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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Death on a Winter's Day Verity Knight (A Lady Eleanor Swift Mystery No. 8)

Though part of a series, this does well as a stand alone though the major characters of Lady Eleanor the inimitable butler, the kitchen staff and the mutt all star in all the books. Lady Eleanor has decided to spent Christmas in Scotland. In a remote castle. Her friends the beleagured Baron and Baroness Ashley are left without any domestic help as the Presbytarian Church has apparently cancelled Christmas. The staff are angry and annoyed and obstructive when Lady Eleanor descends on them with Clifford in charge of the domestic arrangements to take over and present a pleasing Christmas for all. When one of their number is found murdered, and only Clifford keeping the peace and protective of Lady Eleanor because so many hidden currents of animosity exist between the guests that it is decided that an investigation privately has to be undertaken because the Baron is taken into custody as a prime suspect in the murder. When victim Number Two falls from a balcony or was she pushed, the search is a bit more frantic and Lady Eleanor herself is in danger from a most cunning murderer. Very enjoyable writing, in the spirit of Christmas despite the murders, Lady Eleanor and her cast keep the reader very amused and moving along very well. A lovely start for December. Thank you to Bookouture who sent this book out for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Monday, November 29, 2021

The Three Widows of Wylder by Julie Howard

Three woman each totally different, sharing only one thing in common. They were on the run from the law for different reasons. Clara the eldest at 36 running away to her brother's farm after the killing of her husband, then there was Mary Rose whom you wanted to shake till her teeth rattled - vacuous and empty headed but sharp when it came to her own survival again after the death of her third husband and still very young, and finally Emma the brave, different but also running away. The setting of the rugged terrain of the Wild West was very relevant to the story. The hardships endured in reaching Clara's brother's house which would afford them protection they thought was the key. Each woman sought a life after reaching their safe place, two of them in marriage and one in a secure future. That it all worked out in different ways and they all found redemption to live their lives is this story. Nicely told, descriptive and rather a different setting. Sent by The Wild Rose Press Inc for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

A Brush With Murder by Bailee Abbott

Chloe is returning home after what she thinks is a failed attempt at a career. Her partner and she have parted ways and coming back home to a quiet small town was her way of recouping her losses and trying to decide what she wants to do next. Izzie her sister is just opening a Paint shop and is excited that Chloe is here to help with what she wants as a grand debut with event after event lined up to kick start the show, especially since it is tourist season. What they did not take into account was the murder of one of the ladies in the backyard of Izzie's shop. Since the victim was someone who had taken a dig, blackmailed and slandered practically all the shop owners in the town, there was no shortage of suspects including Izzie and Chloe and Detective Hunter has his hands full trying to eliminate one by one from his list. A more tame version of a mystery murder. Not vintage and not very modern this was a slow story but pleasant reading. Sent by Crooked Lane Books for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

An Expert in Murder (Josephine Tey No. 1)

March 1934 seems very Victorian in some aspects in this story. Josephine Tey the celebrated author is travelling from Scotland to London for the final week of her best selling theatre production Richard of Bordeaux. She is in a mixed state of mind - on the one hand the success of the play and on the other the conflicts its success has brought to her personal life - almost ending with an attempt on her life and a very twisted law suit which she won. On her train trip to London she encounters a fan - Elspeth theatre struck and delighted to meet the author and Elspeth and Josephine hit it off and the journey is completed happily with plans to meet at the theatre later on. It was a tragic end for Elspeth who was found murdered in her compartment just an hour after Josephine departed for her hotel and then the detective work starts. Going back decades, a very twisted story of revenge, bitterness and a psychopathic father who passed on his leanings to his son the story throws up a number of suspects and then ends in a second murder. Detectives know that the two are connected but how and why are only brought about by very slow unravelling of clues one at a time. The story was a mesmerizing one set in the backdrop of the bright lights of the theatre and drama world and the contrast between that and the dark side of anger and murder are very marked. I enjoyed the read - a slightly slower pace of detection than what is presented today and the characters themselves were all varied. It added a great deal of interest and variety to the story. This was a purchase from Amazon who by the way still does not permit me to post reviews there!

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

A Body at the Altar by Dee MacDonald (Kate Palmer Book No. 4)

I like that the detectives in the story are not so young and not so dynamic as the detectives one generally finds in books. Kate is in her sixties and her retired partner Detective Inspector is older. Kate has a propensity to be drawn to danger, mystery and murders! In this story we start with a bridegroom who keels over at the altar - dead by poisoning. Investigating further Kate discovers that four other weddings have been cancelled just before the date, for no proper reason. Knowing that this is too much of a coincidence to be true, she finds out that each of the bridegrooms not got a letter outlining some unsavoury part of their fiancee's past to make it too hard to continue with the marriage. All of them are very bitter over it, but all have moved on. Finding out who could be the murderer was difficult to pin point, especially when Kate's own suspect was found murdered by electrocution. Now Kate and Woody had to set aside their earlier assumptions and work with the new Detective Inspector - the very pretty Charlotte whom Woody liked and Kate did not, to find out who the murderer was. Settinngn of an English village was very nice reading (especially for someone who is not English and does not live in England). Nice detection work. Though part of a series, fine as a standalone. Sent by Bookouture for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

The Secrets of Elloughton Park by Stephen Taylor

This was a fascinating read. Set over two timelines a present day historian who gets more and more enchanted by a woman of two centuries ago and is enthralled by her. James Postlethwaite is fascinated by social history and is very excited to come across the journals of Lord and Lady Carlisle of the 18th century. What was hidden amongst the papers was the quite very well known writings of a cinder maid Ginny Farmer whose account of her life of so very humble beginnings abandoned in a foundlings hospital, then her appointment as a maid in the kitchen and her rise to the ranks of a lady's maid. This position sadly brought her to the attention of the drunken master of the house, she was raped and then fell pregnant and was kicked out. This was the norm. Ginny's meteroric rise from being penniless and destitute to become a prostitute was not a surprise. For a young woman, with no references, no training and no family or money there was no other choice but here too she landed on her feet and slowly developed an aura of being someone who came from a very good family but had fallen on hard times (or been kicked out by her family) and had to make her way in the world. Becoming the sole mistress of one Lord was something Virginia as she was now known, was not something she favoured but she took the step until that too was terminated by her protector. Going solo again Lady Virginia was befriended by unusual men - men who did not look on her just as a prostitue but as a friend and someone whom they mentored, and encouraged to learn more and more. This was what the journals depicted and this was what was so unusual. James relationship with his student protegee and his feelings towards her and his inability to express them was just a secondary story. The real story was Ginny alias Lady Virginia and what a fascinating story. Lots of history, and a lot of details of society and how it evolved at the time - very descriptive. Very detailed of Georgian times. Sent by Sapere Books for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Next in Line by Marion Todd (Detective Claire Mackay No. 5)

Though this was a No 5 in the series, it does well as a stand alone. A murder takes place in an exclusive boutique hotel, in isolated gardens in Scotland. The victim and his family are well known and reporters are all over the place. The family had faced tragedy before when they lost another sibling in the tsunami in Thailand and this murder is resurrecting a lot of old memories. Celebrating his 40th birthday Russel did not expect to be murdered on his birthday. The marksman who shot him was an expert shot and Detective Claire has to whittle down her suspects - the immediate ones are cagey, careful and extremely smart. Further widening her net, Claire discovers many extraneous strands to the initial story and now she is looking at people far beyond her initial line up. Family complications galore in the victims family, treachery amongst friends of decades and keen and slow methodical detection makes this a best seller read. The setting too added a lot of atmosphere to the story. Sent by Canelo for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

The Murder of Patience Brooke by J C Briggs

The first in the series of Detective Sam Jones and Charles Dickens. London 1849 was a city of contrasts. You had the well to do leading a life of comfort and ease, and then you got the horrendous alleys and slums where every villain and vice existed. Literally hell holes. J C Briggs brings London to life in his stories. Almost unimaginable but obviously very much part of the life of the city the two sides lived together almost seamlessly. In this story a young, quiet, well behaved woman living at a Home of Refuge found brutally murdered and her body displayed in a deliberately wanton manner brings Detective Sam Jones and Charles Dickens to investigate and find out how this happened. Clues are scarce and by piecing a few random bits of information a net is thrown to find the young man - a toff, moneyed and fearless and bring him to book. It was not going to be easy - the suspect is shrewd, knows how to play the game, knows how to play on his connections and this is a time when Detectives and people like Dickens were looked down upon. Dickens himself of very humble origins has climbed out of the poverty he was born into and has always a fear that he will be dragged back into that morass. The story apart from trying and solving the mystery murder of this young woman is also a piece of history detailed and descriptive of how the city of London was and how it was evolving. It also was descriptive of the social changes that were happening and what was going to come. The development of industry, railways and the education of women were all just coming into being and the story has glimpses of all this. An absolute page turner for all lovers of vintage crime detection, for those who like to read about social change and those who like stories like the ones of Sherlock Holmes and that vintage. A download from Amazon this was a fabulous find.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Stalker Stalked by Lee Mathew Goldberg

I did expect something different from the story, and maybe that was why I found it hard going though I did finish the book. Lexi is a character that I found it hard to like. Pill popping, alcoholic who is addicted to reality TV. Fixated on a particular character, wanting to be part of the inner circle and determined to get there and frustrated beyond belief when she is determinedly left out. The influencers on this show are a very tightly knit circle, they don't want newcomers barging in. Lexi is not helped by the fact that she had a horribly abusive childhood. Her relationships have fizzled out due to her excessive neediness apart from the fact that she herself stalks her partners mainly due to her insecurities. This was a tough book to read, but I think realistic as well as it depicts exactly how insecure, spaced out people may behave. Sent by All Due Respect for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Murder Most Festive by Ada Moncrieff

Christmas 1938. It is meant to be very Christmassy especially since it is a mixed gathering, but there seems to be many hidden tensions. The hosts the Westbury's themselves are a mixed bunch. Lord W is vague and somewhat out of place, Lady W is the mistress of ceremonies who has to hold things together, Three grown up children all squabbling with each other - all seemingly having hidden agendas. Then the invitees themselves. When David one of the guests and a very old friend of the family is found murdered on their doorstep, Hugh Galveston is called in as an old friend and visitors for Christmas to try to use his detective skills to solve the murder. The local constable thinks it is an open shut case of suicide and his language is hilarious in the description. The story of Hugh trying to detect, but avoiding the local police and the family and the other guests from interfering and upsetting his plans are amusing. It is 1938 and on the cusp of WW but these seem far away for this family who want to stick to their traditions of what they consider a "proper Christmas". Trying to keep within these boundaries of what is considered respectable is also a burden as even a post mortem is considered not quite right for the aristocracy. Reminiscent of an era long gone, this was a cosy mystery murder set with just few characters but all vastly different from each other. Sent by Poisoned Pen Press for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Darjeeling Inheritance by Liz Harris

1930s Darjeeling. The era was an interesting one. The British are firmly in control and intend things to stay that way. A more liberal minded Britisher would think that giving some kind of liberty to the Indians is on the cards but the majority do believe, very sincerely that they are a superior race and it is their views and their opinions that count. The tide is turning however and with Gandhi on the horizon things are never going to be the same for the British Raj. In Darjeeling Charlotte returns from her extended boarding school stay in England to find her father dead and her mother determined to leave India on the next boat. Persuading her mother to stay so that she will get married and take over the reins of Sundar, the tea property bequeathed to her by her father was no easy task. Charlotte persuades her mother that she is willing to keep an open mind to marry Andrew, because that was the wish of her late father who wanted to join the two properties together. What no one accounted for was that Charlotte though young and very inexperienced in life had a mind of her own and was determined to make her own way in Darjeeling. The complications of the newly married Mrs. Banning making a play for Andrew, Charlotte's intended was a spoke in the wheel for the smooth courtship that was envisaged. The story meanders through the daily workings of a remote tea plantation with an insular tight knit community, where gossip is rife because there is nothing else to do. Everyone's business is known if not to the other, by their servants who pick up all the information very fast. It was a good life, an interesting one but only if you liked the country, the flora, the fauna and the weather. Otherwise it was devastating with also a major loss of life especially of children. This was a very descriptive read one of the history, then the geography of Darjeeling in the 1930s. The description of the daily lives of both the Britishers and the Indians added a lot of interest to the story. Sent by Heywood Press for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Betrayal on the Bowery by Kate Belli (A Gilded Gotham Mystery No. 2)

At the end of reading this book, I was very sorry as I had now read both books in this short series. I do hope the author has more coming our way. Summer 1889 Genievieve Stewart is not your average New York upper crust family girl. Down to earth and wanting to pursue her journalistic bent she is disheartened by always being assigned to society events in the active New York social calendar. Women were still not given positions of eminence in the journalistic world, and despite her success in a previous case - solving a complicated mystery/murder she now has to work almost behind the scenes if she wants to do anything of substance. Accompanying her friend Daniel to see off their good friends on a honeymoon cruise, she is confronted with a murder of a well known personality in the cabin of her friends and all hell breaks loose when Rupert the Earl of Umberland is arrested for the murder. Working closely with Daniel to unearth the clues of this random murder which does not seem to be as random as they would think. Moving between the world of social, aristocratic New Yorkers and its seamier side of gangs and every kind of vice available Genevieve and Daniel have to clear Rupert's name and find out who is behind the murders as deaths mount. Very descriptive of New York at the time, also of the seamier side of New York as not seen on the surface, it also shows the difficulties that women faced generally at the time. The story has a lot of history in it and is intense and a page turner. Sent by Crooked Lane Books for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Monday, November 8, 2021

A Surprise for Christmas & Other Seasonal Mysteries edited by Martin Edwards

This was such a delightful collection of short stories - in the mystery/detective genre but going back a few decades so the pace was slower, more quiet deduction and plodding rather than hi tech solutions. It also showed in a number of cases the cleverness of the detectives who spotted human errors and were thus able very quickly, very smoothly to solve the crime. All the stories set during Christmas, it brought a small degree of Christmas spirit to me personally. What with a extended lockdown, curfews, horrendous number of Covid cases and deaths, the inability to get to a church has left many of us feeling slightly isolated and as time went on depressed. I could not wrap my head around the fact that Christmas seems around the corner. This book of stories took me out of it for a bit, made me relive Christmas's past. The stories were all very well written, with central characters and slick side characters, also very descriptive of settings as well. Would be enjoyed by those readers who like a slightly older vintage of the mystery genre. Sent by Poisoned Pen Press for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Friday, November 5, 2021

The Vanished Days (Scottish series) by Susanna Kearsley

This had all the elements of excellent story telling. Strong characters, history, family sagas and their personal histories, a story encompassing several generations and community and country. What was there not to like. The period of 1707 but going back to the late 17th century covering the Jacobite revolution, the return of James III. We have a young woman coming forward to claim her entitlement of a widow of a man who went on the ill fated Darien expedition. To assess her claim two men have to check out all the facts but one of them is suspicious of what is put forward, the other falls headlong in love with her. The story starts from there, alternately going back in time to previous times of Lily's birth, and then her young years coming into a family which protected her and then when her only protection was gone, literally threw her to the wolves. The hardships encountered by Lily till her present predicament are very well outlined and told by this author whose research into the turbulent history of Scotland at the time was meticulous. A must for readers who like history, who like a story well told. I've liked very much everyone of Susanna Kearsley's books one of the few authors whose books I have kept back in my declutter as I do so like to go back to them every once in a while. Sent by Sourcebooks Landmark for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Bad Blood by Marilyn Todd

1895 London. Not the best age for women - especially single ones like Julia McAllister doing a man's job and pretending there is a man who actually owns the establishment as otherwise it will not be patronised as it would not be considered "respectable" enough for ladies to enter. The photographic business is not doing well and it is only Julia's sideline unknown except for the models and for the men who buy the photographs. If word does get out, that will be the end for Julia. Austin Forbes is found dead, and Julia is called upon to photograph the evidence before it is contaminated. This is a new development and one that is not looked favourably upon by the hierarchy as well as the lower orders. In the process of photographing the dead man, Julia finds that the case could be connected with the abduction of the man's son eight years prior. Enquiring from all, including the family it transpires the man was disliked, was a womanizer, was harsh in his business dealings so that there are umpteen suspects in his murder. The characters both the main ones which fade as the story goes on, to the secondary characters who come out more strongly as the story develops, the setting and the history of this era all come to the fore in this story. So apart from crime and mystery there is a strong historical fiction element as well. A good read. Sent by Sapere Books for a unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Monday, November 1, 2021

Murder in the Village by Lisa Cutts (Belinda Penshurst book No. 1)

The village of Little Chalham is idyllic in its setting but alongside its quaint history and characters, there are hidden depths. When the local tavern keeper, Tipper - a surly soul is found murdered drowned in his own barrel of beer, swiftly followed by another murder this time wrapped in cling film Belinda and Harry an ex detective have their noses to the ground to try to find out the trail of why and how these murders are happening, all connected to Harry's own employment as a supplier of dog food. With kidnapping of dogs, three taverns or pubs competing for business the downfall of one definitely leads to the increase in business for the other and there was no love lost between the three owners. Then how do the dog nappings get connected into the puzzle? Slightly naive Belinda and Harry who is led by his nose by Belinda follow a series of clues and with a great deal of luck as well, solve the mystery. A light hearted cosy. Sent by Bookouture for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.