Review: The Confounding Case of the Carisbrook Emeralds

Review: The Confounding Case of the Carisbrook EmeraldsThe Confounding Case of the Carisbrook Emeralds by Stephanie Laurens
Series: Casebook of Barnaby Adair #6
Published by Savdek Management Pty Ltd on June 14, 2018
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: This is really a mystery with only a dash of secondary romance — not between the main characters — this is really the continuing stories of Barnaby and his wife Penelope and their friends who have joined together to work through mysteries of the aristocracy. I enjoyed this mystery and getting to see the characters again.

THE STORY: Miss Cara Di Abaccio is accused by her aunt of stealing the family jewels. This begins an investigation into the theft conducted by Inspector Stokes along with Barnaby and Penelope Adair, Stoke’s wife Griselda, and their friends Violet and Montague. Barnaby’s own cousin, Hugo, has taken a romantic interest in Cara and knows she is innocent. The investigation takes a serious turn when one of the maids is found dead.

OPINION: I enjoyed this book which is really a mystery and the romance is really minimal unlike the others in the series. I believe that because of the recurring characters, I didn’t mind that the “romance” that is new here isn’t particularly interesting to me. Instead, I really liked the updates about the characters that I already loved.

The story was one that kept me turning the pages until the end because I liked that there were various stories going on which all had to be resolved in order for the mystery to be “solved”.

The mystery was a good one with a well-developed group of suspects. Each character has a purpose for being in the story and felt like a developed personality. Each character has secrets that are revealed in the course of the story. This is a mystery really based on the characters and thus having a cast of interesting suspects is vital. I enjoyed these characters and their motivations kept the story moving.

WORTH MENTIONING: Very clean story with no sex except implied.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE CONFOUNDING CASE OF THE CARISBROOK EMERALDS is the sixth book in the Casebook of Barnaby Adair series. The mystery in this book is completely self-contained. The characters who do the investigation continue through the series and we get some personal moments and information, but this book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: A Gathering of Secrets

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: A Gathering of SecretsA Gathering of Secrets (Kate Burkholder, #10) by Linda Castillo
Series: Kate Burkholder #10
Published by Minotaur Books on July 10, 2018
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 308
Goodreads
four-half-stars

 

“Some people say murder is a senseless act. I don’t agree. There’s no doubt murder is a brutal act. It’s a cruel act. An immoral act. It’s wrong in the eyes of the law. A sin in the eyes of God. Murder is an unthinkable deed in the mind of any decent human being. But murder is rarely senseless.”

FINAL DECISION: A great mystery that is deeply grounded in character and relationships rather than forensics and clues. Kate is deeply involved emotionally in this one and I really like seeing how her character has grown in the series. This one has lots of twists and turns and I couldn’t put it down.

THE STORY: The burning of an Amish barn brings Chief of Police Kate Burkholder to the scene, but the arson case turns to a murder investigation when the body of an eighteen year old boy is found inside. As Kate tries to determine who would want to kill a young man who by all accounts was a hard worker and a good person, Kate begins to discover that there are secrets that no one wants to talk about which might be a motive for murder.

OPINION: This one was a page turner. The book has lots of twists and things are not what they appear. This book is deeply entrenched in the personal. The secrets that people keep and the fears and shame and guilt that surround those secrets. As the story winds its way through to its conclusion, I liked that the sense of right and wrong is challenged on all sides. People who seem sympathetic might not be. People who seem good make terrible choices and take terrible actions.

These books work best for me when Kate is deeply involved not only on a professional, but also a personal level and this book succeeds in that. Kate is fully engaged as the mystery brings out many parts of her life. The story feels personal even if Kate doesn’t know the people involved.

I thought the mystery was very good and while I had glimpses of the ultimate resolution, I really didn’t put it together until the end. And there were plenty of shocking surprises along the way to keep me glued to the pages.

Beyond the mystery, there were also several developments with the ongoing characters that I enjoyed. And there is a real sense of growth of these characters which I appreciated. For readers of the series, it is nice to see that events and time change these characters and they are not kept in stasis to just solve crimes.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book has some good moments between Kate and Tomasetti for those who are interested in their relationship.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A GATHERING OF SECRETS is the tenth book in the Kate Burkholder series. This is a series of separate mystery stories. There are overarching character developments, but this book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to prepare this review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

 

four-half-stars

Review: Scandal Above Stairs

Review: Scandal Above StairsScandal Above Stairs (Kat Holloway Mysteries, #2) by Jennifer Ashley
Published by Berkley Books on July 3, 2018
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 320
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I enjoyed this one more than the first in the series. I really enjoyed learning more about the characters and developing the backstories of the cast of characters.

THE STORY: Kat is called to help investigate the theft of artwork from a friend of her employer. Kat is soon drawn into a series of thefts including ones being investigated by her friend, the mysterious Daniel McAdam. Open doors in the home she is working in and breaking in a new assistant are some additional challenges for Kat while also preparing meals for the household. Kat’s investigations lead her into the uncomfortable position of moving in the world of the upper household.

OPINION: This book allows times to delve into the relationships between the characters and also presents a whole series of mystery situations. I liked that we got to move through various stories at once. Things overlap and it is not clear what is relevant and what isn’t. In other words, it is a good mystery set up.

I really enjoyed how the mystery is both evidence and personality. And we get to know a lot about the characters surrounding Kat. Some of the information and facts are misdirection but all are interesting. The emphasis in this book is relationship and I especially enjoyed that we get a lot more of Kat and Daniel. They make a cute couple and I like seeing them reveal more to one another.

The book is interesting and I wasn’t sure where the story was going until the end which is enjoyable in a mystery.

I look forward to more from this series.

WORTH MENTIONING: Who knew how much work was involved in Victorian kitchen work?

CONNECTED BOOKS: SCANDAL ABOVE STAIRS is the second book in the Below Stairs aka the Kat Holloway Mysteries series. This is a self contained mystery that can be read as a standalone, but there are ongoing character developments that continue through the series and for that the books should be read in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via First Reads. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-half-stars

Review: In Dark Company

Review: In Dark CompanyIn Dark Company (Kate Burkholder #9.5) by Linda Castillo
Series: Kate Burkholder #9.5
Published by Minotaur Books on May 29, 2018
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 60
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: A little mystery that is centered in the characters. I always enjoy seeing Kate doing her work. Wish there was a little more Tomasetti.

THE STORY: Chief of Police Kate Burkholder is awoken with a call about a woman who has run out of the night fleeing a mysterious man. The woman claims to have amnesia but knows that someone is trying to kill her. Kate has to find out who the woman is and discover if she is the victim or a criminal herself.

OPINION: I enjoyed this story but I missed the interaction between Kate and Tomasetti. While I appreciate that she is the main character and I expect in the large books that she will be acting as Chief of Police and an independent woman, I’ve liked the short stories the best when we get to see the two of them working together.

The story was a well crafted mystery with a definite and clear arc in the story. The characters were well designed for such a short story.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a short story that focuses on a mystery with no romance involved.

CONNECTED BOOKS: IN DARK COMPANY is book 9.5 in the Kate Burkholder series.  This is a standalone mystery can be read without knowledge of any of the other books.

STAR RATING: I give this story 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Interlude in Death

Review: Interlude in DeathInterlude in Death (In Death, #12.5) by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #12.5
Published by Berkley on August 29, 2006
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 88
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: This is a nice novella in the In Death world. The novella manages to pack in many of the same elements of the novels including the humor, romance, the large cast of characters, and an intriguing mystery.

THE STORY: Eve has one of the challenges of her career when she is supposed to give a speech (of all things) at a police convention at Roarke’s off-planet Olympus resort. When one of the attendees ends up murdered, Eve is on the case. The case is complicated by Eve having an altercation with the victim and his boss’s obsession with bringing down Roarke.

OPINION: This is a nice “interlude” in the series. It has all the elements in the full length novels, but manages to compact everything into less than 100 pages. I especially enjoyed that the story gives Eve and Roarke a significant amount of time together and yet there is plenty of time for action, for interaction with important characters in the series (pretty much all Eve’s colleagues), nuggets about Eve and Roarke’s pasts, and some sexy moments as well.

The story happens quickly and if there is any complaint it is that the mystery is not deep, but one cannot expect much more of a short novella. I did like that Eve is given a bump in the road by having a local cop to deal with.

The solution seemed pretty obvious to me at first, but I liked the twists even if it wasn’t really possible to reason out that solution, but regardless I liked the journey to get there.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book has an interesting moment when it is discussed why Eve is seemingly being passed over for promotion.

CONNECTED BOOKS: INTERLUDE IN DEATH is book 12.5 in the In Death series. This is a novella that gives a taste of the series. It can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

 

four-stars

Review: Betrayal in Death

Review: Betrayal in DeathBetrayal in Death (In Death, #12) by J.D. Robb, Nora Roberts
Series: In Death #12
Published by Berkley Books on March 1, 2001
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 355
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: More a thriller than a mystery, this one tests Eve’s skills as she hunts a professional killer who has Roarke in his sights. I loved the pacing of this one and the exploration of Roarke’s past.

THE STORY: The rape and murder of a hotel maid in one of Roarke’s hotels brings Eve on the case of a professional killer who seems to be targeting those who work for Roarke. Eve fears that Roake is the final target. But because the killer is a hired gun, Eve also has to figure out who is the hidden figure behind these crimes. The solution might rest in Roarke’s shady past.

OPINION: This is a page turner from beginning to end as Eve races against time to find the killer. The book is focused and exciting and has plenty of emotional heft between Eve and Roarke as she is the caretaker this time. This story shakes Roarke and Eve is the one who not only has to solve the crime but also manage the emotions of Roarke.

This book demonstrates how well this series does crime combined with serious character development. Eve and Roarke center this story. While the crimes are salacious and over the top at times, the emotional heart of the series is the relationship between these two and how they are opening up to one another and building a relationship.

The killer in this case is a professional who has some interesting quirks which make him memorable and particularly vicious. It is a particularly nasty episode, but the twist at the end gives this some good emotional connection.

WORTH MENTIONING: A cute part of the book is Eve and Roarke ending up giving relationship advice to Peabody and McNab.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BETRAYAL IN DEATH is the twelfth book in the In Death series. This book has an independent and stand alone mystery with continuing personal story lines.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

 

five-stars

Review: Murder in St. Giles

Review: Murder in St. GilesMurder in St. Giles by Ashley Gardner, Jennifer Ashley
Series: Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries #13
Published by JA / AG Publishing on April 10th 2018
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 300
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Very enjoyable entry in the series. This one is more mystery than personal but is an interesting jaunt with plenty of appearances by the cast of characters in the series.

THE STORY: Captain Lacey is called to look at a body in St. Giles by Brewster (who is the bodyguard/spy who follows Lacey around). The man appears to have been beaten to death and Lacey intends to make sure that Brewster is not unjustly accused of the crime. Lacey’s desire to investigate, however, is complicated by his stepson being in danger from his relatives who want to take him away to live with them. This mystery has multiple layers and storylines.

OPINION: This book is focused primarily on the mystery which although Lacey has some concerns about protecting Brewster is not really a personal quest for Lacey. Instead, there is some distance between his emotions and the case (which happens to make him more rational in his investigations). Indeed, the book has a very meaty set of clues and characters who need to be interviewed. The story has a nice flow and ultimately the solution works perfectly for the set of facts.

For me, however, I prefer these books for the personal journeys of Lacey rather than the pure mystery portion of the book. The moments I remember best are of Lacey’s humor and relationships with the recurring cast in the book. Ultimately, I most enjoyed that Lacey has some struggle to make in determining the relative moral positions of the people that he meets.

The secondary story about Lacey’s stepson works to give some personal drama that the main mystery is lacking. I wish that there had been more integration of that story throughout, but I still enjoyed the chaos that the conflict causes in the Lacey household. The ending of that story and the book were especially well done. In fact, the last couple of chapters had me bumping up my rating because the surprises that were revealed. My appreciation was entirely character based as development and changes were evident. This book also nicely sets up some developments that I’m certain will be explored in future books.

WORTH MENTIONING: I’ve become a big fan of a bunch of historical mysteries lately. This series is one of my favorites because Lacey is so imperfect a character who has a strong moral compass that doesn’t always follow the rules.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MURDER IN ST. GILES is the thirteenth book in the Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries series. This mystery is self-contained but there are characters that have stories which go from book to book. I think the book can be read as a standalone unless having to catch up bothers you.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book from the author in order to prepare a review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-half-stars

Review: Judgment in Death

Review: Judgment in DeathJudgment in Death (In Death, #11) by J.D. Robb, Nora Roberts
Series: In Death #11
Published by Berkley Books on September 1st 2000
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 356
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: This is a great character book. The mystery was okay, but I loved how the mystery brings out some conflicts with characters and also gives the opportunity to delve more into Eve and Roarke’s pasts.

THE STORY: When a cop is found beaten to death in one of Roake’s clubs, Eve has to wonder what the motive is. When things about the cop are revealed, it appears that someone it targeting dirty cops. Both Eve and Roarke also find that people from their pasts are mixed up in the case as well which makes their own relationship a little bumpy for a while.

OPINION: This book is an example of what I enjoy about this series. I read the books as the character story of Eve with the mysteries and crimes as the excuse to delve into her world. Honestly, I find the crimes interesting, but I don’t generally analyze them. I want to know more about these characters and how they react to the crises before them.

This book is a good example of that. For me, the central conflict in this story is between Eve and Roarke when their pasts come back against to haunt them in this case. In comparison to the relative happiness in the prior book, this book reignites some of the conflicts between Eve and Roarke. While this is the eleventh book in the series, the two have been together for just over a year. They still have much to work through in their relationship and as things from the past pop out to disturb their happiness, Eve and Roarke have to navigate their relationship.

This book has some significant events especially about Eve’s past. There are lingering questions about Eve’s past and this book brings new information to light that will continue to be teased out in future books.

My favorite scenes in this book involve Webster. He becomes a catalyst in this book and I like the mess he stirs up.

The crime works well to carry the character moments for a purpose, but otherwise I didn’t find it one of the memorable ones.

WORTH MENTIONING: Man fight! This book also is the introduction of Max Richter.

CONNECTED BOOKS: JUDGMENT IN DEATH is the eleventh book in the In Death series. This series has mysteries in each book that operate as standalones but overarching character storylines. I think it is better to read the series in order to get the full impact, but this book can be read as a mystery standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Witness in Death

Review: Witness in DeathWitness in Death (In Death, #10) by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #10
Published by Berkley Books on March 6th 2000
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 338
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: This one feels like an old fashioned mystery novel with lots of suspects with a motive and the detective having to use physical evidence and interviews to ferret out the killer. One of the better mysteries of the series.

THE STORY: An actor is murdered on stage in full view of all the audience, including Lieutenant Eve Dallas. Now Eve has to figure out who the killer is. Since her husband Roarke owns the theater and other people she knows have connections to the crime, Eve has to work in the spotlight to solve the crime.

OPINION: This is a book where, appropriately, the murder is committed during a performance of Witness for the Prosecution and then the mystery itself feels like an Agatha Christie mystery including the gathering of suspects for the big reveal at the end.

The emphasis in this one is definitely on the mystery although there are some nice scenes between Eve and Roarke. I also enjoyed the continuing character development of Eve’s friends. Both Peabody and Nadine have important roles in this book.

I think the books where Eve has a personal connection to the murders works best and her friends having connections work almost as well. The story also is teasing out Eve’s continuing struggles with her past. Much as been resolved and Eve is happier, but things are still lurking that she struggles with. This book only teases those issues gently, but I like that her past has not been easily resolved and set aside.

WORTH MENTIONING: My favorite part of this book is Eve setting up a romantic dinner for her and Roarke. This is a turning point in their relationship as she begins to do those regular romantic gestures which make a good relationship.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WITNESS IN DEATH is the tenth book in the In Death series. This series has standalone mysteries with continuing character storylines. This book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Loyalty in Death

Review: Loyalty in DeathLoyalty in Death (In Death, #9) by J.D. Robb
Published by Berkley on October 1st 1999
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 358
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Loved this book because of the great development in the characters and the relationships. The mystery was good and I liked that there was a sense of urgency that moved the story along.

THE STORY: Eve’s newest criminal is a bomber by the name of Cassandra who intends to brag about the crime by sending letters to Eve to engage her. Eve must race the clock to find out the motives of the bomber before those she cares about are the target.

OPINION: The highlight of this book is really the character development that happens. Eve and Roarke are on fire in this one. I prefer when Eve and Roarke are working closely in the stories. Yes, she is a cop and shouldn’t be relying on her husband all the time, but I read these books more for the relationships than the mysteries so I want to see more of Eve and Roarke together as much as possible.

In this book, Peabody is a significant part of the story as her brother comes to visit and gets into some trouble of his own. I liked that the series is branching out and making other characters have significant story lines of their own.

The mystery in this case is a bit strange, but well constructed as things end up fitting together in the end.  This book also has one of the most dramatic endings of a book in the series. A great set piece.

WORTH MENTIONING: Peabody and McNab!

CONNECTED BOOKS: LOYALTY IN DEATH is the ninth book in the In Death series. Each book in this series has a self-contained mystery although there are ongoing character development issues throughout the series. This particular book, however, can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars