“Delivering the Truth” is Edith Maxwell’s first title in her Quaker Midwife Mystery series. Rose Carroll, the midwife and our heroine, practices her vocation in 1888 Amesbury, Massachusetts, a time when most women are expected to become wives and mothers. But Rose is not most women.
As a midwife, she dispenses advice and checks on her patients, helps with both easy and difficult deliveries, and visits after the birth to make sure that everything is going well with the new moms. Not everyone approves of Rose’s chosen career path or her straightforward demeanor, but she is in a unique position to hear bits of information not often available to the police, given the intimacy of her relationship with her clients. Women share all kinds of revealing details at times like these.
When all of the major carriage factories in Amesbury burn down, over a dozen men are trapped inside the Parry factory and lose their lives. Arson is suspected, but who would do such a thing and why? Several of Rose’s clients are connected in some way to the carriage industry – Amesbury’s largest employer – and after seeing a shadowy figure in the wrong place, she seeks to learn the truth behind the suspicious fire. In the process, Rose places herself in danger and risks disapproval from those close to her.
There is more going on than arson in this cleverly plotted book. “Delivering the Truth” is packed with betrayals, jealousy, suspects who are wrongly accused, as well as Rose’s own budding romance with a charming doctor. Rose’s keen mind and sense of fairness carry us through the conflicts between class and culture, infidelity, and steadfast loyalty.
Through Rose’s discussions with real-life historical figure John Greenleaf Whittier – poet, abolitionist, and important to the Society of Friends – we gain insight into the inner workings of late 1800’s Quakers and their belief system at the time, including their support of equality between men and women and non-violence in the home. Rose has grown up with these ideals, and champions those who are treated otherwise.
Maxwell did a tremendous amount of research to get the details correct for the period. Along with interviews, discussions, and readings, she stayed at a living history center in Maine for 24 hours, learning about the work required for home life in the late 1800s. The result is that Maxwell transports us to the late 19th century in “Delivering the Truth” as we are immersed in the clothes, the cooking, societal restrictions, and expectations about women during that era. A gift of knitting needles has hand painted flowers and vines woven through Rose’s initials. What patience and skill it would take to create such small details on a knitting needle. Who knew that such a thing existed? One of the fun details introduces us to the Post Mistress who rides astride her horse, rather than side saddle, her bloomers ‘scandalously’ on display all the while. Marvelous tidbits that bring our history to life.
“Delivering the Truth” makes a highly successful foray into the past and entertains us with a wonderful new sleuth, Quaker midwife, Rose Carroll. Happily, the second in the series has just been published (April, 2017) and more books are planned.
Also happily, “Delivering the Truth” is a finalist in the Historical Mystery category of the Agatha Awards for this year’s Malice Domestic conference.
Read Edith Maxwell’s Author Profile here.
Please visit www.edithmaxwell.com for information about Edith Maxwell's other series as well as her short stories.
“Fogged Inn” is the fourth book in Barbara Ross’ excellent Maine Clambake Mysteries series and has been nominated for an Agatha Award in this year’s “Best Contemporary Novel” category. Not surprising, given the opening. And everything after that.
At 5 AM, Gus yells up the stairs, “There’s a dead guy in the walk-in!” and disrupts Julia Snowden’s work-exhausted sleep. The yelling continues until she joins Gus in the restaurant, ready to disprove this absurd idea so she can go back to bed. She enters the walk-in and sees…a dead guy. Julia is now fully awake. I prefer radio alarms, but that’s just me.
The dead guy sat at the restaurant bar the night before, but none of the other diners seemed to notice him. So, who is he? How did he get into the walk-in? The restaurant had been closed and locked at 1 AM after cleanup. Chris (Julia’s boyfriend and partner in the restaurant) would have noticed the leftover customer, so the body dump happened after then. The man has no ID, no bullet holes, and there is no blood on the floor. Aside from the why, how and where did the guy die?
During “Fogged Inn,” Ross presents us with a thoroughly entertaining variation on the locked room puzzle, complete with a cast of Agatha Christie type retirees who reveal their connections to each other over the course of the clever, multi-layered tale. To add to the intrigue, they had received gift certificates for the same night the dead guy appeared, but Julia has no record of who purchased the certificates. And, more baffling, none of those guests acknowledged knowing each other during the long evening.
As the story evolves and decades old secrets are exposed, the past overshadows the present. Dysfunctional relationships are uncovered, with unintended consequences and tragic events as the fallout. The more Julia discovers, the more items linked to the past start disappearing, and the greater the danger that surrounds her.
The wonderful ensemble characters return to enthrall us with changes in Gus’ life and in the naturally developing relationship between Julia and Chris. Julia’s childhood friend, the Police Officer Jamie Dawes, is involved in the investigation, Binder & Flynn return as the irritating State cops, and Chris’ talents are revealed in delicious ways. Family members drop in, lending support, and Julia’s acceptance into small-town living seems almost certain when she’s invited to join Sit’n’Knit.
Because the story takes place in the winter, there is no clambake in “Fogged Inn.” Happily, there is still a lot of cooking going on and wonderful recipes to be found at the end of the book. We get a look at what winter in a tourist town is like when all the tourists are gone, where the locals scramble to earn a living and gather at the local watering hole (Gus’s place) to trade stories. Julia and Chris share restaurant space with Gus, the lovable grump that owns and runs Gus’s at breakfast and lunch. Julia and Chris take over only for the dinner crowd, just for the off-season, as Gus’s Too.
As with the rest of the series, Ross blends hardy New England life and the mystery together beautifully, so that readers enjoy learning about coastal Maine, wonderful food, and our favorite people while the bodies pop up.
Congratulations to Barbara Ross for this well-deserved Agatha nomination for “Fogged Inn.” Malice Domestic attendees will vote at our convention at the end of April, 2017.
Read about Barbara Ross’ writing process (and more) here.
Please visit www.maineclambakemysteries.com for more information about the series and Barb Ross’ upcoming appearances.
“Whispers Beyond the Veil” is the first book in the Change of Fortune series. Jessica Estevao has penned a self-reliant female character who thinks on her feet in risky situations and when cornered, often chooses the path most likely to keep her out of jail.
Jail? This is no ordinary gal growing up in a quaint family business. Ruby Proulx is a con artist, who makes a living by taking money from the gullibles passing through the circus tents. But, even with all the flimflam miracle cures and tarot card readings, she and her father are just getting by, in part because he drinks and schemes the earnings away. This is 1890s Canada, and when a dangerous scam results in a death, and her father disappears, she flees south to Maine to an aunt she’s never met.
Ruby’s arrival at her aunt Honoria’s hotel is a surprise to everyone except Honoria. Happy to repay Honoria for her kindness, Ruby continues to use her skills with séances and Tarot cards to help her aunt’s hotel survive. A hotel that features ‘spiritualists’ as the main attraction.
But, Ruby is caught between skeptics who feel that Honoria is scamming the visitors and stealing their hard-earned money and a wish to have a home she’s never had before. She’d like to fess up that she’s a fraud, but telling the truth may only put her on the street or put her aunt in jail. What’s a con artist to do?
The characters are either sweetly oblivious to the cons, in on them, or working hard to expose them. A handsome policeman, a psychic investigator, bodies popping up, and peeks behind the scenes of a con artist’s life, enrich the story, but when Ruby becomes a suspect in several crimes, she must guard both her heart and her skills to escape the snares.
With an inventive main character and Old Orchard Beach as the setting, this new series is off to a great start and “Whispers Beyond the Veil” has been nominated for an Agatha Award. Please visit www.jessicaestevao.com for more information about the Change of Fortune books as well as her other series, written as Jessica Crockett, also great fun.
The Hammett Prize is bestowed each year by The International Association of Crime Writers (North American Branch). The award will be given for a 2016 work of literary excellence in the field of crime writing by a US or Canadian author, in October. The winner receives the famous ‘Thin Man’ bronze trophy, and bragging rights.
The nominees for this year are listed below. Please click on the book title to find out more about the novel.
The Second Life of Nick Mason, by Steve Hamilton (G.P. Putnam's Sons)
The Drifter, by Nicholas Petrie (G.P. Putnam's Sons)
The White Devil, by Domenic Stansberry (Molotov Editions)
Revolver, by Duane Swierczynki (Mulholland Books)
The Big Nothing, by Bob Truluck (Murmur House Press)
Past winners include:
2015: The Do-Right by Lisa Sandlin
2014: Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
2013: Angel Baby by Richard Lange
2012: Oregon Hill by Howard Owen
2011: The Killer is Dying by James Sallis
2010: The Nearest Exit by Olen Steinhauer
2009: The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry
2008: The Turnaround by George Pelecanos
Have you read any of the 2016 nominated books? Or the Hammett Prize winners from previous years? Now’s your chance.