Tag Archives: mystery series

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?

Queries and Conundrums: To Break up or To Stick it out

broken-heart

I had a tough decision to make last week, but I finally bit the bullet, and broke it off.  Yes, after about 10 years of devotion and love, I broke it off with an author.  And let me tell you, it was painful!  I have been reading “this author” for almost a decade; I anticipated her latest release, purchased her books, and read them religiously.  But after a while, something has changed, and the relationship has worn thin.  Now don’t get me wrong; I didn’t end this relationship without a lot of thought.  I even purchased and read a few more books in the series, but my interest was half-hearted and I found I was skimming to just put the affair behind me.

Why is it so difficult to stop reading an author or series?  I suppose a good series will have the reader engaged in the events happening and invested in the characters and their lives.  I find that I view a lot of my favorite series like Christmas cards.  I look forward to them with anticipation as they come out once a year.  When they arrive in the mailbox or on the bookstore shelf, there is moment where I hold them in awe and gaze at the beautiful cover, the enticing title, and the oh-so-favorite author’s name on the cover.  Then, I pour over the inside flap and as soon as time permits, I read closely through the story.  Laughing at the character’s personalities, sharing in the character’s grief and heartaches, reminiscing about past memories of the characters, I feel like I am re-connecting with an old friend.  That is how a good series should make me feel.

There are two primary reasons I have “broken up” with a series or author. The first one is when I have become very angry or upset about what an author did with the story plot or character.  Both times, I actually stopped reading mid-book; something I rarely do.  I remember feeling betrayed that the author would do something so heinous to a favorite character.  I can’t even tell you if the series was able to overcome the shocker because I simply couldn’t continue.  Both of the authors are still writing; I see their books on the shelves and I think “what if . . .”  Alas though, life and reading pleasures must move on.

The second reason is the more common reason I break it off, and it is the reason for the recent relationship finale.  Sometimes, a series goes on just too long.  I have mentioned before that there are just so many bodies that can be discovered by a shop owner or a stay-at-home mom or a dog walker.  After a while, the scenario of multiple murders in a single location becomes too far-fetched.  I enjoy mysteries series that have the protagonist in a crime-encountering believable role – a police detective, a private investigator, a newspaper reporter – where the crimes are varied but realistic.  I have often stuck around in a mystery series past its believability because I enjoy the characters so much but there is a limit.

When I end a series, I always feel guilty.  I am sad not to see the characters again and will sometimes even “cheat” and try another book in the series.  Invariably, I am disappointed and reminded why I broke it off in the first place.

And so, as I indulge in a little self-pity and some Ben and Jerry’s, I am comforted by the fond memories of the past relationship.  And luckily, there are other mystery series to keep me occupied and entertained.  I’m such a fickle girl!