Tag Archives: Ashley Weaver

An Act of Villainy

Title:  An Act of Villainy Revenge (Amory Ames 5)
Author:  Ashley Weaver
Publisher:  Minotaur Books
Publication Date:  2018
ISBN:  978-1-250-15975-5

Book Summary:
Gerald and Georgina Holloway seem to have the perfect marriage. This adventurous couple travels the world to exotic locales, goes big game hunting, and despite marrying young, seems completely devoted to one another. However, when Amory and Milo run into Gerald after an evening at the theater, Amory realizes that all is not what it seems. A theater aficionado, Gerald has written and is producing his own play, A Place of Victory, starring London theater’s newest darling, Flora Bell, who also happens to be, much to Amory’s shock and dismay, Gerald’s mistress. Gerald reaches out later to Milo to invite the couple to a dress rehearsal of the show. As devoted as Amory is to his wife, she can’t help but be intrigued when she learns of Gerald’s ulterior purpose. It appears someone isn’t a fan of Miss Bell and is sending threatening letters to her at the theater.

Amory and Milo watch the performance and despite her disapproval of the liaison, Amory must admit to Miss Bell’s mesmerizing ability to take control of the stage and completely enthrall the audience. Her ability to connect with Christopher Landon’s heroic character and Balthazar LeBeau’s villain engages the audience’s attention so much that it is impossible to not become caught up in the story. The chemistry on stage doesn’t transfer though into the everyday lives of the actors. Discord between the performers includes not only the leading men, but also Flora’s jealous understudy, Dahlia Dearborn.

As riveting as the performance is, the letters received by Miss Bell are ominous. Tension escalates as another letter arrives taking the threat level even higher. It becomes apparent that the theatrical subtext runs much deeper than the performance and it is unclear when and if the acting ever stops and reality begins. Amory and Milo unknowingly become involved a bitter chase of cat and mouse where the final curtain could be someone’s last.

Book Commentary:
Squeak! I absolutely love, love, love this series!! I’ve missed Amory and Milo and it is so delightful to be back with them, like old friends. This fifth installment of the Amory and Milo series embraces their detecting skills and proves that their involvement in these cases is helpful but can also be quite dangerous. Each character’s own talents, be it in the drawing room of the finest houses in London or the gambling den of the Gentleman’s clubs, has evolved, and these contrasting perspectives enable them to view the threats through different lenses. I really feel that Amory and Milo have solidified their relationship and partnership. This current challenge forces them to truly listen to one another, their understanding of themselves, and their own fears and vulnerability.

In this book we are introduced to Amory’s mother and she is a force to be reckoned with. I sincerely hope she makes a reappearance in future books. Her intense pride in the social requirements of her status come into conflict with her insatiable curiosity and the ensuing outcomes are delightful to read.

I must also admit that I am quite in love with Milo. As suave and debonair as he presents himself and his seemingly unconcerned attitude toward the sanctity of marriage, a greater depth to his character is revealed as Amory sees him through the eyes of others and is able to appreciate him as a husband, a partner, and a really talented detective. He too begins to go beyond the acceptance of his wife’s inquiry skills and truly appreciates the talent she has in seeing the inner souls of others.

Who might like this book:
I have recently become hooked on the Australian television series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, which is based on a book series. It embraces a time period a few years prior to the Amory Ames’ series, but it helps to provide a visual to the clothing, architecture, and transportation of this time in history.

The Amory Ames mystery series is a great, well plotted mystery series with engaging characters and intrigue that includes all the necessities of love, revenge, jealously, and greed. As always, don’t even talk to me if you aren’t going to read them in order. A true appreciation of Amory and Milo’s relationship and partnership must be developed through its evolution.

Check out my reviews for previous books in the series:

Murder at Brightwell
Death Wears a Mask
A Most Novel Revenge
The Essence of Malice

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Four NECESSITIES FOR A GOOD MYSTERY SERIES on Friday

mysteries

I think by now it is pretty clear that I love a good mystery series.  It probably started back in my Trixie Belden days, although I did read a fair amount of Nancy Drew as well.  When I was in college, I worked at a small bookstore in Geneva, Illinois.  There I got hooked on the Anne Perry mysteries.  I read a lot of different things in college for fun, but Anne Perry’s books truly solidified my love of series mysteries.  I branched out and read other authors, and the rest, as they say is history.

I currently have about fifty mystery series that I follow regularly; over the years, there have been some I have let go for a variety of reasons and I am always on the lookout for a new series.  For me, there are certain details that keep me engaged in a mystery series.  So for my completely biased opinion, these are my necessities of a good mystery series.

Four NECESSITIES OF A GOOD MYSTERY SERIES on Friday

Interesting, plausible protagonist
Although I have read a lot of true crime novels, a good mystery for me is rooted in the characters.  I think that any good series must maintain strong, consistent characters to stabilize the continuity of the series.  It is what ties each book to the previous one and it is what the reader follows from book to book.  When a new release of a favorite author comes out, it feels like catching up with an old friend and visiting about what has happened since the last time we met.

I am not picky about the gender of my protagonist.  I love the female Lady Darby in Anna Lee Huber’s books and Amory Ames in Ashley Weaver’s series, but I find Mark Pryor’s Hugo Marston and C. S. Harris’ Sebastian St. Cyr just as engaging.  The key, and I know I have said it before, is that context in which the protagonist encounters a crime must be believable, it must be consistent, and it must be evolving.  I love a good cozy mystery but after a while, multiple deaths in a small town or at a certain ski resort; well, I don’t think I would put that on a place to visit!

Inquiry agents like Charles Lenox in Charles’ Finch’s series or Derek Stone in Kate Carlisle’s Bibliophile mysteries, police detectives like Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James in Deborah Crombie Scotland Yard series, or even judges and attorneys like Verlaque and Bonnet in M. L. Longworth’s Provencal mysteries all have realistic reasons to encounter, and more importantly, be involved in, solving crimes.

Cozy mysteries are very entertaining and enjoyable, but they don’t have the same sustainability as something that is more grounded.  A good cozy writer should know when to quit and move on to a new series.

Historical setting
Not everything I read has a historical setting but it is definitely a huge plus in what makes a series my favorite.  Yes, I love the simpler time, the fascinating couture, the social customs and limitations, but honestly, the very best part is the lack of technology, specifically the internet.  Historical crime solvers must rely on their ingenuity and inquiry skills.  Now I am not discrediting modern detectives, but I truly love watching characters fit different pieces together.  I know that much of the detecting work could be completed a lot faster with modern tools, but what’s the point of a 50-page mystery!  I often think “why don’t they just look it up online” when I am reading a historical mystery before I remember that isn’t an option.

With characters spending days traveling by horseback or coach or waiting for letters to arrive, the tension of the story builds.  The reader often is sidetracked by the minutia of daily life and seemingly unimportant details; this adds depth and personality to the story and enables the reader to have a stronger grasp on the setting and characters and how they are woven together.

There is also something exotic and mystical about a historical setting; the grittiness seems darker and more threatening while the society and lifestyle creates a more glamorous and opulent feel.  I’ve always felt I that I was born in the wrong decade; reading historical mysteries helps me to channel my inner dreams.

Fun, quirky secondary characters
Remember, it is all about the characters for me.  Mystery books provide great opportunities for secondary characters to pop up over the course of a series.  These characters provide rich ambiance for the time period or foils for the different personalities of a protagonist.  They have the feel of that “crazy Aunt Edna” or “cousin Steve” that we all have in our families; the topic of holiday table conversations with details of their grand adventures, disasters, or both.  I think these characters add a dimension to the story to remind the readers that crime doesn’t occur in a bubble; life still goes on all around which is often what both helps and interferes with the solving of a crime.

Some of my favorite secondary characters are Bonnie Brock in the Lady Darby series, Sid and Gus in Rhys Bowen’s Molly Murphy mysteries, and Oscar in the Witchcraft mysteries by Juliet Blackwell.  Sometimes these characters are integral to the development of the plot, sometimes they create obstacles that interfere with the progression of the inquiry, and sometimes they just add a diversion of spice and humor to a darker theme.

Just a hint of romance
Okay, call me a hopeless romantic but I like a bit of a love story in my mysteries.  I like the tension between two characters when they aren’t sure who they can trust, and then how it builds to when they discover that must trust one another.  Relationships often cloud judgement and perception and this added depth creates more conflict in a story and therefore makes it more suspenseful for the reader.  I don’t ever want a relationship in a mystery book to take away from the mystery itself, but a good author with meld the two with thought and purpose.

I like how some relationships grow over the course of the series, like C.S. Harris’ Sebastian and Hero, Tasha Alexander’s Emily and Colin, or Julie Spencer-Fleming’s Russ and Clare.  In contrast, I enjoy how Ashley Weaver’s Amory and Milo stories jump right into an established marriage.  Then of course there is Brad Parks’ Carter Ross and Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum; who knows if they will ever settle down!  What does Keanu Reeves’ character say in the movie Speed:  I have to warn you; I’ve heard relationships based on intense experiences never work.  Ah, love . . .

Any other mystery buffs out there?  What are the “must-haves” for your favorite series?

A Most Novel Revenge

a-most-novel-revenge

Title:  A Most Novel Revenge (Amory Ames 3)
Author:  Ashley Weaver
Publisher:  Minotaur Books
Publication Date:  2016
ISBN:  978-1-250-6045-7

Book Summary:
Amory and Milo Adams have two murder investigations under their belts, and after five years of marriage, they finally seem to have arrived at a place of compromise and understanding.  Never satisfied at being in one place too long, Milo has his sights on travel to Italy with his wife for a quiet winter respite.  Plans change quickly however when Laurel, Amory’s cousin, emphatically requests her presence at a house party at Lyonsgate, the country house of Reginald Lyons, an old friend of Laurel’s.  Although Laurel and Milo have never been overly fond of one another, Laurel and Amory were both only children and their cousins’ bond is as close as sisters, so Amory and Milo accept.

The estate of Lyonsgate is a bit rundown and has been uninhabited for many years because it was the site of a raucous party where one of the attendees died.  Although the death was ruled an accident, Reginald moved away from the house.  Unsure of why Reginald has returned, Amory and Milo are shocked to discover that the other invitees to the house party were the same guests that were present that fateful night, including socialite Isobel Van Allen.

Years prior following the accident, Isobel wrote a fictionalized account of a murder at a high society house party that closely resembled the actual events that occurred at Lyonsgate.  The publication of the book and the scandal that ensued cost many of the participants heavily: loss of occupations, social exile, and even death.

Yet, Isobel doesn’t seem to be finished with the story.  She announces the first night at dinner that she is writing a sequel that will reveal even more of the details of that fateful night.  Although many years have passed, some secrets are meant to be buried and the truth is not always what it seems.  Amory and Milo present an unbiased observation of the events but quickly become embroiled in the lies and the scandal and must work together to unmask a killer.

Book Commentary:
This series has moved into my top five favorite mystery series.  The characters are fantastic and the setting of the elite rich following World War I presents a modern view of a society trying to maintain its old traditions and lifestyle in a rapidly changing world.  I love the details of the clothing, the cars, and the social nuances of this generation.  The way the characters cling to the customs and protocol of their place in society as chaos reigns down around them is truly fascinating.

I have mentioned in my previous reviews how much I love the character of Amory.  This book actually presents a bit more of her emotional and vulnerable side, which I think reflects the slowly evolving growth of Milo and Amory’s marriage.  As someone who doesn’t have a connection to the characters involved in the scandal, Amory is able to present an unbiased viewpoint; however, she quickly become invested in the truth which makes her even more likeable but also susceptible to danger.

I am also quite the fan of Milo and love how his character develops in this third installment.  He seems to have come to a comfortable place in admiring Amory’s detective abilities but also, surprisingly, shows a fierce sense of protection of her.  Events occur that show some of his own vulnerability and fears but he still maintains his unruffled and calm demeanor.

Who might like this book:
A really great, well plotted series with engaging characters and mystery that includes all the necessities of love, revenge, jealously, and greed.

Check out my reviews for the first two books in the series:
Murder at Brightwell
Death Wears a Mask

Death Wears a Mask

death-wears-a-mask

Title:  Death Wears a Mask (Amory Ames 2)
Author:  Ashley Weaver
Publisher:  Minotaur Books
Publication Date:  2015
ISBN:  978-1-250-09612-8

Book Summary:
After capturing a murderer and almost being killed herself at Brightwell, Amory Ames is enjoying some quiet time at home.  Her relationship with husband Milo seems to have arrived at a comfortable truce and she is hoping that his playboy ways have been calmed.  Amory accepts an invitation for she and Milo to attend a dinner party at the home of the Barringtons.  Mrs. Barrington was a friend of Amory’s mother and Amory is a bit surprised at the attempt at a renewed friendship after years apart.  At the party, it becomes apparent that Mrs. Barrington has more need of Amory that just her presence.  She pulls Amory aside as they progress into dinner, fiercely whispering to her that she should watch the guests.

Because of Amory’s success at Brightwell, Mrs. Barrington reveals to her that a number of her expensive and sentimental jewelry pieces have gone missing.  Through careful research, she is able to eliminate the staff as suspects.  Coincidentally, all the thefts have occurred on days when she has hosted dinner parties and all these dinner parties have included the same guests.  Amory and Mrs. Barrington work together to lay a trap the next evening at a masquerade party given by one of the guests, Lord Dunmore.  Lord Dunmore is charming and handsome and has almost as rakish a reputation of Milo.  Mrs. Barrington plans to wear a paste version of an expensive sapphire bracelet to entice a theft and to then catch the villain in the act.

Milo is amused by Amory’s involvement but deems it more necessary to visit his club to discuss the purchase of a fine Arabian horse than attend the party.  Unsure about Milo’s motivation and true intent, Amory arrives at the ball alone and the stage is set.  Lord Dunmore takes great interest in Amory and when she slips on the stair and sprains her ankle, he is quick to whisk her off her feet and take her to a bedchamber to examine her foot.  When Milo catches Amory with Lord Dunmore, he is nonplussed.  However, the scene becomes dire when a shot is heard, and the body of Mrs. Barrinton’s nephew is found with the stolen jewels in his pocket.

Inspector Jones from Brightwell has been reassigned to Scotland Yard and once again asks for Amory’s insight on the guests.  Amory agrees to help but quickly is overwhelmed by romantic conflicts, hidden agendas, and secret pasts.  Milo also has seemed to take the opportunity to revert back to his old ways.  Amory is unsure of who and what to trust because of the masks that people wear.

Book Commentary:
What a fantastic series!!  This is book two and the setting has switched to the elite of London.  Post World War I has invited a time of opulence and grandeur and the characters seem to have a life of lavish and leisure.  However, dark secrets of betrayal, financial loss, and violence are hidden just below the surface.  I really enjoy how the author describes this Golden Age while still laying the foundation of how the world will change in just a few short years.  I look forward to watching how these conflicting themes will play out in future books.

I absolutely love the character of Amory.  She is smart, refined, and elegant but her underlying sensitivity and humanity drive her actions.  She definitely knows her role in society and her marriage and doesn’t outwardly rebel against the norms but she knows how to work the system behind the scenes.  I appreciate her motivation in helping others as opposed to using the events just as a diversion.  Once again, Milo is an enigmatic character; we see a bit more of who he is but there is still more brewing under the surface.  I had a prediction as to what his character motivation was based on the first book and I was wrong; however, the author does provide some clues and I hope that more will be discovered in future books.

Who might like this book:
I have been reading a lot of books about World War I and the Golden Age right afterward; it is fascinating time in history and the series has set itself well into the manners and enigmas of the upper echelons of society.  In some ways, Amory reminds me of a more “modern day” version of Lady Emily from Tasha Alexander’s series; they are both strong, intelligent women who understand the norms and customs of society but also how to use them to their advantage.  Milo and Colin, however, are as different as can be!

You must read the first book, Murder at Brightwell, first.  It is just wrong to read this series out of order.  I am thrilled that the new Amory book, A Most Novel Revenge, is set for release on October 11, 2016.  As further endorsement of this series, unlike the first two books, I am not waiting.  I’m splurging on the hardback!!

 

Murder at the Brightwell

Murder at the Brightwell

Title:  Murder at the Brightwell (Amory Ames 1)
Author:  Ashley Weaver
Publisher:  Minotaur Books
Publication Date:  2014
ISBN:  978-1-250-07462-1

Book Summary:
England, 1932.  World War I is over and England is enjoying prosperity and a new age.  Amory Ames has been married to Milo for five years; although very charming and handsome, Milo shows little contentment at staying home with his wife.  He prefers traveling around the continent with, as he states, “more money than he could ever spend.”

When Gil Trent, Amory’s friend and ex-fiancé asks for help, she accepts an invitation to Brightwell as a welcome change.  Gil wants Amory to attend under the pretext that she is leaving her husband for him; a charade that Amory isn’t completely comfortable with.  Gil is concerned because his beloved sister Emmeline is engaged to Rupert Howe, a notorious playboy and gambler.  Gil hopes that if Emmeline sees how Amory is trying to leave a similar marriage, that she might reconsider the proposal.  Fellow guests at the resort include the Rodgers, a paradoxical couple of a solemn solicitor and a vibrant platinum blonde; the Hamiltons, a nasty critical husband and a shy unassuming wife; and Lionel Blake, a rising star of the British stage.

When Milo unexpectedly returns from Monte Carlo prior to her departure, Amory is confused but chooses to help Gil anyway.  The first evening at Brightwell is filled with dining and dancing and sly looks and whispered exchanges.  Gil and Amory plan to meet Rupert and Emmeline for tea the next day, but when they arrive, they discover Emmeline perplexed as Rupert is nowhere to be found.  Looking over the stone balcony, Amory is shocked to discover his body lying on the ground.  Inspector Jones arrives and, contrary to what is suspected, rules that Rupert was murdered.

Amory quickly becomes embroiled in the investigation when Gil’s dislike of Rupert becomes known and he rises to the position of top suspect.   It seems however that many of the guests had encounters with and dislikes of Rupert and the facts become muddied.  To complicate matters even more, Milo shows up at the resort.  Amory struggles with juggling between her friendship with Gil and her marriage to Milo.  Who does she trust, and just as important, who does she love?  As more accidents occur, Amory realizes that the culprit must be discovered quickly before she also becomes a victim.

Book Commentary:
What a completely delightful story!!  Set in the posh elegance of polite society, Amory is a woman caught in a marriage and life that seems to have no purpose.  Although obviously still in love with her husband, she feels as though she were ambling with no purpose.  She is a smart and clever heroine but also quite staid and reserved.  This contrast, coupled with carefully guarded emotions, creates a sense of mystery about her; however this mystery is only perceived by herself.  Told from the first person perspective, Amory reveals her fears and loneliness but doesn’t ever wallow in self-pity.

Milo, however, is the true mystery character and the author does a fabulous job at making the reader question who he is and what is his purpose.  The author does not reveal all and I look forward to his appearance in future stories.

I also loved the descriptions of this obviously elite resort; the details about the clothing, décor, and cuisine help to create the high-society feel of the setting and draws the reader into the story.

Who might like this book:
You know I love a good English mystery and this one definitely fits the bill.  Amory is a very likeable character and the time between the World Wars provides fodder for a great story. Unlike others I have read set during this time period, there is no international intrigue but rather a focus on the lifestyles and recreations of the very wealthy.

I was thrilled when I started to write this review to discover that the book was published in 2014.  A second book Death Wears a Mask is also out and a third book A Most Novel Revenge is set for publication in October of 2016.