Irena’s Children by Tilar J. Mazzeo. Published by Gallery

Everyone knows about Oscar Schindler and how he saved Jews from Nazi concentration camps, but how many people have ever heard of Irena Sendler? Probably very few people know this remarkable woman ever existed, but Mazzeo’s book hopes to change all that. Irena Sendler was a Polish social worker and in 1942 she was granted access to the Warsaw Ghetto as a health specialist. There had been rumors about what was happening to the Jews who were shipped out by rail car every day, but now that Irena sees it first hand it becomes clear what’s happening to those poor souls. She somehow managed to convince the parents of young children in the ghetto to trust her, she then smuggled these children out of the ghetto, through sewers, in boxes and even coffins. Next the children were placed with non Jewish friends and family, no easy task because the price for harboring a Jew was the annihilation of one’s whole family. Irena kept detailed lists of the children she moved, hiding them in bottles buried under an apple tree, so that after the war the children could be reunited with their parents. Sadly, the reunions almost never occurred because their parents were killed at Treblinka. An all, some 2,500 children were spared because of the incredible courage of Irena and her friends and family. This book starts at the end, when Irena is captured by the Gestapo, then goes back to describe her childhood and her life as an adult, including the marriage to a man she would later separate from and also the real love of her life, a Jewish resistance fighter. This is a compulsively readable book, almost impossible to put down, even as parts of the story will bring readers to tears. Mazzeo does not paint Irena as a saint, but as a woman driven by a strong sense of right and wrong, a woman who risked everything, her friends’ her family’s and her own life to stand up for what she believed in. Now that I have read her story, I will never forget Irena Sendler

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Forgotten Secrets by Robin Perini. Published by Montlake

Riley Lambert was only 10 years old when she witnessed her sister, Maddy, being kidnapped. As an adult, Riley works as a profiler for the FBI, putting as many bad guys away as she can, while covertly using the agency’s resources to look for her sister. Currently on suspension, she is prohibited from working on any case, but when she gets a call for help from Thayne Blackwood, she can’t say no. Riley and Thayne had a brief, but intense affair and have remained in touch ever since. Now he needs her help. His sister has been kidnapped and the only witness is their grandmother, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. Riley knows all too well what Thayne is going through, and as her past and present clash, she can only hope she finds both Cheyenne and the answers that have eluded her for so long. I liked this book on many levels, it hasĀ  a great mystery, but it also has a female character that’s equal to the male – she’s as smart, capable and strong as he is

City of Buried Ghosts by Chris Lloyd. Published by Canelo

In the second mystery featuring Catalan detective Elisenda, archaeologists uncover the body of a man who was killed by having a spike shoved through the back of his skull. The method of death may have been an ancient one, but the body dates from the 1980s. Elisenda and her team must comb through decades old missing persons reports and learn from a cast of eccentric and egotistical archaeologists. It turns out that there is a huge, and often deadly, black market trade in stolen antiquities. Is the dead man the result of a black market deal gone bad? Then a second person is found murdered and Elisenda and her team are back to square one. I loved this book. The combination of the archaeology, which was fascinating, and Elisenda, a complex heroine fighting not only police politics, but her own demons as well, make this a standout read

Four Weddings and a Fiasco by Catherine Ferguson. HarperCollins UK

Katy Peacock’s job is to capture the happiest moments in people’s lives as a wedding photographer, too bad she doesn’t have that many happy moments in her own life. She and her sister are estranged (for good reason), her mother is way too involved and her scary ex is hanging around. She’s vowed to stay away from men, so of course, men are attracted to her like flies to honey. She runs in to one man after a near run in with a menacing fence and the other is a photographer, just like her. She’s attracted to both of them, but she knows she really shouldn’t get involved with either of them. What’s a girl to do? This book will give even the grumpiest person the giggles

Leaving Independence by Leanne W. Smith. Published by Waterfall

Abigail Baldwyn has had a very difficult time holding things together at her home in Tennessee since she got word that her husband Robert had been killed in the War Between the States. Just when she feels she’s gotten her feet underneath her, emotionally at least, Abigail gets word that her husband is very mush alive. But Robert has no intentions of returning home, instead he’s headed west. Determined to find answers, Abigail joins a wagon train headed west. She and Hoke Matthews, the leader of the wagon train are drawn together during the journey as they face illness, fighting between members of the party, raids and all manner of trials. The two are drawn ever closer with each disaster and Abigail is left wondering, if she can find Robert, does she really want him back? This is a beautifully written historical novel that does not portray life in the old west as romantic, but rather as the harsh, often unforgiving place it often was. I was just sorry that the story had to end

Spider’s Web by Mike Omer

Detective Mitchell Lonnie is looking for a serial killer in Glenmore Park. The first victim, Kendele Byers, only 20 years old had been found buried in a shallow grave. Now, with a second victim found, Mitchell and his partner look into the crimes and the mysterious messages both women got just before they were killed. Messages that hinted the women were soon to be killed. The case is difficult enough, but when Mitchell’s sister becomes embroiled in the case, the stakes become even higher. Omer’s mystery is compelling from page one, the sense of dread palpable. A fine, fast paced read

Goodbye, Ms. Chips by Dorothy Cannell. Published by Random House

Ellie Haskell, full time mom and interior designer and part time sleuth is called back to her old school to help solve a mystery. Despite Ellie’s less than happy years at school, she agrees to help find the school’s missing lacrosse trophy. The trophy is to be presented to the winning team at the end of the season and if it’s not found, headmistress Mrs Battle will be in hot water. But the missing trophy is small potatoes compared to the murder of former gym teacher Ms. Chips. Now Ellie is on the hunt for a killer. Using her detective skills, Ellie solves not only the murder, but an old hit and run case as well. I haven’t read an Ellie Haskell book in years and while this entry didn’t have the urgency of the earlier novels, it’s still a nice, cozy mystery read