Vintage Gothic Suspense: NIGHTMARE IN JULY by Clara Coleman


Publisher: Lancer Books
Release Date: 1967

“The first time she met him, Amanda Swanson recognized the mark of evil deep in the stranger’s cold blue eyes. He terrified her even though she couldn’t name the secret he threatened her with. Yet her husband, knowing it, condemned her to spend the summer alone with him — and the legacy of violence he carried with him.”

Amanda Swanson’s husband Paul owns a publishing company. She was an editor there at one time, but quit working after they got married, feeling it wasn’t right to work at the same company or at a competing publisher. I was never convinced she was happy about the situation, but suddenly her life was dedicated to supporting Paul’s publishing ambitions. If only he were worthy of her loyalty!

Paul is ecstatic when he receives an incomplete manuscript in the mail that he believes will be a huge success. Paul invites this once-in-a-lifetime literary talent to finish his book at their secluded country home where they spend weekends.

When Amanda first meets Jordan Youngfield, she senses that something is off about the young author. Things get worse when Paul insists that she stay with Jordan in the country for the summer while he works in the city. Jordan’s behavior becomes more threatening, and Amanda fears for her safety, but Paul only cares about getting that finished manuscript…

“The last thing I did that night before I fell asleep was remind myself that danger surrounded me — that the Mill was a place of terror that July.”

Overall this was a suspenseful and enjoyable quick read. Jordan’s character needed more fleshing out, but he did come across as creepy. I felt bad for Amanda having to be second to Paul’s publishing company, plus he was a condescending jerk. The ending was good. Not a big surprise, but satisfying. — 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

Welcome to our Mad Tea Party!

Hello! I’m glad you could join us for the Mad Tea Party hosted by Vanessa at A Fanciful Twist. When I was little, I thought Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was scary. The Mad Hatter and Cheshire Cat? Too creepy. Of course, now I love creepy and mysterious things. All quotes below are from Lewis Carroll’s wonderful book!

“And what is the use of a book,” thought Alice, “without pictures or conversation?”

If you’ve never been here before, I’ll quickly introduce myself. My name is Diana, and I’ve been blogging about books for a long time. So, of course, my tea party will also be a book club meeting, and we’ll be talking about one of my favorite cozy series, the Hungarian Tea House Mysteries, written by Julia Buckley.

The covers of these books are absolutely adorable! I was excited to find that I had a matching Sarah Wilkins mug for each book.

• Afternoon Tea Party •

Before we get started, we need the perfect tea-inspired essential oil blend for ambiance. I found one on the Diffuser Blends site called Afternoon Tea Party. Roman chamomile, lemon, and cinnamon bark. Smells amazing!

It was all very well to say “Drink me,” but the wise little Alice was not going to do that in a hurry. “No, I’ll look first,” she said, “and see whether it’s marked ‘poison’ or not.”

• Let your imagination grow •

DEATH IN A BUDAPEST BUTTERFLY | Tea | Whole Grain Blueberry Muffin

Hungarian folklore, European high tea, and just a touch of the paranormal come together to make DEATH IN A BUDAPEST BUTTERFLY a delightful start to this series!

Three generations of the Horvath/Keller family run Maggie’s Tea House in suburban Chicago. Hana, her mother Maggie, and grandmother Juliana are shaken when a guest is poisoned to death at one of their events. With a murderer on the loose and their business in danger, Hana is willing to help Detective Erik Wolf with his investigation and do a bit of sleuthing on her own.

The Hungarian history, culture, and myths blended throughout this book made for an enjoyable and unique cozy mystery. I also loved the budding romance between Hana and Erik.

“I suppose I ought to eat or drink something or other; but the great question is ‘What?’” — Alice

• Take a sip, turn a page •

DEATH OF A WANDERING WOLF | Tea | Jarlsberg cheese & pecans

In book two of the Hungarian Tea House Mystery series, Hana Keller gets more than she bargained for at a yard sale, when the seller, a local artist, is murdered shortly after Hana scores some too-good-to-be-true deals. Hana uses her developing psychic ability and smarts to unlock the secrets in his paintings. Will his art reveal the identity of his killer?

I enjoyed this complex murder mystery that continues to explore Hungarian culture and folklore. It was lovely seeing Hana and Detective Erik Wolf’s relationship grow closer, and the introduction of Erik’s sisters was a lot of fun. I hope they become regulars in future books. Hana and her family are wonderful characters who make this an engaging series.

“Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
“I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone, “so I can’t take more.”
“You mean you can’t take less,” said the Hatter. “It’s very easy to take more than nothing.”

• Read & Grow •

DEATH ON THE NIGHT OF LOST LIZZARDS | Tea | Chocolate chip pecan cookies

The third book in this charming series finds Hana busy at her family’s tea house during the bustling Christmas season, but it’s not all comfort and joy. Hana’s psychic gifts turn out to be useful when a Hungarian professor and artifact collector is murdered. With Maggie’s Tea House hosting Prof. Balog’s memorial, Hana and Erik are able to discover many possible suspects with reasons to resent the deceased man, but who among them was angry enough to kill?

DEATH ON THE NIGHT OF LOST LIZARDS was beautifully written with descriptions of snow, Christmas traditions, familial bonds, and amazing Hungarian antiques. What a lovely magical atmosphere for this puzzling mystery.

“I do wish I hadn’t drunk quite so much!” — Alice

Thanks so much for stopping by my book club tea party. I hope I sparked your interest in this delightful cozy series. Please hop over to Vanessa at A Fanciful Twist to check out her beautiful post and find links to the other partiers.

Disclosure: I received a copy of the first two books in this series from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for honest reviews.

THE OTHER PASSENGER by Louise Candlish


Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: July 20, 2021

Self described as “hurtling towards fifty,” long-time partners Jamie and Clare befriend a younger millennial couple, Kit and Melia. I use the term friend loosely, because in reality they are simply jealous of each other, the elders’ wealth versus the younger ones’ youth.

Jamie (James) and Kit (Christopher) commute to work by ferry together, until one morning Kit isn’t on the boat. Jamie is shocked when police meet him at his stop to say that Melia has reported Kit missing. Another passenger has come forward telling police that Jamie and Kit were arguing the evening before. Based on what the witness saw, police want answers. What the heck is going on?

Unfortunately, I really struggled with this book. It moved very slowly, and I wasn’t gripped by the situation or characters. The premise was intriguing, and I enjoyed the twists at the end, but the first 70% was too dull for me. I don’t mind unlikable characters, but there has to be something that makes them compelling or makes me care what happens to them. Not the case here. Also, is there really that much animosity between Gen X and millennials? I would assume that Gen X in particular wouldn’t care. Whatever. ;-)

THE OTHER PASSENGER is the third book I’ve read by this author, and the previous two were enjoyable, twisty domestic suspense. (Check out OUR HOUSE and THOSE PEOPLE.) Even though this one was a miss, I won’t hesitate to pick up her next book. — 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

THE THERAPIST by B.A. Paris


Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: July 13, 2021

After being in a long-distance relationship for a while, Alice and Leo take the plunge and move in together in an exclusive gated community in London. With only 12 houses in “The Circle,” most of the neighbors are already cozy, and Alice worries she won’t fit in.

Leo bought the house for a steal, and it’s not until after they’re settled in that Alice discovers why — a tragedy befell the previous owners. While working at home alone as a translator, Alice becomes increasingly obsessed with Nina, a therapist who lived in the house before. Alice believes the police got the details of the case all wrong, and she’s determined to find out what really happened at #6 The Circle.

I love a group of neighbors with secrets to hide. The beginning of this book hooked me right away and had some pretty creepy moments. Was someone in their house watching them at night? Or just overactive imaginations? The middle slowed down a bit with Alice visiting with neighbors but never getting much out of them. Plus she was so gullible! The great thing about this book was that anyone could have been the culprit. I didn’t have it figured out until the very end.

Even though Alice could be frustrating and her constant fixation on Nina was unusual, I found THE THERAPIST to be tense and twisty domestic suspense. — 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.