Tuesday, September 08, 2020 Charleston County Library

CHARLESTON, S.C. - No one knows books and gives better recommendations than librarians. That's one of our favorite things to do, and we spend a lot of time researching and reading new books and old ones to keep our recommendations fresh. 

While our branches were closed to the public for several months during the coronavirus pandemic, having those conversations has been a lot more difficult. But it's not impossible! And that's why CCPL's librarians have been digging through our digital resources to build list upon list of digital recommendations.

This week's book list  is designed for those readers who love a good historical mystery. West Ashley Library branch manager Beth Bell is a big fan of the genre and put together this recommendations list for fellow fans. Whether you're looking for quirky and humorous or something that winds through 100 year of history, this list has something for everyone.

Grab your detective kit and let's start solving mysteries!

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley | OverDrive audio

It is the summer of 1950–and at the once-grand mansion of Buckshaw, young Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, is intrigued by a series of inexplicable events: A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Then, hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath.

For Flavia, who is both appalled and delighted, life begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw. "I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn't. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life."

BONUS: This edition contains a The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie discussion guide and an excerpt from Alan Bradley's The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag.

The Spies of Shilling Lane by Jennifer Ryan

Mrs. Braithwaite, self-appointed queen of her English village, finds herself dethroned, despised, and dismissed following her husband's selfish divorce petition. Never deterred, the threat of a family secret being revealed sets her hot-foot to London to find the only person she has left—her clever daughter Betty, who took work there at the first rumbles of war.

But when she arrives, Betty's landlord, the timid Mr. Norris, informs her that Betty hasn't been home in days—with the chaos of the bombs, there's no telling what might have befallen her. Aghast, Mrs. Braithwaite sets her bullish determination to the task of finding her only daughter.

Storming into the London Blitz, Mrs. Braithwaite drags the reluctant Mr. Norris along as an unwitting sidekick as they piece together Betty's unexpectedly chaotic life. As she is thrown into the midst of danger and death, Mrs. Braithwaite is forced to rethink her old-fashioned notions of status, class, and reputation, and to reconsider the question that's been puzzling her since her world overturned: How do you measure the success of your life?

Readers will be charmed by the unforgettable Mrs. Braithwaite and her plucky, ruthless optimism, and find in The Spies of Shilling Lane a novel with surprising twists and turns, quiet humor, and a poignant examination of mothers and daughters and the secrets we keep.

Louise’s War by Sarah R Shaber

The first in a new series from the author of the 'Simon Shaw' books - 1942. Louise Pearlie, a young widow, has come to Washington DC to work as a clerk for the legendary OSS, the precursor to the CIA. When, while filing, she discovers a document concerning the husband of a college friend, Rachel Bloch, - a young French Jewish woman she is desperately worried about - Louise realizes she may be able to help get Rachel out of Vichy France. But then a colleague whose help Louise has enlisted is murdered, and she realizes she is on her own, unable to trust anyone . . .

 

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal

London, 1940. Winston Churchill has just been sworn in, war rages across the Channel, and the threat of a Blitz looms larger by the day. But none of this deters Maggie Hope. She graduated at the top of her college class and possesses all the skills of the finest minds in British intelligence, but her gender qualifies her only to be the newest typist at No. 10 Downing Street. Her indefatigable spirit and remarkable gifts for codebreaking, though, rival those of even the highest men in government, and Maggie finds that working for the prime minister affords her a level of clearance she could never have imagined—and opportunities she will not let pass. In troubled, deadly times, with air-raid sirens sending multitudes underground, access to the War Rooms also exposes Maggie to the machinations of a menacing faction determined to do whatever it takes to change the course of history.

Ensnared in a web of spies, murder, and intrigue, Maggie must work quickly to balance her duty to King and Country with her chances for survival. And when she unravels a mystery that points toward her own family's hidden secrets, she'll discover that her quick wits are all that stand between an assassin's murderous plan and Churchill himself.

In this daring debut, Susan Elia MacNeal blends meticulous research on the era, psychological insight into Winston Churchill, and the creation of a riveting main character, Maggie Hope, into a spectacularly crafted novel.

Twenty-one Days by Anne Perry | OverDrive audio

1910: Twenty-five-year-old Daniel Pitt is a junior barrister in London and eager to prove himself, independent of his renowned parents' influence. And the new case before him will be the test. When his client, arrogant biographer Russell Graves, is found guilty of murdering his wife, Daniel is dispatched to find the real killer before Graves faces the hangman's noose—in only twenty-one days.

Could Mrs. Graves's violent death have anything to do with her husband's profession? Someone in power may be framing the biographer to keep damaging secrets from coming to light. It is a theory that leads Daniel's investigation unexpectedly to London's Special Branch—and, disturbingly, to one of his father's closest colleagues.

Caught between duty to the law and a fierce desire to protect his family, Daniel must call on his keen intellect—and trust his natural instincts—to find the truth in a tangle of dark deception, lest an innocent man hang for another's heinous crime.

Out of the Dawn Light by Alys Clare

It is 1087 and William Rufus has just ascended the throne; England lies under a harsh new militaristic regime. Rebellion is in the air and, in the shadows, secrets are muttered that men will kill for. On her sister's wedding day, Lassair meets an attractive and enigmatic stranger who brings a breath of the glamorous and fascinating outside world to her backwater Fenland village.

Young and confident, when Lassair is asked to use her unique talents to help locate a mysterious treasure she accepts with barely a hesitation - despite the grave consequences should the mission be discovered. But after a night-time march across East Anglia, Lassair begins to understand the danger she is in. For this is no ordinary treasure hunt; the object of the perilous search is five hundred years old and has a terrifying power of its own.

Miss Silver Mysteries – Volume One by Patricia Wentworth

The first three novels in the classic Miss Silver Mysteries introduce Patricia Wentworth's beloved British governess-turned-sleuth. In The Grey Mask, Miss Maud Silver investigates a deadly conspiratorial ring. After four years wandering the jungles of India and South America, Charles Moray has come home to England to collect his inheritance. Strangely, he finds his family estate unlocked and sees a light in one of its abandoned rooms. Eavesdropping, he learns of a conspiracy to commit a fearsome crime.

Charles's first instinct is to let the police settle it. But then he hears her voice: Margaret, his long lost love, is part of the gang. To unravel their diabolical plot, he contacts Miss Silver, a former governess who applies her reason to solving crimes and facing the dangers of London's underworld.

In The Case Is Closed, Miss Silver fights to free an innocent man when a new clue arises in a long-closed murder inquiry. Marion Grey is growing used to the idea that her husband will never be released from prison, especially after the horrors of the very public trial. But when new evidence suggests her husband may be innocent after all, she hires a professional-the inimitable Miss Silver-to clear his name. In a chance encounter on a busy train, a friend of Marion's meets a mysterious man who disappeared during the trial, and who may know something that could set Marion's husband free. But who is he, and where has he gone? To find out, the demure detective Miss Silver must track him down-or risk becoming a victim herself.

In Lonesome Road, a terrified young woman asks Miss Silver for help unmasking someone who has threatened her life. Rachel Traherne has been receiving menacing letters about her deceased father's fortune. The first two letters were vague; the third said simply, "Get ready to die." Since then, Rachel has nearly been killed three times: first by a flight of sabotaged stairs, second by fire, and third by a box of poisoned chocolates. She fears the culprit may be a family member, jealous of her inheritance and willing to kill for it. But who could it be? Miss Silver is going to find out.

These charming traditional British mysteries featuring the unstoppable Miss Silver-whose stout figure, fondness for Tennyson, and passion for knitting disguise a keen intellect and a knack for cracking even the toughest cases-are sure to delight readers of Agatha Christie, Ellis Peters, and Dorothy L. Sayers.

A Test of Wills by Charles Todd

Ian Rutledge returns to his career at Scotland Yard after years fighting in the First World War. Unknown to his colleagues he is still suffering from shell shock, and is burdened with the guilt of having had executed a young soldier on the battlefield for refusing to fight. A jealous colleague has learned of his secret and has managed to have Rutledge assigned to a difficult case which could spell disaster for Rutledge whatever the outcome. A retired officer has been murdered, and Rutledge fighting the torment of his illness goes to investigate. As he digs into the lives of the villagers, the witness who disturbs him most is a war-ravaged ex-soldier who chills Rutledge with the realisation that he could become like this man.

Lady of Ashes by Christine Trent

Only a woman with an iron backbone could succeed as an undertaker in Victorian London, but Violet Morgan takes great pride in her trade. While her husband, Graham, is preoccupied with elevating their station in society, Violet is cultivating a sterling reputation for Morgan Undertaking. She is empathetic, well-versed in funeral fashions, and comfortable with death's role in life--until its chilling rattle comes knocking on her own front door.

Violet's peculiar but happy life soon begins to unravel as Graham becomes obsessed with his own demons and all but abandons her as he plans a vengeful scheme. And the solace she's always found in her work evaporates like a departing soul when she suspects that some of the deceased she's dressed have been murdered. When Graham's plotting leads to his disappearance, Violet takes full control of the business and is commissioned for an undertaking of royal proportions. But she's certain there's a killer lurking in the London fog, and the next funeral may be her own.

Equal parts courage, compassion, and intrigue, Christine Trent tells an unrestrained tale of love and loss in the rigidly decorous world of Victorian society.

Blackstone and the New World by Sally Spencer

July 1900, New York City. Sam Blackstone has gone to New York to pick up a prisoner, but he soon finds himself drafted in to investigate the murder of Inspector O'Brien who is famed for rooting out police corruption. Working with an enthusiastic young detective who worshipped O'Brien, Blackstone scours the city in search of the killer. And the more he searches, the more he becomes convinced that the police department doesn't really want the murder to be solved.

 

The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White | OverDrive audio

May 2013
Her finances are in dire straits and bestselling author Sarah Blake is struggling to find a big idea for her next book. Desperate, she breaks the one promise she made to her Alzheimer's-stricken mother and opens an old chest that belonged to her great-grandfather, who died when the RMS Lusitania was sunk by a German U-Boat in 1915. What she discovers there could change history. Sarah embarks on an ambitious journey to England to enlist the help of John Langford, a recently disgraced Member of Parliament whose family archives might contain the only key to the long-ago catastrophe. . . .

April 1915
Southern belle Caroline Telfair Hochstetter's marriage is in crisis. Her formerly attentive industrialist husband, Gilbert, has become remote, pre-occupied with business . . . and something else that she can't quite put a finger on. She's hoping a trip to London in Lusitania's lavish first-class accommodations will help them reconnect—but she can't ignore the spark she feels for her old friend, Robert Langford, who turns out to be on the same voyage. Feeling restless and longing for a different existence, Caroline is determined to stop being a bystander, and take charge of her own life. . . .

Tessa Fairweather is traveling second-class on the Lusitania, returning home to Devon. Or at least, that's her story. Tessa has never left the United States and her English accent is a hasty fake. She's really Tennessee Schaff, the daughter of a roving con man, and she can steal and forge just about anything. But she's had enough. Her partner has promised that if they can pull off this one last heist aboard the Lusitania, they'll finally leave the game behind. Tess desperately wants to believe that, but Tess has the uneasy feeling there's something about this job that isn't as it seems. . . .

As the Lusitania steams toward its fate, three women work against time to unravel a plot that will change the course of their own lives . . . and history itself.