Monday, April 17, 2017

All-of-a-Kind Family (book review)

Title: All-of-a-Kind Family
Author: Sydney Taylor
Publication: Dell paperback, originally published in 1951. I was inspired to reread this for the 1951 Club.
Genre: Juvenile fiction, series
Plot: The All-of-a-Kind Family lives on New York’s Lower East Side not long before the outbreak of World War I. Papa is a peddler and Mama manages the home and five daughters as frugally as possible, while promoting their Jewish faith. Ella is the oldest, Henny the boldest, Sarah the thoughtful future writer, and Charlotte and Gertie are the youngest and eat penny candy in bed. The girls share adventures and due to loving parents and a spirit of adventure do not dwell on their poverty or the challenges of living in a crowded tenement. Their enjoyment of activities together and their ability to find fun out of simple tasks such as dusting, shopping, visiting the synagogue on festival days, or even suffering from Scarlet Fever at the same time, is what makes this book and the whole series exceptional, charming, and memorable.

Quiz: Which All-of-a-Kind-Family Sibling are you?

You got: Sarah
There’s no place you’d rather be than the library, except maybe onstage accepting the history prize. Maybe you’ll grow up to write a book about your family history! Sydney Taylor would be proud.

Audience: Children 6-10, as well as fans of historical fiction and series books such as Betsy-Tacy; those interested in Historic Manhattan and/or Jewish family life at the turn of the 20th century. This book has many fans of all ages and religions and was “voted” #55 on Betsy Bird’s top 100 Children’s Novels.

My Impressions: I loved this series growing up and especially identified with Henny, the outspoken daughter who (in a later book) gets into difficulty when she borrows her sister’s best dress without permission. This book begins with Sarah’s lost library book, another memorable incident, because of the girls’ enjoyment of the library and fear that they will lose access because Sarah lent to book to a friend. Miss Allen, the librarian, recognizes that payment for the book would create hardship but also knows the girls’ parents would not accept charity, so she allows Sarah to pay for the book over time. As a child who did not get an allowance, I was fascinated by the girls’ daily penny allowance and the mileage they got out of their pennies – particularly the feast of chocolate babies and broken crackers. Growing up in a Boston neighborhood that was primarily Jewish, I also enjoyed learning about Passover, Purim, and other festivals so meaningful to this family. Taylor makes the point that celebrating the Fourth of July is also important to the All-of-a-Kind family, their parents and friends, and that Papa is friendly with men from other faiths (Italian and Polish peddlers). Taylor also makes it clear that this family is relatively privileged: they have a four room apartment which occupies an entire floor in a two-storied private home.

About 15 or so years ago, the Greater NY Chapter of the Betsy-Tacy Society (which meets regularly), all fans of AoKF, went on a tour of the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side, which I highly recommend (I was annoyed that the tour guide did not know about these books, and I thought they should have been for sale in the museum shop.   The first book is now available on their website).  A number of my Jewish friends loved these books because there were few books featuring Jewish children; however, I am Catholic and enjoyed them just as much as they did due to Taylor's incredible storytelling.

About the Author: Sydney Taylor based these books on her childhood and the Sarah character on herself. She was a camp counselor in Long Island (where my dear friend Rachel Rose and her sisters were campers) and probably honed the stories there before turning them into books. After her death, her husband established The Sydney Taylor Book Award which is now awarded annually to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience.  
Source: I read the first three books repeatedly growing up. The first two were oversized Follett hardcovers in my grade school library, shabby from the grasp of many hands. The others were in the Newton library, although Ella was not published early enough for many rereads. I own all five now. Much of my knowledge about Judaism came from Sydney Taylor and Gladys Malvern’s Old Testament historical fiction. If you have never read this series, you have a treat in store! Thank you to Lizzie Skurnick for her efforts to keep these books in print and for the quiz above.

• All-of-a-Kind Family (1951), illustrated by Helen John
• More All-Of-A-Kind Family (1954), illustrated by Mary Stevens
• All-of-a-Kind Family Uptown (1958), illustrated by Mary Stevens
• All-of-a-Kind Family Downtown (1972), illustrated by Beth and Joe Krush
• Ella of All-of-a-Kind Family (1978), illustrated by Gail Owens

images above are copyright to the publisher

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Duplicity (Book Review)

Title: Duplicity, a Julia Gooden Mystery
Author: Jane Haseldine
Publication: Kensington, hardcover, April 2017
Genre: Suspense
Plot: In Jane Haseldine’s second book about Julia Gooden, the Detroit newspaper reporter is up against the city’s most devious criminal—and her own painful past.

Julia Gooden knows how to juggle different lives. A successful crime reporter, she covers the grittiest stories in the city while raising her two young boys in the suburbs. But beneath that accomplished façade is another Julia, still consumed by a tragedy that unfolded thirty years ago when her nine-year-old brother disappeared without a trace.

Julia’s marriage, too, is a balancing act, as she tries to rekindle her relationship with her husband, Assistant District Attorney David Tanner, while maintaining professional boundaries. David is about to bring Nick Rossi to trial for crimes that include drug trafficking, illegal gambling, and bribery. But the story becomes much more urgent when a courthouse bomb claims several victims—including the prosecution’s key witness—and leaves David critically injured.

Though Julia is certain that Rossi orchestrated the attack, the case against him is collapsing, and his power and connections run high and wide. With the help of Detective Raymond Navarro of the Detroit PD, she starts following a trail of blackmail, payback, and political ambition, little imagining where it will lead. Julia has risked her career before, but this time innocent lives—including her children’s—hang in the balance, and justice may come too late to save what truly matters…

Purchase Links

Kensington Publishing CorporationAmazon | Barnes & Noble


Praise for Duplicity

“Haseldine (The Last Time She Saw Him, 2016) uses her experience as a crime reporter to bring authenticity to this exciting and gritty tale.”—Kirkus Reviews

Praise for the first Julia Gooden Mystery, The Last Time She Saw Him

“A ferocious thriller….you can bet no one will stop reading.”– Booklist

“Journalist Jane Haseldine’s debut novel rings with authenticity as she, like Julia, is a former crime reporter. This is a harrowing read.”– BookPage

“A sharp, breathless thriller. From the opening scene to the last, The Last Time She Saw Him, kept me flipping the pages. I loved it! Jane Haseldine is one to watch!” —Lisa Jackson, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Audience: fans of writers such as Hank Phillippi Ryan and Allison Brennan

My Impressions: Once I got past the brutal beginning, I enjoyed this fast paced novel about a reporter committed to her job who also loves her sons and is trying to work things out with her estranged husband. An added complication in her life is that Julia is trying to cover a high profile trial her husband is litigating as an Assistant District Attorney. In addition, Julia has never recovered from the kidnapping of her older brother 30 years ago, and this has made her understandably overprotective of her children. Julia is fortunate that she has good friends in the police force who look after her and feed her scoops, as her husband is ambitious and not risking leaks to his wife that would damage his career.  I liked the unusual Detroit setting and the quirky characters.

Although this was book 2 in a series, something I normally avoid (and admonish people regarding!), it was not necessary to have read the first book to enjoy this one.  For the most part, Julia is an appealing character, smart and courageous, although has a habit I find annoying of recklessly putting herself in danger (for example, jogging to a drug lord’s secret home believing a knife in her waist pack will be protection against a bunch of murderers with guns) yet emerging with barely a scratch. For a parent devoted to her children, this was foolish behavior, although I realize it can sometimes advance the plot. However, towards the end I was distracted from Julia’s foolhardiness as the plot got a little crazy and extremely improbable, requiring quite a bit of suspension of disbelief as various twists were revealed.

Source: I was provided a pre-publication copy of this book by the publisher for review purposes. Please visit TLC Book Tour’s Duplicity blog tour:

Tuesday, March 28th: Thoughts On This ‘n That
Thursday, March 30th: Just Commonly
Friday, March 31st: Fictionophile
Monday, April 3rd: Tina Says…
Tuesday, April 4th: Sara the Introvert
Wednesday, April 5th: Booksie’s Blog
Thursday, April 6th: Clues & Reviews
Friday, April 7th: Jathan & Heather
Monday, April 10th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Tuesday, April 11th: Kritters Ramblings
Wednesday, April 12th: The Cactus Chronicles
Thursday, April 13th: Why Girls Are Weird
Tuesday, April 18th: Girl Who Reads
Friday, April 21st: The Suspense Is Thrilling Me

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Last Chance Matinee (Book Review and Giveaway)

Title: The Last Chance Matinee: A Hudson Sisters Novel
Author: Mariah Stewart
Publication: Gallery Books, Trade Paperback, March 2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Description: When Hollywood agent Fritz Hudson passes away, he leaves families on each coast who didn’t know of the other’s existence. His first wife was an over the top movie star, now deceased, with whom he had two daughters. Allie Hudson, divorced and having just lost her job, is stressed about finances and sharing custody of her pre-teen daughter in Los Angeles. Her sister, Dee, is a former child star, now living quietly in Montana, with a few close friends, spending most of her time as an animal volunteer. After his first marriage fell apart, Fritz fell in love with a calm and affectionate woman in New Jersey, who gave him one daughter, Cara. Cara runs a new but successful yoga studio, and has just suffered heartbreak when her husband left her for a close friend, not long after her mother’s death.

Fritz’s untimely death brings the sisters together for the first time, and they learn from their father’s close friend and lawyer that his will requires them to join forces to restore an old theater in the small Pennsylvania town he came from or forfeit their large inheritance. His hope is that they will grow to love his childhood home and understand the mystery he left behind and never felt able to tell them.

Audience: Fans of Nora Roberts’ “sisters” series; readers of books by Jill Shalvis, Kristan Higgins, and Susan Mallery.  A reading group guide is included in the back of book material if you'd like to read it with your book group.

My Impression: This was an enjoyable launch of a new series by a New York Times bestselling author, and those who enjoy a quirky, small town setting and fresh starts will like unassuming heroine Cara and her more complicated half-sisters. Required by their father’s will to spend a year in Hidden Falls, PA, they are welcomed by a hitherto unknown aunt and by the community, despite learning secrets about their father and the reason he rarely returned to his home. Each sister begins to come to terms with their father’s secrecy and the adjustment to a new family. The sisters are helped in this effort by the warmth of the community and by an unexpected visit from Allie’s daughter, a bubbly teen who is improbably unspoiled by her LA upbringing. Although Cara is the focus of this book, segments are told from her sisters’ point-of-view, and there are three very different male characters who will provide a second chance at love for Cara and Allie and a first opportunity for Des. Another appealing character is Fritz’s sister, an aunt the sisters did not know existed but become fond of quickly. I also enjoyed the descriptions of renovating the Sugarhouse Theater, which has fallen into disrepair, based on a theater the author knew.

My biggest concern with the book is the back story which requires much suspension of disbelief. I don’t doubt that it is possible in this day and age for a man to have two families at opposite ends of the country and keep them in the dark about each other, but it would have been more plausible if he had not been a celebrated Hollywood agent and I wish the author had created a scenario which was more convincing. How could Cara have never read an article about him, which would certainly have mentioned his other family? Never Google your own father? No one in Devlin’s Light, NJ was ever curious enough about its part time resident to research him? No coverage of her own wedding, which might have revealed her to her West Coast sisters? When she traveled with her father to London, none of his colleagues there ever asked her about his famous wife Honora or his famous daughter Desdemona? She never saw her half sister’s TV show Des Does herself and remarked that the star shared her surname? And, by the way, despite traveling with her former husband, she never knew that New Jersey is one of the few states that bans self serve gas? It is also surprising that Allie, financially down on her luck when the story begins, would not have asked her father to help her get work. I know they weren’t close but surely he wouldn’t have wanted her to lose her home. These issues could have been explained away, perhaps, or Stewart could have set the book back in a pre-Internet era.

There is a hint that Cara’s mother knew all along that her husband was a bigamist, and perhaps she didn’t mind, due to her laid-back personality, but wouldn’t she have been upset for her daughter to learn she’d been the victim of deceit and was illegitimate or is that so passé no one cares anymore?

Recipe: At one point Cara makes her mother's homemade granola, which is a big hit with her new family. Stewart includes the recipe at the end of the book. I don't think that would replace chocolate chip cookies in my house but it fits with the image of Cara's hippie mother.  Stewart includes the recipe in the back of the book.

Giveaway: Thanks to Gallery Books, I have a copy of this book to give away. Please leave a comment by 4/23/17 if you are interested - tell me your favorite book about sisters - and I will pick a name. U.S. only, please!
Monday Matinee Giveaway: Follow XOXOAfterDark on Twitter (@xoxoafterdark) on Mondays in April to see which other blogs are hosting giveaways for The Last Chance Matinee on April 3, 10, 17, and 24! #MondayMatinee

About the Author: Mariah Stewart is an award-winning and bestselling author of numerous novels as well as several novellas and short stories, including the Chesapeake Diaries series, one of which I reviewed previously. She lives with her husband and two dogs amid the rolling hills of Chester County, Pennsylvania, where she savors county life and tends her gardens while she works on her next novel. Visit her at mariahstewart.com and follow her on Facebook.com/AuthorMariahStewart and on Instagram @mariah_stewart_books.

Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. Despite the quibbles above, I enjoyed The Last Chance Matinee and am looking forward to the next two books in the series, focused on Allie and Des. Author photo credit to Nicole Leigh.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Story of Ruby Bridges (Book Review)

Title: The Story of Ruby Bridges
Author: Robert Coles  
Publication: Scholastic Hardcover, 1995
Genre: Picture Book/Nonfiction
Plot: This is a children’s version of the real story about Ruby Bridges, a six-year-old African American who integrated the all-white William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans in 1960. Each day she had to walk by angry, vicious protesters as she was escorted by federal marshals to her classroom. The white parents kept their children home so Ruby was taught alone by Barbara Henry. Brought up by a religious family that was proud of what they realized was her place in history, Ruby handled the pressure with dignity and grace beyond her years, praying for the protesters as she passed them each morning. Eventually, other African American children joined her at the school, and after several years, the white families sent their children back to school. Ruby graduated from this elementary school and from high school, and brought up her own family in New Orleans as well.

Audience: This is a great story to introduce civil rights issues to small children, as it is a dramatic story with a winsome heroine that hints at the underlying violence but is not too scary.

My Impressions: This is a wonderful story for all ages about the brave Bridges family: a mother who was determined her daughter would make history, and had brought up this small child to pray for her enemies and have the strength to walk by them every day. Coles captures both the incredible loneliness of Ruby’s situation and her great dignity, as she marched past her tormentors, clutching her lunch box. I am not sure a modern child used to an integrated classroom could even begin to understand why it was such a volatile issue or comprehend the viciousness of the adults who yelled death threats at Ruby. Of course, my own City of Boston had its own shameful episode during its court-ordered desegregation when white adults threw rocks at buses bringing African-American children to South Boston. As in this book, people blamed the judge instead of their own racist attitudes.

The existing teachers from the Frantz School refused to teach in an integrated school, so Ruby was taught by the amazing Barbara Henry, a teacher from Boston, whose sons later went to school with my brother. Mrs. Henry taught Ruby alone for a year before other children joined the classroom. Here is a link to the Boston Globe interview about her experience. I knew Mrs. Henry as a kind family friend long before I learned about her courage and willingness to sacrifice her own safety to advance the civil rights of African American children in the South. I love that she attributes her outstanding education at then Girls’ Latin in Boston as instilling respect for all, regardless of race or background. My sister-in-law’s niece Parker is a seventh grader at Boston Latin Academy, as it is now known, and I hope her experience there will be as enriching.

Last year, the Friends of Roslindale Branch Library, of which I am part, formed a Racial Justice and Inclusiveness Committee to plan educational events, discussions, and presentations related to race, ethnicity, religion and culture. We have had good attendance at the first events and are considering a children’s event which inspired me to read this book. Click here for more information and a schedule of events.

Note that on March 30, 2017 the Roslindale Library will be discussing Spectacle by Pamela Newkirk which was highly recommended by one of our committee members.

Ruby Bridges was escorted by federal marshals to her classroom each day
Source: I checked out this book from the Boston Public Library. There are a number of books about Ruby Bridges but I recognized the name of Pulitzer-prize winning Robert Coles, so chose this one. I did not know that as a child psychiatrist he had offered to provide counseling to Ruby and met with her weekly during her first year of school (he was stationed in Biloxi). One of my greatest academic regrets is not taking advantage of the opportunity to study with him in college.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Widow's House (Book Review)

Title: The Widow’s House
Author: Carol Goodman
Publication: Trade Paperback, William Morrow, 2017
Genre: Suspense
Purchase LinksAmazon, Harper Collins, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound
Plot: When Jess and Clare Martin sell most of their belongings and leave Brooklyn to move to the Hudson Valley, they both hope it will jump start Jess’ writing career, which has faltered after one high profile novel. The area they choose is familiar to them because it is Clare’s home town and is near Bailey College which they both attended. In fact, the professor they admired, Alden Montague, needs a caretaker for his property, Riven House, so they move into his gate house. Soon Jess is writing again and drinking with Montague, and while Clare is relieved to see him in a good mood, her own spirits have suffered after hearing a disturbing story about Montague’s father and a young woman he betrayed. Clare’s parents are gone but even as she tries to reconnect with old friends, including her high school boyfriend, the atmosphere around the house becomes so disturbing she begins to wish she had never returned. . .

Audience: Fans of romantic suspense, including authors such as Susanna Kearsley and Daphne Du Maurier (coincidentally, I chose Du Maurier’s The Scapegoat for my book group to read this month, and it too was dark and suspenseful).

My Impressions: The Widow’s House is a modern gothic which I found so compelling that I read it in two sittings. Clare is an appealing heroine, and Goodman has created memorable major and minor characters. Having visited my share of small colleges in upstate New York, I enjoyed the depiction of Bailey College and its aspiring literati, as well as the arrogant (if sometimes charming) professor who flirted with his students (hard to believe it was acceptable in my grandparents’ day). Readers will enjoy Goodman’s effortless prose and vivid descriptions of the Hudson Valley (the apples can almost be tasted) and its inhabitants, past and present, and will lose themselves as I did in a mysterious ghost story that leads to the discovery of numerous family secrets.  I give her extra credit for surprising me with some of the twists at the end; I need to reread later to see if there were clues I missed.  Just don’t do what I did – I read it late at night in bed as the snow came down and I felt very isolated!
  
I had always meant to read Carol Goodman so when I noticed that the heroine of this book shares my sister’s name I was intrigued and made that my excuse to be included in this blog tour.

Five of five stars - recommended!  I may also buy her new middle grade novel, The Metropolitans, which looks enjoyable, for my nephew's birthday.
Source: I was provided a pre-publication copy of this book by the publisher for review purposes.

Please join Carol Goodman, author of New York Times bestseller, The Lake of Dead Languages, as she tours the blogosphere with TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, March 21st: Caryn, The Book Whisperer
Thursday, March 23rd: Tina Says…
Monday, March 27th: Booksie’s Blog
Tuesday, March 28th: A Chick Who Reads
Wednesday, March 29th: Bibliotica
Wednesday, April 5th: Why Girls Are Weird
Tuesday, April 11th: From the TBR Pile
Thursday, April 13th: Book by Book
Wednesday, April 19th: Unabridged Chick
Thursday, April 20th: Jathan & Heather

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Hollywood Star (Book Review)

Title: Hollywood Star (Gloria Whitcomb, #3)
Author: Gladys Malvern
Publication: Julian Messner, Hardcover, 1953
Genre: Young Adult
this blurry cover was all I could find
Plot: Gloria Whitcomb, a talented but unknown ballerina from New York, has been cast to play Anna Pavlova in a movie, and heads to Los Angeles for the filming, chaperoned by her mother and young brother. It is hard for Gloria to leave her handsome fiancé behind in Manhattan, and she doesn’t realize the studio will want to promote her as glamorous and single. The stresses of acting for the first time before people who doubt her and being thrown into the company of handsome actors (with dubious motives) strain her performance and her relationship with Doug. Can Gloria triumph over Hollywood’s petty jealousies and stay true to the man she has loved for so long?

Audience: Young adult readers, fans of ballet fiction and of career novels

My Impressions: As a pre-teen I loved all of Gladys Malvern’s books, at least those found in the Newton and Brighton libraries. Most of her books were historical fiction, ranging from surprisingly compelling biblical fiction (Behold Your Queen, The Foreigner) to books set in colonial America. The Boys and Girls Library in Newton Corner had copies of the first two books in this series, Gloria Ballet Dancer and Prima Ballerina, and I read them many times, without knowing this third book existed until I was grown up. It is the weakest of the three but Gladys was clearly trying to convey as much as she could about the movie business for eager teens. She does a good job conveying the spite and backbiting that go on when an outsider is cast for a big part (luckily, Gloria has retained her girl next door personality and usually wins people over sooner or later), and she depicts two gossip columnists who must be based on Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons, rivals who together had an audience of 75 million in their heyday.

On the movie set, Gloria is upstaged and belittled by her co-star, an actor who thinks he can take advantage of her lack of experience. She is assisted in standing up for herself by his rival, Jules Fletcher, not because he cares about Gloria but because Jules doesn’t want a rival male actor to gain in popularity. It is a sign of Gloria’s cluelessness that she never figures this out, and disappointing that her mother is too intimidated by Hollywood and Gloria’s success to provide the sensible mothering needed.

Those of us who suffered with Gloria during years of wondering if Doug Gardiner cared for her will not enjoy seeing her squabble with him or flirt with another man. It’s a little like when you think Betsy Ray and Joe Willard have finally worked out their differences and then you learn that in a book which doesn’t even exist, Betsy was flirting with Bob Baryhdt at the U*!
Anna Pavlova
Source: I obtained a copy of this book via Interlibrary Loan. Thank you to Rowan University in New Jersey for preserving and sharing it. This is one of what were called a Career Romance for Young Moderns. My library had only a handful because they were already dated in the 70s but I read them and so did @sadiestein.

* Maud Hart Lovelace always referred to the University of Minnesota as the U, so I did too. When I was about ten, some friend of my parents asked where I wanted to go to college, and when I said, importantly, “The U,” she asked, puzzled, “Which U?”

Saturday, February 25, 2017

A Divided Spy (Book Review)

Title: A Divided Spy (Thomas Kell #3)
Author: Charles Cumming
Publication: Hardcover, St. Martin’s Press, 2017
Genre: Suspense
Plot: Thomas Kell is a British spy, forced into retirement and, thus, at loose ends. His former colleague, Amelia Levene, is now chief of Britain’s Intelligence Service, and twice she has been the cause of Kell being dragged back into undercover activity. One of these episodes ended with the death of a woman the divorced Kell had begun to care for. As this book begins, Kell learns that the Russian agent who caused that death has an illicit relationship that can be used against him. Kell wants revenge but he also wants to “turn” the Russian agent and deliver him to Amelia and her sneering minions who either enjoyed his downfall or simply don’t take him seriously. And then he wonders if he is the one being played. . .

Audience: Fans of sophisticated espionage or suspense, such as John LeCarré, Anthony Price, Alan Furst.

My Impressions: This is the third book I have read about Thomas Kell, and each has provided an absorbing, compelling, and, at times, frightening story. There is no glamour in the lives of these spies: Kell acknowledges that his lifestyle and obsession with work ruined his marriage and the incident that destroyed his career is something that would likely have been swept under the rug for someone better politically connected. Instead, he is depressed and low in funds. However, Kell is talented and his disdain for others’ opinions, while it has not won him any popularity contests, seems to help him analyze and anticipate how the enemy will react. This is why Amelia and her ilk come to him for help with international situations, although they find him insubordinate. One of the things I have enjoyed in all three books is the detailed descriptions of surveillance: the set up, the long hours watching (and tedium), the details that can and do go wrong, and the exhilaration when events start moving.

The author is skilled at creating minor but vivid characters as Kell’s foil. My favorites, in this book are very different: Rosie, a shop girl who has unwittingly been dating a terrorist, and Marquand, a high level intelligence agent who acts as if meeting with Kell “is an interruption in his day that he could have done without.” When the meeting is over, “[t]here had been no trace of the years they had spent together as colleagues, no acknowledgment of the awkwardness of the situation, nor of Marquand’s role in exacerbating it.” I know I am often forced to work with people like this and pretend I don’t notice their arrogance. It is a testament to Kell’s skill that he is (eventually) able to persuade Rosie and Marquand to trust him.

I wasn’t entirely convinced by the basic premise of this book – Minasian’s illicit relationship – but I was willing to suspend my disbelief for a great read.
Source: I first learned of Charles Cumming by reading a glowing review in Publishers Weekly and highly recommend this series, ideally by beginning with the first book, A Foreign Country. A pre-publication copy of A Divided Spy was provided to me by the publisher for review purposes.