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review 2019-02-10 05:33
The Corpse at the Crystal Palace (Daisy Dalrymple Mystery, #23)
The Corpse at the Crystal Palace - Carola Dunn

 This is one of those series that's a reliable old friend for me.  Definitely cozy, a little bit frothy, and terribly innocent but never twee or precious, Dunn writes an historically accurate mystery that aims to offer a bit of harmless escapism.  She generally succeeds.  

 

Daisy and her step-daughter Bel are entertaining some young cousins for a week at their home in London, and on the agenda is a day at the Crystal Palace. When Daisy finds out that neither the nanny nor the nurse have been there, she ends up with a large group outing on her hands.  Everyone splits off to explore the huge building and grounds, and when it's time to meet back up, Bel and her cousins spy Nanny Gilpin running out of the "Ladies conveniences" in pursuit of another nanny.  They cannot resist following her, playing spy, to see what's up, and it's all great fun until they find Mrs. Gilpin unconscious in one of the ponds.

 

Meanwhile, Daisy arrives at the rendezvous point to find the nurse and her twins, but no nanny.  After an appropriate amount of time has passed, Daisy goes off to the Ladies conveniences to find out what's holding up nanny's return.  Only instead she finds another nanny, dead.  When Mrs. Gilpin regains consciousness (the children having dragged her out of the pond), she can't, of course, remember anything.

 

And so begins another amateur investigator by Daisy, who is determined to find out why her heretofore grave, humourless but ultra responsible nanny would hare off and leave the twins, even if it was in care of the nurse.

 

Dunn has fun playing up the meddling Daisy does, lightly pitting her in a race against her husband, DCI Alex Fletcher.  Daisy has a knack for purposely putting herself in the right place at the right time, but rather than press the point and interrogate, she merely observes and listens, picking up information as she goes, so it really isn't meddling.  This along with her connections to the peers of the realm (she's an Honourable), gives her access to information faster than the police and makes her contributions valuable, though  it pains her husband to admit it.  

 

The plotting of the mystery was so-so.  I should say, it was technically well done, but the motivation behind a couple of pivotal moments felt weak.  They worked, but only just.  This would probably be a crucial point in book 1, or any of the early entries, but by book 23 most readers are invested in the characters and will probably forgive a less than riveting plot for the chance to catch up with Daisy and her friends and family.  I did, anyway.

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review 2018-10-11 09:05
A Lady's Guide To Etiquette And Murder (Countess of Harleigh Mystery, #1)
A Lady's Guide To Etiquette And Murder - Dianne Freeman

I bought this book at Barnes and Noble, just before going to Bouchercon, where Kensington was giving away free, signed copies, and the author was speaking on several panels.  Doh.  As luck would have it, I enjoyed the story enough that I don't begrudge the royalties the author earned from my lack of foresight in the least.

 

Lady Harleigh is just coming out of her one year's mourning following the death of her husband, the Earl who exchanged his title for her American fortune.  Throwing off the widow's weeds and fleeing from the in-laws who intend to bleed her dry of her private fortune, she settles in London with her daughter.  But someone has sent an anonymous letter to the police claiming she killed her husband, and a string of small jewel thefts from the ton put her on a different suspect list after she finds one of the stolen pieces in her purse after a party.

 

First things first - those who enjoy historical accuracy should avoid this book.  Not that the author didn't do her research; I don't know if she did or didn't as I'm not well versed enough in 1899 England to spot inaccuracies, but the narrative has a distinctly contemporary voice.  I also remember that Freeman was on an historical fiction panel I attended and she was not one of the sticklers for historical accuracy (I remember her sort of falling in the middle of the spectrum).  

 

But my historical ignorance was bliss in this case.  I just enjoyed the story for what it was: a fun mystery with strong female characters, a likeable romantic interest, and few, if any, TSTL moments.  it was also a very, very clever plot.

 

For those that like Rhys Bowen's Her Royal Spyness, this series has a similar feel, though a slightly more mature MC and less charming narrative.  It's a great start to what could be a very fun series.

 

I read this for my last square in Halloween Bingo: Darkest London.  Blackout!  

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review 2018-10-10 08:43
The Pigeon Pie Mystery
The Pigeon Pie Mystery - Julia Stuart

I bought this book purely on a whim while on holiday, based on the cover and the title, while trapped in a small used book store.  I say 'trapped' because a terrific thunderstorm was raging outside, keeping me and the owner in the shop until well after her normal closing hours.  Had I not needed to linger until the threat of leaving this earth as a human lightning rod had passed, I'd have probably not bought this book (I'd passed it over on my initial perusals). 

 

Points to the thunderstorm; this was a charmingly eccentric Victorian age mystery with an Indian princess MC, who is forced to accept a Grace and Favour abode in Hampton Court Palace, after her deposed-Maharaja father passes away in less than illustrious circumstances.  Soon after settling in, her lady's maid falls under suspicion of murder, after another Grace and Favor resident drops dead after eating her pigeon pie.

 

What follows is a colourful, wryly humorous, if a little over-long, mystery.  The characters are all odd, eccentric and chock full of secrets; some of them rather shocking.  There's a lot of situational humor, and levity based on misunderstandings.  Not a single character is dull, but the story never quite goes over the top.  My only complaint is that, even though I enjoyed the whole story, it was longer than it needed to be.  The fluff was clever and interesting, but it was still fluff.  The ending though, was clever as hell and delightfully unexpected.

 

I read this for Halloween Book Bingo's Country House Mystery.  I was worried at the outset whether it would qualify, but the entire mystery and investigation takes place within palace grounds and involves only the residents and the servants.  

 

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review 2018-08-17 11:28
Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding (Her Royal Spyness, #12)
Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding - Rhys Bowen

This series is always enjoyable, even when the plots aren't as good as they could be.  Luckily, even though the title is really a stretch, the plot of this one isn't.  I can imagine how it might have happened back in the day of the aristocracy owning multiple estates they often didn't visit for long stretches of time.

 

The subplot of the book is the culmination of 11 previous books filled with the flirting and courting between Darcy and Georgie - the wedding.  I was struck with trepidation at the beginning of the book as Georgie spies a pretty woman standing next to Darcy and immediately falls into a pit of despair; I dislike characters that don't embrace their own self worth.  Happily, it was a fleeting scene, and the rest of the (minimal) wedding related story-line was full of delicious revenge as Georgie gets to watch her evil sister-in-law fume over Georgie's close relationship with the King and Queen.  The scene where she tells Fig who her bridesmaids are was one of the best.

 

Overall, an enjoyable read.

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review 2018-02-10 09:25
Miss Dimple Suspects (Miss Dimple, #3)
Miss Dimple Suspects - Mignon F. Ballard

The books in this series are hard to describe.  They're both a tiny bit twee and interesting studies of small-town America during WWII.  I pick one up every once in awhile when I'm jonesing for a Homefront setting.

 

The mystery should have been better for me; it had the right elements: reclusive artist murdered, and paintings gone missing, but it just failed to hook me.  I love the characters though (except Miss Dimple; she's a little too Mary Poppins for me to really like her); Charlie, Annie, Virginia... they're all of their time and fun to read about.   And I really appreciated Ballard's choice of innocent suspect:  a Japanese American woman freshly graduated from medical school, forced to hide after her family in California is sent to a 'relocation camp'; she was acting as the artists companion/nurse when the murder occurred.  Ballard uses the story to spotlight the horrible situation these American citizens found themselves in because of their heritage, something I don't see written about very much. 

 

Generally, not a bad book; I enjoyed it enough, but I didn't love it.  

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