Category Archives: Mystery

Book Review : Speaking From Among the Bones

Title : Speaking From Among the Bones

Author : Alan Bradley

Publisher : Delacorte Press

Publication Date : February 5th, 2013

Pages : 378

Stand Alone or Series : #5 in the Flavia de Luce series

Why I Read : I’ve read all the other books in the series and I love them!

Three Words : mystery, young heroine, English sensibilities

Red Flags : very small amount of violence esp. associated with the murder.

Summary : We find ourselves once again in Bishop’s Lacey with the irrepressible Flavia de Luce. The church is opening the crypt of the town’s patron saint, St. Tancred and the village is a-twitter. Although all the adults are trying to keep Flavia away from the opening, she would not miss this for the world. And of course, all their fears are realized when it is Flavia who discovers upon opening the tomb that it contains the bones of one deceased fellow – not St. Tancred! It is actually the church organist who disappeared several weeks prior. He is found with a strange gas mask attached to his face- very strange indeed. Flavia CANNOT let this stand and decides to find out what has happened and who is responsible. As she delves into the past, she uncovers many secrets including ones to do with her family…..specifically her missing mother!

My Take : Sigh….I just delight in Flavia de Luce. Every time I read one of these books I close the cover, hold the book to my chest and sigh. Part of me just wishes that I was Flavia – she is so mischievous, so intelligent and yet she cares fiercely about her family including her “hated” sisters. The mystery is always interesting and keeps you on your toes. There is always fun scientific tidbits thrown in through Flavia’s interest in chemistry (specifically poisons). One of the best things about these books are the combination of Flavia’s extreme intelligence with the naivete of being a child, she doesn’t always understand the very grown-up things that are happening around her. But in true Flavia manner, she always thinks she understands perfectly. Does is sometimes stretch the imagination that once again, there is a murder in the sleepy village of Bishop’s Lacey? Well of course- but honestly who cares when the writing is this fun?

My Rating : eight and a half shoes – Very very good.


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Book Review : The Daughter of Time

Title : The Daughter of Time The Daughter of Time

Author : Josephine Tey

Publisher : Touchstone

Publication Date : November 29th, 1995 (first published 1951)

Pages : 206

Stand Alone or Series : #5 in Inspector Alan Grant series (each a separate story)

How obtained: print book from the library

Three Words : mystery, British, historical

Red Flags : none

Summary : Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard is laid up in the hospital after the humiliating accident of having fallen through a trap door while chasing a criminal. He is literally bored out of his mind. When a friend brings some historical portraits for him to browse through during his convalescence, he is taken with a portrait of man who seems both full of suffering and thoughtful. When he finds out this is a portrait of Richard III, he is shocked….THIS is the murderer of small children, the evil hunchback of Shakespeare’s play? As he begins to explore the history and with the help of an American researcher finds sources to figure out the mystery, he starts to doubt the historical version of the events surrounding the murders. Together they try to solve this mystery – did Richard really kill the little princes?

My Take : Remember the whole finding Richard III in a parking lot thing? Maybe you were much like me and thought “Well that’s interesting but I’m not sure why I should care…” But THEN I found out that this was the guy who was supposed to have killed two little boys in order to keep the throne of England and it became infinitely more interesting. So when all of this happened, the blogosphere (at least the booky one) was blowing up with mentions of this book. So that is how I happened on this little gem of a book ( at 206 pages, it doesn’t take very long at all). This appeals to me on so many levels – historical, I am a total sucker for anything having to do with English monarchy especially of the Tudor kind (Richard was the last of the Plantagenets subsequently replaced by Henry VII – a Tudor), mystery – I just love a good mystery and this one is real, library research – there’s no going around interviewing persons of interest in this one, it’s all research at the library, digging through primary sources, making deductions based on such. I’m sure I’m not selling this one very well because it probably sounds crazy boring but somehow Tey manages to make this whole thing completely interesting. I really enjoyed this one and it certainly made me think about Richard III more and definitely made me think I should check out more books in this series. My only issue with the book was two things : one (and this is somewhat a criticism for myself) the family history, some of the other English things were a bit confusing to the point where I just gave up understanding it completely and two, it was a little bit TOO one-sided in defense of Richard. It really didn’t allow for any other points of view. Not much to criticize though…

Rating : eight shoes – solid, interesting, mystery.

Interesting side note – in looking into this whole thing online, there is an actual Richard III society that is trying to clear his name still to this day. If you are interested you can find them at (Maybe I’m the only nerd who likes to research these things online….)


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Book Review : The Sculptress

I have recently become much addicted to the ID channel and have had to do an intervention on myself. I love crime and mysteries. How can you resist a channel with show titles like “Happily Never After” or “Who the bleep did I marry? (actual title)” or “Very Bad Men” ? If you haven’t watched this channel – don’t start! You will find yourself watching hours and hours of shows, then inevitably coming to the conclusion that you should NEVER get married (the husband or wife ALWAYS does it) or that your spouse is probably plotting something….just kidding.

So, you know around Halloween everybody and their mother came out with lists of horror books, gory books, and other creepy crawly type mystery, paranormal books. This gem happened to get on my to read list and I am so glad I went ahead and read it! I loved it and if you are into mystery/crime/psychological thrillers you would definitely like this one.

Title : The Sculptress

Author: Minette WaltersThe Sculptress

Stand Alone or Series : Stand Alone

Red Flags : extreme violence and gory details, bad language, sexual situations (NSFC)

Three Words : crime novel, mystery, psychologically intense

Summary : Rosalind Leigh is a journalist who is a little down on her luck. Her publisher is pushing her to start some new work. However, Roz is not interested in anything. Then she is told to go prison and do an interview with Olive Martin, the famous Sculptress. Everyone knows about Olive Martin and her horrific crimes five years ago. Olive murdered her sister and mother in their family kitchen, carving up the parts and positioning them again….giving her the moniker. Olive was found in the kitchen itself cradling some of the parts. Olive has always maintained her guilt, but something that in her manner convinces Roz that something is wrong and that Olive could possibly be innocent. When Roz seeks out Hal Hawksley, the arresting officer, things start to get very interesting. She delves deeper into the mystery and the dark secrets hidden in the Martin case. Is Olive innocent? Who is the real murderer?

Review : I loved this book! Roz was an interesting and multi-faceted person who had her own issues going on. The romance between Hal and Roz was at times funny, at times painful, but also added another dimension to the book. The murder mystery was also really interesting, there are plenty of twists and turns but none of them crazy unbelievable. It all fits in. The best part of this novel is Olive Martin. At times repellent, at times sympathetic, she is a complex character. She is morbidly obese but highly intelligent. She has built up walls around her to protect her and her secrets. The whole time you are questioning all the things you know about her, as they are completely shaded through how other people experience her. You can’t entirely trust what the book is telling you. I’m not sure I’m doing enough justice to this book. If you like mysteries than I would highly recommend this one. I give this one nine shoes … I loved it and can’t wait to read more by the awesome Minette Walters.

Anybody else read this one out there?? What did you think?


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The House of Silk or The game is afoot!

One of my RA (reader’s advisory) blogs that I check frequently had a list of good mysteries to check out and The House of Silk was one of the books listed (also Revenger which I previously reviewed). This is the only book officially authorized by the Arthur Conan Doyle estate as an official Sherlock Holmes novel. Very prestigious indeed… I’m a total sucker for a good mystery and I really enjoyed this one. Check it out –

Holmes and Watson are at their aparment when they are visited by an art dealer named Edmund Carstairs. He is being menaced by a creepy silent stranger in a …. (wait for it) flat cap from AMERICA (the horror!). When Carstairs is robbed, Holmes is on the case and following the clues. But the clues lead him to find the first body, possibly of the man who was menacing Carstairs. When Holmes puts his Irregulars on the job, one of them winds up dead as well. This one is severely beaten and a length of white silk is tied around his wrist. As they investigate both of these murders, they start to hear about the mysterious House of Silk – a place with connections to the highest levels of government. Will Holmes solve the mystery or ruin himself in the process?

This was a really good mystery. I enjoyed how the author really tried to keep the tone, atmosphere and cadence of the original Holmes novels while adding some more modern sensibilities. Unlike the original Holmes, this one actually starts to feel badly about using young destitute children to do dangerous work on his behalf. Also, Watson starts to develop a conscience, albeit in his old age, about not giving their housecleaner a second thought or the millions of poor, underfed, desperate people in their city. In some ways very refreshing but could be grating for the true Holmes afficionado. All in all, a completely solid mystery that kept me guessing until the very end. It was filled with menacing characters and a palpable sense of danger including creepy opium dens. Definitely an eight shoe book – black stiletto platform pumps – stylish, sexy and goes with anything.

Title : The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

Three Appeals : Familiar characters, great mystery, atmospheric quality

Red Flags : Pretty sanguine as mysteries go but obviously there is some violence

There is a plethora of books out there with Sherlock Holmes as the main character but first check out the originals. There is a reason that Holmes has endured as the greatest detective of all time, they are great novels. It won’t have the same blood and gore effect that most of us are used to but definitely has the awesome crime solving and detective work that I love.

Here are some series featuring Sherlock as a main character :

1) The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King

In 1915, long since retired from his observations of criminal humanity, Sherlock Holmes is engaged in a reclusive study of honeybee behavior on the Sussex Downs. Never did he think to meet an intellect to match his own–until his acquaintance with Miss Mary Russell, a very modern fifteen-year-old whose mental acuity is equaled only by her audacity, tenacity, and penchant for trousers and cloth caps. Under Holmes’s tutelage, Russell hones her talent for deduction, disguises, and danger: in the chilling case of a landowner’s mysterious fever and in a kidnapping in the wilds of Wales. But her ultimate challenge is yet to come. Soon the two sleuths are on the trail of a murderer whose machinations scatter meaningless clues…but whose objective is quite unequivocal: to end Russell and Holmes’s partnership–and their lives. (taken from The series has 11 books in it so far. I loved the first book and would highly recommend it.
2) The Infernal Device and Others: A Professor Moriarty Omnibus by Michael Kurland
Since they originally appeared over two decades ago, Michael Kurland’s novels featuring Professor Moriarty – The Infernal Device and Death by Gaslight – are amongst the most acclaimed novels to have arisen out of the characters first introduced by Arthur Conan Doyle. In Doyle’s original stories, Professor Moriarty is the bete noire of Sherlock Holmes who proclaims him to be his mental equivalent and ethical opposite, declares him to be “the Napoleon of Crime” and who wrestles Moriarty seemingly to their mutual deaths at Reichenbach Falls. But indeed there are two sides to every story and, while Moriarty may not always tread strictly on the side of the law, he is also, in these novels, not quite the person that Holmes and Watson made him out to be. (taken from Fantastic Fiction)
3) The Seven-Per-Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer
First discovered and then painstakingly edited and annotated by Nicholas Meyer, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution related the astounding and previously unknown collaboration of Sigmund Freud with Sherlock Holmes, as recorded by Holmes’s friend and chronicler, Dr. John H. Watson. In addition to its breathtaking account of their collaboration on a case of diabolic conspiracy in which the lives of millions hang in the balance, it reveals such matters as the real identity of the heinous professor Moriarty, the dark secret shared by Sherlock and his brother Mycroft Holmes, and the detective’s true whereabouts during the Great Hiatus, when the world believed him to be dead. (taken from
There you go readers, dig into some Sherlock.
Have you read any Sherlock? Do you have a favorite?

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Revenger or Methinks Thou Didst Strike Me Verily Upon the Head

I am a huge sucker for historical fiction from two time periods : first, anything in Ancient Egypt but more specifically the era when Cleopatra, Caesar and Marc Antony were kicking around (I will be reviewing Cleopatra : A Life in the future) and second, anything Elizabethan era. So when I found out there is a series of historical fiction mysteries set in the Elizabethan era where Shakespeare’s older brother solves mysteries I had to check it out. I didn’t realize there was a previous novel so I missed the first book of this series but I enjoyed this book enough that it didn’t bother me as much as that usually does.

So John Shakespeare is Will’s older brother, super intelligent and formerly a spy for Walshingham (the Queen’s spy master). Now Walsingham is dead, the Queen is fast fading and there are intrigues aplenty at Court as people are jockeying for positions and Spain is getting all assassiny. John is approached by the Earl of Essex who wants him to investigate a report that a woman has been spotted in London who was known to be a colonist at the mysterious colony of Roanoke ( you know the one where everybody died, and all that was left were mysterious markings on trees). Then he is approached by Sir Cecil (the Queen’s NEW spymaster) who wants John to spy on the Earl of Essex because he suspects him of wanting to kill his queen. Meanwhile, John is dealing with plague in the city and his wife possibly hiding a priest (which is very much against the law). Who is the mysterious woman and was she at Roanoke? Is the Earl of Essex really plotting treason? How do several strange murders around town connect to both of these things? As Shakespeare said “The game is afoot.”  (Interesting sidenote : Shakespeare is responsible for more sayings than any other individual in history, at least 135 including “The game is afoot, good riddance, and wild goose chase.” )

I really enjoyed this mystery novel. The plot was intricate and detailed, with nothing being overly obvious. The historical accuracies of the novel made me feel as if Clements put me right into Elizabethan England. The characters were interesting and varied from lower class whores to aristocratic nobles. If you are looking for a literary novel then you should probably look elsewhere – there are no intense subtle contexts to this book. But if you are looking for a solid historical mystery novel then this should be on your list. I give the book seven shoes – a pair of green wedge moccasin shoes that I love but don’t get bust out as often as I would like.

Title : Revenger by Rory Clements

Three Appeals : Detailed historical setting, intricate and interesting mystery, well developed characters

Red Flags : Some sex and violence

For more historical mysteries try :

1) An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears

Opinionated, influential Dr. Robert Grove is poisoned with arsenic in his New College lodgings. A missing signet ring leads his colleagues to his former servant (and rumored strumpet) Sarah Blundy, who, swiftly brought to trial, confesses and is promptly hanged–and dissected by enthusiastic physician Richard Lower. But the crime, evidently so simple in its events, is presented through the distorting lenses of four narrators whose obsessions place it in dramatically different contexts. Visiting Venetian Marco da Cola, a dandy mined in medicine, who has been treating Sarah’s ailing mother Anne, grieves for the ruin of mother and daughter and the wreck of his own friendship with Lower. Sarah’s former lover Jack Prestcott, an undergraduate jailed for attacking his guardian, is consumed with proving that his exiled father was hounded to his death innocent of the charge of treason the returning monarch Charles II’s supporters had lodged against him. Dr. John Wallis, mathematician and divine, sees no inconsistency between his endless petty intrigues on behalf of Charles’s scheming minister Henry Bennet and his vituperative condemnation of Sarah. In the brilliantly illuminated world in which medical experiments, religious and political debates between Roundheads and Royalists, and the founding of the Royal Society bring debates about the nature of science, history, religion, and authority into a focus whose sharpness has a special urgency for our own time, each of these narrators has his own slashingly conflicting claims to make. But it’s not until the final narrator, burrowing historian Anthony Wood, weighs in to judge among the sharply competing visions of the earlier narrators that Pears produces his most memorable surprises, or unveils his deepest mysteries. ( taken from Kirkus Reviews, 1997).

2) Firedrake’s Eye by Patricia Finney

London, 1583. The loyal courtier Simon Ames is viciously beaten. Is the attack random, or has Ames been the victim of a subtly treasonous act? A nonsense poem written by the lunatic Tom O’Bedlam has become a favourite of London’s ballad sellers. Who has taken the meanderings of a madman so seriously and why? Following a trail of murder, treason and terror, Ames sets out to find the truth. But as he digs deeper into the human midden that is Elizabethan London, the puzzle becomes an enigma, then a riddle. (taken from Fantastic Fiction)

3) The Poyson Garden by Karen Harper

The letter came in secret, with a pearl eardrop from an aunt long thought dead, resurrecting the forbidden past. Banished by her spiteful half sister, Queen Mary, to Hatfield House in the English countryside, twenty-five-year-old Princess Elizabeth cannot refuse the summons. The Boleyns are in grave danger. And Elizabeth, daughter of Anne Boleyn, is marked for death by a master poisoner whose reign of terror may have royal sanction. With her few loyal retainers, Elizabeth escapes to Kent. Here, in her ancestral Hever Castle, now held by the Queen’s loyalists, Elizabeth seeks to unravel the plot against her. And here, in the embrace of intrigue and betrayal, the princess must find a brilliant, powerfully connected killer-before the killer finds her…. (taken from Fantastic Fiction)

Are you a fan of historical fiction/mysteries? What’s your favorite time period?




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The Invention of Hugo Cabret or Crazy Goings On At the Train Station…

It seemed like in the month of December you couldn’t turn on a TV without seeing a commercial for Scorsese’s Hugo – this may have something to do with my obvious addiction to the tube or that I watch a lot of TV geared towards children and/or mothers 😉 Whatever the deal is, my interest was peaked and I thought I would give the book version a try. I am definitely one of those people that given the choice will always opt to read the book first and then see the movie because let’s face it, the book is almost always better! (If you can name a movie that is better than the book I’d love to see it in the comments…)

Hugo Cabret is a young orphan who lives in the walls of a Paris train station. Set in the 1930s, Hugo goes about his day winding the clocks in the station while surreptitiously stealing mechanical parts (and occassionally a bit of food). He is stealing parts to fix a strange automaton that his father was working on and that he believes will convey a message to him from his dead father. One day he gets caught stealing a mechanical toy by the shop owner and this begins a series of events and coincidences that connect him in profound ways to the mysterious shop owner and his ward, a young girl.

This book was really charming and wonderful in a lot of ways. The subtitle of the book is “a novel in words and pictures.” and this is meant very literally. All of the illustrations are these really beautiful pencil drawings and instead of just showing what the text indicates, it actually is in place of the words. He also uses stills from French movies that figures into the book very prominently. The book even opens and closes with illustrations as if it were a movie. The mystery of the automaton and how it was connected to the shop owner is interesting. I felt in some places however that Selznick was concentrating more on the history of cinema and other facts rather than the mystery itself. All in all, it was enjoyable and I would recommend it to both parents and children. The book is meant for Gr. 3-9 and I think that is appropriate. I give it six shoes – cute shoes but not much else.

Three Appeals : Amazing drawings, historical setting and circumstances, interesting mystery

Red Flags : None – this is a kid’s book.

Awards : Won the Caldecott Medal… be impressed 🙂

If you like the The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, then try :

1) The Clockwork Three by Matthew Kirby

Giuseppe is an orphaned street musician from Italy, who was sold by his uncle to work as a slave for an evil padrone in the U.S. But  when a mysterious green violin enters his life he begins to imagine a life of freedom. Hannah is a soft-hearted, strong-willed girl from the tenements, who supports her family as a hotel maid when tragedy strikes and her father can no longer work. She learns about a hidden treasure, which she knows will save her family — if she can find it. And Frederick, the talented and intense clockmaker’s apprentice, seeks to learn the truth about his mother while trying to forget the nightmares of the orphanage where she left him. He is determined to build an automaton and enter the clockmakers’ guild — if only he can create a working head.
Together, the three discover they have phenomenal power when they team up as friends, and that they can overcome even the darkest of fears.

2) Gilda Joyce, Psychic Investigatorby Jennifer Allison

Ever since her father died, quirky Gilda Joyce has been working  hard to sharpen her psychic skills. She’s determined to communicate  with spirits from the Other Side and become a crack investigator  of spooky, twisted mysteries. After wrangling an invitation  to visit relatives in San Francisco, Gilda discovers that her dreary,  tight-lipped uncle and his strange, delicate daughter need her  help to uncover the terrible family secret that has a tortured ghost  stalking their home.

3) Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett

When a book of unexplainable occurances brings Petra Andalee & Calder Pillay together, strange things start to happen: seemingly unrelated events connect, an eccentric old woman seeks their company, & an invaluable Vermeer painting disappears. Before they know it, the two find themselves at the center of an international art scandal. As Petra & Calder are drawn clue by clue into a mysterious labyrinth they must draw on their powers of intuition, their skills at problem solving, and their knowledge of Vermeer. Can they decipher a crime that has left even the FBI baffled? (And yes I sort of like this one because one of the protagonists is named Petra….)

All descriptions taken from Fantastic Fiction.

So take a break from the depravity of adult literature and check out The Invention of Hugo Cabret. How did YOU like it?



Filed under book review, Mystery, six shoes

Book Review – Sister

Sister by Rosamund Lupton is seemingly just a mystery novel….but really it’s a lot more than that. With elements of literary novel and family drama thrown into the mix it brings more to the table than “just” a mystery book. Beatrice is an uptight Brit living in America with her fiancee. When her mother calls to tell her that her pregnant, mercurial, artistic sister, Tess,  has not been seen or heard from for four days she isn’t that worried and she flies to London to find her. When Tess’s body is discovered with the obvious signs of suicide, Beatrice or Bee, as she is called by her sister, refuses to believe  that her sister would commit suicide. Although everyone believes that she has been unhinged by her sister’s death, Bee obsessively continues on her quest to find the truth. She quits her job, leaves her fiancee and moves to London. As Bee investigates the circumstances around her sister’s life and death, she ends up finding out strange truths about her sister as well as a shocking secret. Did she commit suicide or is something more sinister happening?

This book has been showing up on all the reading blogs with a lot of buzz surrounding it. It was a big hit in the UK and now it’s coming to America. I must say that I loved it! I give it a big four stars on the BRFMF scale. First of all, I really enjoyed the story. The mystery is engrossing and will keep you guessing all the way to the end. Second, I love the way it is written – fraught with tension and suspense. Lupton achieves this through a lot of short tense chapters (a la James Patterson but obviously better written) and also through having the letters from Bee addressed to her dead sister complete with interesting bits of their history. Third, as a younger sister I enjoyed the depiction of the sister relationship. For those of us with sisters, we know it is a fragile and interesting dynamic. You are both friends and family, rivals and teammates, mentor and student. She captures exactly both the feelings of the older and younger sister. But don’t let that deter you from reading it if you don’t have a sister…you will still love it. I absolutely recommend that you read this book!

Three Appeals: Suspenseful mystery, sister relationship, literary quality

Red Flags: Some gore and violence, explicit language, sexual situations

If you liked Sister, then try:

1) State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

There were people on the banks of the river. Among the tangled waterways and giant anacondas of the Brazilian Rio Negro, an enigmatic scientist is developing a drug that could alter the lives of women for ever. Dr Annick Swenson’s work is shrouded in mystery; she refuses to report on her progress, especially to her investors, whose patience is fast running out. Anders Eckman, a mild-mannered lab researcher, is sent to investigate. A curt letter reporting his untimely death is all that returns. Now Marina Singh, Anders’s colleague and once a student of the mighty Dr Swenson, is their last hope. Compelled by the pleas of Anders’s wife, who refuses to accept that her husband is not coming home, Marina leaves the snowy plains of Minnesota and retraces her friend’s steps into the heart of the South American darkness, determined to track down Dr. Swenson and uncover the secrets being jealously guarded among the remotest tribes of the rainforest. What Marina does not yet know is that, in this ancient corner of the jungle, where the muddy waters and susurrating grasses hide countless unknown perils and temptations, she will face challenges beyond her wildest imagination. Marina is no longer the student, but only time will tell if she has learnt enough. (from Fantastic Fiction)

2) Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson

Christine wakens every morning next to a stranger who tells her he is Ben, her husband of twenty years. He tells her that she has suffered a horrible accident and has amnesia, leaving her unable to form any new memories. When Ben leaves for work, she is contacted by Dr. Nash, a neurologist, who directs her to a secret journal with details of her life and work. One day Christine finds the sentence “Don’t Trust Ben” in her journal and begins a journey to discover what is really the truth about her life.

3) The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst

In 1913, George Sawle brings charming, handsome Cecil Valance to his family’s modest home outside London for a summer weekend. George is enthralled by his Cambridge schoolmate, and soon his sixteen-year-old sister, Daphne, is equally besotted by both Cecil and the stories he tells about Corley Court, the country estate he is heir to. But what Cecil writes in Daphne’s autograph album will change their and their families’ lives forever: a poem that, after Cecil is killed in the Great War and his reputation burnished, will be recited by every schoolchild in England. Over time, a tragic love story is spun, even as other secrets lie buried – until, decades later, an ambitious biographer threatens to unearth them. (taken from Fantastic Fiction)

If you read this book or any of the other books recommended it, PLEASE leave me a comment and let me know how you liked it!

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Trina B.

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