As much as I love to read, sometimes there are books that just don’t hit the right tone for me. It might be a style, or subject. Sometimes it’s even bad grammar and editing. More often, though, a book just doesn’t speak to me. But that doesn’t mean it’s terrible or that some of my readers might not be interested. These are books I did-not-finish (DNF) recently, but might deserve a second look from another reader.

The Man Upon the Stair

from the publisher: In The Man Upon the Stair, Gary Inbinder’s brilliant detective Achille Lefebvre returns to solve the mystery of a disappeared millionaire in the sensational, atmospheric world of fin-de-siecle Paris. At the public execution of the anarchist assassin Laurent Moreau, the outgoing Chief Inspector warns his protégé, the newly promoted Lefebvre: “I’ve heard that some of Moreau’s cronies have sworn revenge. You don’t want to get killed your first week as chief.” Meanwhile, Lefebvre is charged with investigating the disappearance of the Baron de Livet, a brash millionaire with connections to Russian spies and a history of gambling, womanizing, and fighting in duels. The case is more complicated than it seems, of course, and Lefebvre and his team must make sense of a poisoned maid, an unidentifiable stage coach, and a missing briefcase full of cash. The Baron’s connection to the world of international espionage means that if the Inspector isn’t fast enough, the Baron’s disappearance might trigger a war.

The idea sounded fascinating, but the voice used in the storytelling just didn’t work for me. I didn’t get any sense of time or place.

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Pegasus Books (February 20, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1681776359
ISBN-13: 978-1681776354
Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.3 inches

The Ghost Notebooks

from the publisher: A supernatural story of love, ghosts, and madness as a young couple, newly engaged, become caretakers of a historic museum. When Nick Beron and Hannah Rampe decide to move from New York City to the tiny upstate town of Hibernia, they aren’t exactly running away, but they need a change. Their careers have flatlined, the city is exhausting, and they’ve reached a relationship stalemate. Hannah takes a job as live-in director of the Wright Historic House, a museum dedicated to an obscure nineteenth-century philosopher, and she and Nick swiftly move into their new home. The town’s remoteness, the speed with which Hannah is offered the job, and the lack of museum visitors barely a blip in their consideration.

Again, the description got me to start this title but it’s not really about ghosts or old houses. It’s more of a marital story, set in an old house, and just wasn’t what I was looking for.

Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Pantheon (February 13, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1101871091
ISBN-13: 978-1101871096
Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 9.5 inches 

The Mitford Murders

from the publisher: It’s 1920, and Louisa Cannon dreams of escaping her life of poverty in London. Louisa’s salvation is a position within the Mitford household at Asthall Manor, in the Oxfordshire countryside. There she will become nursemaid, chaperone and confidante to the Mitford sisters, especially sixteen-year-old Nancy, an acerbic, bright young woman in love with stories. But then a nurse―Florence Nightingale Shore, goddaughter of her famous namesake―is killed on a train in broad daylight, and Louisa and Nancy find themselves entangled in the crimes of a murderer who will do anything to hide their secret…

I love the Mitford sisters, and the 1920s, and it’s based on a real unsolved crime. I should have devoured it in an afternoon, but the writing was much too vanilla, and it felt like a first draft.

Series: The Mitford Murders (Book 1)
Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books; First Edition edition (January 23, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1250170788
ISBN-13: 978-1250170781
Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches 

Dangerous Crossing

from the publisher: 1939: Europe is on the brink of war when young Lily Shepherd boards an ocean liner in Essex, bound for Australia. She is ready to start anew, leaving behind the shadows in her past. The passage proves magical, complete with live music, cocktails, and fancy dress balls. With stops at exotic locations along the way—Naples, Cairo, Ceylon—the voyage shows Lily places she’d only ever dreamed of and enables her to make friends with those above her social station, people who would ordinarily never give her the time of day. She even allows herself to hope that a man she couldn’t possibly have a future with outside the cocoon of the ship might return her feelings. But Lily soon realizes that she’s not the only one hiding secrets.

I was hoping for a fun, spy adventure set against the golden age of travel. It’s really much more of a romance at sea, which it not something I care about.

Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Atria Books (January 9, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1501162721
ISBN-13: 978-1501162725
Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches 

The Man from the Train

from the publisher: Using unprecedented, dramatically compelling sleuthing techniques, legendary statistician and baseball writer Bill James applies his analytical acumen to crack an unsolved century-old mystery surrounding one of the deadliest serial killers in American history.Between 1898 and 1912, families across the country were bludgeoned in their sleep with the blunt side of an axe. Jewelry and valuables were left in plain sight, bodies were piled together, faces covered with cloth. Some of these cases, like the infamous Villisca, Iowa, murders, received national attention. But few people believed the crimes were related. And fewer still would realize that all of these families lived within walking distance to a train station.When celebrated baseball statistician and true crime expert Bill James first learned about these horrors, he began to investigate others that might fit the same pattern.

This is the only one I think readers should avoid. I enjoy reading about true crime and I’ve been a fan of Bill James for many years, but this book is a MESS. Rather than follow the data, as James claims to do, the book makes a claim and then tried to make the data fit on top of it. And it doesn’t work. Every time the authors come across a detail that doesn’t fit their theory, they shrug it off.

Additionally, the book feels unedited – the author changes tenses and person multiple times. The pieces of the book feel like they were chopped up and sewn together randomly. I tried to read it several times, but it’s just dreadful. The only butchery here is this book.

Hardcover: 480 pages
Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (September 19, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1476796254
ISBN-13: 978-1476796253
Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches 

Is there a book you couldn’t wait to get your hands on, only to be let down?


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