Book Club




Val McDermid is a first-class crime writer, and if you’ve yet to discover her fiction, now’s your chance. With her latest novel, 1979, she’s launching a new five-book series featuring journalist Allie Burns. Her backlist is so robust that she doesn’t actually have to write any books at all, but the fact that she’s chosen to stretch herself creatively with this story demonstrates what a pro she is.

For those of you already familiar with McDermid’s work, you’ll know her crime books can be a bit graphic. She loves forensics and rarely spares her readers any details. However, 1979 is a departure from all that. Yes, there are still crimes to be solved (a money laundering scheme, a terrorist bomb attack, and a murder) and as an investigative journalist, Allie solves them all—and grows in maturity in the process.

This pentalogy has been percolating in McDermid’s head for some years now, and when the pandemic hit, she decided now was the time. Her plan is to write five books spanning 50 years in Allie’s life. In 1979, Allie is in her early 20s and has just started her career at a time when very few women were journalists, and those that were, covered fashion, birth announcements and other stereotypically female issues. They also wrote up the stories that male reporters had investigated, but they rarely got a co-writing credit.

Of course, Allie Burns is having none of that. As she navigates the newsroom and the attitudes of her male colleagues, she has only one real ally; fellow journalist Danny Sullivan. Between the two of them, they’re taking on the establishment. There’s plenty of suspense to keep you turning pages, but to me, the real story here is Allie herself. Over the course of five decades, I’m expecting to watch Allie grow from the cub reporter that she is in this novel to one of the top in the field. She’s got what it takes, if only the patriarchy will let her shine.

Val McDermid is synonymous with Scotland, and 1979 offers all the cultural touch points readers love. If you like audiobooks, you’re in for a treat. This book is narrated by Katie Leung, who some of you may recognize as Cho Chang in the Harry Potter film series. Her accent is simply delightful.

Audiobook Review

The audiobook is narrated by Katie Leung whose Scottish accent is a treat to the ears. 

Valerie Francis

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie

Well, you’re not going to believe this. Reece Witherspoon and I picked the same book for our February book clubs. Sort of.  Late last year, I came across THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE by Marie Benedict and was fascinated by the premise. Benedict writes historical fiction, much like Philippa Gregory,

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Valerie Francis

A Girl Named Howard

This month, rather than recommend one book to read, I’m recommending the entire body of work of one author because Anne Rice, who passed away December 11, 2021, single-handedly revolutionized the role of vampires in literature.  Yes, vampires.  And the impact she’s had is more significant than you might realize.

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Valerie Francis

The Christmas Bookshop

If you’ve had it up to your eyes with holiday preparations and are looking for a light-hearted story to escape into, The Christmas Bookshop, by Jenny Colgan, might be just the ticket. The title is a bit misleading, in my opinion. Yes, there’s a bookstore. Yes, the plot unfolds in

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