Tag Archives: cosy historical whodunit

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Dancing With Death Book 1 of the Nell Drury series by Amy Myers

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This classic country house murder mystery from Severn House popped up at Netgalley and caught my eye…

1925. The fashionable Bright Young Things from London have descended on Wychbourne Court, the Kentish stately home of Lord and Lady Ansley, for an extravagant fancy dress ball followed by a midnight Ghost Hunt – and Chef Nell Drury knows she’s in for a busy weekend. What she doesn’t expect to encounter is sudden, violent death.

This cosy mystery is a thoroughly enjoyable, engrossing read. Myers evokes the period well as steady, sensible and very ambitious Nell Drury, working at Wychbourne Hall as Chef, suddenly finds herself confronted with a violent murder of one of the guests. While it might have seemed unlikely that a young woman would land a prize post like this, due to the shortage of young men after the ravages of WWI, this was a time when a generation of women had an opportunity for a career – so long as they didn’t want to get married. Nell is one of those women. Fans of Downton Abbey will recognise the strict hierarchy of below stairs as she regularly locks horns with housekeeper, Mrs Fielding, who is thoroughly disapproving of a female chef.

But Nell has other things to worry about other than whether her soufflés will rise, when Lady Ansley appeals to her to ensure none of the servants are caught up in the bloody murder. I like Nell’s character. Her cool-headed steadiness and self-confidence comes from having to fight for her place and growing up in the war years, which still casts a long shadow over most of the characters – and quite right, too. Myers has very much caught the flavour of the age, it seems to me, having grown up with stories of the time from my grandmother, who was a flapper.

In order to make this sort of book really work, we need a good spread of likely suspects amongst the supporting cast and Myers certainly provides plenty of memorable, strong contenders. We have the eccentric aunt who is convinced the house is crowded with a posse of ghosts, all keen to make contact with their living counterparts; the gang of bright young things, including the three Ansley youngsters who are caught up in the frantic round of parties and nightclubbing; two school friends who seem far too attracted to each other rather than their supposed partners; the vamp; the terrifying elderly female relative (think Maggie Smith); and her arch-enemy a sprightly avuncular gentleman. In the middle of this, you have poor, bewildered Lord and Lady Ansley… There is also a strong cast of below stairs characters and a rather forbidding detective from Scotland Yard who travels down to investigate the murders as the local bobbies are completely out of their depth.

This is all as cosily familiar as a late-night cup of cocoa – but there is a good reason why Agatha Christie-type murder mysteries work, demonstrated here by Myers’ well-written homage. The pages simply turned themselves as I dived into this one while struggling with a heavy cold. The denouement was also well handled – I hadn’t guessed whodunit or why and was also pleased that some of the red herrings cast around during the investigation weren’t necessarily as herring-like as I’d thought. It always slightly annoys me when an author provides a parade of suspects and a trail of clues – only to suddenly provide a completely different set of motives with a flourish at the end. Myers isn’t guilty of such a sleight of hand. My only niggle is the very, very abrupt ending – unless for some reason my arc is missing a final paragraph. But this one is recommended for fans of a classic cosy mystery set in a country house.

While I obtained the arc of Dancing with Death from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.

8/10

Sunday Post – 30th April 2017

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

Looking back, I feel glad that I was sympathetic and concerned about poor little Oscar’s cold last week, because I went down with the wretched thing like a sack of spanners and have been absolutely flattened. I’ve spent most of the week in bed reading and sleeping, hence the rather ridiculously long list below… And I’m still feeling like a piece of chewed string.

 

This week I have read:

Snared – Book 16 of the Elemental Assassins series by Jennifer Estep
My search for the girl begins on the mean streets of Ashland, but with all the killers and crooks in this city, I’m not holding out much hope that she’s still alive. A series of clues leads me down an increasingly dark, dangerous path, and I realize that the missing girl is really just the first thread in this web of evil. As an assassin, I’m used to facing down the worst of the worst, but nothing prepares me for this new, terrifying enemy—one who strikes from the shadows and is determined to make me the next victim.
I really enjoyed this slice in the ongoing adventure of Gin Blanco’s life as she battles to find a kidnapped girl and uncover more about the shadowy organisation that were responsible for her mother and sister’s death. An engrossing urban fantasy murder mystery.

Dancing with Death – Book 1 of the Nell Drury series by Amy Myers
1925. The fashionable Bright Young Things from London have descended on Wychbourne Court, the Kentish stately home of Lord and Lady Ansley, for an extravagant fancy dress ball followed by a midnight Ghost Hunt – and Chef Nell Drury knows she’s in for a busy weekend. What she doesn’t expect to encounter is sudden, violent death.
A houseful of likely suspects with plenty of above and below stairs motivations and suspicious behaviour… This 1920’s historical cosy mystery was a cracking read and took me away from my bed of pain.

 

Reaper – Book 1 from the End Game series by Janet Edwards
In the year 2519, people on Earth don’t grow old and die any longer, their bodies are frozen and they start a new life in the virtual reality of the Game. Jex is almost eighteen, working twelve hour shifts, and dreaming of when she’ll be legally adult and begin her long-planned idyllic life in Game. When a bomber attacks a Game server complex, one of the virtual worlds of Game crashes, and eleven thousand immortal players die during emergency defrost. Death has struck Game for the first time in centuries, and Jex is questioned as a suspect in the bombing.
I really enjoyed this depiction of a stripped, monochrome world where all the adults have disappeared into virtual reality, while children’s childhood have also gone. Jex, on the cusp of being able to slough her actual body and become her virtual persona, finds herself a suspect for a bombing. This is a murder mystery with a difference – clever, inventive and enjoyable.

Fool’s Gold – Book 8 of the Liberty Lane series by Caro Peacock
September, 1841. A new arrival has taken London society by storm. Lord Byron’s handsome illegitimate son, George, recently arrived from the exotic island of Cephalonia in the company of his guardian, the mysterious Mr Vickery, has been setting female hearts aflutter. But not all the attention George attracts is welcome. Mr Vickery has been receiving disturbing letters from a woman who calls herself Helena, and he hires Liberty Lane to find out who Helena is and what she wants.
Yes… I know there is something of a theme going on here – yet another murder mystery. But they are all quite different – really. And this one features determined and observant Liberty Lane, trying to work out exactly what is the secret behind George and who he is. Another one that took me right away from my thick-headed misery and into another world.

Scavenger Alliance – Book 1 of the Exodus series by Janet Edwards
In the year 2408, a century after the invention of interstellar portals, seven hundred people scavenge a living in abandoned New York. The respectable citizens have either withdrawn to new settlements in the countryside, or joined the great exodus of humanity to new, unpolluted colony worlds, but eighteen-year-old Blaze is one of the undesirables that neither the citizen settlements nor the new colony worlds will accept.
This adventure is set in the same world as Edwards’ best-selling Earthgirl series, but much earlier. A survivor colony is scratching out a living in the ruins of New York, when they are confronted with a small group from another world. I loved this one, having been a solid fan of the Earthgirl books and couldn’t put it down until I got to the dramatic end.

A Tyranny of Queens – Book 2 of the Manifold Worlds series by Foz Meadows
Saffron Coulter has returned from the fantasy kingdom of Kena. Threatened with a stay in psychiatric care, Saffron has to make a choice: to forget about Kena and fit back into the life she’s outgrown, or pit herself against everything she’s ever known and everyone she loves. Meanwhile in Kena, Gwen is increasingly troubled by the absence of Leoden, cruel ruler of the kingdom, and his plans for the captive worldwalkers, while Yena, still in Veksh, must confront the deposed Kadeja. What is their endgame? Who can they trust? And what will happen when Leoden returns?
I was thrilled when I saw this sequel to the fantastic An Accident of Stars – see my review here – which was one of my outstanding reads of last year. It was a real treat to catch up on Saffron after her shock return home. This was another engrossing, vivid world full of adventure and excitement that took me away from my hacking cough and aching limbs.

Cold Welcome – Book 1 of Vatta’s Peace by Elizabeth Moon
Summoned to the home planet of her family’s business empire, space-fleet commander Kylara Vatta is told to expect a hero’s welcome. But instead she is thrown into danger unlike any other she has faced and finds herself isolated, unable to communicate with the outside world, commanding a motley group of unfamiliar troops, and struggling day by day to survive in a deadly environment with sabotaged gear. Only her undeniable talent for command can give her ragtag band a fighting chance.
I loved the Vatta’s War series and was delighted when Himself made me a present of this one for Easter. It is Moon at her tense, thrilling best and I found this particular military sci fi adventure impossible to put down until I got to the dramatic end.

The Broken Bridge by Philip Pullman
The Broken Bridge is the tale of Ginny, a sixteen-year-old half-Haitian girl living with her father in a small seaside village in Wales. She’s becoming a brilliant artist, just like her mother, who died when Ginny was a baby. Despite the isolation she sometimes feels, her life is turning out OK. Then her social worker cracks open her files and her world falls apart. Ginny’s father has kept a devastating secret from her all her life. In fact, everything she thought she knew about her family and her identity is a lie. And now, to find out who she really is, Ginny must relive the dark tragedies in her past.
This is a beautiful book – Pullman brilliantly evokes a particular time and place with precise, well-crafted prose that drew me right into the middle of Ginny’s world. This one is all about families – both the best and worst of what they have to offer. Pullman’s perceptive, sympathetic depiction is both engrossing and thought provoking – and a joy to read.

The One by John Marrs
How far would you go to find THE ONE?
One simple mouth swab is all it takes. A quick DNA test to find your perfect partner – the one you’re genetically made for. A decade after scientists discover everyone has a gene they share with just one other person, millions have taken the test, desperate to find true love. Now, five more people meet their Match. But even soul mates have secrets. And some are more shocking – and deadlier – than others…
This ensemble piece, where we follow the fortunes of an unrelated number of protagonists who are looking for love, gradually builds up into a gripping adventure where all is not as it seems. I loved this one – it is definitely a slow-burn read, but by the end, I was blown away by the twisting plot.

Running on the Cracks by Julia Donaldson
Leo’s running from her past. Finlay’s running into trouble. Together, they stumble into a crazy new world of secrets, lies, and Chinese food. But someone is on Leo’s trail . . . Eccentric, unforgettable characters and genuine, heart-pounding suspense make for a stunning combination as celebrated author Julia Donaldson expands her talents in her first novel for young adults.
This is a great read. You realise just how fragile some people’s lives are when it all goes wrong. Unlike many YA reads, although the protagonists are both youngsters, this one also explores what happens to older people who fall through the cracks. A warm-hearted and thoughtful look at our society.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 23rd April 2017

Review of Saven Deception – Book 1 of the Saven series by Siobhan Davis

Friday Face-off – Burning my bridges… featuring The Bridge by Janine Ellen Young

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL Review of Snared – Book 16 of Elemental Assassins series by Jennifer Estep

This week, due to being ill, I haven’t been online long enough to be able to compile a list of interesting articles. Thank you for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Renting Silence – Book 3 of the Roaring Twenties Mysteries by Mary Miley

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On looking up the details of this book on Goodreads, I learnt that Mary Miley won the Mystery Writers of America for First Crime Novel Award in 2012 for The Impersonator, which I think is the first book in this series. I can see why…

renting-silenceCan 1920 s script girl Jessie do Mary Pickford s bidding and uncover a real killer? When Jessie is asked by her idol, the famous actress Mary Pickford, if she can do some private investigating for her, Jessie reluctantly accepts. A girl was found stabbed in her bedroom with another woman lying unconscious on the floor next to her, a bloody knife in her hand. With no police investigation into the murder, it’s up to Jessie to hone her amateur detective skills and prove the girl’s innocence before she hangs for murder.

While I was aware that I’d once more crashed midway into a series, this isn’t a major deal as Miley is far too adept for keep her readers floundering. Instead I quickly bonded with Jessie, a sparky character with plenty of spirit who is embracing the opportunities Hollywood has presented for her. It is also the perfect setting for all sorts of mayhem and murder.

As with all the best historical whodunits, Miley uses the adventure to present us with a slice of Jessie’s life. While I cared about seeing the mystery solved, I was every bit as involved with Jessie’s ongoing concerns, such as her wardrobe choices, her problematic romance and interest in the Hollywood gossip. Miley vividly recreates the 1920s world for us, from the clothes and the Hollywood glamour and the thrill of drinking forbidden alcoholic drinks.

However what makes this stand out for me is her clear depiction of the darker side of the era – the edgy lawlessness as crime gangs, emboldened and funded by the massive sales of moonshine, battle amongst each other for territory and the casual, everyday racism that condemns anyone of colour to a second-rate existence. That, coupled with the sexism that also downgrades women’s prospects makes me very glad that I’m alive now, rather than back then. One quibble – when she spends a couple of nights with her lover, there is no mention of any contraception. I’m sure someone as worldly wise as Jessie would have insisted on her partner using a condom to prevent pregnancy in an era when a baby out of wedlock brought shame and disgrace to women, but there is no mention of it.

That doesn’t prevent me thoroughly enjoying this engrossing and well written mystery, which twists off into all sorts of directions and I certainly didn’t see exactly who the perpetrator was until Miley wanted me to. All in all, while I was in bed with a heavy cold, this was the perfect book to get lost in. Highly recommended.

While I obtained the arc of Renting Silence from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
9/10

Sunday Post – 27th November 2016

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Sunday Post

This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

I woke up last Sunday feeling absolutely dreadful – sneezing, aching joints, streaming nose and eyes… Fortunately, I had already posted my Sunday roundup so was able to spend most of the morning in bed drinking lots of water and sleeping. On Monday I cancelled my lesson with Tim and Fitstep session – a real shame, but by the evening I was feeling well enough to teach my usual Creative Writing evening class. By Tuesday, I was still feeling a bit headachy but the cold was gone with not so much as a sniffle – which I was delighted about as it was our Poetry Workshop, one of my favourite sessions of the term, but I need to be feeling reasonably sharp to run it successfully. By Wednesday I was able to attend my Pilates class and on Thursday Mhairi came round for the day and we got down to writing. Although my work on Miranda’s Tempest hasn’t been going so well this week, as there has been a lot of family stuff going on which is taking up a fair amount of headspace.

This week I have read:
The Ballad of Elva and Chester: Or: Mostly Their Fault by Adrian Archangelo
theballadofelvaElva & Chester are space aliens who appear to be human and have been here on earth since the year 1100, with the goal of helping humanity develop more empathy and compassion. (The rest of the beings in the galaxy don’t want us flying around out there until we do.) The pair have no human habits to contend with, but they are extraordinarily responsive to chocolate and hold it in special regard. Although they mean well for us, they find human behavior baffling, and continually see their plans twisted by human responses. Consequently, nearly everything wrong on this planet over the past thousand years was caused by one of their debacles.

A light-hearted romp through history with an unusual justification for all the many disasters…

 

Renting Silence – Book 3 of the Roaring Twenties Mysteries by Mary Miley
renting-silenceCan 1920s script girl Jessie do Mary Pickford’s bidding and uncover a real killer?
When Jessie is asked by her idol, the famous actress Mary Pickford, if she can do some private investigating for her, Jessie reluctantly accepts. A girl was found stabbed in her bedroom with another woman lying unconscious on the floor next to her, a bloody knife in her hand. With no police investigation into the murder, it’s up to Jessie to hone her amateur detective skills and prove the girl’s innocence before she hangs for murder. But as Jessie travels through the roaring twenties world of Hollywood and movies, surreptitiously interviewing fellow travelling performers, she struggles to find the connection she needs.

This is a delight. Miley has perfectly captured the sense of the time with all sorts of delightful details, in addition to highlighting some of the bleaker aspects such as the embedded racist and sexism of the time. And the denouement caught me completely by surprise – all in all a cracking read.

 

Bloodrush – Book 1 of The Scarlet Star trilogy by Ben Galley
“Magick ain’t pretty, it ain’t stars and sparkles. Magick is dirty. It’s rough. Raw. It’s blood and guts bloodrushand vomit. You hear me?”
When Prime Lord Hark is found in a pool of his own blood on the steps of his halls, Tonmerion Hark finds his world not only turned upside down, but inside out. His father’s last will and testament forces him west across the Iron Ocean, to the very brink of the Endless Land and all civilisation. They call it Wyoming.
This is a story of murder and family.
In the dusty frontier town of Fell Falls, there is no silverware, no servants, no plush velvet nor towering spires. Only dust, danger, and the railway. Tonmerion has only one friend to help him escape the torturous heat and unravel his father’s murder. A faerie named Rhin. A twelve-inch tall outcast of his own kind.
This is a story of blood and magick.
But there are darker things at work in Fell Falls, and not just the railwraiths or the savages. Secrets lurk in Tonmerion’s bloodline. Secrets that will redefine this young Hark.
This is a story of the edge of the world.

This fantasy adventure in a Wild West setting pings off the page as the vivid worldbuilding and detailed magickal rules pulled me in and wouldn’t let go until this coming-of-age page-turner was finally completed. I shall be reviewing it in due course.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 20th November 2016

Film review of Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them

Teaser Tuesday – featuring Bloodrush – Book 1 of The Scarlet Star trilogy by Ben Galley

Review of Synners by Pat Cadigan

Review of Clover Moon by Jacqueline Wilson

Friday Faceoff – As Old as the Hills… featuring Rider at the Gate – Book 1 of the Finisterre duology by C.J. Cherryh

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* The Ballad of Elva and Chester: Or: Mostly Their Fault by Adrian Archangelo

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

50 Word Stories: Licked https://richardankers.com/2016/11/25/50-word-stories-licked/
Richard specialises in writing a steady stream of very short, quirky fiction and this disturbing little gem nicely showcases his inventive, dark imagination.

Witness for the Prosecution (1982TVM) https://noirencyclopedia.wordpress.com/2016/11/16/witness-for-the-prosecution-1982-tvm/
John’s delightful blog features noir films, together with a detailed storyline and screenshots of the action. This film was particularly entertaining.

The Realities of Writing https://sophieetallis.wordpress.com/2016/11/24/the-realities-of-writing/ This thoughtful, well written article by Sophie is certainly worth reading.

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXV (Leiber + Haiblum + Scholz and Harcourt + Orbit Anthology) https://sciencefictionruminations.wordpress.com/2016/11/23/updates-recent-science-fiction-acquisitions-no-leiber-haiblum-scholz-and-harcourt-orbit-anthology/ Joachim presents his latest finds – all classic science fiction paperbacks with amazing covers.

5 New Poetry Collections https://librarystaffpicks.wordpress.com/2016/11/23/5-new-poetry-collections-2/ Those marvellous folks at Ballyroan library have given a potted review of these latest acquisitions – a must-read for those looking for presents for the poets in their lives.

Many thanks for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.