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review 2018-03-17 09:32
One Corpse Too Many (Brother Cadfael, #2)
One Corpse Too Many - Ellis Peters

I had doubts starting this one, because it starts off slow.  Really slow.  Like, omg, this book is never, ever going to end.  This was largely due to the history dump Peters gives the reader in the beginning; the boring-to-me kind of history about battles and wars and political shenanigans.  


Then the dead body is found in the pile, and Cadfael gets his new assistant and stuff starts happening.  Midway through I was loving this story; "cat and mouse" comes to mind, but it's really much more "cat vs cat" because Cadfael is up against a man as clever as he is and there's no mouse in this plot.  The almost-the-end/climax-but-not was magnificent; the machinations were making me positively giddy, and yet the mystery itself continued.  Once Cadfael figured out who the murderer was, I admit I felt a bit knuckle-headed because the possibility never even entered my mind.  I can only tell myself I was entirely too caught up it the sub-plot of cat-n-cat and wasn't paying attention. 


That's what I'm telling myself anyway.


These are excellent mysteries for anyone who wants something more serious than a cozy, but doesn't want hard-core thrillers or crime stories.  Enjoying history is a plus, but not necessary save for the first few chapters.  There are 20 books in this series and if each of them are this meaty, I'll be reading them for years to come, because they aren't the kind I can binge read.  Yay!


This book works for the Kill Your Darlings game's COD: Stabbed with a sword.  Primarily, it takes place during the middle ages, but it also is set in the midst of a civil war and the text is chock full of the word "sword".

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review 2018-03-14 05:50
A Brush with Shadows (Lady Darby, #6)
A Brush with Shadows - Anna Lee Huber

I'll put it out there: the recent books don't have the edginess that the first few books had, and this one had Gage's tragic past laid somewhat thickly on the ground, but I still thoroughly enjoy them.  I can imagine once you marry off your protagonist it becomes difficult to defy conventions quite so easily; some tropes become unavoidable.  


Still, the characters continue to please, and Huber did fitting justice to the Dartmoor moors; Gage's tragi-angst wasn't the only thing thick on the ground:  thick fog, heavy mist, unrelenting rain, a formidable dark, gloomy manor, and a hint of the supernatural - the moors wouldn't be the moors without them and they were all here in spades.


The mystery was pretty darn good too.  Was a crime committed?  Is the heir playing his usual games?  Why is everybody hiding everything?  In the end, crimes were definitely committed and while the murderer came out of nowhere for me, in spite of the name occurring to me in relation to a tangential plot element, I don't feel like it was a cheat on the part of the author.  I can't say she necessarily played fair in the strictest sense of the word, but I don't feel like she pulled any rabbits out her hat either.


I'm a fan, and I'll eagerly buy her next one.


This book will work for the Kill Your Darlings cards for Victim: Easy Rawlings and Victim: Ariadne Oliver.  Not sure which I'll use it for yet though.

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review 2018-03-12 01:55
Substantial cast, good historical fiction mystery
The Ninth Daughter - Barbara Hamilton

I didn’t expect to enjoy this book as much as I would! It was a great mystery with a hefty set of characters (historical and otherwise) with an underlying theme of political tension playing throughout the plot.


I think that’s what made the book enjoyable, was despite the mystery being the main hook, the political tension and bickering between the patriots and the British was always in the forefront and mentioned when need be as it was central to the story. Every so often you had mention of Abigail’s refusal to drink tea for example, or minor scuffles happening between citizens and the Redcoats.


Despite the tensions however, Abigail puts her ideas and beliefs aside and works alongside the British to solve this mystery. I enjoyed reading her character. She’s strong willed and has a good retort every so often when she needs to speak out, which shocks other characters as it wasn’t considered “proper”. I enjoy Abigail’s unorthodox behavior and it may seem as if she gives an air of an annoying stubborn woman, but it’s because of her personality that things get done no matter whose side you’re on or who you support.


John and Abigail’s relationship was also nice to read. They’re both equals and you can see a subtle quiet strength between them and they compliment each other perfectly. There’s a mutual respect between the two and if they were alive now, they would probably be a political supercouple ;)


The mystery aspect of the book was good and the intrigue is definitely noted. The setting is superbly done and very descriptive. The list of suspects was substantial and revelation of the culprit isn’t much of a surprise but the execution of obtaining the criminal and his background story was excellent to read , and was very satisfying to see the bad guys get their dues. The supporting characters are also well done - although I have to admit, there are just a little too many for me. Even minor characters have their personality and details and although it’s good and makes the world building more detailed and rich, sometimes it’s a bit hard to follow as to who’s who. (Perhaps a section of cast of characters would help in this case - especially when some characters share the same last name)


I’ll be picking up the next book to read. It’s definitely worth looking into for those that love historical fiction mysteries. The tea has been dumped!!! So you have to figure out what sort of chaos is going to happen and what mystery Abigail will solve next.

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review 2018-02-21 01:13
The Essence of Malice (Amory Ames, #4)
The Essence of Malice - Ashley Weaver

Meh-ish.  It would have been much, much better if Weaver hadn't dragged me through Amory's marriage angst for most of the story.  I'd rather thought we'd left all that crap behind, but I was wrong.  Milo's an ass.  She absolutely should have dumped him for the guy in book 1; there might have been less passion for Amory, but the readers would have had to put up with a lot less fretting.  I hate fretting.


Beyond all that trying nonsense though, is a good mystery and setting.  When Amory wasn't wringing her hands over her ass of a husband, she was interacting with interesting characters in 1920s/30s Paris.  Even better, the story centers on the perfume industry, which I found intriguing.


The plotting was...  it was good but also a cheat.  Weaver cheated.  She didn't write a mystery readers can solve because she withholds information from both her characters and her readers.  This doesn't generally bother me when the story is good, but it is cheating, strictly speaking, and it was so blatantly done one can't help but notice it.  


So:  good story marred by a lot of anxious fretting, an ass of a romantic interest, and a mystery nobody has a hope in hell of solving.


Oddly enough after reading through this, I'm still on board for the next book.  If Amory and Milo can't sort their shit out and grow up though, I'm out.



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review 2018-02-16 09:30
A Treacherous Curse (Veronica Speedwell, #3)
A Treacherous Curse - Deanna Raybourn

I love Veronica Speedwell.  Her character is almost everything I admire in a person, with the exceptions of her penchants for collecting butterflies, necessitating her killing them, and her need to verbalise her sexual liberty.  This isn't hypocrisy on my part; I think it's distasteful when men make their sexual needs topics of casual conversation, and it's no less so when a woman does it.  Boundaries.  Good fences make good neighbours and all that.


But these are very minor niggles.  Everything else about Veronica is excellent and Stoker doesn't suck either.  Raybourn has found that perfect balance of rawness, gentility, intelligence, anger, and grace in her hero (although I have to say, what's up with the eye patch? Is that really considered sexy?  I see one and have to resist the urge to pull it and watch it snap back).  The dialog between the two of them is snappy and sometimes electric.  There's no doubt as to where these two are headed, but Raybourn is taking her time sending them there, and doing it well enough that I, for one, feel no impatience for them to get on with it already.


The mystery plot is the only thing that held this book back a bit for me.  It succeeded in terms of leaving me guessing until the very end, but honestly it was so convoluted that I stopped trying to figure it out about halfway through and just focused on the characters until the end.  That's not necessarily a criticism; this is a strong book just on the merits of being an engrossing work of historical fiction.  But my enjoyment came from the story first, with the mystery an afterthought.


Sadly, I'm going to have to wait an entire year for the fourth book.  But I'll be looking forward to it with anticipation.

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