Austenesque?

Title: The Ill-Kept Oath by CC AunePublisher: Wise Ink Creative Publishers (Sept 2016) 416pp

Genre: mystery, paranormal, YA, historical fantasy, Victorian, fiction, 

3.5 stars

Author: From Amazon’s author page: ” Aune’s ramblings have led her through 49 states—nine of which she has called home—plus a fair number of countries. She has been a journalist and a contributor for the companion book to PBS’s 2000 series In Search of Our Ancestors. Currently, she directs the blog One Year of Letters, which explores the internal landscape of writers. The Ill-Kept Oath is her debut novel. This is the first of a planned series, with the second Talisman Keepers installment in rewrite.”

Story line: I received an advance copy but after a few chapters found it didn’t meet my expectations. It was less paranormal/ fantasy and more scattered romance. I put it aside for more compelling reads, until rainy, snowy weather held me housebound. Then, grasping the central characters, and melodramatic teen writing, it was a quick read. The two heroines Josephine and Prudence, write to each other from their respective abodes, Stanistead House, a country estate, and London during the Marriage Mart Season. Both are interested in obtaining husbands, both have received an inheritance of Talismans, and both find themselves involved in intrigue. Prudence Fairweather and her brother Edward were taken in by Lord Middlemere, who has a daughter of similar age Josephine Weston. All three were raised in ignorance of their blood legacy, as per the Oath. Prudence,18, has limited options because she is poor, but she is pursued by Underwood (dull but wealthy) while she is interested in the unreliable William MacNeal. There is of course an evil socialite. Lady Josephine, 16, is interested in Robert Quimby, a young military man who is socially beneath her. Meanwhile, there are trolls rampaging in the countryside and magic escaping in candlelit ballrooms.

There is some interesting historical detail (the costume and waltzes) with dark magic being slowly revealed. Good character development bodes well for the continuation of this series. I would have preferred to read the series together as I felt much was unexplained in volume one, lose ends abound, and we still don’t know what kind of magic to expect. The story feels incomplete. Also, who is the target audience?

Quotes:

Normally, Prudence would never challenge authority, but her guardian, having conjured this evocative subject, might as well have touched a spark to gunpowder. Curiosity gave way to burgeoning wonder.

“They possessed a rare set of talents called the Inheritance.”

She’d spent six weeks in London undergoing this transformation. Gone was the country girl who climbed trees and rode bareback; gone forever her girlhood spent in the idyllic hills of the west. Until now, she had directed no thought toward her future. Love might have found her in Wiltshire…

“Shall we rely on social calls to open the right doors? My heart may not be so sanguine with the purposes of a Season, but I have accepted it as a necessary rite of my passage. I’ve been in London already one quarter of a year but not one event have I attended.”

She was doomed to be perceived as an immature child, and the keepsakes seemed to make matters worse. Edward’s point about her reputation had been perfectly valid, however cruelly stated, but the dangers were worse than he could possibly imagine.

Middlemere squeezed the bridge of his nose. Two decades ago, he had postulated that Talismans could, even without ritual, awaken a Keeper’s instincts.

With a crescendo of chords, Middlemere ended the concerto. Everyone applauded, whether they’d been listening or not.

“No one expected the Talismans to exert a force of their own. We called ourselves Talisman Keepers, but our power relied on more than mere objects. Most Keepers formed partnerships that made them still stronger. In the early days, they offered their services in exchange for titles and land and became much coveted by the nobility.

They would descend on our Family and examine everyone for the Trait, identifying you and perhaps Edward before drawing Mr. MacNeal into the net. What would happen to Us then is uncertain, but the Exorcist’s description still burns in my head: a magical Voiding of one’s Memory with the potential to produce unexpected Results.

“Not at all. Think of the quarrels he and I shall have. I’m far too opinionated to be a good marchioness.”

She advanced to the sideboard and poured them all a strong drink, which Prudence and MacNeal accepted with a good deal more alacrity than was strictly necessary.

Do you have any idea what the average man thinks about?” Prudence shuddered and turned bright red.

“I have learned enough to make me proud of my heritage, but if the price of happiness is never to learn another thing about the Inheritance, then gladly will I pay.” 

Read on:

If you like Gail Carriger, Alan Bradley, Seth Graham Smith Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley. 

Lovely summer cozy

Title: Murder Comes Calling (#7) by C.S. Challinor Publisher: Midnight Ink, 216 p

Genre: Cozy, English mystery, mystery, golden age classic

4 stars

Author:

Challinor was born in the US but educated in Scotland and England ( joint Homs in Latin and French). She currently lives in SW Florida. Her cozy mystery series featuring Scottish barrister Rex Graves begins with: Christmas is Murder (September 2008, Midnight Ink Books, a Kindle best seller), Murder in the Raw (2009), Phi Beta Murder (2010), Murder on the Moor (2011), Murder of the Bride (2012, a Mystery Guild book club pick), Murder at the Dolphin Inn (2013, PPLM, Inc.) I particularly enjoy the understated humour and banter between Rex and Helen.

Story Line:

Four unexpected and seemingly unconnected murders occur in the quiet English village of Notting Hamlet, each body discovered by a neighbor Malcolm Patterson (retired pathologist). He calls on his old school friend barrister and amateur sleuth Rex Graves to investigate the crimes as he fears he is being framed. As Rex’s disapproving fiancée is away on a cruise, Rex decides to help. With his photographic memory and penchant for the smallest detail, Rex has developed a reputation as a credible sleuth/detective. 

These are classic English cozies in the style of the Golden Age of mysteries. They can be read alone, although there is logical progression of personal development. They are all fun quick reads, perfect for a summer day, train travel, bedtime or beach read. I look forward to more entertaining cases with delicious red herrings.

Read On:

Anne Cleeland, Deborah Crombie, Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen, MC Beaton

Quotes:

I love Rex Graves’ Curriculum Vitae from her website http://www.rexgraves.com:

Reginald “Rex” Graves QC

Year of Call: 1985

Year of Silk: 2003 

Rex Graves graduated with a first in law from Edinburgh University in 1981, trained as a solicitor with the international firm of Browne, Quiggley and Squire from 1982 to 1984, devilled for the Hon. Lord Ferguson and W. Iain Reid QC from 1984-1985, and became an advocate in 1985 and Queen’s Counsel in 2003. He specializes in criminal litigation and prosecutes at the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh.

Personal Biography: 1959, born in Edinburgh to Mr. Colin Graves (deceased) and Mrs. Moira Ann Graves, née Thorpe, currently residing in Morningside, Edinburgh. Rex attended Fettes College, where he was president of the Debating Society and proved an absolute flop at polo. 

1987, married his beloved Fiona May Gillespie, whom he ultimately loses to breast cancer.

1988, son Campbell born, presently attending Hilliard University in Florida where he is studying marine science and pursuing an independent study in birds of the non-feather variety.

2006, meets Helen d’Arcy, a student counselor in Derby, England and solves his first private case, the Swanmere Manor Murders. 

Hobbies include Sudoku and crossword puzzles; reading Latin—the dustier the volume, the better; hiking; whisky tastings; and American food. He has a morbid fear of horses and going nude on public beaches, and is allergic to cats and snobs. 

Physical Description: 6′ 4″, stocky build, red hair, ginger beard, green eyes. He is often found with pipe in hand (though trying to quit) and a skeptical look on his face. When not wearing court wig and gown, he prefers a tweed jacket, corduroys, and Hush Puppies.

  
Read as an ARC from Netgalley. Thank you!

Chilling Summer Read

Title: Eeny Meeny by M.J. ArlidgePublisher: NAL/ Penguin 422 p (June 2015, USA)

Genre: thriller, suspense, police procedural, British mystery, England,

4 stars

Author:

Arlidge is a British author who worked in television for 15 years (Torn, The Little House, Undeniable and Silent Witness). Eeny Meeny is his debut, but several others are planned in this series. It was the UKs best selling crime debut (2014). The second mystery will be released in October Pop Goes the Weasel followed by The Doll’s House and Liar Liar.

Story Line:

This murder mystery is set in Southampton, a typical English inner city. Bodies appear, but worse are the traumatized survivors. It is a race to uncover clues before the next victim, while also dealing with police procedures. DI Grace is driven to see justice done for the victims as she  

 is also a survivor, damaged but determined with a complicated past. A cop I’d like to be working for me, on my side. 

There is a good supporting cast, each well described and pertinent. I will look forward to their expanding roles and developing personal relationships as the series continues. These are thinking characters and complicated monsters. It says something that with his level of violence and terror, the worst of human nature, that it is all too believable.  

The writing is taut, spare and visual. Each chapter is short (several pages, but on the kindle I didn’t notice this. I was also turning the pages faster and faster.). There are several twists and turns and unexpected, truly frightening sequences. It is a terrifyingly compulsive read. You won’t forget this book and the series for a long time.

Don’t read this if you are kept awake by gore, psychopaths, abuse and violence. I was glad I was on a plane in a safe environment, during the day with all the lights on.

Expect nightmares. What would you do?

Read On:

Ruth Rendell, PDJames, Peter Robinson, John Connolly, Colin Dexter

Watch: Luther, Dexter, MI5

Quotes:

Opening: Sam is asleep. I could kill him now….would he just be glad that this nightmare was over? I can’t think like that. I must try to remember what is real, what is good. But when you’re a prisoner, the days seem endless and hope is the first thing to die.

There is no peace for those who shed the blood of those closest to them.

For the first time in her life Helen Grace couldn’t answer. Yes or no, guilty or not guilty, Helen Grace always had an answer.

Sometimes in life you have to bite the hand that feeds you. 

She had chosen the name Grace because of its redemptive association and Helen because of her maternal grandmother. It would feel profoundly odd and unsettling to have anyone call her by her real name.

Place a hold now, the library has a copy.

Read as an ARC from Netgalley. Thank you! Except that I will have nightmares and won’t reread this. Still, is the next one available for review?