In the aftermath of the Great War, the line between friend and foe may be hard to discern, even for indomitable former Secret Service agent Verity Kent, in award-winning author Anna Lee Huber’s thrilling mystery series.
Peacetime has brought little respite for Verity Kent. Intrigue still abounds, even within her own family. As a favor to her father, Verity agrees to visit his sister in Wiltshire. Her once prosperous aunt has fallen on difficult times and is considering selling their estate. But there are strange goings-on at the manor, including missing servants, possible heirloom forgeries, and suspicious rumors—all leading to the discovery of a dead body on the grounds.
While Verity and her husband, Sidney, investigate this new mystery, they are also on the trail of an old adversary—the shadowy and lethal Lord Ardmore. At every turn, the suspected traitor seems to be one step ahead of them. And even when their dear friend Max, the Earl of Ryde, stumbles upon a code hidden among his late father’s effects that may reveal the truth about Ardmore, Verity wonders if they are really the hunters—or the hunted . . .
Aside from my subjective issues with the path Huber chose for these characters, I like this series; you could say I enjoy them in spite of myself. But while this book was a 4 star read on the strength of its plot, it might have been a 4.5/5 star read if not for the weakness of the editing.
The narrative is much longer than it needed to be because Huber, with admirable motivation, spends a lot of time ruminating on the devastation wrought on both the soldiers who fought in WWI, and those left behind to cope in fear and anxiety. She does bring light to many aspects of the horror that is war, especially the first world war, but she spends too much time doing it, and this is a murder mystery, after all. I’m confident a lot of it could have been cut without losing the more important message, and the overall story would have been a lot better for it.
Still, the plot is a strong one, with aspects of scavenger and treasure hunting spicing up what would otherwise be an ordinary nemesis plot running parallel to a murder mystery. I’m still kid enough to enjoy rhyming clues and secret codes, as well as the touch of cloak and dagger when used judiciously, and it is here.
As I opened the post with, I still don’t like what Huber is doing with the characters; while there are no love triangles or quadrangles, she has two other men in love with Verity who are dedicated to uncovering the series’ plot; there seems to be no plan for this to change and it’s tiresome. Luckily, the murder mysteries have so far made up for it. Can’t see that lasting much longer though.
London is known for its bustle and intrigues, but the sedate English countryside can host—or hide—any number of secrets. Frances, the widowed Countess of Harleigh, needs a venue for her sister Lily’s imminent wedding, away from prying eyes. Risings, George Hazleton’s family estate in Hampshire, is a perfect choice, and soon Frances, her beloved George, and other guests have gathered to enjoy the usual country pursuits—shooting, horse riding, and romantic interludes in secluded gardens.
But the bucolic setting harbors a menace, and it’s not simply the arrival of Frances’s socially ambitious mother. Above and below stairs, mysterious accidents befall guests and staff alike. Before long, Frances suspects these “accidents” are deliberate, and fears that the intended victim is Lily’s fiancé, Leo. Frances’s mother is unimpressed by Lily’s groom-to-be and would much prefer that Lily find an aristocratic husband, just as Frances did. But now that Frances has found happiness with George—a man who loves her for much more than her dowry—she heartily approves of Lily’s choice. If she can just keep the couple safe from villains and meddling mamas.
As Frances and George search for the culprit among the assembled family, friends, and servants, more victims fall prey to the mayhem. Mishaps become full-blooded murder, and it seems that no one is safe. And unless Frances can quickly flush out the culprit, the peal of wedding bells may give way to another funeral toll. . . .
Historical mysteries seem to be all the rage at the moment, and fortunately, publishers have yet to monetise and ruin the trend to such a degree that you can’t find a selection of well written series to enjoy. While the quality of cozy mysteries has been abysmal the last several years, Historical Mysteries have filled in the gap nicely for me.
A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder is the 3rd in a series I discovered at my first (and so far only) Bouchercon convention. It’s a good series, and this book is a strong 3rd book, moving the characters’ arcs along quickly, while presenting an interesting stand-alone plot, with clues easily missed and writing that skilfully misdirected the reader down several false avenues. As the story moved along, some of the misdirection became obvious, but some of it didn’t, rendering a delightful mystery well done.
My only groan over the book was the introduction of Countess Harleigh’s mother who was caricatured for most of her page time, only to do the whole mama-lion thing and achieving what to me was an insincere redemption in the final pages. Fortunately she’s not around much in this book and it wasn’t enough to really weight the book down.
Surrounded by secrets, great and small, the formidable Miss Phryne Fisher returns to vanquish injustice.
When a mysterious invitation arrives for Miss Phryne Fisher from an unknown Captain Herbert Spencer, Phryne's curiosity is excited. Spencer runs a retreat in Victoria's spa country for shell-shocked soldiers of the First World War. It's a cause after Phryne's own heart but what could Spencer want from her?
Phryne and the faithful Dot view their spa sojourn as a short holiday but are quickly thrown in the midst of disturbing Highland gatherings, disappearing women, murder and the mystery of the Temperance Hotel.
Meanwhile, Cec, Bert and Tinker find a young woman floating face down in the harbour, dead. Tinker, with Jane and Ruth, Phryne's resilient adopted daughters, together decide to solve what appears to be a heinous crime.
Disappearances, murder, bombs, booby-traps and strange goings-on land Miss Phryne Fisher right in the middle of her most exciting adventure.
I’ve been a fan of this series from the beginning but this one was phoned in, either by the author herself or Allen and Unwin, or, possibly, both. I still enjoyed the hell out of catching up with Phryne and friends, but in quality, this was disappointing.
Death in Daylesford is one of her longer entries, and the story meanders quite a bit across at least 3 different plot-lines taking place in two different places: Melbourne’s mystery being solved by Phryne’s three adopted kids and her assistant’s fiancé (a police detective), and one in Daylesford, a spa town about an hour away from Melbourne, spear-headed by Phryne and her assistant Dot.
The Melbourne plot could have been scrapped and I’d have never missed it. While I like Jane and Ruth as characters, I found their plot/mystery to be too Nancy Drew for my tastes. The death they investigated was tragic, and it’s solution sad, but it was superfluous to requirements.
Phryne’s mysteries were more interesting and more diabolical, but poor editing and the inclusion of the Nancy Drew parallel plot detracted significantly from what it might have been. The poor editing is obvious – and surprising – in the form of missing words, and one scene where the dead body is removed from the scene twice. Blaming the parallel plot is just speculation on my part, but so many things in Phryne’s mysteries were glossed over and she reached conclusions with no discernible process to the reader, that I have to believe Greenwood just didn’t have the page space to expand on plot points the way she might have. Which is a shame, because the plots were interesting and deserved more than they got.
In spite of all this, I enjoyed the read, and I’m thrilled to see a new Phryne Fisher mystery out, after I’d started to believe the series was over. I hope there will be more, and I hope the author and the publisher both get their groove back.
Bowen’s homage to Rebecca, this entry might or might not be a disappointment to those who have read du Maurier’s classic – I’ve never read it myself, so the plot here was new to me, though I could appreciate the allusions and the tip of the hat to the gothic atmosphere.
The story, homage or not, is well-written enough that I don’t think fans of the series will be disappointed. It’s not her absolute best (The Twelve Clues of Christmas, imo) but it’s well-plotted and the characters are well drawn. Darcy has little page time, as usual, but we get a lot more of Belinda and her background, which I enjoyed. Queenie makes a thankfully brief appearance, but otherwise it’s a whole new cast of characters in the wilds of Cornwall, in what ends up to be a delightfully crazy plot.
Eventually though, I’m going to have to cave and read Rebecca.
A royal scandal’s connection to a brutal serial killer threatens London in this new Veronica Speedwell adventure from New York Times bestselling and Edgar® Award–nominated author Deanna Raybourn.
Autumn 1888. Veronica Speedwell and her colleague Stoker are asked by Lady Wellingtonia Beauclerk to stop a potential scandal so explosive it threatens to rock the monarchy. Prince Albert Victor is a regular visitor to the most exclusive private club in London, and the proprietress, Madame Aurore, has received an expensive gift that can be traced back to the prince. Lady Wellie would like Veronica and Stoker to retrieve it from the club before scandal can break.
Worse yet, London is being terrorized by what would become the most notorious and elusive serial killer in history, Jack the Ripper—and Lady Wellie suspects the prince may be responsible.
Veronica and Stoker reluctantly agree to go undercover at Madame Auroreʼs high-class brothel, where a body soon turns up. Secrets are swirling around Veronica and the royal family—and it is up to Veronica and Stoker to find the truth, before it is too late for all of them.
A fan from the start of the series, I always thought the mc being based on a real historical figure gave the books that little extra something, but when I finished this one, as much as I enjoyed it, I thought ‘the author certainly took some creative liberties in this one’.
Which shows how much I know about history; every part I found fantastical turned out to be based on true events. So all I can say now is, poor Prince Albert Victor; even if some of the more spurious speculations about him took place long after his death, his memory seems unfairly tarnished.
Veronica and Stoker’s story was a good time though. The plot was well crafted, though not a mystery, really. This was much more about foiling a two-pronged conspiracy, and while murder was done, there was no mystery as to who did it. Raybourn also used the storyline’s backdrop of Whitechapel and the Jack the Ripper murders to spotlight the social inequities of the Victorian age.
And finally, after 5 books, there is finally some advancement between Veronica and Stoker, which, while the romance isn’t the thing for me, is a relief, because I find tension of any kind, too long strung out, to be tedious in the extreme.
It took me too long to get this book because of the pandemic, but the upside is the next one has already been announced, so I know I’ll have another to look forward to soon.
Su Lin is doing her dream job: assistant at Singapore's brand new detective agency. Until Bald Bernie decides a 'local girl' can't be trusted with private investigations, and replaces her with a new secretary - pretty, privileged, and white. So Su Lin's not the only person finding it hard to mourn Bernie after he's found dead in the filing room. And when her best friend's dad is accused, she gets up to some sleuthing work of her own in a bid to clear his name.
Su Lin finds out that Bernie may have been working undercover, trading stolen diamonds for explosives from enemy troops. Was he really the upright English citizen he claimed to be?
Meanwhile, a famous assassin commits his worst crime yet, and disappears into thin air. Rumours spread that he may be dangerously close to home.
Beneath the stifling, cloudless Singaporean summer, earthquakes of chaos and political unrest are breaking out. When a tragic loss shakes Su Lin's personal world to its core, she becomes determined to find the truth. But in dark, hate-filled times, truth has a price - and Su Lin must decide how much she's willing to pay for it. 327
I enjoy this series for the setting, the time, the history and the characters, but The Paper Bark Tree Mystery was a poor entry structure wise. The plot was good, but marred by the fragmented delivery; characters would transition from point A to point S without the reader knowing anything about B-R, making for a disjointed and often confusing read. Ultimately, this is the fault of whomever edited it, but it’s a shame because the story and the series has so much going for it and a lot of potential ahead. I’ll read the next one if there is a next one, but I hope for a much smoother narrative.
Sylvie Nolan, the new and much-younger wife of Lieutenant Colonel John Nolan, has been bludgeoned to death in her bedroom. The tightly knit military community in Singapore quickly closes ranks to hinder Curran’s investigation, and Harriet realizes that her friendship with the colonel’s sister might prove useful. But to get close enough to the family’s secrets, Harriet must once again face her painful past, and Curran is forced to dredge up some long-buried secrets of his own. And when more shocking deaths occur that all seem linked to Sylvie’s murder, Harriet and Curran discover that they too are in the sights of a callous killer. . . .
My issues with this one remain the same as the first, but I realise after some thought, that I am the victim of the romantic tension trope. Possibly a willing victim, as it turns out. I understand that Stuart is bucking the trope by having the two MCs not being romantically available to each other, but alas, I don’t like it. It feels like something is missing, in spite of my not being a fan of romances. Given the time period these are set in, and the general attitude of society that a man and a woman can’t really be partners and bond on any level other than romantically – and should they try everybody accuses them of being romantically involved anyway, I can’t see this going anywhere that isn’t going to irritate me.
Still, the mysteries are good, and the Singapore setting is threatening to become trendy. The characters are growing on me in spite of the lack of oomph. The plotting is intricate enough, though one scene gave away the villain just a few pages before the big reveal.
I’ll definitely read a third one and who knows, maybe the character dynamics will go somewhere interesting without all the silly angst.
First in a series taking place in Singapore in 1910, about a woman convicted in England for her suffragette activities who flees to Singapore to assist her brother, a headmaster at a school for British boys. As her post is unpaid, she advertises for secretarial jobs on the side, and discovers her first commissioner brutally murdered.
It’s a compelling start to a series, but this first book leaves the characters’ dynamic with each other unsettled at the end, so I didn’t like it as much I would have otherwise. Still the plotting was strong and well thought out, though some aspects of the puzzle were obvious to the reader, either because they were telegraphed early on, or because the reader has read too many mysteries not to see what was coming. The characters not having the benefit of 100+ years of mysteries to tap into, their slowness to pick up on what was going on was understandable, if sometimes tedious.
I have the second book in hand on my TBR, and I’m looking forward to seeing the character development in that one. That will decide me as to whether to go on with the series or not. (Assuming it continues past book 2, of course.)
The murder of a shipping clerk…the strange disappearance of trusted friends…rumors of corruption within the powerful East India Company…all add up to a thrillingly dark mystery…
When Lady Cordelia, a brilliant mathematician, and her brother, Lord Woodbridge, disappear from London, rumors swirl concerning fraudulent bank loans and a secret consortium engaged in an illicit—and highly profitable—trading scheme that threatens the entire British economy. The incriminating evidence mounts, but for Charlotte and Wrexford, it’s a question of loyalty and friendship. And so they begin a new investigation to clear the siblings’ names, uncover their whereabouts, and unravel the truth behind the whispers.
As they delve into the murky world of banking and international arbitrage, Charlotte and Wrexford also struggle to navigate their increasingly complex feelings for each other. But the clock is ticking—a cunning mastermind has emerged . . . along with some unexpected allies—and Charlotte and Wrexford must race to prevent disasters both economic and personal as they are forced into a dangerous match of wits in an attempt to beat the enemy at his own game.
I’ve really enjoyed the first three books in this series, and though I enjoyed this one too it was a bit heavy on the sentimentality.
Penrose crafts her plots around fictionalised versions of real historic events, and this time around it’s mathematical machines and financial shenanigans that may or may not involve the East India Company. Her historical knowledge always adds an extra depth to the story, and a well plotted mystery makes it even better.
Charlotte has built quite a scooby gang around her and Wexford, and the characters are fully fleshed and they’re easy to care about and cheer for. But the dynamic between Wexford and Charlotte has become increasingly sentimental to the point of down right syrupy. The sentiments are lovely, but just a little too much for my tastes. I was also getting aggravated at the overuse of the word ‘dastards’.
I’m still a fan, but I’m hoping the next book will regain a little of the edge the first couple had.
Brother Cadfael has had no time to think about the grand wedding which is to take place in the church at Shrewsbury Abbey and is causing such excitement in the city. The groom is an aging nobleman; the bride a very young woman coerced into the marriage by her greedy guardians. But it soon becomes apparent that the groom, Huon de Domville, is a cold, harsh man -- in stark contrast to his beautiful bride-to-be. Before the wedding can take place, a savage killing occurs, setting Brother Cadfael the task of determining the truth, which turns out to be strange indeed.
For slower paced, traditional mysteries that are very skilfully written, you can’t go wrong with Brother Cadfael. When Peters created a crusader turned monk, she gave herself a large canvas on which to paint a variety of clever, interesting crimes.
The Leper of St. Giles takes place largely in and around St. Giles, the hospice for lepers that lies just outside Shrewsbury, but it’s largely about the wedding of an 18 year old girl, sold off by her guardians for a large portion of her own inheritance, to a cold, unfeeling 60-something land baron who only bought her lands and is taking her on sufferance. Of course she’s fragile and innocent and lovely and of course his squire is around the bend in love with her and incandescent over the injustice of her treatment. And of course the baron ends up murdered.
There’s a plot twist in this book; a rather major one, but it’s telegraphed early on, so that I knew long before it was revealed. It’s a good one, but if Peters hadn’t split the difference, the early guess would have ruined the story. As it is, Peters seems to have covered her bets and kept that reveal from being absolutely pivotal to the plot, making the ultimate solution a surprise, and a tragic one at that.
A few of the series characters readers enjoy aren’t here in this book, but there are other characters that endear themselves to the reader. There’s a bit of humor here and there too, making this a much more enjoyable read than the last, St. Peters’ Fair, which was a good story but dragged. I’d be best pleased if we saw Bran and Joscelin again, though I’m not counting on it.
This is one of the better of the 5 I’ve read so far, and I read it for the center square – Poe’s Raven – on my Halloween Bingo Card for 2020