FALL READING ROUND-UP by ERICA RUTH NEUBAUER

Fall is without a doubt my favorite season. I love everything about it—the turning leaves, the cozy sweaters and the pumpkins everywhere. But I also love the increase in rain we’ve had—it’s a perfect excuse for me to curl up on the couch with a good book. Here’s a quick round-up of the books that have knocked my socks off lately. 

THE ART OF THEFTSherry Thomas

October 2019

This series fast became one of my favorites. I’m not a purist when it comes to how I take my Sherlock Holmes, which is a good thing, as I might have missed out on one of the best pastiches I’ve come across. Sherlock in this case is Charlotte Holmes, an absolutely brilliant and unconventional woman with a penchant for sweets. This is the fourth in the series, and while I recommend starting at the beginning, I think you might be able to jump in here. (But why would you? I’m envious that you have those first books still before you to read.) Charlotte’s roommate, the inimitable Mrs. Hudson is visited by an old friend from India—a member of royalty—and in order to save the woman from scandal, Charlotte and her band of friends must break into a castle and steal a very large painting—or at least the secrets hidden behind it. Unfortunately, that castle looks as though it might just be a stronghold of Moriarty’s, and there is more danger afoot than simply getting caught in the act. 

Thomas’ storytelling is wonderful—rich and layered and delicious. I never want these books to end, even as I find myself racing to find out how Charlotte Holmes is going to pull things off. 

PRETTY AS A PICTUREElizabeth Little

February 25, 2020

You should just pre-order this one now. Go ahead, put it in your basket. I’ll still be here. 

Marissa Dahl is a socially awkward film editor—oh, how I identify with her internal dialogue—that is hired to work on a highly secret movie being filmed on an island off the coast of Delaware. The director is a powerful one—and one that Marissa has embarrassed herself with. But the movie set also seems plagued with issues: accidents, scandal and a dwindling staff from all the firings, including the film editor that Marissa has been brought in to replace. When Marissa learns that the movie is based on a true crime that happened on the island ten years earlier, she can’t help but be drawn into the mystery. Especially when two precocious teenagers on the island insist on solving the crime, with or without Marissa’s help. 

But is the killer still among them? And has he finished the job?

Little has an extraordinary gift for capturing voice—her first novel DEAR DAUGHTER also had an original and mesmerizing narrator. Marissa Dahl is no different, except here Little depicts perfectly what it feels like to be a little different and on the outside. Narrative voice aside, anyone who enjoys film will be caught up in the Hollywood references and bits of trivia, not to mention the startling plot twists. I can’t recommend this one highly enough. 

THE SUN-DOWN MOTEL Simone St. James

February 18, 2020

Upstate New York—1982

Viv Delaney is running away from home with half-hearted dreams to make it to the big city. On the way she checks into a small motel off the highway and stays, getting a job as the night shift clerk. But as she starts to uncover the dark secrets hiding in the small NY town, as well as the unexplained phenomena at the motel, Viv suddenly disappears without a trace.

Upstate New York—2017 

After the death of her mother, Carly Kirk is feeling a bit adrift and decides to explore the mystery of how her aunt Viv disappeared. Carly takes a job as night clerk at the motel where Viv worked decades earlier, and soon becomes aware that nothing at the motel is as it seems. 

What really happened to Aunt Viv? And is history about to repeat itself?

St. James has a real knack for entwining believable supernatural elements with a gripping mystery. I thoroughly enjoyed her historical ghost story novels, as well as her last novel THE BROKEN GIRLS, set in a haunted boarding school. This novel in particular had wonderful parallels, and plenty of dark turns. The run-down Sun-Down has a decidedly creepy atmosphere with compelling characters both alive and dead—I’d read this with the lights on.

Erica Ruth Neubauer spent eleven years in the military, nearly two as a Maryland police officer and one as a high school English teacher before finding her way as a writer. She has been a reviewer of mysteries and crime fiction for publications such as Publishers Weekly and Mystery Scene Magazine for several years, and she’s a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. Erica Ruth lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband.