Category Archives: Rated B+

Review: No One Can Know by Lucy Kerr

Title: No One Can Know by Lucy Kerr
Stillwater General Mystery Series Book Two
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

hree months. That’s how long ER nurse Frankie Stapleton has agreed to stay in her sleepy little hometown of Stillwater, helping her estranged sister save the family hardware store, working a few shifts at the local hospital, and most importantly, rebuilding the bridges she burned on her way out of town twelve years ago.

When a pregnant car crash victim arrives at Stillwater General, Frankie and the team race to save both mother and child—but only the baby lives. Rumors swirl that the accident was deliberate, and Frankie’s horrified to realize that she let the driver escape. But why would anyone want to kill Kate Tibbs, a social worker and the wife of an up-and-coming local politician? Frankie’s investigation turns up plenty of motives, from revenge to dirty politics, and even more suspects. There are secrets in Stillwater, and she’s determined to uncover them, even if it means involving her loved ones for help.

But when the baby disappears, her search for the truth becomes a desperate, deadly race against the clock. No matter the cost, Frankie must piece together the truth to stop a killer and save a tiny life in Lucy Kerr’s riveting second Stillwater General Mystery, No One Can Know.

Review:

No One Can Know is another perplexing mystery starring ER Nurse Frankie Stapleton. This second installment in Lucy Kerr’s Stillwater General Mystery series can be read as a standalone but I highly recommend the first novel as well.

Frankie is on duty during a violent storm when John Mueller arrives with minor injuries he claims were sustained in collusion with a deer.  Just as his treatment is wrapping up, Katherine Tibbs is rushed into the ER barely clinging to life.  Pregnant with her first child, her injuries are so severe that ER Dr. Paul Costello quickly turns his ministrations to saving her unborn baby. Once the baby boy is safely delivered and rushed to the NICU, Kat unfortunately succumbs to her injuries. Katherine’s husband, Steven Tibbs, an assistant district who is in the middle of a political campaign, arrives in the ER just as Frankie discovers the first patient she was treating walked out of the hospital which immediately raises suspicions he was involved in Katherine’s accident. Plagued with guilt over not acting on her instincts that something was off with John, Frankie cannot help but poke around the investigation despite her ex-fiancée Sheriff Noah MacLean’s warning to stay out of the case.

Frankie has reluctantly made peace about her extended stay in her small hometown for the next few months. She is working part-time at the ER while also filling in at the family’s financially precarious hardware business. frankie is temporarily bunking with her eight year old niece Riley who has a huge case of hero worship on her fun aunt. She dodges her mother’s matchmaking efforts while at the same time putting up with her sister Charlie’s verbal barbs.  Frankie gets along great with her fellow nurses, but her relationship with Dr. Costello remains a bit acrimonious.

The police investigation quickly arrives at a standstill since they have the daunting task of trying to unearth a motive for Katherine’s accident. Frankie just cannot sit around waiting for the police to locate missing patient John so she begins looking for him on her own.  Running into him at the cemetery, he tells her some very puzzling information before disappearing once again. Following a couple of troubling murders and a shocking kidnapping, the pressure is on to figure out who is responsible for these crimes and why.

No One Can Know is a very clever whodunit that is fast-paced and engaging. Frankie is an excellent nurse and a very adept amateur sleuth. Her situation with her family adds interest to her character (although it would be nice if Charlie would take her sniping down a few notches). With a few well placed red herrings,  Lucy Kerr brilliantly keeps the identity of the perpetrator(s) and motive for the nefarious goings on carefully under wraps until a somewhat dramatic and nail biting conclusion. Another outstanding installment in the Stillwater General Mystery series that old and new fans will enjoy.

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Filed under Contemporary, Crooked Lane Books, Lucy Kerr, Mystery, No One Can Know, Rated B+, Stillwater General Mysery Series, Suspense

Review: The Lucky Ones by Tiffany Reisz

Title: The Lucky Ones by Tiffany Reisz
Publisher: MIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Romance
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

They called themselves “the lucky ones”

They were seven children either orphaned or abandoned by their parents and chosen by legendary philanthropist and brain surgeon Dr. Vincent Capello to live in The Dragon, his almost magical beach house on the Oregon Coast. Allison was the youngest of the lucky ones living an idyllic life with her newfound family…until the night she almost died, and was then whisked away from the house and her adopted family forever.

Now, thirteen years later, Allison receives a letter from Roland, Dr. Capello’s oldest son, warning her that their father is ill and in his final days. Allison determines she must go home again and confront the ghosts of her past. She’s determined to find out what really happened that fateful night — was it an accident or, as she’s always suspected, did one of her beloved family members try to kill her?

But digging into the past can reveal horrific truths, and when Allison pieces together the story of her life, she’ll learns the terrible secret at the heart of the family she once loved but never really knew.

Review:

The Lucky Ones by Tiffany Reisz is a very atmospheric mystery with a slight element of romance.

Now in her mid twenties, Allison Lamarque has not seen or heard from any foster family members since leaving neurosurgeon Vincent Capello’s home (dubbed The Dragon) thirteen years earlier. Just as her current relationship is ending, she receives a letter from her foster brother, Roland Capello, letting her know that Dr. Capello does not have long to live. Conflicted about whether or not to return to the sprawling home on the Oregon coast, Allison decides to make a quick visit before doing some traveling. Soon after arriving at mansion, Allison begins to remember some of the events that precipated her  hasty departure and although Dr. Capello fills in some of the blanks, she cannot help but wonder if he is being entirely truthful. But that brings up the question: what possible reason would he have for lying to her?

Allison has no living relatives so she is a bit adrift after her long term arrangement with her older lover ends.  She is nervous about returning to Oregon due to the circumstances of her leaving, but she decides it is time to face her past. Immediately reconnecting with her long ago crush, Roland, she remains uneasy about committing to staying longer than a few days. Despite her happy memories of  her time at The Dragon,  Allison becomes a little suspicious when she becomes aware that Dr. Capello is not being truthful with her. She also learns that her foster siblings, Thora and Deacon, have been less than honest with her as well. In the course of trying to unearth the truth, Allison is shocked to learn the fate of several other foster children who were also in Dr. Capello’s care. Unraveling the web of lies, the truth about her foster siblings shocks Allison to the core and she inadvertently puts herself in danger in the process.

The Lucky Ones by is a very riveting mystery  with a bit of a gothic feel to the storyline. The characters are quite fascinating  but also somewhat mysterious due to the many secrets they are keeping. Allison’s investigation into her long ago accident takes a very unexpected turn as she uncovers very appalling information.  The mystery aspect of the storyline is completely wrapped up but Tiffany Reisz leaves it up to readers to guess what comes next for one of the couples. All in all, an engrossing mystery that fans of the genre are going to love.

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Filed under Contemporary, Harlequin, Mira, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Romance, The Lucky Ones

Review: The Storm King by Brendan Duffy

Title: The Storm King by Brendan Duffy
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 401 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Haunted by dark secrets and an unsolved mystery, a young doctor returns to his isolated Adirondacks hometown in a tense, gripping novel in the vein of Michael Koryta and Harlan Coben.

Burying the past only gives it strength—and fury.

Nate McHale has assembled the kind of life most people would envy. After a tumultuous youth marked by his inexplicable survival of a devastating tragedy, Nate left his Adirondack hometown of Greystone Lake and never looked back.  Fourteen years later, he’s become a respected New York City surgeon, devoted husband, and loving father.

Then a body is discovered deep in the forests that surround Greystone Lake.

This disturbing news finally draws Nate home. While navigating a tense landscape of secrets and suspicion, resentments and guilt, Nate reconnects with estranged friends and old enemies, and encounters strangers who seem to know impossible things about him. Haunting every moment is the Lake’s  sinister history and the memory of wild, beautiful Lucy Bennett, with whom Nate is forever linked by shattering loss and youthful passion.

As a massive hurricane bears down on the Northeast, the air becomes electric, the clouds grow dark, and escalating acts of violence echo events from Nate’s own past. Without a doubt, a reckoning is coming—one that will lay bare the lies that lifelong friends have told themselves and unleash a vengeance that may consume them all.

Review:

With a narrative that seamlessly weaves between the past and present, The Storm King by Brendan Duffy is an atmospheric  mystery that is full of secrets and revenge.

As a teenager, Nate McHale is the lone survivor of a car accident that killed his parents and younger brother. Raised by his beloved Grams, Nate and his close friends, Tommy Buck, Johnny Vanhouten and Owen Liffey set out to extract vengeance against the people they perceive have wronged them. These “Thunder Runs” occur during storms and they run the gamut from subtle to overt vandalism against a number of residents in their small town.  With their high school graduation marking the end of their reign of terror,  Nate leaves for college and never returns to Greystone Lake following a devastating loss.

In the present, Nate is happily married with a daughter and he has a successful career as a surgeon. Following the stunning discovery of skeletonized remains, Nate returns to his hometown to attend the funeral and quickly learns that his grandmother and his friends are being targeted by vandals. Taken in for questioning about the recovered bones, Nate stumbles onto an astonishing trove of information that he uses to investigate incidents in the present and a heartbreaking loss in his past.

With the flashbacks of Nate’s teen years, a shocking portrait of Nate begins to emerge. He and his friends are relentless in their zest for revenge and their pranks are incredibly destructive. It is difficult to feel much sympathy for Nate as the depths of his rage and sly manipulation of his friends are exposed. When the object of his wrath changes focus, he and his friends ensure that anyone who slights them is punished for their “misdeed”.  The teens act as judge and judge and they do not hesitate to carry out the sentences they impose on their victims.

Upon his return for the funeral,  Nate is somewhat surprised by the changes time has wrought upon his friends. He is also uneasy with questions the police chief asks him during an antagonistic interrogation.  After he unearths  the astounding compilation of data about the graduation night disappearance of someone very dear to him, Nate thinks he knows who is behind the vandalism and why. He is also certain he knows who is responsible for the tragedy that occurred on graduation night but his efforts to investigate are hampered by the worsening hurricane.  Will he uncover the truth before it is too late?  Will Nate unmask a dark and twisted killer before they strike again?

The Storm King is an engrossing mystery that keeps the pages turning at a blistering pace. Nate is an extremely intriguing character that initially is not easy to like, but gradually becomes a protagonist that readers will root for as he searches for the truth. With the hurricane approaching, the storyline takes on a high degree of urgency as all of the pieces finally begin falling into place. Although readers will most likely be able to accurately narrow down the suspect pool to a handful of likely culprits, Brendan Duffy masterfully keeps the perpetrator’s identity tightly under wraps until the adrenaline-laced denouement.

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Filed under Ballantine Books, Brendan Duffy, Contemporary, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense, The Storm King

Review: The Glass Forest by Cynthia Swanson

Title: The Glass Forest by Cynthia Swanson
Publisher: Touchstone
Genre: Historical (60s), Mystery
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Bookseller comes a gripping literary suspense novel set in the 1960s about a deeply troubled family and three women who will reveal its dark truths.

In the autumn of 1960, Angie Glass is living an idyllic life in her Wisconsin hometown. At twenty-one, she’s married to charming, handsome Paul, and has just given birth to a baby boy. But one phone call changes her life forever.

When Paul’s niece, Ruby, reports that her father, Henry, has committed suicide, and that her mother, Silja, is missing, Angie and Paul drop everything and fly to the small upstate town of Stonekill, New York to be by Ruby’s side.

Angie thinks they’re coming to the rescue of Paul’s grief-stricken young niece, but Ruby is a composed and enigmatic seventeen-year-old who resists Angie’s attempts to nurture her. As Angie learns more about the complicated Glass family, staying in Henry and Silja’s eerie and ultra-modern house on the edge of the woods, she begins to question the very fabric of her own marriage.

Through Silja’s flashbacks, Angie’s discovery of astonishing truths, and Ruby’s strategic dissection of her parents’ state of affairs, a story of love, secrets, and ultimate betrayal is revealed.

Review:

The Glass Forest by Cynthia Swanson is a gripping mystery about a missing woman and the suicide death of her husband.

In 1960, twenty-one year old Angie Glass is deliriously happy with her husband, Paul, and their baby son P.J. Trouble arrives  with a phone call from Paul’s seventeen year old niece Ruby who informs her undle of her father’s (Paul’s brother Henry)apparent suicide and her mother, Silja’s, disappearance.  Angie insists on accompanying Paul to Ruby’s home in Stonekill, New York to plan Henry’s funeral and settle his affairs.  Angie quickly discover all is not as it appears with Ruby, Silja and Henry but she is woefully unprepared for the information she uncovers about Paul.

Angie is a bit naive but that is most likely a result of her sheltered life in Door County, WI. She and Paul married quite soon after they began their romance and she takes care of P.J. while Paul works as a bartender to supplement the income he earns selling his landscapes to tourists. Angie does not know much about Henry or his family since they only briefly met at her and Paul’s hastily arranged wedding. Not much older than Ruby, Angie wants nothing more than to take care of her suddenly parentless niece.

Ruby is a resourceful young woman who keeps to herself after her aunt and uncle’s arrival. Unexpectedly composed considering she discovered her father’s lifeless body, she is no help to police as they try to figure out where Silja has disappeared to nor can she provide a reason why her mother might have run away. Ruby has no friends her age but she does have a friendship with a mysterious man she meets in the forest behind the family home.

Silja is only seen in flashbacks that detail her first meeting with Henry in 1942 and her life following their marriage. Falling in love at first sight, their whirlwind romance culminates in a sudden wedding right before he ships out for Europe during World War II. She gives birth to Ruby while he is still fighting in the war and she impatiently awaits his return. However, the Henry who comes home is not the same man she wed and their marriage becomes more and more strained over the years.

Angie’s tranquil life slowly unravels before she, Paul and Ruby leave Stonekill. The police are suddenly not certain Henry’s death was a suicide and even more perplexing is Silja’s whereabouts. Whispers and rumors from the small town slowly make their way to Angie and as she tries to separate fact from fiction, she learns some very troubling information about the family she has married into. After she begins searching for the truth, Angie unearths shocking secrets that turn her world upside down.

The Glass Forest is an intricately-plotted novel with a clever storyline and a chilling cast of characters.  Angie is a little too trusting and lacks much experience with the world outside her small town, but she is quick to realize something is not quite right with Ruby, Henry and eventually, Paul. Ruby is somewhat precocious but she is also very pragmatic and does not hesitate to do what she believes needs to be done.  The setting is eerie and adds to the overall disquiet that permeates the unfolding story. Cynthia Swanson slowly builds the tension as the novel steadily wends its way to an absolutely stunning conclusion.

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Filed under Cynthia Swanson, Historical, Historical (40s), Historical (50s), Historical (60s), Mystery, Rated B+, Review, The Glass Forest, Touchstone

Review: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Title: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Historical (70s), Women’s Fiction
Length: 448 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Alaska, 1974.
Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed.
For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.

Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if means following him into the unknown.

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska―a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.

Review:

Set during the tumultuous 1970s, The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah is an incredibly compelling novel about a Vietnam vet who moves his family to the Alaskan bush in an effort conquer his war-related demons.

Thirteen year old Leni Allbright remembers nothing of the father she had before Ernt was drafted during the Vietnam War. Since his return, the family has frequently moved in an effort to outrun their troubles. She and her mother, Cora, are incredibly close and Cora implores her daughter to forgive her father and remember that he was not always like this. When Ernt receives a letter from his war buddy Bo Harlan’s father Earl letting him know Bo wanted him to inherit his land, Ernt once again uproots his family to move to the desolate, yet beautiful Alaskan bush. However, Ernt, Cora and Leni are completely unprepared for the harsh life in an unforgiving, isolated place where one mistake could prove fatal and life revolves around preparing for the upcoming winter.  Fortunately for them, their new neighbors in the small town of Kaneq pitch in to help them learn the much needed skills to survive in the bush, but will Ernt find the peace he is desperately seeking?

Leni is a resourceful, intelligent young woman who loves her mother but distrusts her father. She finds it surprisingly easy to adapt to her new life in Alaska and despite the hard work and harsh weather, she loves their new home. Despite the positive changes Leni sees in her father, she has grave misgivings about the effect winter will have on his tenuous stability and volatile behavior. When the long summer days end and the long, dark winter begins, Leni’s fears quickly come to fruition. Her pleas to her mother fall on deaf ears as Cora refuses to give up hoping that Ernt will turn back into the loving husband he was before the Vietnam War took such huge toll on his psyche.

The town of Kaneq is filled with quirky residents who have many different reasons for choosing to eke out a life in such an isolated and unforgiving yet incredibly beautiful and majestic state.  Marge Birdsall is a gregarious woman who is larger than life and more than willing to help the Allbrights navigate life in the bush. Tom Walker is from a prosperous family with deep roots in the community and he is the first to help his fellow Alaskans in time of trouble. Tom’s son Matthew and Leni strike a close friendship that withstands heartache and tragedy but Ernt’s animosity for Tom does not bode well for their relationship. The Harlan clan eagerly welcome Ernt and his family into their fold but when Ernt’s paranoia grabs hold, will they continue to support his radical and dangerous ideas?

The Great Alone  is a magnificent novel that incorporates true life events into the storyline. The characters are well developed with true to life strengths and human frailties that make them easy to relate to.  Narrated for the most part by Leni, her observations are insightful and due to her life experiences, she is very mature. Cora and Ernt are both incredibly frustrating characters but it is Cora that readers will have the most difficult time relating to as she stubbornly puts herself  and her daughter into danger with her poor decisions.  Never downplaying its dangers or its dramatic beauty, Kristin Hannah brings Alaska vibrantly and realistically to life. As someone who lived in Alaska for a number of years, I can assure readers that she has faithfully and brilliantly highlighted this raw and untamed state in all of its wondrous splendor.   I highly recommend this captivating yet bittersweet story of resilience, kindness, joy and sorrow that is heartbreaking yet ultimately, uplifting.

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Filed under Historical, Historical (70s), Kristin Hannah, Rated B+, Review, St Martin's Press, The Great Alone, Women's Fiction

Review: The Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard

Title: The Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Historical (40s), Fiction
Length:384 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

In the bestselling tradition of Hidden Figures and The Wives of Los Alamos, comes this riveting novel of the everyday people who worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II.

“What you see here, what you hear here, what you do here, let it stay here.”

In November 1944, eighteen-year-old June Walker boards an unmarked bus, destined for a city that doesn’t officially exist. Oak Ridge, Tennessee has sprung up in a matter of months—a town of trailers and segregated houses, 24-hour cafeterias, and constant security checks. There, June joins hundreds of other young girls operating massive machines whose purpose is never explained. They know they are helping to win the war, but must ask no questions and reveal nothing to outsiders.

The girls spend their evenings socializing and flirting with soldiers, scientists, and workmen at dances and movies, bowling alleys and canteens. June longs to know more about their top-secret assignment and begins an affair with Sam Cantor, the young Jewish physicist from New York who oversees the lab where she works and understands the end goal only too well, while her beautiful roommate Cici is on her own mission: to find a wealthy husband and escape her sharecropper roots. Across town, African-American construction worker Joe Brewer knows nothing of the government’s plans, only that his new job pays enough to make it worth leaving his family behind, at least for now. But a breach in security will intertwine his fate with June’s search for answers.

When the bombing of Hiroshima brings the truth about Oak Ridge into devastating focus, June must confront her ideals about loyalty, patriotism, and war itself.

Review:

The Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard is an absolutely fascinating novel about four disparate people who work at the atomic research lab in Oak Ridge, TN during World War II.

Eighteen year old June Walker is a farm girl whose future husband is killed not long after he enlists in WW II. Leaving her family and small town behind, she goes to the super secret military reservation in the newly created Oak Ridge, TN which, coincidentally, is built on land her grandfather and his neighbors were forced to sell to the Army. After filling out reams of paperwork, she is assigned to a boring job adjusting knobs for a project she knows nothing about.

June’s roommate, Cici Roberts, is a beautiful yet shallow young woman who is popular with the men but not very well liked by women other than June. Cici is a fun-loving, good-time girl who has a very selfish reason for accepting a job in Oak Ridge. While the two women are initially rather good friends, they eventually fall out over June’s boyfriend, Dr. Sam Cantor.

Originally excited to leave academia for a job at the lab, Sam’s enthusiasm soon wanes once he fully comprehends the magnitude of the  work he is doing. He is rather morose and drinks to excess to deal with his conflicted feelings. He works in the same building as June and their chance meeting at a New Year’s Eve party is the beginning of their unlikely romance.

Joe Brewer left his wife and three children behind in Alabama when he took the job as a construction worker at Oak Ridge. The negro workers are not allowed to live with their spouses and Joe misses his family desperately. He is also growing quite concerned over his friend Ralph’s friendships with other activists who are working to improve condition for the negro workers.

With the war in Europe finally winding down, the race to develop a bomb before the Germans loses its urgency but work still continues at Oak Ridge and Los Alamos, NM. The project remains shrouded in secrecy although Sam has confided in June the exact nature of their research. The various situations for June, Sam, Cici and Joe quickly come to a head as the US continues fighting the Japanese and the scientists’ research finally culminates in success. Cici is disgusted by June’s romance with the much older, Jewish scientist and their friendship suffers as a consequence. Joe is increasingly worried about Ralph as racial tensions increase. As Sam becomes more despondent and his drinking escalates, his relationship with June continues to deteriorate.

The Atomic City Girls is an educational exploration of a mostly unknown piece of American history.  The characters are well-developed and add vital insight to the events that are unfolding. Although Los Alamos is famous for its part in the building of the atomic bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Oak Ridge, TN’s role is not well publicized.  Janet Beard’s meticulous research brings this little known but immensely interesting portion of history vibrantly to life. This all around riveting read also includes a lovely epilogue so readers know what happens to the various characters long after their lives intersect in Oak Ridge.

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Filed under Fiction, Historical, Historical (40s), Janet Beard, Rated B+, Review, The Atomic City Girls, William Morrow Paperbacks