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An Old BetrayalWhat year are we in? An Old Betrayal is set in 1875

What is Lenox’s case?

Lord John Dallington is ill and asks Lenox to help him with a case by meeting a potential client at Charing Cross station. However, the meeting doesn’t take place as planned and also seems to be connected with the death of a quiet and retiring country gentleman. As Lenox works with Dallington and Scotland Yard it becomes clear that a deeper and more sinister plot is afoot, one that might strike at the monarchy itself.

Apologies for the burst of melodrama there 🙂

What did I learn about that I didn’t know before?

Not a huge amount, though the way that people try to get access to Queen Victoria is quite interesting, and the murkiness of British politics is reinforced once again.

What’s happening in Lenox’s personal life?

Dallington is quite ill but struggling on, McConnell and his wife Toto appear to be having marital problems, there is a rival detective agency involved run by *gasp* a woman, and Lenox looks like he’s finally going to have to decide whether he priers politics or detection.

Did I enjoy it?

Huge fun. More complex in some ways than the others in the series and clearly meant to be a game changer. Alway good to have Queen Victoria pop up in her indomitable fashion and the motivation for the crimes is both obscure and mildly gothic. Looking forward to seeing where the series will go from her. Next volume is already pre-ordered.

IMG_0131What year are we in? A Death in the Small Hours is set in 1874

What is Lenox’s case?

Lenox has been given the honour of making the first speech at the new Parliamentary session and he is advised to take himself out of London to have quiet time in which to write the speech and otherwise prepare. It just so happens that his Uncle Freddie had asked him and his family to stay at his home in Somerset and investigate a spate of incidents of vandalism in the local village. There is of course a murder, that of a young police constable, and investigating this uncovers a criminal conspiracy.

What did I learn about that I didn’t know before?

Not much new in this novel, though interesting to see how Lenox’s uncle undertakes his duties as a local JP, but it is mostly the usual village life sort of stuff, though very well done of course.

What’s happening in Lenox’s personal life?

Doting on his daughter and building his career are the main preoccupations for Lenox, though it’s clear he relishes the opportunity to get involved in detection again.

Did I enjoy it?

Yes, another pleasurable entry in the series. The subplots all weave together very nicely both in terms of the crimes committed and the developments within Lenox’s own family. The Parliamentary stuff is still fascinating.

IMG_0130What year are we in? A Burial at Sea is set in 1873

What is Lenox’s case?

Lenox is a rising star in Parliament and has been asked by his brother and other influential politicians to undertake a mission to Egypt, ostensibly to discuss how Britain might become more involved in the Suez Canal, but actually to meet an informant who can tell him whether the French government knows the identities of British spies in their country and has been bumping them off. While on his way aboard HMS Lucy he has to investigate a number of gruesome murders and a stop a potential mutiny.

What did I learn about that I didn’t know before?

I learned a lot of genuinely interesting stuff about the Victorian navy and our view of diplomacy (in relation to the French at least) at that time. Lots of research clearly went into writing this book but it never appears heavy-handed.

What’s happening in Lenox’s personal life?

Lenox and Lady Jane are expecting a baby. Lenox’s nephew Teddy has joined HMS Lucy as a member of the crew.

Did I enjoy it?

I think this may have been my favourite of the four, partly because of the setting on board ship which was both unusual and interesting but also because of the gruesome nature of the murders and the motivation of the killer which is rather more complex than it at first appears. The French are suitably dastardly which is always good fun. Recommended this to the Book God who has a great interest in the British Navy and it seems to have been a hit so far.

9780312616953After the success of my binge-read of the Maisie Dobbs books (which I talk about here and here) I decided to do it again, this time with the series of novels about aristocrat, MP and private detective Charles Lenox, set in London in the late 1860s and early 1870s and written by the American author Charles Finch. Like Maisie, Lenox is a very engaging character whose personal life forms a backdrop to and often becomes closely entwined with the cases he investigates.

The main characters alongside Lenox are his best female friend and now wife Lady Jane, his best male friend and useful medical man Thomas McConnell, and his former protege Lord John Dallington. There are now seven books in the series with an eighth coming out later this year, and I read the most recent four in a row in less than a week.

Firstly – A Stranger in Mayfair

What is Lenox’s case?

A fellow MP asks Lenox to look into the murder of his footman who has been beaten to death an alleyway behind the house n which he worked, and it’s clear that all is not what it seems, either in the household itself or the young man’s personal life.

What did I learn about that I didn’t know before?

Quite a bit about the sport of boxing and how a new MP is inducted into the life of Parliament.

What’s happening in Lenox’s personal life?

Newly married, starting his career as an MP, trying to settle down into his new life and leave all that sleuthing nonsense behind.

Did I enjoy it?

Yes I did, a good story to ease myself back into the series after a break of some time, I guessed part of the reason for the murder but not the perpetrator.

The_House_of_SilkWhat’s the book about?

The House of Silk is a Conan-Doyle estate approved revival of the Great Detective by Antony Horowitz, told by an aged Dr Watson with Holmes himself gone. The tale has been withheld because of the nature of the crimes involved and the fact that their becoming public would “tear apart the entire fabric of society”, so he is writing them while he still can for release after he too is dead.

Why did I want to read it?

I have always tried to read at last one Holmes-related novel during August Crime Month – the man’s portrait is of course the header for the challenge (the post is here in case you missed it) and this sounded really interesting. I also like what I have read of Horowitz.

What did I think of it?

This is really very well done indeed, capturing the tone of the original stories with slightly more edge to suit modern tastes, being a little less circumspect about the nature of the criminal acts without being explicit, and showing that what we might consider a modern crime does of course have its roots in the way young people in poverty were treated in the past and how the status of certain individuals meant that even the most appalling things would be covered up through fear of at best loss of respect for their betters and at worst potential revolution. All the usual stalwarts are here – Mrs Hudson, Inspector Lestrade and the Baker Street Irregulars – and of course Holmes gets himself into danger and shows of both his analytical skills and talent for disguise.  But definitely quid a bit darker than most Holmes-related fare.

The next in the series, Moriarty, comes out later this year (just in time for Christmas, in case anyone’s interested)

2020671363What year are we in? 1933

What’s Maisie’s case?

In Leaving Everything Most Loved, Maisie is called in by Scotland Yard when the brother of a young Indian woman (who has been shot in London), appalled at the lack of progress being made but the police, wants to know why she was killed. For various reasons this becomes connected with an unfinished case and Usha’s death is not the first.

What did I learn that I didn’t know before?

Lots of interesting stuff about the Indian community in London between the wars, mixed marriages and so on, stuff I had never really thought about before and saw as a post-WWII issue (and shame on me for that).

What’s happening in Maisie’s personal life?

Big changes to her family, her business and her love life.

Did I enjoy it?

Really good story, one of the few times in the books where we see Maisie really speak her mind when previously she would have been more circumspect and I cheered when she did it (well, inward cheering anyway). The plight of women brought over from India as servants when they lost their positions for whatever reason was very sad. This is very much a game-changer in the series and I could see it being a finale, but understand the author plans to start a new series with Maisie still at the centre sometime in 2015. So hurrah for that.

I really enjoyed immersing myself in Maisie’s world through reading in such quick succession books that would normally have been available a year apart.

elegy for eddieWhat year are we in? 1933

What’s Maisie’s case?

In Elegy for Eddie Maisie is approached by a group of men from her childhood who want her to look into the death of Eddie, a gentle but educationally challenged man with a real talent for working with horses, who has been killed in an apparent accident at a local paper factory. But he wasn’t himself in the weeks up to his death and his friends are convinced there is more to his death than appears.

What did I learn that I didn’t know before?

This is less about the impact of the war than most of the other novels in the series so not much knew to learn, but there is quite a bit about the inter-war period and politics and the shadow of coming war.

What’s happening in Maisie’s personal life?

She is still getting used to her change in circumstances, but worries about her love life are lurking in the background.

Did I enjoy it?

I came to enjoy this once the story really got going, but was worried at first because it smacked a little of those episodes of crime stories on TV where the murder of the week directly involves one or more members of the resident cast in a way that I almost always find entirely implausible. But here it makes sense that the men would seek out someone they knew and trusted to look into things and it does develop into something rather more interesting. I also like the fact that matters don’t work out entirely to Maisie’s satisfaction, which also seems realistic. A transitional novel for reasons that will become clear if and when you read it.

6553732What year are we in? 1932

What’s Maisie’s case?

In A Lesson in Secrets, Maisie goes undercover in an independent college in Cambridge on behalf of Special Branch and the Secret Service to observe the goings-on of students and staff in the light of potential un-British activities (though I’m not sure such a thing actually exists). It’s all about the politics. there is of course a death and there is also much about identity and passing off.

What did I learn that I didn’t know before?

I didn’t know how badly some conscientious observers were treated when they ended up in prison rather than driving ambulances or working on the land. Horrible.

What’s happening in Maisie’s personal life?

She is getting used to her change in circumstances, and love continues to develop. Oh and it’s clear she is really good at teaching (and enjoys it).

Did I enjoy it?

I think this is my favourite of the four I read in a row, simply because I’m an absolute sucker for tales set in college or university and the whole administration of it all. I worked out quite early on what the reason behind the murder was but dithered backwards and forwards on the who dunnit part. And this is the first of the books where the rise of the Nazis has an impact.

6553733I’ve talked about my binge-reading of the Maisie Dobbs mysteries here so won’t go into the details again, but I will say that I have read and enjoyed all of the novels in the series (and we are now on volume 10 and a little gap in the story) and they are just lovely books to read. I love Maisie as a character and one of the most enjoyable things is the development of her story over time informed by the cases she’s investigating, all harking back to her experiences in WWI. So when you read this and next three mini-reviews please keep this in mind as I want to avoid repeating myself. 🙂

And Lee Child is a massive fan apparently, so there you go.

What year are we in? 1932

What’s Maisie’s case?

In The Mapping of Love and Death, the remains of an American of English heritage who joined the British Army as a cartographer have been found and there are questions about how he actually died. Maisie is asked by his parents to look into the matter, and in particular to find the young English nurse with whom he fell in love.

What did I learn that I didn’t know before?

All the stuff about the work of cartographers in WWI was fascinating, and I also learned a little bit about the early days of documentary film-making.

What’s happening in Maisie’s personal life?

A key figure  is coming to the end of his life, but love is on the horizon.

Did I enjoy it?

Absolutely, the story of the young soldier far from home and finding love and how the consequences of that all spilled over into the present was very affecting, and I was glad the ending didn’t tie everything up into a neat bow.

IMG_0120What’s the book about?

Broken Monsters finds us in Detroit where there has been an unpleasant and unusual murder (young boy mutilated and found in the company of animal remains, let’s not go into the gruesome details here) and we follow motley group of characters (the lead detective, her daughter, some homeless people, a local artist, a journalist and his girlfriend) who all clearly have some involvement with the death. A death which is of course the first but not the last.

Why did I want to read it.

I loved The Shining Girls (which I read last year and reviewed here) and was keen to read Lauren Beukes next novel to see if it was as good. And it is a serial killer novel so therefore falls into crime month territory.

What did I think of it?

Gosh this is grim. The Detroit location is a grubby and effective backdrop to a nasty set of murders with a side order of mental breakdown, poverty, journalists on the make with no thought to the consequences and the perils of social media for young people. You know that every one of the characters are going to get sucked into the story but not exactly how. I enjoyed it in the way that I enjoy quite a lot of horror that I read and at least one reviewer I’ve seen makes a link to the work of Stephen King which I don’t entirely agree with but can see where it’s come from (and isn’t necessarily a bad thing as I love King) but it’s worth saying that Beukes style is very much her own and I read the last third in one major chunk.

I think I still prefer The Shining Girls, which was so astonishing, but this is a worthy successor.

Oh, but it’s dark so be warned.

 

Bride of the Book God

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Scottish, in my fifties, love books but not always able to find the time to read them as much as I would like. I’m based in London and happily married to the Book God.

I also blog at Bride of the Screen God (all about movies and TV) and The Dowager Bride, if you are interested in ramblings about stuff of little consequence

If you would like to get in touch you can contact me at brideofthebookgod (at) btinternet (dot) com.

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