Grace Under Pressure by Julie Hyzy (Berkley Prime Crime Mystery)
Veteran mystery writer Julie Hyzy moves to a new locale with this her first book in a new series titled Manor House Mysteries. The setting for these tales is Marshfield Manor. This stately southern home is more than just the setting for a mystery, it is a character in itself. It is the centerpiece of a somewhat down-at-the-heels southern estate owned by the elderly billionaire, Bennett Marshfield. The home is a mystery reader’s delight with a hidden staircase and a secret room. The estate also includes a hotel, tea room and abundant grounds. They, too, play parts in the story.
Grace Wheaton, the new assistant curator whose dream it has been to be part of Marshfield Manor, has been a visitor to the mansion since her childhood. Little did she think that being a curator would entail murder, extortion and secrets from her own family’s past. The staff at Marshfield includes a highly opinionated, though thoroughly capable executive assistant named Frances and an earnest, well-trained head of security named Terrence Carr.
When the elderly head curator is brutally murdered, a series of demand letters for money comes to light. Grace must prove herself trustworthy to Bennett Marshfield if she is to become the next head curator. The story is quite engaging if not quite intellectually challenging. Rather than a romance-based mystery, this is the story of several generations whose ability to trust each other comes into question.
Author Hyzy provides a classic summer vacation read in Grace Under Pressure. It is a perfect in flight read. Recommended.
This review was written by Ruta Arellano. A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, and the cover of this book is exemplary!
Dark Deceptions by Dee Davis (Forever Romance)
This book is an attention-grabber with cloak and dagger action! The general tone, energy and tension between the main characters are very much reminiscent of the television show Remington Steele from the 1980s. Added to this basic concept is a bit of the spy and good-guys type of team play currently popular on shows like Criminal Minds and the CSI franchise (Las Vegas, Miami and New York).
The premise is a compelling mix of personal betrayal, motherly love and loyalty to the team. The main characters, Annie and Nash, are thrown together after years of painful silence between them. What had been a well-tuned action duo suited for espionage of the highest caliber devolved into the worst sort of estrangement. Annie and Nash each felt that the other had deserted the love and loyalty they shared.
Enter the villains who scoop up Annie’s son from his snug bedroom and whisk him away. Annie is the target of a kidnapping/murder/extortion plot with a twist. She has to muster her best spy skills that are somewhat rusty after years away from the espionage game in order to comply with the kidnappers’ demands – kill their target or suffer the loss of her precious son at the hands of the kidnappers who are also terrorists.
There’s nothing like a common goal to create cooperation that supersedes personal loathing. Annie and Nash are once again on the same team, sort of that is. As each of them works toward their goal, the action shifts from ultra high-tech surveillance and miniaturized equipment to a softly whistled signal whistled to a former partner from the old days when things were good between them.
The themes explored in this well-written, though graphically specific novel are family, loyalty, head versus heart, and love in many forms that makes the world a better place for everyone. This book is a summer reading winner.
This review was written by Ruta Arellano. A review copy was provided by Hachette Book Group USA.