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Check These Out! Titles to Look for at the Library

Daryl M., Librarian, West Valley Regional Branch Library,
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At Check These Out!, each month you will find a few recently published or upcoming titles that are worth “checking out” from the library. All titles are either currently available or have a record in the catalog where you can place a hold and be among the first to read them when they hit the library's shelves. For many of these titles, you will also find interviews with the author on the LAPL Blog and/or a longer, more in depth review on LAPL Reads.

Howison, Del

Margaret “Peggy” Thomas was happy living on a farm just outside of Bleak Knob, Missouri with her husband James, who was the local sheriff. But her life was shattered the day the bank was robbed and James, while ensuring Peggy’s safety, was gunned down. This sends Peggy into a downward spiral of remorse and regret, until, three years later, she receives a telegram from Arizona stating that one of the men that killed James has been captured, is going to trial, and she is welcome to attend if she wishes. Arizona is a long way from Missouri, and Peggy would be a woman traveling alone, but this is something she needs to do. She must attend this trial as it is the last thing she can do for James.

In The Survival of Margaret Thomas, Del Howison tells a story that is instantly familiar, with all of the recognizable trappings of a classic Western tale, but simultaneously seeming like a welcome discovery of something new and exciting. The Survival of Margaret Thomas is also proof that there are still compelling Western stories to be told by writers that can navigate the conventions of a genre, create interesting characters and tell a gripping, page-turning story.

O'Dell, Claire

In The Hound of Justice, Clair O’Dell, a pseudonym for Beth Bernobich, returns to and expands the world created for 2018’s A Study in Honor (where Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson have been reimagined as African American women living in a near future Washington, D.C. and a United States that has been plunged into a second Civil War as a result of the 2016 election). In the latest book in the series, Dr. Janet Watson struggles to re-enter civilian life and reclaim her career as a surgeon, Sarah Holmes begins investigating The Brotherhood of Redemption, an extremist group based in the New Confederacy who is responsible for a failed assassination attempt that kills and injures hundreds of civilians.

And then Janet receives a message. Sara who has vanished, and gone deep underground in her investigation of The Brotherhood of Redemption, is in the New Confederacy, in trouble and needs a surgeon. She is asking Janet to make a difficult and dangerous journey, but, in spite of the potential hazards, Janet knows she needs to go.

In The Hound of Justice, O’Dell’s characters, again, really shine and the author takes current events and from them spins a vision of the future that seems frighteningly possible. This is a great read!

Mason, Timothy

In The Darwin Affair, Tim Mason, a successful playwright, provides a top notch historical mystery, spinning a tale of intrigue and conspiracy that ranges throughout the highest levels of the British aristocracy and church and centers on the works of Charles Darwin.

Mason uses his dramatic skills well as there is plenty of excitement and action, well timed and paced, along with nicely executed dialogue. There is also a wonderful sense of the Victorian era, including cameos by some of the more famous, and infamous, individuals of the time. But, where The Darwin Affair really shines is Mason’s characters, especially the two main characters: Chief Detective Inspector Charles Field and Decimus Cobb.

Field, the novel’s protagonist, is a wonderful creation (even though he is based on the man Dickens’ used for inspiration of the same name). He is a rough-raised individual that is in no way comfortable in the higher social strata in which he continually finds himself. Field knows the difference between right and wrong and feels that justice needs to be dispensed evenly, regardless of the standing of the perpetrator.

In sharp contrast to Field is the character of Decimus Cobb. Cobb is a tall, imposing figure who appears to glide rather than walk and comports himself like a gentleman at almost all times. He is a former choirboy, has garnered a reputation for his skill as a surgeon at a local operating theatre (in spite of having no formal education or training) and is a complete and utter sociopath. While he has his own reasons for not wanting Darwin honored for his theories, he is, and has been for a long time, working at the behest of some of the most powerful men in England, committing crimes so their hands are, at least figuratively, clean. Decimus Cobb is a truly unsettling character. And he is the perfect counterpoint to Field’s genial, but often poorly executed, good intentions.

The Darwin Affair is a wonderful read, full of atmosphere, action, suspense and memorable characters.

If you like this type of advance, or near advance, notice about upcoming titles, you can send a comment through the Contact Us page at and let us know. Also, if you read one of the recommended titles, send a comment and let others know what you thought of the book. In both cases, be sure to put Check These Out! in your message.