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Thursday, July 9, 2020

Review - Murder In Belgravia

This is the first in a new historical mystery series and I wanted to start at the beginning. 

"A high-profile murder propels a unique crime-fighting team into the dark environs of London’s underworld—and on a terrifying quest to track a ruthless killer."  Find out what I thought of this new series in the historical mystery genre.


Author: Lynn Brittney

Copyright: March 2019 (Crooked Lane Books) 282 pgs

Series: 1st in Mayfair 100 Mysteries

Sensuality: TW domestic abuse and child prostitution discussed

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical police with amateur sleuths

Main Character: Chief Inspector Beech, head of a special task force

Setting: 1915, London

Obtained Through: Publisher via Netgalley for honest review

Book Blurb: "London, 1915. As World War I engulfs Europe, a special task force is formed in the affluent Mayfair district to tackle the city’s thorniest crimes against women. When the bobbies and Scotland Yard come up short, there’s only one telephone number to dial: Mayfair 100.

An aristocrat has been murdered, and his wife, a witness and possible suspect, will only talk to a woman. With the blessing of London’s Chief Commissioner, Chief Inspector Beech, a young man invalided out of the war, assembles a crew of sharp, intrepid, and well-educated women to investigate. But to get at the truth, Beech, Victoria, Caroline, Rigsby, and Tollman will venture into the the city’s seedy underbelly, a world where murder is only the first in a litany of evils." 

Trigger warning, the initial setup for the murder is the victim having brutally attacked his pregnant wife and all appearances make it seem she or her maid killed the brute.  First impressions prove to be wrong and it gets complicated from there.

Chief Inspector Peter Beech is an openminded police detective who has the vision of women aiding the police and heads up the unique team.  Victoria is a female lawyer who at one point had been "dating" Beech, but that ended and now they attempt working together.  Caroline is the female doctor on the team.  She is waiting for Beech to see her as more than a friend.  Rigsby is the younger male of the team and the handsome one that women seem to flutter eyelashes at despite a scar from the war.  Tollman is an older and grizzled policeman that knows more about the goings on in London and who to talk to than most anybody else alive.  Tollman takes Rigsby under his wing and begins mentoring him.  Lady Maud is Victoria's mother and provides a large house as the team's headquarters.  Billy Rigby's mom, Elsie, and his Aunt Sissy provide some comic relief and are gems in the story.  

The setting of London provided a sad and seedy backdrop punctuated with brief moments in society houses.  This does have a grittier side with some subject matter, but it also displays compassion (particularly Tillman and Rigby) for those struggling.  There isn't gore, but some harsh realities of life at that time presented with sensitivity.  Also, the first world war with air attacks from Zeppelins and the tensions of the suffragette movement pepper throughout the story.  The British Suffragettes were more confrontational than in America.

Figuring out the who-done-it isn't easy and information is revealed throughout the investigation in order to get any idea of what took place the fateful night of the murder.  The women are aware of their limitations within society in general but in dangerous situations as well.  There are a few subplots at work in the story that keep the pace moving and interest up.  

The killer reveal was rather cut and dry as the police on the team close in on guilty parties, but it still provided a twist or two that made it satisfying.  The wrap-up was heartwarming and paved the way for the team to continue for another case.

I love this new series.  If you like the Sebastian St Cyr series but want something a little less grim, this is for you!  It is just a bit "gritty" without being gory or explicit and had some comedic lighter moments as well.  It does acknowledge the grim realities of life and crime.  The characters are well done and there are layers to their exchanges that make the story rich and memorable.  This leaves plenty of room over the series for the characters to develop and surprise the reader.  The mystery was complex enough to get my interest and keep it throughout.  

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



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Thursday, July 2, 2020

Review - And Dangerous To Know

I have been following this series since the first book "A Useful Woman" (click here), and the second book "A Purely Private Affair" (click here).  The third book released and I am finally getting around to my review of it. 

Author: Darcie Wilde

Copyright: Dec 2019 (Kensingon) 352 pgs

Series: 3rd in Rosalind Thorne Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Cozy Mystery

Main Character: Rosalind Thorne, former heiress now on the outskirts of society

Setting: Early 1800s (Regency,) London

Obtained Through: Publisher via Netgalley for honest review

Cover Blurb: "When the ladies of the ton of Regency London need discreet assistance, they turn to Rosalind Thorne--in these mysteries inspired by the novels of Jane Austen.

Trust is a delicate thing, and no one knows that better than Rosalind Thorne. Lady Melbourne has entrusted her with recovering a packet of highly sensitive private letters stolen from her desk. The contents of these letters hold great interest for the famous poet Lord Byron, who had carried on a notorious public affair with Lady Melbourne's daughter-in-law, the inconveniently unstable Lady Caroline Lamb. Rosalind is to take up residence in Melbourne House, posing as Lady Melbourne's confidential secretary. There, she must discover the thief and regain possession of the letters before any further scandal erupts.

However, Lady Melbourne omits a crucial detail. Rosalind learns from the Bow Street runner Adam Harkness that an unidentified woman was found dead in the courtyard of Melbourne House. The coroner has determined that she was poisoned. Adam urges Rosalind to use her new position in the household to help solve the murder. As she begins to untangle a web of secrets and blackmail, Rosalind finds she must risk her own life to bring this desperate business to an end..."

Rosalind still reminds me of a proper British version of True Grit's Mattie Ross.  The Bow Street runner, Adam Harkness, is smart and surprisingly compassionate.  Lady Melbourne's family are all unique characters and raise suspicions.  Alice and George Littlefield are the break out characters.  They are 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. Then their is Devin Winterbourne, a Duke, and early suitor of Rose's from before her family became destitute.  He is an interesting character and I have warmed to him over the course of the three books.

The plot was interesting with the "naughty letters" from Lord Byron that could cause destruction of reputations and a marriage, then the murder added in made this a tantalizing story.  Plus the growing relationship between Rosalind and Harkness with Devin Winterbourne, the Duke of Casselmain, renewing his offer of marriage from years before makes the story fly by.

The setting of London is always expertly painted by Ms. Wilde and transports the reader.  The climax provides some delicious tense moments that I enjoyed and the wrap-up had me wanting the next book immediately. 

This series was inspired by the Jane Austen novels and that is can be seen on every page.  I find the "cop boyfriend" very cliche, but the author raises class tensions between Rose and Harkness as well as high 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.  It becomes harder in this book for Rosalind (Rose) to deny she has developed some feelings for Harkness.  This has become one of my "go to" historical mystery series and has never failed to entertain me. 

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



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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Review - Buried in the Stacks

This is a new series for me and I am jumping in without exposure to the prior books in the series.  That presented no problem for me in understanding the backstory and history.  If you love cozy mysteries, check out my review of this newest in the Haunted Library series.

Author: Allison Brook

Copyright: Sept 2019 (Crooked Lane) 336 pgs

Series: 3rd in Haunted Library Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild 

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy Mystery with friendly ghost touches

Main Character: Carrie Singleton, librarian

Setting: Modern day, Clover Ridge Connecticut

Obtained Through: Publisher ( Netgalley) for honest opinion

Cover blurb:  "Librarian Carrie Singleton is building a haven, but one of her neighbors is misbehavin'. Can resident spirit Evelyn help Carrie catch the culprit who made her a ghost?

In winter, the Haunted Library is a refuge for homeless townspeople. When a group purchases a vacant house to establish a daytime haven for the homeless, Carrie offers the library as a meeting place for the Haven House committee, but quickly learns that it may be used for illegal activities.

As the new Sunshine Delegate, Carrie heads to the hospital to visit her cantankerous colleague, Dorothy, who had fallen outside the local supermarket. She tells Carrie that her husband tried to kill her--and that he murdered her Aunt Evelyn, the library's resident ghost, six years earlier.

And then Dorothy is murdered--run off the road as soon as she returns to work. Evelyn implores Carrie to find her niece's killer, but that's no easy task: Dorothy had made a hobby of blackmailing her neighbors and colleagues. Carrie, Evelyn, and Smoky Joe the cat are on the case, but are the library cards stacked against them?"

Carrie is a character I related with.  She is settling in and loves her job, reasonable and smart.  She sees and talks to the library's resident ghost, Evelyn Havers, who had worked at the library and died in the parking lot.  Evelyn is a nice lady but has all the same personality and opinions as when she was alive.  Dylan Avery is her boyfriend and a private investigator away working a case. I don't have much to go on since it was mostly phone calls with him and never a description.  Smoky Joe is Carrie's cat but he roams the library whenever she is at work and gets fat off all the food patrons slip him.  He steps up to protect Carrie in the climax!  BFF Evelyn is getting married and preoccupied so Carrie is facing the sleuthing by herself.  Sally the Library Director brings in a touch of the political side of running the library.

The plot moves along and reveals in bits and pieces as you read.  The pace keeps moving with the subplots of the homeless in the library and solving the bigger problem of suspected illegal activity at Haven House meant to help the homeless.   

The climax springs forward as the killer reveals him/her self to Carrie and provides a nicely done climax where even Smokey Joe gets his claws out. 

This is a classic cozy with plenty of local color and town characters with a good mystery to figure out.  I like Carrie and will likely back and start from the beginning just to see how Carrie and Dylan got together.   Highly recommended for cozy fans.  It reminded me of a younger take on the Cat Who mysteries with the town and characters.  I am pleased to have discovered it.  I would have liked a description of Dylan to get an image of what he was like, though.

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

 
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Monday, June 8, 2020

Review - Penny for Your Secrets


“No sooner are Verity Kent and her dashing but troubled husband, Sidney, back from solving a mystery in Belgium (Treacherous Is the Night) than they are confronted with one at home in London…Touching details of the Kents’ struggle to overcome Sidney’s anguish add to the stellar mystery here, making this a great read for fans of the series and for all who enjoy Downton Abbey–era fiction.”  —Booklist

Of all the mysteries available, I tend to default to historical mysteries often.  Today I review the newest in the Verity Kent mysteries.  Previously I reviewed book one "This Side of Murder" (click here), I read book two "Treacherous Is The Night" but didn't review it at the time.  Now I am reviewing the third in this series.



Author: Anna Lee Huber

Copyright: Oct 2019 (Kensington) 336 pgs

Series: 3rd in Verity Kent Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild and innuendo

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Amateur Sleuth with espionage touches

Main Character: Verity Kent, former Secret Service Agent married into money.

Setting: 1919 London England

Obtained Through: Publisher ( Netgalley) for honest opinion

Cover blurb:  "The Great War may be over, but for many, there are still obstacles on the home front. Reconciling with her estranged husband makes Verity sympathetic to her friend Ada’s marital difficulties. Bourgeois-bred Ada, recently married to the Marquess of Rockham, is overwhelmed trying to navigate the ways of the aristocracy. And when Lord Rockham is discovered shot through the heart with a bullet from Ada’s revolver, Verity fears her friend has made a fatal blunder.

While striving to prove Ada’s innocence, Verity is called upon for another favor. The sister of a former Secret Service colleague has been killed in what authorities believe was a home invasion gone wrong. The victim’s war work—censoring letters sent by soldiers from the front—exposed her to sensitive, disturbing material. Verity begins to suspect these two unlikely cases may be linked. But as the connections deepen, the consequences—not just for Verity, but for Britain—grow more menacing than she could have imagined." 


Verity and newly returned husband Sydney are back.  I particularly enjoy Verity's character and find her a great heroine.  There is an appearance from Max, Sydney's former commanding officer and briefly an interested suitor of Verity's. This book we have more on Verity's loyal maid and housekeeper Sadie.  Also, we have the addition of Nimble, a battle scarred (literally) former serviceman of Sydney's who becomes his valet.  I really enjoy these two characters and would like more of them.

The setting is mostly in England with a trip for questioning.  The period details are vivid and encompassing so I felt transported in time. It is just after WWI, when a generation has been stripped of their innocence and over indulges in drinks and parties to dull the hardships, horrors, and mourning they have endured. 

The pacing seemed slow in spite of there being two murder investigations.  I contribute this, at least in part, to there being no sense of urgency, no ticking clock or hurry to stop a killer but rather a mindful pursuit of the culprit that felt endless.

The two mysteries are solved and there isn't a nail biting killer reveal.  There were a few brief moments of struggle that ended in a flash.  I personally much prefer a heart pounding reveal but that isn't always how it works out.  There is a manipulator behind the mystery that will likely appear again as a powerful enemy.

I found this book a mixed bag overall.  I particularly appreciate that this takes place right after World War I, which truly is the Forgotten War. But, Verity working through marital problems as they get to know each other after being separated by the war just doesn't work for me.  I find myself wanting the trope of a romantic interest which would at least provide a little light-hearted break, but rather we get tension between the two.  Relationships in the story can put some zing into the plot, but instead this just drags the whole story down in my opinion.  I appreciate the light shining on PTSD of the returning soldiers, I just don't need it as a recurring tension between Verity and her husband.  I also grow weary of hubby having such a hard time with accepting Verity worked as an agent and was in danger when he was getting shot and bombed. I feel there is an unspoken double standard in this book in hubby's suspecting Verity was unfaithful while he was gone because soldiers in war are notorious for sexual escapades (live it up when and where you can for tomorrow you might die sort of idea). Besides the fact she had been notified he was dead.  If it seems like this is mostly about Verity and hubby Sydney, that is what stayed with me from the story and not the mystery.  The mystery seemed to be a backdrop for Verity and Sydney to go through their personal issues.

I will provide a caveat that this is my opinion and I recognize that there are many others who found this book a wonderful outing in the series.  I'm just saying it didn't strike the right notes for me and why.  If you enjoy Downton Abbey and a lot of drama, this could be for you.

Rating:  Good - A fair read with minor flaws. Maybe read an excerpt before buying. 



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Monday, April 27, 2020

Review - Witches Protection Program

This is a paranormal police procedural novel with a unique concept.  Read on to see what I thought.

Author: Michael Okon (Michael Philip Cash)

Copyright: Sept 2019 (WordFire Press LLC) 202 pgs

Series: 1st in Witches Protection Program Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Paranormal Police Procedural

Main Character: Wes Rockville, disgraced police officer

Setting: Modern day, Manhattan NY

Obtained Through: Publisher, via Netgalley, for honest opinion

Book cover blurb: "Wes Rockville, a disgraced law-enforcement agent, gets one last chance to prove himself and save his career when he's reassigned to a 232-year-old secret government organization.

The Witches Protection Program.

His first assignment: uncover a billion-dollar cosmetics company's diabolical plan to use witchcraft for global domination, while protecting its heiress Morgan Pendragon from her aunt's evil deeds. Reluctantly paired with veteran witch protector, Alastair Verne, Wes must learn to believe in witches...and believe in himself. "

Wes Rockville is stubborn and has a problem with authority but overall has potential.  Wes is pushed and challenged to accept a different reality.  Alastair Verne is the sort of authority figure Wes fights but must rely on for this last chance. 

The big city setting fits this paranormal concept well and gives it a large scope. The setup of the paranormal world existing alongside the mortal world is well done.  The climax is a chase and showdown that gives some good tension.  The plot had just enough depth to keep my interest and turning the pages.  It sets up well for an ongoing series.

This is like the Men In Black of the paranormal world.  I enjoyed the book and will look for the next in series. 

Rating:  Excellent - a fun read! If you like creative paranormal mysteriess, buy this now.



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