Jane A. Adams: The Murder Book

This book hits the ground running and invites you, as a reader, to keep up, plunge in, and take off along with it. Set in the British countryside in 1928, the setting is one I’ve rarely read about, and the characters, gypsies and the hard-working poor, ones rarely focused on. There are two threads to the story, and it took me awhile to figure out where the author was heading and what she had in mind.

The book opens with the murder of little Ruby Fields, whose mother is a prostitute. When she hears sounds that don’t seem right she breaks into her mother’s room and is killed as more or less collateral damage. Ruby’s mother is killed too, as is a third man whose identity is not disclosed until about halfway through the book. The local police, sure there’s a mess afoot as some of Mrs. Fields’ customers were of the propertied class, call in the “murder detectives” from Scotland Yard. read more

Victoria Thompson: Murder on Morningside Heights

It’s been awhile since I checked in with Thompson’s midwife character, Sarah, and I was a bit surprised to find her married, wealthy, and an unwilling lady of leisure. Like her sister character Molly Murphy, the leisured life is not going to suit her for too long, and she’s in on Frank Malloy’s first case as a private detective. This series is set in turn of the century New York. Malloy had been a policeman; at the time, the police were far more likely to investigate a case involving a reward. Malloy, knowing the ins and outs of the police department, is almost a step ahead as he works on his own. read more

Tasha Alexander: Death in St. Petersburg

I love Tasha Alexander – her books are all so delicious in every way, but this one may be my absolute favorite. Lady Emily accompanies her husband (who is on an espionage mission) to Russia, where she is just supposed to be enjoying herself and having a little vacation. Ha! The book opens with a dead ballerina in the snow. Lady Emily is present at the discovery of the body, and of course, she’s drawn into the investigation.

I’ll say up front I’m a freak for Nicholas and Alexandra, ballet, Swan Lake and Faberge eggs – all converge in chapter one and I couldn’t have been more happily sucked in to this story. It follows the rise of the dead dancer, Nemesteva, and her best friend, Katenka, as they begin ballet school at the Imperial Theatre school as young girls. read more

Rhys Bowen: On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service

Note: if you aren’t completely up to date on the Lady Georgie series, this review does contain some spoilers. If you skip it, rest assured this installment is just as much fun as all the others.

Rhys Bowen’s Lady Georgie series is about the most fun you can have “between the covers.” Ever since the publication of Her Royal Spyness (2007), Bowen has trod the delicate line between humor, character development and great plotting to provide one of the more completely enjoyable series in the mysterious universe. Lady Georgie, for the uninitiated, lives in 1930’s London and is 34th in line to the throne. She’s impoverished but does get assignments from the Queen to do a little “family” spying – at the time, Queen Mary’s greatest worry was the Prince of Wales’ relationship with Wallis Simpson. read more

James R. Benn: Billy Boyle

We sell a TON of James R. Benn titles, often this first one, Billy Boyle. Billy is an Irish cop circa 1942, when he’s drafted. His uncles, who lived through WWI, don’t like the idea of Billy going overseas so they pull some strings, getting him assigned to a “cushy” desk job with cousin Ike (a.k.a. Eisenhower). While I usually dislike historical novels featuring real people, cousin Ike (other than getting Billy over to England) only plays a small part in the story, so I was OK with it. read more

Candace Robb: A Twisted Vengeance

The second novel in Candace Robb’s Kate Clifford series finds the feisty Kate dealing with her mother moving in next door, bringing along with her some “beguines” or women who live a religious life but not in a convent. They devoted themselves to charitable work. Kate is wary of her Mother’s newfound earnest faith and of her mother in general, and with good reason, as Robb teases out more of Kate’s family backstory throughout the book.

Kate has an assorted household that includes a giant, earless baker and former soldier, Berend, and two wolfhounds who accompany her everywhere. She also has a tumble of children, none of them hers, but all of them with ties to her family. She loves them all and it makes for a busy, active household. read more

Laura Joh Rowland: The Ripper’s Shadow

Laura Joh Rowland is well known to mystery fans as the author of the Sano Ichiro mysteries set in 17th century Japan. She’s also taken on Charlotte Bronte in other novels, and here she creates a new character, photographer Sarah Bain, who lives in Victorian London at the same time as Jack the Ripper. While there are many, many books about Jack the Ripper—the fact that he was never found will always be fuel for speculation—he’s almost like Sherlock Holmes in that the permutations and impressions of his life (and crimes) are varied and plentiful, and the interpretations can range from the dull to the nutty to the creative. Rowland goes for the creative. read more

Nancy Herriman: No Comfort for the Lost

nocomfortNancy Herriman has taken a very specific time and place and brought it to life. Her central series character, Celia Davis, British born, has served as a nurse in the Crimea. Through marriage, she’s ended up in 1867 San Francisco, as the man she married was a hot blooded Irishman looking to make his fortune in the gold rush. He has vanished – he may be dead, or he may not be dead, but Celia is running a clinic on her own and serving as guardian to her cousin, Barbara, who is slightly crippled as well as half Chinese. In 1867 San Francisco, being Chinese was far more of an impediment than being crippled. read more

Jonathan F. Putnam: These Honored Dead

thesehonoredThis is a terrific debut novel, set in Springfield, Illinois in 1837. Abraham Lincoln, newly minted lawyer, arrives in town looking for a place to stay. He ends up sharing the bed (a common practice at the time) of one Joshua Speed, who is running the general store in town. Speed and Lincoln became lifelong friends; his brother, James was named U.S. Attorney General by President Lincoln. When this book takes place, however, Lincoln’s presidency is far in the future, though the character traits that assured his greatness are hinted at here. read more

Tasha Alexander: A Terrible Beauty

terriblebeautyAt this point in Tasha Alexander’s career, now eleven novels in to her Lady Emily series, you’re either all in or all out. I am all in as Lady Emily makes her way around Victorian Europe solving crimes with the help of her dashing husband, Colin Hargreaves. As most loyal readers will know, Lady Emily was widowed in the first novel, And Only to Deceive, falling in love with her husband only after the fact. She ends up mirroring and following his passion for the classical world.

Emily ends up marrying one of his best friends, a true love match, which has produced children and a wonderful series of exploits. In this novel Emily and Colin are on their way to a relaxing vacation at Emily’s Greek villa, partially as an attempt to cheer their friend Jeremy who suffered a trauma in the last novel (The Adventuress), but also an excuse for Emily and her friend Margaret to argue cheerfully about the differences in Greek vs. Roman culture. In happy expectation, they arrive on the island, only to discover that something is amiss. read more