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Archive for the ‘Historical Mystery’ Category

The Painted Queen: An Amelia Peabody Novel of Suspense (Amelia Peabody Series) by Elizabeth Peters and Joan Hess

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

The Painted QueenThe Painted Queen finds Amelia and Emerson in Cairo on their way to another seasonal dig. While staying in Cairo before departing for the dig, a stranger intrudes upon Amelia while she is bathing, although he poses no threat given that he has a knife in his back. He is holding a piece of paper with Amelia’s name and room number as well as a card with “Judas” written on it. The beginning of this book is so typical of the series that I had great hopes. Alas, as the rest of the book unfolded, those hopes were dashed.

The Painted Queen is the final Amelia Peabody book. Joan Hess was contracted to finish this after Elizabeth Peters’s death. It was my understanding before I read the book, that Peters had left behind the book in an unfinished form and Ms Hess was to finish the book. That does not appear to be the case. I cannot imagine that anything other than a very rough outline was left behind, because, sadly, the characters in this, the last chapter in a long running and well written series hold on the shell of a resemblance to the Peters’ characters. Read the rest of this entry »

Murder on Black Swan Lane (A Wrexford & Sloane Mystery) by Andrea Penrose

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Murder on Black Swan LaneMurder on Black Swan Lane is the debut book in a historical mystery series set in Regency England. The series brings together one of the most unusual pair of protagonists found in the mystery genre. The Earl of Wrexford is, besides a wealthy nobleman, a chemist. His soon to be counterpart is about as unusual as one can imagine. Charlotte Sloane is a poor widow making ends meet by masquerading as a political cartoonist under her late husband’s pen name A.J Quill. And readers here might ask what would bring people from such different world together? Fate I suppose, but really it is human nature, the cause of so many problems.

The Earl of Wrexford’s comfortable life allows him plenty of time to enjoy his interests, one of which is chemistry. Life should be good. His unseemly behavior combined with his fiery personality however brings trouble to his door. Such is the case when Reverend Joseph Holworthy, a local and rather overly pious man of the cloth decides to publicly call out the Earl on his sinful ways. The Earl responds and so the public back and forth between the two becomes a bit of entertainment for the public to follow. The widow Sloane, acting under her late husband’s pen name begins drawing cartoons lampooning the battling pair. But when the Reverend is found murdered in his church with chemical burns the fun is over. The Earl is in serious trouble. The Earl eventually discovers who the cartoonist really is, but rather than exposing her, he enlists her help in exposing the reverend’s shadowy activities involving pseudo science. The two team up and manage through science and intuition uncover the real murderer. And the team of Wrexford and Sloane is born. Read the rest of this entry »

Jack of Spies by David Downing

Jack of SpiesReviewed by Jud Hanson

The year is 1913. Tensions are rising in Europe and Jack McColl, auto salesman and part-time spy for the British Empire, must flee China when an attempt is made on his life. Things get dicey when he is tapped to track a German national across the globe and meets Caitlin, feminist journalist and sibling of one of the leaders of the Irish Independence Movement. When his handlers learn who her family is, Jack is forced to choose between the woman he loves and his loyalty to the British Crown, a choice that will have far-reaching consequences. Read the rest of this entry »

La Salle’s Ghost by Miles Arceneaux

La Salle's GhostReviewed by Caryn St. Clair

In this the second Charlie Sweetwater mystery, readers find Charlie out on the water for the anniversary of his brother’s death. Set fifteen years after the first book, readers find out what Charlie has been up to during that time as this story slowly unfolds. Charlie is sitting on the deck of his boat in total darkness when he imagines he hears someone swimming towards the boat. What he thinks he’s imagining turns out to indeed be a man swimming straight for the boat. He ends up diving in to save the man and brings him on board. The man, Julien Dufay, turns out to be a Frenchman from an oil rig some thirty miles from the boat. But the reasons for him to be in the Gulf at all are not about the oil rig, but about a family secret dating back over three hundred years. As Charlie was soon to learn, while Julien’s dream may be all about the past, Julien’s brother has another goal in his sight-one rooted very much in the present. There may be a mother lode of French history buried here, but there are also fossil fuels. Read the rest of this entry »

The Demon’s Parchment: A Medieval Noir (Crispin Guest Novels) by Jeri Westerson

The Demon's Parchment Reviewed by Teri Davis

Oh, reading a well-written, well-researched, well-organized novel where the crime is horrendous, but the writing is so outstanding that you feel as if you are the investigator is a privilege and luxury. That is reading THE DEMON’S PARCHMENT.

THE DEMON’S PARCHMENT is one of a series in an unusual medieval series which is considered a noir by its darkness and style. This particular novel in Westerson’s Crispin Guest series is the third, following VEIL OF LIES, and SERPENT OF THE THORNS. Previously, I have reviewed the fourth book, Troubled Bones, and enjoyed it so much that I was asked to look at the previous ones. These books can be read as standalone novels, but are definitely better when you know the characters and some of their history.

Crispin Guest is a former knight who lost everything when he was accused of treason and lost his favor with the king. Essentially living minimally in a bare existence now, with his young apprentice, Jack, he works as a Tracker, one who logically tracks from the victim back to the criminals.

Crispin has agreed to find the lost parchments stolen from a Jewish physician residing at the King’s court. This is definitely unconventional since Jews are not allowed to be living in England at this time and were previously expelled. It was generally believed that those of this religion practiced human sacrifice.

Also, Crispin has agreed to help the new sheriff in stopping who is killing young boys in a distinctive gruesome manner. These unfortunate victims though have not been reported as missing. Why would someone give their son to another?

THE DEMON’S PARCHMENT is enthralling. The characters are believable and likable with the murderer always being in disguise. With shared responsibilities, the relationship between Crispin and Jack is strong while neither is without fault. The supporting characters are outstanding with vivid descriptions and definitely showing the “shady” side of London while still demonstrating how nobility was frequently above the law. With actual historical events being intertwined into this story, the reader truly feels like this mystery transports them to another time and place. THE DEMON’S PARCHMENT is not for the feint-of-heart. The descriptions are graphic and gory. However, this novel excels in all categories and proves that Jeri Westerson is a true story teller.