Tag Archives: Historical fiction

Book Review: Claire’s Last Secret – Intriguing Historical Mystery

Claire’s Last Secret

By Marty Ambrose

Based upon the true story of the conception and infamous writing weekend of Mary Shelly’s famous Gothic ghost story, Frankenstein, this historical mystery intertwines delicious bits of true history with a tantalizing tale of lost love and murder.

Set in 1873, the stepsister of Mary Shelley, Claire Cairmont is the only survivor of that fateful summer in 1816. Now Claire is forced to remember those days – as if she could ever forget.

As a young woman, in love with a married man and expecting his child, her future was uncertain. Claire was and is a free spirit, living life as she chose, not as was expected of her. She was on holiday with Mary, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (Mary’s husband) and Lord Byron. It was during this holiday that Frankenstein was born and Claire’s life changed forever.

Claire now lives with her beloved niece and grandniece, but they are hardly living in luxury. Their basic needs are barely met, but it is doubtful they will be able to make it much longer without some income. Surprisingly, a man contacts them requesting an audience with Claire. He wants to purchase personal letters and memorabilia from the time spent in 1816 with Byron and Shelley. By selling them, she and her niece would be able to live comfortably, but does this benefactor bring salvation or death to her door?

The tangled relationships of 1816 have come back to haunt Claire as she is in the twilight of her life. Must she live through the agony of losing Lord Byron and the fateful events surrounding the best and worst time of her life.

Ambrose’s work of literary historical fiction is interesting and intriguing. She alternates the story between 1816 and 1873, filling in interesting background and events that led up to the mystery man and his reason for entering her life.

Claire’s Secret is the first book of a planned trilogy. Ms. Ambrose is a gifted writer, with several books to her credit. The most popular is her modern day Mango Bay Mystery series starring Mallie Monroe. Claire’s Secret is the first book I’ve read by this author, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The literary prose in an easy to read format was refreshing and entertaining. I cannot wait to read the next book in the series.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review. Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

Book Review – Auschwitz Lullaby – A Haunting Story of a Mother’s Undying Love

Auschwitz Lullaby

By Mario Escobar

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Helene’s husband Johann was a member of the Berlin Philharmonic before the Nazi’s turned the world upside down. Because he is Romaini, or Gypsy he was no longer allowed to work even though he is a violin virtuoso. Helene can still work because she is a purebred German. The family of seven lives in their own apartment. Food is hard to obtain but they have enough to get by.

Their last day of freedom was like any other. Helene readied the older four children for school. Johann and their youngest child slept up until minutes before their world exploded. As Helene and the children left for the day, Nazi soldiers stormed up the stairs. They had finally come for Johann and the children. Helene was free to stay, but she refused to be left behind.

Thus begins the days of physical and mental anguish. The family is taken via cattle car to Auschwitz. They are hungry, thirsty and terrified. Once they arrive at the camp, Johann is separated from the rest of his family. The barracks are cold, dirty and survival is the only thing everyone cares about. Helene’s family loses the precious few pieces of warm clothes they have to thieves before they realize that their world has forever changed.

Because Helene is a nurse, she is immediately of use to her captors. Life becomes incrementally better when she is moved to a different barracks with women she can trust with her children while she works. Her job in the camp brings her in close contact with one of the most horrific men in the Nazi party, Herr Doktor Mengele.

Helene fears for her children, but is strong and stands up for herself. Mengele admires her and puts her in charge of the Zigeunerlager kindergarten in Auschwitz-Birkenau. While it seems wonderful in the beginning, offering more food and things for the children to do, it is probably just a show for the visiting Nazi leaders. And it is the perfect place for Mengele to find twins to try his experiments on. As the war nears the end, what will happen to Helene and her children as well as the rest of the prisoners?

Escobar’s telling of Helene’s story is heartbreakingly beautiful. The strength of the prisoners, the brutality of the Nazis and the bits of love and happiness that were found in one of the most horrific places on earth all play out in on the pages. This book is based upon the true story of Helene Hannemann and her five children. He visited Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II, Holocaust museums and read scores of documents during his research for this poignant book.  The result personalizes the countless atrocities experienced in the camps.

Reading the story of Helene and her family was not always easy. It is evident Escobar put his heart and soul into Auschwitz Lullaby. I would not be surprised to see it becoming as influential as The Diary of A Young Girl (also known as The Diary of Anne Frank) and deservedly so. Escobar’s words will haunt you long after the last page.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

Book Review: Murder on Union Square – A Gaslight Mystery

Murder on Union Square

By Victoria Thompson

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Penguin First to Read in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Frank Malloy and his wife Sarah are looking for a killer in the latest Gaslight Mystery by award winning author Victoria Thompson. When Malloy is found with bloody hands over the body of a dead man, the local police figure they have an open and shut case. Malloy, former cop turned PI is not a favorite of the precinct which just adds more fuel to the fire. And if that isn’t enough to get him in hot water, the dead man needed to sign custody papers so that Sarah and Malloy could adopt the victim’s daughter, which according to the police, gives Malloy the perfect motive.

Sarah quickly bails Malloy out and rounds up Gino (Malloy’s partner) and Maeve (Sarah’s right-hand gal) to start investigating the murder to clear her husband’s name. The problem is there is an unreliable witness that claims Malloy is the killer. It doesn’t help that it happened in a theater full of actors, all of which seemed to have an ax to grind with the victim and his girlfriend. Everyone seems to be lying or hiding something from each other and the investigators, who must pull out all stops to find the truth, clear Malloy’s name and put the real killer behind bars.

This is the twenty-first book in Thompson’s Gaslight Mystery Series. It is the first one that I have read, and it works as a stand-alone novel. There were a few times I was fuzzy on who a specific character was for a page or two but Thompson skillfully gave enough information to put them in context before the end of the chapter. It is no surprise that she is a #1 Best Selling New York Times author as well as Edgar and Agatha nominee.

Murder on Union Square is tantalizingly engaging. I love the depth of characters as well as the twists and turns of the storyline. There is something cozy and comforting about historical novels that draw me in immediately. While I am thankful for cell phones and modern forensics, it is refreshing to have mysteries that are solved with shoe leather and wit.

Somehow I’ve missed out on Thompson’s series before now, but cannot wait to put the other twenty on my wish list. Anyone who is a fan of captivating historical mysteries and realistic characters should do that same.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

Book Review: Twenty-one Days – Stellar Work of Historical History

Twenty-one Days – A Daniel Pitt Novel

By Anne Perry

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Set in 1910, Twenty-one Days opens with young barrister Daniel Pitt defending a wealthy man of dubious reputation. Murder is the charge and Pitt’s father is associated with the former police officer standing trial. While the young lawyer is smart and clever, he is worried that he is in over his head. To make matters worse, there is another man on trial for killing his wife in a most brutal way and Pitt is needed the next day to take the place of an injured co-worker so he must wrap up the trial the next morning or the accused will then have to start over with a new defense attorney. Good or bad, Pitt had to finish and be in court at the Old Bailey – the most famous court in the British Empire.

He makes it to court, albeit late.  Kitterage is the lawyer in charge; Pitt will be doing as told. Unfortunately things go south in a hurry. The distasteful accused claimed innocence but it seemed unlikely anyone else could have brutally murdered his wife. Not only was she murdered, but horribly disfigured by burning her face and upper torso after death. This trial does not go the way Kitterage and Pitt planned. Their client was quickly found guilty and set to hang in twenty-one days. He was not a pleasant man, as a matter of fact he was most distasteful. But he was entitled to every effort of his two attorneys to win an appeal to keep him from the hangman’s noose.

To further complicate Kitterage and Pitt’s job even further, the accused has countless enemies due to a controversial manuscript he intends to publish. At best it includes damning information of several highly recognizable and influential citizens. Unfortunately, it borders on treason at the highest level, which is alienating him from the men hired to keep him from hanging. Pitt finds himself working day and night to help the man that just might “rip the masks off of people we regard as heroes” – twenty-one days to do the impossible.

This is the first book in award winning author Anne Perry’s new series starring Daniel Pitt, but it is the 33rd book in the Pitt series. It is the first one I’ve read, but I did not feel confused or that I was missing something in the story for not having started with the entire Pitt series. It is easy to see why Perry is an internationally renowned historical novelist. Her intriguing plot, engaging prose and multidimensional characters are skillfully woven into a page turning book that will delight mystery lovers worldwide.  Ms. Perry is second to none when writing historical fiction.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review