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review 2019-06-22 17:26
Murder of Lydia
Murder of Lydia: A Mr. Moh Mystery - Joan A. Cowdroy

Whitesands Bay reflected on its rippled surface the cool sunlight of early morning which filtered through from skies veiled as yet in haze that promised heat.

Mr. Moh sat on the end of a wooden groyne and surveyed the scene, shining waters, and smooth, unsullied sand uncovered by the tide, which had magnanimously washed away all traces of careless humanity in a spirit of deep content.

Murder of Lydia is another title that was originally written in the 1930s but was re-released recently in the wave of Golden Age mystery re-discoveries. 


Apparently, Joan A. Cowdroy wrote a series of detective novels that starred Mr. Moh, a Chinese-born gardener who may or may not have been affiliated with the San Francisco Police Department before moving to England. 


Anyway, Murder of Lydia introduces Mr. Moh and his family: his wife, daughter, and staunch xenophobic in-laws. 

When starting the book I was afraid that Mr. Moh would end up as yet another cliche character, but actually, despite Cowdroy lumbering Mr. Moh with a speech-pattern straight out of the Mr. Moto movies, Mr. Moh is a great character, who observes the characters around him, and through whom we get to really know them. 


The problem is that there is nowhere near enough of Mr. Moh in this story. A short way into the murder mystery, Inspector Gorham takes over, and Mr. Moh is pushed to the sidelines.

This is a shame.  I would have loved to have seen him take part more in the investigation. 

On the other hand, this probably would not have worked either because I would have been the first to complain about why a random gardener was part of a police inquiry.


Anyway, as the story plods on - drags a bit - while we lay blame at the door of a woman who doesn't fit society's expectations of portrayal of feminine emotions, the story is not all that extraordinary, except that Cowdroy clearly meant to ruffle some feathers with her portrayal of the main suspect and final plot twist that made me smile. 


I'm really keen to read the other book by Cowdroy that is currently available - Death Has No Tongue. I think she may have been on to something slightly unconventional and delightfully quirky that made her books stand out from the bulk of "re-discovered" Golden Age mysteries. 

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review 2019-06-21 13:53
Who Spoke Last?
Who Spoke Last?: An Amos Petrie Mystery (Black Heath Classic Crime) - Turner Publishing Company

“I can see that you, too, have suffered,” she exclaimed.

“My God!” thought Amos, “this is going to be another marriage on another bond of grief!”

He introduced a sterner note as he threw the woman off her estimate of his unhappy life.

“I’ve never had a miserable moment in my life,” he said. Then he blushed at the sound of the lie and hastened to add, “Except, of course, for the day, that most unhappy day, when I lost Mary Ann.”

“I knew it,” said the woman.

“Yes,” continued the little man, dreamily, “Mary Ann was the best——”

“So were both my husbands,” she interjected.

“Fishing rod I’ve ever had,” completed Amos.

Mrs. Gertrude Jane Crawley Bedlay clutched her bag, and rose from the chair. She was now in agreement with those who thought Amos could readily be certified—that his freedom was a slight on the Board of Control.

After reading Turner's Below the Clock recently, I simply had to pick up another book by the author. I loved Below the Clock and was delighted to find another delightful mystery starring Amos Petrie, the eccentric and crumpled solicitor in the Public Prosecutor's Department. 


Unlike Below the Clock which was set in Westminster, Who Spoke Last? was set amongst the stock-brokers of the City of London, which was just as nefarious a setting.


I loved the discussion of the different potential motives, especially the way that several suspects are basically left to stab each other in the back before the real culprit - tho none of the suspects are without fault - is revealed. I really loved the structure of the mystery as much as the way that Turner used the book to poke fun at the pretense of respectability and how crooks are also bested by crooks.


Loved it.


Death Must Have Laughed - TBR

Who Spoke Last? - 4*

Amos Petrie's Puzzle - TBR

Murder - Nine and Out - TBR

Death Joins the Party - TBR

Homicide Haven - TBR

Below the Clock - 4*

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review 2019-06-21 11:58
Death on the Cherwell
Death on the Cherwell - Mavis Doriel Hay

So much unfulfilled potential. 


An Oxford setting, a mysterious death, college intrigue, and an underlying issue that is worthy of discussion and that would still have been a taboo at the time of writing. Seriously, there was so much in this book that should have been the foundation of an excellent book. 


However, the potential was spoiled by TSTL characters that dominated the first half of the book for no reason - absolutely none! - and was made worse by (if that is possible with TSTL characters) by pretty explicit racism. I know, I know, it was acceptable at the time...yadda, yadda.

But here is the thing...it contributed absolutely nothing to the story. What was the point? It only made the characters more stupid than they were already. Tho, granted, that was a feat on the part of the author that I had not expected.


It doesn't help, of course, that the book was published in the same year and has a very similar setting to Gaudy Night, which is one of the best books I have read this year and is now firmly placed on the list of my all-time favourite books. 

Where Sayers showed us how to write a Golden Age mystery set in Oxford, Hay showed us how not to do it. 


If it had not been for familiarity with Oxford from either personal experience or other sources, I am not sure that Oxford setting really came to the fore in Hay's book. Sure, we have punting, a river, and a fairly nondescript college, but where is the description of the city? Where is the atmosphere? The closest I found to an Oxford description was when two of the students discuss Blackwell's bookshop. That was all.  


Just as ubiquitous yellow fog does not create a Victorian London setting, there is more to Oxford than Blackwell's and punting. 

I expected more.


There are issues with the mystery, too. 


Again, the main characters were too immature - childish even - to pass for first-year students. The police were too all-knowing and presumptive to pass for detectives. 


The real issue I have, however, is that the actual interesting plot twist is left to the last chapters of the book and is not actually used to discuss the intricacies of the deficiencies in the mores of the time. Sure, it would have been a topic that was unmentionable at the time, but if the author didn't want to discuss it and the hypocrisy around it, why would she use it as the underlying reason for the entire story?


I expected more. Much more.

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review 2019-06-16 00:23
The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams
The Golden Hour - Beatriz Williams

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


Was yours ever hit?”

No. Not a scratch. I suppose even bombs have a sense of irony.”

Not really,” I say. “That's just human illusion. We imagine there's an order to things, because it's too awful to consider the randomness of fate.”


The Golden Hour is historical fiction that mainly follows two women decades apart while slowly but surely weaving their stories together. We first meet Elfriede in a Swiss clinic where she was sent after she can't feel anything for her newborn and talks about a darkness that dwells in her. Today we would call it postpartum depression but in the early 1900s, no one quite knows what to do with her. There she meets an Englishman recouping from pneumonia and they have a soulmates connection but with Elfriede still married, they can't really act on anything.

The other woman we follow is Lulu in 1941 just as she is arriving in the Bahamas to cover gossip about the scandalous Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Edward and Wallis Simpson. There she gets caught up in possible treasonous acts and meets Benedict Thorpe, a man she thinks is more than he is letting on.


It's so easy and so safe to fall in love when the universe is against you.


While Elfriede's story is relayed from the beginning, chronologically, we start more towards the end with Lulu's story and are constantly backtracking and shooting forward to gain information on how she ends up in London with Benedict's sister, which is where we first meet her and the mysterious government agent, Mr. B. The pov changes also include first person and third person different narratives; it works to keep the two women drivers of their own stories but I can see how this could affect the flow of the story for some.


While Lulu and Elfriede are fictional characters, they are surrounded by real events and real historical figures of their times. World War I plays a part in Elfriede's story, affecting her life's course and World War II obviously plays a big part in Lulu's story. For the most part though, the gravitas of the Wars are kept to the outside, Pearl Harbor is discussed but being in the Bahamas during the time and lack of Internet keeps the news to feeling surreal. The focus is more microcosm and how the Wars are personally affecting these two women and how it will connect them.


I thought it was intriguing how the author made the Windsors, somewhat, central and key, along with the real murder mystery of Henry Oakes; little moments in history that aren't completely solved are fun to read different takes on.


Life is made up of these little crossroads, after all,” he said. “A million daily forks in the road.”


The slow weaving of Elfriede and Lulu may feel meandering for a while, I thought the latter half started to drag a bit but it was still curiously interesting to see how the author ultimately ended up placing all the characters to culminate in the ending. The ending was rushed and key emotional moments were crammed, taking away from the reader from getting time to digest and deliver a bigger impact on key moments. However, if looking to disappear for a few hours, The Golden Hour will keep you intrigued about how all these characters touch and impact each other's lives and how it could feel so helpless and hopeful all at the same time during World War I and II.


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review 2019-06-09 12:27
Reading progress update: I've read 100%.
A Blunt Instrument - Georgette Heyer,Ulli Birvé

Let's just say this is one of Ms. Heyer's less than stellar efforts.  Also, it didn't age well at all -- and Ulli Birvé hits a new low in the narration.


Oh well.  Two nonseries mysteries to go, and I'll be done with Georgette Heyer's crime fiction!

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