Murder at Crossways

By Alyssa Maxwell

Kensington Books

$26, hardcover

A shirttail relative of the Vanderbilt family, Emma Cross works for her living as a newspaper reporter in this novel set in 1898.

At this time, she is filling the shoes of her local publication’s editor-in-chief but had hoped for a less “newsworthy” experience than she encountered after taking off work for a day at the beach.

Instead, she encounters a woman who barely escapes drowning, not to mention seeing a body bearing a strong resemblance to her long lost – and supposedly long-deceased – half-brother, Brady.

For a newspaperwoman, even before the turn of the century, this is all grist for the mill, and Emma is determined to uncover the facts and put them in print.

Her Vanderbilt connection and her cooperation with the police in some previous cases have both proved helpful in the past, as they do here, and of course, there’s her relationship with a local detective which provides personal pleasure, as well as aid in accumulating facts for publication.

Her newspaper duties include attending some society bashes, and at one such event in the home of Mamie and Stuyvesant Fish, she is among those present who vainly await the arrival of a special guest, Prince Otto of Austria.

When the prince’s body is found in the garden, however, it’s obviously a case of murder, and Emma is just the reporter to investigate it.

What she hasn’t expected, however, is investigative “help” from Mamie Fish, who just won’t take no for an answer.

It’s a light, well-written mystery I found enjoyable enough that I’m looking for other books by this author.

It’s in His Kiss

By Julia Quinn

Avon Books

$7.99, paperback

For no discernible reason, Hyacinth Bridgerton has become a friend of Lady Danbury, an opinionated, hard-to-please old lady who other people avoid.

This began long before the advent of Gareth St. Clair on the scene. As Lady Danbury’s handsome young grandson with a black-as-sin reputation, Gareth has been mostly on his own for most of his adult life.

The English lord who he has always believed to be his father would love to disown him, but Gareth’s only brother died young. That has left Gareth’s titled father with no other heir.

As a result, the father never reveals Gareth is not his son, instead doing whatever possible to make the young man’s life miserable. Always, though, he threatens the possibility of announcing Gareth’s illegitimacy.

When an old diary – written in Italian – is found, Gareth turns to Hyacinth to translate it, bringing the two of them together despite their surface squabbling.

It’s another in the light series of Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton novels, complete with a traditional musical interlude of devilish design.

Aside from the redundancy of this bit, which appears in many of the other books in this series, this one offers an interesting view of the fictional family’s history.

Tiffany Blues

By M.J. Rose

Atria Books

$26, hardcover

Colors are the focus of this book, with descriptions bringing to life the myriad hues available to talented artists such as Jenny Bell, even though she chooses to paint in black, white and multiple grays.

Since I am the living person least able to create, understand or appreciate art, much of the beauty of the author’s descriptions obviously escaped me, but even so, her colorful writing was a pleasure.

Jenny is a young artist who is chosen to attend what one reviewer describes as a sort of summer camp for aspiring artists chosen for the musical ability shown by their previous work.

She can see and appreciate color but is somehow unable to reproduce it, choosing over a lengthy period to recreate a single image – a colorless representation of a mausoleum that served as her sanctuary during her troubled childhood.

When she meets wealthy and important Tiffany’s grandson, Oliver, they fall in love, but Oliver is obviously not ready to commit to her, seeking more time before he declares himself.

In addition, someone among their group is not only aware of Jenny’s true identity but is leaving hints about this knowledge, rendering her both vulnerable and ready to flee despite opportunities available here.

Of course, for every step toward happiness she takes, Jenny faces setbacks from one kind or another, each shrouded in mystery as to the individual or motive involved.

This is a moody, atmospheric novel I found hard to put down. If you’re in the mood for that kind of story, I highly recommend it.

As for myself, I’m looking for other novels by M.J. Rose, hoping they’re of equal quality.

Marie Beth Jones is a published author and freelance writer based in Angleton. Contact her at 979-849-5467 or 1mbjones@nnewwave.com.

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