Eclectic Closet Litblog, Book Reviews & Knitting Designs

A litblog dedicated to book reviews/recommendations, as well as literary and publishing news. Now enhanced with knitting designs.

BOOK REVIEW: Two of the Deadliest edited by Elizabeth George


two Elizabeth George returns with a new collection of short stories focused on two of the seven deadly sins – lust and greed. Two of the Deadliest: new tales of lust, greed, and murder from outstanding women of mystery features never before published stories from eighteen top female crime writers (including George herself) and five up and coming authors. George asked the authors “to create a new story that had as its backdrop either lust or greed or both of them.”

Faced with almost two dozen stories, it is impossible to mention everything that stands out in such a short review. So I’ll focus on two stories that captured my attention and then mention a few other notable selections.

The first is “E-Male” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (who publishes as Kris Nelscott), an award-winning author I hadn’t encountered before. Her tale of cyber-stalking, while a cautionary tale to those who live much of their life online, turns the “traditional” model on its head. Gavin is obsessed with Stella, his ex-girlfriend, and he’s an excellent hacker. This gives him unprecedented access to her virtual identity despite the restraining order she’s obtained. For Gavin this provides a morning treat of reading her email, and in a quirk of fate, it is this access that helps him determine she’s missing when even her colleagues and family haven’t figured it out. From cyber-stalker to digital superhero?

In “Your Turn” by Carolyn Hart, Terri cheats on her dying husband Leo. When he tells her he’s changing his will the next day, she briefly unplugs his oxygen to save her inheritance. One week after his death she receives a note from Leo under her pillow. “Murder will out, Terri…I’ve planned a more exciting game for you.” Can she beat a dead man to stay out of jail?

Other notables are “Back to School Essay” by newcomer Patricia Fogarty, “A Madness of Two” by Peggy Hesketh and “Lusting for Jenny, Inverted” by Elizabeth George. Two of the Deadliest is a wonderful introduction to some strong, female authors and for that reason it can be forgiven some unevenness.

ISBN10: 0061350338
ISBN13: 9780061350337

480 Pages
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: July 21, 2009
Author Website:

posted under mystery | No Comments »

BOOK REVIEW: The Wrong Mother by Sophie Hannah


hannah Many mothers long for a vacation from their life, a few days where someone takes care of them for a change. For most, this remains a dream but Sally Thorning turns it into reality. When a longed-for work trip is cancelled at the last moment, Sally sees the chance to grab a break from her young family. She treats herself to a secret holiday at a remote hotel where she meets Mark Bretherick. In between spa treatments and sleep she indulges in a short affair and after a week she returns home to her life refreshed.

A year passes and one evening Sally is watching the news with her husband Nick when she hears that Mark Bretherick’s wife Geraldine and daughter Lucy have been murdered. In shock she realizes that despite all the details being the same, the Mark Bretherick on the screen is not the man she spent a week with – but what should she do? Going to the police may expose her secret to Nick but keeping quiet may put her and her family in danger. Whatever Sally may have chosen to do is pushed aside when she realizes she’s being followed, and that she could be Geraldine’s twin. In desperation she sends the police an anonymous note but is it enough to spur action?

Sophie Hannah’s third novel The Wrong Mother (published in the UK as The Point of Rescue) is both a psychological detective story and a story of mothers under extreme pressure. Like her previous novel Little Face, Hannah exposes intimate secrets to public scrutiny and explores what it means to be a mother. The police on the case are convinced that Geraldine murdered her daughter and then committed suicide; what woman could write as she did in her diary and not be guilty? Yet Mark is convinced that Geraldine and Lucy were murdered by a man named “William Markes” and slowly, the reader begins to agree.

This is not an easy book to read; Hannah has crossed an invisible line and heads straight into the territory of which no one speaks. Motherhood is difficult and at times very hard work. Many mothers of very young children struggle and dream of walking away, yet still love their children. Some even have moments when they are sure their children are willfully tormenting them. Geraldine calls this the ‘conspiracy of silence.’ Anyone who has spent any length of time in childcare of the very young will recognize flashes of their own feelings in the pages of The Wrong Mother, and that’s what makes this an uncomfortable read, squirm-inducing at times. None of us want to admit that we see bits of ourselves reflected in “the horrible mothers” described within.

Despite the difficult topic, and that there may be hard truths to face within, The Wrong Mother is a captivating read. Full of plot twists, red-herrings and psychological labyrinths, the solution will catch most unaware. Yet the greater prize than figuring out “who-dun-it” is in the personal insight gained. Hannah is a gifted and compassionate writer who gently leads her readers from revulsion into reluctant understanding, taking tentative steps toward discussion of a taboo yet vital subject. By shining light on a “shameful” topic, she opens the way for new mothers to get the help and understanding they desperately require, without feeling ashamed and thinking themselves “the wrong mother.”

ISBN10: 0143116304
ISBN13: 9780143116301

Trade Paperback
432 pages
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: September 29, 2009
Author Website:
Sophie Hannah’s “soundtrack” for The Wrong Mother: Large Hearted Boy’s Book Notes

BOOK REVIEW: There’s Something About St. Tropez by Elizabeth Adler


There's Something About St. TropezIt was the perfect vacation for PI Mac Reilly and his fiancée, Sunny Alvarez – renting the villa, Chez La Violette, in beautiful St. Tropez for the month of June. When filming requirements keep Mac in Malibu for a few extra days, Sunny travels to St. Tropez accompanied only by her chihuahua Tesoro. On arrival, she discovers they’ve been scammed, the villa has been rented to FIVE people for the same time period and the state of the place would make it the perfect setting for a horror movie.

The misfits, as they’ve taken to calling themselves, decamp to a small seaside hotel nearby – the Hotel of Dreams. There their stories slowly come to light: Belinda is on the run from her husband a Russian mobster; Texans Billy and his daughter Laureen who’s still trying to regroup from the death of her mother; shy Sara who’s just broken up with her no-good boyfriend; and former trader Nate who has set up to find himself. As they settle in, Mac decides to track down Madame Lariot in hope of getting their money back. Soon art thefts and a murder interfere with their peaceful vacation and Mac is drawn further into investigations. Will Sunny get any time for romance?

There’s Something About St. Tropez, Elizabeth Adler’s sequel to One of Those Malibu Nights, is the type of fun, light mysteries that many readers look forward to reading in the summer. The easy to follow plot and quirky nature of the characters ensures that interruptions won’t cause readers to lose track of the action.

What elevates There’s Something About St. Tropez above other books marketed as “summer reading” is the sub-plot involving eight-year-old Laureen and eleven-year-old Bertrand, another hotel resident who has been abandoned by his heartless mother. Laureen and Bertrand’s voices ring with authenticity and their tentative gestures toward friendship, magical. Brought out of themselves by Tesoro and Pirate, Mac’s three-legged dog, the children bravely set out to solve the mystery of the art thefts in order to win the reward money and gain Bertrand freedom from his mother. Readers will cheer them on and celebrate their rediscovery of live beyond grief.

ISBN10: 0312385145
ISBN13: 9780312385149

400 Pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: July 7, 2009
Author Website:

BOOK REVIEW: The Lost Throne by Chris Kuzneski


US - ThroneAt Holy Trinity, a monastery atop a towering cliff in central Greece, seven monks hold a secret meeting of an ancient brotherhood. Their inaccessible stronghold is invaded by a stealth force of warriors wielding ancient swords; a squad that quickly beheads all the monks and hurls their bodies off the cliff. Nick Dial, a senior member of Interpol, is assigned to investigate the bizarre events at Metéora. He arrives to secure the scene and meets Nicholas, the sole surviving member of the massacre. Yet, when he questions the local police about the monk, he’s told there were no survivors. Who is the elderly man and how was he able to penetrate the police barricades?

In St. Petersburg, Russia, Richard Byrd is desperate. Having uncovered the location of an ancient treasure, he’s running for his life. Trying to meet-up with Allison Taylor, his research assistant, Byrd is executed by a sniper. With no where to turn, Allison follows Byrd’s instructions and calls on Jonathon Payne, ex-MANIAC. With the help of his best friend, D.J. Jones, they set out to save the girl, find out who killed her boss and find the treasure.

The Lost Throne, the fourth book in Chris Kuzneski’s Payne and Jones series, is an edge-of-your-seat read from the first page. Payne and Jones, former members of a secret unit of the armed forces, utilize their specialized skills to help friends out in difficult situations. Readers will find their banter endearing. Kuzneski wisely uses this brotherly teasing to provide a release for tension, providing readers with a breather before once again spiraling up the action.

Kuzneski’s research and fascination with St. Petersburg is evident. In a pivotal chase scene he describes the buildings in astonishing detail, bringing the scene to life with cinematic vividness. In an interview with Mark Terry he describes the way he: “…took photographs of the buildings and landmarks and attached them to a street map of the city. When my characters ran down a street I knew exactly what they would be looking at.”

While part of a series, The Lost Throne can easily be read as a stand-alone novel. Those eagerly awaiting the fall release of the new Dan Brown may find Kuzneski’s newest just the thing to fill the gap.

ISBN10: 0399155821
ISBN13: 9780399155826

512 Pages
Publication Date: July 23, 2009
Publisher: Putnam Adult
Author Website:

posted under thriller | No Comments »

BOOK REVIEW: The Ignorance of Blood by Robert Wilson


bloodSummer in Seville and Inspector Jefe Javier Falcón is called out in the middle of the night to the scene of a spectacular car crash. The victim, a high-level member of the Russian mob, is carrying close to 8 million euros and discs implicating high ranking officials in compromising positions. Desperate to keep his promise to Seville’s citizens to bring the perpetrators of a terrorist bombing to justice, Falcón is convinced he now possesses evidence of the Russian mob’s involvement in the plot to subvert the Andalusian parliament.

His investigations carry him into the midst of a mob turf war and he soon discovers the mob plays by their own rules. Pressure is applied to those nearest to him in an attempt to distract him from his investigations. His best friend Yacoub, a spy for the Spanish government, reveals that he is being blackmailed by Islamist extremists and Consuela, Falcón’s lover, suffers a mother’s worst nightmare. Will he have to pay an unthinkable price if he wants to discover the truth?

With The Ignorance of Blood, Robert Wilson brings his Inspector Jefe Javier Falcón series to a close. The series, begun with Blind Man of Seville, is both police procedural and psychological thriller, psychological because it delves into the purpose and identity of its hero. Each volume can be read alone; however, taken as a series Wilson’s overarching themes of appearance, reality and family come strongly into focus. While Falcón is clearly the hero of the series, Seville is its heart. Wilson’s extensive research and love of the city is evident from the first word.

The Ignorance of Blood explores idealism and values, and before the end each of its main characters are pushed to their limits and forced to face their inner truths, often at great cost. Wilson has created a stunning finale; however, the pages are periodically painted with blood and human misery. While this is a stunning work and definitely a worthwhile read, those extremely sensitive to violence again children may wish to consider carefully before beginning.

ISBN10: 0151012458
ISBN13: 9780151012459

422 Pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: June 8, 2009
Author Website:

BOOK REVIEW: Nineteen Seventy-Four by David Peace


Following the death of his father, and an unremarkable stint on Fleet Street in London, crime journalist Edward Dunford returns to Yorkshire and a new job on the Evening Post as a junior crime correspondent. It’s two weeks before Christmas 1974 and Eddie’s first story is that of missing ten-year-old Clare Kemplay. The police are convinced it’s an isolated incidence, at least that is until her mutilate body shows up posed in a brutal parody of a fallen angel with swan wings stitched to her back.

Despite being warned off verbally by his editor, and physically by the local police department, Eddie can’t shake the feeling that there is a pattern in the disappearance of young girls and begins to dig deeper. What he uncovers is corruption at the highest levels and an unknown dark side of Yorkshire.

David Peace’s writing is heavily influence by a childhood immersed in the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper, one where at times he even worried that his mother would be the next victim. It is unsurprising then that his debut novel, Nineteen Seventy-Four, should reflect the extreme violence, corruption and darkness of this haunting period of history. As Peace states in his interview with Crimetime: “Crime is brutal, harrowing and devastating for everyone involved, and crime fiction should be every bit as brutal, harrowing and devastating as the violence of the reality it seeks to document. Anything less at best sanitizes crime and its effects, at worst trivializes it.”

Similarities to George Orwell’s 1984 are found almost from the first pages of Nineteen Seventy-Four. Both novels portray a bleak landscape and dystopian society and; however unlikeable the main character, each is a naïf on a path of discovery, horror and ultimately betrayal. Nineteen Seventy-Four is the more violent novel, elucidating the warning signs we all should have heeded, while suggesting that we have only ourselves to blame for the current violent state of affairs.

Nineteen Seventy-Four is the first book in the Red Riding Quartet series, followed by Nineteen Seventy-Seven (2000), Nineteen Eighty (2001), and Nineteen Eighty-Three (2002). The Red Riding Quartet has recently been turned into a mini-series airing on UK’s Channel 4.

ISBN10: 0307455084
ISBN13: 9780307455086

Trade Paperback
320 Pages
Publisher: Vintage Books
Publication Date: February 10, 2009


posted under mystery, noir | 1 Comment »

BOOK REVIEW: The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston


“I’m not sure where one should expect to find the bereaved daughter of a wealthy Malibu suicide in need of a trauma cleaner long after midnight, but safe to say a trucker motel down the 405 industrial corridor in Carson was not on my list of likely locales.”

Former grade school teacher Webster Fillmore Goodhue, Web to his friends, has spent the past year relying on the good graces of his friends and generally slacking off. With time, people’s patience begins to wear thin and Chev, Web’s one remaining friend, informs him that his freeloading days are over. Faced with two equally unpleasant options (homelessness or continuing to take money from his embittered Dad), Web grudgingly accepts an offer of employment from a crime scene cleanup crew. One of the first Clean Team jobs is a messy suicide in Malibu; an odd scene that finds Web sponging brain’s from a bathroom mirror while flirting with Soledad, the dead man’s daughter.

When Web receives a late-night plea for help from Soledad, he ends up rushing to her aid even though ever instinct tells him to run fast in the opposite direction. Soon though, Web is the one in need of help when gun-totting cowboys show up at his door. Has Soledad landed him in the middle of her mess or is this really about the brewing war between rival trauma cleaners? Web needs to find out soon if he hopes to avoid becoming just another crime scene requiring cleaning.

I should start with a warning – The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death isn’t a novel for the squeamish or faint of heart. Full of Charlie Huston’s trademark violence, rapid fire dialogue, and unwavering eye for bizarre and grotesque details, this outrageous tale is sure to spawn a new legion of fans all eagerly anticipating a sequel featuring the unforgettable secondary characters. The action begins in the prologue, immediately dropping readers in the midst of outrageous levels of carnage, guts and gore. This is a novel which keeps readers off-kilter but pays dividends for those able to see it through.

If shocking violence, inappropriate language, and detailed gore leave you slightly nauseous, then The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death is definitely not the novel for you. However, if you’re the type who likes your noir served neat, with a side order of hilarity and unforeseen twists, then Huston’s latest will take you on a ride you’ll never forget.

ISBN10: 034550111X
ISBN13: 9780345501110

336 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: January 13, 2009
Author Website:


BOOK REVIEW: Secret Asset by Stella Rimington


Shortly after returning from leave, MI5 agent Liz Carlyle learns that a terrorist cell is operating out of an Islamic bookstore in London and an attack appears imminent. Before she can investigate, the Director of Counter-Terrorism reassigns her to a high-risk, secret mission – discover the IRA “secret asset” (sleeper spy) who’s infiltrated one of the branches of British Intelligence and expose him/her before more of Britain’s secrets are exposed. But more may be at stake than just secrets when it is revealed that the mole may have gone rogue, teaming up with British-born Al Qaeda sympathizers to plot a major strike intended to wreak total destruction. It’s a race against time but who can Liz trust?

Originally published in 2006 (reprinted in a new edition), Secret Asset, the second book in Stella Rimington’s spy thriller series, continues the promise shown in At Risk. Rimington, the former Director General of Britain’s MI5, knows of what she writes and that authenticity resonates in the procedural details of her novels. As most know, the “devil is in the details” and it is here that Rimington’s insider knowledge shines. Her descriptions of functions such as “agent running,” supervising undercover civilian informants, elevates her novels above the pack.

However, authenticity is not enough to make a must-read espionage thriller and, luckily for her readers, Secret Asset is built around a captivating plot of terrorist plots, double dealings and hidden bombs. Peggy Kinsolving, the young research assistant assigned to work with Liz, is a great foil and allows Rimington to explore the rivalry between the branches of British Intelligence while delving into the psychological makeup and histories of the possible moles.

Secret Asset is a must read for anyone who has ever wondered what it takes to betray your country, what mixture of character traits or personality quirks a double agent needs to possess to carry out their task.

ISBN10: 1400079829
ISBN13: 9781400079827

Trade Paperback
362 Pages
Publisher: Vintage Books USA
Publication Date: May 2008


posted under mystery | No Comments »

BOOK REVIEW: Friend of the Devil by Peter Robinson


On an isolated cliff the body of a quadriplegic woman is found sitting in a wheelchair with her throat slit. Miles away in Eastvale, 19-year-old Hayley Daniels is found raped and murdered in a medieval warren of alleys called the Maze. Detective Inspector Annie Cabbot, on secondment to the Eastern Area force, tries to determine while anyone would want to murder a quadriplegic woman who hasn’t spoken in years. In Eastvale, Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks is faced with his own puzzling mystery. The closed-circuit cameras which focus on the entrances to the Maze show that no one followed Hayley into its shadowy recesses. When Cabbot uncovers the true identity of her murder victim, she’s suddenly pointed back to Eastvale and an old case involving her ex-lover Banks. Are they chasing the same killer or merely shadows?

Peter Robinson’s Inspector Banks novels are multi-layered masterpieces and he doesn’t disappoint in Friend of the Devil, Banks’ 17th outing. As always, the action builds at a slow yet steady pace, captivating readers from the first page.

What elevates Robinson’s books beyond the standard police procedural is how he develops his characters and, that the development isn’t limited to his hero. Banks and his team have grown over the years and readers have enjoyed that development. Readers have connected with the humanity of this team. Cabbot and Bank’s interaction feels real, fraught with real awkwardness and unspoken, complicated emotion. Detective Constable Winsome’s struggles as a woman on the force, politically incorrect colleagues and as a junior member within Banks’ team will strike a cord with many working women. In many ways Winsome represents the reader in within the team, providing an idealistic view of how police and justice should operate.

Fans of Robinson’s mysteries will find their clue to Banks’ old case in the title Friend of the Devil. For those new to his work, this latest offering is the perfect place to start – it is never too late to discover Banks’ world of horror, obsession and human emotion.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0060544376
ISBN13: 9780060544379

384 Pages
Publisher: William Morrow
US Publication Date: February 26, 2008
Canadian Publication Date: September 11, 2007
UK Publication Date: August 9, 2007


posted under mystery | 1 Comment »

BOOK REVIEW: Murder by the Slice by Livia J. Washburn


October in Texas means Parent-Teacher Organization fundraising carnivals at many of the elementary schools. Retired teacher Phyllis Newsom always takes an interest in school happenings but helping to organize the carnival for Oliver Loving Elementary School wasn’t part of her plan. However, when a friend of Carolyn Wilbarger’s comes to her with a desperate plea for help with the bake sale, Carolyn and Phyllis reluctantly agree to assist.

Carolyn suggests a “healthy snack” contest in addition to the traditional cake auction – an idea quickly approved by the PTO board. In a moment of harmony, Phyllis decides to participate in the auction, leaving Carolyn the baking contest. Peace seems ensured; that is, until the obnoxious head of the PTO sticks her oar in their plans, insisting Phyllis enter the baking contest. Competition is again flowing between Phyllis and Carolyn and disaster seems inevitable, until the PTO chairperson is killed at the carnival and the retirees band together to solve the crime.

Murder by the Slice is the second entry in Livia J. Washburn’s “Fresh-Baked Mystery” series. This cozy mystery series is the perfect antidote to the preponderance of blood and gore thrillers currently in vogue. Some may choose to stereotype Washburn’s books as “sweet” or “wholesome;” however, that does her books a great disservice (although there are lots of descriptions of pastries).

Washburn has created a charismatic group of characters who happen to be seniors, an active diverse bunch, far removed from the stereotype of doddering, helpless “grey-hairs.” Phyllis and her friends are useful members of the community, valued for what they contribute, and actively embrace life.

Washburn’s avoidance of most obvious stereotypes portends great things for this series. It is this potential therefore, that makes the one pitfall she didn’t avoid all the more glaring. The character of Eve is sure to evoke memories of the Golden Girls, a parallel which doesn’t do the “Fresh-Baked Mystery” series any service. Phyllis’ constant references to Eve as a femme fatale feels out of place and undermines an otherwise fun read.

Several recipes are included at the end of the book. A sample recipe can be found here.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0451222504
ISBN13: 9780451222503

Mass Market Paperback
272 pages
Publisher: Signet
Publication Date: October 2, 2007
Author Website:


« Older Entries

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Email Preference *
Email Format

Visit my Ravelry Shop

My Knitting Patterns

Audrey II

Angular Path Scarf

Cartouche Stole

Fossetta Cowl

Fossetta Hat

Sargaço Shawl

Whitman Hat

Every Which Way Cowl

Every Which Way Hat

Every Which Way Fingerless Mitts

Gothic Forest Scarf

Valencia Scarf

Branching Path Cowl

Flower Bell Stole

Whitman Cowl

New Tech Cowl

Vieux Carré Stole

Stacks Socks

Anna Perenna Shawlette

Taming of the Fox

Don't Ask Y

Cantilevering Leaves

Amplification Stole

Combs Cowl

Mindfulness Cowl

Tipsy Scarf

Gridwork Scarf
Ravelry Free Download