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Friday, December 20, 2013

Review - The Vanishing Thief

Kate Parker has been a published author of Romantic Suspense and Historical Romance, but this is her debut into the Historical Mystery genre.  Since I am not a romance reader, let's see how it stands up to my scrutiny.

Author: Kate Parker

Copyright: December 2013 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series: 1st in Victorian Bookshop Mystery

Sensuality: mild romance

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Sleuth

Main Characters: Georgia Fenchurch, antiquarian bookseller and member of the Archivist Society

Setting: Victorian era - after 1851, London

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

One day in Georgia's bookstore, a frantic woman comes in and insists the Archivist Society help her.  Georgia must deal with her quickly, since the society is supposed to be a secret group of private investigators led by the mysterious Sir Broderick.  Edith Carter insists that her neighbor, Nicholas Drake, has been abducted by the Duke of Blackford.  Nicholas apparently left behind a pool of blood in his home entryway, indicating he was injured.

Georgia and the Archivist Society take the case and Georgia heads up the investigation. She finds out that Drake had been blackmailing many of London society and the list of suspects widens beyond the Duke of Blackford. The dark and dashing Duke of Blackford has motive because of his sister, who was suspected in his fiance's untimely death.  Georgia may have to expose Blackford even though they clearly have chemistry between them.  Lady Westover, a society friend of the Archivist Society, helps Georgia act as a relative so she can move among society and ask questions of Drake's victims. 

A subplot emerges as Georgia sees the murderer of her parents (who also rendered Sir Broderick to a wheelchair) walking along the street one day.  It had been twelve years ago, when Georgia was seventeen, and she is the only one to survive that saw the killer's face. She loses him in the crowd, but it spurs her to start looking for him again so she can see justice for her parents.

Georgia, a middle-class "old maid" is bright, brave, determined, and leading a double life. She loves her mundane bookstore and is passionate about her work with the archivist society, and she also has some baggage from the murder of her parents.  She has a methodical mind which works through the several suspects to find the kidnapper - and ultimately killer.  Emma works for Georgia in the bookstore, is her closest friend and is also a member of the society.  Phyllida is Georgia and Emma's honorary aunt and takes care of the two as they all live together over the bookstore.  Adam Fogarty, once a policeman but discharged for a injured bum leg, is the society's pipeline for police information.  Sir Broderick, former partner of Georgia's father, is the man who organized clerks, booksellers, and disabled police into an investigative society to fill his days since being wheelchair bound.  The Duke of Blackford is dangerous and influential, but the reader senses he has met his match in Georgia - but are his intentions toward her honorable? 

Victorian England is resurrected in this book with high society families and their skeletons.  The parties and the hidden agendas are all clues to what happened to Nicholas Drake. Victorian England valued privacy as a hallmark, thus the idea of upper class family's privacy being invaded would be a particularly big concern for the time.

The idea of the Archivist Society may not be completely probable, but the era saw a rise in social awareness and a growing middle class which could feasibly allow for such a rag tag company of concerned people investigating cases.  The romance elements were handled to deliver a hint of what might develop, providing some suspense and tension to keep the reader wondering and hoping.  The pace of this novel from the opening to the last page is quick, which keeps your attention riveted.  I have to give kudos for the setup to the climax and the revealing of the killer which were blood pumping.  The wrap-up had a few story twists yet to deliver on the main story and the sub-plot, leaving the reader gasping for the next book (The Counterfeit Lady due for publication August 2014.)

A fast paced historical mystery with a unique premise and enjoyable characters that promises to propel readers through pages and garner fans instantly.  Kate Parker is a notable addition to historical mystery writers.

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

Here is a recipe for a quick and easy treat.  This is simple, yet so decadent.

Monkey Bread


    3 (12 ounce) packages refrigerated biscuit dough
    1 cup white sugar
    2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    1/2 cup margarine
    1 cup packed brown sugar
    1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
    1/2 cup raisins


    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease one 9 or 10 inch Bundt® pan.

    Mix white sugar and cinnamon in a plastic bag. Cut biscuits into quarters. Shake 6 to 8 biscuit pieces in the sugar cinnamon mix. Arrange pieces in the bottom of the prepared pan. Continue until all biscuits are coated and placed in pan. If using nuts and raisins, arrange them in and among the biscuit pieces as you go along.

    In a small saucepan, melt the margarine with the brown sugar over medium heat. Boil for 1 minute. Pour over the biscuits.

    Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 35 minutes. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a plate. Do not cut! The bread just pulls apart.

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