Dangers in Numbers, Crimson Summer, The Magnolia Palace, The Curse of Beauty: The Scandalous and Tragic Life of Audrey Munson, America’s First Supermodel, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Henry Clay Frick: An Intimate Portrait

Danger in Numbers by Heather Graham.  This is the first in the Amy Larson and Hunter Forrest series.  Graham is known for her Krewe novels and over 150 unique novels.  Her new series takes us into the backwoods of the Everglades in Florida, where Graham resides, on a mystery of gruesome murders committed in ritualistic ways of the Four Horseman of the Apocolypse.  The story had me engrossed and wondering what will happen next.  It is a fast read and fast pace.  Graham’s second novel of the series is out, Crimson Summer, and it is in this month’s new selections.  I’m currently reading an advance copy and these two books are circulating with our Edwards patrons.  Check them out.

The Magnolia Palace, by Fiona Davis.  Davis, the author of The Lions of Fifth Avenue, writes another historical fiction novel about the Frick Mansion in New York City.  Like Lions, this novel takes place in 1919 and 1966, before and after.  It involves the Henry Clay Frick family, his daughter Helen who is one of the main characters, and the main character, 21 Lillian Carter, known as Angelica, the model who posed for sculptors during the Gilded Age.  It is a wonderful tale about Gilded Age living, love, and hardship, as well as the times of the 60s with what was happening with the model industry and the arts and how the Frick Collection and Art Museum came to be.  Highly recommended.  This story had me intrigued to research more about the Frick’s and the story of Audrey Munson, the model who the character Lillian Carter sort of portrayed in this novel, which is my next book in the review.

The Curse of Beauty:  The Scandalous and Tragic Life of Audrey Munson, America’s First Supermodel, by James Bone.  This sad story is the tale of the first supermodel, Audrey Munson.  She was the artist muse of the Gilded Age, and her likeness is noted throughout NYC in many carved and bronze statues, facades, and reliefs.  I became intrigued about her through The Magnolia Palace book as Fiona Davis took Audrey Munson and reinvented a character in her book, Lillian Carter, aka Angelica, as the model muse in her book.  This is a truly sad story.  Audrey Munson was committed to an insane asylum in Ogdensburg, NY, better known as the St. Lawrence State Hospital for the Insane, or as we know it today, The St. Lawrence Psychiatric Hospital.  Muson died at the hospital on February 20, 1996, at the age of 104 in an unmarked grave.  

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.  I don’t know what to say other than OMG!  This book came out in 1985, one year after 1984 and it is a very Orwellian and dystopian account of the world.  What can I say?  It is not for the faint of heart, so if you want a romance novel or a murder mystery thriller, don’t read it.  It makes you think, could this actually happen?  The writing is exquisite and some scenes in the book make you laugh, others are like no way! The sequel to this book is The Testaments published in 2019.  By then, the Hulu series had come out and become a hit series.  If you want to be disturbed but curious, like I am, read the first book.  I will be reading the second one as well and will let you know how it compares. 

Henry Clay Frick: An Intimate Portrait by Marth Frick Symington Sanger.  Because I was intrigued with the Magnolia Palace by Fiona Davis, I requested this book from the New York State Public Library in Albany.  I have it here at the library and it is extremely interesting to look at as it has pictures of the artwork as well as old pictures of the family, old documents, and is a complete history of Henry Clay Frick by Frick’s great-grandaughter, Martha, who is the fifth Martha of the family.  (The author stated in the introduction that the name Martha is a curse of the family, but she doesn’t believe it.)  The book also highlights a portrait of Helen Clay Frick, the eccentric daughter of Henry Clay Frick and the author’s great aunt.  The author has a first-hand account of visiting Helen and gives a wonderful account of her in the last few chapters.  She subsequently published a biography about Helen and this book is hard to find in our system so I will be ordering it for review through an out-of-state library in the near future.  The book reads easily and gives the reader an intimate account of the Henry Clay Frick as the author gives first-hand knowledge about the family that other scholars had not been able to obtain.  Her great aunt was the founder and head of the Frick collection for decades, the only woman on the board of men until her resignation in 1961. She passed in 1984 at age 96, and the author was able to get access to records never seen before as well as give her recollection of the days she had spent with her great aunt.  That was the author’s next book, Helen Clay Frick: Bittersweet Heiress, the next biography to request!

On the list to read:

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Breathless by Amy McCullouch

Yerba Buena by Nina LaCour

Trust by Herman Diaz