Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.
This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – The Launch Party by Lauren Forry – release date 22nd June, 2023
#sci fi murder mystery #Moon adventure #locked room whodunit
BLURB: Ten lucky people have won a place at the most exclusive launch event of the century: the grand opening of the Hotel Artemis, the first hotel on the moon. It’s an invitation to die for. As their transport departs for its return to Earth and the doors seal shut behind them, the guests take the next leap for mankind.
However, they soon discover that all is not as it seems. The champagne may be flowing, but there is no one to pour it. Room service is available, but there is no one to deliver it. Besides the ten of them, they are completely alone.
When one of the guests is found murdered, fear spreads through the group. But that death is only the beginning. Being three days’ journey from home and with no way to contact the outside, can any of the guests survive their stay? I’m a sucker for space murder mysteries. While on Earth, authors have to make up all sorts of elaborate reasons why people don’t simply walk or run out of buildings where some deranged serial killer is running rampant – in Space there is nowhere to go! I love the sound of this one😊.
I was very pleased to be contacted by the author and asked if I would consider reviewing this book. As it was easy to pick up a KU copy, I didn’t need a review arc. And the reason why I agreed so quickly is that I know and enjoy Lythell’s writing – see my review of Woman of the Hour. And she is also a lovely person who I met when she came to talk to West Sussex Writers’ – which now seems a lifetime ago…
BLURB: When Holly is bequeathed a large but derelict house, she wants to share her good fortune. So she gets in touch with former boyfriend Ray, a builder who can project-manage the renovation in exchange for the basement flat. The spacious middle floor would make a glorious studio space—perfect for her friend and first love, Spencer. And before Holly knows it, the upper floor is let to soon-to-be ex-husband James, who’s on a path of reinvention from city highflyer to osteopath. What could possibly go wrong?
But no good deed goes unpunished, and soon the house is riddled with tension, rivalry, and petty spitefulness. And as Holly is beset with migraines, nausea, and spiralling self-doubt, even the house itself seems to be turning against her. But for someone, everything is going to plan . . .
REVIEW: Let me say at once – I’m not a huge fan of domestic noir. I get irritated if the victim is too wimpy and I’ve found too many books (and films) which suddenly decide that everything isn’t quite creepy/tense enough, so then add a ridiculously OTT scene that completely yanks me out of the story. However, I know Jane Lythell’s writing and trusted that she isn’t prone to such nonsense – so when she approached me and asked if I would consider reading and reviewing her latest book, I was delighted to do so.
Holly is an engaging protagonist. I liked that she wasn’t a young twenty-something, but a mature woman whose romantic history had left her with three former partners. Each one needed somewhere to live – at least for a while and when she is unexpectedly left a large Victorian house by an aunt, she invites them to stay. The other bonus with knowing a local writer, is that the setting is also reasonably close to home. Brighton is blessed with a number of these beautiful, large Victorian houses, so it was very easy to envisage the neighbourhood and I also know the beach where Holly liked to walk.
I enjoyed the fluid writing style that stands Lythell in good stead as she describes Holly’s everyday routine, adding in the increasing list of upsetting and unexplained incidents. Because I identified so strongly with Holly as she tackles this monster house with its years of neglect, the slow, steady build-up works very well. Getting the pacing absolutely spot on in this genre is a tricky business – and is one of the reasons why I generally find myself abandoning books. I’m either bored with all the mundane details, because the author hasn’t managed to make me care sufficiently about the protagonist. Or I get fed up as the story rapidly flips into a gothic parody of itself. Not so in this case. Lythell holds the pacing and increasing sense of wrongness in perfect balance. To the extent that I simply couldn’t put the book down – and ended up reading until the wee small hours to find out what happens, while willing Holly to be okay.
There is a very nice extra twist near the end that brings a sudden jolt of danger that works extremely well. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this one and was very grateful to have picked it up. Highly recommended for fans of domestic noir if you enjoy a slow-burn story with a sympathetic protagonist in a vividly depicted setting. 9/10
I’ve come to thoroughly enjoy Hambly’s outstanding murder mystery series set in New Orleans following the fortunes of freed slave, Benjamin January – see my review of Death and Hard Cider. Indeed, I enjoyed this one so much, I’ve been listening to the audiobook editions of the first four books in the series to date. So when I saw she was the author of this offering, I immediately snapped it up. How could I resist, given that the 1920s is a favourite era?
BLURB:May, 1924. It’s been seven months since young British widow Emma Blackstone arrived in Hollywood to serve as companion to Kitty Flint: her beautiful, silent-movie star sister-in-law. Kitty is generous, kind-hearted . . . and a truly terrible actress. Not that Emma minds; she’s too busy making her academic parents turn in their graves with her new job writing painfully historically inaccurate scenarios for Foremost Studios, in between wrangling their leading lady out of the arms of her army of amorous suitors.
So when one of Kitty’s old flames, renowned film director Ernst Zapolya, calls Emma and tells her it’s imperative he meet with Kitty that morning, she’s not surprised. Until, that is, he adds that lives depend on it. Ernest sounds frightened. But what can have scared him so badly – and what on earth does cheerful, flighty Kitty have to do with it? Only Ernest can provide the answers, and Kitty and Emma travel to the set of his extravagant new movie to find them. But the shocking discovery they make there only raises further questions . . . including: will they stay alive long enough to solve the murderous puzzle?
REVIEW: What immediately struck me with this book is how completely Hambly catches the giddy, hedonistic whirl of parties, assignations and manoeuvring going on. There are actors desperate for better parts… producers and directors desperate to make their current film stand out from the increasing competition… those desperate to keep their film star reputations intact… And in the middle of all this is war widow Emma Blackstone, companion and assistant to her beautiful sister-in-law, Kitty Flint, who parties as hard as the best of them – regularly turning up at the set having not been home the previous night and relying on Emma to get her ready for the day’s filming.
I got a ringside seat at the gossip, the constant affairs and some of the problems with the filming – the hilarious rewrites that Emma is asked to make are a running joke throughout the book. I found the world beguiling and wonderfully glamorous – but beneath the glamour lies a darker tone. Having to sleep with the director and/or producer on whichever film she’s on is part of the job, as far as Kitty is concerned – even as a major star. Filming is intensive with actors taking all sorts of stimulants to keep going – the most common being bootleg liquor, but there are also drug dealers on set. And action scenes are often horribly dangerous, with horses and extras regularly being injured and sometimes killed, with virtually no consequences, as the film industry at this time isn’t held to account.
So when there is a murder during the filming of a major explosion – the studio is determined to pin the crime on the first person who discovers the body. However, Kitty and Emma aren’t so sure. To be honest – the crime and whodunit wasn’t a major consideration for me, as I was dazzled by the vividness of the world Hambly depicts. It rings true, too. Having read David Niven’s wonderful autobiography, The Moon’s a Balloon, I got a similar sense of a hectic lifestyle where people were determined to have a good time, no matter what.
That said, the murder mystery does steadily become more important, particularly after Kitty and Emma are targeted. I found the denouement to be poignant and all too believable. Once more, Hambly delivers a gripping historical drama featuring a likeable protagonist. Highly recommended for fans of 1920s murder mysteries. While I obtained an arc of One Extra Corpse from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 9/10
I thoroughly enjoyed the previous book in this cosy murder mystery series, Making It Write – see my review. So when this one became available, I snapped it up.
BLURB: When writer for hire Veronica Blackstone is asked to write the copy for The Friends of Hyde Park’s annual house and garden tour, she never expects to get involved in a violent death. But that’s exactly what happens when famous author Landon Donte is found dead in his study during a dinner to highlight the tour. With his career on the wane, and apparently having deleted his last manuscript, it looks as though Landon committed suicide. But Veronica isn’t so sure…
It’s true that Landon had many enemies: his rival and neighbor, bestselling romance author RL Lincoln; his put-upon assistant, Brad; even his own daughter! But are any of them capable of murder? Veronica is determined to uncover the truth.
REVIEW: I’d enjoyed the previous book in this series, so was pleased when I saw this one was available. But if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading of the previous offerings, don’t let that put you off. There are some series where crashing midway means you’re floundering – this isn’t one of them.
Veronica is a writer for hire, whose first book has had some modest success and she’s trying to finish her second novel – but is suffering a bit from writer’s block. Fortunately, she’s an adaptable soul, who also undertakes other writing gigs. Indeed, the unfolding adventure whereby she assists a go-getting career woman in finding a suitably attractive and rich husband by writing love letters on her behalf is a really enjoyable plot thread.
Hechtman doesn’t put her foot to the floor with the pacing, so the murder is uncovered by a steady build-up of clues as Veronica gets on with her life. So to really get the best out of this whodunit, it’s necessary to enjoy Veronica’s character and become suitably engrossed in the details of her daily routine. The author’s smooth writing style and strong characterisation meant I found this an easy, enjoyable read, as Veronica discovers the ongoing tensions between those neighbours willing to open up their homes and gardens.
If I do have a niggle, is that her relationship with Sam is plain irritating. Either they have a thing, or they don’t. And they’re now of an age that they both should know one way or another – so all the will they/won’t they business that went on seemed rather forced, given their maturity.
However, it isn’t a dealbreaker – and I’d be very happy to read another book in this entertaining series. While I obtained an arc of Sentenced to Death from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 8/10
No… I haven’t managed to get hold of all twenty-three of the previous books in this entertaining series – but I have read and thoroughly enjoyed, Cruel as the Grave, Old Bones, Shadow Playand Headlong. So it was a no-brainer that I’d request an arc for this re-release by the excellent Severn House publishing company.
BLURB: The clock is ticking for DCI Slider when a woman goes missing. Can he find her – and does she even want to be found?
Felicity Holland is missing. She left her handsome West London house to go to her weekly pottery class and didn’t come back. She’s a mature, sensible woman with a stable home life and a happy marriage – no reason to abscond. Her distraught husband is convinced she must have been snatched.
DCI Bill Slider and his team know that when a woman goes missing, you have to move fast if there’s to be a hope of finding her alive. But with no evidence of foul play – nothing to go on at all – where do you even start looking?
The clock is ticking. But as Slider tries to retrace the last known movements of Felicity Holland, he is led ever further down a dark and twisted path into the secret past of this beautiful, enigmatic woman.
REVIEW: Once again, the pages flew past on their own as I was engrossed in this police procedural whodunit from the first page. DCI Bill Slider is all about getting the job done – and that involves keeping himself and his team from attracting too much attention from Them Upstairs. So when a worried husband insists the police start looking for his missing wife – and rings up the Commissioner of the MET to ask that it’s done, he isn’t thrilled when he’s the one who gets the job. Because said husband is a successful author, who happened to go to school with the Commissioner, who’s also a fan of his writing.
Initially, everyone on the team is exasperated that their precious time is being taken up with this annoying case, that is bound to be trivial – and but nonetheless put in their best effort to get it sorted out as fast as possible. After all, some 95% of missing spouses either return, or let their half know where they are within three days. But when those days trickle by and Felicity still hasn’t shown up, despite Slider’s diligent enquiries, the team’s speculations become a whole lot darker.
I love Harrod Eagles’ easy style – she knows her main characters inside out and it shows. There is a lot of banter amongst the team, much of it funny enough to have me laughing aloud. And while this isn’t a gritty, blood-soaked affair, neither would I class it as a cosy anything. Harrod Eagles’ writing might not be unduly graphic, but neither does she ever let us forget that a beautiful, vibrant woman has disappeared – and is likely not going to be seen alive again.
I have also read sufficient books in the series to enjoy watching Bill’s happiness with his second marriage. So many protagonists in police procedurals are dogged loners, living on takeaways and constantly staying late at the office, that I enjoy his happy domestic circumstances and sociability.
I did get a little fed up about halfway through, when I knew exactly what was going on – and probably who’d done it. Although it wasn’t a dealbreaker, I was a little disappointed that the normally well-constructed and twisty plotting I’d become used to enjoying was thinner this time around. Until, it turned out – while I was right about some of it, I didn’t know who’d done it after all. And as events moved forward, I realised that I wasn’t supremely clever – and probably that guess happened just when the author wanted it to. So yes… the plotting is every bit as twisty and well-constructed as usual. And so heartbreakingly poignant that I finished the book with a lump in my throat.
In short, a thoroughly satisfying read and highly recommended for fans who like their police procedurals featuring a likeable protagonist and a memorable victim who certainly didn’t deserve what happened to her. While I obtained an audiobook arc of Before I Sleep from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 10/10
Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.
This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – One Extra Corpse – Book 2 of the Silver Screen Historical Mystery series by Barbara Hambly – release date 7th March, 2023
#murder mystery #1920s era #Hollywood setting
BLURB: Hollywood intrigue, glamor . . . and murder: Enter the roaring twenties in this thrilling Silver Screen historical mystery, starring two very different female sleuths.
May, 1924. It’s been seven months since young British widow Emma Blackstone arrived in Hollywood to serve as companion to Kitty Flint: her beautiful, silent-movie star sister-in-law. Kitty is generous, kind-hearted . . . and a truly terrible actress. Not that Emma minds; she’s too busy making her academic parents turn in their graves with her new job writing painfully historically inaccurate scenarios for Foremost Studios, in between wrangling their leading lady out of the arms of her army of amorous suitors.
So when one of Kitty’s old flames, renowned film director Ernst Zapolya, calls Emma and tells her it’s imperative he meet with Kitty that morning, she’s not surprised. Until, that is, he adds that lives depend on it. Ernest sounds frightened. But what can have scared him so badly – and what on earth does cheerful, flighty Kitty have to do with it?
Only Ernest can provide the answers, and Kitty and Emma travel to the set of his extravagant new movie to find them. But the shocking discovery they make there only raises further questions . . . including: will they stay alive long enough to solve the murderous puzzle? I haven’t yet read the first book in this series – though I plan to before tucking into this one. But I do know the author’s work, as I’ve listened to the first four books in her marvellous Benjamin January series, which are beautifully written and very well researched. So I’m really looking forward to having more Hambly goodness in my life – especially as this is a favourite era of mine. Has anyone else got an arc for this one?
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books they’ve read and share what they have got up to during the last week.
Well, that’s a shocker! I knew it had been a while since I’d taken part in the Sunday Post – but I’d no idea it had been so long… So – Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas and a Happy New to all those of you who celebrate thus. I hope your start to 2023 has been a lot kinder than ours.
So far this year, we have had two water leaks and Oscar has been struggling with a series of severe headaches that ended up with him being hospitalised, while they tried to get to the bottom of what is going on. Fortunately, the water leaks didn’t cause the kitchen ceiling to collapse or any major damage. Though the flooring in the bathroom and the bath panel were damaged when the plumbers came in to deal with the leaks, which means we will need to redecorate. Right now – it’ll have to wait until the weather is better. As for Oscar, the good news is that the MRI scan didn’t find anything nasty – and I cannot speak highly enough of the staff at Worthing Hospital who gave him wonderful care and were constantly kind and upbeat, although they were insanely busy. The not so good news is that Oscar is still battling the headaches and we’re no nearer finding the cause. We have cut out dairy cheese and peanuts from his diet, cut down his screen time and made his bedtime earlier – I’m hoping he isn’t growing into migraine headaches, which do run in the family☹.
On a happier note, we had a lovely Christmas Day, which now seems a lifetime away instead of just under a month ago – as my sister and nephew joined us and after a wonderful meal cooked by Himself, we all settled in for games. Another happier note – despite all the stress of having a poorly youngster to look after, I haven’t had a Long Covid relapse preventing me from getting out of bed since the middle of November. That is huge. It’s the longest time I’ve gone without a major setback since I got sick in March 2021. Though my physical strength is pathetic, ditto my stamina – so that I regularly feel very tired, it isn’t on the same scale as the bone-deep exhaustion that regularly used to fell me. Yay😊.
Another happy note – all the universities that Ethan has applied for have come back wanting to either interview him, or see his portfolio, which is a wonderful achievement. And once again, he gained a Distinction for his latest college Assignment. We’re so very proud of him – his determination and sheer hard work bodes well for his future career. Given what’s been going on, you won’t be surprised to learn that I haven’t been reading all that much, recently. Certainly not when compared to what I was getting through last year. Still, I’ve been very happy with the overall quality of my reads – and that’s the important thing.
Last week I read:-
AUDIOBOOK – The Bullet That Missed – Book 3 of The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman It is an ordinary Thursday, and things should finally be returning to normal.
Except trouble is never far away where the Thursday Murder Club are concerned. A local news legend is on the hunt for a sensational headline, and soon the gang are hot on the trail of two murders, ten years apart.
To make matters worse, a new nemesis pays Elizabeth a visit, presenting her with a deadly mission: kill or be killed… While Elizabeth grapples with her conscience (and a gun), the gang and their unlikely new friends (including TV stars, money launderers and ex-KGB colonels) unravel a new mystery. But can they catch the culprit and save Elizabeth before the murderer strikes again? This is a joy. I quite liked the first book, especially the deft and clever ending. But it was the second book in this entertaining series, The Man Who Died Twice, which really stole my heart, as well as making me laugh aloud. And this offering took up where that one ended. Osman knows how to write movingly and humorously about the very old without coming across as either sentimental or patronising – which is harder to do than he makes it look. In addition, he also delivers a cracking story with plenty of plot twists and a wonderfully satisfying ending. 10/10
City of Last Chances by Adrian Tchaikovsky There has always been a darkness to Ilmar, but never more so than now. The city chafes under the heavy hand of the Palleseen occupation, the choke-hold of its criminal underworld, the boot of its factory owners, the weight of its wretched poor and the burden of its ancient curse. What will be the spark that lights the conflagration? Despite the city’s refugees, wanderers, murderers, madmen, fanatics and thieves, the catalyst, as always, will be the Anchorwood – that dark grove of trees, that primeval remnant, that portal, when the moon is full, to strange and distant shores. Ilmar, some say, is the worst place in the world and the gateway to a thousand worse places.
Ilmar, City of Long Shadows. City of Bad Decisions. City of Last Chances. This is an ambitious book, where the city is actually the main protagonist, portrayed by a cast of not very admirable characters as they desperately scrabble to survive. And Tchaikovsky triumphantly succeeds in making this work, providing an engrossing and thought-provoking read that I will remember for a long time. 10/10
Courting Dragons – Book 1 of The King’s Fool Mystery series by Jeri Westerson 1529, London. Jester Will Somers enjoys an enviable position at the court of Henry VIII. As the king’s entertainer, chief gossip-monger, spy and loyal adviser, he knows all of the king’s secrets – and almost everyone else’s within the walls of Greenwich Palace.
But when Will discovers the body of Spanish count Don Gonzalo while walking his trusted sidekick Nosewise in the courtyard gardens, and a blackmail note arrives soon after demanding information about the king, is one of his own closely guarded secrets about to be exposed? Trouble is afoot at the palace. Are the king’s enemies plotting a move against him? Will must draw on all his wit and ingenuity to get to the bottom of the treacherous and deadly goings-on at the court before further tragedy strikes . . . I love historical whodunits – and getting hold of a murder mystery set in the court of Henry VIII was a real treat. Will Somers is based on a real jester, who served all the Tudors, but was particularly close to Henry. And Westerson’s depiction of their relationship was fascinating and convincing. Review to follow. 9/10
I enjoy Rebecca Roanhorse’s writing, see my reviews of Trail of Lightning and Black Sun. So when I had the opportunity to get hold of the arc of this intriguing novella, I jumped at the chance.
BLURB: High in the remote mountains, the town of Goetia is booming as prospectors from near and far come to mine the powerful new element Divinity. Divinity is the remains of the body of the rebel Abaddon, who fell to earth during Heaven’s War, and it powers the world’s most inventive and innovative technologies, ushering in a new age of progress. However, only the descendants of those that rebelled, called Fallen, possess the ability to see the rich lodes of the precious element. That makes them a necessary evil among the good and righteous people called the Elect, and Goetia a town segregated by ancestry and class.
Celeste and Mariel are two Fallen sisters, bound by blood but raised in separate worlds. Celeste grew up with her father, passing in privileged Elect society, while Mariel stayed with their mother in the Fallen slums of Goetia. Upon her father’s death, Celeste returns to Goetia and reunites with Mariel. Mariel is a great beauty with an angelic voice, and Celeste, wracked by guilt for leaving her sister behind, becomes her fiercest protector…
REVIEW: I have cut short the rather chatty blurb and recommend that you give it a miss if you don’t want your reading experience Spoilt. Given this isn’t a long read, you really don’t want to go into it knowing more than the bare essentials.
I quickly bonded with Celeste, who hasn’t had an easy time of it. Her overwhelming need to keep her sister safe within a rapacious society where the Fallen are automatically at the bottom of the heap shines through. I found her protectiveness endearing, especially when I realised the price she’d already paid to keep looking after Mariel. This drive certainly informs her actions throughout the rest of the book, when a grisly murder occurs and Mariel is in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I hadn’t initially appreciated that this was a novella, or I had and then completely forgot about it by the time I got around to reading it, which is probably more likely. But it’s a tricky length to write well and only a relatively few authors manage to pull it off entirely successfully, in my experience.
I was impressed at how much of the world and scene setting unfolds within the narrative, as Celeste desperately scrambles to exonerate her sister. It’s a fascinating world, where the Fallen are immediately identified by their eye colour and because their ancestors happened to be on the wrong side of a heavenly war – they are automatically a downtrodden underclass. However, it’s the Fallen who can identify the valuable remains of Abaddon, whose body fell to Earth during the war. While the Elect reap the financial rewards, it’s the Fallen who have to mine the precious element that powers their Divine inventions. This tension is played out within Celeste’s family, as her Elect father took her away from the rough mining town that is Goetia to mix with respectable Elect society while Mariel and their Fallen mother had to stay behind. Once their father died, Celeste immediately returned to look after her sister feeling guilty and ashamed at having abandoned her and promising never to do so again.
I was swept along by Celeste’s increasing desperation – and a bit floored by the ending. While it certainly works and has had me thinking a lot about the outcome, I’m also left with wanting more. The world is interesting and I found Celeste and Mariel’s adventure riveting, but ultimately also a tad frustrating, as I felt the story ended a bit abruptly. I want to know how both Celeste and Mariel cope with the sudden change in their circumstances. I very much hope that Roanhorse will revisit this world in the future – more please! While I obtained an arc of Tread of Angels from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 8/10
I was in the mood for something a bit different, when this offering caught my eye. I was initially a bit hesitant – until I saw that Samantha Bond was narrating this one which gave me confidence to go for it. I particularly didn’t want to plough through some second-rate parody of Her Majesty, especially in the wake of her sudden death.
BLURB: December 2016 – A severed hand is found washed up on a beach next to the Queen’s estate at Sandringham. Elizabeth has become quite accustomed to solving even the most complex of murders. And though she quickly identifies the 70-year-old victim, Edward St Cyr, from his signet ring, the search for his killer is not so straightforward. St Cyr led an unconventional, often controversial life, making many enemies along the way in the quiet, rural world of North Norfolk, where everyone knows each other’s business.
But when a second man is found dead, and a prominent local woman is nearly killed in a hit-and-run, the mystery takes an even darker turn. With the Christmas break coming to an end, the Queen and her trusted assistant Rozie must race to discover how the pieces of the puzzle fit together. Or the next victim may be found even closer to home.
REVIEW: I’m so glad that I went for this one. It’s a joy. Although it’s the third book in the series, I was blissfully unaware of the previous two books until I came to write up this review so don’t worry if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading the other books – neither have I. Yet.
Set in 2016, the Queen is a battling a head cold as she and Prince Philip travel to Sandringham for the usual Christmas festivities. I loved the little additions, like the Queen’s chat with the PM. In fact, Bennett’s writing is enormously clever – she manages to avoid pinning the Queen down to any strong political opinion, which is entirely realistic. But neither does Her Majesty come across as too wishy-washy either. The only moment when I wasn’t completely happy with the depiction of the Queen is when she chooses to go wandering across the field, when the sensible option would be to stay in the Range Rover. But that is a minor niggle set against the rest of the book. In addition to the Queen, I loved Prince Philip’s character and the staff. I thought the relationship between the Queen and the royal household was very well done, particularly Rozie Oshodi, her Assistant Private Secretary.
As for the murder mystery, it’s a slow burn affair that throws out all sorts of puzzling details which at once stage had me wondering how the murder mystery was going to be wrapped up. I needn’t have worried. Bennett is clearly an experienced and able writer, who delivers a thoroughly enjoyable denouement. There were times when I listened to this with a lump in my throat for the loss of the amazing lady who ruled over us for a whole generation. Highly recommended for fans of quirky murder mysteries that is also well researched with a wealth of historical detail. I’m looking forward to tracking down the previous two books. While I obtained an audiobook arc of Murder Most Royal from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 9/10
I’ve become a solid fan of this series – see my reviews ofThe Mystic’s Accomplice and Spirits and Smoke – so I was delighted when I saw this offering pop up on Netgalley. I’ve been reading a lot of historical murder mysteries recently – and this one encompasses one of my favourite eras – the 1920s.
BLURB: Summer, 1924. Young widow Maddie Pastore has been working for fraudulent spiritual medium Madame Carlotta for nearly a year – if ‘work’ you could call it. Investigating Carlotta’s clients, and attending seances as her shill, keeps Maddie and her young son Tommy fed and clothed, and she’s grown to love the kind, well-meaning spiritualist like family.
Still, Maddie – estranged from her abusive parents for over a decade – can’t help but wonder what fates befell her brothers and sisters. So when she lucks into two free tickets to a glamorous Chicago speakeasy and recognizes the star performer as her pretty little sister Sophie, she’s beyond delighted. But before Maddie can meet with Sophie again, the telephone rings. It’s Sophie’s husband, calling in a panic to tell her that his wife is locked in the Cook County jail, charged with first-degree murder . . .
REVIEW: I was thrilled to once more spend time with one of my favourite protagonists, Maddie Pastore. Widowed just weeks before giving birth to her son, Maddie has had a busy year keeping herself and baby Tommy from starving in 1920s Chicago at the height of Prohibition. She lives with spiritual medium Madam Carlotta and in return for bed and board, Maddie discovers details about Madam Carlotta’s clients before they attend her seances that she can use to convince them she’s the real deal. Endearingly, Madam Carlotta knows she is genuine and feels called to help the bereaved by relaying comforting messages from their dead departed – and very occasionally, those messages do seem to come from the other side. However, more often that isn’t the case, so Maddie and young Freddie resort to tricks to keep Madam Carlotta’s clientele happy.
Maddie isn’t particularly proud of what she does, but is fond of Madam Carlotta and grateful for having a place to stay where she and her baby are looked after and well fed. This being Chicago during a very violent time, it isn’t surprising that in her line of work, Maddie comes across occasional unsolved murders. And one that becomes her priority is a case in which her talented younger sister has been entangled. Far too many details don’t make sense – but the police aren’t willing to look any further when a young woman holding the murder weapon is conveniently placed at the murder scene.
This page-turning whodunit held me from the first page until the last, providing several satisfying surprises along the way. I certainly didn’t peg the murderer until all was revealed and once again, having gangsters like Al Capone make an appearance added extra tension to the story. I love Maddie’s can-do practicality and the way Miley also weaves real historical figures into her murder mysteries. While this is the third book in the series and I strongly recommend you read them all – they are far too good to pass up – you wouldn’t unduly flounder if you haven’t had the pleasure of tucking into the previous adventures. Highly recommended for fans of historical murder mysteries, particularly those set during the Prohibition era. While I obtained an arc of Deadly Spirits from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 9/10