Friday, June 21, 2019

Book Review - Murder in the City of Liberty by Rachel McMillan

Book Synopsis
Hamish DeLuca and Regina “Reggie” Van Buren have a new case—and this one could demand a price they’re not willing to pay.

Determined to make a life for herself, Reggie Van Buren bid goodbye to fine china and the man her parents expected her to marry and escaped to Boston. What she never expected to discover was that an unknown talent for sleuthing would develop into a business partnership with the handsome, yet shy, Hamish DeLuca.

Their latest case arrives when Errol Parker, the leading base stealer in the Boston farm leagues, hires Hamish and Reggie to investigate what the Boston police shove off as a series of harmless pranks. Errol believes these are hate crimes linked to the outbreak of war in Europe, and he’s afraid for his life. Hamish and Reggie quickly find themselves in the midst of an escalating series of crimes.

When Hamish has his careful constructed life disrupted by a figure from his past, he is driven to a decision that may sever him from Reggie forever . . . even more than her engagement to wealthy architect Vaughan Vanderlaan.


Purchase Links

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My Review
Murder in the City of Liberty is a mystery set in 1940 Boston.  Reggie (Regina) Van Buren and Hamish DeLuca have a small detective agency.  They are hired by Errol Parker, a black baseball player who is facing harassment because of his race.  There is an atmosphere of great tension in Boston, with members of a hate group meeting and spreading pamphlets.  When Hamish's cousin Luca suddenly appears, the mystery becomes even more complicated.

This book is the second in the Van Buren and DeLuca mystery series.  I did not read the first book and wish I had, because there were numerous references to characters and scenes from the first book.  It took me a few chapters to catch up, but I did, and settled in to enjoy the mystery.

I wanted to read this book because I love historical fiction, enjoy mysteries, and am fascinated by the 1940's as a historical period.  The author did a wonderful job at capturing the 1940's with period details through the book.  There are fascinating references to dances and movies and old time radio shows.  For instance, a family friend tells Reggie that she is "playing Nick and Nora Charles" (from The Thin Man) with Hamish.

The baseball setting is interesting, and the author evokes the atmosphere of an old time ballpark:

"The collective din of the stands, the squeak of the bleachers, the organ pounding out jingles and ditties and chords to inspire spectator fervor.  The shifting scoreboard and communal enthusiasm.  The smell of popcorn and beer and, as in tonight's game, the inimitable scent of almost-summer: grass and something in the air that overtook the salt and yeast of the vendors' carts and gave way to the most alluring type of nostalgia" (p. 119).

I really liked Reggie and Hamish as characters, both individually and together.  Reggie is very brave and spirited.  She has a Journal of Independence including a variety of goals:

"Sometimes as in the case of 'Learn how to properly make a bed,' the entries were left untouched in her perfectly taught cursive.  Other times they were scrawled or scratched out with enthusiasm like, 'Stay up 'til dawn.' Which she seemed to be doing now" (p. 149).

Hamish deals with anxiety, and this is dealt with honestly and sensitively in the book.  He is very dashing but also seems vulnerable and real.

There is a lot of back and forth between the characters, as they are romantically interested in each other but don't want to upset the balance of their work relationship and friendship.

The mystery aspect of Murder in the City of Liberty slowly unraveled, piece by piece, and it was very well done (and kept me guessing).  I enjoyed seeing Hamish and DeLuca solve the mystery.

I have already recommended this series to two friends who enjoy historical mysteries.  Readers who enjoy the 1940's will especially enjoy the period details in this well written book.  I am looking forward to the next book in this series!
Author Bio
Rachel McMillan is the author of the Herringford and Watts mysteries, the Three Quarter Time series of contemporary romances set in opulent Vienna, and the Van Buren and DeLuca mysteries praised for bringing an authentic 1930’s Boston world to life while normalizing the fictional conversation surrounding mental illness. Her first work of non-fiction, described as a romantic’s guide to independent travel, releases in 2020. Rachel lives in Toronto, Canada.


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Book Review and Giveaway - A Crafter Hooks a Killer: A Handcrafted Mystery by Holly Quinn

Book Synopsis
Community Craft proprietor Sammy Kane suspects that a tantalizing thread links the deaths of her best friend and a bestselling author. But can she weave together the clues?

Samantha “Sammy” Kane is settling into her new life in idyllic Heartsford, Wisconsin, running her late friend Kate Allen’s craft shop, Community Craft when one early June day, bestselling crochet author Jane Johnson visits Heartsford. Captivated by Community Craft, Jane devotes a chapter in her new book, Behind the Seams, to the store. Sammy is honored, though satisfaction quickly turns to shock when she finds Jane strangled to death—her cold hands clutching a copy of her most recently published book, with the words “THE END” raggedly scratched into the cover.

Heavens to Etsy! Not only must Sammy contend with the author’s inauspicious demise, she has to untie some knotty details from her own past. It turns out Kate’s death was not what it seemed, and instead somehow hooked to Jane Johnson’s demise. Handsome Detective Liam Nash is on the “skein”, more than happy to see the shop owner again, if less than enamored by her sleuthing interventions. But this was Sammy’s best friend—she has to know.

Fortunately, Sammy has a “lace” in the hole. As a child, she formed the S.H.E. detective team with her cousin, Heidi, and her sister, Ellie. Having already reconstituted their partnership, the S.H.E. team searches for a pattern behind the latest death. As the case starts to unravel, will Sammy and team be able to sidestep Liam quick enough to stitch together the clues?

My Review
Sammy Kane owns a small craft shop in Heartsford, Wisconsin;  she took over the business for her best friend, Kate, who died suddenly.  She is excited about a famous crafter, Jane Johnson, visiting the shop.  When she meets Jane, the famous author suggests that she has news about Kate's death. Then Sammy discovers Jane's body, and she works with her sister and cousin - and her almost-boyfriend, police detective Liam Nash - to solve the mystery.

This is the second book in the Handcrafted Mystery series.  I have read both books and thoroughly enjoyed them.  Holly Quinn does an especially good job at capturing the small, Midwestern town atmosphere.  

I really like Sammy, her cousin Heidi, and sister Ellie.  They created a play detective group called S.H.E. (for their first names) as young girls, and they still work together to solve mysteries.  I liked this description of one of their S.H.E. meetings:

"The fireflies were just starting to pop their neon glows of brilliance in the blackening sky.  The luminosity bounced around the backyard grass and bushes as if the fireflies were putting on a private light show for them.  The three S.H.E.s huddled together around Sammy's backyard picnic table with the pages of the manuscript spread between them.  Remnants of dried coagulated cheese and corn chip crumbs littered the bottom of the baking dish, evidence of a well-eaten nacho platter" (Kindle location 2784).

Sammy can be impulsive at times and does not take the precautions for her safety that an experienced detective would take.  I think this is part of her character though, and her approach to amateur sleuthing.

Detective Liam Nash is as charming as ever, and I enjoyed his scenes with Sammy.

Of course, I also loved Sammy's dog (who often visits her shop), Bara!  (I consider all cozy mysteries more interesting if a lovable pet is part of the story.)

The mystery was well done.  I suspected the murderer but enjoyed seeing the details unravel.  The book is fast paced and I read it in just a few days because I was eager to see what happened!

I recommend A Crafter Hooks a Killer and the Handcrafted Mystery series.  Readers who are interested in crafting or small town settings will especially enjoy this book.

Author Bio
Holly Quinn has published two stand-alone fiction novels in another persona. She graduated from Carroll University in Wisconsin with a Bachelor of Science in business and a minor in marketing. This is her second Handcrafted mystery. Visit her @

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Author Bio

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