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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The Ninth Daughter by Barbara Hamilton (2009)

April 19, 2011 at 10:23 pm (historical mystery, mystery)

Boston, 1773:  Abigail Adams, wife of anti-British activist John Adams, discovers a brutally murdered woman in the kitchen of a friend’s house.  Since this is a mystery novel, she winds up trying to find out who killed this stranger, along with where her friend has disappeared to, because the British authorities seem determined to pin the crime on her husband.

Fortunately, she finds an unexpected ally in the fact-oriented British Lieutenant Coldstone, and uses her extensive social and political connections to ferret out details, connections, and eventually solve the crime.

The author clearly has read the Adams correspondence, and intensively researched the social, legal, religious, and material culture of Revolutionary Massachusetts, but none of that gets in the way of the story.   The novel is full of beautifully woven-in historical detail, with vivid characters in Abigail, John, and other historical figures (as well as those that I presume are invented), and I adored it.

It’s written very much from Abigail’s point of view, with her running mental commentary on politics, religion, race, class, domestic life, and so forth.  I found her completely engaging, the plot carefully constructed around the peculiar advantages and disadvantages of Abigail’s social and political status, and the climax marvelously fraught and satisfying.

I’m already partway through the second of the series, A Marked Man.

By the way, “Hamilton” is a pseudonym for Barbara Hambly, and I highly recommend her Benjamin January series (set in early 19th century New Orleans) as well.

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