Brighton's Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens is called to the train station where a dead body has been found in the "left luggage" area. Well, two-thBrighton's Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens is called to the train station where a dead body has been found in the "left luggage" area. Well, two-thirds of a body, anyway. With each third in a separate trunk. When the missing third is delivered to the police station, addressed to "Captain" Edgar Stephens, his rank when he left the army, the inspector starts to think this might be a bit personal. The murder reminds him of a magic trick that his old friend Max Mephisto used to do as part of his show. The two men served together in WWII in a secret unit known as "The Magic Men." Edgar calls on Max, who just happens to be in Brighton for the week, and the two set about solving the mystery together.
I've never read any of Elly Griffiths' other mysteries but this one was good. I had a vague guess as to "whodunnit" but I didn't really know why or how. There was a more personal twist at the end that did surprise me quite a bit. I like surprises.
But somehow the whole novel felt a bit gray. DI Stephens seems to have PTSD and he's not really happy with anything in his life. He's a smart guy but he doesn't seem to be all that great at detective work. His heart was broken during the war and he's never gotten over it. He's living in a ratty flat and doesn't really seem to do much that he enjoys. He's just existing. He seems like a genuinely nice guy so I wanted him to snap out of it and start doing something--anything!--that made him happy.
Max's character takes a bit of a back seat to Edgar, which was unfortunate because he's the more entertaining one. He's a born magician even though he was actually born to the aristocracy. He's a charming womanizer who tries to pretend that he's heartless. He does have a big heart though and he goes out of his way to help his friends and acquaintances. I don't even remember how he was described in the book but I honestly kept picturing him as Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride movie, a character I adore, so that helped I'm sure!
I mostly liked James Langton's narration. The voices he used for females were breathy and made all the women sound like airheads even though they weren't. Otherwise he was solid.
All in all, I enjoyed this mystery but I don't think I'll be chomping at the bit to continue the series. Readers who are bigger mystery buffs than I am should enjoy it more....more
Famous puppeteer Rupert Porson rolls into Flavia's village with his assistant in tow one day. His van has broken down and they are stranded. The vicarFamous puppeteer Rupert Porson rolls into Flavia's village with his assistant in tow one day. His van has broken down and they are stranded. The vicar and Flavia help the pair out and the vicar asks Rupert to put on a show for the townspeople. He reluctantly agrees.
The first shock of the show comes when the puppet of Jack appears. He looks just like a young boy who died in the village. The second shock comes when Rupert, not the giant, comes crashing down onto the stage, dead. Flavia can't resist investigating.
This didn't quite have the charm and originality of the first book, but it was still good. I think this one felt a bit too dark for me. I typically steer clear of books that involve children's deaths. I know it happens, but I prefer to read in a world where it doesn't. I guess I like to keep my head in the sand.
The mystery twisted and turned and I had absolutely no idea whodunnit. Once the big reveal arrived, I completely bought it. It was very well done.
I still adore Flavia de Luce. She is so smart and funny and prickly but she is hurting inside. Her sisters get downright vicious when she pushes them far enough. And I think that is part of her problem. She wants some attention and pushing their buttons is the only way to reliably get it. That makes her sound like a needy brat and she's not; she's mostly happy tinkering away in her chemistry lab alone. But we all need human contact now and again, even self-sufficient Flavia.
In my review of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, I wrote about my love/hate relationship with narrator Jayne Entwistle. She had grown on me by the end of that book so I continued in audio with this second installment. Now that I'm used to her, I can't imagine reading these books in any other format.
I recommend this series for readers who like precocious, strong female narrators. Flavia is a character I will always remember. I will definitely be continuing with the series....more
Zora Neale Hurston grew up in Eatonville, FL, "the first incorporated all-black township in the United States." In this fictional account of an incideZora Neale Hurston grew up in Eatonville, FL, "the first incorporated all-black township in the United States." In this fictional account of an incident in her childhood, Eatonville at first seems to be idyllic. Sure, the residents aren't very well off, but they're safe and free to be whoever they'd like. After a headless corpse is found by the railroad tracks, Zora and her friend Carrie's perspectives are changed forever.
This was a very fast read. Zora herself is a delight. She reminds me a bit of Anne Shirley in that she names everything around her and has her own mythology to explain the world. She's the leader of this little group of friends and she keeps friends Carrie and Teddy on their toes.
Zora and Carrie get a little too caught up in the events surrounding the murder at the train tracks. They've been on the edges of a lot of the events leading up to the event and curious Zora is trying her best to put all the pieces together. Seeing the world through their innocence, and seeing them just starting to lose that innocence, feels very real. They don't have the experience to really understand what they're seeing at first, but they gain that experience the hard way.
The novel becomes a good introduction to race relations in the US. I can't imagine that it would be an easy read for youngsters, but these kinds of books never are. Nevertheless, it is important that we know our history. The authors don't shy away from alluding to lynchings (note that I did write "alluding to"--nothing is spelled out) or using "the N word," so if your child isn't ready for that, it might be best to save this book for later.
All of that makes the book sound very heavy and depressing. It's mostly not. Zora and Carrie have to deal with some grown-up issues, but they also have fun playing and getting licorice and just being children.
This is a very well-done book that I enjoyed. I recommend it for anyone, but it would be an especially good conversation-starter for parents with children old enough to handle the subject....more
Arabella Dempsey has just seen all her hopes dashed. She's been a companion to her aunt since she was a child and fully expected to inherit from her.Arabella Dempsey has just seen all her hopes dashed. She's been a companion to her aunt since she was a child and fully expected to inherit from her. She realizes that isn't going to happen when her aunt marries a much younger man--the very man that Arabella has been fantasizing about. Does it get any crueler? But Arabella is nothing if not determined and she determines to make her own way in the world and goes to work as a teacher in an all-girls school. Her first day there she literally bumps into everyone's favorite bumbling idiot, Reginald Fitzhugh. You might know him as Turnip. Turnip because he has the brains of one. But Turnip has a big heart and a younger sister and a secret message in a Christmas pudding, and it all adds up to one very fun book.
I confess that I haven't paid a whole lot of attention to Turnip in the other books, but I did love the big doof in this book. He's handsome, and not the brightest crayon, but he has a gigantic heart. He's wrapped around his younger sister's finger, he's rich but doesn't even think about class as a general rule. Everything he's thinking moves across his face, and he's not afraid to defend a lady's honor. Heck, he's willing to play an even bigger idiot and thus put his life on the line for his country! A gentleman indeed!
The action in this book takes place in between The Seduction of the Crimson Rose and The Temptation of the Night Jasmine. Well, it actually overlaps with Night Jasmine. It was interesting to see some of those events from a different perspective.
Oh, and another thing. Jane Austen as a character. Need I say more?
I always read Lauren Willig's books with a gigantic goofy grin on my face and finish them up satisfied and yet looking for more. I don't know if there's really any bigger praise to give a book. This series might not rock my world, but they are some of my favorite "lighter" books. Just go read them if you haven't, and if you have, make sure you read Turnip and Arabella's story. ...more
Amelia Peabody and Emerson have married and had a son, Ramses. They've decided to stay home in England with him and live a quiet life, at least untilAmelia Peabody and Emerson have married and had a son, Ramses. They've decided to stay home in England with him and live a quiet life, at least until he's older. They're both going slowly crazy. Emerson has been reduced to practically begging the neighbor to let him dig in his barrow. Then an opportunity in Egypt presents itself that they just can't turn down. Leaving Ramses with his aunt and uncle, they take off.
Someone is determined to undermine the expedition. Emerson was called in because the original financial backer of the dig was found dead under mysterious circumstances and the chief archaeologist has disappeared. The mysterious events continue under Emerson's supervision, as do the deaths.
I didn't like this book quite as much as the first, but I still enjoyed myself immensely. I remembered how much I like Amelia Peabody, but I had forgotten why. I knew she was a practical woman who had no qualms about taking charge but I forgot how often she messes things up. Not that she would ever admit it. But she's fierce in her love of Egypt and Emerson and she unintentionally left me giggling.
The rest of the characters were a hoot too. I adore Emerson and, despite his legendary temper, he must be a bit of a saint to put up with Amelia. He orchestrated one scene that had me howling with laughter. I didn't know Emerson had it in him! Madame Berengeria, a crazy widow who attaches herself to their party, positively cracked me up. I would have been tempted to wrap my hands around her neck in person but on the page--! I love that Emerson is practically terrified of her. There are several young men flocking around Madame Berengeria's daughter but I have to admit that I had trouble keeping their names straight. One was a persistent reporter who manufactured news when he needed it. I didn't like him at all at first but I came around. The other two were kind of forgettable until one sets himself well apart late in the book. Oh, and while I'm at it, I cannot wait to see more of little Ramses. He may be the match of Amelia and Emerson combined. I can't imagine what kind of holy terror he's going to be.
I never had any idea how the mystery was going to turn out, I just enjoyed the wit as I turned the pages.
I recommend this series for anyone who likes a healthy dose of humor mixed in with their mysteries and an indomitable female lead....more
I have waited entirely too long to write this review--almost a year.
I absolutely loved this story of brilliant little Flavia de Luce. She is goingI have waited entirely too long to write this review--almost a year.
I absolutely loved this story of brilliant little Flavia de Luce. She is going to be intimidating when she grows up. Wait. What am I talking about? She already is intimidating at the tender age of 11 or so. She's a brilliant scientist with an insatiable hunger for knowledge, she's a bratty younger sister, she has a truly wicked sense of humor, and she doesn't see any limits in what she can do. You go, girl.
I had absolutely no idea who had committed this murder or how everything was going to tie together. The story twisted so much on itself that I wondered if the author even had any idea where he was going. In the end, it was obvious that he did.
I listened to this as an audiobook and I eventually came to love Jayne Entwistle's narration. It was touch and go for a bit, I admit. She came across as trying entirely too hard to sound like a young girl, and her rising and falling tone of voice led to some ear-splitting pitches at first. I came around though and now I will be sure to listen to Flavia's future adventures as well.
For those of you who have read Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle and loved Merricat Blackwood, I think you will love Flavia de Luce as well. I kept picturing scenes of these two diabolical girls together and I have to say, I wanted to be in on the mischief they would inevitably make....more
Alexia Maccon, née Tarrabotti, is awakened one morning by her husband bellowing out orders and questions. He doesn't take time to answer her questionsAlexia Maccon, née Tarrabotti, is awakened one morning by her husband bellowing out orders and questions. He doesn't take time to answer her questions, but of course she finds out what's going on later. Something or someone has found a way to completely negate whatever magic makes supernatural beings, well--supernatural. This has London in an uproar. When the phenomenon seems to be traveling north to Scotland, Lord Maccon sets out in that direction too. He wants to investigate further, plus he needs to check in with his old pack. Alexia just can't be left behind, so one dirigible ride later, she joins him up there to find the pack in disarray.
Another fun entry into The Parasol Protectorate! I swear I smiled and giggled the whole way through. Alexia is just as hardheaded and Lord Maccon is just as Alpha. Yum-mmmeeeee. *Waggling eyebrows lasciviously* Alexia is settling into her role as the Woolsey pack's Alpha female with ease. It's a role she was practically made for. There's one confrontation with a member of the pack who has just returned from India that left me laughing. She handled him as only Alexia can. She manages to get herself into even more trouble this time around, believe it or not.
A strange French inventor, Madame Lefoux, makes an appearance too. We're never quite sure what her role is in everything, but she had me hopelessly intrigued. She is to Alexia as Q is to Bond. Talk about a tricked-out parasol! She hooks Alexia up! MacGyver would be jealous of this thing! She's wonderfully eccentric and I couldn't help but love her even as I wondered about her loyalties.
Ivy Hisselpenny and Alexia's sister Felicity have a much-larger role in this book, and all I have to say about that is, "Poor Tunstell. He didn't stand a chance." Ivy's hats are even more garish, Felicity is even bitchier, but their catty spats with each other and Alexia are priceless.
I had an idea what was going on with the mystery and wondered why no one even thought to consider it until the end.
Speaking of the ending...
That's really what knocked this back a star. It's a cliffhanger, it came out of the blue, (Well, sort of. I knew part of what was going on), and it relied heavily on miscommunication. I know miscommunication happens but it irritates the heck out of me when a whole new plot turns on it.
Still, highly recommended for fans of this kind of funny, character-driven, supernatural mystery. I'm anxiously awaiting Blameless. Darn cliffhangers....more
Miss Amelia Peabody is a confirmed spinster. Her father died and left her a comfortable inheritance and she has decided to start traveling to those anMiss Amelia Peabody is a confirmed spinster. Her father died and left her a comfortable inheritance and she has decided to start traveling to those ancient sites they both loved. She acquires the lovely yet troubled Evelyn as a companion in Rome and she sets off to visit Egypt. There, she meets the Emerson brothers. Younger brother Walter is a nice lad, but the older Emerson? Has a towering temper. The group accidentally fall in together and begin investigating some mysterious appearances around the Emersons' archaeological dig.
I loved Amelia! In real life, I would probably chafe against her decisiveness and take-charge attitude, but safely on the page, she was great! She just ignores facts, people or attitudes that don't fit with what she's trying to do and goes about her business of leading everyone around. Fortunately, she's an intelligent woman, so her plans generally do work out for the best. Of course, she has a good heart under her tough exterior, and I was glad to see her friendship with Evelyn softening her up a little bit. I do love how she writes about Emerson. She calls him a big, hard-headed, stubborn bully every chance she gets, but when she gets close to him, she physically melts a little every time. She admits to it in her writing in moments of softness, then she goes on her merry way, arguing with him again.
Emerson was great too. I didn't feel like I got to know him quite as well as I would have liked in this first book of a series, but he's a good match for Amelia. He's just as stubborn, but he's also passionate about archaeology and quietly yet fiercely loyal. Amelia exasperates him to no end, but he acknowledges her as an equal companion.
The mystery part was not that great, and that's the biggest reason this got knocked down a star. I knew who and why, I just wasn't clear on how it fit together.
I had a lot of fun reading this and recommend it if you're looking for a character-driven light read. I giggled pretty frequently throughout the book, and I will definitely be picking up the next book in the series....more
"I should have thought it obvious," I said impatiently, though even at that age I was aware that such things were not obvious to the majority of peopl"I should have thought it obvious," I said impatiently, though even at that age I was aware that such things were not obvious to the majority of people. "I see paint on your pocket-handkerchief, and traces on your fingers where you wiped it away. The only reason to mark bees that I can think of is to enable one to follow them to their hive. You are either interested in gathering honey or in the bees themselves, and it is not the time of year to harvest honey. Three months ago we had an unusual cold spell that killed many hives. Therefore I assume that you are tracking these in order to replenish your own stock."
Retired, fifty-four-year-old Sherlock Holmes is left speechless at this speech from fifteen-year-old Mary Russell. He realizes immediately that he has finally met a mind to match his own, and his retirement might not be quite as boring as he expected.
I haven't read any of Conan Doyle's work recently enough to be able to comment meaningfully on how well the Sherlock in The Beekeeper's Apprentice matches up to the "real" Sherlock. All I can say is that I enjoyed the originals and I enjoyed this one.
Mary is a rare heroine. She's ultra-intelligent, fiercely independent, funny, sharp-spoken, unafraid to get her hands dirty, and ultimately vulnerable.
Sherlock finds himself losing interest in everything around him until Mary comes into his life to both test his wits and learn from him. The pair, who, from the outside would appear to be aloof from everyone else, ultimately save each other.
There were several mysteries the two investigate throughout the book, from Mary's first attempt to solve a small local crime on her own, to the infinitely-bigger plot that almost proves to be the team's undoing. I think the mysteries were strong and would have done the original Sherlock proud, but, like I said, take that with a grain of salt coming from me.
What I mostly liked was the way the two worked together, and watching Mary grow and learn even as she taught Sherlock to rejoin the world. The dynamics between them are never easy but they are always interesting. Other characters obviously put in an appearance, and it was fun to check in on the affable Dr. Watson, but it was Mary and Sherlock's characters and their interactions that made this book for me.
If you aren't too much of a Sherlock purist, go ahead and pick this up. It was an interesting look at a couple of complicated minds and I truly enjoyed reading it. I'll be continuing on with the series....more
Children are missing from Cambridge, the town's Jews have been blamed, and King Henry II is receiving less revenue while the Jews are in hiding. ClearChildren are missing from Cambridge, the town's Jews have been blamed, and King Henry II is receiving less revenue while the Jews are in hiding. Clearly something must be done. Enter Adelia Aguilar. She has been trained at the world-renowned and forward-thinking school of medicine in Salerno, Italy. Her specialty? Corpses. She is a mistress of the art of death and the dead "speak" to her. She's called in to examine the body of the one child who has been found and, along with her friends, try to find the killer.
This was a page-turner for me, mostly because of Adelia. She feels completely real. She's super-intelligent but hopeless in society. She's great with her patients but clueless as to how to interact with them outside the examining room. She's a feminist in a time before the word was dreamed of. She tries to hold herself aloof from everyone, but her heart's too big for that and she ends up caring in spite of herself. She feels like someone I would like to know in real life.
The other characters are a great supporting cast. For the most part, they're reasonably well-rounded and I wound up caring about them too. My favorite was the little urchin, Ulff.
The mystery was solid. I did guess part of it, but not the whole thing. I did end up being very surprised by the end.
One thing that did bother me, and I'm not quite sure who to "blame" for this, is that this book takes place around the time that The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett ended, but this one felt like it could have been centuries later. Maybe it was just me, but Follett's England under Henry II was a brutal, hopeless, scary place, and Franklin's England at the same time felt like it could have taken place under Henry VIII, much, much later. I don't know who got it right, but there was a huge difference in the feel of the technology and the lifestyles.
Another small thing is that the very last chapter felt like a history lesson tacked on. There was some balance with the beginning, because it began and ended with a disinterested person making observations about what he or she is seeing, but the very last page or two were just straight-up history. It was interesting, don't get me wrong, but it felt like that kind of thing should have gone into the author's notes at the end.
Those are small things though, and overall I really, really enjoyed the book. I highly recommend it to those who like historical mysteries, and I'll be picking up the second in the series. ...more
Matthew Shardlake has been asked to defend a young woman accused of the terrible murder of a child. The problem is that the girl refuses to speak in hMatthew Shardlake has been asked to defend a young woman accused of the terrible murder of a child. The problem is that the girl refuses to speak in her own defense and time is running out. Luckily, Thomas Cromwell intervenes and gains Shardlake two more weeks to prepare a defense. In exchange, Matthew must find the secret to the recently rediscovered Greek Fire, a technology that promises to place England firmly in control of her own destiny.
For me, this was really as enjoyable a read as Dissolution. Shardlake is perhaps even more full of melancholy, doubt, and loneliness, but he hasn't quite lost his faith in either God or humanity. He sees innocence in the eyes of the accused murderess and sets out to prove it, despite the unpopularity of her case. She has already been tried and hanged in the court of public opinion, but Shardlake desperately wants to see justice done.
The one weakness for me was in the two plotlines. This could easily have been two separate books, but instead one book had the two stories jammed together. The deadline given for both adds to the urgency of the story, but that felt a bit like an artificial device added by the author for that very reason.
Overall, though, Sansom has created a great character in Matthew Shardlake and surrounded him with a few other characters that are more complex than meets the eye. Jack Barak is introduced in this book, and at first he appears to be a beautiful bully, but he quickly shows that he is much more than that.
In reading the author's notes at the end, it sounds like he has stayed as true to the period and history as possible. At the same time, he has taken something that was a bit of a mystery already and had fun with it. Something along the lines of, "Well, I know this didn't really cause that, but wouldn't it be interesting if it did?"
I would recommend this to readers who like their mysteries with a bit of history thrown in, or vice versa. This was a highly entertaining read and I look forward to reading the next in the series....more
Matthew Shardlake has been summoned by Archbishop Cranmer to assist with some law work as King Henry makes a royal progress through the rebellious norMatthew Shardlake has been summoned by Archbishop Cranmer to assist with some law work as King Henry makes a royal progress through the rebellious north. He must also try to keep a prisoner alive for later questioning. But conspiracies still abound in the area and Shardlake's life is endangered when he stumbles onto something.
Reading this felt like slogging through the mud created by the never-ending rain in the book. It just dragged on and on and on. Finally, in about the last hundred pages, the action picked up and everything started to get interesting.
I enjoyed reading more about Shardlake and Barak, but overall, I have a lot of problems with the book. There were a lot of typos that drove me crazy. The Bealknap case (remember that from Dark Fire?) is still. dragging. on. C'mon and let it die already! With Shardlake being in the barbarous north, he obviously doesn't really understand the dialect. The explanation of some of the more common terms was unbelievably clumsy. One character basically says out of the blue, "Oh, by the way, old boy, did you know that gate means street up here?" Yes, it really was that bad.
Reading this so soon after Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth was actually pretty interesting. In Pillars, we get to see how important the monasteries are and the hard work that goes into building a cathedral. In Sansom's books, the pendulum has swung the other way and they're being destroyed. I've never really thought too much about how much art, architecture, and history was lost in these kinds of purges, but the juxtaposition of the two books really brought that home for me.
I'll keep reading, and if you've read the others, I would recommend you do the same. It was still decent, and I do look forward to the next in the series. I just hope it's better....more
Henrietta Dorrington's best bookish friend, Charlotte Lansdowne, stars in her own adventure in the latest installment in The Pink Carnation series. HeHenrietta Dorrington's best bookish friend, Charlotte Lansdowne, stars in her own adventure in the latest installment in The Pink Carnation series. Her childhood infatuation, Robert, Duke of Dovedale, has returned from India. But he's sending her decidedly mixed signals. Is he interested or not? Or is he involved in his own spy game?
Charlotte just isn't quite Henrietta, Letty, or even Mary. She spent much of the book just fantasizing about Robert. While interesting enough, I kept waiting for the comedy of misunderstandings and the adventure of French spies pitted against our faithful British crew to get started. About halfway through, things finally took off, Charlotte grew a backbone, and I got really interested. I think I finished the second half of the book in one night in bed, while it had taken me several days to get through the first half.
As for Robert--well, he just never felt very real to me. Since I mostly saw him through Charlotte's eyes, and he honestly wasn't very real to her either, I guess that's understandable. But he won't be competing with Miles for my affections anytime soon.
The humor that I've loved throughout the series still had me giggling like a schoolgirl, and I liked the historical backdrop of this novel. It's a few years later (I think), and I still can't say that I know anything about the period, but I can say that this American girl is a little more interested in "mad King George" than in Napoleon. Is it shameful for someone who reads as much historical fiction as I do to admit that?
I'm about to forget about Eloise and Colin. I've never been very interested in their present day story, but I did finally get curious about what was going on this time. Let's just say that Colin has been keeping secrets.
So really, this was three and a half stars, but I'll round up here, mostly because I love the series so much. Highly recommended to those who don't take their historical fiction too seriously and who don't mind some romance thrown in for good measure. Now I can't wait for the next in the series, The Betrayal of the Blood Lily to come out! Just about a month to go!...more