Review: Death at Daisy’s Folly

October 29, 2013 at 8:05 pm (cozy mystery, historical mystery, Reviews)

Death at Daisy's Folly
Death at Daisy’s Folly by Robin Paige
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A pleasant historical mystery series continues, this one featuring prominent historical figures (the duke and duchess of Warwick and the Prince, perhaps amongst others). Murder at a big high-society weekend house party – what could be more routine for a British mystery? It’s the characters and the progress of the investigation, and the fiddling details of the plot, that make such things fun to read.

And to my relief, it only took the authors three books to get Kate and Charles engaged! Some of these fictional romances in series books drag on for so long I just want to kick both of the characters, but these two face up to facts and decide to charge ahead, maternal and societal disapproval be damned. Huzzah!

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Review: Death at Bishop’s Keep

October 27, 2013 at 1:31 pm (cozy mystery, historical mystery, mystery)

Death at Bishop's Keep
Death at Bishop’s Keep by Robin Paige
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A nice, solid cozy-type mystery, set in 1890s Britain – with a short period in New York City to establish the character of Kate Ardleigh, the American niece of gentry spinster Sabrina Ardleigh. Kate is a self-possessed and independent young woman who wants to try making a living as a writer, but the lure of being invited to travel to England to meet and work for her previously-unknown aunt is irresistible. Besides, she can always mail her stories to her editor.

Things in Essex are not the tranquil country idyll that she was more or less expecting, what with deep-running hostility between the house staff and the mistresses (for it turns out that there are two aunts, one of them a bitter mean-spirited widow) and some unknown man being murdered and dumped in a local archaeological dig.

Kate is not the only point-of-view character; the other important one is Sir Charles Sheridan, gentleman scholar and photographer, as well as one or two others to help flesh out the story a bit. His point of view does drag on a bit with internal conflict over what women “ought to” be like versus what they’re actually like – specifically Kate, for obvious reasons.

An interesting and engaging mystery which drags in bits of actual history quite naturally, for the most part – from the occult/spiritualist craze to the ongoing efforts to development working automobiles (that bit about autos being restricted to 4 mph on town roads and having to be preceded and followed by men waving red flags? Absolutely true). So it’s good from the story, character, and history points of views.

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Review: The Dark Place

October 25, 2013 at 10:37 pm (mystery)

The Dark Place
The Dark Place by Aaron Elkins
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book and I got off to a really bad start, when clever and knowledgeable anthropologist Gideon Oliver somehow did not think of something that any Anthropology 101 student should be able to figure out. Heck, it was obvious to *me* and I’ve never actually taken an anthropology class (just hung out a lot with people who have).

Anyway, no amount of Gideon kicking himself for missing the obvious on pages 78-79 could make up for that, especially when it was blindingly obvious that Elkins only did it to provide a little suspense and some amusing difficulties for him … and possibly to provide an opportunity to rank on the stupidity of the Sasquatch legends a bit. These are not bad goals, of course, and the tactic would probably work a lot better on readers who weren’t grinding their teeth over Gideon’s denseness on this one point for most of six chapters.

Like they say, your mileage may vary.

So as the investigation trudged on and some really interesting and moderately credible things happened, I was still mentally grumbling over the beginning, and then when I became convinced that the ending would be really depressing, I put it down until the book was due back at the library the next day.

I was wrong, though – Elkins pulled a fast one that, again, would’ve worked better for me if I wasn’t already irritated.

I still like the characters, Elkins is a great character writer, and the various technical details about skeletons and a variety of other topics (though my husband swears some of those details are wrong). I won’t give up on this series just because this particular book ticked me off. Call it a 2.5 rather than a 2 rating, really.

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Review: Out of Circulation

October 15, 2013 at 6:34 pm (cozy mystery, mystery)

Out of Circulation
Out of Circulation by Miranda James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think this one took too long to get going – the murder victim wasn’t even found until Chapter 13, something like a third of the way through. Which is not to say that the social combat before then wasn’t interesting, but it took too long to get to that point, as well.

Except that, on the other hand, it turned out that much of what went on toward the beginning was more relevant to the subsequent investigation and plot than I first assumed. Or perhaps it was just my mood, so that the low-key development of the story frustrated me more than it could have otherwise.

At any rate, Charlie Harris is still a pleasant fellow to spend a few hours with – though some might find his conflict-averse nature stultifying – and so is his cat. Kanesha Berry continues to provide some “edge” in a setting that would otherwise be too nice for words.

The payoff for my decision to pick up and finish the book was good though – some archival research, some serious cogitating, a health scare, and a difficult decision for Charlie to make.

The next one in this series is expected out next January (2014).

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