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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-10-25 04:51
Dark Economy
Dark Economy - M.J. Keedwell

This was the book that would never end. I should have DNF at 50% like I planned to, but I thought that adjusting (and lowering) my expectations would suffice. And it did get better for awhile. But then it started dragging again and I had to skim the last 5% or so to get through this because I wanted it finished tonight.

 

Maybe it was reading this while also listening to What Angels Fear, since they're roughly in the same time period (this one takes place 17 years after Angels) and they both feature amateur sleuths who pursue murders that will ultimately never see true justice done for them, but I found this book lacking. Where Angels had a protag who was interesting, versatile and charismatic, Dark Economy's MC is kind of an obnoxious git. Where Angels has an intriguing mystery within the mystery - French spies in wartime England - Dark Economy has privileged boys who couldn't wait for their allowances to buy things. 

 

You've got Cadell Meredith, the obnoxious git, whose constant back-patting made my hand itch to smack him. He's supposed to be a conscientious, top-rate medical student but he's barely in class. He decided to take it upon himself to solve the murder of a man whose body he stole from the graveyard because he obviously couldn't go to the cops with the info. He also clearly didn't know what he's doing, though he did a decent job of faking it, and I was scratching my head what he planned to do with any of the information he was digging up. Even an anonymous letter to the copper who's supposedly dogging his every step yet missing 95% of his antics wouldn't do much good since Cadell messed with most of the evidence he found. Then again, who needs evidence in Ye Olden Tymes? He kept running into one dead-end after another only to find out that it's exactly who you thought it was right from the start.

 

Then there's the "love interest," or shall I say love interests. He lusted after every other guy he came into contact with and even got a mutual hand job from one of them, but it's the copper who he really wanted. Why? I have no clue, actually. Their first interaction, Breton had broken into his home, cooked him dinner (why? IDK!) and interrogated him, threatened him, was an overall jerk and then manhandled him against the wall. I guess it was sexy manhandling??? And from this encounter on, Cadell's supposedly in lust with the guy but since he was lusting after every other guy, it was hard to see why Breton was so special. They did finally get some real interaction after the 50% mark, but most of that was so nonsensical I couldn't buy into it. They didn't actually get together until 98%.

 

The author did well in portraying what it must have been like being a medical student at a time when grave-robbing, even for medical purposes, could get you sent to the gallows, and there's a good sense of atmosphere for the time period. Unfortunately, that atmosphere was often lost by Cadell's inner-thoughts, which made him come across more like a modern-age brat than a mature medical student of the early 1800s.

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review 2018-10-12 05:02
Halloween Is Murder
Halloween is Murder - Josh Lanyon

Another half-baked short story by JL. Sometimes her short stories are really beautiful, spectacular displays of prose. But most of the time they're this: not fully-formed, more of an outline than a story, with characters you barely have time to get to know before the story is over. Add on the paranormal elements of actual real vampires and vampire hunters  and this just becomes a head-scratcher. There is also zero romance here. A hint of a love story, but that's it. The action is non-existent too, despite this being about vampires and vampire hunters. And there's a really big issue left unresolved at the end too.

Barry seriously didn't think it necessary to tell his client that her brother is out for her fortune? Um...he'll probably try to kill her next. Geez.

(spoiler show)

 

I was also really thrown by the fact this takes place in the world of Adrien English (and therefore Holmes & Moriarity, All's Fair, Art of Murder and just about every other series she's done her little crossover/tie-ins with). Um...what? That makes no sense. And just makes The Hell You Say look like a missed opportunity. Not the best tie-in she's come up with, in my opinion.

 

Still, it's JL, so the writing is still good and has a mild, throwback sort of humor (this is based in the 50s/60s) one expects from a Lanyon story. Just wish it had been longer, like the world and characters really deserved. 

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review 2018-09-22 22:16
A Death at the Dionysus Club (Lynes & Mathey #2)
A Death at the Dionysus Club - Amy Griswold,Melissa Scott

This is a solid sequel to Death by Silver. There is still no steam here, and while there is some focus on Julian and Ned's relationship, this is first and foremost a mystery. Anyone looking for romance and smex will need to either look elsewhere or adequately adjust their expectations before diving into this. 

 

The mystery here had several layers to it and took awhile to untangle them all. The suspects were many, and the motivations just as numerous. It was fun following along as Ned and Julian tried to figure out what was going on, and learning more about how the magic in this world works. There's old magic, or non-conforming, now considered uncouth. And there's the new magic, or conforming magic, that's been designed to be more humane (no need for animal parts or blood, for instance). Of course, the two systems don't clash well at all, and when a particularly nasty bit of non-conforming magic starts to kill off men, it leaves Ned, Julian and Hatton in a bind on how to handle it, much less even figure out how it works and who is working it.

 

Complicating matters further, it seems that the culprit is part of the Dionysus Club, and Julian and Ned have every bit as much of an interest in keeping connections to the club and its membership away from the police investigation. They could face jail time or hanging themselves in their private inclinations become publicly known. This is not a world progressively-minded people or "as long as you're happy" platitudes, and these men have to be very careful who they trust with the truth, and even those who might know and support them - or at least be willing to turn a blind eye - aren't reckless enough to come out and say it.

 

We get to meet one of Miss Frost's friends, and more of Julian's crowd from his wilder days. Miss Barton is a hoot, and Julian didn't exactly have the best taste in men in his youth to say the least, lol. And then there's Challice, who I couldn't help feeling sorry for. 

 

This is a tightly-written book, with smart characters who are actually good at their jobs (so many books that claim their characters are the best in their fields are actually filled with rampaging idiots) and who know how to communicate with each other when they discover things the other needs to know. Fancy that! They're not as good as communicating when it comes to their relationship, but Ned and Julian find ways to do that as well, no matter how uncomfortable it might make them. 

 

This could have used another pass through by an editor, since there was some unnecessary repetition and a lot of missing words. A less misleading title wouldn't have gone amiss either.

There never is a death actually at the Dionysus Club, but I guess "Deaths of Dionysus Club Members" doesn't have the same ring to it.

(spoiler show)

But those are my only quibbles.

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review 2018-07-31 03:20
The Ninth Man (A Dick Hardesty Mystery #2)
The Ninth Man (A Dick Hardesty Mystery Book 2) - Dorien Grey

I had mixed feelings about the first book in this series, The Butcher's Son, and some doubts that Hardesty had what it took to be a detective. This was a tighter story, and it shows that Hardesty really is a dog with a bone when he gets a mystery to figure out. The whodunit was pretty obvious from the start

though I had no trouble buying the reasons why Hardesty didn't seriously consider the perp right away, and I even started hoping that I was wrong after awhile.

(spoiler show)

It looks like he put the years between the first book and this one learning his craft pretty well. He can be awkward at the interviews at times, which is a nice personality quirk for a P.I. since you expect them to be smooth all the time. 

 

The reason behind the murders is a bit on the far-fetched side. 

I could buy a few of the tenants being terrible assholes, but all of them? Not so much.

(spoiler show)

I think it would've been better if there had been less people involved, just for believability. 

 

I was uncomfortable about Dick's and Tim's casual bigotry against femme gays. It happens, I know, but I'm hoping there's a character in later books who'll make him reconsider that stance.

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review 2018-07-28 21:22
Death By Silver (Lynes & Mathey #1)
Death by Silver - Amy Griswold,Melissa Scott

This was a good solid mystery set in a fantasy historical setting with a slightly steampunkish vibe. Julian Lynes is a private investigator and Ned Mathey is a metaphysician (kind of like a wizard, only magic in this world can be learned by anyone with the inclination). They're old school chums - and occasionally something more - who are called in to work a case by another old schoolmate. 

 

There are plenty of suspects and twists in the case, and while I suspected the perp early on, I couldn't figure out the how and why of it until much later. There were also plenty of other possible motivations for the other suspects, so this wasn't one of those mysteries where the perp was so obvious that it made the MCs look like idiots for not figuring it out earlier. They had to follow the clues and eliminate suspects.

 

What I liked even more than the mystery was how the author weaved in flashbacks to their school days and their bullying at the hands of the prefects to show why Julian and Ned bonded so early on. This is an author who knows how to show and not just tell. The pain of those years are still there, and it adds an extra layer of complication to the case as they have to face on of their former bullies.

 

This wasn't at all what I was expecting from this book, but that made it that much more fulfilling to read. I do wish the world-building were a little less subtle, since I felt things that made up this world could have been explained or described better, but the social aspects of the world are closer to our own in that time period.

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