Monday, January 29, 2024

Overdue Reviews - The Widow's Secret + Trace

Goodreads:  The Widow's Secret by Kate Hewitt

Blurb:  She looked down at the sweet little girl – and knew she wouldn’t listen to what anyone else said. She had to do what was right. Even if it meant going against everything she was taught to believe and keeping a secret from the person closest to her…
England, 1766: Abigail is happily married to James, a tobacco trader turned sea captain, and is looking forward to starting a family and settling down in Whitehaven, deep in the Lake District. But after a series of devastating losses, she finds herself in turmoil, with her future suddenly seeming unknown…

When James announces that he will captain a ship to Africa and then the Americas for a year, it sparks a series of surprising and heartbreaking events – involving some of the darkest evils in humanity’s history, and a tiny, terrified slave girl who’s brought back to England. This helpless child forces Abigail to reconsider everything she thought she knew – and will change her life forever…

Now: When a shipwreck is discovered off the coast of Cumbria, local expert Rachel is brought in to investigate. Her first thought is that this will be a perfect distraction from her troubled marriage and the memories of her past that she is desperate not to think about. But then it becomes clear the wreck is a slaving ship from the 1700s – one that was recorded as sinking in the Caribbean – and Rachel begins to wonder if there’s more to this terrible mystery than meets the eye.

Faced with uncertainty about both the past and present, can Rachel learn from Abigail’s extraordinary story and take the first step towards a brighter future of her own?

My Thoughts:  I have really enjoyed the three previous books in the Goswell series though each one was heartbreaking in its own right.  With her usual ability to get me to connect with the story Hewitt drew me in from the very first.  I was prepared to be absolutely enthralled in the present day storyline as it involves a shipwreck but I never could warm up to Rachel and by the end of my reading time I just couldn't stand her.  The research part was fascinating but I was almost rooting for her to fail.  I did love Abigail.  She's the only child of parents who have pinned all their hopes and dreams on her during a time period where women have very few choices and society has very little forgiveness for perceived mistakes.  She's a nice girl who wants to make everyone happy - until she is confronted with the incredibly cruel and thoughtless reality of slavery.  I admired Abigail's ability to stick with what she knew was right in the face of everyone thinking that she's wrong and stand up to people's casual cruelty to protect a little girl that is in her care.   This details are heartbreaking with very little relief from the present day timeline.  When I realized I was dreading picking this one up because it was so emotionally difficult for me to read I did DNF this one - this was truly a case of it's not the book, it's me.  The story is well written and the characters are vivid but I couldn't force myself to read a book that I dreaded reading as all the characters seemed so unhappy.  My Rating:  DNF'd at 56%

Goodreads:  Trace by Archer Mayor

Blurb:  The Vermont Bureau of Investigation (VBI) has been pulled onto three cases at the same time; meanwhile, VBI head Joe Gunther has to take time off to care for his ailing mother.
Those cases are now in the hands of the individual investigators. Sammie Martens is assigned a murder case. The victim is a young woman, the roommate of the daughter of Medical Examiner Beverly Hillstrom. A recent transplant from Albany, New York, Sammie must find out what put a hit man on the trail of this seemingly innocent young woman.

Lester Spinney takes over a famous cold case, a double murder where a state trooper and a motorist were killed in an exchange of gunfire. Or so it has seemed for years. When Lester is told that the motorist’s fingerprints were planted on the gun he’s supposed to have fired, it opens the question—who really killed the state trooper?

Willy Kunkle’s case starts with a child's discovery of three teeth on a railroad track, leading eventually to a case of possible sabotage against critical military equipment.

In cases that lead the team all over Vermont and nearby, Archer Mayor once again shows why his novels featuring Joe Gunther and the VBI team are among the finest crime fiction today.

My Thoughts:  I was a little nervous going into this.  It's part of a long running series and there are three distinct mysteries going on which could potentially make for a very confusing read.  Fortunately, after a few minutes I felt completely up to speed with who was who and what was going on.  There's a simplicity in the writing style that is really refreshing.  It doesn't get into the weeds with atmospheric descriptions or off topic subjects but instead sticks to the mysteries in a clean manner that kept me engaged.  All of the different detectives are flawed but not so much it seems impossible that they function on a day to day basis.  There's enough character development where real issues are dealt with from PTSD to relationship struggles but not so much that the story feels in the weeds or angsty.  This was a solid police procedural with good mysteries and interesting characters.  This is definitely a series to try if you enjoy police procedural style mysteries and a series I will be reading more from.  My Rating:  Really Liked It (4 Stars)


  1. Trace sounds good, but I don't think I'd like The Widow's Secret, not with the whole slave thing in it.

  2. That's too bad about The Widow's Secret. I am glad you liked the Archer Mayor book though. That one does sound good!