Review: The Hollow of Fear

Review: The Hollow of FearThe Hollow of Fear (Lady Sherlock, #3) by Sherry Thomas
Series: Lady Sherlock #3
Published by Berkley on October 2, 2018
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 326
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: Cementing this series as one of the most original and intriguing historical mystery series around, Thomas allows readers to delve into the relationship between Charlotte Holmes and Lord Ingram in ways that are unexpected and clever.

THE STORY: Charlotte Holmes, who uses her intelligence and reasoning to solve crimes, is confronted with the most serious case of her career. Lady Ingram, the wife of her friend, Lord Ingram is found dead and Lord Ingram is the prime suspect. Beginning on the heals of the event of A CONSPIRACY IN BELGRAVIA, Lord Ingram’s estranged wife has been running from Moriarty and Charlotte has to go undercover to save Lord Ingram.

OPINION: I loved this book. I enjoy a story that surprises me and this one had me twisted around until the very end. Unfortunately the nature of the book precludes much discussion of the plot beyond the blurb, but I very much enjoyed the mystery in this book. It was complex and intriguing and by the end I was surprised but also satisfied by the resolution.

Charlotte and Ingram are the focus of this book and readers who may have wondered about the chance of a romance between them will get some interesting time between these two. Yet Charlotte still remains her own person with a strong sense of self and her own agency. I loved how the story progressed and the book feels satisfying while pushing some of the overarching storylines forward for future books.

Original and compelling, the seriousness of the events can be impressed upon readers that Charlotte, loses her appetite — which basically makes this a serious crisis.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book follows directly from the events in A CONSPIRACY IN BELGRAVIA and I recommend refreshing the memory of what happened in that book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE HOLLOW OF FEAR is the third book in the Lady Sherlock series. This book especially should be read after the second book in the series. I think it assumes knowledge about the characters and situation that one can only really gleam from having read the prior book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Lord John and the Hand of Devils

Review: Lord John and the Hand of DevilsLord John and the Hand of Devils by Diana Gabaldon
Series: Lord John Grey #0.5, #1.5, #1.5, #2.5, #2.5
Published by Delta on November 25th 2008
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 336
Goodreads
three-half-stars

This is a collection of three novellas about Lord John which have all been previously published. The stories about Lord John are a spinoff of the Outlander series.

LORD JOHN AND THE HELLFIRE CLUB: Lord John is approached by a man who bears a resemblance to Jaime and agrees to meet with the man about a political problem. The man is soon murdered and Lord John investigates and is drawn into the Hellfire Club. This is a very short story (around 40 pages) which gives a glimpse into Lord John’s life and a quick investigation, but it didn’t really stick with me. Neither the mystery, nor the life glimpse seemed that grand. Okay story for fans, but not a necessary read. Rating 2.5 stars.

LORD JOHN AND THE SUCCUBUS: Lord John is in Prussia and encounters another murder. This time the suspect is a succubus (female demon). Lord John investigates the death. This is a longer story (about 100 pages) and has a bit of supernatural flare which won’t surprise readers of the Outlander series. The mystery was intriguing to be because of the supernatural possibilities mixed with possible prosaic answers. The closeness of the possibility of supernatural answers feels really time appropriate. The story was enjoyable and I liked the resolution. Rating: 3.5 stars.

LORD JOHN AND THE HAUNTED SOLDIER: Lord John is engaged in an inquiry as to the explosion of a cannon during battle. Through a series of events, Lord John ends up with the only evidence that the cannon was poorly constructed, perhaps even criminally so. The novellas in this series have so far not interested me as much as the previous novel. I was interested in the investigation but perhaps the parts of this novella that overlap with the Outlander series was the most interesting part to me. Rating: 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: The Murder at Mandeville Hall

Review: The Murder at Mandeville HallThe Murder at Mandeville Hall (The Casebook of Barnaby Adair, 5) by Stephanie Laurens
Published by Savdek Management Pty Ltd on August 16, 2018
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: The mystery was good, but the solution was pretty obvious to me from the beginning. In compensation, however, the romance was a nice diversion as the two get to know one another and solve the crime.

THE STORY: Alaric, Lord Carradale has been a rake but something has changed recently and he is considering looking for a bride. Unfortunately, the sweet innocent young woman that would be the typical bride is someone who would likely bore Alaric in a week. While attending a house party by his friend and neighbor, Alaric ends up stumbling across one of the young women who is attending the party dead in the bushes. The young woman’s cousin immediately comes across Alaric and it appears that he is the most likely criminal. Constance Whittaker has arrived too late to help her cousin but is determined to find the murderer. Soon Constance and Alaric have teamed up to solve the murder and bring in Barnaby Adair, his wife Penelope and Inspector Stokes of Scotland Yard.

OPINION: I enjoyed this book, but the balance of the story wasn’t as good as others in the series. The mystery was intriguing all the way until the reveal. Unfortunately, I had pegged the villain from the start and the exact reason for the crime. It made the resolution of the mystery anticlimactic.

While I enjoyed the story between Alaric and Constance, I missed seeing more of Barnaby and Penelope. Because there was no real conflict between Alaric and Constance other than the crime, I liked them as characters, but their relationship wasn’t really something that I had to root for.

This was a fine one time read, but I have enjoyed others in the series more.

WORTH MENTIONING: The hero here briefly appeared in THE CURIOUS CASE OF LADY LATIMER’S SHOES.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE MURDER AT MANDEVILLE HALL is the seventh book in the Casebook of Barnaby Adair series. The story here is self-contained, but Barnaby Adair and his wife and the Scotland Yard investigator are continuing characters. Here, however, they are not as prominent as the couple and thus this is a good standalone in the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

 

three-half-stars

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