Recent Reads: Historical Mysteries

I should have published this awhile back, but I’ve been on blog hiatus for some time now. I’m making up for lost time.

Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen – First in the Lady Georgiana mysteries, 1930’s London. Lots of fun with this young, royally-connected lass who’s broke but determined to make it on her own. The supporting characters differ from one another wildly and keep the interaction appealing. The mystery is well plotted and kept me in suspense along with Georgie, who has a personal reason to solve this one.

Murderers Prefer Blondes by Amanda Matetsky – A young war widow in 1954 NYC has serious writing on her mind, but she’s merely the secretary (who actually keeps the office running) at the male-dominated mystery magazine. She takes it upon herself to investigate the murder of a model she met briefly, hoping it will be her big break. Again, supporting characters, including a wacky neighbor and a tall, dark and handsome police detective keep the interaction stimulating, and the heroine’s own gutsy encounters followed by knee-wobbling fainting spells will leave you laughing.

The Snow Empress by Laura Joh Rowland – The 12th in the Sano Ichiro series, this was a slight departure from the series in that it takes place in far northern Japan, where Sano and Reiko’s son has been kidnapped, apparently to lure him away from the capital. The lord of the province seems crazy after the murder of his mistress, and Sano must solve the crime to have any hope of finding his son. Themes include racial discrimination and spiritual possession.

I think I’m losing patience with the characters…finally. It began a few volumes back and is catching up fast. There is too much political infighting for my taste, and Reiko seems to be a much weaker character than she was at the beginning of the series.

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin – I’m sure enough has been written about this one, but as a story itself, it was very entertaining. I laughed, I cried, I was outraged and aghast at all the correct moments, I’m sure. I felt like it got bogged down in the middle a little, but other than that, the writing was fine. “CSI in 10th-century England”? Not sure that would suffice, but it was a stretch I was willing to take for the sake of the story.

Man’s Illegal Life by Keith Heller – Not for the faint-of-heart, this first (of three) tale of watchman George Man in shabby early-Georgian London was one of the best mysteries I’ve read this year. Although I agree with another reviewer that Heller doesn’t describe his characters quite enough, the atmosphere is given in incredible detail. Perhaps the people are actually being left to our (gasp!) imagination! I will definitely be getting the other two.

Similar: The Thief Taker: Memoirs of a Bow Street Runner by T. F. Banks; Death in the Dark Walk (John Rawlings mysteries) by Deryn Lake; Blind Justice (The Sir John Fielding series) by Bruce Alexander

Fool’s Gold by Jane Jakemen – The third Lord Ambrose mystery, and I think these are getting better with each volume. After rejecting Ambrose’s proposal, Elisabeth takes a position as companion at Jesmond Place in the West Country, only to become involved in a murder mystery. Ambrose goes to the rescue, but can he help? Interesting look at medicine and its reputation in 1833 England. Not quite gothic but definitely not cozy, IMO.

Goodnight, Sweet Prince by David Dickenson – My first by this author and I heartily enjoyed it, recognizing the differences between known fact and fiction. I’ve enjoyed the recent conversations about his hero and the resulting excellent discussions.

Similar: The Hanover Square Affair (Capt Lacey, Regency England) by Ashley Gardner; The Complaint of the Dove by Hannah March

On the Wrong Track: A Holmes on the Range Mystery by Steve Hockensmith – This series about two cowpoke brothers with a penchant for solving crimes a la Sherlock is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. (Perhaps I should look into some Louis L’Amour soon?) I love the humor, the mysteries are solid, and the interaction between the two heros are priceless. I hope the series has a long and fruitful life.

Murder on the Eiffel Tower: A Victor Legris Mystery by Claude Izner – Paris, 1889; What should have been an interesting historical mystery is unfortunately hampered by lack of depth in both plot and character. Story is promising and description is solid, although off-center at times. The time period is fascinating and the descriptions of the city and people are very compelling. The author obviously did the research but the writing was not pedagogical in tone. Perhaps in the next book in this series, the author will flesh out the characters and create a more appealing story.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Murder by Karen Swee – I am very happy to see a series during the American Revolution, and I enjoyed this one very much. The plot was simple, and we were being introduced to some good characters for future volumes, I assume. The tension was real as the British occupied the town. Copyediting was very poor, however, which always makes me wonder how much value (and thus effort) the publisher gave to this book.

Similar: Hearts and Bones by Margaret Lawrence (Maine, 1790s); Death of a Mill Girl by Clyde Linsley (New England, 1830s); A Wicked Way to Burn by Margaret Miles (Massachusetts, 1763); A Catch of Consequence (NOVEL) by Diana Norman

© Jan McClintock of We Need More Shelves

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