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Search tags: mysteries-thrillers
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review 2017-08-17 18:06
A Mystery of Errors / Simon Hawke
A Mystery of Errors - Simon Hawke

Two travelers, Will Shakespeare-a fledgling dramatist, and Symington Smythe, an ostler and aspiring thespian, meet at a roadside inn and decide to cast their lot together for fame and fortune in the cutthroat world of the London theater in Elizabethan England . . . but neither was prepared for their offstage encounter with A Mystery of Errors. When a backer's daughter is double-crossed by a would-be suitor, the reluctant bride turns to the ostler and the playwright for help.  Little does anyone realize that these simple affairs of the heart and an arranged marriage will lead to a vast web of conspiracy, mistaken identity, and murder that finds the playwright targeted for assassination and the ostler hopelessly in love.

 

This novel suffered from comparison with recently read historical fiction by C.C. Humphreys, whose work stands head-and-shoulders above this little mystery. The writing of just the first page had me wondering if I would even bother to finish the book. After all, life is finite and there are tons of good books out there.

I did persevere, however, and followed the story to its rather pedestrian end. The plot was imaginative and I wish the author had been able to exercise more skill in its execution. Rather than flowing, events bumped along rather brusquely. The dialog was simple and the characterization was basic. Every now and then, there would be a tiny info-dump as the author proved that he had done his research.

If you are considering this book, I would suggest that you approach with caution. If you are looking for a book featuring Shakespeare as a character (as I was), I would recommend Shakespeare's Rebel. If something involving a highwayman is your goal, try Plague. If you are looking for a 21st century humourous take on Shakespeare, pick up Shakespeare Undead, which is lighthearted yet effortlessly shows how to reference the Bard’s works without belabouring the point.

At some point, I will probably solider on and read the second mystery in this series, as I have made a bit of a project out of reading all the novels I can find that feature Shakespeare as a character. You are not obliged to follow me in this obsession.

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review 2017-08-09 20:14
The Shivering Sands / Victoria Holt
The Shivering Sands (Casablanca Classics) - Victoria Holt

***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List ***

In many ways, this is a very dated Gothic romance—after all, it was first published in 1969. I’m pretty sure that I read it as a teenager, but it must not have been part of my personal collection, because this reading felt like I was enjoying it for the first time. There are enough differences from Holt’s usual romance formula to make it feel a bit fresher plot-wise too.

A young widow, Caroline Verlaine, takes a position as music teacher at an estate close to excavated Roman ruins where her sister had been working as an archaeologist, only to disappear under mysterious circumstances. Concealing her relationship to the missing woman, Caroline tries to trace her missing sister. There are no poisonous distant relatives, exiling Caroline to a tedious life of uninspired pupils, penury, and living below stairs. She has freely chosen her position for a specific reason, she has an undeniable talent for music, and is therefore much less rebellious than other Holt heroines.

Of course, further disappearances occur and there are mysterious goings-on that lure Caroline into dangerous situations. If I have any complaints, it is that the ending was a bit abrupt and completely predictable. I felt the heroine’s choice should have been just a bit more difficult, requiring a just bit more agonizing than occurred. The book ends suddenly with Caroline’s choice, giving no insight into what happens to numerous other characters who formed an integral part of the story.


Still, in this genre, this was a very enjoyable novel.

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review 2017-08-08 19:59
Real Murders / Charlaine Harris
Real Murders (Aurora Teagarden Book 1) - Charlaine Harris

Though a small town at heart, Lawrenceton, Georgia, has its dark side-and crime buffs. One of whom is librarian Aurora "Roe" Teagarden, a member of the Real Murders Club, which meets once a month to analyze famous cases. It's a harmless pastime—until the night she finds a member killed in a manner that eerily resembles the crime the club was about to discuss. And as other brutal "copycat" killings follow, Roe will have to uncover the person behind the terrifying game, one that casts all the members of Real Murders, herself included, as prime suspects-or potential victims.

 

 

***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List***

A typical Charlaine Harris setting for this mystery series, a small community in the South. As per usual, Harris nails the small town details, the over-entwined lives, the importance of reputation, and the somewhat rigid social roles that people get pigeon-holed into.

Not an overwhelmingly wonderful mystery, but enough to keep me reading quickly right to the end and enough to encourage me to put a hold on the second volume at the library. It also helps that the heroine, Aurora Teagarden, is a librarian, a career near and dear to my heart.

Like so many of Harris’ leading characters, Roe is used to being part of the background. Just like Sookie Stackhouse and Lily Bard, Aurora is overshadowed by the women around her that are deemed more attractive or more normal. Harris seems to enjoy giving these kind of women some power, some male attention, and room to explore what they might actually want from life.

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review 2017-07-31 19:39
The Lost Ones / Sheena Kamal
The Lost Ones - Sheena Kamal

It's late. The phone rings.

The man on the other end says his daughter is missing.

Your daughter.

The baby you gave away over fifteen years ago.

What do you do?


Nora Watts isn't sure that she wants to get involved. Troubled, messed up, and with more than enough problems of her own, Nora doesn't want to revisit the past. But then she sees the photograph. A girl, a teenager, with her eyes. How can she turn her back on her?

But going in search of her daughter brings Nora into contact with a past that she would rather forget, a past that she has worked hard to put behind her, but which is always there, waiting for her . . .

 

I’m not sure how this book even got on my TBR list—but it came in at the public library for me last week, so I must have seen something along the way that prompted me to put a hold on it. I’ve obviously had it on hold for some time and now that it’s published, voila!

A woman with a past. Alcoholism. Sexual assault. A baby given up for adoption. Homelessness. Indigenous heritage, making her invisible to the justice system unless it is making life more difficult for her.

And yet she has talents and has carved out a very small place in the world for herself. One phone call shatters all of that progress and plunges Nora Watts back into the world with a vengeance.


I would definitely read another book about Nora. I hope Ms. Kamal finds another story that Nora could tell.

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review 2017-07-25 20:17
The Curse of the Kings / Victoria Holt
The Curse of the Kings - Victoria Holt

For centuries the tombs of the Pharaohs were haunted by a deadly curse. And when two eminent archaeologists have died mysteriously, Judith Osmond was certain that it was the curse at work. Then, overnight, her life changed.

There was an unexpected inheritance. Then Tybalt, a young archaeologist and the man she adored, asked her to marry him. But Tybalt planned a honeymoon amid the tombs of the Pharaohs, and suddenly it looked as if the curse of the kings had come to haunt Judith . . .

 

***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List ***

I really enjoyed Victoria Holt’s books when I was in my teens. Re-reading them as a mature adult has been a bit disappointing. Having always had a bit of thing for Ancient Egypt, I recall being enchanted by The Curse of the Kings. Unfortunately, having just recently read The Lord of the Far Island, I can now see far too clearly how formulaic Holt’s romances were.

The main character is an orphan, she gets her education as a fortunate extra with the children of the gentry, she’s beautiful & spirited, and she gets miraculously saved from a desperate life as a lady’s companion by snagging the man intended for the well-born gal. Still, there is a slightly older, beautiful woman who seems like she might be competition for the husband’s interest and there are mysterious goings-on.

I think my main beef with this book is Judith’s education. The reader is told repeatedly how she has read ever so many books on archaeology and Ancient Egypt, and yet there is her new husband explaining tomb paintings to her, pointing out Anubis and Amun, as if she has never seen a book before and she acting like it’s all brand new!

And I had never realized before how undemonstrative Tybalt is! I associate the name Tybalt with fiery passion, so it seems strange to have this cold man share the name.

Perhaps I should have let sleeping dogs lie, but I have another of Holt’s books out of the public library, which I will likely read.

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