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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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