Sunday, August 27, 2023

The Age of Steam and Conspiracy

Wrexford and Sloan #7
Andrea Penrose
Kensington Books
September 26, 2023

Lord Wrexford sets out quickly to Oxford when he receives a message from an old friend, Greeley, a Librarian at Merton College Library. More important, he was the dearest friend of Wrexford's younger brother, Thomas. Thomas was killed in a French ambush in Portugal during the Napoleonic Wars, and Wrexford has always felt guilty that he was not there to save him. Greeley was the only survivor, grievously wounded in both body and spirit. Wrexford would never ignore a request from Greeley. Upon his arrival, he finds that the librarian has been murdered and a valuable manuscript is missing.

Meanwhile, in London, Lady Charlotte is investigating a possible arson fire at a laboratory under her pen name, AJ Quill.
 This is the age of steam; Stephen Fulton has just introduced the steam paddleboat in America to great success and acclaim. The British are all in on developing an ocean-going steamboat. As was the custom, consortiums are being formed to reap the benefits. Some of the consortiums have dubious characters involved, and Charlotte wants to get to the bottom of them, especially since their friend, Kit Sheffield, is tempted to join one of the most dubious.

As always, the burgeoning world of science is at the heart of the Wrexford and Sloane mysteries. The Regency era brought many new scientific advances and new ways to cheat others out of their wealth. In this particular entry, I found myself lost in all the theories of propulsion from DaVinci to more modern theorists. However, the cast of characters redeems that. Time spent in the company of the Wrexfords, their formerly street urchin wards, Raven and Hawk, and Peregrine, the new addition, Peregrine, is well-spent. It is an unconventional family, but a family nonetheless. We even get answers about Charlotte's taciturn housekeeper, Mac, and a resolution to just who was responsible for the death of Thomas in the ambush that killed him.

Thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Books for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING- 3.5 Stars

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Intrigue and Adventure on the High Seas

 Captain Jim and Lady Diana Mysteries, # 3
 Nev March
 Minotaur Books
 September 12, 2023

 The third story in this award-winning series features Captain Jim Agnihotri and Lady Diana embarking on a journey from their home in America to England at the behest of Diana's brother, Adi. Adi is in England on business and wants Jim's help with a matter he only wants to discuss in person. It suits Captain Jim since he has sensed a growing distance between himself and Diana. At first glance, the couple seems ill-assorted. Jim is a half-caste orphan invalided out of the Indian Army, and Diana is from a noble, wealthy Indian family and was university educated in England. Jim's service to the family (Murder in Old Bombay) made him almost a family member. They welcomed him with open arms when Diana set her cap for him. Diana usually gets what she wants! Jim's investigative skills, army background, and Diana's social skills make them a formidable duo.

As much as Jim is happy to take the journey, an old problem arises. Jim is a very bad sailor who never seems to quite overcome it. After one of his bouts, he goes out on the deck, hoping for fresh air and relief. While there, he meets an old soldier, Don Juan Nepomuceno. The two feel a sense of kinship, and the old man is kind to Jim. However, Don Juan is not universally loved, as becomes apparent when he is murdered in a grisly and very personal manner only a few hours later. His past includes the execution of many US Navy prisoners in Cuba years before. Many hate him, and some onboard have reason to do so. The fact that Don Juan is highly placed in the Spanish nobility threatens to create an international incident. The ship's captain asks Jim to find the killer before docking at Liverpool.

Hundreds of passengers are on the ship, from first class to second, and steerage. Then there is the crew. The author does a fine job of keeping them separate and distinct from each other. Diana, as always, involves herself but is limited to the first-class areas. Jim spends every waking hour, while not seasick, all over the ship and learning much about the operations of an ocean liner. Action and life-threatening danger are never far from the duo as they race to solve the murder. 

I have enjoyed each of the books in this series and was not disappointed in The Spanish Diplomat's Secret. There is a foreshadowing of the next puzzle for Captain Jim and Lady Diana in the person of Adi. I will be looking forward to it.