Well-heeled travelers from around the world flock to the Mena House Hotel--an exotic gem in the heart of Cairo where cocktails flow, adventure dispels the aftershocks of World War I, and deadly dangers wait in the shadows . . . Egypt, 1926. Fiercely independent American Jane Wunderly has made up her mind: she won't be swept off her feet on a trip abroad. Despite her Aunt Millie's best efforts at meddling with her love life, the young widow would rather gaze at the Great Pyramids of Giza than into the eyes of a dashing stranger. Yet Jane's plans to remain cool and indifferent become ancient history in the company of Mr. Redvers, a roguish banker she can't quite figure out . . .
While the Mena House has its share of charming guests, Anna Stainton isn't one of them. The beautiful socialite makes it clear that she won't share the spotlight with anyone--especially Jane. But Jane soon becomes the center of attention when she's the one standing over her unintentional rival's dead body.
Now, with her innocence at stake in a foreign country, Jane must determine who can be trusted, and who had motive to commit a brutal murder. Between Aunt Millie's unusual new acquaintances, a smarmy playboy with an off-putting smile, and the enigmatic Mr. Redvers, someone has too many secrets. Can Jane excavate the horrible truth before her future falls to ruin in Cairo . . . and the body count rises like the desert heat?
Jane Wunderly accompanied her Aunt Millie to Egypt in 1926, looking forward to her holiday and seeing the pyramids as had been her dream. She was recently widowed and determined to never marry again, but Aunt Millie was equally determined to see she did. When the two women encountered Mr Redvers at Mena House, Millie was smug while Jane was wary. As the guests mingled while getting to know one another, Jane could see there were some strange and different people among the guests. The Colonel for example was a lovely man, while his daughter immediately made eyes at all the men. Jane wasn’t the only woman to feel her glare.
But when Jane found a body in one of the guest rooms, she was totally in shock. And when she was declared a suspect by the local police, Jane knew she had to find the killer to clear her name. Could she trust Mr Redvers to help? Between the staff and all the guests, there were many who would fit on Jane’s list of suspects. She needed to eliminate to find the murderer…
Murder at the Mena House is the 1st in the "A Jane Wunderly Mystery" series by Erica Ruth Neubauer and I loved it! Jane is an excellently crafted character, strong and determined and although she did some foolish things, she knew they were but did them anyway. I can’t wait for the next in the series and recommend this one highly.
With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my digital ARC to read in exchange for my honest review.
It's 1926, and American Jane Wunderly is vacationing with her aunt at Mena House, a luxurious Egyptian hotel overlooking the pyramids. When Anna Stainton, a hotel guest who dislikes Jane, is found murdered, and Jane's missing Scarab is discovered in her room, she immediately becomes a suspect in Anna's death. Jane is determined to prove her innocence and teams up with another guest, the handsome and mysterious, Mr. Redvers, to find the culprit.
Murder at the Mena House by Erica Ruth Neubauer is a great start to a new series. This is a fun and delightful historical cozy mystery, with interesting characters and a puzzling mystery that kept me on the edge of my seat. The story is well-paced, and the author does a wonderful job with the setting. Her descriptions make it very easy to feel like you are right there with Jane, looking at the gorgeous views surrounding the Mena House, visiting the museums and the pyramids, enjoying the camel races and you could almost feel the heat on your skin. Jane is a likable and relatable character and you can't help but cheer her on and admire her determination to not let the past stop her from enjoying life to the fullest. I enjoyed my time with this book and look forward to solving more mysteries with Jane.
I received an ARC from Kensington Books through NetGalley. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
In this delightful debut cozy mystery, we are introduced to Jane Wunderly, a recent war widow. It is 1926, and Jane has traveled to Cairo, Egypt with her Aunt Millie for a vacation at the luxurious Mena House. Although her husband was killed in the war, Jane is keeping secret the truth about her marriage with a man who was not all he seemed. She is more interested in visiting the pyramids, than in the single men at the hotel bar. Jane is introduced to Anna Stainton, a British colonel’s daughter, and the two get off to a bad start. When Anna is found shot to death, Jane becomes the number one suspect. Realizing she needs to find out who murdered Anna before she winds up in jail, Jane begins to investigate her fellow hotel guests in order to find the real killer. Is it the hotel doctor who disappears into the opium dens; the vaudeville couple who should not be able to afford so expensive a vacation; or could it be her own aunt who has been acting strangely since they arrived. Jane is soon joined in her detecting by the handsome, but mysterious Redvers, who seems anything but the banker he claims to be. Will Jane be able to find the murderer before he or she strikes again?
This was an entertaining cozy mystery, chock full of intrigue, romance and history! The dialogue is fast and witty, and the smart plot moves along at a quick pace. Cairo of the 1920's comes alive with pyramids, camels and antiquities. This was and enjoyable read and I am looking forward to the next installment.
Thank you to Kensington Books and NetGalley for the e-ARC.
When I got a copy of this manuscript to read for a blurb, I was delighted--as a huge Amelia Peabody fan, I love mysteries set in Egypt. The book blew away my high expectations. Jane is such a compelling heroine! And Neubauer has a sublime talent for incorporating accurate historical details. An absolutely fabulous read. Can't recommend highly enough.
I wanted to love this book, but it never engaged me enough to move beyond a flirtation. Because it’s a debut novel I’m bumping my rating up a star.
In fiction I read historical and contemporary suspense and mystery, and thriller. My favorite books, written by authors whose work I read again and again, emerge from a place of knowledge and experience that talent, imagination, and skill supports. The authors know their subjects and environments intimately, bringing an integrity and depth to their work—a depth that research alone can't replicate.
As a fan of Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody series I had high hopes for Murder at the Mena House. Peters, an Egyptologist of some regard, embedded layers of richness in her stories that Neubauer never achieves. I seriously doubt that Neubauer has ever visited the Middle East, particularly Egypt. Because of this distance from her subject a lot of Murder at the Mena House doesn’t ring true if you know anything about Egypt, the Middle East, archaeology, looted antiquities, or the history of exploration in the region. The missing idiosyncrasies—sights, sounds, encounters, and certainly smells—of the region, which color anyone's time there, undermine the story itself.
The other problem I have with this book is that editing is inconsistent. That translates to a lot of “telling, not showing,” and pacing that suffers from too many details. Some of her characters are engaging, but details, dialogue, and inner dialogue bog them down. This is particularly true of her protagonist. I kept waiting for the story to take off, and it never did for me.
It's not that Murder at the Mena House is a bad story. It's light and entertaining, so maybe perfect for some readers. But I don't think it ever reaches its potential, and that's a shame.
Jane Wunderly, a war widow, is accompanying her aunt Millie on a trip to Egypt in 1926. She has always dreamed to seeing the Great Pyramids, so this trip is a dream come true. The only hiccup might be her aunt’s not so subtle attempts at matchmaking. That is, until she has some run ins with Anna Stainton, a beautiful socialite who has decided Jane is a rival. When Jane finds Anna’s dead body, the local police think Jane has a good motive for murder. Reluctantly teaming up with the mysterious Mr. Redvers, Jane begins to hunt for the real killer. Can she figure out what happened?
This book is fun, and it captured me from the first couple of sentences. Jane, Redvers, and the rest are a delight to spend time around. I definitely laughed at some of Jane and Redvers’s scenes together. Yet the characters do have layers, and I enjoyed seeing those emerge as the book progressed. I was having so much fun, it took me a while to see the plot was a little weak. While there are clues and twists, it felt like we could have used a few more of them. Still, the writing kept the pages turning, and the climax was suspenseful. I enjoyed this debut, and I’m very curious to find out where Jane goes next.
I read a fair amount of fluff, and I don’t usually have high standards when it comes to cozy mysteries. But I do need some reasonable semblance of competence. If not, I need humor or heart. Or I need a heroine I like. Or some side characters I want to actually spend time with. Or a compelling mystery. Or a decent love interest. This one had not a single one of the above.
Agatha Christie has been my favorite author since I was 9 years old. So I am definitely a Golden Age Mystery fan. When I first saw the blurb for this book, I was immediately intrigued. Egypt. 1926. Cairo. Fancy Hotel. Murder. Sounds like a setting Agatha would have applauded! So...yep....had to read it! :)
I'm glad I did! Jane Wunderly and her Aunt Millie are enjoyable characters. The setting and time period made for a great backdrop for a murder mystery. There were plenty of suspects and twists, and the story is well written. Just a very entertaining reading experience for a golden age fan!
The cover art is very eye-catching! It pulled me right into the story. Awesome artwork!
Murder at Mena House is the first book in the Jane Wunderly mystery series and is Erica Ruth Neubauer's first book. I'm definitely looking forward to more stories in this series....and more books by this author! I wonder what adventures and travels Jane will be having next? :)
**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Kensington. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**
3.5 stars for this promising start to a historical mystery series.
The author has a good command of plot and characters. I loved Jane, who finds herself number one suspect in the death of not-so-nice girl Anna. Jane doesn't trust the police to do a good job and decides she needs to conduct her own investigation. I appreciated that Jane's investigation efforts were sensible, realistic, and well within the scope of a non-professional. The author also gives her an interesting backstory re: her short-lived marriage. I also liked our mystery man, 'Mr Redvers'. He's introduced to us as a banker, but seems to have skills beyond those needed to manage money. He and Jane get along quite well together, even as Jane insists to herself that she is not interested in him romantically. The reader can be forgiven for thinking the lady doth protest too much. The author gives the reader a nice feel for tourist Egypt in the mid 1920s. We get camel rides, pyramid tours; and a visit to the museum, to go with a secondary plot involving antiquities smuggling. There are some nice twists to the 'whodunnit', with the identity of Anna's killer coming as a bit of a surprise to me. All in all, I had a good time. I am looking forward to reading the next Murder at Wedgefield Manor and I hope the author is working a third.
I enjoyed this mystery set near the pyramids at Giza. Jane Wunderly, the main character, is inquisitive and strong-minded, without doing risky idiotic things (for the most part). She’s a widow, her husband having died during WWI, and has traveled to Egypt on the expense of her husband’s aunt. The husband was incredibly abusive, which added a jarring note to a cozy type mystery. Jane has opted not to take her husband’s inheritance, which I thought was odd, given the husband’s behaviour - she deserved to keep it. Aunt Millie is a very strange character abut Jane takes it all in stride. The sidekick, Mr Redvers, by contrast, is an appealing character. The mystery was engaging. I will read the second book in the series.
Just enough murder, just enough romance, and just enough of ancient Egypt at the height of acheological discoveries in the roaring twenties. This book offers a peak at it all without going into depth on any one subject. It is well balanced between the characters, the mystery, and the atmosphere. This is the first book in the proposed Jane Wunderley series and here’s hoping there are more to follow. It is engaging from the first sentence and does an excellent job of giving the reader enough information to become acquainted with the characters without bogging them down with so much history as to slow the pace of the book. Jane is a delightful somewhat complex character who hints at a tragic history without giving it all away in the first chapter. She is joined in this book by her irascible Aunt Millie, a tart tongued woman who is paying Jane to be her companion on this trip and by Redvers, the inevitable “handsome stranger who manages to be captivating and entertaining none-the-less. If the series continues, one can only hope we will see and learn more about these three. In this novel, Jane meets the very epitome of the old fashioned British Colonel, Colonel Stainton, his daughter, the ravishing Anna Stainton and several other characters often found in cozy mystery novels. To her credit, Erica Ruth Neubauer, author, writes them with such good prose and freshness that they feel unique and entertaining. The conclusion of the book was not a surprise to me, nor were the several reveals throughout the book. I suspect that will be the case for most experienced cozy readers. That in no way spoiled the enjoyment of the book. It is an excellent way to escape to another era, another continent, and engage in a little armchair sleuthing just for the fun of it. Easy to read, it would make great entertainment for a rainy day or a vacation read. I hope there is a second in the series and look forward to the opportunity to read it. My thanks to Kensington Books Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced digital read copy in exchange for an unbiased review.
This is a good beginning to a cozy series. The setting was rendered a bit thin unfortunately but the main character, Jane Wunderly was pretty winsome. I didn't even mind the obvious love interest because he had a personality and things to do (hurrah for him not being a Boyfriend Blank).
The writing had some quirks and awkwardness which many firsts in a series of cozies do that detracted a bit but I would read another in hopes that they get smoothed out.
Už teraz sa modlím, aby sa preložili aj ostatné diely. To bolo také skvelé 🥺! Neodolala som, keď sa to javilo ako klasická detektívka na štýl Marplovej, či slečny Fischerovej a ešteže tak. Dokonalé, pútavé, prekvapivé. Naozaj som rada, že ju môžem zaradiť do svojej zbieročky.
American Jane Wunderly was widowed during the Great War. Thank Goodness! It turns out her husband was a very nasty piece of work, controlling and physically abusive towards Jane. She has the scars on her back to show it. She travels as a companion to Egypt with her Aunt Millie. Whilst there she becomes embroiled in a series of murders, smuggling, and is herself a suspect. She meets the mysterious and rather handsome Redvers. This time she is standing up for herself and finds herself following investigate avenues with Redvers alongside. A cut above the normal cozy mystery.
Murder at the Mena House by Erica Ruth Neubauer is the debut of A Jane Wunderly Mystery series. This historical cozy mystery takes us back in time to 1926 (the Roaring Twenties) where prohibition is in full swing in the United States, dress lengths are shorter than ever, and women are bobbing their hair. Jane Wunderly is traveling with her Aunt Millie to Egypt where Jane cannot wait to visit the pyramids. They are staying at Mena House which has a golf course and a pool along with a variety of intriguing guests. Aunt Millie is quick to send an eligible bachelor in Jane’s direction the first evening (much to Jane’s annoyance). Jane was widowed at age twenty-two when her husband died in the Great War. She is not interested in finding a new husband after her experience with the first one. Jane must admit, though, that Mr. Redvers is enigmatic and dashing. Alcohol flows freely in Egypt much to Aunt Millie’s delight. Anna Stainton, a female guest, takes a dislike to Jane and is quick to cause discord between them. When Anna is found shot in her room, Jane becomes Inspector Hamadi’s top suspect. Jane sets out to prove her innocence and gets assistance from Redvers. There are a variety of suspects in Anna’s death. Jane follows each lead searching for the guilty party. It depends on your sleuthing level whether you find this mystery a cinch or perplexing. I liked that there was more than one mystery to solve. I was unable to get into Murder at the Mena House. I believe part of the problem was the first-person narrative. Jane’s descriptions of her facial expressions were awkward, and I was unsure why she would describe her own expressions in the first place. The author is a detail-oriented writer which does allow a reader to visualize the character and scenes, but it also slows down the pace of the story. I did enjoy the descriptions of the clothing and Egyptian sites. I thought the author captured the time period especially with the attitudes and manners (an example is “I should have had security tackle her on the way out, but it seemed improper.”) I wanted the book to have more action and a peppier pace. I did like Jane Wunderly with her natural curiosity, the mysterious Redvers and the gregarious Aunt Millie. Who knows where their adventures will take them next time! Murder at the Mena House has murder, mystery and mayhem in Egypt.
Murder at the Mena House is the debut book in a new cozy mystery series. I love that it doesn’t follow the cookie cutter setting, characters and plots of many contemporary cozy mysteries. It’s set in Egypt in the 1920s. Author Erica Ruth Neubauer takes the mystery and character depths to a new level. If your looking for a book to get lost in and to do a bit of arm-chair sleuthing with – this is your book!
A very impressive debut novel by Erica Ruth Neubauer! I could barely bring myself to put this down.
The plot moves swiftly along and the two main characters, Jane and "Redvers," are easy to like but with just enough mystery to leave you wanting more. There will be a lot to explore in succeeding books!
Set in the 1920's, the bulk of the action takes place within Mena House, a hotel sitting in the very shadow of the pyramids of Egypt. Jane has come on a vacation with her aunt after being widowed in the first world war. Jane's story of life with her husband comes trickling out within the novel, and though she appears confident and secure, the reader learns about her weaknesses as they pop up in context. Within the first few pages, she meets a diverse cast of characters at the hotel. Some can be trusted; others have ulterior motives. A murder discovered early one morning lands Jane squarely on the radar of local investigators, and purely in self-defense she finds herself doing a little investigating on her own...well, not entirely on her own! The banter and chemistry between her and Redvers lights up every page.
Can't wait for more!
Thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Books for this advance review copy.
I'm writing this upon rereading (to refresh my memory before reading the second book in the series). While this is marketed as a cozy and it fits because there is no "on screen" murder, I found it more fulfilling and serious than some books in that genre can be.
Jane Wunderly is a widow traveling with her aunt in Egypt. At first, it seems like a fairly typical "murder at hotel" caper, but this story has a bit more to it. Yes, Jane is roped into the first murder by a father who wants her to check on his daughter in her hotel room, but she also stumbles upon a smuggling ring. There's also a long-lost cousin and revelations about her abusive marriage, which ended when her monster of a husband was killed in WWI. The parts about her marriage are incredibly sad, even without graphic detail, and explain why Jane is hesitant to trust the male lead.
This is a quick read, but not a light one. I thought the action was tight, dialogue well edited, and characters were quickly sketched out so you instantly rooted for some and rolled your eyes at others. A fun read!
It's a cozy mystery set in Cairo. I find I really enjoyed the somewhat novel setting. Also, I think I like mysteries set in hotels/while travelling.
The characters are generally likeable and interesting. And not entirely black and white.
The main character is not so plucky and inquisitive as to seem over the top (okay, there was maybe one moment I side-eyed, but I will allow it on the grounds that she was worried about being a suspect and didn't trust the local police). She's also an example of an American character done right in a cozy, or perhaps I should say, done in a non-stereotyped over the top kind of a way. I do find when the protagonist of a cozy mystery is American and in a setting where they're playing off a lot of British characters/characters from the British Empire, that sometimes some of the more stereotypical American traits (for lack of a better term - i.e. down to earth/less stuffy/go-get 'em/independent, etc. etc.) are dialed up to a million as a sort of contrast to the more stereotypically staid, traditional Brits, and sometimes that can grate. This book didn't do that, which I very much appreciated. It felt more balanced.
I was also super into the main character and her (presumed) love interest. I wasn't sure at first, but I grew to really enjoy them together as a crime-solving team. Also, I would like to note that towards the end of the book (spoiler-ish, but not really), Obviously, I am now super into them and their dynamic.
Also, can I just say, delighted to report that the male lead introduces himself as Redvers, without specifiying if it's a first or a last name. Even the protagonist isn't sure for a really long time. But let's all take a moment and appreciate how English naming is such that that could be a real area of lack of clarity.
The one fly in the ointment is that the protagnoist is travelling with her aunt who is... difficult. And I felt like there was a bit too much of, "Oh well, she's had difficulties in her life. And that's just Millie. And we're family." For most of it I was fine, but there was at least one moment where I wanted the protagonist to hold onto a bit more of her anger, because there was at least one thing that really, really wasn't okay.
This was an excellent start to a new historical mystery series. Ms. Neubauer's descriptive writing of the time period and characters kept my attention throughout the book. A quickly paced plot with skilled twists and turns, numerous suspects and well developed characters kept me reading until I reached the end. I really liked Jane and was amazed at how well she has recovered from her deplorable marriage. Her aunt Millie irritated me every time she appeared on the page and I hope that eventually she will be "rewarded" for her rude behavior. Redvers was intriguing and a perfect model for a "hero" of the story. I've already put the second book on hold with my library so I can return to Jane's world
I always have complicated feelings about historical stuff set in Egypt and this was no exception. I did like the characters though, and I liked the author acknowledging the complexities of a bunch of Europeans antiquity hunting. I am going to get more of these from the library for sure when I have done some TBR maintenance.
Murder at the Mena House by Erica Ruth Neubauer is the first in the Jane Wunderly series. The story takes place in Egypt in 1926. Jane is traveling with her aunt to Cairo. As a lover of history, she is ecstatic to be in a place the offers so much to study and learn. Unfortunately, a murder at their hotel throws a wrench in her plans as Jane finds herself the prime suspect of the local police.
I loved everything about this one! The characters are so fun and the mystery is intriguing. I love that it is set in Egypt as that setting is not used often in historical mysteries. Redvers and Jane are such a fun pair. They have such great chemistry and I love that he never doubts her abilities even though she is a woman. My favorite scene was when they finally danced together. I won't give any spoilers, but the whole scene made me laugh so much! I can't wait to read the next in the series!
Thanks so much to Bibliolifestyle and Kensington for the gifted book!
I suppose I just have to come to terms with the fact that although I like the idea of the cosy mysteries, most cosy mysteries are not written for me.
Take this one. It is a nice read. I did read the entire book, and it was a pleasant experience. It reads very easy, it kept me good company. I chose it because of the unusual setting, 1920s Cairo and I have to admit the author did her best to give us a glimpse of the city at the time. Though I have to say that what characterised the town felt a bit pressed onto the story. For example, there's a chapter about an excursion at the pyramids. Though I did enjoy reading it because it gave me an impression of what the pyramids looked like almost a century ago, I don't see what it did for the story, since there wasn't advancement neither in the romance nor in the mystery.
My problem with cosy mysteries, I'm coming to realise, at least most of the historically set that I've read recently, is that they are basically romances with an attempt at some mystery. This was the same. The romance was really the main plot of the story, and though I can hardly judge since I'm not a romance reader, it seemed a bit confused to me. I did like the two characters, they are both nice and sympathetic, there's good chemistry between them, but it seems like the author created unlikely complications for their relationship. I mean, even I know that romances need complications, but I think that if they had been a bit more substantial, I might have sympathised with the romance a little more.
The mystery was a total mess. It was totally unlikely. There was no reason why Jane and Redverse should start investigating the murder, and the investigation was chancy at best, based on non-existent clues and deduction. I dragged in the middle, as the romance took centre stage, and the end was illogical and felt a lot like an afterthought. But again, this is probably more my problem than the story, since I took up this cosy mystery thinking it was a 'mystery'.
It is a nicely-written story, with spank and an intriguing cast of characters. It's probably a good one for romance readers, but mystery readers may end up finding it not really what they expected.
Jane Wunderly is Not Like The Other Girls. Other girls dress up in ridiculously revealing dresses to impress men like whores. Jane has no interest in men.
Except for Mr. Redvers. I mean he doesn’t even tell her his first name, quite obviously lies to her or at least evades her questions but that doesn’t stop Jane from swooning about him while still insisting that she doesn’t need no men. Can we just stop with that? Either give me a character who says she has no interest in relationships and then sticks to it or one who says “Yeah. I want to marry (again) but I don’t want the first guy my overenthusiastic relatives who all think a woman without a man is worthless throw at me. I want to marry someone I actually care about.” In historicals that would still be unusual enough and would not give us the moral of “Actually, everyone wants a relationship and all those who say they don’t, just haven’t realized it, yet.”
So, no, I wasn’t a fan of the setup of the blossoming romance. Especially since, as mentioned, I saw no reason why she should even trust him…And if possible I was even less a fan of the mystery. I admit I’m already not the biggest fan of “Sleuth starts sleuthing because they/someone close to them is a suspect” but that wasn’t even a particularly well-done variety of that trope. It never feels like the inspector is really serious about his suspicions. He barely plays a part in the novel and the most threatening thing he does is ask her not to leave the hotel for a while. That leaves us with the “Sleuth starts sleuthing because they totally know better than the stupid police” trope, except that you could even argue that it’s not Jane doing the sleuthing but her mouth. Without her agreement. Yes, the phrase “And before I could stop myself I found myself saying X” gets overused in this book. Oh and what she finds herself saying is usually stuff she strictly speaking shouldn’t know and occasionally she does it while being alone with the suspect. Yes, Jane is one of the people you find pictured in the dictionary next to “Too Stupid Too Live”. But she still somehow survives…and solves everything thanks to a string of ridiculous coincidences. Because that what sleuths in bad cozy mysteries always do.
1920s Egypt provides the setting for this debut novel featuring Jane Wunderly. Jane accompanied her Aunt Millie to Cairo where they stayed at the Mena House. When Anna, a colonel's daughter, dies, Jane becomes a suspect. She meets Redvers, an intriguing man who assists her in her sleuthing efforts while pursuing his own interests which remain mysterious for much of the novel. A second murder occurs. Guests' travel plans force Jane and Redvers to step up their sleuthing efforts before parties of interest leave the country. This is the best debut mystery I've read in a long time. I wish the author many more well-written and well-plotted mysteries featuring Jane and Redvers. The Egyptian setting for this one reminds me of the Amelia Peabody series, but I suspect similarities will not be present when the series moves from that location. I listened to the audio book well read by Sarah Zimmerman.