Archive for the ‘Historical Mystery’ Category

Blotto, Twinks and the Bootlegger’s Moll-Simon Brett

January 16, 2014

Blotto, Twinks and the Bootlegger’s Moll
Simon Brett
Felony & Mayhem, Jan 7 2014, $14.95
ISBN: 9781937384920

Due to plumbing at their Tawcester Towers, the Lyminster Family is in financial trouble; besides more important the noisy pipes and flooding (even a Gainsborough took a drenching) drive the Dowager Duchess crazy. She assesses their assets and decides the best bet is marrying her handsome but dumb son Deveraux AKA Blotto to a wealthy American as doltish as her male offspring for paying to enter the aristocracy.

Thus his Mater exiles Blotto, accompanied to keep him on mission by his brilliant beautiful sister Twinks, to Chicago for him to wed Mary, the heiress daughter of meat-packing magnate Luther P. Chapstick III. Furthermore, Mater explains to her son he will live in the States with his in-laws and wife as they are unacceptable in her England. However, Mr. Chapstick makes demands that the Duchess arranges a party filled with blue bloods or his daughter marries someone else. Twinks realizes that Chapstick is wealthy from his illegal activities, but she knows Blotto must marry Mary and the mob or face a more dangerous foe their Mater.

The latest Blotto and Twinks 1920s English drama (see Blotto, Twinks And The Dead Dowager Duchess and Blotto, Twinks And The Ex-King’s Daughter) is an engaging satire that lampoons mysteries and rigid social mores. Though the behavior of the matrimonial dealmakers is over the top of the Willis Tower as stereotypes of a mobster and a monetary strapped aristocrat (albeit their discussions are inanely amusing), readers will appreciate the Bootlegger’s tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Black Stiletto: Secrets & Lies-Raymond Benson

January 11, 2014

The Black Stiletto: Secrets & Lies
Raymond Benson
Oceanview, Jan 7 2014, $26.95
ISBN 9781608091010

In 1961 New York, Judy Cooper barely escapes from the cops but not before catching two creeps, a chill and subsequently a fever. As she recovers from her severe cold, Judy realizes her time as “the Black Stiletto” roaming the mean streets of Manhattan may be over as the police and the mob hunt her.

Judy and Leo Kelly meet and share a deep attraction. He persuades her to accompany him to Los Angeles. However, in Southern California, Judy slowly realizes that though he seems to love her like she does him, Leo suffers from commitment phobia. Worse to her chagrin, this man she cherishes is a vicious criminal; the type of miscreant she pursued as the Black Stiletto on the East Coast.

The fourth super Black Stiletto thriller is a great historical tale (with a contemporary base) as the latest diary brings alive the transition between Ike and JFK, and the beginning of the latter’s new Administration making it seem as if Raymond Benson wrote Judy’s entries in 1961. Fast-paced, the change of coasts adds freshness especially with LAPD more tolerant of a crime fighting vigilante than their NYPD counterparts. Though there is a cliffhanger instead of closure, series fans will enjoy The Black Stiletto does Los Angeles while newcomers will seek her NYC escapades (see The Black Stiletto, The Black Stiletto: Stars and Stripes, and The Black Stiletto: Black And White).

Harriet Klausner

The Past And Other Lies-Maggie Joel

December 12, 2013

The Past And Other Lies
Maggie Joel
Felony & Mayhem, Dec 7 2013, $14.99
ISBN: 9781937384753

In 1981, sixteen year old Charlotte Denzel quietly takes a chair from the kitchen into her upstairs bedroom with none of her family noticing. On her tippy toes, Charlotte stands on the chair while knotting a school tie around the ceiling light fitting and another around her neck. While Charlotte’s younger brother Graham and her parents eat, her older sister Jennifer goes to get her to join them. Jennifer cuts them saving her sibling’s life but thinking how to explain the waste of ties to their parents. Later Charlotte denies this happened while Jennifer insists it occurred.

In 1924, the sisters’ grandmother Bertha is planning to meet Mr. Ronnie Booth in Hyde Park, but someone told her angry father. She thinks it must be her friend Elsie as her sister Jemima did not know of her rendezvous and Ronnie would not have told anyone. Jemima calms their dad by agreeing to chaperone Bertha. In 1926, Jemima gives birth to Ronnie’s baby while raging Bertha seethes over her sibling’s betrayal.

In 1945 Caroline goes to visit her boyfriend Clive, but her sister Deirdre tells their mom who follows her. When her mom is trapped in Nazi-bombed rubble, Caroline realizes her dad wants his wife to die.

Focusing primarily on sisterly relationships between three generations from the same family, this brilliant drama comes across as an interrelated thought-provoking tri-story saga. The powerful premise is based on relativity re how each interprets the critical personal events that cleverly keeps the readers shifting who we emphasize with as new interpretation of the facts and lies surface.

Harriet Klausner

Electra-Kerry Greenwood

December 11, 2013

Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen, Dec 3 2013, $24.95
ISBN 9781464202131

The long war is finally over with the destruction of Troy although the surviving losers secretly begin construction of a new city. Many like Hector paid the price with their lives; others like Cassandra the seer have become prisoners; and some like weary Odysseus are unable to go home to Ithaca as puppets manipulated by the Gods venture on another quest.

To the victors go the glory thinks elated King of Men Agamemnon as he sails home to Mycenae. However, his years away has led to his wife Queen Clytemnestra seeking comfort with Aegisthus, nephew child murdering Atreus, and not wanting her liege back in her life to take away her power accrued in his absence. One of their daughters Electra sees how much her mother prefers her father go back to war. When Clytemnestra kills Agamemnon, Electra expected the spousal murder and vows to avenge her sire’s death; though has an even more powerful reason to assassinate her mother the Queen.

The final Delphic Women Greek mythology (see Cassandra and Medea) is a superb retelling of Electra that brings freshness by the title character having a viable second motive to commit royal murder and a fascinating where are the winners and losers now that the fighting ended. Readers will appreciate this strong rendition (and trilogy) as Kerry Greenwood provides a fabulous mythos.

Harriet Klausner

Covenant with Hell: A Medieval Mystery-Priscilla Royal

December 10, 2013

Covenant with Hell: A Medieval Mystery
Priscilla Royal
Poisoned Pen, Dec 3 2013, $24.95
ISBN 9781464201950

In 1277 Prioress Eleanor and Brother Thomas leave Tyndal on a pilgrimage to the shrines of Walsingham Priory. Just after they arrive in East Anglia, Thomas finds the corpse of the prioress of Ryehill Sister Roysia. She obviously fell from the priory’s bell tower but in her hand is a piece of torn cloth.

As word spreads that a nun committed suicide and with rumors of King Edward I coming to pray for God to declare his pending invasion of Wales as holy, Prioress Ursell wants to avoid scandal so she quickly states Sister Roysia’s death as an accident. However that cloth Roysia grasped leads Thomas and Eleanor to conclude it came from the person who pushed the prioress from the tower as she grabbed on to it to keep from falling. As they investigate, the two pilgrims soon find evidence that an assassin plots to kill the monarch.

The latest Brother Thomas and Prioress Eleanor medieval mystery (see A Killing Season and Sanctity of Hate) is a great historical investigative thriller as late thirteenth century royal (secular) and religious England comes alive. The super inquiry by the protagonists and taut suspense make Covenant with Hell one of the best entries in this strong series.

Harriet Klausner

An Old Betrayal-Charles Finch

November 12, 2013

An Old Betrayal
Charles Finch
Minotaur, Nov 12 2013, $25.99
ISBN: 9781250011619

In 1875 Lord John Dallington suffers from a cold so is unable to meet a potential client at Gilbert’s Restaurant in Charring Crossing Station at 8:00. After showing his former sleuthing mentor Charles Lenox the unsigned note, he asks his teacher to go in his place. Charles concludes from the note that the writer has a train to catch soon after 8:35 as the author states he will wait for no more than thirty-five minutes.

Bored with being the Parliament’s junior Lord of the Treasury even with a critical vote on the Factory Act that he supports coming up, and enjoying though embarrassed to say so his time with his wife Lady Jane and their toddler, Lenox shamefully relishes a case. He enters the restaurant seeking a man with a striped black umbrella dining alone. When a male enters late, Charles assumes he is the client until abruptly a woman runs out of Gilbert’s; as Lenox realizes his gender blunder. Charles seeks the frightened female to learn how he may help her.

The seventh Charles Lenox Victorian mystery (see A Beautiful Blue Death and The September Society) is an entertaining twisting historical. Filled with tidbits that anchor the era (like the Factory Act debate), series fans will enjoy the return of married with child Charles and his family and friends as Lenox (and readers) appreciate his complicated investigation made convoluted by his false gender assumption.

Harriet Klausner

Cassandra: A Delphic Woman Novel- Kerry Greenwood

November 9, 2013

Cassandra: A Delphic Woman Novel
Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen, Nov 5 2013. $24.95
ISBN: 9781464202056

Aphrodite challenges her brother Apollo to a mortal manipulation contest. Apollo angrily curses Trojan Princess Cassandra for her rejection of him as no one spurns a god without wrathful repercussions especially when he is engaged in a contest with his sister. He enables Cassandra to foretell the future while Aphrodite gifts Diomenes with healing hands.

Cassandra foresees King Agammemnon of Mycenae winning the seize at Troy coming home after years away triumphant. She also sees his grieving angry wife Queen Clytemnestra, loathing her spouse for sacrificing their daughter to the Gods before he left for the war and abetted by her lover Aegisthus murdering the monarch. As the events unfold at Troy just as she envisions, Cassandra’s two lovers help her and endangered siblings Electra and Orestes flee from the royal wrath but not from deity rage; while Diomenes serves the army as a healer.

The second Delphic Woman (see Medea) is a strong retelling of Cassandra just prior to and during the combat at Troy. Cassandra is a wonderful lead but pales next to the more intense saga of Medea. Still Kerry Greenwood entertains her audience with the “real” story of Cassandra cursed to see the future.

Harriet Klausner

The Officer’s Prey-Armand Cabasson; translated by Michael Glencross

October 27, 2013

The Officer’s Prey
Armand Cabasson; translated by Michael Glencross
Gallic Books, Oct 15 2013, $15.95
ISBN: 9781906040826

In the summer of 1812, the French army reaches the Niemen River, the border between their ally the Grand Duchy of Warsaw and their target Russia on their march to Moscow. Emperor Napoleon’s stepson Prince Eugène de Beauharnais orders Captain Quentin Margont to see him immediately. Leaving his unit Margont reports as directed to the prince at the camp headquarters.

In nearby Tresno, Poland someone, most likely a French officer, butchered Maria Dorlovna, a woman of German and Polish ancestry. The Prince fears the reactions by their two allies and the troops once word spreads that an unknown French officer tortured and killed a woman, and murdered a military peer. Given no choice a reluctant Margont begins his investigation with limited information to identify the culprit and report the name to the Prince. He must do so discreetly to avoid scandal and with much of the evidence buried. As the army continues to head to Moscow, other similar brutal homicides of women occur.

This Napoleonic Wars mystery is a great historical whodunit that places a strong investigation inside of a vividly described over-confident unprepared French Army heading into disaster. The protagonist is fabulous as he (and others) recognize the calamity that awaits the Grand Army in Russia while seeking a murderous needle in a haystack of soldiers widely spread around.

Harriet Klausner

The Chatelet Apprentice-Jean-Francois Parot

October 8, 2013

The Chatelet Apprentice
Jean-Francois Parot
Gallic Books, Sep 24 2013, $15.95
ISBN: 9781906040062

In 1761 twentyish Nicholas Le Floch arrives in Paris with a letter from his godfather asking Lieutenant General of Police Monsieur De Sartine to hire the lad. No one, not even the Paris magistrate, who wants to remain employed, ignores a request from a Marquis and besides De Ranreuil is a friend so Nicholas becomes a police officer. Nicholas knows his godfather wanted him out of Brittany; after he and De Ranreuil’s daughter Isabelle declared their love for each other, but wonders about the older man’s enigmatic response.

After fifteen months in Paris working cases discreetly, De Sartine shows how much he trusts Le Floch when he assigns him to investigate prudently the disappearance of Police Commissioner Lardin. Assisting Le Floch on the inquiry is Police Inspector Bordeau.

The Chatelet Apprentice is a fabulous eighteenth century French police procedural that brings to life pre-Revolutionary Paris through the eyes of a resolute honest newcomer. The support cast serves as foibles for the protagonist or to anchor time and place while the final denouements re the case comes across too passive and the hero’s personal mystery seems obvious early on. Still sub-genre fans will appreciate this enjoyable historical as the storyline, for the most part, achieves the Gallic vision of “The best of French in English.”

Harriet Klausner

Death in the Ashes: A Fourth Case from the Notebooks of Pliny the Younger-Albert A. Bell Jr.

September 20, 2013

Death in the Ashes: A Fourth Case from the Notebooks of Pliny the Younger
Albert A. Bell Jr.
Perseverance, Sep 9 2013, $15.95
ISBN 9781564745323

In 84 AD Rome, twenty-something Gaius Pliny the Younger loves his childhood friend and servant Aurora. However his Mother wants the slave to show more respects towards her superiors and stay far away from her offspring. Mother also selected Livia, the daughter of Pompeia, as her son’s wife. In spite of being a lawyer, Pliny feels like a condemned man as he sees no way out of his marital dilemma.

Thamyras the servant arrives from Naples informing pregnant Aurelia that her wealthy husband Calpurnius is accused of murdering a freedwoman two days ago; and his refusal to defend himself adds to the common belief he killed the victim. Aurelia sends Thamyras to tell her friend Pliny, who rescued her a few years ago (see All Roads lead to Murder). Pliny questions the servant who says he saw the accused holding a knife while standing over the corpse, but never saw Calpurnius stabbed the woman. Reflecting back to when he last was in the city four years ago just after Vesuvius buried Pompeii killing his mentor, Pliny and Tacitus discuss the cold case as they travel to Naples to investigate the homicide.

The latest Notebooks of Pliny the Younger case (see The Blood of Caesar and The Corpus Conundrum) is an entertaining whodunit as the two sleuths realize a few days in Roman times means a cold case investigation. The aftermath of Vesuvius still haunts people with ash as a macabre visible reminder and ultimately important to this inquiry. Readers will appreciate this ancient mystery as the late Emperor Augustus dead for decades still impacts the living and the recently murdered.

Harriet Klausner