Dianne Freeman’s Pandemic Books

I’m thankful this week that Dianne Freeman agreed to write a post for us. What books helped her through the pandemic?

Dianne Freeman is the acclaimed author of the Countess of Harleigh Mystery series. She is an Agatha Award and Lefty Award winner, as well as a finalist for the prestigious Mary Higgins Clark Award and the Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award. After thirty years of working in corporate accounting and finance, she now writes full-time. Born and raised in Michigan, she and her husband split their time between Michigan and Arizona. Visit her at www.DiFreeman.com.

Thank you, Dianne!

Don’t forget to look for these books, and Dianne’s, in the Web Store. https://store.poisonedpen.com/

My taste in reading went through some changes over the last few years. I’ve always loved crime fiction. I started with thrillers and slowly transitioned to suspense. During the pandemic, I really couldn’t focus on either of those sub-genres. They were just too dark for me. I needed something different, and the following mysteries filled the bill. They aren’t all lighthearted, but something about them, the character, the setting, or the era, managed to put a smile on my face. Certain elements; the earnest naiveite of a young woman, competitive would-be sleuths, the warmth of the British Homefront, and the innocence of a 10-year-old made all these books so much more than just a good read.

A Socialite’s Guide to Murder by S.K. Golden

In the late 1950s, Evelyn Elizabeth Grace Murphy’s young life has revolved around the glamorous Pinnacle Hotel in New York City. Her mother was murdered years ago, her father is rarely around, and Evelyn is agoraphobic. The hotel staff provide for her every need, so over time, it has become her safe space—until someone is murdered there.

Evelyn takes this defilement of her father’s hotel personally and is determined to unmask the killer. Despite her idiosyncrasies—she’s naïve, wants to be Marilyn Monroe, takes her little Pomeranian with her everywhere, is unfailingly kind, and completely blind to the fact that many of the staff and guests think she’s cracked, (she is a bit), and don’t forget the agoraphobia—she manages to pull it off and make me like her. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can’t wait for more.

A Trace of Poison by Colleen Cambridge

A complete opposite to Evelyn is Cambridge’s protagonist, the no-nonsense Phyllida Bright, housekeeper to the famed author, Agatha Christie. This is the second book in the series and takes place at a mystery writers conference in the local village. Everyone in attendance is either a published mystery author, including the likes of G K Chesterton, Dorothy Sayers, and of course Agatha Christie, or an amateur vying for a chance at publication to be awarded at the end of the conference. When one of the amateur writers is murdered right in front of them, it takes the calm perseverance of Phyllida Bright to flush out the culprit.

The style is reminiscent of the Golden Age of mystery, and Phyllida, with her very proper and prickly manner is a delightful sleuth.

A Courage Undimmed by Stephanie Graves

Graves’ Olive Bright mysteries take place in the British Homefront of WWII. The protagonist, Olive, trains carrier pigeons for the war effort and hopes to become an agent, but at the moment, she’s playing escort to a visiting officer—Lieutenant Commander Ian Flemming. While at a séance held by a newcomer to the village, the medium is murdered and everyone in the village expects Olive to solve the crime.

These books are always rich with historical details I’d previously known nothing about, like the work of Station XVII, Operation Anthropoid, and even the carrier pigeons Olive trains. But what really pulls me in is Graves’ depiction of English village life which has all the feels of All Creatures Great and Small, but with a mystery.

A Lovely Girl by Deborah Holt Larkin

This is the true story of Olga Dunkin’s abduction and murder in 1958 California, and the trial of her killers. It’s also the tender memoir of a 10-year-old girl obsessed with Olga’s disappearance, and her father, a reporter who covered the story and the trial. Debby is an innocent child in what we generally consider a more innocent time, coming to terms with a crime that is so monstrous, it’s almost unbelievable. The story is artfully told, with details of the investigation woven into nostalgic scenes of growing up in the 50s. That, and the young narrator’s simple faith that you can’t hurt someone and get away with it, made this book an extraordinary read for me.

I asked each of the authors to discuss their own book. Dianne Freeman’s latest is A Bride’s Guide to Marriage and Murder.

A Bride’s Guide to Marriage and Murder

Writing my own books and spending my days in late Victorian London definitely helped me hang onto my sanity over the past two years. Frances has a bright outlook that always picks me up. She has every reason for optimism in this book, she and George Hazelton are getting married. She’s been hosting family for a bit too long and can’t wait until she and George escape on their wedding trip. Unfortunately, before they can leave, Inspector Delaney arrives at the reception with bad news. Mr. Connor, who lives next door, has been murdered, and Frances’ brother was found at the scene holding the murder weapon.