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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Review - Murder on Amersterdam Avenue

 I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the novel in this series that I read a few years ago, #12 Murder on Lexington Avenue (click here for review). I decided to get back into this series with this offering.  This is the seventeenth book in the series, and let's see how well these characters have stood the test of time.

Author: Victoria Thompson

Copyright: May 2016 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series: 17th in Gaslight Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Cozy

Main Character:  Midwife Sarah Brandt

Setting:  Victorian New York City

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

"In the midst of Sarah and Frank’s wedding preparations, Sarah accompanies her mother on a condolence call to the Upper West Side, where Charles Oakes, the son of family friends, has died unexpectedly after suffering from a mysterious disease. But Charles’s father believes his son was poisoned, and would like Sarah and Frank to look into the matter with the utmost discretion.

Putting off their own personal affairs, Sarah and Frank soon learn that not everyone wants to know more about Charles’s death, particularly if he was murdered. As they unravel secrets that reach back to the Civil War, they also discover that they are in the company of a very present danger."

Sarah Brandt is being compelled back into society by her mother inspite attempts to thwart her. 
Frank Malloy has come into substantial money and had to leave the police force.  I need to find the book where his luck so drastically changes and read it pronto.  He is trying to adjust and finding it difficult.  Their children: Sarah's daughter and Frank's deaf son get a little more page time and I love them both.  Maeve and Gino have a slow burn attraction developing that gets to simmer a bit this outing.  Gino is back from the war and unsure about returning to the police station so he helps Frank out on the case.

The setting of New York city is given a different illumination on its culture and citizens in light of the Civil War tie-in.  What you find is a northern city that was filled with prejudice despite what you might think.  It is natural to the story and not forced, but certainly does provide prime conditions for murder.

The plot is somebody, likely close to the young Charles, poisoned him over a few days with Arsenic.  Probably somebody in the family.  Charles is the son of a northern man who took in a southern bell who had lost her family and plantation, had married her and sent her north to his family.  There is plenty of animosity in the family back and forth even thirty years later, but the puzzle of just who was poisoning him...and why is hard to see. 

The killer reveal is a bit startling in the manner it occurs.  The story wraps up wonderfully and shows that Sarah and Frank will be around for more adventures as a private investigator now. 

The series is still going strong with clever plots and realistic characters you want to spend more time with.  I have to go back and start reading the series from the beginning I am so won over.

 Rating:  Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend.

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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Author Guest Post - Victoria Thompson

I will have a review of Murder on Amsterdam Avenue shortly, so please stay tuned that front.  Edgar® and Agatha Nominated author Victoria Thompson writes the Gaslight Mystery Series, set in turn-of-the-century New York City and featuring midwife Sarah Brandt. Her latest, MURDER IN MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS, is a May 2016 release from Berkley Prime Crime.  Please welcome Ms. Thompson to our slice of mystery heaven.

What's new in the series?
Murder on Amsterdam Avenue is the Gaslight Mystery readers have been waiting for! Frank and Sarah finally get married. Of course they solve a mystery first and it’s a dandy, but then they finally do tie the knot.

What took them so long? The answer is that I had been a romance writer for 20 books before I switched to mystery. When I switched, everyone told me (and told me!) that mystery readers don’t like romance in their mysteries. My editor and my agent and other mystery writers all warned me. This is why I put so many barriers between Frank and Sarah. They could never get together, so I made it impossible for them to get together.

Then a strange thing happened. I started getting fan letters. They would say something nice about the book and oh, by the way, when are Frank and Sarah going to get together?” Everyone wanted to know about a romance between Frank and Sarah. So obviously, mystery readers don’t mind a little romance in their mysteries at all! And after fifteen years of keeping them apart, the fans were getting angry! So I knew something had to happen. The problem was that I’d put up so many barriers between them, I couldn’t figure out how to get them married without ruining the series. Fortunately, one of my writer friends, who had never read a single one of the books, came up with the perfect solution, which I won’t mention in case somebody hasn’t read that book yet.

Fans are already asking if this is the end of the series, and the answer is: Not at all! In fact, the next two books are already written, and I’m contracted for at least one more after that. Frank and Sarah will keep solving mysteries as along as readers keep buying the books. What I want to know now is, were all those people right or wrong to warn me against putting a romance in my mysteries? Tell me your opinions.

THANK you Ms. Thompson for joining us today!

Ms. Thompson has contributed to the award winning writing textbook MANY GENRES/ONE CRAFT. Victoria teaches in the Seton Hill University master's program in writing popular fiction. She lives in Indiana with her husband and a very spoiled little dog. You can find Victoria at Follow her on Facebook at Victoria Thompson.Author or on Twitter @gaslightvt.

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Review - When Falcons Fall

I have been following this series for a little bit.  I have reviewed Who Buries the Dead (click here), Why Kings Confess" (click here), "What Darkness Brings" (click here), "When Maidens Mourn" (click here), and "Where Shadows Dance" (click here).  We were also honored to interview C.S. Harris (click here.)  Let's see how the series doing now that we are into the eleventh book? 

Author: C.S. Harris

Copyright: March 2016 (NAL) 368 pgs

Series: 11th in Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild. clinical discussion of body and death

Mystery Sub-genre:
Historical Private Investigator

Main Character:
Sebastian St. Cyr (Viscount Devlin) a veteran of the Peninsula wars with Napoleon and a nobleman.

Setting: Ayleswick-on-Teme, England 1813

Obtained Through:
Publisher for honest opinion

Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, has come to this seemingly peaceful Shropshire village to honor a slain friend and on a quest to learn more about his own ancestry. But when the body of a lovely widow is found on the banks of the River Teme, a bottle of laudanum at her side, the village’s inexperienced new magistrate turns to St. Cyr for help.

Almost immediately, Sebastian realizes that Emma Chance did not commit suicide. Less easy to discern is exactly how she died, and why. For as Sebastian and Hero soon discover, Emma was hiding both her true identity and her real reasons for traveling to Ayleswick. Living nearby is Napolean's estranged brother Lucien, being held under the British Government's careful watch. Could Emma Chance's death be tied to Napoleon?  But then they discover that Emma was not the first young woman to die in the village.  Could it be a well hidden serial killer in the seemingly peaceful village?

Besides Sebastian and Hero in this outing, there are many villagers populating the pages. Sebastian in searching for answers to his parentage.  He gets a tidbit, but not full answers.  I appreciate how Hero is right there helping him in his personal quest. But, the most notable is the local magistrate (lawman) Archie Rawlins.  Archie is in over his head and doesn't want the easy answer.  If it weren't for this careful and earnest man, another woman would have been murdered but officially written off as a suicide.  This young man is somewhat an unassuming hero in the story and really stands out.

The idea that several murders over many years could have gone without detection because people were so willing to think the worst of the girls who died is truly sad, but rather true to life.  The township has many eerie ruins that the victim, Emma, had been sketching.  Each of the ruins added a slight gothic touch and set quite the backdrop.  The climax was fast moving and both Hero and Sebastian face the killer.  The wrap up was satisfactory and ties up all the loose ends with a few bittersweet notes.

Although this was a story the slowly picked up steam, it was well worth it. This book is a great addition to the series that is consistently well written and immersive.  I have become a fan and begun back with the first book to fill in what I was missing in the series. 

Rating:  Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list

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Monday, May 16, 2016

Author Guest Post - Peg Cochran

Please welcome Peg Cochran to our little slice of the web.  Peg grew up in New Jersey suburbs 25 miles outside of New York.  Her greatest love though as always been writing - particularly mysteries! She has two cozy mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime: The Gourmet De-Lite series set in Connecticut and featuring Gigi Fitzgerald, who provides gourmet diet meals to a select group of clients, and the Sweet Nothings Vintage Lingerie series, written as Meg London, set in Paris, Tennessee with Emma Taylor who finds murder and mayhem in this quiet country town.  She has a new series, Cranberry Cove, and the newest book is titled Berry the Hatchet.  Please welcome her!
Write Your Own Cozy Mystery in Ten Steps
1. Decide on the locale of your story. Is it going to be a real town or fictional? City or country? If it’s a big city, you’ll want to limit the action to a particular neighborhood that almost feels like a small town. Make it somewhere your readers would like to live.

2. Create your “hook.” A hook is what sets your series apart from others. It can be an occupation for your sleuth like librarian, caterer, bookseller, etc. Or your hook can revolve around a hobby—knitting, scrapbooking, needlework, etc.

3. Pick your victim. This is the fun part! Is there someone you would like to kill on paper? A disagreeable co-worker or an annoying neighbor? Be careful to change names and appearances but you can certainly borrow their irritating or despicable traits and make them your victim’s own.

4. Pick your killer. Why does this person hate the victim enough to kill? They need a good motive for the crime. They can be a decent, upstanding citizen on the outside but evil on the inside.

5. Decide on a murder method. Now that you have your killer, what would be a likely murder weapon? A gun or knife? Poison? The proverbial blow to the head with a blunt object? Something exotic like a snake bite?

6. Create your amateur sleuth. You’ll already know a little bit about this person once you’ve created your hook but now is the time to flesh them out. Make them intelligent, inquisitive and clever.

7. Gather a group of suspects together. Hide your killer among a number of people who also had reason to wish the victim dead. One-by-one your sleuth uncovers their alibis until the only one left standing is the murderer.

8. Plot clues and red-herrings. Clues lead your sleuth closer to the killer while red herrings send her on a wild goose chase.

9. Add a touch of romance. Create a love interest for your sleuth. Better yet, create two or more! When she’s not busy tracking down suspects, she’ll be busy weighing the relative merits of each of the men in her life.

10. Write the book! And have fun immersing yourself in this idyllic world where justice always triumphs in the end. 
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
Thank you Ms. Cochran for your tips on writing a mystery. 
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Saturday, May 14, 2016

Review - A Useful Woman

Inspired by the novels of Jane Austen, this new mystery series set in 19th-century London introduces  resourceful Rosalind Thorne, a woman privy to the secrets of high society—including who among the them is capable of murder.  Yep, that hooked me and I had to read this new historical mystery.  The author visited us and you can read her guest blog (click here.)

Author: Darcie Wilde

Copyright: May 2016 (Berkley) 368 pgs

Series: 1st in Rosalind Thorne Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Cozy

Main Characters: Rosalind Thorne, former heiress

Setting: Early 1800s, London

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Rosalind Thorne (Rose Thorn!) is the daughter of a baronet and minor heiress who was nearly ruined after her father abandoned the family because of loosing his fortune in bad investments. To survive in high society - the only world she knows, she began to manage the affairs of some of London society’s most influential women, who have come to rely on her wit and discretion.

So, when aristocratic wastrel Jasper Aimesworth is found dead in London’s most exclusive ballroom, Almack’s, Rosalind must use her skills and connections to uncover the killer from a list of suspects that includes Almack’s powerful patronesses (that includes her godmother) and her former suitor Devon Winterbourne, now Lord Casselmaine. Torn between her old love and a growing attraction to a compelling Bow Street runner, Rosalind must unravel the mysteries surrounding Jasper’s death.

Rosalind Thorne is a memorable character, a proper British version of True Grit's Mattie Ross came to my mind.  She is a survivor and has more substance than most society ladies.  Devon Winterbourne, now Lord Casselmaine, was Rose's old flame but I still wonder about his true character.  Adam Harkness is a Bow Street detective who has more compassion than even modern police are portrayed, although ever so subtle.  I enjoyed Ms Wilde's depiction of one of England's historic early detectives who were privately hired.  Although I find the "cop boyfriend" very cliche, this raises class tensions between Rose and Harkness as well as society's fanatical avoidance of even a hint of scandal, so being chummy with a cop is out-of-the-question and introduces a forbidden element to their attraction.  Honoria Aimesworth, spoiled and dislikes Rose personally, but begs Rose to find her bother's killer - is a society hot potato.  Alice and George Littlefield are the break out characters.  Dear friends of Rose's who lost their fortunes but took to newspaper employment to make their way in life and stay close to Rose.  All the characters jump from the pages.

London's class struggles are depicted brilliantly, and the exclusivity of Almacks and and even life-impacting influence are demonstrated and illuminated clearly.  Regency romance portrayals of Almack's pale in comparison to this "insider's behind-the-scenes" look that this book provides.
The plot is intricately layered and the motive remains hidden until Rosalind figures out the scheme that killed the society boy.  The sophistication and polite society of the story is a veneer hiding a sinister killer and dark ambition.  In line with this theme of a dark underbelly, the climax is taut and displays the ugly killer who is one of the shinning high society ton in stark and scary contrast.  The wrap up completes the story but leaves enough hanging to continue in the next book. 

I have a new favorite in my historical go-to list.  The writing is deft with delicate touches that build to a masterful tapestry of character, setting, and plot.  As Oliver Twist said, "May I have some more please?"  Soon, very, very soon please.

Rating: Near Perfect - Couldn't Put it down. Buy two copies, one for you and one for a friend.

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