Readers and writers: Summer paperbacks to relax with

16 July 2023

It’s the time of year for easy reading so today we offer three well-written paperbacks that will entertain you on the screen porch, at the cabin or in a hammock.

(Courtesy of the author)
Kathleen Glasgow (Courtesy of the author)

“The Night in Question”: by Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson (Delacorte Press, $19.99)

This is so Agatha Christie: a secret passage, a hidden staircase, sneaking around in the dark with a storm raging outside. A shiver of pleasure runs through me. — From “The Night in Question”

Alice Ogilvie and Iris Adams, teenage devotees of author Agatha Christie — are back for their second adventure after last year’s “The Agathas.”

It’s been four months since the first book, when this unlikely pair solved the murder of their friend Brooke Donovan in the northern California town of Castle Cove. Alice comes from a rich family and was a member of the Mains, the group that runs their high school. Iris is poor and lives with an abusive father. The young women wouldn’t have had anything to do with one another if Alice’s mother hadn’t hired Iris to tutor her daughter. But the pair were drawn together by Iris’ complete collection of Christie’s crime novels.

Their new adventure opens at their high school’s formal Sadie Hawkins dance at Levy Castle, a landmark filled with secret staircases, hidden rooms and moving bookcases. The evening begins with a fight between Rebecca Kennedy and Helen Park over a dress. Alice is exploring the castle’s closed rooms when she finds Rebecca’s body in a pool of blood with Helen standing over her.

The police think Park has to be guilty but Alice and Iris believe Helen is not a killer and they set out to prove her innocence. That leads to discovery of past secrets in the castle, including the time during which a room was occupied by a Marilyn Monroe-like star who mysteriously died there.

The Agathas are a great team. Alice is impulsive, sometimes going off without fully thinking things through, and cool-headed Iris is there to pull her back. The story is told in chapters alternating between Alice and Iris, so the reader is treated to two points of view and discoveries.

Glasgow, who lives in Arizona, is former coordinator of the University of Minnesota graduate program in creative writing. Lawson lives outside Washington, D.C.

Fans of Glasgow’s previous bestselling books — “Girl in Pieces,” “How to Make Friends With the Dark,” and “You’d Be Home Now” — will be happy to know that the trio is now available in a boxed set.

The Agathas series is so good we can only hope the girls continue their adventures in future books.

(Courtesy of the author)
Jody Wenner (Courtesy of the author)

“The Mortician’s Wife”: by Jody Wenner (The Wild Rose Press, $17.99)

…Maddy hadn’t been kidding around. She really did get a bad vibe initially, with all of the strange things happening in her wake, but now she wondered if the ghost in this house was not actually a child, but Beatrice herself. And maybe she wasn’t trying to haunt Maddy but get her to uncover the mysteries she’d locked away in the hidden drawer after all this time. — From “The Mortician’s Wife”

Maddy Barton believes the big old house she and her husband just moved into is trying to kill her. She stumbles on stairs and falls off a ladder. Then she learns the house was once a mortuary and discovers letters written in 1912 by Beatrice, the mortician’s wife. Someone was murdered in the house and Maddy is determined to find out how the death of a young boy who drowned in the lumber yard almost a century ago affects her old mansion in 2022.

The narrative moves between Beatrice’s uneasiness about what her husband is secretly doing with a body and Maddy’s contemporary research into the mortician’s family. Maddy, who wants to be a writer, begins a manuscript as she pieces together the story of the woman who lived in the house so many years ago.

(Courtesy of the author)
Mark Hayes Peacock (Courtesy of the author)

“Six Short Stories”: by Mark Hayes Peacock (independently published, $12)

There had been a shooting, a murder, and both Charlene and Derek seems to be implicated, or, at least, both had motives for doing in Randall Dodge. And as a priest, I have an interest in honesty, truth and justice. Maybe it’s just that I’ve seen too many television movies about priests who somehow manage to solve mysteries, which, on the surface, seems to be way out of character. — From “Six Short Stories”

In his fourth story collection Peacock, of Luck, Wis., introduces us to a variety of intriguing characters. There’s Bomber, who solves two problems at once by shooting a politician. There’s a paralyzed guy who listens to two women he loves argue about keeping him on life support while he thinks of how he loved the bike (motorcycle) that almost got him killed. A priest tries to find justice in a story with a surprise ending, and a letter from a man’s dead mother leads to bitter disappointment. A sweet story tells of how a devoted wife guides her husband’s career as a sculptor, and the final story is a funny “mangled fairytale” featuring the retired seven dwarfs.

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