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review 2018-03-22 03:54
Miss Kopp's Midnight Confessions (Kopp Sisters Novel, #3)
Miss Kopp's Midnight Confessions - Amy Stewart

This was my favorite of the three thus far, and oddly, it's because there really wasn't any single plot that stretched from beginning to end.  In fact, it's a stretch to call it a mystery.


Some background for those unfamiliar with the books:  This series is based on the life of Constance Kopp, one of the first female deputy sheriffs in the United States, and the first to be granted a shield, gun, authority to apprehend, and be paid the same wage as her male counterparts (likely the last one too, on that score).   Amy Stewart uses historically accurate events and characters, with as many details as she can find, then fictionalises the spaces in between.  At the end of each book, she includes a detailed accounting of what is factual and what is fictional, along with a detailed list of notes and sources.


While the first two books had, more or less, a single story line as the focus, ...Midnight Confessions is more a collection of smaller stories, each centered on a real person and event, that Stewart has woven together into a cohesive narrative.  


All of these smaller stories have a single theme: the very real vulnerabilities women had, and the rights they didn't.  We're all vaguely aware that society really frowned upon "loose morals" – a state unique to women, as men weren't expected to have any morals – and we've all made jokes about the "morality police", but when you read about a woman over 18 who is arrested because she left home to move into a strict, all-female boarding house to work in a powder factory so she could contribute to the war effort...well we've certainly come a long way in 100 years.  Waywardness this was called - and guess who brought the charges against her?  Her mother. 


Anyway, there are a few characters in this book that all have to face this lack of agency, whether they deserve the charges against them or not. (Deserve, as in guilty or innocent of the charges, not morally deserving.)  All of their stories play out over the course of the book, but there's no sense of tension or climax. Some might find that disappointing, but it worked really well for me; it kept the pace snappy, and I didn't feel like Stewart was manufacturing drama for the sake of drama.  I was able to enjoy and appreciate these women's stories on their own merit; if she'd tried to twist them and manipulate them to create some fictional plot, I doubt I'd have liked the book half as much.


She ends the book with an election year just beginning and an inevitable shake-up in the local politics.  I'm looking forward to the next book, scheduled for September, to see what happens to Constance and Sheriff Heath.


This book works for the Kill Your Darlings game card COD:  shot with an arrow.  It's written by an American woman.

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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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