Book Review: The Disappearance of Alistair Ainsworth by Leonard Goldberg

Joanna Blalock returns in the third and final installment of the Daughter of Sherlock Holmes trilogy to solve her most challenging – and arguably most important – mystery yet. A physician colleague of her father-in-law, the one-and-only Watson, has just made a most disturbing house call. After being taken to an undisclosed location to evaluate a man with abdominal pain, he has become convinced that his patient is actually a prisoner.

In The Disappearance of Alistair Ainsworth, Joanna must not only figure out who was kidnapped, but why, how, and where. It is only when armed with all this knowledge that she can put together the pieces of a puzzle that, if unsolved, threatens to compromise Britain’s position in The Great War.

Alistair Ainsworth is a top cryptographer in the British government. He has been kidnapped by the Germans because of his important role in the war effort. If they are able to break him before he is recovered by the Scotland Yard, Germany will be privy to all of England’s war secrets. The stakes could not be higher as the daughter of Sherlock Holmes is brought onto the case. As the clock ticks, she must combine all the pieces and discover the traitor in their midst.

True to her relaxed and unpressured style, Joanna sets about to save the day once again. Never one to succumb to her emotions, she takes each new piece of information and mulls it over, often with a Turkish cigarette in hand. She sees every nuance of a person’s behavior and processes it. No one is presumed innocent or guilty until the facts demand it – but the facts are subtle and often appreciated by Joanna alone until made clear to all by her straightforward and indisputable explanations. As always, once Joanna has explained her thought process, the facts of the case can be seen no other way.

Alistair’s counterparts in the Admiralty Club, a government-run code-breaking unit, work tirelessly to interpret a message intercepted from the German spies. They are sure it’s a hidden clue from their friend. But before the message can be decoded, one of the top suspects from within the cryptographer unit is found murdered – only seconds away from solving the mystery of the code. It is more important than ever that they discover the identity of the traitor in their midst and find Alistair before it is too late and he is forced to reveal more government secrets.

In this compelling stand-alone sequel, no conclusion is obvious and no information can be taken for granted. The reader is along for the ride, never ahead of Joanna in her predictions but also rarely far behind. From specific brands of cigarettes to the sound made by a carriage over a cobblestone road, nothing is too small a detail to be ignored. Without each individual piece of evidence, the story cannot be solved and Alistair will remain a German prisoner.

Goldberg once more transports his readers back in time. We ride with Joanna in a horse-drawn carriage and enjoy a meal of chicken cordon bleu at a fancy French restaurant. We commune with the people of London circa 1915 and become part of the war effort. We begin to think of Joanna as a friend and confidant, and only as the last pages are turned and the book closed for the final time are we spit back into reality, where there exists no one like Joanna Blalock and where most questions can be answered with a quick Google search.


Book Review: A Study in Treason by Leonard Goldberg


A top-secret treaty has been stolen from the Halifax estate in the English countryside and, if leaked into the wrong hands, could see England brought into a war with Germany as a significant underdog. Joanna Blalock, brilliant daughter of Sherlock Holmes (and knowledgeable of all things trivial by her own right) takes readers on another eventful investigation in A Study in Treason, the stand-alone sequel to The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes, the RT Book Reviewers Choice for Best Historic Mystery Novel in 2017.

When Joanna Blalock is brought onto the case, her relaxed, non-pressured style of solving the mystery is immediately at odds with the professionals of Scotland Yard. Like the true clinician she is, she approaches each conundrum with true curiosity and discernment. At each step of the way, she utilizes Ockham’s Razor: “Plurality ought never be posed without necessity,” or more simply stated, “The most unifying explanation is most likely to be correct.” While Scotland Yard’s inspectors grab hold of their first suspect for dear life, explaining away contradictions and impossibilities right and left, Joanna has the humility and good grace to accept that if an answer doesn’t make sense, it is likely because she doesn’t yet have all the facts. In this way, she stalwartly seeks out the facts and thereby appears to let the mystery solve itself.

Set in the early 1900s, with much of the action taking place in an inn and estate far from the bustling city of London, the novel transports its reader to a simpler time. The dialogue, the dress, the way of doing things (for example, the treaty was stolen while being hand-copied for the purpose of creating duplicate records) all are in stark contrast to today’s digital world. But the point is made throughout the novel that no matter how simple a setting seems, there is villainy is every place and every time, and it is often much more easily disguised in a place like Hampshire and a time like 1914.

As potential witnesses are murdered and the prime suspect goes into hiding, seeming to prove his guilt, Joanna and her companions must put the pieces together in a way that makes sense start to finish. Only once they have done this can the culprit can be flushed out.

Goldberg is true to his characters throughout the novel. Joanna is a strong and bold woman. She is well-bred, but makes no apologies for speaking out of turn or contradicting her male counterparts at Scotland Yard. Her husband, Dr. John Watson, along with her father-in-law, the original Watson, are also along for the ride. The two men have their own individual skills and knowledge to add to the investigation. The cast of domestic workers, inn employees, and members of the Halifax family each have their roles, and their own information to offer to the investigation, often without even realizing it. And Goldberg stays true to each story to the very end. With each i dotted and each tcrossed, the reader is not left with a single inkling of dissatisfaction, but with that glorious “it was there all along” feeling that is a necessity with every good surprise ending.

Purchase A Study in Treason here.

I’m Going to Live Vicariously Through My Kids (and I’m going to love every second of it)

Before I had kids I had this charming notion they would be little half-people. You know, half me and half my husband. My two favorite people in the whole world! What’s not to love?

What I’ve realized since having kids – and especially since seeing them start developing their personalities – is that while, yes, they get their genes from their parents, they are 100% their own little dudes.

Watching my older son walk into his classroom and be greeted by his friends of all different colors and backgrounds makes my heart swell with pride. They love him simply because he’s so fun to be around. He approaches every game, every song, every dance with a joie de vivre that is so natural you can’t help but want in on it. Even if his clothes don’t match (sometimes) or his hair is matted and sticking up crazily on the back of his head (usually), these kids greet him with excitement and open arms. That’s all him. But the corollary of this passionate approach to life is that he wears his heart on his sleeve. Now that – that’s all me.

The other day, my son got his feelings hurt. No, let’s not downplay it. He got his heart broken. A friend didn’t want to play with him anymore, and he cried bitter, bitter tears. I held him and tried to say what a parent should in that moment, without knowing the whole story: “he’ll want to play with you tomorrow” (it’s amazing how often these deferred promises work for my kid), “next time let’s make sure we share” (just in case it was his fault), and “do you want to watch something on TV?” (don’t judge, I was desperate). As I sat on the couch with him and the sobs slowed down, his friend showed up at the front door. He’d had a change of heart. They happily picked up where they’d left off, and the drama was forgotten. At one point, my son broke away to grab another toy and detoured to the kitchen on his way back to his friend. He whispered loudly, happily: “I’m having so much fun!”

That experience instantly transported me back to my own childhood. I felt the ache in my chest, the hopelessness of a friend’s rejection, like it was my own heart breaking. And it was. To watch this happen to my son, knowing exactly how he felt, was to experience it myself. The most well-written book or brilliantly acted drama could not elicit the feelings that consumed me while sitting on that couch with my first-born. Because there it was, there was the part of me in him. More than his eyes or his white-blond hair, he inherited this vulnerability from me.

I remember when I realized my husband was the last person I would ever kiss. Part of me felt just a little sad that I would never again experience that glorious, free-falling sensation of new love. The delirious, heady tingling right before a first kiss. Even the all-consuming break-up when you know for a fact you will never love again… Of course, it’s a good trade-off. It’s the point all those first kisses and heartbreaks are designed to get you to. But it’s still a little bittersweet.

Now I know I was wrong about all that. I will experience the ecstasy of a first kiss again. I will ride the roller coaster of new love. I will be crippled by a broken heart. It just won’t be my own.

“Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” –Elizabeth Stone

How to Throw an Out-of-this-World Book Launch

1. Pick a phenomenal venue. We’re talking the kind of place where the owners and staff know you by name and have your favorite drink waiting for you when you arrive. Where the food is delicious and the service is just right. A place that fits you like an old shoe.

2. Be sure to have an amazing cadre of friends and family. You know, people who are happy for you and genuinely wish you well. Their smiling faces will really make your night – and make the photos look amazing. And on that note…


3. Find someone who can work magic with a camera. Like a wedding, a book launch only happens once…at least until the next, uh, book comes along. So be sure you document every delicious moment.


4. Oh yeah, be sure to bring your book. After all, it is sort of the guest of honor.

5. …And a pen. You, who have spent your life signing credit card receipts, will suddenly be asked to write your name in a book. A book that you wrote. To make it special. Enjoy basking in that feeling.

6. Show your appreciation. While it would be nice to shower your guests with Dom Perignon and caviar, it may not be practical. But they are spending their night with you to support you, which is invaluable. Do what you can to make sure their time is well spent. And be sure to say thank you.

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What They Don’t Know

A great review of What They Don’t Know! (click “view original post” to see the review)



What They Don’t Know by K.V. Scruggs

What they don’t know can’t hurt them…or can it?

In the year 2030, the government has seized control of healthcare. Routine treatment is administered to patients and monitored via in-home telemedicine. Hospitals have been replaced by Centers for Standardized Medicine (CSM). No one is a bigger proponent of the changes than reporter Cheyenne Rose, who lost her mother shortly after the Healthcare Crash of 2018 and her fiancé ten years later after a freak accident.

Despite her incredible success and popularity, her life feels empty. Then she meets the Reid family and feels drawn to their simple and honest love for each other. When eight-year-old Ridge Reid’s younger brother develops kidney failure, he agrees to donate one of his kidneys to save his brother’s life. But Ridge unexpectedly dies on the table, and the doctor who performed the surgery vanishes.

Faced with a…

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Guest Post by Kimmery Martin: Interview with K.V. Scruggs, Author of What They Don’t Know

By: Kimmery Martin, author of The Queen of Hearts (available for preorder HERE).

Scruggs Family Sesh-87Today, I’m speaking with the author of a great new medical thriller, my physician friend K.V. Scruggs. See below for a description of her thought-provoking, intricately plotted futuristic novel as well as an interview about her story and her writing process.

In the year 2030, the government has seized control of healthcare. Routine treatment is administered to patients and monitored via in-home telemedicine. Hospitals have been replaced by Centers for Standardized Medicine (CSM). No one is a bigger proponent of the changes than reporter Cheyenne Rose, who lost her mother shortly after the Healthcare Crash of 2018 and her fiancé ten years later after a freak accident.

Despite her incredible success and popularity, her life feels empty. Then she meets the Reid family and feels drawn to their simple and honest love for each other. When eight-year-old Ridge Reid’s younger brother develops kidney failure, he agrees to donate one of his kidneys to save his brother’s life. But Ridge unexpectedly dies on the table, and the doctor who performed the surgery vanishes.

Faced with a conspiracy that runs far deeper than a single surgery, Cheyenne finds herself thrust into a dangerous investigation. Her informants start turning up dead, and she realizes the people responsible will do almost anything to keep their secret. Cheyenne will risk everything to uncover the truth.



KM: What They Don’t Know takes place in two different timelines: Then, which begins in 2018 and ends in 2028, and Now, occurring in the year 2030. What made you choose that format? How does it benefit the story?

KS: The story takes place after a “healthcare crash” in 2018. For me, setting the crash in the very near future gives it a sort of gravity, like it could just happen in real life if we don’t treat our brittle medical system with care. In response to the crash, new ways to cut corners and improve the bottom line are introduced, and along the way some ethical lines are crossed. But the real story begins in 2030 when a huge mistake is made which threatens to expose the system for what it has become. So I wanted to focus on the high stakes story line right out of the gate, but trickle in the backstory a little bit at a time to help set the stage for what it to come. Sometime the reader knows more than Cheyenne, and sometimes he knows less, but it’s always just enough to add one more piece to the puzzle. I’ve always loved when two seemingly separate story lines are revealed to have a common thread—or two or three. It was important to me to bring it all full circle in a way that would be satisfying for my readers.

KM: How did you come up with the title?

KS: The phrase “What you don’t know can’t hurt you” kept coming to mind as I thought about the underlying theme of the novel. The book tackles some interesting ethical questions. Should the government (or anyone) be authorized to make decisions that hurt a few people to help the majority? What about if the alternative is that everyone is worse off? The tipping point in this novel is when it becomes clear that what they don’t know can hurt them, and it does.

KM: Your protagonist, a young reported named Cheyenne, has suffered a lot of loss so far in her young life and managed to rise above the ashes, but she has an ongoing struggle with alcohol abuse. Why did you make that choice for her character?

KS: I think there are a lot of people who can relate to her as a successful and hardworking—but flawed—individual. In the story, she has to overcome her dependence on alcohol to do what she feels she needs to do, to tell this most important story of her life. And even then, Cheyenne’s relationship with alcohol threatens her success multiple times along the way. In some aspects, it becomes another character, another villain.

KM: Let’s talk about the Reid family. There’s the father, Danny; the mother, Isabella; and the boys, Ridge and Hendrix. It seems like they all care for each other deeply, but there’s a tension or dissatisfaction emanating from Isabella that’s hard to ignore.

KS: The Reids were some of the first characters I wrote in this novel and I’ve been surprised at times by how things played out throughout the story. Danny has always been the rock. For him, things are black and white, good and evil. He has always believed you work hard and take care of your family, and he loves his family more than anything. When he has an accident that leaves him disabled, it threatens his whole identity. Isabella, on the other hand, has always felt to me like she didn’t quite fit with Danny. So rather than fight that feeling, I made it part of her character. She has a lot of regret about how her life has turned out: she has a disabled husband, a minimum wage job, and they live paycheck to paycheck. But in the end, she’s a mother with a simple and fierce love for her children, and I think that’s why she and Danny work together.

KM: In your day job, you’re a practicing physician. How and why did you start writing fiction?

KS: I always loved reading and writing growing up, but there wasn’t much time for that during medical school and residency. Finally, when I was settled in my first job out of training I began to write again. At first, I didn’t know I was writing a novel, much less a medical thriller. But the story and characters began to develop a life of their own and I just let them take me along for the ride! Ironically, I tend to read more in the literary and women’s fiction genres, but I dabble in thrillers and dystopians as well, so I guess it made sense with my background that I wrote a medical thriller.

KM: Are you working on anything now? 

KS: I have started a psychological/domestic thriller told in the point of view of a preteen boy. I haven’t decided on a name, yet. Thinking something along the lines of You’ll Scare the Children.

Buy What They Don’t Know HERE.

About Kimmery Martin:

Kimmery Martin won her first short story contest in the first grade, and was awarded a red stuffed elephant and publication in the school newspaper.  Her writing career then suffered an unfortunate dry spell, finally broken with the publication of the enthralling journal article Lymphatic Mapping and Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy in the Staging of Melanoma, followed by the equally riveting sequel Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy for Pelvic Malignancies, both during medical school. 

Conscious readers remained elusive, however, prompting her to wait another decade or so before trying again.  This time, spurred on by a supportive husband and three constantly interfering children, she produced an entire novel.  The Queen of Hearts, exploring the startling secrets in a friendship between a cardiologist and a trauma surgeon, became an instantly beloved classic amongst three of her friends.  It will be published by Penguin Random House in 2018. 

When not working on her next novel, Kimmery spends her time mothering her slew of perfect children.  She’s also occupied with poorly executed household chores, working as a physician, and serving on various non-profit boards in Charlotte, North Carolina.  She exercises grudgingly, cooks inventively, reads voraciously, offers helpful book recommendations, interviews authors, publishes travel articles, and edits her son’s middle grade book reviews. Finally, she is a world-class Boggle champion, which most people find to be sexy beyond all description. 


Women in Medicine and Other Novelties – An Interview with Author and Physician, Dr. Leonard Goldberg


Dr. Leonard Goldberg is, quite simply, a force to be reckoned with. A Charleston, SC native, he received his medical degree from the Medical University of South Carolina and went on to become board certified in Internal Medicine, Hematology, and Rheumatology. Despite a successful and busy practice as a consulting physician at UCLA, he has somehow found the time to cultivate a second career as a best-selling novelist. His first medical thriller, Transplant, was published in 1980. Since then he has written a total of fourteen novels, the most recent of which is The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes, available June 6, 2017. I caught up with Dr. Goldberg to ask him a few questions about his new novel, his career path, his thoughts about women in medicine, and his impressions of the challenges facing healthcare professionals today. I have to say, I’m even more of a fan after hearing his answers!

KS: Your new novel, The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes, takes place in 1914. I was interested to see that the main character is Joanna Blalock, a nurse by training who has a special knack for forensics. Did you plan from the beginning to star the same protagonist as in the popular “Joanna Blalock” series? Is she the same character in a different time period, or is she meant to be an ancestor of forensic pathologist, Dr. Joanna Blalock?

LG: Very perceptive, Kristine. The Joanna Blalock in The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes is the long ago grandmother of the modern day forensic pathologist who carries the same name. The idea of course is that the modern day Joanna has inherited some of Sherlock Holmes’s genes, which explains her remarkable deductive abilities. A more complete family history goes as follows: the Victorian Joanna’s son fought for England as a fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force during World War 2, migrated to America after the war, and became the father of the modern day Joanna while a successful banker in San Francisco.

KS: Speaking of Joanna Blalock, I think it’s great that you have featured a female physician in so many of your novels. What made you choose a female as your protagonist when writing Deadly Medicine, the first of nine books in the Joanna Blalock series? What were the challenges in writing from that perspective? What made it more fun?

LG: I chose a stunning, youthful-appearing female for a number of reasons. First and foremost, people would tend to underestimate her because of her beauty and relatively young age. Thus she would continually have to prove herself in a field dominated by older, more experienced males. Hers was not an easy road to travel, but she persevered and succeeded despite the obvious obstacles. I too had a youthful appearance when I began as an Assistant Professor at UCLA and was often taken to be an intern, so I have some insight into overcoming a youthful look. There were no major challenges writing from a female perspective. All I had to do was watch the women on staff at UCLA fight their way to the top where they belonged.

KS: I love that perspective! And I can definitely relate to being taken for a younger physician. It can be both a blessing and a curse!

Most of your novels are set in today’s world, and I’ve read that you get most of your ideas from the news. Your new story takes place in the early 1900s. Where did you get the idea for The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes?

LG: I actually got the idea from a critic who happened to give me a fine review on an earlier novel. He stated that the story “seemed to fly along on the Holmesian wings of Joanna Blalock.” That was the moment I connected Joanna Blalock to Sherlock Holmes and I knew that someday I would tie Joanna into Sherlock in a stand-alone novel. And I eventually did in The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes.

KS: Was it hard to switch gears and set your story in the past? Did you have to do more research than in your previous, contemporary novels?

LG: It did require a fair amount of research to convincingly go back to the early post Victorian days. There were a variety of seemingly little things that had to be looked into in order to assure accuracy of the novel. For example, when did automobiles appear in numbers on the streets of London and horse-drawn carriages begin to disappear? When were the cobblestone streets paved over with asphalt? And more importantly, what professional positions in medicine were available to women in this era, even those of high intellect? It took a lot of work, but I think I got it right. Knowing the streets of London presented no problem. During my sabbatical year from UCLA, I lived in London for a year and did research at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, which is featured in my novel. By the way, my apartment was located ten blocks from Sherlock Holmes’s rooms at 221b Baker Street.

KS: Very cool! As you mentioned, Dr. Joanna Blalock has been described by critics as “Holmesian,” and your newest book puts her grandmother right alongside the characters of Sir Author Conan Doyle. Would it be fair to say that the Sherlock Holmes books have influenced your writing? What other authors do you admire?

LG: Of course the Sherlock Holmes influenced me a great deal. As a youngster I read all of Sherlock’s stories so many times that the volumes became dog-eared. I knew all the characters in depth so it was no problem for me to feature Inspector Lestrade’s son and the son of John Watson in my novel, and endow them with some of the talents (and flaws) their fathers had. It made for a nice continuum to go with the definite Sherlockian characteristics that Joanna possessed. As far as my favorite authors are concerned, they are James Clavell (Shogan), Herman Wouk (The Winds of War), and Tess Gerritsen (Harvest). For character development, no one can match Charles Dickens. Try to find a more sympathetic soul in all of literature that can compare to Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol.

KS: The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes seems like it could be the beginning of a new series. Do you have a sequel in the works?

LG: Indeed it will be a series. The contract I signed with St. Martin’s Press calls for 3 novels. I am currently on the second.

KS: Do you still practice medicine? How do you manage your time? What do your colleagues think of your career as an author? What does your family think of your writing?

LG: I no longer practice and spend every day writing. When I was in practice, I had to literally squeeze in my writing. I devoted 3 hours every night (if the phone didn’t ring), and a bit more on the weekends. It made for very full days and nights, but once the writing bug bites you are sucked into it for life. Oliver Wendell Holmes referred to it as “the intoxicating pleasure of authorship.” My family and colleagues love my stories, but of course they are very biased. Of particular interest, my colleague always saw themselves in some of my characters. I told them that they were 50% of a given character. They had to guess which 50%.

KS: The “writing bug.” I think I’m going to have to use that phrase.

On a more serious note, what do you see as the biggest challenges we face as healthcare providers in 2017? What are the biggest differences in practicing medicine now compared with when you first became a physician?

LG: Not surprisingly, the answers to both questions are intertwined. In the 60s and 70s, medicine for the most part was controlled by physicians. The rules and regulations were set by the doctors and their medical boards and societies. It was a simpler, far less complicated world back then. But this has gradually changed over the years. With the advent of Medicare and Medicaid, the government and the insurance companies began to take over the practice of medicine. Add to this, the military health services, the VA system, the Public Health Hospitals, and the HMOs, etc., and it becomes quite apparent that much of medicine in our country is now dictated by government rules and regulations, in concert with the giant insurance companies. We seem to be headed to a single payer system or perhaps a National Health System, much like what is present in most of the western world. How we will adapt to this system and whether it will eventually work to everyone’s benefit, only time will tell. The big question and challenge is whether such a system can be devised and implemented to fit our country’s needs, yet still maintain the high quality of medicine we are accustomed to.

KS: You make some very good points that I think most physicians would agree with. It’s an interesting time in medicine, and I think there are a lot of big changes on the horizon.

Leonard, thank you so much for your time. I wish you success with the release of The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes. Can’t wait to get my copy!