Mystery Fiction I have been a Rhys Bowen fan for years and I await each installment of her two current series with eager anticipation. The “Molly Murphy” mysteries feature a capable and enterprising young woman – an Irish immigrant with an unfortunate past – rebuilding her life in early twentieth century New York City. There have been 16 installments in this series, with a new adventure available later this year. It is always nice to have something to anticipate.
The “Royal Spyness” mysteries are set in England between the wars, and feature a young lady who is 35th in line to the throne. Lady Georgiana is dirt poor but rich with connections and usually finds herself performing some favour or another to stay in the good graces of her royal family. In the background, her cousin Edward is courting a certain Mrs. Simpson. There are nine books and counting in this more lighthearted series.
As soon as I heard that Rhys Bowen had a new novel coming out I knew I had to read it. I am happy to report that I was not disappointed. This is a World War ll era novel with great characters (and in my opinion Rhys Bowen writes great characters)
Farleigh Place is the stately English manor of Lord Westerham, his wife, and five daughters. England is at war with Germany and half the estate has been commandeered by the British army; meanwhile the family learns to live in more reduced circumstances. Middle daughter Pamela has a position at Bletchley Park, although her family thinks she is doing secretarial work. Another daughter, Margot, is living in Paris and refusing to return home to England. Ben is the son of the village vicar, and Pamela’s childhood friend. (of course he is secretly in love with her) A recent accident has kept him from enlisting but he does undercover work for the government and receives a lot of flack for not doing his part. Another childhood friend – dashing flying ace Jeremy Prescott- has joined the RAF.
One day, as youngest daughter Phoebe is crossing the estate on her pony, she comes across a battered body in soldier’s clothing. He has fallen from the sky due to a failed parachute. This sets off an inquiry with lots of questions and Ben is tasked with discretely finding some answers.
Each daughter has her own story. This is where I always admire Rhys Bowen; I think she is great at writing characters that the reader can care about. And she excels at writing women with good minds and strong personalities. This novel has been promoted as a “stand alone” but I , for one, would love to see it become a series. I feel the author has only scratched to surface with these characters.
IN FARLEIGH FIELD is a novel about WW ll with great characters and an exciting plot; espionage, secrets and alliances of all kind are all explored in this excellent book.
The reader may want to read THE REMAINS OF THE DAY by Kazuo Ishiguro (1989) as a companion book.
Scottish Crime Fiction
Scottish Island Fiction
This novel has so many of the elements that I love in a book that I was almost certain I was going to love it before I had even read a single page: I wasn’t disappointed. The main character is an oceanographer, working out of Edinburgh, named Cal McGill who has pioneered a program for using ocean currents, weather records, shipping documents, archives, wind speeds and a host of other information to explain the physical origin of items (or bodies and body parts) washing up on a shore. Where did the journey begin? He is also an eco-warrior attempting to bring attention to global warming and a loner who uses a bunch of anonymous beachcombers to feed him information.
Cal’s interest in the ocean was kindled in his youth when he discovered his grandfather had died during World War ll, after being washed overboard during a mission. He has an over-riding interest in discovering all the facts regarding this event. The small Scottish Island that had been home to this branch of his family for generations was abandoned after the war and many pieces of this puzzle just do not fit. This is my favourite plot line because I adore stories involving Scottish Islands. Peter May’s BLACK HOUSE trilogy is tremendous and I recommend it to any fans of this novel.
There is also a subplot featuring a young Indian girl exploited by a prostitution/pedophile ring. A third subplot revolves around the mystery of shoe clad feet coming ashore in strangely diverse locations.
.There is a secondary character – a policewoman named Helen Jamieson- and I hope I see her in future installments. Oh yes, there are already two more installments in this series…yippee.
So here it is in a nutshell.. a crime mystery, an interesting protagonist, and a Scottish Island. What is there not to love?
Published by Penguin Random House
A MURDER MYSTERY
This is a delightful murder mystery reminiscent of the work of Agatha Christie and primarily set in an upscale British seaside resort during the 1930’s. Lots of fun characters (suspects?) and a dead body or two, along with some complicated relationships, amateur sleuthing and a few interesting subplots — what more could a fan of the British cozy mystery want? The witty banter between husband and wife, Amory and Milo, is more Nick and Nora Charles than Christie but their relationship is a little more complicated. Five years earlier Amory chose to marry the cad over the gentleman– and wouldn’t you know it–both are at the Brightwell (one by design and one by surprise) I sincerely hope that this is the first in a series because I just want MORE. I am already casting the characters, in my head, for the film version. Wonderful book.
Mystery, Historical Mystery
This is a book that sat on my for later shelf for a long time because I wasn’t sure I wanted to read it. I thought it was a hard-boiled detective novel and I didn’t want to read an entire book as seen through the eyes of a boozy,weary and cynical Private Investigator . But this book has a twist. The narrator is a gently raised young lady who works for a boozy,weary and cynical P.I.
On October 29, 1929 Katherine Pangborn is yanked out of Miss Beeson’s Finishing School for Young Ladies and told her father has committed suicide and she is poor. Good-bye. She needs to find a job but her skills include flower arranging and planning dinner parties. She meets a man named Mustard, while pawning her late mother’s jewelry, and he sets her up as a secretary for P.I. Dexter Theroux.
Two years later she is Still working for Dex, clacking the typewriter to look busy, when a Client walks through the door. And then the adventure begins.
Katherine is just the right mix of Finishing school proper and street smarts. And she is more of a baby-sitter than a secretary since her boss’s alcoholism leaves him unreliable. Yet he is sympathetic and likable character even though he is trying to drown his memories of WWI in a bottle. The demons he must face from the trenches in France are unimaginable.
This is so NOT a hard-boiled detective story that I think fans of traditional crime noir would be disappointed. This isn’t gritty and there is no sex (explicit or implied). It would probably be more appropriate for fans of the cozy mysteries.
I loved it and hope to read the sequel soon.
Historical Mystery, Regency Mystery
(2011, Pamela Dorman Books, Viking)
I suppose it is probably pretty obvious that I am a fan of historical Mysteries, and if they are in a series-well that is even better. INSTRUMENTS OF DARKNESS is the first book in a new series that now numbers three books. The heroine is a ship captain’s wife; a woman who spent many years at sea with her husband but , since the arrival of children, she has been running the family estate; a stay at home mom circa 1780 with wet nurses and servants. She is a no-nonsense person who has run this estate profitably. Her neighbour is a gentleman recluse, a man who has rejected his own noble title and instead he stays at home and studies human anatomy among other things. His name is Gabriel Crowther and he is more at home with the company of dead things.
The sea captain’s wife (Mrs. Harriet Westerman) discovers a dead body on her property and she immediately seeks the assistance of her reclusive neighbour. They become a team as they try to unravel this mystery. Along the way they encounter a misplaced heir. The American war of Independence figures in to the plot and the action moves between a country estate and London. Harriet and Gabriel make an interesting pair of amateur sleuths and the murder mystery is satisfying. We see small glimpses into Gabriel’s past that hints at why he is such a hermit.
The second book in the series is called ANATOMY OF MURDER and there is also a third book called ISLAND OF BONES. The third book is available at bookstores but it is not yet available at my library. I am in queue and look forward to receiving it to read.
A Flavia de Luce Mystery
Post War England
This is the fourth book in a mystery series featuring the precocious, self-taught, 11-year old chemist–Flavia de Luce. I can’t imagine any 11-year-old being this smart but then, I suppose I can’t imagine any household being visited by four murders in one year either. The beauty of fiction. I like following a series since each book wraps up a nice little who-done-it yet there are other mysteries unravelling slowly–like a soap opera. It certainly keeps me watching for the next book in the series to be released.
This book has a Christmas background . Father is almost completely out of funds so he reluctantly rents the entire Buckshaw Estate to a film company. Flavia and her two sisters, beautiful Ophelia and bookworm Daphne, are excited about the impending film shoot and the townspeople at nearby Bishop Lacey are thrilled to have movie stars in their midst. A special Christmas eve fund-raiser for the church is planned at the estate–but of course, all does not go smoothly. A blizzard strands the household and then there is a murder .It’s a little Agatha Christie-like (which is referenced in the book) but definitely entertaining.
The main characters reveal a few more secrets; just enough to keep the reader anticipating the next book . A quick and enjoyable read.
Yes this is a book review but I thought it was timely since Halloween is just around the corner. Bog bodies are actual human bodies discovered in Peat bogs in Northern Europe. They can be thousands of years old but they are well-preserved by the naturally occurring conditions in the earth; acidic water, low temperatures and lack of oxygen. They have allowed scientists to uncover a wealth of information regarding the food, health and customs of early man and some of these bodies have undeniably been murdered……talk about a cold case! The corpses are usually discovered while the peat is being cut to use as fuel.
Bog Bodies are the focus of a series of books by Erin Hart; HAUNTED GROUND (2003) LAKE OF SORROWS(2004) and FALSE MERMAID(2010). The setting for these books is primarily Ireland although the third book has some action in America. Nora Gavin is a pathologist and Cormac Maguire is an archeologist and they are called in as a team to investigate when a body is found.(Are they a couple……?) What follows in each book is an old mystery and a new mystery interwoven along with plenty of Irish folklore and legends. In the third book the cold case murder of Nora’s own sister takes center stage. I love these books but it seems as though Hart writes in spurts and thus far no new title has been announced.
If you want to see a bog body 2,000 -year-old Lindow man (often referred to as Pete Marsh) is on display at the British museum.