A gorgeous book that I’d eyed about a year ago and dismissed as too decadent; coffee-table art books generally don’t make it into my book budget. Luckily, I received it as a birthday gift last week, so I could wallow in the beautiful bird portraits guilt-free.
Then, at the end, I saw the List of Works, in which Jeffreys included general information about the species, and almost always, a small anecdote about her experience photographing the individual bird. They were, apologies to Jeffreys and her obvious talent, the best part of the book, because while her photos are stunning, those little anecdotes brought them, and the bird, to life. So much so that at some points, I found myself a little misty-eyed and a lot jealous.
A beautiful book for those that enjoy birds and photography.
I picked this up at a used book shop during our aborted Christmas travels; having spent time in the Lake District, specifically, the towns of Windermere, Bowness, and Ableside that this story is set in, it appealed to me instantly.
Alas, it was no more than a drab average. The characters didn't know what they wanted to be: the MC tells an inspector at the beginning she's moved to Windermere after her divorce, that she was childless and insisted that there were "compensations". By the end of the book she's barely coping with the stillborn birth she had 2 years before. Coping and repression are likely, of course, but they aren't part of of the narrative, so the reader is left with no grasp of this MC. The Inspector is either attractive and friendly or greasy-haired and antagonistic. The MC's mother is supposed to be a hippy, but acts more like a criminal attorney; I never once got the impression she liked her daughter. The bride of the story is either flaky, naive and needs to be protected, or a headstrong woman who is the only one that can steer her much older husband's life. Flip-flop.
The elements of the plot were interesting, but the plot itself wasn't anything special. The motivation was pathetic and unbelievable, given the characters, and the murderer pretty obvious after about half-way.
The setting was what I'd hoped for, at least. My memories of the Lake District are still vivid, and I loved the area, so 're-visiting' it through the book kept me picking it back up. This is the first in a series all set here, and while weak, not so bad that should I come across another one at a used book shop, I'd probably pick it up.
Aside from my subjective issues with the path Huber chose for these characters, I like this series; you could say I enjoy them in spite of myself. But while this book was a 4 star read on the strength of its plot, it might have been a 4.5/5 star read if not for the weakness of the editing.
The narrative is much longer than it needed to be because Huber, with admirable motivation, spends a lot of time ruminating on the devastation wrought on both the soldiers who fought in WWI, and those left behind to cope in fear and anxiety. She does bring light to many aspects of the horror that is war, especially the first world war, but she spends too much time doing it, and this is a murder mystery, after all. I'm confident a lot of it could have been cut without losing the more important message, and the overall story would have been a lot better for it.
Still, the plot is a strong one, with aspects of scavenger and treasure hunting spicing up what would otherwise be an ordinary nemesis plot running parallel to a murder mystery. I'm still kid enough to enjoy rhyming clues and secret codes, as well as the touch of cloak and dagger when used judiciously, and it is here.
As I opened the post with, I still don't like what Huber is doing with the characters; while there are no love triangles or quadrangles, she has two other men in love with Verity who are dedicated to uncovering the series' plot; there seems to be no plan for this to change and it's tiresome. Luckily, the murder mysteries have so far made up for it. Can't see that lasting much longer though.
Historical mysteries seem to be all the rage at the moment, and fortunately, publishers have yet to monetise and ruin the trend to such a degree that you can't find a selection of well written series to enjoy. While the quality of cozy mysteries has been abysmal the last several years, Historical Mysteries have filled in the gap nicely for me.
A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Murder is the 3rd in a series I discovered at my first (and so far only) Bouchercon convention. It's a good series, and this book is a strong 3rd book, moving the characters' arcs along quickly, while presenting an interesting stand-alone plot, with clues easily missed and writing that skilfully misdirected the reader down several false avenues. As the story moved along, some of the misdirection became obvious, but some of it didn't, rendering a delightful mystery well done.
My only groan over the book was the introduction of Countess Harleigh's mother who was caricatured for most of her page time, only to do the whole mama-lion thing and achieving what to me was an insincere redemption in the final pages. Fortunately she's not around much in this book and it wasn't enough to really weight the book down.