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The King’s Witch: Frances Gorges historical trilogy, Book I by Tracy Borman, Atlantic Monthly Press, US $27.00, Pp 448, July 2018, ISBN 978-0802127884

The Captives by Debra Jo Immergut, Ecco/HarperCollins Publishers, US $26.99, Pp 276, June 2018, ISBN 978-0062747549

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager, Dutton/Penguin Random House, US $26.00, Pp 384, July 2018, ISBN 978-1524743079

It All Falls Down by Sheena Kamal, William Morrow/HarperCollins Publishers, US $26.99, Pp 324 July 2018, ISBN 978-0062565778

The King’s Witch is set in the first decade of the seventeenth century. It is March of 1603 and Frances Gorges is the lady-in-waiting in the royal palace where she is helping to nurse Queen Elizabeth of England. The queen is too old and is dying. Frances is missing her parents’ country estate in Longford where she has learned the use of flowers and herbs to heal. When the queen dies, Frances is able to go back to her parents’ estate. But Frances soon runs out of luck, her uncle — the Earl of Northhampton – again forcibly brings her to the royal palace. Her uncle wants to use her niece to advance the family’s fortunes. King James of Scotland has ascended the throne of England as King James I of England. She becomes a prime target for the malicious scheming of the Privy Seal, Lord Cecil. Frances is suspected of practicing witchcraft because of her skills at herb lore and healing. Frances comes under more and more danger as the campaign to destroy both the King and the Parliament – that culminated in the Guy Fawkes Gunpowder Plot of 1605 — builds up. She is happy only with Tom Wintour, the courtier for whom she has romantic feelings. Tom Wintour is a ringleader of the group which wants to replace King James I with Princess Elizabeth, and Frances sympathizes with the plot’s ultimate aim. The King’s Witch is a story weaved around real-life characters by an acclaimed historian. It’s a very vivid account of the life in the English royal court and palace and general life in England in the seventeenth century. This historical novel has everything you would want to read in a novel, ranging from palatial royals and intrigues to betrayals to a love story. Historical novels are rarely as knowledgeable and entertaining at the same time as The King’s Witch.

Tracy Borman is England’s joint Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces and Chief Executive of the Heritage Education Trust. She studied and taught history at the University of Hull and was awarded a Ph.D. in 1997. She is the author of a number of highly acclaimed books including The Private Lives of the TudorsThomas CromwellMatilda, First Queen of EnglandElizabeth’s Women and Witches, Scandal and Seduction. Borman is also a regular broadcaster and public speaker, giving talks on her books across the United Kingdom and abroad.

*****

Frank Lundquist is an intimate psychologist at the Milford Basin Correctional Facility, a state prison for women. He is prepared for surprises when he is working with prisoners. But he never expected to meet Miranda Greene, his old crush in the high school. It is a little emotional reunion when Miranda steps into Frank Lundquist’s office. That awakens all old memories of Frank. Miranda is convicted of a brutal crime and Frank Lundquist is supposed to treat her as a psychological counselor. Although Frank Lundquist is supposed to relegate her to another counselor because of his emotional feelings, he decides to treat and support her himself. Thirty-two-year-old Frank Lundquist is a well-established psychologist who was working in Manhattan before he was relegated to his current position as a result of several professional and personal breakdowns. Frank Lundquist is curious to know how a beautiful high school girl and daughter of a Congressman ended up in a prison for a serious crime. He is more curious because Miranda is unable to remember him from high school. Desperate and despairing, Miranda is fighting the memories of her childhood tragedy. She is haunted by the memories of her family’s questionable and immoral decisions. But, her biggest challenge is to leave the memory of the disastrous love that is the cause of her current situation. For Miranda, Frank is the newest hope for redemption – and possibly the escape from prison. Both Frank Lundquist and Miranda have troubled pasts and their reunion and collaboration will bring disastrous consequences for both of them. The Captives is a psychological thriller debut that explores male and female powers as well as the power of love. A powerful and suspenseful story with two memorable characters that will keep your eyes glued to the pages.

Debra Jo Immergut’s has also published a book of short fiction, Private Property, and stories in American Short Fiction and the Russian-language journal Foreign Literature. She previously worked as a magazine editor, has been a frequent contributor to the Wall Street Journal and Boston Globe, and has taught writing at the Universities of Iowa and Maryland as well as in libraries and prisons. She is a recipient of MacDowell Fellowship and a Michener Fellowship and has an MFA from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

*****

Set in the early 2000s, The Last Time I Lied is a story of four friends. Three of them disappear mysteriously from a summer camp while the fourth friend tries to find out what happened to them. At the Camp Nightingale, all the four girls played the game they called ‘Two Truths and a Lie’ in their cabin at night. One night, Vivian, Natalie, and Allison left the first-time camper Emma, the youngest of the group, behind when they sneaked out of their cabin in the middle of the night. The three girls were never seen again. After thirteen or so years, Emma is a successful painter in New York. She has not been able to overcome the traumatic experience of losing three friends during that dark night at the Camp Nightingale. Her paintings show dark leaves and gnarled branches covering ghostly shapes in white dresses. When Francesca Harris-White, the wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale invites Emma to spend the summer at the Camp and teach the girls painting, Emma readily accepts the offer. Emma takes the invitation as an opportunity to find out what really happened to her friends on that night all those years ago. At the camp, she sees familiar faces, the same cabins and the same dark lake called Nightingale. For her stay, Emma is given the same cabin from where her friends disappeared in the dark. It is the same cabin except that she spots a security camera – the only one at the camp – focused on the cabin door. As she digs, she discovers one lie after the other. At the same time, she starts getting mysterious threats. As she learns more about the disappearances of the three girls, she realizes that closure would come at a high price. The Last Time I Lied is packed with suspense and surprises. It is an unputdownable thriller with an unforeseen end.

Riley Sager is the pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer who previously published mysteries under his real name. Riley’s first novel, Final Girls, was a national and international bestseller that has been published in more than two-dozen countries and a film version is being developed by Universal Pictures. A native of Pennsylvania, Riley now lives in Princeton, New Jersey. When he’s not working on his next novel, he enjoys cooking and going to the movies as much as possible.

*****

Nora Watts was raised by her father, Sam Watts. When her father commits suicide, it is not easy for her but she decides to continue life as best as she can. As the wounds of her father’s death start healing, she runs into an old acquaintance of her father. Their conversation about her father raises unsettling questions. Emotionally disturbed Nora decides not to ignore them and find answers so that she can be at peace with herself and her past. Search for the truth about her late father brings fearless Nora from the Canadian Pacific Northwest to the mean streets of Detroit where Sam had grown up, far from his place of birth. Sam was one of the thousands of Canadian children of indigenous heritage who were forcibly put up for adoption by the Canadian government in the 1950s and adopted by American families. In Detroit, Nora simply feels rattled after she uncovers the truth about her father’s death. Nora is also shocked to learn that her Palestinian mother left her and her sister, Lorelei, when they were very little. Back in Vancouver, private investigator Jon Brazuca is investigating the overdose death of a billionaire’s mistress at the same time. Jon Brazuca’s investigation leads him to an opiate ring and a disturbing connection to Nora, the woman he had once tried to befriend. As he is unaware of her whereabouts, he is unable to forewarn her. As Nora is concentrating on her father’s past, it leads her to discover her own fractured identity and that of her 16-year old estranged daughter. She is unable to foresee the looming danger before it is too late. The real danger is not from her father’s old ties but from her own. It All Falls Down is Sheena Kamal’s follow-up to The Lost Ones (2017). She shows how little we know ourselves. This extraordinarily entertaining thriller is packed with emotions, suspense, and with a charming heroine.

Sheena Kamal was born in the Caribbean and moved to Canada as a child. She holds an HBA in political science from the University of Toronto and was awarded a TD Canada Trust scholarship for community leadership and activism around the issue of homelessness. Kamal has also worked as a crime and investigative journalism researcher for the film and television industry. She lives in Vancouver, Canada.

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