Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Veronica Speedwell #2
Deanna Raybourn
Berkley Books
January 10, 2017

Veronica Speedwell and Stoker are cooling their heels at the Marylebone estate of their patron, Lord Rosemorran. They have had to delay their plans for an expedition to Fiji where Veronica was to collect butterflies,and Stoker, mammal specimens for taxidermy. The delay came when Rosemorran, an inveterate collector of everything fell over his giant tortoise, Patricia, and broke his leg. Sadly, they will have to do what they were originally hired for, catalog the vast Rosemorran collection rather than set off on adventures. The arrival of an elderly aunt, ostensibly to look after the estate during Rosemorran's recuperation, sets the two on a new set of perilous adventures. Lady "Wellie", though, is not all that she seems to be and not entirely to be trusted. A very highly placed Royal Family member, Princess Louise, in fact, wants them to investigate a recent scandalous murder. The man convicted and scheduled to hang is a dear friend of Princess Louise and she is certain that he is not guilty, even though he has refused to present an alibi. The investigation takes them into the art world, opium dens and wannabe "hellfire clubs". It is scandalous stuff, indeed, and very dangerous for Veronica and Stoker. It also draws them even closer into the lives of the Royal Family, something that Veronica, in particular, wants to avoid.

I am a huge fan of Deanna Raybourn's Lady Jane series, and now, of the Veronica Speedwell series. They are witty and charming, with just enough slowly simmering romance. I am convinced that Stoker and Veronica are made for each other, if only because no one else could put up with them. Both are stubborn, arrogant and intelligent, and sure of how they plan to live their lives. It's extremely entertaining to see all their plans being upended. Highly recommended!

I received A Perilous Undertaking courtesy of Goodreads.

RATING-4.5 Stars

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Lady Hardcastle and Flo Are Deep in Mysteries, Again.

IN THE MARKET FOR MURDER (Lady Hardcastle # 2)
T. E. Kinsey
Thomas & Mercer
December 20, 2016

Just in time for the holidays, Lady Hardcastle and her "tiny servant", Florence Armstrong, are back with new adventures. Lady Hardcastle's injuries sustained in the first book, A Quiet Life in the Country, have been slow to heal but both ladies are ready to get back to normal life in the village of Littleton Cotterell in Gloucestershire. No longer considered "incomers" they both have the acceptance and liking of the village and a respectful relationship with Inspector Sunderland of the Bristol CID.

Their friend, Lady Farley-Stroud, persuades them both to attend Market Day in the nearby town of Chipping Bevington. Neither Lady Hardcastle nor Florence is very interested in the outing, especially in a torrential downpour. Florence, in particular, has an aversion to cows. While the three ladies are having lunch in the crowded pub, a farmer named Spencer Caradine falls over dead in his beef pie. No one is at all upset, though, as Caradine was universally disliked. Inspector Sunderland asks them to look into the matter as they have a knack for solving mysteries and can get villagers to talk who might be reticent with him. While they investigate, other mysteries pop up; a break-in at the local cricket club and a seance with an aggressive ghost. It also seems that there is a very wide field of suspects in the death of Caradine.

The Lady Hardcastle Mysteries are a delightful way to spend an afternoon or evening in a place and time that probably never really existed. The whole village of Littleton Cotterell seems bathed in a golden glow, even with the amount of mayhem going on. Lady Hardcastle is wonderfully eccentric and there is much more to Florence than meets the eye. For instance, her knowledge and practice of martial arts learned in her travels with Lady Hardcastle in India and China make her unique in 1909. Their close relationship and banter make the women more like sisters than mistress and servant. I highly recommend this series for pure enjoyment.

Thanks to Thomas & Mercer and Netgalley for an advance digital copy in return for an honest review.

RATING- 4 Stars

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

THE INHERITANCE (Charles Lenox # 10)
Charles Finch
St. Martins Minotaur
November 1, 2016

It's a snowy, cold day in London and Charles Lenox is awaiting a visit from an old school friend, Gerald Leigh. Both men were at Harrow 30 years earlier and Lenox has seen him only a few times since. Leigh was a complete misfit at Harrow, eventually expelled, and Lenox was his only friend. So when Lenox receives a letter from Leigh, asking for his help, Charles is eager to see him. Gerald Leigh, however, never arrives and upon visiting his hotel the next day, Lenox finds that he was absent all night. As a detective and friend, Lenox sets out to find him. When he does, Leigh has a strange story to tell. He was living in France and received a letter informing him of an anonymous bequest of twenty-five thousand pounds sterling; a huge fortune in those days. Far from being a failure as Harrow predicted, Leigh is an internationally known scientist, much in demand among scientific circles. He is required to claim the bequest in person and also has a speaking engagement at the Royal Society. The inheritance echoes an earlier bequest in Leigh's life; an anonymous benefactor paid his school fees. Charles and Gerald tried to solve that mystery as boys but failed. Since arriving in England, Leigh has had two failed attempts on his life. As is ofter the case in the Charles Lenox novels there is a secondary mystery. The Lenox Agency is on retainer with Parliament. When there is a break-in at Parliament, Lenox's associates, Sir John Dallington and Polly Buchanan take the lead, sending Sir John in particular into great danger.

The Charles Lenox Mysteries are perennial favorites and I think that The Inheritance is one of the best. Charles Finch achieves a splendid balance between plot, characterization, and historical detail. As a history geek, I love the small details that make the era come alive; such as the origin of the phrase, "by hook or by crook", and how fish and chips became so popular in England. As always, I highly recommend the series in general and The Inheritance in particular. 

RATING- 4.5 Stars