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Monday, November 28, 2011

Do you give books for gifts?

For cyber-Monday I was looking for the "I'm Buying Books for the Holidays" blog that ran in 2008 and 2009, but alas, it is no more.  I really liked the idea of promoting book buying which helped the publishing industry, authors, and artists while giving a great gift of reading.   I love giving books for gifts, maybe as part of a gift basket with teas or along with another present.  The gift of reading is something that keeps giving lifelong.
What I did find was this fantastic idea from LibraryThing called SantaThing (click here).  If you aren't familiar with LibraryThing, a reader's social networking site, it is free to sign up and fill your library with what you have read, join groups, write book reviews, and join this book swap.  The folks at LibraryThing have made it very easy.

You pay into the SantaThing system—this year $10, $15, $20, $25 or $30. You play Santa to a LibraryThing member they pick for you, and choose books for who you get, based on their LibraryThing library and a short description. Someone else (secret!) does the same for you.  If you pay $20 you will get the same amount in return so the processes is equitable.

LibraryThing does the ordering, and you get the joy of giving AND receiving books! LibraryThing makes no money from this even though they are facilitating the administering of the program.
You can sign up as many times as you like. You can sign up for yourself or for someone else, like a child. If you sign up for someone without a LibraryThing account, make sure to mention what kinds of books they’d like, so their Secret Santa can choose wisely.

Deadline to sign up:  December 1
Ordering books: December 4 - 9

I jumped on board, signed up, paid what fit my budget, and filled out my interests in reading for whoever will be my Secret Santa.  I am actually excited to pick books for whoever I get.  

In all the holiday sales and rushing, this is simple and easy with that touch of mystery since you don't know who is buying for you.  I guess little things tickle me. 

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Review - Wicked Autumn

It is time to give thanks and among many of the blessings in my life, I am thankful for all the readers who find this blog of service. 

My wonderful neighbor Ken is reviewing another book for us.  As soon as I read "former MI5 agent turned Anglican priest" for the sleuth by G. M. Malliet I suspected this would be a great mystery, so I asked Ken to read and review it.  A nice tie in to this novel is the review I did of the International Spy Museum in Washington D.C. (click here.) Let's see if debut book in a new series meets the promise suggested by the description of the sleuth.

Author:  G. M. Malliet  

Copyright:  2011; Minotaur Books; 297 pages

Series:  #1 in the Max Tudor mysteries 

Sensuality:  Mild Violence  

Mystery sub-genre:  English cozy mystery, Amateur Sleuth  

Main Character:  Max Tudor, Anglican priest and former MI5 agent  

Setting:  Modern Day, Nether Monkslip, a Southern English village

Obtained book through:  Publisher for an honest review

Nether Monkslip is described as the traditional, quaint, and idyllic English village.  Yet now it is inhabited by modernistic owners of cottage industries who practice yoga, raise sheep for knitting wool, are chefs, artists, and New Agers.  They even utilize the internet for marketing. 

A moving and organizing force in this contemporary community is the Women’s Institute headed by the formidable, controlling, and unpopular Wanda Batton-Smythe.  With her patrician attitude, this curmudgeon upset, intimidated, or irritated most of the citizenry.  The preparations for the upcoming annual and very important celebration, the Harvest Fayre, only served to magnify these traits.  Then Wanda’s sudden death throws a monkey wrench into the shindig.  It seems she died from a severe allergic reaction by eating a cookie containing peanuts; something everybody knew she was fatally allergic to.

Max Tudor is unmarried and a former “Spook” for MI5 now turned Anglican priest.  In Nether Monkslip he’s found a new home, a new vocation, new friends, and some peace for his mind, body, and soul.  The village is a welcome respite from his dangerous and discordant past.  Based upon his previous knowledge and skills, Max begins to question the supposed accidental death of Wanda.  Apparently the high-handed Wanda was just asking for it-and she got it!  So who spiked the cookie?  Practically every villager is suspect, and they definitely had motive and opportunity.  He enters into the investigation by assisting the experienced and competent Detective Chief Inspector Cotton.  It will take their combined abilities to expose the killer or killers.

The investigation brings twists and turns and a few curve balls.  Max faces the difficulty of providing spiritual succor to his flock while suspecting them of murder.  Is there a single perpetrator or a conspiracy?  Will there be a surprise resolution to this investigation?

I must, once again, thank Ariel for providing me the opportunity of expanding my exposure to cozy mysteries, in this case an English cozy.  G.M. Malliet is well known in the world of mystery writers. She is a winner of the Agatha Award for her Death of a Cozy Writer.  She has a graduate degree from the University of Cambridge which was the setting for her other series, the St. Just mysteries.

In this story, she has provided us with a most enjoyable read.  I will go so far as to use a descriptive term atypical of me- delightful.  It was delightful to read this book.  Ms. Malliet’s words painted a colorful tapestry of characterizations of the people and the village.  All of the players were well developed in their personalities and mannerisms.  The book is laced with humor through satire, wit, and tongue-in-cheek descriptions and vocabulary.  The reader’s interest is maintained throughout the entire book.  I am looking forward to the next book in the Max Tudor series.

Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes - 
Mascarpone Mashed Potatoes Recipe
For your holiday meal


4 1/4 pounds russet potatoes
salt and pepper to taste
cayenne to taste
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup milk
1 egg yolk

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Fill in the Blank - Mystery Game

This is a busy week for many readers with the Thanksgiving holiday.  So I thought a game would be good about now.  Have a great holiday and make it as simple as possible.


The idea is to try and fill in the blank of each of these mystery book titles.  Some are classics and some are more current.  I have to admit - I think these are challenging!!

In a few days I will provide the answers and you can share how well you did.

Let's give this a try.

1)  Bury Your  Dead 

2)  A Beautiful Blue Death

3)  Dark Road to Darjeeling

4)  Sentenced to Death

5)  Finger Lickin' Dead

6)  A Trick of the Light
7)  A Dead Red Cadillac

8)   Death and the Lit  Chick

9)   The House of Silk

10)  A Crimson Death

I hope you enjoyed this mystery game.  Please leave a comment and let me know how well you did.  Are they too easy?

If you are looking for something a little different or special this year, try a homemade cranberry sauce.

Tangerine Cherry Cranberry Sauce


1 (12-oz) bag fresh cranberries
1 cup small dried cherries (larger ones can be chopped a bit)
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated tangerine or orange zest
1 cup tangerine or orange, plus water as needed
1 whole star anise
3 cloves
1 cinnamon stick

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Review - India Black and the Widow of Windsor

Today we review the second in a new historical mystery series.  I wanted to read this as soon as I saw it, for it has a uniques premise for a heroine.  We will be in 1870s Scotland with Queen Victoria for the holidays, pack for cold weather and treason.

Author:  Carol K. Carr

Copyright:  October 2011 (Berkley Trade) 320 pgs

Series:  2nd in  Madam of Espionage Mystery

Sensuality:  Some adult conversation and innuendo (period euphemisms)

Mystery Sub-genre:  Historical Amateur Sleuth

Main Character:  India Black, madam of the London brothel, Lotus House, catering to gentlemen

Setting:  1876, London and Scottland

Obtained Through:  from publisher for an honest review

The story opens with a rigged seance for Queen Victoria in which the spirit of her departed husband, Prince Albert, literally insists that she spend christmas in their Scottish castle Balmoral. Balmoral was purchased for Queen Victoria by Prince Albert in 1852 (twenty four years before this story) and they would regularly spend the holidays there.  But there is growing discontent among Scottish loyalists who resent the British rule.  Prime Minister Disraeli is suspicious that Scottish nationalists are planning to assassinate the Queen while she is at the castle.  Disraeli decides to enlist the British spy named French (yeah, that gets a little confusing) and his protegee India Black who was utulized as a spy in the previous book.  India is a spy in training but normally is an owner and director of a whore house.

French is looking for the Scottish nationalist agent among the guests passing himself off as a womanizer while India is disguised as a servant to investigate the castle staff. India ends up being a lady's maid to the cantankerous Marchioness of Tullibardine with cateracts who mistakes most anything (pepper, salt, sugar etc) for her snuff and sprays everyone in the vicinity with her explosive sneezes.  India must dodge the Prince of Wales who will drag any maid into a closet to have his way, while she divides her time attending the Marchioness (including reading to her at all hours of the night) and her investigating.  Ultimately India and French are to prevent any assasination attempt and discover who the leader of the Scottish nationalists is. Two accidents appear to French and India as failed attempts and they must work faster before it is too late for the Queen.

The story is told from India's viewpoint and she has snarky humor and is a touch self absorbed.  She is unashamed of her business as a madam which she often references - nothing explicit but be forewarned. She finds the spy business exhilarating. She feels that her profession has allowed her to be more liberated and have more freedom and control over her life.  Although French acts as though her place is his to command, such as who will join them for a meal.  In that situation I really expected India to throw him out, but she lets him get away with such high-handed behavior. 

French, is supposed to be a romantic swashbuckling type, but doesn't really come across that way until later in the book.  He doesn't recognize that India is working herself to the bone with hardly a few hours sleep while he plays pool and drinks scotch with the guests.  That did rather irk me.  India shows loyalty to the Marchioness even though it is just a temporary role and shows how she has a heart even though she works hard to keep it hidden.  I liked India but French needs an attitude adjustment in my mind.

It is hard to portray historical figures since history can be unkind. Queen Victoria (current Queen Elizabeth's great grandmother I think) was the longest reigning British monarch up to that time and she had nine children with Prince Albert.  It is true that when Albert died she was reported as plunging into deep mourning (she wore black for the rest of her life) and avoided public appearances which earned her the nickname "The Widow of Windsor" which accounts for the book's title.  The book emphasizes her ongoing mourning for Albert.  This book also highlights the reported close relationship Queen Victoria developed with a Scottish manservant named John Brown and the real controversy that surrounded them as to the manner of their relationship. As the Empress of India, she had several Indian servants who are present but only in the background. Also, there is no getting around it, Queen Victoria was a big woman and the book makes reference to it in the rather blunt somewhat unflattering manner of the day. It was an interesting peek at Queen Victoria to be sure. 

The Marchioness of Tullibardine is more than she appears and is an interesting character that I enjoyed in-spite her snuff-and-violent-sneeze habit and blunt manners.  The plot is not so much a mystery to discover who had done something, but who is involved with the Scottish nationalists and may try to assassinate the Queen.  The tartan drenched castle Balmoral is a great location for an espionage novel since it is remote, the castle cold and foreboding, and the land is harsh.  The suspects that line up as the book progresses are interesting even though I suspected the main Scottish nationalist agent by thinking "wouldn't it be interesting if it were ____" but did not guess the leader of the group at all.  That was a nice twist.  I found the wrap up well done and left me with a mystery regarding The Marchioness.

Overall it is a good historical amateur sleuth with a truly unique heroine thrown into political intrigue that brings history alive and holds a promise of romantic tension to come.  It may not be for everyone, but is mild compared to many contemporary novels.

Here is a video featuring the castle Balmoral and Victoria.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

Author Interview: Andrea Penrose

Andrea started writing westerns at the astonishing age of five, complete with crayon drawings to illustrate them.  So it is no surprise that she got a Masters in Graphic Design at the Yale School of Art and worked in publication design plus she is an established author of romance novels under the name Cara Elliott.  

I reviewed her fist book in A Lady Arianna Regency Mystery series here (click here.)  I love this new series and a copy of her debut and her second book will be part of the Mid Winters Eve Giveaway.  Please give a big welcome to Andrea Penrose.

Do you start your next mystery with the killer, the victim or a plot idea?
The plot (however vague) is always the key starting point with me. Everything else grows out from that seed . . . rather organically, I must admit.

Do you outline the plot or some variation of that (a little/a lot of detail, a strict 3 act structure etc) before sitting down and writing?
Alas, I have to confess that I am a total “pantser. I would love to be totally organized and have the book plotted out chapter by chapter, but my brain simply doesn’t work that way. Things are going best when at the end of the day I push back from the computer and say, “Hmmm. I didn’t know they were going to do that.”

Arianna and Saybrook are great characters. What is your process for developing a character? Do you use pictures, a worksheet or just let the character(s) tell you about him/herself as you write?
I do have an image of a character in my head from the very beginning. I come from an art background, so I am a very visual person and like to picture both the people and surroundings of my books. From there, they “flesh” themselves out as the story progresses. Subtle nuances of character come from the interaction of all the people involved in the story. And sometimes, one of them may come to have a personality I never expected when I started. For me, that’s part of the magic of the creative process.

Why Regency England? What drew you to that time and place? How much research do you have to do?
I love the Regency because it was a fabulously interesting time and place—a world a swirl in silks, seduction and the intrigue of the Napoleonic Wars. Radical new ideas were clashing with the conventional thinking of the past, and as a result, people were challenging and changing the fundamentals of their society.  For example, you had Beethoven composing emotional symphonies, Byron composing wildly romantic poetry about individual angst, J.M.W. Turner dabbling in impressionistic watercolors and Mary Wollstonecraft writing the first feminist manifestos. It’s considered the birth of the Modern Era, and there are so many intriguing parallels with the issue we face today. So I find it a perfect setting for mystery and intrigue!

I’ve done extensive reading on the era, so feel very comfortable in its world. Then, for each book, I delve deeper in specific topics of research to craft the plot, which I love doing. It’s great fun learning all the little esoteric details about a subject.

I loved the chocolate history and unusual recipes. Was it the plan to have a chocolate theme or did that just happen?

I had done the chocolate research intending to use it for something different. But as I began to think about Arianna and Saybrook, it suddenly seemed a “sweet” combination. I wanted them both to be unconventional, and intrigued by  usual ideas. They are creative and imaginative—and cooking is all about having a willingness to try offbeat combinations. 

In a sense, I see chocolate as the perfect metaphor for Arianna and Saybrook—I wanted them to be dark and a little mysterious, with a complex mix of flavors and textures.

Do you have anything special you do before writing, particular music or a special room/location that helps you get in the zone and write?
I’m not one of those lucky souls who can dash off a chapter while waiting in line at a grocery store. I need peace and quiet to write, so I do have a room with all my favorite books, and reference material, along with a great old pine desk and various funky collectibles that I’ve picked up during my travels. Among those familiar things I can buckle down to work.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing and how long does it take you to write a book?
I consider myself a slow writer, so I need to work long stretches at a time to get things moving. Days when I can work pretty much uninterrupted are great—but of course that doesn’t happen all that often! As for how long it takes, that’s hard to answer. Every book is different.

What in your background prepared you to write not just mystery novels but historical mystery?
I’ve always been fascinated by history. As a child I was always reading about the past—knights in armor, swashbuckling cavaliers, natty Victorian adventurers . . .and still am! My career path took a twist into art (I have a Master’s degree in Graphic Design) , but as an undergrad at Yale, I took enough history courses to have majored in the subject. So I feel I bring a quirky left brain-right brain mix to writing historical mystery.

Who is your favorite Mystery character?
I adore Peter Wimsey (Who doesn’t!)

Which author has influenced or inspired you the most?
Oh, that’s such a hard question! I’m a voracious reader and have so many favorites. That said, I love Jane Austen’s sharp insight into human nature and her sly wit as she observes the strengths and weaknesses of her characters.

How did you get your first break to getting published? Was it at a writer's conference or mailing a query letter?
It was one of those lucky little moments that happen in life. I mentioned to a friend that I had written a book (it was a modern thriller, which is still buried in a desk drawer) and he set up a meeting with an agent he knew. The fellow listened to my pitch, made polite noises about be willing to take a look. Then, as we got up, I happened to mention that I had also written a Regency romance. At that he perked up and said that he knew an editor who might be interested . . . three days later he called and said he had sold it!

What are you currently reading?
I always have a couple of books going . . . right now I’m reading A Burial at Sea by Charles Finch,  The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides and The Great War and Modern Memory by Paul Fussell.

If your Lady Arianna Hadley mysteries were to be made into a movie, who would you cast in your character's roles?
I think Johnny Depp in his darker persona would make a great Saybrook. And Keira Knightley in her “Pirates of the Caribbean” role would make an interesting Arianna.

Do you have anything you would like to share about your next book in the series?
In the next book, Arianna and Saybrook will be journeying to St. Andrews, Scotland, and then back to London, where the prestigious scientific societies of the day draw them into a world of scholarly intrigue . . . and the daredevil exploits of the early aeronauts who experimented with manned balloon flights. So hold on to your hats—it’s going to be a wild ride!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

THANK You Andrea for that wonderful interview.  It is great to meet another who was enthralled with history as a child.  I played Cleopatra with my Barbies and made up grand adventures on the Nile.  I already loved your book, but imagining Johnny Depp as Alessandro De Quincy, the Earl of Saybrook really adds some punch to that visual.  I look forward to reviewing your newest book.  Readers, please leave your comments or questions for Ms. Penrose.

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Review - The Perfect Suspect

My dear neighbor Ken is back with another review of the latest novel from the accomplished Margaret Coel.  This book is not part of her Wind River Reservation series, but the second to feature journalist Catherine McLeod (after Blood Memory.)  Let's see what Ken thought of this book.

Author:  Margaret Coel 

Copyright:  September 2011; The Penguin Group; 293 pages

Sensuality:  Violence  

Mystery sub-genre:  Police Procedural

Main Character:  Catherine McLeod, intrepid reporter & Ryan Beckman, police detective  

Setting:  Modern day, Denver, CO

Obtained book through:  Publisher for an honest review

A killer body, a killer face, a killer mind, and a killer cop.  She kills her lover, the very popular David Mathews who was expected to win the Colorado governor’s race.  Was it accidental or accidentally-on-purpose?  Detective Ryan Beckman must hide her crime.  Then she catches the highest profile homicide case of the year as the lead investigator.  

Beckman knows she must use her twisted and cunning mind to devise the perfect cover-up.  Who gets the blame?  Of course, the one closest to the victim, the perfect suspect, the estranged wife.  She must do all she can to frame the wife, keep blame from herself, and pull off the perfect murder.  Beckman will use all means necessary to protect herself, including false leads, planting evidence, and killing anyone who gets in her way. 

Catherine McLeod is covering the story for the Journal, a major Denver newspaper.  Following leads and suspicions, including a call from an anonymous witness to the crime, McLeod risks her career and her life to bring the killer to justice. 

Blam!  First page!  We know the victim, and we know the killer.  Yet the mysteries and intrigue remain to be divulged.  Clever…verrry clever!  A whale of a tale of a story.  One of the best murder mysteries I have ever read.  

The thoughts, feelings, and actions of the characters are so definitive, believable, and logical (and sometimes demented).  The fears, worries, and concerns of Sydney, the estranged and framed wife, and Kim Gregory, the witness, are palpable.  

The deviousness by Ryan Beckman as she plots and acts on her plans to “solve the crime” while insulating herself from blame is most interesting.  Catherine McLeod is tenacious, personable, intelligent, compassionate, and a skilled investigative reporter.  We, the readers, are right there, on edge, wondering and watching as this story plays out.

The whole story is so well laid out with plenty of suspense, drama, and action.  A great read and one you can’t put down.  Margaret Coel has very well demonstrated why she is top-notch and one of the best writers.  It will be interesting to see what she can write next to top this book.  It would be a challenge…but then, she is the imaginative and prolific Margaret Coel.
 Now for a recipe that sounds amazing.

For the sweet potatoes:
2 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes
salt to taste
2 tbsp butter
2 large eggs
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of allspice
pinch of cayenne
For the pistachio crust:
1/2 cup chopped pistachios (I used roasted, salted)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 tbsp melted butter

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Mystery & Crime Fiction Blog Carnival - November 2011

It is the first Monday of the month - time for another highly anticipated Blog Carnival.   We have had our first good snow, but it quickly melted. Thoughts are turning to Thanksgiving here in little old Colorado. I am considering my traditional favorites, the green bean casserole and the usual round up. Anyway, back to the carnival, below is the line-up.  Click on the title or author's name to go to that link.

Police Procedural / PI Book Review
Mysteries in Paradise reviewed Stagestruck by Peter Lovesey.  "My pick of the month from the books I read in October. Peter Diamond investigates a murder mystery set in Bath's Royal theatre."

The Book Nook reviewed Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton and shares "I loved this book because G. K. Chesterton looked at the human side of each case."

How Mysterious! reviewed The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen, a cold case investigation in Denmark.

Mysteries in Paradise reviewed The Dead Hand of History by Sally Spencer.  "If you haven't read any Sally Spencer crime fiction, here is a good one to start with, the beginning of the Monika Paniatowski series. Do we ever escape history?"

Mean Streets reviewed A Drop Of The Hard Stuff by Lawrence Block.

Amateur Sleuth / Cozy book Review

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed A Hard Day's Fright by Casey Daniels

The Book Nook reviewed The Mysterious Mr. Quin by Agatha Christie. "A collection of short stories featuring the connoisseur of art and drama Mr. Satterthwaite and his friend, the mysterious Mr. Quin."

Book of Secrets reviewed Liver Let Die by Liz Lipperman

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed DeadBold by Juliet Blackwell

How Mysterious! reviewed Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy Sayers and shares "I selected this book in the Harriet Vane/Lord Peter Wimsey series because it is set in an advertising agency, where Wimsey goes undercover, posing as Mr. Death Bredon, to solve a murder mystery."

Book of Secrets reviewed Sleight of Paw by Sophie Kelly

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed The Divine Circle of Ladies Painting the Town by Dolores Stewart Riccio

Booking Mama reviewed The Chocolate Castle Clue by JoAnna Carl and shares "The latest in the Chocoholic Mystery series, she finds herself investigating an unsolved murder from her aunt's past.

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed A Taste of the Nightlife by Sarah Zettel

Booking Mama reviewed How to Party with a Killer Vampire by Penny Warner and shares "If you are looking for a cute read that's perfect for this time of year, then I recommend this."

Thriller/Suspense Fiction Book Review

Mean Streets reviewed Secrets of the Dead by Tom Harper and shares "This is a thoughtful, intelligent thriller, and – oh, joy of joys! – impeccably written."

At Home With Books reviewed Reamde  by Neal Stephenson and shares "Reading Reamde was like watching an action movie – a really long action movie."

Booking Mama reviewed The Lost Angel by Javier Sierra and shares it "is a most unusual religious thriller."

Author Interview

Mysteries and My Musings interviewed Casey Daniels

Dorothy Parker Mysteries blog gives us a Discussion in Three Parts: Part Two--Me and My Muse "A series discussing how I write my humorous mystery novels."

Mysteries and My Musings interviewed Sharon Pape

Augie's Book Reviews interviewed Bonnie Hearn Hill and shares "I loved interviewing Bonnie Hearn Hill and her lastest Mystery Thriller "Ghost Island"

Mysteries and My Musings interviewed Justin Gustainis

Mysteries and My Musings interviewed Sarah Zettel

For the Writer

Forensics4Fiction gives us a post on Knots and Killers

Thank you to all the wonderful bloggers out there who contributed to the carnival.

Let's make next month's Carnival even better. For more information on the specifics of the Carnival and how to submit your posts go here.
Submit your blog entry for next month's Carnival here: (

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Review - Troubled Bones

It is November already, can you believe it?  I hope you enjoyed the interviews and paranormal book reviews throughout October. I want to thank all the participants in the Spooktacular Giveaway.  I ended up with 2 copies of one book so there will be a total of 4 winners.  The winners are Chris, Jennifer Mathis, Astroqueen67, and Wanda F.  Winners, you should have received an email asking for your addresses.

This week I review the newest in a medieval private investigator series.  I previously reviewed the second book in this series, Serpent in the Thorns (click here) and Ms. Westerson provided a great guest blog (click here.)  

Author: Jeri Westerson

Copyright: October 2011 (Minotaur) 304 pgs

Series: 4th in Crispin Guest Medieval Noir Mystery

Sensuality: some adult situations, nothing explicit

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical private investigator

Main Character: Crispin Guest, disgraced knight of England making a living as an investigator.

Setting: 1385,Canterbury England

Obtained Through: from library

Crispin's reputation as "The Tracker" has grown and he is required by the Archbishop of Canterbury to protect the bones of martyred Saint Thomas Beckett. The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Becket had been murdered in the cathedral that now holds his bones, but there is suspicion that the bones are going to be stolen by a group that is looking to undermine the Catholic church. Crispin is to protect the bones which bring in money from pilgrims and find if one of the heretics is actually part of the monastery. This job requires Crispin to face people who remember him being disgraced as a traitor and even his old friend Geoffery Chaucer.

The very first night on duty, a prioress is murdered in one of the chapels in the Cathedral, the exact same place Beckett was slain, and Crispin is knocked unconscious. A young nun was present in the chapel with the Prioress at the time of the murder and is traumatized. Crispin's young apprentice gets his first crush on the young nun complicating matters. 

Another murder occurs that seems completely unrelated which throws a curve that keeps the reader guessing. Of course, it could be the curse that Jack learns about during his undercover stint in the monastery. But the clock is ticking when Chaucer is unexpectedly jailed by the archbishop for the murders and Crispin only has hours to clear his name.

Crispin has his hands full and confronting his past is an added challenge. The Archbishop and Chaucer are catalysts in Crispin's internal struggles with his past that demonstrate what kind of man he has become since he was stripped of his knighthood.  He has changed a lot and the reader suspects, for the better.

Young Jack is growing up and we get a chapter from his perspective as he goes undercover at the monastery. This was a great touch and I appreciate Jack's character even more now. Chaucer was unpredictable and added a touch of mystery. There is a woman that catches Crispin's fancy as well.  Some moments of humor lighten an intense plot.

The plot has a few twists and the connection between the two murders is not obvious. The attention to period detail is integrated smoothly and immerses you. The confrontation with the killer is suspenseful and the wrap up was quite satisfying with an added surprise. Crispin continues to develop and grow. This series keeps improving and the character of Crispin transcends time with the motivations and political intrigue that are no less in play today.  Excellent series that makes history exciting and even cool and this book is a stellar addition.


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