Monday, December 20, 2021

Book Review: The Stories We Tell by Liz Milliron (Homefront Mysteries #2)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, sense of time, and story…
Cons: …once the story gets past the initial set up
The Bottom Line:
A dead grandmother
Connected to a murder?
Slow start but ends strong

The Secrets We Keep Lead to Stories We Tell

If I had all the time in the world to read, I still wouldn’t get all the books read I’d like to read.  Wait, that wasn’t my original point.  If I had all the time in the world to read, I would have returned to Betty Ahern’s world sooner.  I did enjoy the first Homefront Mystery from Liz Milliron when I read it last year, so I was looking forward to visiting Betty again in The Stories We Tell.  I’m happy to say I enjoy this book as well.

This is a historical mystery series set in Buffalo during World War II.  Betty works at the Bell Airplane factory by day, but at night she is trying to cultivate a career as a private investigator as inspired by the mystery movies she enjoys so much.

As this book opens in December 1942, it’s only been a couple of weeks since Betty solved a case that involved her job at Bell, and some of her co-workers have been coming to her with small things they hope she can help them resolve.  However, she isn’t quite sure what to do for her co-worker Emmie.  Emmie’s grandmother passed away very unexpectedly just a couple of weeks ago.  The family is saying it was a heart attack, but Emmie doesn’t buy it and she wants Betty to figure out what really happened.  Betty isn’t sure what she can do, especially since there was no autopsy or police investigation at all, but she agrees to do what she can.

She’s just about concluded that the grandmother did die of natural causes when a member of the visiting Polish government in exile is murdered.  As the chance that there was a connection between the two becomes stronger, Betty begins to wonder if that connection includes them both being murdered.  Can Betty figure out what is really going on?

I was easily back in Betty’s world within just a couple of pages.  Since she works in a factory, that means she can’t just go off and investigate whenever she gets a fresh new clue.  I find that a refreshing change of pace.

Having said that, I did find the beginning of the book a little slow.  I think it is because it takes time for Betty to establish what we already know is going to happen in the early stages of the plot.  But I persisted, and when I hit about a third of the way into the book, the plot really picked up, and I got hooked.  The resolution is good.  There is one red herring that doesn’t get fully wrapped up, but overall, I set the book down satisfied.

The characters are fun.  Betty has a couple of friends who help her investigate, and I really enjoy all three of them.  She also lives with her family, and I enjoyed seeing the progression in their relationships.  There weren’t a ton of suspects, but they were strong, and there were enough to keep me guessing.

As I was reading the book, I was reminded just how different a time this was in our society.  Betty is engaged to a soldier, but she is still young by today’s standards.  I had to remind myself of that at times as she was interacting with her parents.  Between her age and the time period, it makes some of their behavior much more understandable.  Not that she has bad relationships with them, but it’s just different.

Details of life during the time infuse every page.  It’s humbling to realize what people went through even at home during that period.  I enjoyed how those details were incorporated into the story without slowing the story down at all.

The book is set during December, and Christmas is mentioned, but it isn’t a large part of the book.  If you pick this book up expecting that to be a large theme, you’ll be disappointed.  But that’s a very minor issue.

The third book in the series is coming out in just a couple of months, and I’m hoping I can get to it sooner than I did The Stories We Tell.  If you haven’t yet met Betty, now is the time to do so.  That way, you’ll be ready for her next case, too.


  1. Oh this sounds like a series I would really enjoy! Adding to my list. Have you read Brynn Bonner's Family Mystery series? Her main characters are professional genealogists and I absolutely loved it. Sadly she doesn't seem to be writing anymore.