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review 2019-09-27 06:22
An Act of Villainy (Amory Ames Mystery, #5)
An Act of Villainy - Ashley Weaver

A bucket full of meh.


It's been 5 books now, since Amory decided to take her rogue of a husband back, and frankly, I'm sick and tired of wallowing with her in her anxiety about her marriage.  Trust him or don't; keep him or kick him out; fish or cut bait.  I don't actually care either way, though I suspect the series would be a lot better without her lifeless husband around.  That's right: the 'rogue', the ladies man apparently nobody can resist, is about as exciting as white paint.


The mystery this time around wasn't enough to distract me from the angst, as it was set in a theatre (which trope never appeals to me), and the mystery might have been clever, except it was just too ridiculous.  The author set her plot for stun, but over geared it and overshot the mark, landing somewhere in between incredulous and you've-got-to-be-kidding-me.


It's not a bad book, it's just not a very good one either.  Everything about it felt like an example of stretching a point too far.  The series started strong, so this might just be the runt of the litter and the next one will improve.  But I'm not rushing out to buy it.


I read this for the Halloween Bingo square Darkest London.

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review 2019-03-18 08:15
Death Comes to Bath (Kurland St. Mary Mystery, #6)
Death Comes to Bath - Catherine Lloyd

This has been a reliable series from the start.  Death Comes to Bath is not the strongest in the series in terms of mystery plotting or main character development, but the atmosphere, setting and secondary character development balance the scales.


After a serious setback in Sir Robert Kurland's post-war recovery, Lady (Lucy) Kurland packs up and drags him to Bath for 3 months for the restorative water cure, dragging her sister along in the hopes that she will find a suitable man to marry.  Sir Robert makes fast friends with their cantankerous neighbour and when he ends up dead, Robert and Lucy take it upon themselves to discover who, in one of the most disastrous families that ever was, might have committed the crime.


The outrageous dysfunction of the murdered man's family almost lends an air of frivolity to the story, but not really.  The plotting of the murder itself was semi-predictable; the murderer wasn't a shocking revelation, though it wasn't at all telegraphed. A few extra points go to the author for the plot twist that I only cottoned on to a few pages before it was revealed to the characters.  


The character development between Lucy and Robert was sadly predictable, although also historically accurate, so no fault goes to the author.  What was far more interesting to me is the continued exploration of Lucy's sister Anna's reluctance to marry because she doesn't want kids.  Historically accurate or not, I find her small story line compelling and it filled the gaps nicely for me when the story threatened to become stale.  (It's possible I mixed metaphors there?)


MT and I spent an all-too-short overnighter in Bath a few years ago, and all it's done is whet my appetite for the city.  The area of Bath this story covers is small, and almost cliched with its mentions of the Pump Room, but I still ate it up with a spoon.  


Death Comes to Bath is a light and charming way to spend a few hours, and I will happily anticipate a 7th adventure.

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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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