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The Haunted Season by G. M. Malliet

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The Haunted Season by G. M. Malliet The Haunted Season by G. M. Malliet
Narrator: Michael Page
Series: Max Tudor Mysteries #5
Published by Dreamscape Media on October 6, 2015
Source: Library
Genres: Mystery
Length: 9 hrs 21 mins
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Lord and Lady Baaden-Boomethistle have been in residence for some weeks now, and the villagers are hoping for a return to the good old days, when the lord of the manor sprinkled benefits across the village like fairy dust. Father Max Tudor's invitation to dinner at the hall comes as a welcome novelty; it will be his first time meeting the famous family that once held sway in the area. Before he has time to starch his clerical collar and organize a babysitter, a sudden and suspicious death intervenes, and the handsome vicar's talent for sorting through clues to a murder is once again called into play in this charming and clever story.

I skipped #4 in the Max Tudor series, mostly because Father Max was getting married and having a baby and I just didn’t want to read about the new family, but I just couldn’t pass up the cover for The Haunted Season. Apparently I didn’t need to worry about the baby. He is so well-behaved and calm and peaceful that he barely causes a ripple in Max’s life. And I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, his mother after all is nearly perfect and a healer to boot. Hmm, that sounded meaner than I meant it to. I don’t dislike Awena, and in all honestly she’s not in much of this book.

Lord Baaden-Boomethistle is our deceased, decapitated by a wire strung between two trees while he was out riding his horse. We’ve got several suspects, mostly members of his family. There are a couple clues, a few secrets, and of course Max manages to put it all together, with some help from DCI Cotton, the recurring cop character.

If that was it, adding in the villagers and church members, and bit more of his new curate, Destiny, I would have enjoyed it more. There were a couple things that made me lower it a star or two. First, the miracle of the face on the wall. Not a big fan of miracles in otherwise straight forward (non-paranormal) mysteries. At the same time, Awena, Max’s wife, is actually a healer, like her touch, in addition to herbs and what-not, can physically heal people, so maybe it is partly paranormal, but overall it’s not, so those touches just don’t flow with the rest.

And the end was just not well done. To be honest, I don’t know why it was added on. There’s a big scene involving a character who is part of a theme in the series, but comes out of nowhere in this book. Instead of actually seeing the action, we end up getting an info dump where Max and DCI Cotton tell an associate what happened. It was clumsy. I think I might be done with the series.

I listened to the audio and I do think the narrator did a good job with the variety of characters – and there are a lot. I think listening to it was probably the better option, because at least when there was the long “here’s what happened,” it was kind of like we were part of the conversation too.

About G. M. Malliet

Malliet did post-graduate work at Oxford University after earning a graduate degree from the University of Cambridge, the setting for her earlier series, the St. Just mysteries. Raised in a military family, she spent her childhood in Alaska, Colorado, New Mexico, and Hawaii and has lived in places ranging from Japan to Europe, but she most enjoyed living in the U.K. She and her husband live across the river from Washington, D.C., in the colonial “village” of Old Town, Alexandria. Her hobbies include reading, hiking in the Blue Ridge, cooking vegetarian meals, and planning the next vacation. She writes full time nearly every day, and is writing a screenplay in addition to her mystery novels and short stories. She gets her ideas from people watching, particularly in airport waiting areas, train stations, parks, and restaurants.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

The Sculthorpe Murder by Karen Charlton

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The Sculthorpe Murder by Karen Charlton The Sculthorpe Murder by Karen Charlton
Narrator: Michael Page
Series: Detective Lavender Mysteries #3
Published by Brilliance Audio on August 30, 2016
Source: Purchased
Genres: Historical Mystery
Length: 9 hrs 37 mins
Format: Audiobook
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Northamptonshire, 1810: As a new canal network snakes across the landscape, a vicious mob stakes its claim to the county. Every local constable is out on the hunt for the ruthless Panther Gang. When an elderly man is robbed and murdered in sleepy Middleton, the beleaguered magistrates send for help from London’s Bow Street Police Office.

Detective Stephen Lavender and Constable Ned Woods soon discover there’s more to William Sculthorpe’s demise than meets the eye. Mystery surrounds the old man and his family, and the stench of revenge hangs heavy in the air. Are the Panther Gang really responsible or is something more sinister afoot? As Lavender delves further into long-hidden secrets, Woods has demons of his own to contend with: ghosts from his past that stalk him through the investigation.

Uncovering decades of simmering hatred and deceit, Lavender and Woods must use all their wit and cunning to solve this evil crime.

I enjoyed The Sculthorpe Murder so much more than #2 in the series. Lavender and Woods are sent out of London to Northamptonshire to investigate the killing of an elderly man, presumably by a gang that has been terrorizing the area. I like that the trip takes Lavender away from his love interest. I really can only stand them as a couple for short periods of time.

The plot was well-done with a good array of suspects and clues. I like that Lavender doesn’t take things for granted and as an outsider can be more suspicious of certain people than the locals are.

Wood gets a lot of screen time in this one, which I appreciated. He’s a good, kind man and I liked his interactions with                                           . (Don’t want to give anything away.) He tends to put people, including children at ease. Lavender, on the other hand, tends to make people a bit uncomfortable. He’s the thinker where Woods is the talker. Together they make a good team.

The secondary characters are all a bit shady, actually. Most, if not all, have their secrets, some more criminal than others. I do think the ending was appropriate, although perhaps not in the typical, wrap it up, punish the guilty way.

I listened to the audio and the narrator does a good job with the varied characters. He disappears into the story, which is what I’m looking for.

The Sculthorpe Murder is a solid historical mystery. It feels like the details are well done – whether they actually are or not I can’t judge, I’m assuming they are. In this one, I especially found the conflict between the Catholics and Church of England interesting. I’m not a history buff, I admit, but I do enjoy it when bits are thrown into the stories I’m reading. Once in a while, they even make me want to learn more about the subject.

I’m actually looking forward to the next in the series, although I hope it doesn’t get taken over by Lavender’s marriage.

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.

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
Source: Purchased
Genres: Historical Mystery
Length: 10 hrs 15 mins
Format: Audiobook
Buy on Amazon or Audible
Add on Goodreads

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.

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