Summertime….

And the reading is easy!!

Title: For Dead Men Only by Paula Paul

4 Stars ****

Publisher: Alibi (Random House) April 2016 195 pp

Genre: historical mystery, cozy, series, Victorian 

Author: Paula Paul is an award winning journalist and author who has published over 25 novels. Her genres include historical fiction, literature and fiction, YA and mysteries.

I especially like her Dr Alexandra Gladstone mystery series (now on #5) 

Story line:

We return to Newton-Upon-the-Sea in the fifth book in the Alexandra Gladstone mystery series (Symptoms of Death, An Improper Death, Half a Mind to Murder, Medium Dead). I suggest reading them in order as there has been some character development; but minor story progression. It could be read as a stand alone. Constable Snow still doesn’t believe her and Alexandra is always left to figure out the murderer using her observational skills and logic. Alexandra inherited the practice of doctor to the people of Newton-upon-sea (Essex). She is a strong female character, determined and intelligent in the socially crippling Victorian backwater. It is useful to remember what women had to deal with, the current freedoms we take for granted (and still fight to keep). There is also some antagonism between classes, which also restricts her subtle love interest Lord Dunsford (Nicholas Forsyth). I especially like Nancy, her intelligent, caring assistant, friend and housekeeper, and her Irish wolfhound Zack, who often growls at Nick. This time, Freemasons are being murdered, the local constable disappears instead of investigating, a Templar ghost is mysteriously riding nightly, and poisons are involved.

As a cozy this is not a fast paced mystery, and while it is predictable, it has an intriguing plot line and developing characters that I have come to enjoy. The sense of place works well with interesting descriptions of English village life. This would be a fun summer read. It is available on Kindle unlimited if you want to catch up on the previous books.

Read on:

If you like Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, Marty Wingate or Anne Perry.

Also, Imogen Robertson series of Westerman and Crowther and Tessa Harris series of Dr Silkstone. 

For more complex historical mysteries read onto Jacqueline Winspear, Charles Todd and Laurie R King.

Quotes:

Fitzsimmons gasped when he saw that the apron that symbolized purity and cleanliness head been defiled with dried blood, yet there was no sign of a wound on Saul’s body.

Impertinence doesn’t become you.

By now she had gone beyond smelling the embalming chemicals and thought she could taste them.

When she arrived back home, the surgery’s waiting room was already full of impatient patients. She and Nancy hardly had time to speak as they attended to the needs of those wanting tonics for rheumatism or herbs for a cough, a farmer with a dislocated shoulder, as well as villagers with various complaints.

Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley.

 

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It’s a new book…. If you haven’t read it!


Title: Circling the Sun by Paula McLain4.5 Stars ****

Publisher: Random House 384 pp (July 2015)

Genre: literary fiction, memoir fiction, novelized memoir, historical novel, Africa,

Author

Paula McLain is the author of several novels (including two poetry books), and the international best seller (2012) The Paris Wife. She has definitely found her niche writing gorgeous stories about interesting women. Her writing is richly evocative of time and place, the engaging characters are well developed, however famous, and they are well researched. Her books, best sellers and NYTimes listed, have won notable awards and nominations; NPR named Circling the Sun one of the best books of 2015. Film rights have been optioned!

Story line:

Much of the story takes place in Kenya, Africa during the 1920s and 1930s. This is a short chapter in the life of Beryl Markham, ending with her transatlantic flight in 1936 (she lived another 50). Her life is full of bad choices and tragedy, but also held together by an indomitable spirit. Her love of Africa was a driving force, while social conventions were mostly to be ignored. So although this is white colonial Africa, she appears to be a much more modern, complicated woman. I thought her unruly girlhood (wild Masai tribe) was a rather romanticized, but the social frustration with conventional expectations were truly appalling. I keep thinking how far we’ve come, and then wondering if we really have. She was an extraordinary woman, adventurer and aviator. Her story deserves to be more widely known. She was the first and youngest woman to be a licensed horse trainer and the first woman to fly solo transatlantic (east to west), 1936).

While Beryl is the main character, Africa is an immense, constant presence, beautifully detailed and enjoyed by the reader. I also love her realistic descriptions of flying, which also show the love affair with the African landscape. This would be a perfect summer read.

Read on:

Beryl Markham West with the Night (1942)

Isak Dinesen Out of Africa

Quotes:

Prologue 1936. The Vega Gull is peacock blue with silver wings, more splendid than any bird I’ve known, and somehow mine to fly.

First Line 1904. Before Kenya was Kenya, when it was millions of years old and yet somehow still new, the name belonged only to our most magnificent mountain.

Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley, as well as purchased hardcover. Available from Rochester Public Library (and as Ebooks).
Being a column about previously published books. Perhaps recently reissued, issued in paperpback, just discovered or recently recommended. Don’t miss this author visit!!

Intrigue!

The winners of the Agatha Awards, which celebrate the “traditional mystery–books best typified by the works of Agatha Christie,” were honored recently at the Malice Domestic convention in Bethesda, Md. This year’s winners are:Contemporary Novel: Long Upon the Land by Margaret Maron (Grand Central)

First Novel: On the Road with Del and Louise by Art Taylor (Henery Press)

Historical Novel: Dreaming Spies by Laurie R. King (Bantam)

Nonfiction: The Golden Age of Murder: The Mystery of the Writers Who Invented the Modern Detective Story by Martin Edwards (HarperCollins)

Children’s/YA: Andi Unstoppable by Amanda Flower (Zonderkidz)

Short Story: “A Year Without Santa Claus?” by Barb Goffman (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Jan./Feb. 2015)


Title: The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King

Publisher: Bantam Press, Random House 384 pp (April 2016)

Genre: mystery, Sherlock Holmes, adventure, series, crime, historical thriller 

5 Stars ****

Author: Laurie R King is a best selling author of the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series, SanFran homicide inspector Kate Martinelli series, as well as stand alone suspense novels. She has been nominated for and won many awards for her writing, (including a Nero for A Monstrous Regiment of Women, (Russell/Sherlock) and a MacCavity for Touchstone, one of my favourite mysteries). Last week she was awarded an Agatha for best historical 2015 Dreaming Spies! The first Russell/Sherlock is The Beekeeper’s Apprentice (1994). But don’t miss Beekeeping for Beginners (2011), a novella written from Sherlock’s perspective. King has also written a number of short stories, which are all worth collecting. She recently released The Marriage of Mary Russell, again, don’t miss it! She is co-editor with Leslie Klinger (master Sherlock authority!) of A Study in Sherlock and In the Company of Sherlock Holmes (3rd volume later this year!). She is a strong supporter of libraries and much of her recent book tour helped raise funds. There were also spectacular events (see fashion show on her website http://laurierking.com: enjoy her blog posts and facebook!)

Story line:

This is the 15th Mary Russell (aka Mrs Sherlock Holmes) mystery, narrated by Mary and this time with Mrs Hudson. Everyone has a backstory, and this is Mrs Hudson’s. Knowing Holmes and Russell, could you have expected less of Hudson? She was a beauty who overcame heartbreaking challenges, lived on the edge and risked everything. A completely new twist on her relationship with Holmes. 

They are very much historical novels, period pieces with intriguing mysteries. Mary is a strong female protagonist, intellectually formidable, equal with Holmes with a subtle personal relationship that I find tantalizing and perceptive. She remains one of my favourite bluestockings. Doyle should be impressed. Would that Cumberbatch gets interested.

It is an interesting puzzle, an intricate plot, a fascinating view of the 1860-1880s (as well as ‘current’ 1925), with intriguing layered characters and detailed backgrounds, all making for another very satisfying read. I’m going to reread the series in light of these revelations to see if I really missed the clues about Billy or Mrs Hudson. I can’t wait for the next adventure. Don’t miss King’s recent short story on the Marriage of Mary Russell either!

I will no doubt buy a hard copy, and continue to recommend her earlier novels. You can read this independent of the others but why? Start with the first: The Beekeeper’s Apprentice and enjoy the character development and progression (and adventures!) They often follow directly on from the previous book.

Read on:

If you like Sherlock Holmes you will enjoy this series. Make note of the authors with membership in The Irregulars, or books sanctioned by the Conan Doyle Estate. Read the short stories by various authors in A Study in Sherlock and In the Company of Sherlock Holmes. Edited by Laurie Kind and Leslie Klinger 

Arthur Conan Doyle The Adventure of the Gloria Scott

Caleb Carr The Italian Secretary

Alan Bradley Flavia DeLuce novels

Leslie Klinger The Annotated Sherlock Holmes 

Larry Millett Sherlock Holmes and the Red Demon (for Sherlock in Minnesota)

Anthony Horowitz The House of Silk, Moriarity, and short story The Three Monarchs

Quotes:

I was married to Sherlock Holmes, had known him only a few hours longer than I had known Mrs Hudson, and the basic fact of life with Holmes was: the world is filled with enemies.

I see what you are up to, it said, but I love you anyway.

I stifled my arm’s automatic impulse to catch the outstretched hand and whirl him against the wall-

…my bereft heart had claimed Mrs Hudson for its own. I had known her for ten years now, lived with her for more than four, and she was as close to a mother as I would ever have again.

The embrace was as brief as it was emphatic, and left Billy open-mouthed as Holmes stepped away from me – one hand lingering on my shoulder. I felt a bit open-mouthed myself at this unprecedented public display.

Clara Hudson’s dark hair had gone mostly grey before she realised that childhood was not intended to be a continuous stream of catastrophe and turmoil. At the time, while she was living it, the constancy of hunger, discomfort, dirt and uncertainty with the occasional punctuation of death and fists, was simply the price of existence…
Read as an ARC from Netgalley