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There are one million new books published each year. With so many books and so little time, where do you begin to find your next must-read? There’s the New York Times Bestseller list, the Goodreads app, the Cape Library’s Staff picks shelf and now Martin’s Must-Reads.Every Wednesday at 6:42 and 8:42 a.m., and Sunday at 8:18 a.m., Betty Martin recommends a must read based on her own personal biases for historical fiction, quirky characters and overall well-turned phrases. Her list includes WWII novels, biographies of trailblazers, novels with truly unique individuals and lots more. Reading close to 100 titles a year, Betty has plenty of titles to share.Local support for "Martin's Must Reads" comes from the Cape Girardeau Public Library and the Poplar Bluff Municipal Library.

Martin's Must Reads: 'Ashton Hall'

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“On a Sunday morning in late June, I waited with my son at the side entrance of a stately home near Cambridge, England. We stood on a stone bridge that spanned what was once a moat, the water drained, a grassy pathway at the bottom, the moat’s walls overgrown with greenery.”

I’m Betty Martin with "Martin’s Must Reads" and those are the opening lines to Lauren Belfer’s newest novel Ashton Hall. Hannah Larson and her nine year old son Nicky have traveled from New York to care for Christopher, an ailing uncle.

Nicky is a neurodiverse child, intelligent with an incredible memory but also prone to violent outbursts. Hannah welcomes this change of scenery both because she will have help caring for her son and because she needs space from her cheating husband.

Nicky, while wandering through the castle-like hall at night, discovers a secret room, completely walled except for a window opening and through that opening he sees a skeleton lying on a bed. A detective and archeologists are called in to investigate. Matthew, an archaeologist, the resident librarian who is cataloging the huge library and Hannah work together to solve the mystery of the skeleton’s identity and how she came to be in a walled room.

An interesting aspect of this novel is how historians use original documents to reconstruct a story of life in a given period. In this case, it’s the sixteenth century and they use account books, sketchbooks and the library register . Besides solving the mystery, this is a story about Hannah, a woman who must come to terms with her current circumstances and decide what path she wants her life to take.

If you’re looking for a novel about complex relationships and historical research, then you must read Ashton Hall by Lauren Belfer.

Betty Martin was born in Boston, Massachusetts to a Lutheran pastor and his organist wife. Betty’s love of books was inspired by her father who read to all four children each night.