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Saturday, April 4, 2020

Review - Prologue to Murder

This is the second novel in this series but my first one.  I had no trouble with understanding the back story and enjoying this one.  Sadly, this had been on my TBR pile for a little while plus taking time for me to finally review it.  

Author: Lauren Elliott

Copyright: April 2019 (Kensington) 336 pgs

Series: 2nd in Beyond the Page Bookstore Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy mystery, cozy amateur sleuth

Main Character: Addison Greyborne descendant to town founder and owner of bookstore


Setting: Modern day, Greyborne Harbor

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest opinion

From book cover: "Gossip columnists love a bold-faced name—but “Miss Newsy” at Greyborne Harbor’s local paper seems to specialize in bald-faced lies. She’s pointed a finger of suspicion at Addie after librarian June Winslow never makes it home from a book club meeting. And when June’s found at the bottom of a steep flight of stairs, Addie’s not only dealing with a busybody, but a dead body.

It’s a good thing the guy she’s dating is the police chief. But both the case and her love life get more complicated when a lanky blonde reporter from Los Angeles shows up. She’s trying her hardest to drive a wedge between the couple . . . as if Addie doesn’t have enough problems dealing with angry townspeople. Despite all the rumors, Addie doesn’t know a thing about the murder—but she plans to find out. And the key may lie in a book about pirate legends that June published. Now she just has to hunt down the clues before she becomes a buried treasure herself . . . "

Addison Greybourne is a mixed bag.  She could be viewed as strong with a side of funny, although I found her a bit over-the-top emotionally.  Chief of police Marc Chandler is kind-of her boyfriend and she sure gets jealous like there is more there between them.  Chief Chandler seems lacking in critical character detection for a cop when it comes to his ex-wife Lacey.  Addison's BFF and Marc's sister, Serena Chandler is naive and easily used by Lacey.  All of which makes for a tense ride for Addison as she tackles ongoing gossip in the paper and suspicion of her involvement in June Wilson's murder.  Lacey, the shallow and conniving complication in Addy's life, is a memorable part of the overall story as the character you love to hate.


Too often novels set at sea side don't feature the beach or ocean much.  The use of pirates and local pirate history really cemented the setting into the story.  The climactic scene also strongly features the location to great effects as well.

You can't have a pirate or treasure tale without an  exciting race to find the treasure.  In this case it all becomes part of the killer reveal.  It could have been cheesy, but it ends up exciting and well executed.

The pirate lore and lure of treasure was handled quite well and is probably my favorite aspect to this story and brought the entire novel to life.  I had a rough time with the personal drama going on and Addison's often juvenile reaction to it all. 

Rating:  Good - A fun read 





 
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Saturday, March 21, 2020

Review - City of Scoundrels


Today I review the newest in the Counterfeit Lady historical mysteries.  Previously I reviewed the first in the series -- "City of Lies" (click here)  and the second book "City of Secrets" (click here).  The timing of this book is uncanny since it features the pandemic of 1918.  So how is the series doing now that we are into the third book?  Let's find out.


Author: Victoria Thompson

Copyright: Nov 2019 (Berkley) 336 pgs

Series: 3rd in Counterfeit Lady Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Amateur Sleuth, historical caper

Main Character: Elizabeth Miles, smart and cunning con-artist using her skills to help people.

Setting: 1917, Washington DC

Obtained Through: Publisher (via Netgalley) for honest opinion

From the book cover: "Elizabeth Miles finds herself in a position no con can help her escape. Her beloved fiancé, Gideon Bates, is awaiting his turn in the draft to fight in the Great War. Elizabeth is finding it hard to think of anything else, but Gideon has thrown himself into his work, preparing wills for soldiers before they ship out. Corporal Tom Preston is part owner of Preston Shoes, a company that is making footwear for the army, so he has a rather large estate. He needs a new will, however, because he has just been secretly married to a woman whom his family would never approve. He wants to make sure she and their unborn child are provided for if he does not return.

When Tom is later reported killed, Elizabeth and Gideon learn that the new will has gone missing after Tom's bride revealed her identity to his family. Unless the new will is found and validated, the original will, which leaves everything to Tom's brother, will prevail and the wife and child will get nothing. If Tom's new bride survives, that is. Some terrible threats have been leveled against her, and Elizabeth and Gideon must figure out a way, legal or not quite, to secure Tom's fortune for his wife and child while saving her life in the process."

Elizabeth Miles can't help but revert to a good con against the heartless, greedy, and dangerous inlaws of widow Rose.  She is whip smart and resourceful and becomes a central player in the con to stop a German spy ring along the way.  Mrs Bates is an older lady who took Elizabeth under her wing and knows she isn't a legitimate society lady.  Gideon Bates, Mrs. Bates son and a lawyer, is Elizabeth's fiance and is waiting to report for the war. 
Anna Vanderslice is a kind society girl who has become Elizabeth's best friend and whose brother, David, is Gideon's best friend.  Mr. Miles, Elizabeth's con man father, is key to the con to protect the widow Rose and get her rightful inheritance.  The relationship between the Elizabeth and Gideon is the most compelling aspect of the series

This story unfolds in the midst of WWI and the influenza outbreak know as the Spanish Flu pandemic that claimed between 50 million to 100 million worldwide.  Both the war and the pandemic draw too close to Elizabeth and those she loves.  Additionally, the American Protection League was an active all-volunteer organization utilized by President Wilson primarily to curb any anti-war activists but included identifying German sympathizers, anarchists, and labor organizations.  The APL created a fearful atmosphere.  These true historical events taking place around the story and impacting the characters makes this even more gripping and realistic.

The climax involves Elizabeth in great danger because of the con to catch German spies.  The wrapup involves the pandemic striking close to Elizabeth and Gideon's time to ship out for war.

I read this novel the end of October but am just getting to the review.  It is ironic how the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic is a strong element in this story and from the author's notes you find several actual accounts from that pandemic were incorporated into the story making it quite chilling.  The relationship between Elizabeth and Gideon is deepening on both sides and gives warmth to the characters.  The two pronged con to help Rose and also stop a German spy ring is brilliant.  This is a finely woven story that grabs hold and doesn't let go.

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


Here is a short video about the 1918 pandemic.






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Thursday, February 27, 2020

Review - The Art of Theft

I have been a fan of this new series that re-imagines the Sherlock mythos since the debut, A Study in Scarlet Women (click here), the second book, A Conspiracy in Belgravia (click here), and the third, The Hollow of Fear (click here).  This outing for our intrepid consulting detective sets the brilliant mind of Sherlock to the problem of a near impossible heist to help a dear friend.

Author: Sherry Thomas

Copyright: October 2019 (Berkeley) 303 pgs

Series: 4th in Lady Sherlock Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Private Investigator

Main Character: Charlotte Holmes, disgraced upper class woman who creates the Sherlock Holmes identity

Setting: 1886 England and France

Obtained Through: Publisher (via Netgalley) for honest opinion

From book blurb: "As "Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective," Charlotte Holmes has solved murders and found missing individuals. But she has never stolen a priceless artwork—or rather, made away with the secrets hidden behind a much-coveted canvas.

But Mrs. Watson is desperate to help her old friend recover those secrets and Charlotte finds herself involved in a fever-paced scheme to infiltrate a glamorous Yuletide ball where the painting is one handshake away from being sold and the secrets a bare breath from exposure.

Her dear friend Lord Ingram, her sister Livia, Livia's admirer Stephen Marbleton—everyone pitches in to help and everyone has a grand time. But nothing about this adventure is what it seems and disaster is biding time on the grounds of a glittering French chateau, waiting only for Charlotte to make a single mistake..."

Charlotte Holmes is blond, pretty, very feminine and frilly, too fond of sweets, and far too intelligent for the time period. Essentially the opposite of what the traditional image is of Sherlock.  Lord Ingram Ashburton, a long time friend who cares very deeply for her even if she doesn't return his feelings will assist Charlotte no matter what.  Mrs. John Watson, a retired stage actress who has become Charlotte's unique and talented sidekick is the reason Holmes takes up this cause. Charlotte's adult younger sister, Olivia, has escaped the controlling grasp of her parents for a few weeks and follows Charlotte into the scheme.  Plus, she will get some time with Mr. Marbleton who she is quite fond of.  Stephen Marbleton is in hiding from the dangerous Moriarity and takes part at great peril.

The setting is both London and the remote French country side surrounding the French chateau where the exclusive auction will take place.  The French location is wonderfully atmospheric and presents its own challenges to the heist, giving the story added stakes.

The series has exciting killer/villain reveals and this was no different.  I enjoy how the Sherlock we know is turned on his head and re-imagined brilliantly. This is a historical heist as well as a cat and mouse game.  Nothing is as it seems and only the mind behind Sherlock Holmes is up to the task of seeing through the maze to the true intentions.  This can be enjoyed as a stand alone novel, but I suggest at least starting with the book just prior to this one, The Hollow of Fear, to better understand the relationship between Charlotte and Lord Ingram.

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

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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Review - Murder at Kensington Palace

My apologies for being absent the last few months.  I have many reviews to write and post because I have been reading a good bit.  I just haven't had the time to write the reviews.  Plus I was in a car accident on icy roads and totaled my car back in November.  Although I only had some bruising, the experience left me a bit unsettled and I am just now getting back to the blog.

I truly love this series.  I reviewed the first in the Wrexford and Sloane series, Murder on Swan Lake, (click here) and the second in this new series, Murder at Half Moon Gate (click here). Read on to find out how the third novel in this new historical mystery stacks up.
 
Author: Andrea Penrose
 
Copyright: Sept 2019 (Kensington) 298 pgs
 
Series: 3rd in Wrexford and Sloane Mystery series
 
Sensuality: Mild
 
Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Cozy
 
Main Characters: Widowed Charlotte Sloane, a satirical cartoonist under the name A.J. Quill teams with Earl of Wrexford, former military man and amateur chemist
 
Setting: Regency era, London England
 
Obtained Through: Publisher (via NetGalley) for honest review
 
Book blurb:  "Wrexford and Sloane must unravel secrets within secrets—including a few that entangle their own hearts—when they reunite to solve a string of shocking murders that have horrified Regency London . . .
 
Though Charlotte Sloane’s secret identity as the controversial satirical cartoonist A.J. Quill is safe with the Earl of Wrexford, she’s ill prepared for the rippling effects sharing the truth about her background has cast over their relationship. She thought a bit of space might improve the situation. But when her cousin is murdered and his twin brother is accused of the gruesome crime, Charlotte immediately turns to Wrexford for help in proving the young man’s innocence. Though she finds the brooding scientist just as enigmatic and intense as ever, their partnership is now marked by an unfamiliar tension that seems to complicate every encounter. 
 
Despite this newfound complexity, Wrexford and Charlotte are determined to track down the real killer. Their investigation leads them on a dangerous chase through Mayfair’s glittering ballrooms and opulent drawing rooms, where gossip and rumors swirl to confuse the facts. Was her cousin murdered over a romantic rivalry . . . or staggering gambling debts? Or could the motive be far darker and involve the clandestine scientific society that claimed both brothers as members? The more Charlotte and Wrexford try to unknot the truth, the more tangled it becomes. But they must solve the case soon, before the killer’s madness seizes another victim . . ."
 
Charlotte Sloane and the Earl of Wrexford, Wrex for short, team up again for this complicated and dangerous case.  Their relationship is tense at times and the reader is in the middle of it.  The two street urchins Charlotte has officially adopted, Raven and Hawk, are being tutored while still maintaining some of their street habits.  They are a joy to watch blossoming.  This story also provides more of Charlotte's background story.

The setting of Regency London provides great atmosphere and is one of the strong aspects of the series.  I enjoy how the scientific advances of the era are spotlighted.  Add a vicious serial killer, the Bloody Butcher, to the foggy mists of London and you have Gothic gold.  The plot and subplots immediately grabbed hold of me and didn't let go though a few twists and turns.  Ms. Penrose's writing style also contributed to create a page-turning suspenseful tale.

The killer reveal lived up to the standard set by the two previous books with nail biting tension and harrowing danger.  Excellent!  The wrap up left me wishing for the next book.

I enjoy the sharp dialog between Wrexford and Charlotte and how she is respectable yet has a network of street people who feed her information.  Her character is complex and layered.  Wrexford isn't so much brooding as disinterested with the typical superficial interests of the nobility and grouchy.  The two play off each other believably and with wry humor.  The era of scientific exploration adds realism along with the visceral descriptions of everything from Newgate prison to the ball rooms.  To sum it up, this novel is another gem in the series crown.  If you enjoy historical mysteries, this isn't to be missed.
 
Rating:  Near Perfect - Couldn't Put it down. Buy two copies, one for you and one for a friend. 


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