Tag Archives: London

Deadly Scandal

DeadlyScandal

Title:  Deadly Scandal (Deadly 1)
Author:  Kate Parker
Publisher:  JDPPress
Publication Date:  2016
ISBN:  978-0-9964831-2-4

Book Summary:
1930’s London is teeming with intrigue and uncertainty.  Although the Great War has ended, political unrest and an all-too-fresh memory of the past create a climate of unease and caution.  Olivia Denis’ husband Reggie works in the Foreign Office.  When he seemingly commits suicide, the police attribute it to his embarrassment at partaking in some, unknown treason and his accusations of adultery.  Grief-stricken, Olivia is certain that it was not suicide because of his inability to shoot right-handed and vows to push for the truth.

In an effort to not have to return to her over-bearing and domineering father, Olivia approaches her old boarding school friend Esther to ask for her help in securing employment that would enable her to remain in her apartment.  Esther’s father, Sir Henry Benton, is in the newspaper industry and agrees to give Olivia a job reporting on society and fashion, with one stipulation.  On occasion, she may be asked to use her contacts in the Foreign Office and society to cover some special assignments.  Unsure what these assignments might entail but desperate to be independent and free to search for her husband’s killer, Olivia accepts.

As she begins to talk with Reggie’s former colleagues and make contact with his solicitors, she quickly realizes that there was much to Reggie’s job and personal life of which she was unaware.  She also realizes that many of Reggie’s former workmates and spouses also have secrets.  As she continues to push and question, her interest definitely makes someone uncomfortable.  Her home is broken into and she is shot at.  Also complicating the situation is Captain Adam Redmond; friend or foe, Olivia isn’t quite sure.  There is unrest on the continent but Olivia feels the turmoil much closer to home.

Book Commentary:
I thoroughly enjoyed Kate Parker’s Victorian Bookshop mystery series.  This book seems to have the same type of protagonist; a strong, yet vulnerable, curious, yet naïve heroine.  At a time when women working outside the home was becoming more acceptable, Olivia ventures out and tries to forge her own way.  Her struggles at times are amusing but the author does a great job at having the reader feel her testing the waters with her new-found freedom.  As Olivia discovers secrets about her deceased husband, she also learns a great deal about herself along the way, and the reader can’t help but root for her.

The setting of the book is so rich in history and intrigue.  At the cusp of a world sliding again toward international conflict, the tension and uncertainty is palpable.   I really enjoyed the blend of the historical facts and seeing how it played out in the everyday lives of the characters.  With hindsight, it is easy for scholars of history to question how the general population could not be aware of the escalating conflict.  I enjoyed how the author demonstrated how potential signs could be unnoticed in everyday life and struggles. Olivia’s job at the newspaper also creates an opportunity for her character to grow and develop and to be introduced to a different type of intrigue which, I hope, promises for more stories in the future.

Who might like this book:
I really think this is a very promising start to a new series and I look forward to more of Olivia’s adventures.  I have never been a huge reader of World War I or World War II mysteries, but this time period between the wars is fascinating and I think there will be a lot of opportunities for further adventure.

Advertisements

Four FAVORITE BOOK SETTINGS on Friday

maps

Four FAVORITE BOOK SETTINGS on Friday
I have to admit that I am Buzz Feed Quiz junkie.  You know, the ones that have you answer questions to determine which Disney Princess you are, which Hogwarts House you belong in, and which decade should you have lived in.  In order, Belle (no surprise there), Gryffindor (I wish I was that brave), and the 1950’s (pencil skirts and cocktail hour all the way!).  I recently saw one that “determined” your book interests based on travel preferences, and it got me thinking about settings.  I went through my list of all my favorite mystery writers . . . of course I have a list . . . and not too surprisingly, there was a lot of overlap of locations.  An honorable mention list must include New Orleans, Washington DC, and New York, but here are the four that made the final cut.

The United Kingdom
Big surprise there!  Obviously London – past and present – is number one of my list.  I have been an Anglophile forever, and although I have only had the opportunity to travel to the UK once, I love the juxtaposition between old and new, ancient and modern.  The history combined with all the cultural influences makes the setting full of literary opportunities.  With such a rich history, mysteries can be set in so many different time periods.  I love to read about the social customs and class mores that are indicative to each era.  Some of my favorite authors include maps of historical London and it is fascinating to see what has changed and what has stayed the same.

I love to read about modern London in Deborah Crombie’s Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James New Scotland Yard adventures, Regency London through the eyes of C. S. Harris’ Sebastian St. Cyr, and Victorian London’s Charles Lenox series by Charles Finch.

Of course, the great thing about the UK is that you can include Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.  My favorite mystery writer, Anna Lee Huber, sets her Georgian Lady Darby series in Scotland.  A modern day Wales is seen in Elizabeth Dunnett’s Penny Brannigan series and Rhys Bowen’s Evan Evans mysteries.

San Francisco
You have probably also noticed my love of San Francisco.  Ah, if money were no object . . . actually, it is an object, just one I don’t have a lot of!  Once again, it is a city with a lot of history and diversity.  With influences from the West and its role in the American Gold Rush and westward expansion history, there is a wealth of potential for conflict and personality.  The cultural and ethnic enclaves within the city are so vibrant that they are also individual and unique settings within the larger city.

I love Juliet Blackwell’s witchcraft series that is set in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco; the author does a great job at describing the tone and feel of this vibrant neighborhood.  Kate Carlisle is another favorite author of mine; her stories are set all around the heart of the city but she also travels up 101 across the Golden Gate Bridge to the wine country as well.  I just discovered Nancy Herriman’s novel of Old San Francisco set post Gold Rush and I look forward to more in that series.

New England
The crisp fall air.  The smell of apple pie.  The sound the pounding surf.  The sight of a dead body.  Don’t you love New England!!  Having lived in the Northeast, I quickly fell in love with the region and it truly does provide a wonderful backdrop to a great crime!  Seriously though, the history, the topography, and customs of decades old generations makes New England a great setting.

Quintessential New England towns provide the perfect setting for Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Russ VanAlstyne and Clare Fergusson contemporary mysteries that feature a small town cop and an Episcopalian priest, and for Jenn McKinlay’s Library Lovers mysteries set in coastal Connecticut.  Kaitlyn Dunnett channels a Scottish heritage in the fictitious Moosetookalook, Maine.

France
Ironically, France had never been a place I had a huge desire to visit, until I was introduced to two great mystery series sent in this beautiful and culturally rich country.  Wine, cheese, the French Alps, the French Riviera.  Seriously, what was I thinking?  Of course I would love to go there!!

Two writers that I really enjoy include Mark Pryor and M.L. Longworth.  Mark Pryor’s Hugo Marston series is set mainly in Paris and I enjoy reading about both the famous and infamous stops that he visits within the city.  M.L. Longworth’s Verlaque and Bonnet series takes place in Aix-en-Provence, which is in southern France not too far from Marseille.  I really enjoy the contrast between the two geographically and culturally diverse areas.

Interesting . . . I have lived in two of these locations; perhaps it is time to move again?  As I wrote this, it got me thinking about specific places from novels that I have read that I would like to visit.  I think I see another blog post topic!  How about you?  What are your favorite book settings?

Copy Cap Murder

Copy Cap Murder

Title:  Copy Cap Murder (Hat Shop Mysteries 4)
Author:  Jenn McKinlay
Publisher:  Penguin
Publication Date:  2016
ISBN:  978-0-425-27958-8

Book Summary:
After the humiliating discovery that her boyfriend was married and the ensuing battle that went viral online, Scarlett Parker retreated across the pond to the place of her childhood vacations.  Mim’s Whims is a hat shop in London that was run by her aunt; now that Mim is gone, Scarlett’s cousin Vivian Tremont designs the hats and Scarlett helps to run the shop.  Scarlett has been in the UK for eight months and is finally finding some normalcy to her life.  Although she has sworn off men for a year, she is struggling with the attraction of Harrison Wentworth.  As a boy, Harrison teased Scarlett but now is a respected financial consultant.  Harrison has made his feelings known and Scarlett isn’t sure she will be able to make it to the one-year mark.

Scarlett is excited to participate in the British holiday of Guy Fawkes Day for the first time and she, along with Vivian, accompany Harrison to a huge bonfire celebration at his boss’ house.  Once there, Scarlett starts to meet some of Harrison’s colleagues, including former girlfriend Tuesday Blount and rival Winthrop Dashavoy.  When Winthrop tries to be a little too friendly, Harrison defends Scarlett and fist fight ensues.  Later that evening, when the straw effigy of Guy Fawkes is being prepared to be thrown on the fire, the crowd becomes horrified to discover that “Guy Fawkes” isn’t made of straw but is actually Winthrop.  Because of their conflict since their school days and the fight that night, Harrison becomes the number one suspect.

Scarlett, Vivian, and their friends and neighbors are anxious to help clear Harrison’s name and search to find who might want Winthrop dead.  Unfortunately, the list is lengthy.  As they continue to pursue their inquiries, it becomes clear that Harrison is NOT the murderer; the real murderer however has no intention of being caught and will do anything to prevent discovery.

Book Commentary:
Jenn McKinlay writes three cozy mystery series: the Hat Shop Mysteries, the Library Lover’s Mysteries, and the Cupcake Mysteries.  I have read all the Hat Shop and Library Lover’s books and they are very enjoyable.  McKinlay does a nice job creating fun characters and unique locales for her stories.  The stories aren’t real deep but very enjoyable and so far, the plots have been believable.  I like how she has a number of series going on; none of them have the lasting potential of a detective story but they are still holding their own.

The Hat Shop setting is unique and I love all the explanations of hat couture; I had no idea!!  I am jealous of a time and place where wearing hats is the norm.  The descriptions of the hats and places where they are worn is very intriguing.  And of course, it is set in London.  Yes, I love that!

Who might like this book:
These are great for car pool lines, waiting in the doctor’s office, or any time you want a nice story that is easy to pick up and put down.  If you like the author’s style, I highly recommend her Library Lover’s mystery series as well.

Here are the books in order:
Cloche and Dagger
Death of a Mad Hatter
At the Drop of a Hat
Copy Cap Murder

A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell 1)

A Curious Beginning

Title:  A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell 1)
Author:  Deanna Raybourn
Publisher:  New American Library
Publication Date:  2015
ISBN:  978-0-451-47601-2

Book Summary:
After burying her spinster aunt, Veronica Speedwell feels a sense of relief and jubilation.  Although her aunts took good care of her after she was orphaned and gave her a unique upbringing by moving often, Veronica is now completely unencumbered to pursue her scientific inquiries.  Inspired by her education through reading, Veronica has traveled the world to study butterflies and is ready to embark upon her most industrious journey.

However, upon returning from a very tedious visit with the vicar and his wife, Veronica finds her home ransacked and the thief, still present in the house, attempts to abduct her.  With the aid of a mysterious German baron, she is able to escape.  Warning her that she is in grave danger, Baron Maximilian von Stauffenbach offers to take her to London.  Veronica’s sense of frugality – after all, it is a free coach ride – and her sense of curiosity, coupled with the suggestion that the Baron might know something of her mysterious past, gives her the impetus to agree.

The Baron secrets her to a warehouse along the river, which serves as the home and workshop of his friend Stoker.  Mr. Stoker owes the Baron a debt of gratitude and begrudgingly agrees to allow Veronica to stay and promises to keep her safe.  The danger heightens when the Baron is discovered murdered and Scotland Yard is anxious to pin the crime on Stoker because of his past crimes and history.

As she and Stoker attempt to flee from Paddington Station, Veronica must fend off another interested party, Mr. de Clare.  Veronica’s instincts guide her to trust Stoker, albeit warily, and the two embark on an adventure that includes a traveling curiosity act, a collection of worldwide specimens, the Irish rebellion, and the Queen’s Jubilee.  With their lives and perhaps the realm itself at stake, Veronica and Stoker must rely on scientific deduction, creative battle plans, and a trusty hat pin.

Book Commentary:
Don’t you love it when you read a book by a favorite author that makes you feel like you’ve come home!  I am a huge fan of Deanna Raybourn, and although I have enjoyed everything she has written, I admit that her Lady Julia Grey series was by far my favorite.  With her combination of great characters, clever conflicts, and dry wit, Raybourn’s writing keeps her readers intrigued and entranced with humor and warmth.  When I read A Curious Beginning, I was reminiscent of the Lady Julia novels; although totally different characters and scenarios, the voice and personality are the same.

Veronica is both a likely and unlikely heroine.  She is very independent and logical, and even though her behavior and interests border on the fringes of proper society, she still understands the need for a tidy workspace and a strong cup of tea.  I loved this contrast between what she says and what she does while not completely abandoning a sense of decorum.  It makes her a believable and compassionate character.  When a character says in the opening pages, “I felt a flicker of mischief stirring and decided with Aunt Nell gone there was no need to suppress it,” you know she is going to be fun.

I also really liked Stoker’s character.  He definitely has had a troubled past, some of which is explained and some of which makes the reader frustrated to know more.  The scenes in the traveling circus provide a completely unexpected yet quite delightful diversion and still the story comes together so completely and succinctly in the end.  I also enjoyed the well-defined setup for future adventures, and as the title implies, this book is only the start!

Who might like this book:
I felt like this book involved more of the scientific, historical, and social background of 1887 London than some of Raybourn’s previous books, and I really liked how she maintained great characters and an engaging plot while staying true to the time period with its social customs and political intrigue.  Fans of Tasha Alexander and Anna Lee Huber will enjoy this new series as it focuses on the excitement of a Victorian England on the cusp of a new age of science and enlightenment.  If you are looking for a story that will make you ponder scientific possibilities while laughing out loud, pour yourself a strong cup of Earl Grey and sit back for a true adventure!

Murder As A Fine Art

Title: Murder As A Fine Art
Author: David Morrell
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Publication Date: 2013
ISBN: 978-0-316-21678-4

Book Summary:
London, 1854. A horrific and grotesque murder of a man and his wife, their young serving girl, their young child, and an infant have put the city on edge. What is even more frightening is the promise of future violence as the murder parallels a killing spree on Ratcliffe Highway in 1811. The killings seem to model an article written by Thomas DeQuincey titled “On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts.” DeQuincey and his daughter Emily have recently arrived in London at the request of an unknown stranger who claims to have knowledge about a woman from DeQuincey’s past. Although a brilliant literary writer, De Quincey is plagued with numerous medical ailments and a subsequent opium addiction.

Lord Palmerston, England’s home secretary, must stop the panic quickly and orders DeQuincey’s arrest. Attempts on both Lord Pamerston and DeQuincey’s lives makes it evident that there is much more to the story. In an attempt to save his reputation and his life, De Quincey and his confident, strong-willed daughter Emily join forces with Scotland Yard’s Ryan and Becker to prevent a brilliant madman from repeating the horrors of the past.

Book Commentary:
I picked it up this book because the concept of murder as art seemed to be intriguing. What I didn’t realize was the amount of historical fact woven into the story and Morrell’s own reputation as an author and writer of First Blood, the novel used as the basis for the Rambo films. He is also referred to as the “father of the modern action novels.”

In terms of action, there is a lot and it is well-written and enjoyable to follow. Although the story is very plot driven, I enjoyed the characters, especially Ryan, Emily, and Becker. Morrell has written another book in the series with these characters titled Inspector Dead, and I look forward to reading it.

What I most enjoyed about the book was the story-telling. It was an interesting combination of story-tellers: an omniscient narrator who provided historical facts and explanation, a first person account of the murders by the murderer, a journalist type of writer presenting the action and events of the story, and finally the personal journal of Emily DeQuincey. At first, all these different, yet blended, narrators made it difficult to become engaged with the action and characters, but as the story developed, it really provided a variety of interesting perspectives to view the story. It wasn’t a quick or easy read but one that needs some focus and attention.

Who might like this book:
I enjoyed this book a lot and I look forward to reading the next in the series, but not right away. Not to be sexist, but I would be interested to see a man’s perspective on the story. The descriptions are graphic and detailed and very violent, and although I haven’t read First Blood, I would guess the descriptions are similar to a war novel. This isn’t a “fluff” read and will take some time, but if you like historically based mysteries that present a fictional perspective on true historical events, check it out.