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Wednesday, May 11, 2022

My Musings - Favorite Historical Mystery Series Pt 3

This concludes my series on historical mysteries loosely divided by era in today's post.  I love historical mysteries and if you've been looking for a new series, or wanted to jump into this subcategory of mystery perhaps this will help.  This is in no way a comprehensive listing, that would be quite an undertaking.

In part one I covered up through Regency era mysteries (click here).   

In part two I covered the Victorian era (click here).  Now I am sharing the Gilded era through World War I & II mysteries.

Gilded and Progressive Ages (1870-1929)

Silver Rush Mysteries by Ann Parker 
1)  Silver Lies
2)  Iron Ties
3)  Leaden Skies
4)  Mercury's Rise (click here)
5)  What Gold Buys
6)  A Dying Note
7)  Mortal Music
8)  The Secret in the Wall

Change of Fortune Mysteries by Jessica Estevao
This series was fantastic, but publisher didn't continue it further.
1)  Whispers Beyond the Veil (click here)
2)  Whispers of Warning (click here)

Stella and Lyndy Mysteries by Clara McKenna
1)  Murder at Morrington Hall (click here)
2)  Murder at Blackwater Bend (click here)
3)  Murder at Keyhaven Castle
4)  Murder at the Majestic Hotel

Counterfeit Lady mysteries by Victoria Thompson
1)  City of Lies (click here)
2)  City of Secrets (click here)
3)  City of Scoundrels (click here)
4)  City of Schemes (click here)
5)  City of Shadows
6)  City of Fortune

Gilded Age Mysteries by Rosemary Simpson
1)  What the Dead Leave Behind 
2)  Lies that Comfort and Betray
3)  Let the Dead Keep Their Secrets
4)  Death Brings a Shadow
5)  Death, Diamonds, and Deception
6)  The Dead Cry Justice (click here)
7)  Death at the Falls

Gaslight Mysteries by Victoria Thompson 
1)  Murder on Astor Place
2)  Murder on St. Marks
3)  Murder on Gramercy
4)  Murder on Washington Square
5)  Murder on Mulberry Bend
6)  Murder on Marble Row
7)  Murder on Lenox Hill
8)  Murder in Little Italy
9)  Murder in China Town
10)  Murder on Bank Street
11)  Murder on Waverly Place
12) Murder on Lexington Ave (click here)
22) Murder on Trinity Place (click here
25 books in the series

Molly Murphy Mystery series by
Rhys Bowen 
1)  Murphy's Law
2)  Death of Riley
3)  For the Love of Mike
4)  In Like Flynn
5)  Oh Danny Boy
6)  In Dublin's Fair City
7)  Tell Me, Pretty Lady
8)  In a Gilded Cage
9)  The Last Illusion (click here)
18 books in series

Royal Spyness series by Rhys Bowen 
1)   Her Royal Spyness
2)   A Royal Pain
3)  Royal Flush
4)  Royal Blood (click here)
5)  Naughty in Nice (click here)
6)  Twelve Clues of Christmas (click here)
7)  Heirs and Graces (click here)
8)  Queen of Hearts (click here)
9)  Malice at the Palace
10)  Crowned and Dangerous
11)  Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service
12)  Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding
13)  Love and Death Among the Cheetahs
14)  The Last Mrs Summers (click here)
15)  God Rest Ye Royal Gentlemen (click here)
16)  Peril in Paris

Kitty Weeks mysteries by Radha Vatsal 
1)  A Front Page Affair
2)  Murder Between the Lines (click here)

Jane Prescott Mysteries by Mariah Fredericks 
1)  A Death of No Importance 
2)  Death of a New American (click here)
3)  Death of an American Beauty
4)  Death of a Showman

Phryne Fisher mysteries by KerryGreenwood 
1)  Cocaine Blues
2)  Flying Too High  
3)  Murder at Ballarat Train
4)  Death at Victoria Park
5)  The Green Mill Murder
6)  Blood and Circuses
7)  Ruddy Gore
8)  Urn Burial
19) Unnatural Habits (click here)
21 Books in the series

World War I & II themed

Maggie Hope mysteries by Susan Elia MacNeal 

1)  Mr. Churchill's Secretary (click here)
2)  Princess Elizabeth's Spy (click here)
3)  His Majesty's Hope (click here)
4)  The Prime Minister's Secret Agent (click here)
5)  Mrs Roosevelt's Confidant (click here)
6)  The Queen's Accomplice (click here)
7)  The Paris Spy (click here)
8)  The Prisoner in the Castle (click here)
9)  The King's Justice (click here)
10) The Hollywood Spy 

Woman of WWII Mysteries by Tessa Arlen
1)  Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders (click here)
2)  Poppy Redfern and the Fatal Flyers

Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear 
1)  Maisie Dobbs
2)  Birds of a Feather
3)  Pardonable Lies
4)  Messenger of Truth
5)  An Incomplete Revenge
6)  Among the Mad
7)  The Mapping of Love and Death
8)  A Lesson in Secrets (click here)
9)  Elegy for Eddie
10)  Leaving Everything Most Loved
11)  A Dangerous Place
12)  Journey to Munich (click here)
... 17 books in series

Electra McDonnell by Ashley Weaver   

1)  A Peculiar Combination (click here)
2)  The Key to Deceit

Sparks & Bainbridge Mysteries by Allison Montclair 
1) The Right Sort of Man (click here)
2)  A Royal Affair (click here)
3)  A Rogue's Company (click here)
4)  The Unkept Woman

Verity Kent Mystery series by Anna Lee Huber 
1) This side of Murder (click here)
2)  Treacherous is the Night
3)  Penny for Your Thoughts (click here)
4)  A Pretty Deceit
5)  Murder Most Fair
6)  A Certain Darkness

I know I haven't even scratched the surface of all the wonderful historical mysteries available.  Please share what are your favorites in the comments.  Are any that my mentioned your favorites?  

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Sunday, May 8, 2022

Review - Peril at Pennington Manner

When I read "Perfect for fans of Jane K. Cleland and Ellery Adams" I knew I had to read this new series filler with anitiques and artwork.  Author Tracy Gardner is also writing mystery books for Hallmark  now, too.

Author: Tracy Gardner

Copyright: December 2011 (Crooked Lane Books) 304 pgs

Series: 2nd in Avery Ayers Antique Mysteries

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy mystery, amateur sleuth

Main Characters: Avery Ayers, appraiser at Antiques and Artifacts Appraised

Setting: Modern day, Lilac Grove

Obtained Through: Netgalley-Publisher for honest review

Book Blurb: "Thanks to Aunt Midge’s unlikely friendship with Nicholas Pennington, the Duke of Valle Charme, Avery Ayers and her associates at Antiques and Artifacts Appraised head off to their most glamorous assignment yet—cataloguing and appraising the contents of a castle-like mansion on the Hudson River. But regal splendor becomes a backdrop to mayhem when the precious Viktor Petrova timepiece disappears—and housekeeper Suzanne Vick plummets from a parapet to her death.
Avery, her dad William, and colleagues Micah Abbott and Sir Robert Lane soon learn that Suzanne’s predecessor also met with an untimely end. Further, the housekeeper’s suspicious demise coincides with Avery’s discovery that many of the Duke’s most priceless heirlooms have been replaced by fakes.
Detective Art Smith lends his expertise, but the suspect list encompasses the Duke’s entire retinue—including his family. Could the killer be someone intimately familiar with the Pennington estate, such as caretaker couple Ira and Lynn Hoffman, the Penningtons’ chauffeur Roderick, or even one of the heirs to the Pennington fortune?
Then the duke himself is injured in an inexplicable riding accident, and the clock swiftly ticks toward a reckoning with a cold-blooded killer. A criminal mastermind is making a desperate bid for ill-gotten riches…can Avery bring the culprit to justice before her time is up?"

My Thoughts:
This is the second book and I hadn't read the first.  It is explained well and I understood the issues from the first book that carried into the second without any problems.  Avery Ayers runs the family's appraisal business and is level headed and mature. She doesn't plan on investigating, she is just observant and puts pieces together.  Her sister Tilly is back from college for a spell and clearly there is something troubling her.  Aunt Midge is a treasure and I love her and am looking forward to more of her character.  Detective Art Smith is the romantic interest and is a law enforcment person.  

A large part of the story takes place at Pennington Manor and it is a great setting.  I love the artwork descriptions sprinkled throughout.  The plot initially involves the theft of many artifacts and pieces of art, then a murder occurs and things get dicey.  The killer reveal has some good tense moments and the wrapup is satisfying.  I'm hoping to fit in the first book between books to catch up.  

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

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Monday, May 2, 2022

Mystery Movie Review - Death on the Nile 1978

Death on the Nile (Sept 1978) 2:20 minutes

This presents the 1978 adaptation of the Agatha Christy novel.  At the end I will compare it to the 2022 Kenneth Branagh version.  But I heartily believe the 1978 adaptation is the better movie.

The tranquillity of a cruise along the Nile is shattered by the discovery that Linnet Ridgeway, a controlling and spoiled heiress, has been shot through the head. She was young, obsenely wealthy, stylish, and beautiful.  Hercule Poirot is on vacation and proceeds to question suspects.  All of the passengers had reason to murder her. Poirot must solve the original and subsequent murders while on a steamboat on the Nile.

Rating: PG
Director: John Guillermin
  • Peter Ustinov as Hercules Poirot (humanizes Poirot without changing Christie's vision)
  • Mia Farrow as Jacqueline De Bellefort-very different than the 2022 character, she is more a love-struck girl at the beginning who is dissillusioned and a shell through the rest.
  • Angela Lansbury (Jessica Fletcher-Murder She Wrote) as Mrs. Salome Otterbourne alcohol-soaked erotic novelist
  • Bette Davis (Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte) as Mrs. Van Schuyler stuffy and overbearing Washington socialite
  • Maggie Smith (Professor McGonegal-Harry Potter) is Miss Bowers as Van Schuyler's bitter companion
  • David Niven (The Guns of Navaronne, The Pink Panther) as Colonel Race perfectly plays nobility and has easy chemistry with Poirot
  • Jack Warden (The Replacements) as Dr. Bessner, a hysterical Swiss physician

  • Simon MacCorkindale as Simon Doyle the newlywed husband of Lois
  • Olivia Hussey (Romeo & Juliette 1968) as Rosalie Otterbourne, daughter to the lascivious author
  • I.S. Johar as Manager Of The Karnak I.S. Johar provides some comic relief as the manager of the ship
  • George Kennedy (Cool Hand Luke, The Dirty Dozen) as Andrew Pennington
  • Lois Chiles as Linnet Ridgeway shows the calculating and vendictive side far better than the 2022 version
  • Jon Finch as Mr. Ferguson, Marxist spouting young man who likes Rosalie
  • Jane Birkin as Louise Bourget 
Bette Davis and Maggie Smith are great in their bickering and snappish dialog.  Angela Lansbury as a lascivious romance writer is humorous and a very different role than you think of for her.  Olivia Hussey (who played the ultimate Shakespear's Juliette in my opinion) brings dramatic intensity to a sweet character.


"Death on the Nile is a clever, witty, well-plotted, beautifully-produced and splendidly acted screen version of Agatha Christie’s mystery. It’s old-fashioned stylized entertainment with a big cast and lush locations. Peter Ustinov is the fourth actor to play Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot." Variety Dec 31, 1977

 "Its a fun, if somewhat slow-moving murder mystery that favors glamor and drawing room banter over suspense, like a lavish version of a British TV mystery set in the 1930s."  Sean Axmaker - Stream on Demand

"The way the investigation plays out is more dynamic than that in Orient Express, with less of a focus on interrogation only and more twists and turns to come, and the ending is very satisfying." Kieron Moore - Starburst

Peter Ustinov is particularly good and captures a subtle dry humor in Poirot. He manages Poirot's complete awareness of his being the greatest detective and his being eccentric.  More approachable than other Poirot adaptations and even the books just in his manerisms and expressions. 

Poirot gives the audience how each suspect could have committed the murder which is brilliant.  Then he pulls out how it really happened, which is classic Poirot.  

Anthony Powell (whose costumes really transport you back to luxurious 30s) won an Oscar for the costumes in this movie!  He also did the costumes for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. 
Angela Lansbury as Salome Otterbourne

Excellent use of camera work of the era for suspenseful effect.

Music (mysterious and forboding) was the same composer for the first two Godfather movies.

Filming locations: Hotel Pullman Cataract, Sharia Abtal El Tahrir, Aswan, Egypt as well as on a boat on the Nile.  I believe shooting the film on location made a big difference in the film.

  • Agatha Christie was inspired to write the film's source novel while on an extended 1937 Egyptian vacation, and the hotel scenes in ''Death on the Nile'' were shot at the Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan where Christie stayed. 

  • After the success of "Murder on the Orient Express", EMI studios picked "Death on the Nile" for the follow up movie rather than one of the 32 other Poirot books because the 70s had a resurgence of Egyptian fascination due to the tour of the "Treasures of Tutankhamun" to museums around the world.  Death on the Nile opened in theaters to coincide with Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY's Tut opening.

  • Seven of the cast members account for a total of twenty-eight acting Oscar nominations with eight wins.

  • During World War II, Major David Niven's batman (personal attendant) was Private Peter Ustinov.

  • David Niven, who played MI5 agent Colonel Race, was author and British MI5 agent Ian Fleming's choice to portray James Bond. Niven was himself involved in British Intelligence operations during World War II, where he worked with Fleming on some projects.

  • The character of Colonel Race, one of Agatha Christie's recurring characters, appeared in four novels: "The Man in the Brown Suit", (1924), "Cards on the Table" (1936), "Death on the Nile" (1937), and "Sparkling Cyanide" (1945).

  • Colonel Race (David Niven) boards the S.S. Karnak wearing a straw boater hat with a "Royal Green Jackets" hat band. Later in the movie, he wears a "Royal Green Jackets" necktie. The Royal Green Jackets, formed in 1966, were descendents of David Niven's wartime regiment, the Rifle Brigade.

  • The location shoot in Egypt went for seven weeks, of which four were spent on the steamer riverboat "S.S. Karnak" and three filming in places such as Luxor, Cairo, Aswan, and Abu Simbel.

  • Filming had to be stopped every day at noon for around two hours because temperatures reached around 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Make-up calls were scheduled for 4 a.m., and filming started at 6 a.m. Bette Davis once quipped, "In the older days, they'd have built the Nile for you. Nowadays, films have become travelogues, and actors stuntmen."

  • Albert Finney was initially asked to reprise his role as Poirot from Murder on the Orient Express (1974). However, he had found the make-up he had to wear for the first movie very uncomfortable in the hot interior of the train, and on realizing that he would have to undergo the same experience, this time in temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit, he declined the role.

  • This was the first of Peter Ustinov's six performances as Hercule Poirot.

  • Cybill Shepherd turned down the role of Linnet Ridgeway.

  • Bette Davis, Maggie Smith, and Angela Lansbury all shared a small steamboat cabin as dressing room. While one actress dressed in the center of the cabin, the two others would lie on one of the beds on the left or right side.

  • The only working collaboration of Peter Ustinov and Angela Lansbury despite the two having been in-laws - Ustinov was married to Lansbury's half-sister: stage actress Isolde Denham, from 1940 to 1950 - and they were longtime friends.

  • This is Angela Lansbury's first appearance in an Agatha Christie murder mystery. She would play Miss Jane Marple in The Mirror Crack'd (1980). Both films gave her an image in the murder mystery genre, which led her to be cast in Murder, She Wrote (1984), where Lois Chiles and Olivia Hussey appeared as guest stars.

  • Murder, She Wrote: Death 'N Denial (1995), which is set in Egypt, had a character called "Sally Otterburn".

  • The film adapts the character of romance novelist Salome Otterbourne from the original novel. Salome is a thinly disguised version of real-life novelist Elinor Glyn (1864 - 1943) who wrote racey material for the time.  She was one of the most famous women screenwriters in the 1920s. She has 28 story or screenwriting credits, three producing credits, and two credits for directing.

  • Maggie Smith appeared in Christie's Evil Under the Sun (1982). She also appeared with David Niven in Neil Simon's Murder by Death (1976).

  • The interior scenes set at Linnet Ridgeway's mansion were shot at Compton Wynyates, a Warwickhire country estate.



The 2022 version made significant changes to the characters and story details from the book.

The 2022 beginning changes much of the story.  1978 version begins with the backstory of Linnet, Simon, and Jackie rather than the contrived beginning of 2022 movie. 

Even though there is a different actor from the 1974 Murder of the Orient Express, Peter Ustinov manages to stay true to the original Poirot while making the character more approachable. 

Whereas Kenneth Branagh is creating an entirely different character that only shares the same name.  Poirot has no scar on his face that he uses the mustache to cover, there is no tragic past love story etc.

Bouc isn't originally in this second story at all, he is used instead of the character Colonel Race.  So he and his mother are added and push out others.   Salome Otterbourne becomes a jazz/R&B singer rather than the shocking novelist which also changes a lot.  There were so many changes, in fact, I was concerned the 2022 version wouldn't even have the same killer and motive.  

Kenneth Branagh added more social/cultural correctness with representation of a gay couple, and more people-of-color which isn't a bad thing.  But he changed so much it almost isn't Christie's story anymore.  Branagh also makes the story darker (which he did to Orient Express too.)  Even the clothing is subdued and everything darker compared to 1978 version.

1978 movie was filmed on location, heat and all.  But the 2022 version, inspite of nearly 2x the budget than Orient Express, was filmed in Longcross Studios in Surrey, with only a few background scenes shot in Morocco and Egypt.  A life-size replica of the Abu Simbel temple and SS Karnak were all in Surrey and the Nile scenes were shot in Cotswold Water Park.  And it is obvious in some instances that green screens were used.  

It seems the most 2022 version had going for it was Gal Gadot and Dawn French, in my humble opinion.

Have you seen both versions?  Which do you like better?  Share your thoughts.

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