Archive for the ‘Historical Mystery’ Category

The Berkeley Square Affair-Teresa Grant

March 25, 2014

The Berkeley Square Affair
Teresa Grant
Kensington, Mar 25 2014, $15.00
ISBN 9780758283955

In 1817, Malcolm and Suzanne Rannoch enjoy their quiet life in London after years of dangerous intelligence missions (see Imperial Scandal and The Paris Affair). Malcolm belongs to Parliament while Suzanne has become a popular hostess amongst the Ton.

Their domestic tranquility ends when their battered friend Simon Tanner visits them at their Berkeley Square mansion. The injured playwright explains he held an alleged valuable copy of a Hamlet when thugs accosted him; they severely beat him before leaving with the prize. Not long after Tanner’s arrival, Malcolm’s former boss, Lord Carfax, calls on the couple. The spymaster thinks the stolen document contains clues to the identity of a traitor whose betrayal decades ago led to deaths during an Irish rebellion that also involved Malcom’s deceased father. Frantic Suzanne fears secrets she hid from everyone even her beloved will surface destroying their trust and probably end their marriage.

The latest Rannoch Regency mystery is an engaging early nineteenth century investigation due to the fabulous lead couple and the vivid background of post Napoleonic Wars London. The fascinating plot contains less suspense than previous entries (see Imperial Scandal and The Paris Affair) partly because the spying days during the war are over and partly because the prime cause of this caper is decades old. Still, fans will appreciate the Rannoch duet’s tour of London not long after the Congress of Vienna (see Vienna Waltz) tried to return the continent to the pre Napoleon era.

Harriet Klausner

Murder At The Breakers-Alyssa Maxwell

March 25, 2014

Murder At The Breakers
Alyssa Maxwell
Kensington, Mar 25 2014, $15.00
ISBN 9780758290823

In 1895 Newport, Rhode Island, though belonging to the affluent Vanderbilt brood, twentyish reporter Emmaline Cross is a poor working class reporter who drives a carriage for a living. Her other full-time occupation is getting her half-brother Brady Gale out of his many minor scrapes with the law.

To celebrate his newest mansion the Breakers, Cornelius Vanderbilt tosses a party attended by the elite of the upper class. However, the gala turns nightmarish when someone uses a candelabrum as a hammer to brutally smash in the skull of Vanderbilt’s secretary Alvin Goddard before tossing the victim off the second-story balcony. The Newport police arrest Vanderbilt’s nephew intoxicated Brady who was found asleep at the murder scene possessing stolen railroad secrets he apparently took form his uncle. Emma knows her sibling is a wastrel drunk, but not a murderer; so with the help of attractive journalist Derrick Anderson she questions those who attended the shindig.

The first Gilded Newport Mystery is an entertaining whodunit starring a wonderful heroine whose independence readers will enjoy though it is out of place for the late nineteenth century. Fans will root for unsinkable Emma as she crosses her .1% relatives with her unacceptable embarrassing behavior. Although the investigation takes a back seat to touring the rich and famous of Newport in the Gilded Age, Murder At The Breakers is a fun affair.

Harriet Klausner

Ten For Dying-Mary Reed and Eric Mayer

March 10, 2014

Ten For Dying
Mary Reed and Eric Mayer
Poisoned Pen, Mar 4 2014, $24.95
ISBN: 9781464202278

In 548 Constantinople, Emperor Justinian deeply grieves the death of his beloved wife Empress Theodora. He recently fired John as the Lord Chamberlain following his loyal aid’s investigation, made at the Emperor’s demand into the Empress’ death, as Justinian rejected the finding (see Nine For The Devil).

At the Church of the Holy Apostles, a fragment of the burial cloth of the Lord’s mother has gone missing. Justinian assigns Palace Guard Captain Felix to look into the theft. Felix persuades his friend disgraced John to help him. Church cleaner Mada and her husband lamp lighter Peterios tell the pair that the lights were extraordinary low; a bad odor putrefied the air, frogs appeared and demons ran amuck taking the relic with them. Felix feels unprepared to act on his own with the fallen John leaving for Greece in exile. Besides dealing with his gambling debt, his family and his new mistress Anastasia, Felix must also look into how a corpse was left at his house. Matters turn ugly as several people apparently want at a minimum Felix to fail and preferably die.

Though series fans are used to the shrewd John the Eunuch running the show, Ten For Dying is an exciting entry made fresh by Felix and Anastasia who proves more than a mistress. Felix struggles with the twisted case in which many want to possess the holy relic and him dead; with the lethal politics including from the capricious mourning emperor; and with his even more convoluted personal life. Readers will enjoy this apparent new path that Mary Reed and Eric Mayer has taken on, but also hope our favorite eunuch has a second coming perhaps in Greece.

Harriet Klausner

Street Justice-Kris Nelscott

March 8, 2014

Street Justice
Kris Nelscott
WMG, Mar 4 2014, $18.99
ISBN 9780615866451

In January 1970, unlicensed Black private investigator Smokey Dalton freezes in his unheated apartment while raising his unofficial adopted son eleven year old Jimmy. He carries a concealed gun after some recent attacks. He follows closely the Chicago Seven Conspiracy Circus and the Cook County Coroners’ inquest into the firefight deaths (that Smokey believes were official blue plate executions) of Black Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark.

Jimmy’s hysterical friend Keith Grimshaw calls Dalton pleading with him to help his thirteen year old sister Lacey at the Starlite Hotel where she was assaulted. Dalton finds the perpetrator but the assailant belongs to the mob connected Outfit that stalks school girls. The police, the city leaders and the school administration refuse to intercede; forcing Dalton to turn elsewhere for assistance, but no one in their right mind wants to tangle with this gang though he ultimately finds improbable allies.

The latest Smoky Dalton historical whodunit is a terrific entry in what is one of the best on going mystery series (see Days of Rage, War At Home and Smoke Filled Rooms). The powerful historiographical backdrop brings to life an era of protest and countermeasures through a powerful cast. The investigation and Smokey’s efforts to find brave people especially in authority willing to risk all to bring down the Outfit enhances the deep look at the beginning of the 1970s reactionary aftermath to the turbulent 1960s.

Harriet Klausner

City Of Jasmine-Deanna Raybourne

March 3, 2014

City Of Jasmine
Deanna Raybourne
Mira, Feb 25 2014, $14.95
ISBN: 9780778316213

Aviatrix Evie Starke receives a photo of her husband Gabriel; on the back is written Damascus 1920. Though believing it to be a cruel hoax, Evie needs to know for sure why a photograph of her spouse claims to have been taken five years after he died on the German sinking of the USS Lusitania.

Clues lead Evie to Constantinople. Not long afterward, Gabriel arrives at her hotel room. Barely restraining herself from shooting him, Gabriel explains to his irate wife that he searches for an artifact. He persuades her to join him on an adventure into the desert where they find and lose the artifact, but Evie resolutely vows to recapture it at the same time remind her wandering mate what he loses once this adventure ends.

This is an entertaining action-packed historical thriller in which the romantic subplot plays a minor role to the deep look at 1920 Middle East. Fast-paced with an intriguing cast led by the intrepid sarcastic heroine and supported by the beguiling Aunt Dove (in early chapters), Gabriel and Bedouin and others; fans will appreciate this exhilarating post WW1 escapades in the desert.

Harriet Klausner

Miss Dimple Picks A Peck of Trouble-Mignon F. Ballard

February 14, 2014

Miss Dimple Picks A Peck of Trouble
Mignon F. Ballard
Minotaur, Feb 4 2014, $24.99
ISBN: 9781250035622

In 1944 with school out for summer in Elderberry, Georgia, first-grade teacher Miss Dimple Kilpatrick visits an orchard to pick peaches when she hears a scream. Stopping her activity immediately, Miss Dimple rushes to see if she can offer assistance to the person in distress at the Peach Shed. No one is there including teenager Prentice Blair, who was working at the Peach Shed.

Not long after the eighteen year old vanished, her corpse is found by the old mill. The murder scene is where she and her boyfriend Clay Jarrett would make out. Clay is the prime suspect as recently Prentice dumped him. “Mad Hattie” McGee insists she saw the abduction, but not considered creditable; as she is known throughout town when she is not claiming she is Scarlett for her persistence that Nazis stalk her and her insistence that she knows where buried Confederate gold is. Miss Dimple, with other teachers assisting her, investigates the homicide.

The latest Miss Dimple WWII amateur sleuth (see Miss Dimple Suspects a Mystery) is a wonderful historical regional cozy. The inquiry is terrific as the focus is on identifying the killer, but also enables readers to taste life in the home front of 1944 rural Georgia.

Harriet Klausner

Mayhem-Sarah Pinborough

January 19, 2014

Sarah Pinborough
Quercus, Jan 14 2014, $24.95
ISBN: 9781623650865

In 1887, Londoners live in abject fear waiting for the next Jack the Ripper murder. Assisting the police on the violent deadly assaults drives Dr. Thomas Bond to increasingly using opium to help him temporarily forget the gruesome sight though he believes the nightmares will haunt him until he dies.

When a new female victim even more violently attacked than the previous poor souls is found, the city panics. However, Bond realizes this homicide is different as Ripper leaves the entire corpse for the police and locals to deal with; while this murderer left only the torso. Doubting Ripper changed his method and more victims with body parts deposited all around town including the construction site of Scotland Yard are found; Bond concludes a second more violent psycho dubbed the Thames Torso is doubling down on the horror gripping the beleaguered city.

Based on the real Thames Torso murders that horrified London during the Ripper period and using as the protagonist a genuine historical person to tell the tale Sarah Pinborough provides a taut late Victorian crime thriller with a stunning Eastern European spin. The inclusion of world-wide newspaper coverage of the first known serial killers adds fascinating macabre shock and depth mindful of the Son of Sam coverage. Readers will relish this tense twisting historical whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Whispers of Vivaldi-Beverle Graves Myers

January 18, 2014

Whispers of Vivaldi
Beverle Graves Myers
Poisoned Pen, Jan 7 2014, $24.95
ISBN 9781464202100

In 1745 Venice, the esteemed Teatro San Marco opera house is in financial trouble since many patrons deserted it for its lightweight rival Teatro Grimani in spite the latter’s focus on minor works with pretty inane tunes and beautiful by poor performing prima donnas. Teatro San Marco Director Maestro Torani orders former soprano Tito Amato to find a fresh saving piece in time for Carnival.

Tito offers his boss the False Duke by Niccolo Rocatti, whose previous works have not been very good. However, Tito insists that this piece about twins is different with Whispers of Vivaldi as if the late great Red Priest wrote it. Sold on the concept, Torani imports Angeletto of Naples as the star in spite of incessant rumors the castrato is actually a female. When someone murders Torani, recognizing himself as the prime suspect Tito must solve the homicide before it is too late for him and his beloved opera house.

The latest Baroque mystery (see The Iron Tongue of Midnight) contains an interesting surprising whodunit as the protagonist’s mentor is the victim. The exciting investigation is enhanced by the colorful descriptions of mid eighteenth century Venice and the behind the scenes of an opera house; so picturesque the background turns the storyline into a fabulous historical with a strong supporting whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

An Air of Treason-P. F. Chisholm

January 18, 2014

An Air of Treason
P. F. Chisholm
Poisoned Pen, Jan 7 2014, $24.95
ISBN 9781464202209

In 1592, the Queen ignoring the advice of Mistress Thomasina de Paris directs the woman to order Deputy Warden of the West March Sir Robert Carey to investigate a death that occurred just after he was born in 1560; he must resolve the cold case before the Queen enters Oxford. Though there was a year-long inquiry thirty-two years ago just after Amy Dudley tumbled down stairs to her death, that probe found no evidence of homicide but Elizabeth like many believes the wife of deceased Robert Dudley was murdered.

Robert prefers to avoid this mess because he knows whatever he does is dangerous to his well-being especially since the late Widower Dudley was a special suitor of Her Highness, making the Royal a prime suspect. As he begins his investigation Robert finds clues that imply murder and imply his father was part of a conspiracy. While his dedicated guard Sergeant Henry Dodd vanishes, an unknown adversary poisons Carey with belladonna; leaving him blind with no time to heal.

The latest Robert Carey Elizabethan mystery is a great entry in a strong historical series (see A Famine of Horses and A Murder of Crows) with a current focus on the investigation by a real person into actual mysterious death of Amy Dudley. Fast-paced throughout with the spin that Dodd has his own exciting subplot; P.F. Chisholm provides another entertaining late sixteenth century whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Hunting Shadows-Charles Todd

January 17, 2014

Hunting Shadows
Charles Todd
Morrow, Jan 21 2013, $25.99
ISBN 9780062237187

In 1920 in East Anglia, someone, shooting from a distance, murders Captain Hutchinson as he enters Ely Cathedral to attend the fashionable wedding of his cousin, and soon after kills Tory Parliament candidate Herbert Swift as he began a campaign speech. Two weeks after the Hutchinson murder, the local police make no progress on the homicides so ask Scotland Yard to investigate.

Inspector Ian Rutledge takes over the inquiry with little substantiated information and the case somewhat cold. He knows that most likely the same sniper killed both men and a woman insists she witnessed the Swift killing by what she strongly claims is a monster. As Rutledge ties the killings to the Great War, he fears his own combat issues will explode his brains if the adversary does not do it first.

Team Todd has written one of the best Inspector Rutledge historical police procedurals in the strong long running series (see Proof of Guilt). The protagonist struggles with PTSD, customized to his combat experiences (with Hamish) and his overall demeanor, while working a case that accentuates his inner demons. Readers will appreciate this taut whodunit that brings to life the still timely (with present day veteran and military suicide rate much greater than the rest of the public) unintended consequences of war on the soldiers after the hostilities between nations end; but never for those who served at the front.

Harriet Klausner