The Hotel Nantucket by Elin Hilderbrand

In this story, London billionaire Xavier Darling has bought the historic hotel Nantucket still surviving on by a thread from its glamourous heydays of the 1920s after several unsuccessful renovations. He’s hired Lizbet Keaton as General Manager of the hotel.  She is seeking her own second chance after breaking up with her long time (15 year) boyfriend.

Every hotel staff-member, each of which has their own interesting story, is inspired to work their butts off to ensure the hotel’s success.  But there are other goals for each staff member.  Their new, absentee boss has promised a $1000.00 bonus each week for exceptional service provided to guests.  Also, they are seeking to obtain a “five key” review from a mysterious Instagram tastemaker. Will the hotel’s ghost help or hurt their efforts? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

This is one of the best authors for a light, fun, summer beach read!

The Faithful Spy by Alex Berenson

If you were the CIA handlers of an operative embedded with al-Qaeda who had been silent for the last decade, and knew that he had converted to Islam, would you believe anything he told you, if he was even still alive?

While John Wells, an American from Montana, now known as Jalal, was the first Westerner to graduate from the Qaeda terrorist camps near Kandahar, has grown disgusted with American excesses over his years of studying the Koran, he has always hoped that one day he’d be able to go home.

Now his wish to go back to America is coming true, but he still doesn’t know the details of the operation/attack against the United States being planned, and of which he is to be a part of. John’s Afghan handlers don’t trust him, so they are deliberately keeping him in the dark about the exact nature of the planned attack. There is only one person within the CIA who might listen to him, but even she has her doubts. 

This is a gripping suspenseful story that had me guessing to the last page!

Autopsy by Patricia Cornwell

This is a Kay Scarpetta novel but is quite enjoyable on its own.

Dr. Kay Scarpetta has returned to Virginia to retake her former position as chief medical examiner.  But it’s not long before she realizes that her unsufferable new boss will be a person she trained, and who has politics at the heart of every interaction he’s involved with.

But Dr. Scarpetta cannot worry about that as she is called to the scene of a gruesome murder – one that has links to her own exclusive historic neighborhood. But her job doesn’t get any easier as she is also called to the White House to remotely try and figure out what happened on a top-secret space mission.

Amazingly she finds links between that crime in space, and her local murder victim. She also reopens the investigation on yet another female victim, whose case had been essentially shoved under the rug by her new boss.  As she investigates that case, Scarpetta realizes she might be dealing with a serial killer!

This is gripping and hard to put down. My only complaint is that all the threads seemed to wrap up very quickly and conveniently in the last 10 pages.

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

In the late 1950s to the early 1960s, women were supposed to fall in love, get married and then enjoy being a stay-at-home mom of two to three kids. And if a woman was inclined toward a career, nursing teaching or secretarial jobs were considered appropriate for women’s perceived nurturing skill set and limited brain capacity. In fact, many women went to college to obtain their MRS rather than with intent to utilize whatever other degree they may have received.

However, Elizabeth Zott, was a chemist, a very talented chemist. Due to some unfortunate circumstances – which no one believed – she did not obtain her master’s degree as she had planned. But she was still able to get a job at the Hastings Research Institute as a lab assistant, despite her qualifications and skills. And, despite her obvious intelligence, she still is naïve in that she believes that she will be able to advance at the company based on her skills. 

There she met Calvin Evans, another skilled chemist, in fact a Nobel prize material chemist, who is also an eccentric loner. Theirs is a match made in heaven, which neither of them believes in because heaven’s existence cannot be scientifically proven.  Then Calvin dies and Elizabeth’s life drastically changes when she is fired by the Hastings Research Institute. 

In order to support herself, she takes a job as a television chef, but not like any TV chef we would have imagined.  She refuses suggestions to wear sexier clothes and makeup and refuses to cook the menu items suggested for her to prepare.  Instead, her focus is the chemistry of food, and despite all odds the show becomes a big hit.

While this description might sound a bit odd, the book is an excellent story of love found, and love lost as well as a shocking (to younger women anyway) commentary about how women were thought of in an era not far distant from today.

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

This was the Hudson literary guild selection for March. 

It has an interesting premise – that there are people in the world who age so slowly that it would be centuries before they actually die of old age.  Our hero, Tom Hazard, was born in France, and fled from there with his mom due to religious persecution and ended up in rural England. She was killed under suspicion of being a witch because of Tom’s condition.

He fled to London where he met notables like William Shakespeare. Over his life he sailed with Captain Cook, shared drinks in Paris with F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda. And through all those years he’s been trying to follow the advice of his mentor, which is to not fall in love. And Tom has tried hard to follow that advice, even though he’d loved once, and greatly.  

Now in modern London he meets a woman who has touched his heart… And as he tries to avoid feeling more for her, Tom begins to realize that his mentor may not have his best interests at heart. 

The story is told in memory flashbacks from modern London to various past times, and it is fascinating how Tom, like Forrest Gump, somehow manages to meet many notables through the centuries. 

Frequently throughout the book, Tom notes how history keeps repeating itself, that the same types of people exist over and over and over.  And if one is going to live for centuries, how does one stay optimistic about the future?  So, as a chronic worrier, I found the following quote interesting…” Everything is going to be all right, or, if not, everything is going to be, so let’s not worry.” 

Storm Watch by CJ Box

Danger looms throughout this book and the threats range from the weather, including late season snowstorms in the mountains that close every road, including the interstates, to local militant groups with mysterious funding.

As the book begins, Wyoming game warden, Joe Pickett, is trying to track a wounded elk while a major snowstorm is moving down from the mountains. While tracking the elk – to put it down quickly rather than let it die a slow torturous death – he comes upon a mysterious building on a rancher’s property and the body of a man who has been gruesomely murdered. Joe manages to document the scene and learns that the victim is a professor at the University of Wyoming, before he must retreat from the rapidly worsening weather. But when he returns to the scene the next day, the body is gone, and someone starts shooting at him! Even more surprising, his investigation is obstructed by local law enforcement, but also the governor.

Meanwhile, his longtime friend Nate Romanowski is considering a Bitcoin proposal from his new friend, Geronimo Jones, to help finance expansion of his falconry business. Nate is also approached by a local militant group suggesting that Wyoming secede from the union among other radical ideas. But since Nate had been hounded by the federal government for years, he has some sympathy for the cause of local independence, and this sympathy may put him at odds with his friend Joe Pickett.

This book is very topical, discussing issues like Bitcoin, Chinese spying in the US, and political movements possibly started by so-called radical extremists. Yet somehow Joe Pickett manages to follow his own path and moral code, even when it places his life in mortal danger.

This was an excellent book by one of my favorite authors.

Two Graves by Douglas Preston & Lee Child

This is the third and final installment in the “Helen” trilogy which answers a few questions but raises a lot more about the intriguing main character, special agent Pendergast.

For years, FBI special agent Pendergast had believed that his wife, Helen, was dead, killed by a lion in Africa. After he found evidence that she had been murdered, his investigation into who might have killer her, raised tantalizing suggestions that she might actually be alive.

Pendergast’s quest for the truth takes him on a suicide mission to Brazil where he discovers that horrific Nazi medical experiments, especially on twins, have continued. He also learns that his beloved wife had been a victim of these atrocities, and that Helen and her twin sister are both now dead. There’s more to discover here, but I don’t want to give anything away.

Meanwhile, his ward Constance Green, who had been committed to an asylum for the criminally insane for killing her child has found a friend in the doctor who had her put away. That doctor, Dr. Felder risks his life to help her prove her sanity.

This is another gripping installment in the FBI special agent Pendergast series. There are complicated plots, interesting characters, lots of action, and these are extremely hard to put down.

Cold Vengeance by Douglas Preston & Lee Child

This is book number two in the “Helen” trilogy.

FBI special agent Pendergast has learned that his wife Helen had been murdered. He’s continuing to seek information about her death and about her killer. His quest takes him to the wild moors of Scotland, the bayous of Louisiana, and back to New York City. It seems unlikely but, the more he learns, the less he knows, or understands, as he finds a conspiracy that gets deeper and wider than he could ever have imagined.

Even Pendergast’s ward, Constance Green, who has now been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital, becomes a pawn in his life-or-death quest for answers… And as Pendergast digs ever deeper into the multiple layers of the conspiracy, he begins to wonder, could Helen still be alive?

YOWZA! This book leaves the reader immediately wanting more!

Fever Dream by Douglas Preston & Lee Child

This book is also the first in the “Helen” trilogy.

In this story we learned that FBI special agent Pendergast was once married to the lovely Helen Esterhazy.  Sadly, we also learned that she’d been killed not long after their marriage in a tragic lion attack while in Africa.

Now some time has passed, but not enough to dispel Pendergast’s sorrow for her death. When he learns that Helen was murdered, his quest for her killer takes him to New Orleans, following the history of noted artist John James Audubon, and into the heart of the dark alligator infested swamps of Louisiana. His quest also places those he cares about like NYPD detective. Vincent D’agosta, in mortal danger.

This was a thrilling and engrossing story with many twisty elements making the reader wonder just where in the world this story will end up.

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

The premise of this book is intriguing. Four strangers who just happen to sit at the same table in the reading room of the Boston Public Library are kept there while the police search for the source of a woman’s terrifying screams. They passed the time in conversation and based on that common element continue their acquaintance beyond the library.  But one of them is actually a murderer.

It was captivating to see the relationships among these four people develop, watching feelings ebb and flow, along with suspicion, as one of the four is attacked, and one (or more) of the group is hiding secrets from their past. A side story involving correspondence between a fan and the author of this story just adds to the overall suspense of the book.

My only complaint is that everything seemed to wrap up in the last five pages and I thought that it left a couple of loose threads. But overall, this was enjoyable to read as I kept wondering where in the world the story was going to go.