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Tuesday, July 6, 2021

More excellent summer reads from my favorite authors

Reprinted from the Citizen:

As summer rolls on, there are so many excellent books just waiting to pop into your beach bag, and here I’ll cover a few I have recently enjoyed.

Susan Elia MacNeal continues the saga of Maggie Hope in The Hollywood Spy. Maggie Hope is an American who worked as Winston Churchill’s secretary in the first book in the series, The Prime Minister’s Secretary. Her skills led her to become a spy for the British during WWII, working for the elite SOE agency. 

After stints in London, Paris, Berlin, and Scotland, Maggie goes to 1943 Los Angeles to help her former boyfriend John, an RAF pilot training American flyers. John’s fianceĆ© drowned and he suspects foul play. Maggie agrees to investigate.

The most interesting part of this terrific tenth entry in the Maggie Hope series is learning all about Los Angeles during this time. It contained a large number of Nazi supporters, who went underground once the US entered the war. The Ku Klux Klan picked up where the Nazis left off, with racism against Jewish people, Blacks, and Latin people running rampant, including acts of violence against those groups.

MacNeal immerses the reader right into Los Angeles of that time, and you can feel all her research right on the page, as established by her bibliography at the end of the book. It’s also fun to see so many real people drop in, including Walt Disney, Linus Pauling, Howard Hughes, Cab Calloway, Hattie McDaniel, and more.

I highly recommend “The Hollywood Spy” for anyone who enjoys Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series.

Laura Lippman pays homage to Stephen King’s book Misery in her novel, Dream Girl. Gerry Andersen is an author who has yet to match the mega-success of his first novel, “Dream Girl”. When Gerry takes a serious fall in his Baltimore apartment, he is bedridden and dependent on the care of his young assistant and the nurses who come to his apartment. 

One night Gerry receives a disturbing phone call from a woman who claims she is the real person he based his novel on. He knows this cannot be true, the character was a figment of his imagination.

When the phone calls continue, neither his overnight nurse nor his assistant hears the phone ringing. When he sees a woman in his room late at night and calls out, the nurse comes running but no one is there, and the security cameras for the building show that no one came into his apartment. 

Is Gerry losing his mind or is someone messing with him? Could it be one of his ex-wives? The book goes back and forth in time, and we get a real feel for the character of Gerry, who he is and where he comes from. Fans of Lippman’s Tess Monaghan PI series will enjoy the cameo by Tess as Gerry looks for help to find answers.

I read Dream Girl in one day, I could not put this one down.

Anne Leigh Parrish continues her wonderful series about the Dugan family in her novel, A Winter Night. We first met the Dugans in Our Love Could Light The World, a series of linked stories, and their story continued in the novels, The Amendment and Maggie’s Ruse

Oldest daughter Angie takes center stage in this beautifully written story. Angie is 34, working as a social worker in adult care/nursing home. She is seeing Matt, a bartender and friend of her brother, and so far it’s going well.

After some disastrous relationships, Angie has trust issues. She is seeing a therapist to help her work through it. Angie has always been the one to care for her father, a recovering alcoholic who is remarried, but as his life seems to veering off course Angie is called in to help him once again.

It’s great to reconnect with the Dugan family, and Parrish writes dialogue that just crackles with honesty, like mother Lavinia saying that her ex-husband’s “promises are never false. They’re just seldom kept.” Or when Lavinia says “if you want your marriage to work, you have to rise up to meet it.” (Lavinia gets the best lines.)

The Dugan family lives in the Finger Lakes region, and readers will be able to relate to many of settings and character.  And with the extreme heat we have been experiencing, a book set in a central New York winter is a welcome distraction. A Winter Night is a moving character study, and I highly recommend it. 

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