Monday, January 20, 2020

The Cost of Duplicity

Lady Emily Mysteries # 14
Tasha Alexander
St. Martins Minotaur
January 7, 2020

It's 1902 and Lady Emily with her husband Colin Hargreaves are on holiday in Italy with their friends Ivy and Jeremy, the Duke of Bainbridge. The plan is to explore the ruins of Pompeii, destroyed by the eruption of Mt.Vesuvius in AD 79. While exploring, Ivy comments on the sideburns showing on one of the plaster casts, not exactly a feature of a first-century body! Upon chipping away at the plaster, Colin finds a much more recent corpse, no more than a month or two old. The police call it a local mafia crime, but when another death occurs on an archaeological dig, Colin and Emily spring into action. In the midst of their investigation, an unheralded visitor brings marital strife. Colin's previously unknown daughter, the product of an affair with his partner in espionage, now deceased, arrives in Italy. Not unexpectedly the daughter, "Kat", and Emily get off to a very rocky start, even though Emily tries her best. There is a secondary story being told as well and the narrative switches from 1902 to AD 79 and tells the story of a sixteen-year-old slave girl in Pompeii, who is also a gifted poet.

I have enjoyed all of the Lady Emily mysteries to a greater or lesser degree, and I think In the Shadow of Vesuvius is one of the best of the series. I was much more invested in the slave girl's story that I had initially expected to be. The two storylines tied together very satisfactorily in the end. It's difficult to maintain the momentum in such a long-running series, but Alexander has pulled it off again. Thanks to Minotaur and NetGalley for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING- 4 Stars

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Murder at the 1939 World.s Fair

Murder, She Reported # 3
Peg Cochran
Random House Alibi
December 3, 2019

It's the height of summer in 1939, New York City, but everyone is excited by the World's Fair. Rising star photographer Elizabeth "Biz" Adams and her partner, Kaminsky, are sent out to cover a murder at the Fair of one of the girls who demonstrate the new nylon stockings on display. Touted as being stronger, cheaper, and more long-lasting, a stocking was used to strangle her. The police quickly seize on an obvious suspect, the young hot dog vendor named Joey, who everyone says was obsessed with her. Elizabeth, however, doubts that he is the guilty party. She and Kaminsky set out to do some investigating on their own. When Kaminsky's notoriously unhealthy lifestyle lands him in the hospital, Elizabeth proceeds on her own. There is plenty of nefarious activity at the Fair to go around, and "Biz" finds herself in more danger than she bargained for.

The Murder, She Reported series is rapidly becoming a favorite of mine. Peg Cochran obviously does her research, and the reader is presented with a vivid picture of New York City before the days of air-conditioning; its heat, odor, and slow recovery from the Great Depression. Elizabeth is a very modern woman for her time and social standing, one who wants to be her own person. Her relationship with Sal Marino, Police Detective, takes a back-burner in Murder, She Encountered but Elizabeth takes steps that may change everything. Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING- 5 Stars

A Double LIfe

A 42nd Street Library Mystery # 3
Con Lehane
Minotaur Books
November 19,2019

The appearance of a beautiful young woman at Raymond Ambler's Crime Reading Room raises questions in the minds of both Raymond and his colleague, Adele. Her name is Shannon Darling, and she is researching the recently donated papers of a once-popular mystery writer. It's clear that this young woman has never done any research before and is entirely ignorant of the usual procedures. Their questions only increase when they encounter her in their local watering-hole. Shannon Darling is acting flirty with every man in the place, and as she continues to drink, she becomes more inappropriate in her behavior. Their friend, bartender, and confidant, Brian McNulty hands off the bar and escorts her to her hotel room. It's clear to all that McNulty has a prior connection to Shannon. Two murders later, Brian is on the run and a suspect in both killings. It turns out that Shannon Darling is actually Dr. Sandra Dean, a dermatologist living in Connecticut, and Dr.Dean has been leading a double life. Raymond's sleuthing skills will all be needed if McNulty is to be cleared.

The 42nd Street Library Series is a good example of a character-driven mystery, which is my preferred type. In the case of this book, I found all the character extras a little tedious and that they detracted somewhat from the narrative flow. For all his skills, Raymond is a bit slow in catching on to relationship dynamics, especially with Adele. He does try though with his grandson Johnny, who we met in the first book of the series. Murder Off the Page. I enjoyed this third book but thought it fell short of the first two in the series. Thanks to NetGalley and Minotaur for an advance copy. The opinions are my own.


Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Magic and Mayhem in an Alternate Victorian World

The Case Files of Henri Davenforth #1
Honor Raconteur
Raconteur House, LLC
April 17, 2018

I've been reading Magic and the Shinigami Detective as a bedtime book and thoroughly enjoyed it. Imagine being a 21st-century police detective, kidnapped and magically abused for months by a mad witch. And upon managing to kill the witch, finding yourself in an entirely different world with no chance of returning to your own. That's what happens to Jamie Edwards. The new world she finds herself in has parallels to Victorian England in the social mores and dress, but with the addition of magic, plus such creatures as werehorses, werefoxes, weremules, brownies, and dwarves at which no one even raises an eyebrow. Jamie is fortunate in her friends, though, Royal Mage Sherard Seaton and especially her new police partner, Henri Davenforth. Henri is a gentlemanly, slightly portly, solitary Magical Examiner (akin to a Medical Examiner) who doesn't know what hit him upon meeting Jamie. The first case that they work together is a break-in of the evidence room at the Fourth Precinct. Everyone knows who did the crime, but how did they break the magical wards on the building? Henri is a little wary of Jamie in the beginning. But he soon makes it his mission to help the lonely refugee feel at home in his world. The two quickly form a meaningful friendship, and maybe more. There is a lot of humor in the two trying to make sense of their two cultures.

Despite finding the magical systems a little confusing, and a couple of editing errors, I give this one an enthusiastic thumbs-up. The characters are charming and even loveable in their humanity. I'm looking forward to the next one, Charms and Deaths and Explosions. Fans of imaginative fantasy will love this one.

RATING- 4 Stars