the secondary character, Margaret, the sassy, free-spirited, historian. She has been working in the family bakery while trying to find another job, and becomes Addie’s partner in salvaging and unraveling the mystery of the witch’s bottles. As a fellow historian, Magaret’s excitement and wit made her extremely endearing and relatable. I hope to see more of her in the future; maybe even her own book or series? Here’s hoping!

Please!

The mystery was done very well. At first I disliked the journal entries from Sarah Goodwin that are placed in front of every chapter, but as the book went on and the lives of Sarah and Faith tied closer and closer to Addie and her family, they became extremely enjoyable. The final conclusion to the mystery and the novel was powerful and led to a perfect ending.

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All in all I really enjoyed this novel, giving it a five out of five star rating.

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I look forward to reading past and future novels of Mary Ellen Taylor and her tales of Alexandria.

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For the previous mystery book review, go to Fatally Frosted 

For more stand-alone mysteries, go to The Dollhouse Murders