My reading throughout the year centers on new releases and books from authors who visit Roseburg Public Library, which means a lot of great books pass me by.

Kris Wiley

Kris Wiley

Kris Wiley

Fortunately, December is a slower publishing month, and I am excited to share two of the backlist titles I enjoyed recently.

As a faithful listener of the All the Books! podcast from Book Riot, I take their recommendations seriously. That is why I listened to “A Study in Scarlet Women,” the first book in the Lady Sherlock mystery series by Sherry Thomas. I now am in the middle of the third of the six-book (and counting) series. I do not often keep up with series, so when I do I have to really like it.

“A Study in Scarlet Women” introduces Charlotte Holmes, a woman trapped by the expectations placed upon her by Victorian society and her unloving parents. But Charlotte is brilliant and persistent, and she gains her freedom at the cost of her station.

To make ends meet she creates Sherlock Holmes, a man who can sort out problems and solve crimes. Charlotte meets clients for her “ailing brother” and falls in with Mrs. Watson, a retired stage actress who owns an apartment on Baker Street. Even Moriarty plays his role as Charlotte’s nemesis.

I especially have become invested in Charlotte’s relationships — with her sister Livia, who has taken to fictionalizing the Sherlock Holmes cases as a budding author; Mrs. Watson; and her childhood friend and love interest, Lord Ingram. I highly recommend the audiobooks narrated by Kate Reading, available on Libby (OverDrive) and cloudLibrary.

I read another Victorian era novel, but it was much different from prim and proper England. “Only Killers and Thieves” by Paul Howarth is a fierce Western set on the Australian frontier in the 1880s. The narrator is Tommy, a teenager whose parents are killed and sister is injured while he and his brother are away from home.

Tommy and Billy ride to the neighbor place, owned by John Sullivan, a racist opportunist. When the boys lie and place the blame for the recent violence on Indigenous men, Sullivan calls for the Queensland Native Police, who lead the group into the outback to avenge the deaths.

If you like rich character development with a harsh backdrop — something similar to “The Son” by Philipp Meyer or “News of the World” by Paulette Jiles — give “Only Killers and Thieves” a try. I am moving on to its sequel, “Dust Off the Bones,” which continues the brothers’ story in 1890.

The library has both of Howarth’s books in print, and “Only Killers and Thieves” is available as an ebook and eaudiobook on Libby and cloudLibrary.

Happy reading!

Kris Wiley is the director of the Roseburg Public Library. She can be reached at kwiley@cityofroseburg.org or 541-492-7051.

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