Gilding the Lily

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Gilding the Lily by Justine John (Mystery)

A well-written prologue can be the key to snagging a reader. In this case, the story begins with a woman who is feigning grief at the burial of another woman. It soon becomes clear that the former has caused the death of the latter and appears to have gotten away with it. What we don’t know is who has died and who remains.

We then meet our three main characters from whose perspectives the story is told: Amelia, Jack, and Evelyn. Amelia and her husband, Jack, live in England. Amelia’s widowed father, Roger, lives in New York City, and Evelyn is the new woman in his life. Amelia and Jack meet Evelyn for the first time at a surprise party for Roger’s 75th birthday, and it doesn’t take long for them to realize she is a gold-digger doing her best to come between Roger and Amelia. Amelia and Jack grow to hate and fear her, and when Roger’s health begins to fail, a bigger question arises: is she slowly killing him? Meanwhile, Evelyn hates Amelia because she is a threat to Evelyn’s continued hold on Roger. Hence, the question: who is going to dispose of whom?

The book has lots of short chapters told from alternating points of view. We know what Evelyn’s doing and thinking, and we know what Amelia and Jack are going through. We feel their frustration in dealing with someone so cunning that Roger’s friends think Evelyn is a bright light in his life. Occasionally there’s a scene that doesn’t seem to do anything to move the story along, but overall this debut novel is well done and worth the read.

Grandma gives Gilding the Lily four stars. 4 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Tragic Deception

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Tragic Deception by M.A. Comley and Linda S. Prather (Crime/Suspense/Thriller)

I read Clever Deception, the prequel novella to the Deception series, before breakfast, then immediately moved on to Tragic Deception and finished it the same day. Alex Fox is the type of believable heroine I appreciate, a less-than-perfect woman who keeps on going in spite of the odds and her own mistakes. In this book, she has moved to the U.S. from Great Britain, where she was on the police force, and is now working in New York City. She encounters the same anti-female bias from male counterparts in the NYPD as she experienced at home in Gloucester and has alienated quite a few of them, not the least of whom is her commanding officer. He suspends her for insubordination and gives her a mandate: solve a trio of high-profile infant kidnappings within the week or don’t come back.

The collaboration of authors Linda Prather and M.A. Comley – American  and British, respectively – gives authenticity to the character as a British transplant navigating the world of urban American law enforcement. Her British-isms amuse her fellow police officers, while their use of the vernacular confuses her. I enjoyed watching both grow to understand and appreciate each other almost as much as I enjoyed the fast-paced, engrossing story.

The frightening serial killer introduced in Clever Deception, the Escape Artist, has a presence but doesn’t dominate the book. He remains significant as Alex’s motivation for moving to New York, and even plays a part in the resolution of the kidnappings, but her life also moves on and is not simply an obsession with finding him. This realistic approach gives the character even more credibility and depth. I believe this series has great promise, and I look forward to the next book.

Grandma gives Tragic Deception five stars. 5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received an ARC from the authors in exchange for an honest review.