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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 2018-07-25 08:23
Monk's Hood (Brother Cadfael Mystery, #3)
Monk's Hood - Ellis Peters

I finished this two days ago, which means the details are fuzzy at this point.  It's excellently written, of course, and the plotting equally well done.  Peters was clever; obfuscating the murderer with ease and subtlety.  


I resisted this series for a long time; I like historical mysteries, but tend to prefer Victorian time periods.  The middle ages don't interest me in general, but Ellis Peters' storytelling transcends the time frame its written in.  I'm reading it wondering what happens next, not cringing over the living conditions.  


I like Brother Cadfael quite a bit; he's not pious with all its negative connotations; there's no preaching or evangelising.  He's devoted to his faith and his calling to monastic life (a devotion that is tested in this book) but he's not trying to be a martyr to either.  I was a little disappointed that Hugh didn't have more page time, as he brings a spark to the pace, but overall, this was an excellent mystery.

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review 2018-04-11 09:36
Murder at Half Moon Gate (Wrexford & Sloane Mystery, #2)
Murder at Half Moon Gate - Andrea Penrose

I like these books; the first one had some plotting problems towards the end, but this one offered a much tighter and surprising story.  The author does an excellent job with atmosphere and setting too, although I can't comment on historical anachronisms.  Penrose does include an author note at the end discussing the backdrop of the story and offering some non-fiction titles for further reading.


There's a stronger element of romance to these books than there were in the previous historical mysteries by Penrose, but it's not at all overbearing, and the characters are much more sympathetic.  I was worried the author was going to drag Charlotte's big dreaded secret out even longer into a 3rd book, but she pulled it out right at the end (and spoiler - it's not even a little shocking).  I continue to like the two waifs Charlotte has taken under her wing too; I generally don't like kids in my mysteries much, but they work here and they're never purposefully cute or cloying.  


I'd put this series in just about the same class as the Lady Darby series by Anna Lee Huber - so if you like those, you might enjoy these.

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review 2018-04-07 01:58
Great historical setting, mystery is meh
Falconer's Crusade - Ian Morson

This is a pretty short mystery to read through. Looks can be deceiving though. Despite being short, it’s packed in with some heavy duty stuff.


The setting for example. Very rich in detail and gives you a sense on how it was back then in William Falconer’s time. Add in some political intrigue, a Jewish Quarter, and some rioting and it gets pretty exciting. I really can’t get over how great the setting is. It’s so descriptive you can feel the darkness and the dampness that permeates throughout the novel. Morson also does an excellent job to stay close to historical accuracy here in this novel as well. Forensic pathology is frowned upon, and you even get to see Falconer try on a strange contraption that looks a lot like Medieval opera glasses at the time. :)


The plot is pretty straight forward although there is not much of a secret mystery element in it. The suspect list is not extensive (thankfully! You’ll see why as you read further into this review) and when revealed it’s not much of a surprise or an a ha! Moment. There isn’t much personality to the characters except Falconer and his student Thomas. Thomas is a particular dolt. A Farmer boy who managed to be gifted and chosen to study and be a Scholar, well, for all the idiotic moves he makes, you have to wonder how the University chose this guy to let him attend their school. He fumbles and stumbles at the worst times and always manages to get himself into some life threatening situations (and doesn’t learn from it). It was funny the first few times, but after a while it gets annoying and you want to slap this boy upside the head. (You don’t deserve Hannah’s attention, you twit).


I’m going to assume it will get better with other books in this series, and this one serves as an introduction to the series. Since I really do love the historical aspect I will stick with this series and see where it takes me. Historical mystery lovers will love the setting and theme of this book, the mystery part, not so much.

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review 2018-03-28 00:48
Murder on Black Swan Lane (Wrexford & Sloane Mystery, #1)
Murder on Black Swan Lane - Andrea Penrose

This is one of those books that I liked in spite of demonstrable problems; a good example of when characters can overcome the flaws in a plot.


Lord Wrexford is an accomplished chemist and has the means to devote his time to it in the privacy of his own home.  He has a rather black reputation, although it's never specified why; only off hand references that include womanising, a disrespect of protocol, and a dismissive attitude about social conventions.  He has a valet named Tyler that acts as his lab assistant and all-around Bunter, only with a sharper tongue.  I like Tyler.


Mrs. Sloane is the widow of the famous satirist A.J. Quill.  An even better artist than her late husband, she secretly picks up his pen after his death to stave off certain penury; she also allows two homeless waifs known only as Raven and Hawk to shelter in her downstairs, feeding them when she can, and attempting to educate them and give them a bit of polish.  Mrs. Sloane is up to her eye-balls in secrets, her new profession seeming to be the least of them.  She reads and speaks Latin, and has a copy of DeBrett's in her desk drawer.  Half this book's weight is comprised of hints about Mrs. Sloane.


Wrexford has been verbally and publicly sparring with an influential member of the church.  When the man is found dead with chemical burns on his face and his throat slit, Wrexford is the obvious suspect and is set upon by a Bow Street Runner.  And all the while Quill has been faithfully satirising the events, with details that are frighteningly accurate.  Wrexford sets out to find out who the mysterious Quill is, and when he does, strikes a bargain with her:  His continued silence in exchange for access to her information network in order to prove his innocence.


So far, so good.  Even though this isn't a new premise, I can't help but get sucked in.  Unfortunately Penrose's plot doesn't really work.  It's two different plots that she attempted to merge into one with a single weak scene.  What could have been a very tight and gripping plot ended up being undermined by the forced connection, and left clunky and underwhelming.  This, combined with much too heavy-handed hints about Mrs. Sloane's 'mysterious' past resulted in a book that was good, but not great, and only mildly entertaining when it could have come closer to edge-of-your-seat stuff.  Penrose also qualifies for the dubious award for most overused idiom.  I love the phrase "pot calling the kettle black", but using it a dozen times in the same book is an excessive display of exuberance.


Still, Penrose has put together a great cast of characters and I'm interested in finding out what happens to them next.  I'm hoping, too, that subsequent books (there's at least 1 more out now, and 1 planned, I think) will see her finding her groove and writing stronger stories.

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