Virginia Johnson

Funeral in Blue by Anne Perry

Cover to Funeral in Blue

Dr. Kristian Beck is known to be a man selflessly dedicated to the healing arts, so why is he being accused of murdering his very beautiful wife? Granted it was whispered that they lived separate lives, and she was so exquisite that men of all sorts were drawn to her side. To murder one’s wife in the throes of jealousy is considered a crime of passion, and the punishment for that might be less than for a straight-out, cold-blooded killing. As the woman featured in the haunting painting, A Funeral in Blue, Elissa Beck could have excited that kind of emotion.

But then there is the other murder victim to consider. An artist’s model, pretty Sarah Mackeson had been born into a hard life just as Mrs. Beck had enjoyed a privileged one. Yet different as their fortunes were, they shared the murder scene between them—an artist’s studio in the dead of night. Surely one was the intended victim, and the other was a victim of circumstance. For private investigator William Monk and his wife Hester, time is running out to discover who killed both women and why.

No Batteries Required: Serious Fun with String Games

People all over the world, from the Arctic to the South Pacific, love to play with string. They often use the pictures that the string suggests to tell stories from their ancient traditions. The Inuit might use sinews or leather from the animals they hunt, and the islanders might use tree bark fiber. You could use macrame or nylon cords or even simple, white string to show off your creations.

George Mason and the Virginia Declaration of Rights

George Mason, future patriot, spent part of his childhood in Stafford County. His father died by drowning when he was very young, so he sometimes stayed with relatives including his uncle, John Mercer who lived at Marlborough Point. His uncle was a lawyer and landowner. He had a large library for the time—more than 1,500 books—and 11-year-old George enjoyed the library, including law commentaries his uncle had written. 

After studying at a private school in Maryland and with tutors (including his uncle), George Mason took control of his family’s lands. He was the second largest land owner in Fairfax County—the largest being George Washington. When Washington went to serve as head of the Continental Army, George Mason took his place in the Virginia legislature. 

Grendel, by John Gardner

Grendel, by John Gardner

Lurking in the shadows of the Dark Ages is the howling form of Grendel. He is the monster of midnight, the bone-gnasher, the ardent hunter of warriors who strews their bones and howls his fury to the world as he wreaks havoc on the safety of civilization. No hall fire burning brightly, no line of armed men can keep him back when he desires destruction. But as John Gardner tells of Grendel, this was not always so. For the bane of the Hrothgar’s hall has a soul much tormented by his desire for good and fellowship with the humans even as his demonic appearance frightens them into violent action. To them, he is a thing, and so he becomes what they believe him to be--an adversary whose fame has spanned the centuries.

Jefferson’s Nephews: A Frontier Tragedy, by Boynton Merrill, Jr.

Jefferson's Nephews: A Frontier Tragedy

They say every family has its black sheep.

Jefferson’s Nephews, by Boynton Merrill, Jr., tells of a vile murder mostly forgotten, which played out in the hinterlands of a new Kentucky settlement in the early 1800s. Two brothers had come away from their family’s land in Albemarle County, Virginia, to try to make a fresh start. But Isham and Lilburne Lewis brought with them bitter hearts and slave labor—a combination that was to prove lethal. The gruesomeness and cruelty of their crime rocked the nearby community of Livingston County. Perhaps more shocking to the white citizens was the brothers’ blue blood pedigree.
 

The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Dateline: Hampstead, London, 1851

Twenty-something drawing master William Hartright was passing a pleasant evening en route to his next assignment as a live-in tutor for two young ladies at Limmeridge House when he was accosted by a young woman oddly garbed all in white who begged for his help. She refused to tell him her name, from whence she came or to where she was going. Being a gentleman, he escorted her, as was her design, to the nearest cab stand. Along the way, they chatted—The Woman in White, oddly intense and excitable, and he, curious to find out what he could about this very determined lady in distress.
 
What he did discover was that she knew the family who had hired him but, warm as her feelings seemed to be to the Fairlies, she was sufficiently troubled by another horror to bolt into the procured cab and race off towards her unstated destination. A few minutes later, Mr. Hartright saw another carriage driving recklessly and pulling up short near a policeman. The men in the carriage shouted to the officer—had he seen a woman in white? She had just escaped from their private insane asylum.

Car Science: An Under-the-Hood, Behind-the-Dash Look at How Cars Work by Richard Hammond

Car Science by Richard Hammond

Kids who like car books soon outgrow the ones with nice pictures and simple diagrams—and then what? What do you give a car-crazy kid who – might – be drawn into the fascinating world of science and engineering if he had the right teacher? Most car books for older kids are chock full of dull details and have no excitement whatsoever. They drone. They drag. They discourage with their very verbiage. We’ve got a cure for that.  Richard Hammond, star of the BBC’s Top Gear and past host of Brainiac: Science Abuse, has teamed with picture-mad DK publishing to bring off Car Science: An Under-the-Hood, Behind-the-Dash Look at How Cars Work.

The book is divided into four very fun, very illustrated sections: Power, Speed, Handling, and Technology. There’s never a dull moment as Mr. Hammond divulges details of “…everything you need to know to be a real driving expert. How a turbocharger works, how gasoline is made; we’ll look inside gearboxes and learn why a Formula 1 car’s brakes glow pink when it’s stopping. And, at the end, we’ll look at the kind of cars that we might be driving in the future.”

That Laura Ingalls!

 When Laura Elizabeth Ingalls got married, she asked the minister to change the wording in the wedding ceremony. She did not want to promise to always obey her husband, and in this as in many things she got her way. But she and Almanzo (whom she called Manly—he called her Bess) had a long and happy marriage working a farm not on the prairie that Laura loved so well but in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri, leaving the Little House her Pa built far behind.

How did she go from prairie girl to mountain girl? The road to the Ozarks was a hard one for the young married couple. Luckily, Laura had always been strong as well as headstrong. Even when she was a young teenager she still liked playing baseball during her free time at school instead of sitting and chatting politely with the more ladylike girls. She used her strength for others, too. So that her sister Mary could go to the school for the blind, she worked every job she could—sewing, cooking, cleaning, waiting tables, and looking after the sick. When she was fifteen years old, a man from a neighboring community asked her to come and teach school. Although she was really too young to be allowed to do it and really didn’t want to be a teacher, she agreed. The money was good, and it would help her family.

The Irrepressible Irish Brigade

Virginia Horse Racing

Wars are filled with days and nights of exhausting, exciting, dangerous encounters. But then there are also the long-term encampments—weeks or months when it seems absolutely nothing is happening. For hundreds of men in the Union’s Irish Brigade, Saint Patrick’s Day of 1863 was an occasion to make merry. They had had dirges enough already.

Only the year before, some of the new recruits had been worried that the war might end before they had a chance to meet the enemy in the field. These sons of Erin were true fighting Irish, and they were spoiling for a donnybrook. What they saw as they marched through the wasted Virginia countryside was sobering, though. The men were away fighting, and many of the slaves had sought refuge with the Federal troops as contraband. Spread before the Army of the Potomac were fields overgrown with brambles, lying unsown. At farmhouses, they met women and children thin with hunger. One soldier remarked that the scene reminded him terribly of famine days in the Old Country. Surely they could whip such an army.

Cutting Costs and Time--But Not Taste

Here’s a quick look at four cookbooks that offer very different takes on making the most of your food budget and your schedule. From true Brit to vegan to down home Southern, you’re likely to find that one of these books for cooks matches your palate and your wallet.