Dearest Rogue is the latest installment in Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series; a series that I have not read. Being the eighth book in the series, I worried thDearest Rogue is the latest installment in Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series; a series that I have not read. Being the eighth book in the series, I worried that I would come into this one and be completely lost, but the premise caught my attention and I decided to give it a try. While characters from the previous book make appearances, I never felt lost, and I ended up loving the book (I may even have to read the previous books in the series).
Lady Phoebe Batten is sister to a powerful duke, but because her eyesight has been slowly deteriorating since childhood, her brother would prefer to have her guarded at all times. And since kidnapping attempts ensue, that need for protection just might be warranted even if Phoebe would understandably like some freedom in her movements.
Guarding Phoebe is Captain James Trevillion, a quiet, older, former dragoon with a severe leg injury. Trevillion is dedicated to his job, but it certainly helps that his charge is young and beautiful. Even knowing that nothing can come of his attraction to Lady Phoebe, Trevillion is determined to protect her from all things. Unfortunately for Trevillion, his charge has decided that this protection business is getting in the way of living life. When the latest attempt to kidnap Phoebe is thwarted, Trevillion decides that he needs to take action, and suddenly Phoebe is aware that her guard is much more than a silent shadow.
What was so appealing about Dearest Rogue was the seemingly mismatched pairing of Trevillion and Lady Phoebe. James Trevillion is silent and grim, whereas Phoebe is optimistic and giving to rambling, and together they are quite simply adorable.
“I am not kissing you,” he said with the awful finality of a judge pronouncing a death sentence.
“You know very well why not.”
“Nooo,” she said slowly, thinking it over. “No, I can’t say that I do, really. I mean I know why you think we oughtn’t kiss again: you’re as old as the Thames, you’re below me in rank, I’m too young and frivolous, and you much too serious, et cetera, et cetera, and et cetera, but frankly I don’t have any reasons not to kiss you.”
From the start, Trevillion is attracted to Phoebe, but it’s his own personal misgivings about a possibility of a relationship between them that holds him back. Trevillion is caught up in their difference in ages and station, but it’s only when Phoebe starts to reciprocate his feelings that Trevillion starts to realize that they just might have a chance. It’s Phoebe’s persistence in pursuing Trevillion that made Dearest Rogue such an endearing romance.
Alongside one of the most adorable romances that I’ve read in awhile, is a mystery element. Who exactly is behind the attempted kidnappings? Readers are treated to that information early on, and with that, they are also introduced to the heroine of the next book in the series, Sweetest Scoundrel. Eve Dinwoody is the sister of the man that tried to kidnap Phoebe, and it’s clear from the start that she has a complicated past and relationship with her brother. This “setting of the stage” worked really well for me. Not only does it have relevance to the plot in Dearest Rogue, it also captured my attention and encouraged me to add the next book to my to-read pile.
If you’re a fan of fast-paced and adorable romances, you can’t go wrong with Dearest Rogues. This is a romance of opposites and it was executed very well as by the end, readers are well aware that despite their differences, Trevillion and Phoebe compliment each other perfectly.
Uprooted was a fantastic read for me. The writing evokes the old fashioned, atmospheric quality of a a fairy tale from the very beginning:
Our Dragon d
Uprooted was a fantastic read for me. The writing evokes the old fashioned, atmospheric quality of a a fairy tale from the very beginning:
Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as through we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.
In Agnieszka’s village the Dragon chooses a girl once every ten years. The young woman selected is bound in service to the Dragon, and when they are released at twenty-seven they are set free, usually leaving the valley by the Wood for good. In this story it’s Agnieszka who is unexpectedly chosen to serve the Dragon. Agnieszka was never considered refined enough to serve the illustrious wizard, rather it’s her best friend, Kasia, who was thought to be chosen. Naturally, Agnieszka is terrified to be selected and her fear is not unfounded especially when she’s pressed into using magic that she had no idea that she even possessed. It doesn't help that the Dragon is a rude and detached man that seems to care nothing for the actual people that he protects by holding the Wood at bay.
While Agnieszka’s abilities don’t manifest in the expected, methodical practice that the Dragon would have liked, Agnieszka does have a connection with the land of her village and more dangerously, the Wood that they protect everyone from.
The Wood has slowly crept forward over the years, taking land and people alike, transforming them into the unrecognizable. When Kasia is taken, Agnieszka risks everything to find her friend, setting off a chain of events that has serious repercussions for Agnieszka and the Dragon.
While the setting, premise and language used are evocative, what I really enjoyed about Uprooted was its depiction of the friendship between Agnieszka and Kasia as well as the symbolism of the Wood.
Agnieszka was an excellent character in her own right. I loved her naivety and drive to do good, but I also liked her commitment to her friendship. When Kasia is taken into the Wood, Agnieszka is well aware that it is unlikely that she’ll be able to save her friend, but she must try. This leads to a wonderful moment in the book where both young women see each other’s petty jealousies and grievances towards one another. Agnieszka is jealous of Kasia’s poise and beauty, Kasia is jealous of Agnieszka’s relationship with her parents and the freedom that she experienced as the unlikely choice for the Dragon. What’s fantastic about this moment is that Agnieszka recognizes their differences and anger towards one another and goes forward. There’s no real conflict from their mutual grievances, there’s just a steadfast friendship between two young women thrust into a difficult situation who continue to remain friends with an awareness that neither are perfect.
The Wood was also an interesting concept in Uprooted. The author plays around quite a bit with the theme of “rooting” to a specific place or person. Agnieszka is the embodiment of an attachment to a specific place. She loves her village and the people that she shares that life with, even if it means living in the shadow of the dangerous Wood. In contrast, the Dragon would do anything to avoid making a commitment to the people and the land of the village. And it’s the idea of an attachment or “rooting” that is at the heart of the problem of the Wood. The theme is beautifully executed and flows extraordinarily well with the overarching plot of the novel.
Ultimately, Uprooted is a wonderful, adventurous tale perfect for those who have seemingly outgrown fairy tales. This one has great writing, great characters, a compelling plot, and a subdued romance. I only wish that I could read this again for the first time to appreciate its loveliness.
When I heard about Melissa Lander’s Starflight I was pretty darn excited. I am Originally reviewed at The Book Adventures.
Space adventure? Count me in!
When I heard about Melissa Lander’s Starflight I was pretty darn excited. I am a huge fan of anything set in space and if there isn’t an over abundance of science-y things, that makes things even better (for me, at least). Facts matter not! Starflight was a fun, space-set adventure, perfect for readers looking for something fast-paced and entertaining.
Solara Brooks is a young woman with a past. She’s branded as a criminal and because of that she can’t get a job. Desperate times call for desperate measures and Solara indentures herself to former classmate, Doran Spaulding, so that she can get passage aboard a ship. Doran had made Solara’s high school life…not pleasant and doesn’t do much better now that she’s working for him (and I do mean that she works, she’s doing his laundry, fetching his meals etc. I thought the whole servant thing would be more problematic than it was). Of course, the tide turns when Doran’s framed for a crime he didn’t commit and now has to rely on the very woman that he’d rather ignore. Space adventure gone sideways.
What I liked about Starflight is that it was exactly what it claimed to be. It was a adventurous romance. There was a lot of action, space chases, but there was equally a lot of emphasis on the romance between Solara and Doran. Now, for those who feel some trepidation about a romance between two characters where one is so obviously in a position of vulnerability (Solara is Doran’s servant after all), I don't think you need to be concerned. The idea that Solara is Doran’s servant and therefore bound to his authority made me a tad nervous, especially because I knew romance between them was going to be a big part of the book. There was potential for this to really, really not work. While I didn't think the potential power disparity between Solara and Doran was fully explored in Starflight, I still enjoyed the book. Doran treated Solara like crap when she was working for him, but he didn’t cross the moral Rubicon. That said, I couldn’t help but think of the possibilities of what could happen to someone like Solara in this situation and the potential for gross abuse if she had indentured herself to someone else. So, I think some readers might need to suspend some belief when it comes to this whole indentured servitude thing.
The thorny issue of class and unequal power aside, the romance between Solara and Doran was a lot of fun. These two hated each other and they both made it very clear. Solara even gets the chance for Doran to act as her servant, which I think helped to balance out their initial uneven status. Being forced to work together, made both Solara and Doran realize new things about each other, making them see each other in a new light. The tried and true enemies-to-lovers trope is in action and doing well in Starflight.
The only other niggle I have about Starflight is that I personally found it really long. While the action and adventure element had a lot of appeal, at times, I found it made for a lengthy read. There was a lot of stuff going on in Starflight, a lot of stuff that Solara and Doran find themselves involved them. I didn’t always find this to be effective, but it will likely appeal to readers that enjoy heavy plotting. And, it sets up book two very nicely.
For a sci-fic adventure/romance, Starflight accomplishes the job. The characters were engaging, the romance was mature for a YA book, and it was all-in-all a fun read. I need more space adventures in my life!...more
I’ve been a long-time fan of Simone St. James and I longingly await each new book. I will admit that I stru Originally reviewed at The Book Adventures.
I’ve been a long-time fan of Simone St. James and I longingly await each new book. I will admit that I struggled a bit with the first half of the book, but there is a turning point in Lost Among the Living and when I reached that there was no way I was putting the book down. If you read it, you will no exactly which event I am referring to.
Jo Manders is a young widow still mourning the loss of her husband, Alex, three years after his disappearance during the war. Due to the fact that Alex’s body was never recovered, Jo has been living in a state of limbo and strained finances, as she cannot receive her widow’s portion without petitioning the court. Instead of pursuing the legal channels, Jo accepts Alex’s aunt’s offer to become her companion. After traveling on the continent with Dottie it’s time to return home. Dottie’s son is returning from his stay at a hospital and Dottie wants to be home to greet him; Jo must also go as she has no other place to call home.
After arriving at the family seat, Jo starts to see and feel things that are not of this world. Ghostly apparitions, objects moved, fallen leaves in her bedroom are just some of the inexplicable events Jo encounters. Soon after seeing the ghost of a young girl, Jo discovers that Dottie’s daughter committed suicide at the house years earlier. Despite or perhaps because of the tensions in the house, Jo decides to investigate what led to Dottie’s daughter’s apparent suicide. Jo discovers that Dottie may not have killed herself, and on the day of her death, Alex was present at the house on leave. This begs the question of what exactly Jo's husband was doing on leave that caused him not to inform his wife.
For those familiar with Simone St. James, you will immediately recognize the author’s Gothic tone as well as the continued theme of life after the First World War. Time and again, St. James’ style impresses me and sets the stage for an atmospheric and entrancing read; Lost Among the Living is no exception. With the presence of a large family manor, the Gothic overtones of Lost Among the Living are heightened, suggesting a traditional haunting. Of course, there is much more at work than a ghostly apparition and to say more would spoil the meat of the story.
Lost Among the Living also continues on with the author’s exploration of life after the war. In the case of this novel, it is one woman’s very personal loss from the war – that of her husband. Jo feels deeply the loss of her husband. They were not married long, and her loss is compounded by the fact that legally, Alex is not officially dead. Since becoming a companion to Dottie, Jo has been going through the motions; she is quite literally lost among the living. The ambiguity of Jo’s position as a widow or not forces Jo to exist in a kind of limbo that she struggles with. With Jo, St. James successfully explores the price and frustration of those who remained at the home front during the war:
Someone should write a poem, I thought, about the women. Not just about the men marching bravely to war and dying, but about their wives, their girls, their mothers and sisters and daughters, sitting in silence and screaming into the darkness. Unable to fight, unable to stop it, unable to tell the war to fuck itself. We fought our war, too, it seemed to me, and if it was a war of a different kind, the pain of it was no more bearable. Someone should write a poem about the women.
But I already knew that no one ever would (p. 167).
In Jo, readers are shown the absolute powerlessness of the women who lost during the war. There is no acknowledgement to these women other than the token respect of a connection to one who has lost their life or limb in serving their country. The exploration of the role of women during the war is not overt in Lost Among the Living, but when it does make its appearance, it is a powerful force.
Lost Among the Living demonstrates the author’s familiarity with the post-war era, which is effortlessly combined with a thrilling and haunting mystery. Lost Among the Living is highly recommended for both historical fiction and mystery fans....more
The Art of Taming a Rake features one of my favourite historical romance tropes: the marriage of convenienOriginally reviewed at The Book Adventures.
The Art of Taming a Rake features one of my favourite historical romance tropes: the marriage of convenience.
Venetia Stratham has returned from the continent after hearing rumours that Quinn Wilde, Earl of Traherne is paying court to her younger sister. Not on Venetia’s watch he’s not.
Burned by her rakish betrothed years ago, Venetia sets out to make sure that her sister does not suffer a relationship with a lord that is incapable of being faithful. Naturally, Venetia decides she must confront Quinn in a gentleman’s. Just managing to skate ruin (again), Venetia heads over to Quinn’s mansion to confront him once again having not received the definitive answer she wanted. When Quinn’s shot and Venetia found holding the pistol, Quinn decides to do the honorable thing and proposes marriage, otherwise Venetia will be the talk of the ton and her sister’s chances at a successful marriage will be ruined. Since saving her sister was the whole point of her escapes, Venetia reluctantly agrees to the marriage with the caveat that she can return to the continent when Quinn determines who’s out to harm his person. As is expected, this marriage of convenience becomes something less than convenient very quickly.
Considering the whole “marriage of convenience” element to The Art of Taming a Rake I had really high expectations of this book. And while I did like The Art of Taming a Rake there were a few elements that I wasn’t a fan of. First, there was a lot of flowery language - and a lot of usage of the word “tenderness”. I suppose this could have conveyed a deeper sense of emotion between Quinn and Venetia, but for me, it conveyed an artificiality that didn’t appeal to me. The language used also seemed to hide the relationship development rather than have readers participate in the slow burn between Quinn and Venetia. Readers are told that these two are talking and getting closer, but readers don’t actually “see” this happen. Personally, I would have liked a bit more emphasis on Quinn and Venetia’s relationship outside of the bedroom. The author did a great job conveying Quinn and Venetia’s physical intimacy but something was lacking in their emotional intimacy.
In addition to a writing style that was more tell than show, I also found the reasons for Quinn’s reluctance to fall in love a little unrealistic. Venetia’s reasons, those I buy. She jilted her betrothed on their wedding day after he arrives at the church unkempt having just left his mistress’s bed. Yeah, I think Venetia’s warranted in her trust issues. Quinn, on the other hand, was apparently burned by a fortune hunter in his youth (I think he was 18). Now as a thirty-year-old man, Quinn is still hung up on this betrayal. Really? This adult can’t get over having his heart broken as a young lordling? Somehow I can’t believe that, nor did I feel that it fit within Quinn’s character. Since readers have very little information about this betrayal, it seemed an issue with out of proportion consequences to Quinn and Venetia's relationship.
While the initial banter between Quinn and Venetia was done really, really well, by the end I felt something was missing. There’s a large chunk of their relationship that I just feel like readers were not privy to. Venetia seemed to “tame” Quinn rather quickly with Quinn only putting up a token resistance. The Art of Taming a Rake is a nice read, but ultimately I was looking for stronger character development between the leads....more
Since discovering the French Canadian village of Three Pines and Inspector Gamache this year, Louise Penny has been a go-to audiobook companion for mySince discovering the French Canadian village of Three Pines and Inspector Gamache this year, Louise Penny has been a go-to audiobook companion for my long commute. This latest installment is another wonderful addition to the series, proving that life after retirement is not as uneventful as the former Chief of Homicide would like.
Following the events of Long Way Home, Gamache and his wife have more-or-less settled into a quiet life in Three Pines. Trips to the Bistro, socializing with friends, reading good books – it’s an idyllic existence (but since this is Three Pines, this is likely not to last). The contentment is ended when a nine-year-old boy, known for telling tales, is murdered just after announcing to a crowd of people/suspects that there is a big gun in the woods, a big gun with a monster on it. Convinced that the boy just might have been telling the truth, Gamache assists his old team and confronts his dawning awareness that he needs to come to a decision about his own life: what comes next?
As usual with Penny, The Nature of the Beast is beautifully written. The atmosphere of Three Pines is once again skillfully rendered adding to the overall strength of the story. It’s a fictional village that feels like home – even if it has a highly unusual rate of murder and mayhem. What contributes to this sense of really “knowing” this fictional place is the level of detail that Penny reveals about her characters. Gamache and all those that inhabit Three Pines are highly realized and nuanced. Slowly, through each book, more facets of characters are revealed and it’s that sense of getting to know these characters that keeps me coming back to this series.
What I also really love about Penny is her ability to bring to light aspects of Canadian history. Let’s face it, Canadian history has a bit of a reputation for being dull; however, in Penny’s hands its anything but. In The Nature of the Beast Penny’s historical tidbits relate to Canada and the arms race, and the author’s note at the end of the book reveal the actual fact that inspired this aspect of the novel. I am completely blow away by this author’s ability to weave seemingly unrelated historical fact into a coherent and rich mystery. Penny does not write cookie-cutter mysteries and The Nature of the Beast once again demonstrates the author’s skill as a writer.
Since I’ve enjoyed the majority of this series on audiobook, it’s of course necessary for me to remark on the narration of The Nature of the Beast. The narrator of all the previous books, Ralph Cosham, passed away, so with this newest book, readers (and listeners) are also introduced to a new narrator. Robert Bathurst of Downton Abbey is the new narrator of the series. Having become so attached to the previous narrator, I have to admit that I found it jarring to listen to a new narration and somewhat difficult to differentiate the various characters Bathurst was narrating for. Quite frankly the new narrator had very big shoes to fill. For many, Cosham is Gamache, so I have a feeling that audiobook fans might have a bit of difficulty warning up to the new narrator. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the narration, it’s simply an adjustment. Since the audio version is why I initially started this series, I personally found it hard to enjoy the narrator to the same extent.
For anyone that has been a fan of the Gamache series, The Nature of the Beast is another fantastic addition to the series. Penny continues to write an intelligent and compelling mystery in the fictional world of Three Pines. Readers of the series wont be disappointed and will be left wondering at the changes that are coming to this series. I for one, cannot wait to learn what Gamache’s next step will be.
The Kings of London is Shaw’s second Breen and Tozer mystery, and this one once more takes Breen into a realm of experience he’s unfamiliar with. WhenThe Kings of London is Shaw’s second Breen and Tozer mystery, and this one once more takes Breen into a realm of experience he’s unfamiliar with. When a mutilated body is found in a burned house, Breen is charged to investigate only to find his efforts hampered by the victim’s political father. It certainly wouldn’t be good press if it was discovered that Francis Pugh was a heroin addict when his minister father campaigns against it.
Assisting Breen once again is Helen Tozer who’s on her last days with the police. Soon Tozer will be returning to her family’s farm to help out, but not before Breen convinces her to help in his not exactly officially sanctioned investigations.
What shines in The Kings of London is the fact that Breen continues to be delightfully out of touch with pop culture:
The woman in the cotton skirt said, “My old man says when they get enough money they’re going to build a giant computer when all this information is held so anyone can get it at any time.”
“Wow,” said Breen. “A giant computer.”
“Wow?” said Tozer. “Did you say that?”
“I don’t know,” said Breen. “It just came out.”
“Are you a cop?” said the woman, looking Breen up and down.
“Yes,” said Breen.
“Yes,” said Tozer.
The girl started untying the thread. “I can’t believe I was going to give the fuzz one of my bracelets,” she said.
“Are you going to say ‘Cool’ next?” she asked Breen, when the girl in the long skirt had scurried off down the curving corridor.
“I’m sorry,” said Breen (p. 223-224).
Cathal Breen is not your average lead detective. The fact that Breen does feel out of touch with pop culture and makes expected and human errors works to make him an appealing character. Super sleuth he’s not, but Breen gives readers a human character that they can route for.
The mystery element to The Kings of London was less interesting than the first book, She’s Leaving Home; however, there is an overarching theme of police corruption that I think we’ll see wrap-up in the final book in the trilogy. The Kings of London shows the less than scrupulous actions of the London police force and the question becomes whether or not Breen will avoid that corruption or if his capitulation is inevitable. Readers are not giving an answer in The Kings of London, but Breen gets some first hand experience of how that corruption can be both good and bad for him in particular.
My one little gripe with The Kings of London and the trilogy so far is that it is referred to as a DS Breen and WPC Tozer mystery. So you would think that Tozer would get some more screen time. For the most part, the novel is related in Breen's perspective. I would love for readers to actually get some of Tozer's perspective. Because Tozer is younger I would assume that she has a different reaction to the very things that confuse Breen; I would dearly like to "see" her side of things. At this point, I feel like there's a piece of the story missing, so here's hoping that this might change in the final book.
The Kings of London offers readers refreshingly human characters in a time characterized by it’s rampant change. While fans of strict procedurals may not appreciate the style and setting of The Kings of London, those that like their mysteries with interesting characters and an examination of cultural era will appreciate the detail that can be found in The Kings of London. This is a mystery that I highly recommend.
A Curious Beginning is the launch of Raybourn’s newest series featuring amateur sleuth, adventuress, lepidopterist, and lover of foreign men, Miss VerA Curious Beginning is the launch of Raybourn’s newest series featuring amateur sleuth, adventuress, lepidopterist, and lover of foreign men, Miss Veronica Speedwell. Veronica has just buried her spinster aunt, her last living guardian, and she’s ready for another adventure. However, this adventure is much closer to home than she could have anticipated. Arriving home from her aunt’s funeral she surprises a burglar and hitches a ride to London with a German baron that claims to have known her mother and father, both of whom Veronica has no remembrance of.
Once in London, her self-appointed guardian stashes Veronica with a trusted ally, Stoker. Stoker is none to happy to have Veronica as a guest; he is not impressed with her opinions on his collection, but he nonetheless complies. When the baron is murdered, Veronica and Stoker are suddenly on the run. Stoker is the prime suspect and doesn’t quite trust the fact that Veronica wasn’t complicit in the murder of his friend. And well, Veronica, she's not one to turn down an adventure.
What should have been an amazing read ended up being a bit lackluster for me. Veronica should have been an intriguing heroine; however, her quirkiness ended up coming across as a caricature rather than something authentic. While Veronica's originally was intriguing and refreshing for a Victorian mystery, I have to confess to finding somewhat over-the-top by the end of the book.
I had been an obstinate child and a willful one too, and it did not escape me that it had cost these two spinster ladies a great deal of adjustment to make a place for me in their lives. It was for this reason, as I grew older, that I made every effort to curb my obstinacy and be cheerful and placid with them. And it was for this reason that I eventually made my escape, fleeing England whenever possible for tropical climes where I could indulge my passion for lepidoptery. It was not until my first butterflying expedition at the age of eighteen – a monthlong sojourn in Switzerland – that I discovered men could be just as interesting as moths.
Initially, Veronica is a wholly unique and adventurous young woman. However, Veronica’s individuality quickly ventured into pure artifice. Veronica’s character was so unique that it became unrealistic and less entertaining. The idea behind Veronica was great, but for me, the execution of such a character was lacking. I didn't need to be told over and over again that Veronica was a different kind of woman.
As for readers of the mystery genre, I have to say I think you’ll likely be disappointed by A Curious Beginning. This one is all snappy dialogue and not much substance. The dialogue between Stoker and Veronica is fantastic:
I had just returned to the caravan and resumed adventuring with Arcadia Brown when Mr. Stoker burst in, soaking wet and covered in a soapy lather. His hair was dripping rivulets onto the floor, and he had wrapped a bath sheet about himself like a toga. He loomed over me, drenched and panting, having obviously run all the way from the bath tent.
“You look like one of the less capable Roman emperors,” I observed. “Go back and finish the job properly.”
“I have a crow to pluck with you. It just occurred to me – “
“It just occurred to you that I was at liberty and might make my escape. Yes, I know. You are a wretched abductor, Mr. Stoker. I suggest you do not take up felonious activity as a career.”
His expression was sullen. “You will have to make allowances. It is, after all, my first abduction.”
However, snappy one-liners and witty repartee does not compensate for the lackluster mystery. Stoker and Veronica never really do any investigating. Instead they run off to the circus and say witty things to one another. A small part of A Curious Beginning was actually devoted to who killed the German baron who helped Veronica. And the discovery of Veronica’s parentage just didn’t seem as impactful as it should have been. As mysteries go, this one was very light.
So, A Curious Beginning didn’t particularly impress me. That said, the back-and-forth between Veronica and Stoker was entertaining and that alone would make me consider reading the next book in the series, although I will be hoping for a stronger mystery and not side adventures where our hero and heroine seem to forget all about the murder they just might be imprisoned for.
I’ve been on a bit of a mystery kick lately (Louise Penny, you are a master!) and I came across William Shaw’s British mystery, She’s Leaving Home. SeI’ve been on a bit of a mystery kick lately (Louise Penny, you are a master!) and I came across William Shaw’s British mystery, She’s Leaving Home. Set in London in 1968 and the first of a trilogy, disgraced Detective Sergeant Cathal Breen investigates the apparent murder of a young woman. What initially seems to be an open-and-shut case soon becomes something much more complicated. Politics, race relations, music, and the changing shape of modern day London all force Breen to look deeper into this young woman’s death. What was once a simple investigation soon becomes all too complicated.
Assisting Breen is newcomer, policewoman Helen Tozer, a woman motivated by her own past, who offers Breen some insight into a world he’s realizing that he increasingly doesn’t understand. He doesn't get the Beatles craze, nor the fashion preferences. Really, Breen's wondering when all these changes happened, seemingly under his nose. Battling both internal and external prejudices and assumptions, Breen and Tozer slowly unravel the unexpected motivation behind the young woman’s murder.
She’s Leaving Home was an excellent mystery novel. It had the perfect balance between mystery and fully fleshed out characters. I’m not always a fan of the mystery genre since, all too often, the mystery comes at the expense of having flat, boring, unexplored characters. This is the not the case in She’s Leaving Home. Breen is an interesting character. He’s not some amazing Sherlock-like cop. He’s reeling from the death of his father and feels totally at sea in the world around him. He doesn’t understand the Beatles craze, he’s oblivious to some of the inter-departmental politics going on in his station. Despite the fact that Breen isn’t your average detective hero, what I like about She’s Leaving Home is that readers see a transformation in Breen. At first he’s very hesitant, almost afraid of doing his job. But slowly readers learn that this is a guy with integrity working in a job that is rife with corruption and prejudice.
Helen Tozer, like Breen, is a bit of an outcast, courtesy of her gender. As a woman, Tozer doesn't get a lot of respect from her male colleagues. Despite the opposition she encounters, Tozer is enthusiastic and not without her own resources. With Tozer, Breen gets some insight into the changing world around him, although this does mean he has to put up with her rather incautious driving abilities. Breen and Tozer are a perfect pairing; they both bring necessary elements to the investigation. Their dynamic alone will have me coming back for book two.
The 1960s setting is another strong part of She’s Leaving Home. The era plays an important part in the mystery because public opinion of the time helps to shape the direction that Breen and Tozer investigate. Should Breen and Tozer buy into the prejudices of the bystanders, who seem to assume that the murderer must be the Africans that moved in next door? Shaw never sugarcoats less than politically correct attitudes of those directly and indirectly involved in the murder investigation; a cozy mystery this is not. For me, the realism affected in She’s Leaving Home was a huge draw for me. The setting was absolutely well-rendered and I appreciated the fact that it actually played a part in the book and that it wasn’t there as window dressing. Great setting and great characters what more could you ask for?
I absolutely loved reading She’s Leaving Home. The setting hooked me, but the characters kept me interested. This is the perfect read for those who love British crime and who love their characters imperfectly human. This one is highly recommended!