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review 2020-11-16 08:29
The Paper Bark Tree Mystery (Crown Colony, #3)
The Paper Bark Tree Mystery - Ovidia Yu

I enjoy this series for the setting, the time, the history and the characters, but The Paper Bark Tree Mystery was a poor entry structure wise.  The plot was good, but marred by the fragmented delivery; characters would transition from point A to point S without the reader knowing anything about B-R, making for a disjointed and often confusing read.  Ultimately, this is the fault of whomever edited it, but it's a shame because the story and the series has so much going for it and a lot of potential ahead.  I'll read the next one if there is a next one, but I hope for a much smoother narrative.

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review 2020-11-07 05:39
Revenge in Rubies (Harriet Gordon, #2)
Revenge in Rubies - A.M. Stuart

My issues with this one remain the same as the first, but I realise after some thought, that I am the victim of the romantic tension trope.  Possibly a willing victim, as it turns out.  I understand that Stuart is bucking the trope by having the two MCs not being romantically available to each other, but alas, I don't like it.  It feels like something is missing, in spite of my not being a fan of romances.  Given the time period these are set in, and  the general attitude of society that a man and a woman can't really be partners and bond on any level other than romantically - and should they try everybody accuses them of being romantically involved anyway, I can't see this going anywhere that isn't going to irritate me.


Still, the mysteries are good, and the Singapore setting is threatening to become trendy.  The characters are growing on me in spite of the lack of oomph.  The plotting is intricate enough, though one scene gave away the villain just a few pages before the big reveal.


I'll definitely read a third one and who knows, maybe the character dynamics will go somewhere interesting without all the silly angst.

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review 2020-11-05 03:45
The Leper of St. Giles (Fifth Chronicle of Brother Cadfael)
The Leper Of Saint Giles: The Fifth Chronicle Of Brother Cadfael - Ellis Peters

For slower paced, traditional mysteries that are very skilfully written, you can't go wrong with Brother Cadfael.  When Peters created a crusader turned monk, she gave herself a large canvas on which to paint a variety of clever, interesting crimes.


The Leper of St. Giles takes place largely in and around St. Giles, the hospice for lepers that lies just outside Shrewsbury, but it's largely about the wedding of an 18 year old girl, sold off by her guardians for a large portion of her own inheritance, to a cold, unfeeling 60-something land baron who only bought her lands and is taking her on sufferance.  Of course she's fragile and innocent and lovely and of course his squire is around the bend in love with her and incandescent over the injustice of her treatment.  And of course the baron ends up murdered.


There's a plot twist in this book; a rather major one, but it's telegraphed early on, so that I knew long before it was revealed.  It's a good one, but if Peters hadn't split the difference, the early guess would have ruined the story.  As it is, Peters seems to have covered her bets and kept that reveal from being absolutely pivotal to the plot, making the ultimate solution a surprise, and a tragic one at that.


A few of the series characters readers enjoy aren't here in this book, but there are other characters that endear themselves to the reader.  There's a bit of humor here and there too, making this a much more enjoyable read than the last, St. Peters' Fair, which was a good story but dragged.  I'd be best pleased if we saw Bran and Joscelin again, though I'm not counting on it.

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text 2020-11-03 23:54
Singapore Sapphire (Harriet Gordon, #1)
Singapore Sapphire (A Harriet Gordon Mystery #1) - A.M. Stuart

First in a series taking place in Singapore in 1910, about a woman convicted in England for her suffragette activities who flees to Singapore to assist her brother, a headmaster at a school for British boys.  As her post is unpaid, she advertises for secretarial jobs on the side, and discovers her first commissioner brutally murdered.


It's a compelling start to a series, but this first book leaves the characters' dynamic with each other unsettled at the end, so I didn't like it as much I would have otherwise.  Still the plotting was strong and well thought out, though some aspects of the puzzle were obvious to the reader, either because they were telegraphed early on, or because the reader has read too many mysteries not to see what was coming.  The characters not having the benefit of 100+ years of mysteries to tap into, their slowness to pick up on what was going on was understandable, if sometimes tedious.


I have the second book in hand on my TBR, and I'm looking forward to seeing the character development in that one.  That will decide me as to whether to go on with the series or not. (Assuming it continues past book 2, of course.)



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review 2020-10-28 08:33
Murder at Queen's Landing (Wexford & Sloane, #4)
Murder at Queen's Landing - Andrea Penrose

I've really enjoyed the first three books in this series, and though I enjoyed this one too it was a bit heavy on the sentimentality.


Penrose crafts her plots around fictionalised versions of real historic events, and this time around it's mathematical machines and financial shenanigans that may or may not involve the East India Company.  Her historical knowledge always adds an extra depth to the story, and a well plotted mystery makes it even better.


Charlotte has built quite a scooby gang around her and Wexford, and the characters are fully fleshed and they're easy to care about and cheer for.  But the dynamic between Wexford and Charlotte has become increasingly sentimental to the point of down right syrupy.  The sentiments are lovely, but just a little too much for my tastes.  I was also getting aggravated at the overuse of the word ‘dastards’.  


I'm still a fan, but I'm hoping the next book will regain a little of the edge the first couple had.



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