A thoroughly entertaining excursion to the literary England of the late 19th century with some ink-stained amateur...


This well-wrought sequel of sorts to The Dante Club (2002) shifts the action to England and another set of literary lights who seek to solve crimes tied to The Divine Comedy.

In late 1869, around the time a British member of Parliament dies under the crushing weight of a large stone on which a Latin message is written, the poet Christina Rossetti has an “ominous foreboding” about her missing brother, the erratic artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti. She, Robert Browning, and William Rossetti (another brother) seek clues at Gabriel’s London home, which he shares with a monkey, a raccoon, and other nonwriting animals. The humans recognize links between the MP’s death and punishments in Dante’s “Purgatory.” They will be joined in their probe by Alfred Tennyson and Oliver Wendell Holmes, visiting from Boston, and bothered by the well-read Scotland Yard Detective Adolphus “Dolly” Williamson, who has trouble with the Fenians but is more intrigued by the Dante killing. Soon it's killings, starting with an opera singer whose eyes are sewn shut before she's bizarrely impaled. While the literati grow concerned that Gabriel is involved in the deaths, an ex-Pinkerton operative arrives in England to try to capitalize on the crimes the way he did with those in Boston that Pearl (The Last Bookaneer, 2015, etc.) described in The Dante Club. Displaying extensive knowledge of the period and the writers, Pearl builds an intricate, well-layered plot. His addition of Holmes, one of the previous book’s main players, supplies a bridge between the U.S. and U.K. Dantean crimes. The language has nice period touches but overall is less overdone than in Pearl's past. And his focus on Christina among several imposing male writers makes narrative sense but is also a refreshing choice and produces a complex, appealing character.

A thoroughly entertaining excursion to the literary England of the late 19th century with some ink-stained amateur detectives.

Pub Date: May 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-59420-493-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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You can’t help but chuckle over all the disasters, but in the end the heroine catches her prey.


An Arizona accountant with a penchant for solving murders lands a fishy case.

Sophie "Phee" Kimball might lead a dull life if it weren’t for her mother, Harriet Plunkett, and Harriet’s neurotic Chiweenie, Streetman. As it is, Harriet lives near her daughter in Sun City West and has a wide circle of zany friends who’ve helped Phee solve several mysteries (Molded 4 Murder, 2019, etc.) while she’s been working for Williams Investigations along with her boyfriend, Marshall, a former police officer. While Phee’s visiting Harriet one day, Streetman dashes over to the neighbors’ barbecue grill and unearths a dead body under a tarp. As usual, the overwhelmed local police ask Williams Investigations to help—er, consult. Harriet’s main concern is getting costumes made for the reluctant Streetman, whom she’s entered in a series of contests starting with Halloween and progressing through Thanksgiving, Christmas/Hannukah, and St. Patrick’s Day. One of her friends is an accomplished seamstress who goes all out making gorgeous costumes that will beat an obnoxious lady who looks down on mutts. The dead man is identified as Cameron Tully, a seafood distributor, who was poisoned by the locally ubiquitous sago pine. At the first dog contest, Elaine Meschow has to be rushed to the hospital after she gets a dose of the same thing. The owner of a gourmet dog food company, Elaine is lucky enough to recover. After Streetman takes second place, Harriet’s team redoubles its efforts for the next contest while Phee and Marshall, who are moving into a new place together, continue to hunt for clues. A restaurant holdup and a scheme to use empty houses for hookups for high school kids add to the confusion.

You can’t help but chuckle over all the disasters, but in the end the heroine catches her prey.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4967-2455-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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This ran in the S.E.P. and resulted in more demands for the story in book form than ever recorded. Well, here it is and it is a honey. Imagine ten people, not knowing each other, not knowing why they were invited on a certain island house-party, not knowing their hosts. Then imagine them dead, one by one, until none remained alive, nor any clue to the murderer. Grand suspense, a unique trick, expertly handled.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 1939

ISBN: 0062073478

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Dodd, Mead

Review Posted Online: Sept. 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1939

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