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Published On: Wed, Nov 21st, 2012

Books by Nancy: ‘Tis the Season

The Snow White Christmas Cookie by David Handler, Minotaur Books, mystery, 264 pp., $24.99The Snow White Christmas Cookie by David Handler, Minotaur Books, mystery, 264 pp., $24.99

 After three major storms, and a nor’easter on the way, there’s more than three feet of snow blanketing the very upscale seasidevillageofDorset,Connecticut, home of internationally known film critic Mitch Berger and the love of his life, resident state trooper Desiree Mitry.  He’s widowed; she’s divorced. Together they solve crimes, though Des would rather Mitch just butt out.

Mitch and Des are an interesting pairing. He’s Jewish and chubby; she’s black and sleek. I‘m thinking Oliver Platt andHalleBerry. They seem to be neurosis-free and dedicated to each other, bound at all times by love, loyalty, respect, kindness, and mutual unselfishness, even though they live apart. Each is highly competent in their respective jobs. In his spare time, Mitch plays a Stratocaster, and Des draws pictures of corpses. It’s how they cope. Both of them are cat lovers. In fact, Des captures feral cats and prepares them for domesticity.

In this ninth installment in the series, it’s one week before Christmas, and the black sheep of a prominent local family commits suicide. Then there’s another suicide, and also the theft of valuable items, especially prescription drugs, from mailboxes. It seems that a newcomer, Josie Cantro, a popular hottie who works as a lifestyle coach, finds herself in the middle of all of it. Sub-plots deal with current social issues like unmotivated young people, content to let their parents do the heavy lifting for as long as possible, as well as the discontented parents who are their examples.

This series is in my top ten list of must-read cozies, but make no mistake, this series isn’t about baking pies and cakes for the PTA. No recipes included.  This series is a little edgy and a lot credible as Berger and Mitry deal with mostly good people who get in way over their heads. The snappy dialogue and expert pacing keep the action moving forward to a breathless conclusion each and every time.

A Christmas Garland by Anne Perry, Ballantine Books, holiday mystery, 194 pp., $18

The year is 1857, just two weeks before Christmas, and British forces in India are still reeling from the massacre of Bibighar in which British civilians were brutally killed. A young medic, John Tallis, stands accused of murdering a friendly Sikh guard, an action that allowed a prisoner to escape and betray a British contingent.

Victor Narraway, an officer only twenty years-old, is charged with defending Tallis even though he has no experience with the law. The case seems impossible to win, because following a thorough investigation, it is the consensus that no one but Tallis could have committed the crime which led to the deaths of British soldiers. Narraway is agonized by his predicament because he believes that Tallis is incapable of committing such a grievous offense.

Anne Perry masterfully conveys the vastness of India, its smells and luscious fruits as well as the horrors of the British occupation and the Indian rebellion against it.

This is the story of two principled and compassionate men, thrown together, both despairing of justice. The book also examines the matter of faith in God and its meaning for each person.

This is a small though powerful book, easily read, but not easily forgotten.

The Walnut Tree by Charles Todd, Wm. Morrow, historical fiction, 248 pp., $16.99

The mother/son writing team known as Charles Todd delivers a satisfying tale of war, love, and loss during the early days of WWI, the war that began in July and was expected to be over by Christmas.

The very headstrong Lady Elspeth Douglas, a member of the Scottish nobility, travels to France to visit a friend from her school days in Paris. While there, Elspeth agrees that her former schoolgirl crush, Alain Montigny, may speak to her guardian about marrying her.

Both of Elspeth’s parents are dead, and her life is under the control of her cousin Kenneth.

While traveling back to England, Elspeth becomes deeply attracted to another man, a Scottish officer, the handsome and charming Peter Gilchrist, but the most interesting thing about Elspeth is that she becomes determined to serve as a nursing sister to men terribly injured by war. Sidestepping her uncle, Elspeth enrolls in nursing school, and eventually serves on the front lines of war.

Her dilemma of choosing one man over another may not be her decision at all.

This small volume practically vibrates with the sounds of war. It is superbly written and depicts a time when honor and duty had intense meaning. To read this book is to travel far back in time, safely on the sidelines of tragedy, but also of grace.

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Nancy Sapir is a longtime resident of Kingston who reviewed books for the Kingston Observer for eight years. Currently she reviews self-published books for blueinkreview.com . Her reviews will also appear at singlemomsurviving.com, a web site for single mothers which will launch in January. For four years, Nancy was a judge for Publisher’s Weekly in connection with the Amazon Breakout Novel Award program.

About the Author