amateur sleuth

“A Useful Woman” is an Amateur Sleuth

26067944A Useful Woman by Darcie Wilde
Berkley: May 3, 2016
Genre: Historical Mystery
Source: Free From Publisher

Rosalind Thorne is a woman that lives on the edges of the ton. She was once a debutante on the verge of making a match. That life was destroyed when Rosalind’s father abandoned her and her mother because of some shady business dealings. Due to her constrained circumstances Rosalind had to make herself useful, and in that, she maintains her position in society.

Normally, Rosalind helps woman organize parties or assists in a strategic retreat from prying eyes. The ladies of the ton depend on Rosalind to help them manage distressing situations. However, Rosalind has never once before had to manage the inconvenience appearance of a dead body. When the body of Jasper Aimesworth is found in the hallowed halls of Almack’s, Rosalind finds herself reluctantly drawn into a murder investigation. And this investigation uncovers some uncomfortable truths about her benefactress while forcing Rosalind to confront her past and acknowledge that she has changed in the years since she was a fresh-faced debutante. (more…)

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Weirdly Compelling: “It Takes One”

26030701.jpgIt Takes One by Kate Kessler
Redhook: April 26, 2016
Genre: Mystery
Source: Free From Publisher

I’d go there again!
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It Takes One is the series opener featuring criminal psychologist Audrey Harte. The twist in this thriller is that our heroine is a murderer herself.

Okay, so the label is a little more complex than that.

When she was a girl, Audrey helped her best friend Maggie murder Maggie’s father. Maggie’s father had been sexually abusing her and Maggie turned to Audrey for help. When no one believe either of them, the girls, in desperation, hatched a plan. After the murder both girls were charged. Maggie was sent to a criminal hospital because of her trauma, and Audrey was sent to a juvenile detention centre. And with that, these two best friend slowly drifted apart until one of them committed an unforgivable transgression. (more…)

Ghosts in the Manor House: “Lost Among the Living”

25329513Lost Among the Living by Simone St. James
NAL: April 5, 2016
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Free From Publisher

I’d go there again!
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I’ve been a long-time fan of Simone St. James and I longingly await each new book. I will admit that I struggled a bit with the first half of the book, but there is a turning point in Lost Among the Living and when I reached that there was no way I was putting the book down. If you read it, you will no exactly which event I am referring to.

Jo Manders is a young widow still mourning the loss of her husband, Alex, three years after his disappearance during the war. Due to the fact that Alex’s body was never recovered, Jo has been living in a state of limbo and strained finances, as she cannot receive her widow’s portion without petitioning the court. Instead of pursuing the legal channels, Jo accepts Alex’s aunt’s offer to become her companion. After traveling on the continent with Dottie it’s time to return home. Dottie’s son is returning from his stay at a hospital and Dottie wants to be home to greet him; Jo must also go as she has no other place to call home. (more…)

Murder, Weddings & Romance in “Death Comes to Kurland Hall”

23453124Death Comes to Kurland Hall by Catherine Lloyd
Kensington: November 24, 2015
Genre: Historical Mystery
Review Source: Free copy from publisher.

Beach Vacation
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Death Comes to Kurland Hall is the third of Lloyd’s historical mystery series featuring amateur sleuthing duo, Major Robert Kurland and Miss Lucy Harrington. Having enjoyed both the first and the second book, I was anxiously awaiting this third installment – and I was not disappointed. In this outing the murder investigation is rather closer to home. That is, the murder occurs in the Major’s home just after a friend’s marriage. Of course, Robert and Lucy must investigate, if only they could agree on how to proceed. (more…)

“Death Wears a Mask” Exceeds Expectations

23848020Death Wears a Mask by Ashley Weaver
Minotaur Book: October 13, 2015 (Historical Mystery)*

I’d go there again!
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It was amazing, really, what murder had done for my marriage.

 Death Wears a Mask is the utterly charming follow-up to Ashley Weaver Murder at the Brightwell (which I also loved). This second installment continues the momentum of the first, throwing it’s amateur lady detective, Amory Ames into another investigation and into more relationship drama with her husband, Milo.

Asked by a family friend, Serena Barrington, to look into the apparent theft of her jewels during a dinner party, Amory finds herself looking at the motives of the dinner guests. Amory’s reputation from the events at the Brightwell have preceded her arrival in London, and Serena is sure that Amory can put her investigative skills to use and catch the culprit. Amory is not really given a chance to refuse, and so begins her investigation, which leads to murder, mayhem and disguises (okay, well, just one). (more…)

The Paper Masque: Flimsy and Unconvincing

paper masqueThe Paper Masque by Jessica Dall
5 Prince Publishing: December 4th, 2014 (Romance)*

False Start 
No suitcases

The Paper Masque takes place in a world very like the early 20th century in England, except that the structure of the monarchy is very different, and history has been slightly altered. In this world, Elsie Wembley is a privileged, spoiled, but compassionate princess. Her days consist of social appearances and public relations responsibilities, while her nights are filled with glamorous and decadent parties, and a number of bed partners.

As a character, I did not find her at all compelling or sympathetic. Most of the first part of the story is actually taken up with descriptions of her nightly escapades, which felt meaningless – in the sense that they meant nothing to her, and in the sense that they had little to no affect on the plot. They just seemed to take away from the plot. The experiences don’t change her in any way, none of her partners seemed to be fully characterized or have a strong role to play, and the “suitable” one who proposes seems to be nothing more than a foil for unsuitable Laurence. (more…)

“A Curious Beginning” & a Curious Heroine

23160039A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn
NAL: September 1, 2015 (Historical Fiction; Historical Mystery)*

The view was nice, but the food was bad (meh)
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A Curious Beginning is the launch of Raybourn’s newest series featuring amateur sleuth, adventuress, lepidopterist, and lover of foreign men, Miss Veronica Speedwell. Veronica has just buried her spinster aunt, her last living guardian, and she’s ready for another adventure. However, this adventure is much closer to home than she could have anticipated. Arriving home from her aunt’s funeral she surprises a burglar and hitches a ride to London with a German baron that claims to have known her mother and father, both of whom Veronica has no remembrance of.

Once in London, her self-appointed guardian stashes Veronica with a trusted ally, Stoker. Stoker is none to happy to have Veronica as a guest; he is not impressed with her opinions on his collection, but he nonetheless complies. When the baron is murdered, Veronica and Stoker are suddenly on the run. Stoker is the prime suspect and doesn’t quite trust the fact that Veronica wasn’t complicit in the murder of his friend. And well, Veronica, she’s not one to turn down an adventure. (more…)

“Waking the Dragon” – Typical Paranormal Romance

wakingthedragonWaking the Dragon by Juliette Cross
Lyrical Press: June 9th, 2015 (Paranormal Romance)*

Beach vacation
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I read these because they’re like candy. Fun, quick and easy to devour, and not at all nutritious. I also have a low tolerance for them – reading too many at a time leaves me feeling bloated and a little bit ill.

This one has all the familiar paranormal romance tropes – a brooding, domineering not-quite-human hero who protects and guards the independent human heroine as they protect the world from the big bad evil that threatens to destroy everything. Their initial dislike of each other which quickly transforms into desire and love. Oh, and they’re almost star-crossed, too, with the humans and the half-dragon Morgons not getting along very peacefully and Moira (our heroine) being the scion of one of the most powerful human families. (more…)

Solid Start to a Series: “Murder at the Brightwell”

19561924Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver
Minotaur Book: October 14, 2014 (Historical Mystery)

My rating: I’d go there again! vintagesuitcase3vintagesuitcase3vintagesuitcase3vintagesuitcase3

Murder at the Brightwell was a positively delightful start to a new mystery series. The opulent setting and the inquisitive heroine made this a pleasure to read and I will absolutely be tuning in for book two.

Amory Ames has been invited to the seaside resort, Brightwell, by her former fiance, Gil. Amory had broken off her engagement to Gil five years ago when she met and married her husband, Milo. The past five years have not gone smoothly, leaving Amory with the feeling that she may have made the wrong choice in selecting a husband.

Gil has not invited Amory to start an affair, instead he’s hoping that Amory will be able to dissuade his sister, Evangeline from making the same mistake Amory made. But it seems Amory’s assistance is not needed in that capacity as the day after she arrives, Evangeline’s fiance is murdered and Gil is the prime suspect.

Feeling that she has contributed to the inspector’s confidence that Gil is the murderer, Amory starts her own investigation, only to be interrupted by her estranged husband. Milo’s sudden appearance only serves to confuse her and her opinion on the state of their marriage, a murder investigation is just what she needs to take her mind off their confusing relationship. (more…)

“The Companion”: Victorian Crime

482062The Companion by Ann Granger (Lizzie Martin #1)
Minotaur Books, June 12, 2007 (Historical Mystery)

My rating: Beach vacation (3/5)

Thanks to one of my wonderful co-workers, I’ve become quite the fan of British crime series. Happily, I finally discovered one that she didn’t already know about. The Companion is the start of a series featuring Lizzie Martin, a recently impoverished young woman of the country, and Inspector Benjamin Ross.

After the death of her father, Elizabeth Martin takes the position of lady’s companion to the widow of her god-father. Soon after her arrival in Mrs. Parry’s home, Lizzie discovers that her predecessor has been murdered, and no one seems to care that much, at least until the police investigation impedes their daily lives. Lizzie finds herself pushing for information and is doubly interested when the lead investigator turns out to be someone she knew from childhood.

Inspector Benjamin Ross owes his current position to the goodwill of Lizzie’s father, Dr. Martin, who paid for his education as a young boy. While Ross is willing to use Lizzie’s position in the Parry household to further his investigation, he’s mainly concerned with Lizzie’s safety in the house. He feels that he owes something to Dr. Martin’s daughter and senses that Lizzie just might be in danger as she’s fulfilling the murdered woman’s role, and because Lizzie has a penchant for speaking her mind, something the murderer just might not appreciate. Slowly both Ross’s and Lizzie’s separate inquiries come together, unraveling the mystery of the poor, murdered young woman. (more…)