Thursday, February 27, 2014

Heads Above Water by Stephanie Dagg

Stephanie and Chris Dagg are adventurous.  In their 40's, they decided to move to France, taking their three children.  Their plan was to purchase a fishing farm where they would rent to fisherman on vacation.  They located a farm with three large lakes and purchased it.  Then came the adjustment.

The farm had two houses close together, neither of which were actually habitable.  The family spent months cleaning and renovating the houses, dealing with French contractors to get heat, electricity and running water.  In the meantime, they had to get the children started in school.  Actually opening for business took quite a bit of time, as there was enormous amounts of work to do and forms to fill out in order to be legal.

Heads Above Water is Stephanie's account of their first years after the move to France.  She describes the work needed to get the farm into shape to function as a business.  The family had to be resourceful and thrifty, growing food as well as foraging for it.  They bought lots of animals, and started a side business revolving around llamas.  Other animals such as guinea fowl were not successful, or like the stray cats, quickly overran the place.  The Daggs handled all the animals and their issues with their normal aplomb. 

This book is recommended for readers who enjoy travel adventures, as well as those interested in families who have the bravery to live out their dreams.  The writing is breezy and informative, and the reader quickly starts to cheer for the family in their misadventures with French bearucracy.  Readers can find out more at thiis link.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Contractors by Harry Hunsicker

Government runs on the services of contractors.  They are easy to hire, and when the time comes, easy to get rid of.  Most people have heard of military contractors like the Blackwater company.  A less widely known fact is that other government agencies like the DEA use contractors also in their war on drugs and the drug cartels.

Jon Cantrell fits the profile of a DEA contractor.  He's a former disgraced cop and he and his girlfriend, Piper, work for a company that hires out expertise for catching drug runners and the higher ups in the organizations.  While Jon doesn't work for the police anymore, he still has the ideals that caused him to join law enforcement in the first place.  He wants to make the world safer while also making a living.

Jon and Piper's newest assignment may make the world safer, but not their world.  They are charged with getting the hottest witness against the drug cartels to safety where the trial will occur.  She can testify against the number two man in the cartel.  He happens to be her husband.  There are many groups that want to keep Jon and Piper from fulfilling their mission.  There are competing drug cartels, each determined to kill the witness before she can testify.  There are opposing contractor groups who want the mission themselves, or at least to prevent Cantrell's group from being successful.  There are shadowy alliances of current and former police and drug agents, each with their own agendas.  Against these odds, there seems little chance of Jon and Piper being successful.

Harry Hunsicker has written a fast-paced thriller that grabs the reader and drags them along on a frantic ride along a path with ever changing loyalties and plans.  Betrayals and counter-betrayals are common, and the path to success is cunningly hidden.  Hunsicker is a former executive vice president of the Mystery Writers of America and his book flies toward an exciting conclusion.  This book is recommended for thriller readers.

Monday, February 24, 2014

A Snug Life Somewhere by Jan Shapin

Penny Joe Cooper grew up in Washington during the early 1900's.  Her father was part of union politics there, as the Seattle and Everett cities were early union strongholds.  When Penny is in her early twenties, he is sent to prison on manslaughter charges when a fire set during a union protest turned deadly.  Penny's only brother, Horace, also gets caught up in union politics and is killed in what is known as the Everett Massacre.

Penny is left adrift to find her way in the world.  She is in love with a young violinist called Marcel but that relationship is unlikely to last.  She ends up falling in with a union organizer, Gabe,  who uses Penny as a token in his union speeches, the sister of a martyr.  When the law starts to make noises about arresting all the union men, Gabe decides to flee to Mexico and forces Penny to accompany him.

In Mexico, they live with other Communist sympathizers who are working to bring communism to all lands.  After a couple of years, Gabe and Penny come back to America and Penny manages to escape from him.  She moves from town to town, doing whatever is needed to support herself and searching for a snug life, a life where she can be herself and not be troubled with other people's issues.  She is drawn to education and works to find a way to take classes and train for a profession.  Penny ends up back in the West, where she has a small farm to grow wildflower seeds for sale, an occupation that provides the relaxing life she has searched for.

Jan Shapin has written an interesting novel about the early union years and how it worked in tandem with the Socialist and Communist organizations.  Along the way, Penny meets famous people of the age and is involved in many plots in a peripheral way.  She strives to make a life for herself, and the reader cannot help but cheer for someone so determined to get an education and live a life that is free on conflict.   This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Booksie's Shelf, February 23, 2014

Spring is thinking about putting in an appearance in North Carolina.  We've been in the high 60's this week, flirting several days with the 70's.  While the temperatures are supposed to cool off again this week, you sense that the weather's heart isn't into cold anymore, and that things are ready to move into warmth and growth.  Capping off a great week, my beloved Tarheels beat their archrivals, Duke, on Thursday night, always a cause for massive celebration.  Another cause are the books that made their way through the door this week:

1.  Her Unwelcome Inheritance, J. Aleksandr Wootton, fantasy, sent by author
2.  Fortunate Son, David Marlett, mystery, sent by publisher
3.  Over My Live Body, Susan Israel, mystery, sent by publisher
4.  Fatal Impressions, Reba White Williams, mystery, sent by publisher
5.  Lovely Assistant, Geoph Essex, fantasy, sent by author
6.  Harem Midwife, Roberta Rich, historical fiction, sent by publisher
7.  Not Without You, Harriet Evans, literary fiction, sent by publisher
8.  The Bombers And The Bombed, nonfiction, sent by publisher

What I'm currently reading:

1.  The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton, reading on Kindle
2.  The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner, reading on Kindle Fire
3.  The Orphan Master's Son, Adam Johnson, hardback
4.  Rivers, Michael Farris Smith, hardback
5.  A March Of Folly, Barbara Tuchman, hardback
6.  A Necessary End, Peter Robinson, paperback
7.  The Time Regulation Institute, Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar, paperback
8.  Black Chalk, Christopher Yates, reading on Kindle
9.  Tilted World, Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Tennelly, paperback
10.  The Silent Wife, A.S.A. Harrison, paperback
11.  Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives, edited by Sarah Weinman, paperback
12.  After I'm Gone, Laura Lippman, paperback
13.  The Small Hand and Dolly, Susan Hill, paperback
14.  Thieves Quarry, D.B. Jackson, hardback
15.  The Contractors, Harry Hunsicker, hardback
16.  Heads Above Water, Stephanie Dagg, reading on Kindle

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Nothing Personal by Mike Offit

Warren Hament should be on top of the world.  After graduating with his masters degree from Columbia, he joins the world of high finance, working as a bond trader on Wall Street.  The salary is great and the commissions and bonuses are better.  There are lunches and dinners at top-notch restaurants and plenty of client boondoggle vacations to take.  He has a gorgeous apartment, makes more than anyone else he knew at school, and has an amazing girlfriend to boot.  Why then, is he uneasy?

Warren becomes more and more uneasy as he realizes that the world of high finance is not only dog eat dog, but that the level of corruption is astonishing.  Many of his peers aren't even that bright; they make their money by cheating the clients.  Upper management takes the lion's share of the money while those at the bottom do the majority of the work.  Warren can't even get excited about his quick promotion in the company since it occurred as the result of the sudden death of his supervisor.  Can he find a way to reconcile the lack of ethics in his workplace with his own ethical standards, or will he need to find another way to survive?

Mike Offit knows the world of high finance from the inside out.  Like Warren, he came to Wall Street after his college graduation where he found success.  He was a senior trader at Goldman Sachs and also worked at First Boston, Prudential and Deutsche Bank, where he built and ran the Street's leading commercial real estate finance business.  This is the world of the wealthy and of those who would do anything to join their ranks.  It is the Street before the scandals and the collapse of the real estate market that ruined so many investors and businessmen.  Readers will enjoy learning more about the inner workings of the world of finance, which is a closed environment to most individuals, who can only trust that those working there are doing the right things.  This book is recommended not only for mystery fans, but for those readers interested in business.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Booksie's Shelf, February 17, 2014

This past week was snow time in North Carolina.  Since we in the South don't do snow, that meant being snowed in for several days.  I love that hushed time with no outside pressures to get to appointments and run errands.  I spent most of the time reading, of course!  At the end of the week, I got a wonderful box of books from the review site I write reviews for, Curled Up With A Good Book, which as always was exciting and welcomed.  I got two books from Algonquin Books, which is one of my favorite publishing houses, having a North Carolina connection and ties to Southern authors.

Here's the new books that came in this week:

1.  The Headmaster's Wife, Thomas Christopher Greene, literary fiction, sent by publisher
2.  Three Princes, Ramona Wheeler, fantasy, sent by publisher
3.  Missing You, Harlan Coben, mystery, sent by publisher
4.  Opal Summerfield, Mark Caldwell Jones, children's fiction, sent by author
5.  The People Of Forever Are Not Afraid, Shani Boianjiu, nonfiction, won in raffle
6.  That Old Black Magic, Mary Jane Clark, mystery, sent by publisher
7.  Kicking The Sky, Anthony De Sa, literary fiction, sent by publisher
8.  All I Have In This World, Michael Parker, literary fiction, sent by publisher
9.  This Is Not An Accident, April Wilder, anthology, sent by publisher
10.  Euphoia, Lily King, literary fiction, sent by Curled Up With A Good Book
11.  Ripper, Isabel Allende, mystery, sent by Curled Up With A Good Book
12.  Worthy Brown's Daughter, Phillip Margolin, mystery, sent by Curled Up With A Good Book
13.  Red 1-2-3, John Katenbach, mystery, sent by Curled Up With A Good Book
14.  Benediction, Kent Haruf, literary fiction, sent by Curled Up With A Good Book
15.  Thunderstruck, Elizabeth McDracken, anthology, sent by Curled Up With A Good Book
16.  All Russians Love Birch Trees, Olga Grjasnoma, literary fiction, sent by Curled Up
17.  Strange Bodies, Marcel Theroux, literary fiction, sent by Curled Up With A Good Book

Here's my current set of books I'm reading:

1.  The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton, reading on Kindle
2.  The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner, reading on Kindle Fire
3.  The Orphan Master's Son, Adam Johnson, hardback
4.  Rivers, Michael Farris Smith, hardback
5.  A March Of Folly, Barbara Tuchman, hardback
6.  A Necessary End, Peter Robinson, paperback
7.  The Time Regulation Institute, Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar, paperback
8.  Black Chalk, Christopher Yates, reading on Kindle
9.  Tilted World, Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Tennelly, paperback
10.  The Silent Wife, A.S.A. Harrison, paperback
11.  Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives, edited by Sarah Weinman, paperback
12.  After I'm Gone, Laura Lippman, paperback
13.  The Small Hand and Dolly, Susan Hill, paperback
14.  A Snug Life Somewhere, Jan Shapin, paperback

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Fixer by T.E. Woods

There's a rumor of a person who deals out justice when the law and courts cannot.  If a criminal avoids prosecution or gets off by intimidating witnesses, there is a remedy.  The Fixer is reported to be a beautiful woman, who comes into town like a wraith, kills the target so that murder is never suspected, and then vanishes. 

Mort Grant is the homicide detective that starts to put the rumors together and investigate.  His son, a journalist, is instrumental in getting him involved, and his involvement deepens when The Fixer targets victims in his own city.  As he delves deeper, he is helped by a psychologist, Dr. Lydia Corriger, whose name comes up as a peripheral witness.  He finds that Lydia is troubled by a new patient, Savannah.  Although she cannot talk about her patient, it is clear that Savannah has real psychological problems and guilt that she can no longer repress.  As Mort investigates Savannah, the murders keep occurring.  Soon some of the most influential people in his city such as business leaders and college administrators are involved.  Can Mort solve this crime before more death is dealt out?

T.E. Woods uses her own background to provide the impetus for the novel.  She is a clinical psychologist with a private practice in Madison, Wisconsin.  This allows her to accurately portray the dilemma of a medical person caught between the confidentiality they owe their patients and the demands of the legal system.  When one has doubts, which demand takes precedence?  The novel has lots of twists and turns that will keep the reader guessing and turning page.  This book is recommended for mystery lovers.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Under A Silent Moon by Elizabeth Haynes

Morden Village is appalled at what has occurred.  Two deaths in one night are far from the norm for a small village in rural England.  The first death discovered is a young woman named Polly.  She worked as a groom for family friends, the Maitlands, who run a horse farm to make money for traveling.  Polly is adventurous, not only by her travels but her love life, having affairs with both men and women and refusing to even think of being exclusive with anyone.  Hours later, a woman who lived across the lane from the Maitlands, Barbara Fletcher-Norman is discovered in the wreckage of her car, an apparent suicide.  The two families are old friends, having lived as neighbors for decades.  Nigel Maitland and Brian Fletcher-Norman are both confident, wealthy men.  Their daughters, Flora Maitland and Taryn Fletcher-Norman, are best friends.  Are there other links tying these two deaths together?

The case is assigned to Detective Chief Louisa Smith, her first case.  Lou, as she likes to be known, is anxious to solve the cases and make a good impression.  She must handle all the myriad details of the investigation while assigning work to her detectives and other resources and being responsible for the teamwork of her officers.  The cases get more complicated as evidence starts to show that they are related instead of separate incidents.  As the team delves deeper, the secrets of the village start to emerge and the team must determine which secrets are crucial to the investigation and which are just incidental.  Polly had affairs with at least three of the people involved, and there is evidence of other ties between those involved.  Can Louisa and her team solve the murder satisfactorily?

Elizabeth Haynes started her career as a police intelligence analyst, and that background is demonstrated in the novel.  Interspersed in the flow are documents that would be found in a police investigation, witness statements, phone messages, police reports, timelines and analysis of phone records.  This adds to the veracity of the investigation and helps the reader imagine exactly how the police procedures work in a murder case.  Although released as Haynes fourth book, this is actually her first, written during the annual novel writing contest, NaNoWriMo, held each November.  This book is recommended for mystery lovers.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Huck by Janet Elder

Living in New York City, the last thing Janet Elder and her husband would consider was getting a dog.  It wouldn't be fair to the animal as their hectic lives just wouldn't work for a dog.  But it was their son, Michael's, biggest desire.  He asked for a dog every birthday and every Christmas and talked about having one incessantly.  As much as they loved Michael, they just couldn't budge on their decision.

Then came the news every women dreads.  Janet was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she knew she faced months of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.  As she and her husband, Rich, discussed their options, one thing became clear.  This was the time that they needed to make Michael's dream come true and give him something to look forward to.   They told Michael that after her treatments were over, they would be getting a dog.

That's how Huck came to the family.  A little, brown poodle, he fit in immediately.  Huck fit in immediately and Michael was his focus.  He loved Janet and Rich also, but he bonded with Michael and boy and dog loved each other to distraction.  A happy ending to a long felt desire, they all felt.

Then tragedy struck.  The family had flown to Florida, both to celebrate the end of Janet's treatment and to take Michael to spring training for the Yankees, his other passion in life.  Huck stayed behind with Janet's sister and her family in a suburb.  The family had a day or so in the Florida sun when they got a call.  Huck had run away and no one could find him.

The rest of the book follows the family's search for Huck.  They cut their vacation short, and took the next flight home.  They went to the town where the sister lived and everyone's life became a search for the little dog who had brought so much joy to them.  Along the way they met many townspeople who helped in ways big and small.

Huck is a book most people can relate to.  Most have had a beloved pet somewhere in their life.  Many have faced the crisis that a life-threatening disease can bring to a family, and the realization that family and love is our priority in life.  This book is recommended for readers looking for a positive message, and those who want to relieve their own experiences with a pet and the love it brings with it.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo

After Detective Inspector Harry Hole's quick action and training lead him to an action that embarrasses the government, he is kicked upstairs and given routine tasks.  The Oslo police may think that they have quieted Harry and his penchant for discovering crimes that others miss, following them to whatever conclusion he finds, but that's not how Harry rolls. 

Harry is shunted into a surveillance of old Nazis, those men who years before fought with the Germans during World War II.  For a while, it was seen as the patriotic thing to do, although these same men were considered traitors after the war.  Now, Oslo is seeing a disturbing rise of Neo-Nazis, and who better to get the scoop on these old men who seem to be inspiring younger men to use violence against the immigrants who have come to Norway to start a new life.

Harry soon discovers a secret that is taking the lives of these few old men left from that earlier time.  He discovers that a high-powered rifle useful mainly for assassinations has been illegally imported and reports his findings to his superiors, who ignore his concerns. The former Nazis and their family members start to show up murdered.  Can Harry unravel the mystery of what happened all those years ago before someone else is killed?

This is one of the earliest Harry Hole mysteries and fans of the series will enjoy learning Harry's back story.  This is when he meets the love of his life, Rakel, and starts his partnership with Halvorsen.  We learn about Harry's life as a boy and the sister he loves dearly.  Jo Nesbo is definitely one of the premier suspense writers of the current mystery scene, and The Redbreast shows the seeds of how his books will emerge as the series continues.  This book is recommended for mystery lovers.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

I Am Abraham by Jerome Charyn

Jerome Charyn has written a compelling novel about the life of Abraham Lincoln.  Rather than just reciting a series of dry facts, the story comes alive through the mechanism of a first person narrator, Abraham himself.  The book covers the period from Lincoln's life starting out as a young man to the end of his life.

Abraham had nothing with which to make his way except his own willingness to work and scrap by.  He fought as a young man to get an education, thwarted whenever possible by his father.  He makes his living however he can with various occupations moving towards the occupation of being a lawyer and a circuit judge.  His poverty means that he is not accepted in the higher circles of society and that suits him just fine, as he is uncomfortable around such people and their lives.  He goes to parties and dinners occasionally, and meets Mary Todd.  Against the objections of her family, he woos and wins her; their marriage blessed with four sons.

As he moves into politics, Lincoln finds his issue.  He rails against slavery leading to the creation of the Republican party.  When he is elected President it is not a popular move with the Southern states who promptly succeed, leaving Lincoln to start his Presidency with the biggest, most divisive war in the country's history.

Lincoln remained an outsider.  Although Mary craves social prestige, Lincoln is never comfortable in society functions.  He has to fight not only those states openly against him, but several of his generals who think they could lead the country more effectively.  One, General McClellan, is the darling of the social scene, but Lincoln is the man who can move the war forward, even as the actions he must take eat away at him.

There is little solace at home.  Mary, always headstrong, moves further and further into an alternate world with the loss of two of their sons to illness over the years.  She vainly attempts to be a social leader but is only tolerated by society and an easy prey to those who would use her station to further their own plans.  Lincoln is loyal to her even as she attempts to undermine him.

But it is the war that consumes him.  He hates the carnage, the necessity for actions that eat at his soul.  The need for generals like Grant who are killers rather than just military strategists.  The necessity of starving the Southern populace and unleashing men like Sherman on them.  The Friday shooting squads who make an example of deserters, many only boys no older than his own sons.  But he must do whatever it takes to win the war because he believes that slavery is the ultimate evil that will destroy the nation he loves.

This is a towering work.  The reader gets an intimate view of Lincoln different from the storybook tales that are told in history classes.  He emerges as a tortured man who found the backbone and willpower to push the nation forward to a new way where one man does not own another.  Of course Lincoln paid the ultimate price for his vision and his efforts to forge a country united and free of slavery.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction and for those curious about the man behind the legends.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Booksie's Shelf, February 7, 2014

I've been reading up a storm.  I finished a book about an aristocratic English family during World War I, a lovely anthology of stories and a quick murder mystery.  I've gotten a few new books, mostly to keep up on The Mongoliad Cycle series.  Here's what's come through the door in the past week or so:

1.  With Child, Laurie King, mystery, purchased
2.  Game Of Thrones, George R. R. Martin, fantasy, purchased for a reread
3.  Absolution, Caro Ramsay, mystery, purchased
4.  Katabasis, Brassey/ Moo/Teppo/Trim, fantasy, purchased, Mongoliad series
5.  Siege Perilous, E.D. DeBirmingham, fantasy, purchased, Mongoliad series
6.  The Garden Of Evening Mists, Tan Twan Eng, literary fiction, Paperbackswap
7.  Winter's Bone, Daniel Woodrell, literary fiction, Paperbackswap
8.  Where Is Heaven, Phil Bowie, non-fiction, sent by author
9.  A Different Alchemy, Chris Dietzel, literary fiction, sent by author
10.  The Weight Of Blood, Laura McHugh, mystery, sent by publisher
11.  While Beauty Slept, Elizabeth Blackwell, fantasy, sent by publisher
12.  Under Magnolia, Frances Mayes, memoir, sent by publisher

Here's the books that have a bookmark in them:

1.  The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton, reading on Kindle
2.  Redbreast, Jo Nesbo, reading on Kindle Fire
3.  The Orphan Master's Son, Adam Johnson, hardback
4.  Rivers, Michael Farris Smith, hardback
5.  A March Of Folly, Barbara Tuchman, hardback
6.  A Necessary End, Peter Robinson, paperback
7.  The Time Regulation Institute, Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar, paperback
8.  The Fixer, T.E. Woods, reading on Kindle
9.  Tilted World, Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Tennelly, paperback
10.  The Silent Wife, A.S.A. Harrison, paperback
11.  Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives, edited by Sarah Weinman, paperback
12.  Huck, Janet Elder, paperback
13.  The Small Hand and Dolly, Susan Hill, paperback
14.  I Am Abraham, Jerome Charyn, paperback

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Sense Of Touch by Ron Parsons

Ron Parsons's writing reflects the northern country where he lives.  He grew up in Michigan and South Dakota, and attended university at the University of Minnesota.  His main focus is the short story.  His stories have appeared in publications such as The Onion, Indiana Review, Storyville, The Gettysburg Review, The Briar Cliff Review and Flyaway.

The Sense Of Touch is Parson's debut anthology.  It contains eight stories that tell of the human longing for connection and the myriad ways we have of missing that connection, due to inattention or missed touch points.

There are stories of immigrants who have difficulties fitting in to a new culture, of friendships that somehow got lost over time, of marriages that start with hope but end up dry and brittle things that crumple and blow away.  The title story, The Sense Of Touch, is about a student who has come from his native Texas to the University of Minnesota to take a creative writing class and find out if he has any talent.  Readers will relate to someone being in an environment totally different from that where one was raised, attempting to make friends and to discover what really makes up one's personality and talents.

While the subject of these stories may sound bleak, that is not the feeling one gets reading them.  They provide hope.  The human animal will never give up that attempt to reach out and connect with others, even if not initially successful.  The stories are quiet and flowing, leaving the reader to contemplate their messages.  This book is recommended for readers who enjoy short story anthologies and for those interested in how the human spirit continues to reach for connection with others.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Shoot To Thrill by P.J. Tracy

A new type of murder is occurring in Minnesota.  Someone is planning murders, advertising them on the Internet, then making movies of the murder and posting those.  The Minneapolis police get involved when a transvestite dressed as a bride is drowned in the river, and the photo footage of the crime is found on the net.  As they investigate, they find other cases in many different locations.  The majority seem to have a Minnesota connection, so the investigation is centered there.

Several groups are pulled together to work on the case.  There are the Minneapolis police in the form of two partners, Magozzi and Rolseth.  The FBI gets involved and sends a man, John Smith, to work on the case.  Then there is the Monkeewrench Gang, a group of offbeat computer whizzes who use their hacking skills to help the police in certain cases.  Add in a drunken ex-judge and miscellaneous targeted individuals, and the field gets very crowded. 

This is the fifth novel in the Monkeewrench series, and readers of the series will enjoy this one.  The writing is sprightly and the plot flows quickly.  The relationships between the various members of the investigative squad are interesting and keep the reader guessing.  One quibble for this reader is the technology itself.  As someone with a career in technology, the examples used in the book seemed dated with lots of discussion about how the net would ruin our kids, etc.  This probably wouldn't be jarring to someone who wasn't in the technology field, however.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Secret Rooms by Catherine Bailey

Catherine Bailey came to Belvoir Castle in England to do research for a book she was considering on the first World War.  There had been a Duke at Rutland since the Battle of Hastings and the family was one of the wealthiest and best well-connected in the country.  She was granted access to the family's papers but uncovered a mystery that the family had kept secret for decades.

John, the ninth Duke of Rutland, had been Duke in the years following World War I.  A secretive man, his final years had been spent obsessively working on the papers of his family.  He spent his final days in a room of family papers, frantically working at the expense of his health.  After his death, the rooms were sealed for sixty years until the author was granted access.

These were the English aristocracy who wrote letters to each other daily, sometimes several times a day.  Bailey was granted access to this huge treasure trove of paper, but she quickly discovered something amiss.  The exact time period she had hoped to research was missing from the paper records.  After further study, she realized that three distinct periods in John's life had been excised from the record.  What had gone on in those periods that the family didn't want revealed?

With this discovery, her book changed focus and she spent her time discovering what had led to the removal of the records for those three time periods.  On the way, she uncovered family secrets, and the kind of maneuvering behind the scenes that was commonplace for the country's wealthiest families.  Everyone in the families were controlled their entire lives by their families and the web of connections between the wealthiest and most influential.

Catherine Bailey has written an interesting, painstakingly researched historical account of the life of a titled family in wartime years.  She has an interest in twentieth century history and is a television producer and director of documentaries on the time period.  As such, she knows exactly where to go to discover the answers hidden in one place in others, resulting in the full story being brought to life.  This book is recommended for history lovers and those readers interested in the lives of the wealthy, as illustrated in Downton Abby.