Book Review – The Mitford Scandal by Jessica Fellowes – historical fiction

Here’s the blurb;

The newly married and most beautiful of the Mitford sisters, Diana, hot-steps around Europe with her husband and fortune heir Bryan Guinness, accompanied by maid Louisa Cannon, as well as some of the most famous and glamorous luminaries of the era. But murder soon follows, and with it, a darkness grows in Diana’s heart . . .

This wonderful new book in the bestselling The Mitford Murders series sees the Mitford sisters at a time of scandalous affairs, political upheaval and murder.

The Mitford Scandal is not at all what it is sold as – it is not a 1920’s whodunit – but rather a tedious excursion through late 1920’s Europe where I turned every page just waiting for something to happen, only for each ‘event’ to be the ending of a chapter, rather than a beginning.

The writing style is odd in the extreme, some events told in explicit detail, others glossed over as though not important, and the years, yes years, covered in this novel, are done so in choppy chapters that seem to add little or nothing to the story.

I think the author struggles to reconcile the life her ‘main’ character, the lady’s maid, Louisa has, with the events that are being narrated. It just doesn’t work, not at all, and the odd few chapters told from the viewpoint of Guy are equally as jarring.

Hugely disappointing as I am a fan of a good 1920’s murder-mystery, but this is not one, only morbid curiosity kept me reading until the end (it is not a long book), which is as poorly constructed as the rest of the novel.

Apologies. I really don’t like to leave negative reviews, but my thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for my review copy.

I have looked at reading previous books in this series of books (this is book 3), and I know they have a great of deal of hype around them. I think this probably added to my disappointment – sometimes hype is not a good thing for a series of books to have!! Apologies again. (The cover is lovely!)

The Mitford Scandal is released on 26th September and is available from here;

Book Review – Silent Water by P K Adams – murder mystery – highly recommended

Here’s the blurb;

“It is Christmas 1519 and the royal court in Kraków is in the midst of celebrating the joyous season. Less than two years earlier, Italian noblewoman Bona Sforza arrived in Poland’s capital from Bari as King Zygmunt’s new bride. She came from Italy accompanied by a splendid entourage, including Contessa Caterina Sanseverino who oversees the ladies of the Queen’s Chamber.

Caterina is still adjusting to the life in this northern kingdom of cold winters, unfamiliar customs, and an incomprehensible language when a shocking murder rocks the court on Christmas night. It is followed by another a few days later. The victims have seemingly nothing in common. Gossip, speculation, and suspicion are rife, but the perpetrator remains elusive as the court heads into the New Year.

As the official investigation stalls, Caterina—aided by Sebastian Konarski, a junior secretary in the king’s household—sets out to find the killer. With clues beginning to point to the queen’s innermost circle, the pair are soon racing against time to stop another murder.

Silent Water is a story of power and its abuse, and the extremes to which a person may go to find redress for justice denied. Although set at the dawn of the Renaissance era, its themes carry disturbing parallels to some of the most topical social issues of the 21st century.”

Silent Water is a thoroughly enjoyable murder-mystery set at the Polish court in 1519.

The main character is an interesting narrator, and if the beginning is a little slow, it isn’t long until the reader is thrust into the court politics of Poland and into the strange events surrounding the murder of a popular courtier.

Having read a few period murder mysteries lately, I must say this has been the most enjoyable. The author has a light touch while ensuring we know enough about the Polish Court and events in the wider European setting of the Reformation to make sense of the story.

Highly recommended for fans of period murder mysteries and those who love the sixteenth century.

I look forward to Book 2!

Silent Water is available now from here;

Book Review – A Conspiracy of Wolves by Candace Robb – medieval murder mystery

Here’s the blurb;

“When a prominent citizen is murdered, former Captain of the Guard Owen Archer is persuaded out of retirement to investigate in this gripping medieval mystery.

1374. When a member of one of York’s most prominent families is found dead in the woods, his throat torn out, rumours spread like wildfire that wolves are running loose throughout the city. Persuaded to investigate by the victim’s father, Owen Archer is convinced that a human killer is responsible. But before he can gather sufficient evidence to prove his case, a second body is discovered, stabbed to death. Is there a connection? What secrets are contained within the victim’s household? And what does apprentice healer Alisoun know that she’s not telling?

Teaming up with Geoffrey Chaucer, who is in York on a secret mission on behalf of Prince Edward, Owen’s enquiries will draw him headlong into a deadly conspiracy.”

This is the first book of the series that I’ve read, and it took me a while to click with the characters and work out the ‘normal’ band of characters, and those who were involved in the conspiracy. I imagine that fans of the series would not have had the same problems and would have been able to leap right in.

The reimagining of York is detailed and enjoyable and the solving of the murder(s) is well done, even if the author relies a little too much on the ‘I can’t tell you now, but I’ll tell you later,’ scenario to build tension. Overall, an enjoyable read.

Not perhaps as easy to jump in and out of the world of Owen Archer as other medieval mysteries, but I will certainly be looking for some of the earlier books now.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for my review copy.

A Conspiracy of Wolves, and all the previous ten books in the series are available now.

 

A bit of 1920’s murder mystery – a bit of fun

So, I’ve managed to get myself lost in the 1920’s for a week or two. I have a Kindle Unlimited subscription but rarely use it because ‘The Teenager’ always has ten books out at any one time. That all changed a few weeks ago when I used Kindle Unlimited to devour a few short books, boost my Goodreads reading challenge for the year, and just get away from historical fiction and fantasy for a while. It was quite a bit of fun.

Here’s what I found;

House Party Murder Rap by Sonia Parin.

Here’s the blurb;

1920s England. Lighthearted cozy historical mystery.

Two people have been targeted. Shots have been fired. Who stands to inherit? Who has the most to lose?

Evangeline ‘Evie’ Parker, Countess of Woodridge, thinks it’s nothing but an accident but then an attempt is made on her host’s life. Suddenly, all the guests attending the Duke of Hetherington’s house party think they are being targeted. Who will be next?

Evie and her new chauffeur form an unlikely alliance to discover as much as they can before the killer can get it right.

My review was brief and to the point;

Just needs more of everything! And a good edit.
The murder mystery is simply solved. 
Enjoyable all the same.

I confess I was sucked in by the ‘USA Today Bestselling Author’ bit on the cover, and was a bit surprised the book wasn’t better edited/plotted etc, but, as I said, I did enjoy it all the same and read Book 2 as well before moving onto.

A Subtle Murder by Blythe Baker.

Here’s the blurb;

Murder and intrigue on the Arabian Sea…

When Rose Beckingham sets sail for England in the summer of 1926, she brings more than souvenirs from her years in India. She carries the memory of a family tragedy and a secret so terrible it could destroy the new life she hopes to build in London.

But Rose isn’t the only passenger aboard the RMS Star of India with something to hide. Halfway across the Arabian Sea, death strikes and a murderer begins a deadly game only Rose can hope to end.

With a mysterious Frenchman haunting her steps, can Rose outrun her past? And can she stay alive long enough to decipher the clues left by a taunting killer? Or will murder call again before the first port?

It was the cover that attracted me to this series. And in fact, I went on to read the four books currently available in the series, with Book 5 due out later in March. My review was a little less brief this time.

“Read the entire series in a week – books are entertainingly light and fluffy, although the situations do get more and more far-fetched, and I was pleased to get to the end of Book 5. The main complaint is the liberal splattering of ‘Americanisms’ throughout the books – even with everything taken into account in the storyline, there are many characters who would say streets and pavements rather than blocks and sidewalks. The first book is the best of them all. Enjoy!”

From there, I made a leap into the 1930’s.

Flora Mackintosh and the Hungarian Affair by Anna Reader.

Here’s the blurb;

Flora Mackintosh’s only real problem was managing to source decent gin at school – at least until she received a mysterious telegram from an uncle she never knew she had, summoning her to Hungary. Sneaking out of St. Penrith’s for Girls and with the promise of adventure in the air, Flora packs her hip-flask, Gauloises, and pistol and sets off for Europe.

Accompanied by a new friend and with nothing but the telegram to go on, she finds herself suddenly plunged into a world of espionage, danger and thrilling excitement.

My review was quite simple. “I say, jolly good fun.” And it was. With a more enjoyable plot and a fab main character, and a little more serious in tone, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and went onto reading the sequel, which has a different main character, but was quite enjoyable all the same – especially if you like cricket!

All of these books were on Kindle Unlimited which meant that to my mind at least, they didn’t cost me anything to read – and so I welcomed taking the gamble on something I wouldn’t normally read. I am a huge fan of Poirot and the Phryne Fisher series (books and TV series) but don’t often read outside those two series. It seems that there’s a lot more out there to sink my teeth in to and I’m sure I’ll head back to the 1920s and 1930s in due time. (Warning, there is a lot of alcohol consumption in the books by Anna Reader – I did begin to worry a bit about the health of all the characters.)