The Sans Pareil Mystery by Karen Charlton

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The Sans Pareil Mystery by Karen Charlton The Sans Pareil Mystery by Karen Charlton
Narrator: Michael Page
Series: Detective Lavender Mysteries #2
Published by Brilliance Audio on October 6, 2015
Genres: Historical Mystery
Length: 10 hrs 15 mins
Format: Audiobook
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On a cold February night in Regency London, a dark curtain falls on the Sans Pareil Theatre following the death of April Clare, a promising young actress, whose body is found in mysterious circumstances.

Detective Stephen Lavender and his dependable deputy, Constable Woods, quickly discover that nothing is quite as it seems. As successive mysteries unfold, they soon realise that it is not only the actors from the Sans Pareil who are playing a part.

With the Napoleonic War looming dangerously across the Channel, this is a time of suspicion and treachery. Following the clues from the seedy back streets of Covent Garden up through the echelons of society, Lavender and Woods begin to fear that the case is much bigger than they’d dared imagine—and worse, that they are at risk of becoming mere players in a master criminal’s shadowy drama.

It will take all of Lavender’s skill and wit, and help from the beautiful Magdalena, to bring the mystery of the Sans Pareil Theatre to a dramatic conclusion in the final act.

There were several good things about The Sans Pareil Mystery. I enjoyed learning about the theater in London in 1810 and it is interesting to note that both the San Pareil Theater and the woman running it did actually exist. The mystery itself was okay, although the clues were not necessarily as noticeable as the big flashing arrows saying “this is s bad guy.” I like Lavender and Wood as a team, but Lavender seems older to me than young 30s, his attitudes and actions don’t necessarily fit. Or maybe the reader’s voice sounded older and that projected on to the main character? I had to remind myself that he was younger than I think. For the time period, it was also notable that women played central roles in the story, not just in the plot, but on the side-lines too. We meet women who have younger lovers, who support themselves and their household, who are brave, who are loyal, who are killers, who are willing to lie to save their own skins.

So, good mystery and a decent setting, London in the early 1800s is atmospheric and dirty, but a place and time that’s used extensively. I did like how Charlton used the Napoleonic Wars as an integral piece of the story and the conflict between Catholics and Anglicans was clear.

I didn’t like the love story between Lavender and Magdalena. I’m not against romance in a mystery, I just felt like those sexual tension scenes and off-screen sex were just not in keeping with the tone of the story. It felt like there was an asterisk beside those pieces that stated “see, I could write a romance if I wanted,” but it would be a melodramatic, slightly uncomfortable one. Maybe now that the relationship has settled a bit we can get back tot he mysteries. I hope in the next one, Lavender and Woods will head out of town, leave London and Magdalena for a while.

About Karen Charlton

Karen Charlton writes historical mystery and is also the author of a nonfiction genealogy book, ‘Seeking Our Eagle.’ She has published short stories and numerous articles and reviews in newspapers and magazines. An English graduate and ex-teacher, Karen has led writing workshops and has spoken at a series of literary events across the North of England, where she lives. Karen now writes full-time.

A stalwart of the village pub quiz and a member of a winning team on the BBC quiz show ‘Eggheads’, Karen also enjoys the theatre, and she won a Yorkshire Tourist Board award for her Murder Mystery Weekends.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

Thursday’s Tale: The Boy Who Wanted the Willies

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Folktales on stage

Today’s story comes from Folktales on Stage by Aaron Shepherd. The book is a very nice collection of scripts for children. Some were new to me and others familiar. There are funny stories and tales with a moral lesson. The scripts are clear and appropriate for children. If I worked with a group of kids, whether in school or storytime, I think it would be a nice addition to my shelves.

Folktales on Stage by Aaron Shepard
Published by Shepard Publications on September 1, 2003
Genres: Folktale, Play
Pages: 180
Format: eBook
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Folktales on Stage is a collection of 16 reader's theater scripts for young readers, adapted by award-winning children's author Aaron Shepard from his own folktale retellings. A wide variety of countries and cultures is represented, including Native America, Africa, the Middle East, Russia, Southeast Asia, and China. The scripts may be freely copied for educational, noncommercial purposes. While aiming mostly at ages 8 to 15, the collection features a full range of reading levels.

Shepherd based “The Boy Who Wanted the Willies” on a tale by the Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, “The Story of a Boy Who Went Forth to Learn Fear” but added a lot of changes and embellishments.

There was once a boy, Hans, who was never afraid of anything, mostly because he didn’t have enough sense to be afraid. One evening Hans and his sister were walking by a graveyard when the sister said the place gave her the willies. Hans asked what the willies were and his sister told him the willies are when you get so scared, you shiver and shake. The boy decided he wanted to get the willies. At this point the script has the sister look at the audience and shake her head in disgust. It’s a funny little story if you included other’s reactions to the boy, whether they be spoken or not.

Hans said goodbye to his family and went out, determined to look for the willies. He told everyone he met along the way and many tried to scare him, but none succeeded. Finally he met a king who told him about a haunted castle that was sure to give him the willies if he spent the night. However, he also told Hans that no one who gone there had ever lived through the night. Adding, that if he did stay alive, he could break the spell and find the castle treasure.

It was midnight when Hans entered the castle. When the clock struck one, he saw two men, a vampire and a werewolf, playing cards. They invited him to join and of course the boy lost. First the vampire threatened to drain his blood, but Hans broke off one of his fangs. Then the werewolf pounced, but Hans ducked out of the way and the werewolf went through the window. Hans sat back down in front of the fire, still wondering when he would get the willies.

At two o’clock a parade of skeletons came in, banging out a rhythm with their various bones. At first Hans dance with them, but when they went faster and faster and wouldn’t stop, he ended up breaking them apart by swinging a chair around. He tossed the bones out the window and settled back in.

At three o’clock, a voice bellowed down the chimney, “Look out below.” And down came a giant body, then arms and legs, and finally a giant head. The boy, assuming it was a puzzle, put the giant back together. Once he was whole again, the giant jumped up, exclaiming that the spell was broken and had Hans follow him to the treasure. The giant wanted Hans to do all the work, but Hans told the giant to do the digging and hauling until there were three pots of gold in the great haul, one for the king, one for the poor, and one for Hans. Then the giant fell apart again and flew up the chimney.

Hans, thinking it was nice to be rich, but still wondering when he would get the willies, settled back into the chair by the fire for the rest of the night.

The king lets Hans live in the castle, and once he is grown up he married the king’s daughter. The soon have triplets.

PRINCESS: Dearest, would you like to name them?
HANS: Certainly! Their names are Willy . . . Willy . . . and Willy!
PRINCESS: (confused) But why all the same?
HANS: (triumphantly, to audience) Because now I’ll have the Willies!
ALL (except Hans): (to audience, give a look of disbelief and dismay)

Cute, huh? In a cheesy, silly way that I can picture kids laughing at.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all. Feel free to join in.

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