Tag Archives: Mystery

A Demon Summer by G. M. Malliet

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A Demon Summer by G. M. MallietA Demon Summer by G. M. Malliet
Series: Max Tudor Mystery #4
Published by Minotaur on October 7, 2014
Genres: Mystery
Format: ARC
two-half-stars
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In A Demon Summer, someone has been trying to poison the 15th Earl of Lislelivet. Since Lord Lislelivet has a gift for making enemies, no one—particularly his wife—finds this too surprising. What is surprising is that the poison was discovered in a fruitcake made and sold by the Handmaids of St. Lucy of Monkbury Abbey. Max Tudor, vicar of Nether Monkslip and former MI5 agent, is asked to investigate. But just as Max comes to believe the poisoning was accidental, a body is discovered in the cloister well.

Good points –

I like Max. He’s a good guy with a true calling who doesn’t judge others. For a not necessarily “Christian” mystery, I think it’s better at presenting religious lessons than some of the preachier ones. He makes sense as a detective, too, since he’s former MI5. It’s reasonable that the bishop would send him to investigate.

The abbey is a good setting and the nuns are an interesting lot. Each has a past, but those don’t count anymore, since they’ve joined the sisters. The nuns are walking a fine line between being separate from the world and making money by selling their products and having guests stay.

Max’s relationship with his pregnant girlfriend, Awena, stays in the background. I was afraid it would dominate this one after the end of #3, but it didn’t. Awena’s a great character, very in touch with nature and the seasons, but I don’t necessarily like an overly complicated romance to intrude on a mystery.

The final scene was wonderful and touching.

Bad points –

It was a little too reminiscent of Louise Penny’s recent novels. First, the abbey setting is awfully close to the monastery in A Beautiful Mystery. Second, Cohen’s verse about how the light gets in is repeated often, which of course reminded me of Penny’s novel with that title.

The solution is just too complicated. The relationships are all screwy and parts hinge on an event 20 years in the past that barely gets a passing mention. It feels unfair; there’s no way the reader could have figured out what was going on. Between treasure hunts, revenge, dying confessions, there was just too much. And the scene where you gather everyone together to point out the killer was long.

I would have like this one so much more if the solution had been different or the lead up to it had been better.

About G. M. Malliet

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. She changes her mind frequently about who would be the best actor to portray St. Just or Max Tudor. Currently, Hugh Grant for Max Tudor is tied with Colin Firth and Rufus Sewell. She feels Jude Law would make a perfect DCI Cotton (Max’s crime-solving sidekick). She feels the same about Laurence Fox, although she imagines he is tired of playing sidekicks. She spends an inordinate amount of time worrying about this.

Review: I Adored a Lord by Katharine Ashe

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I adored a lord

Title: I Adored a Lord (The Prince Catchers #2)

Author: Katharine Ashe

Published: July 29, 2014 by Avon

Genre: Historical Romance

Rating: 4½ out of 5 stars

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Three very different sisters beguile society with their beauty and charm, but only one of them must fulfill a prophecy: marry a prince. Who is the mystery Prince Charming, and which sister will be his bride?

All that clever, passionate Ravenna Caulfield wants is to stay far away from high society’s mean girls.

All that handsome, heroic Lord Vitor Courtenay wants is to dash from dangerous adventure to adventure.

Now, snowbound in a castle with a bevy of the ton’s scheming maidens all competing for a prince’s hand in marriage, Ravenna’s worst nightmare has come true.

Now, playing babysitter to his spoiled prince of a half-brother and potential brides, Vitor is champing at the bit to be gone.

When a stolen kiss in a stable leads to a corpse in a suit of armor, a canine kidnapping, and any number of scandalous liaisons, Ravenna and Vitor find themselves wrapped in a mystery they’re perfectly paired to solve. But as for the mysteries of love and sex, Vitor’s not about to let Ravenna escape until he’s gotten what he desires . . .

I tend to avoid titles like this; “I Adored a Lord” just seems kinda cheesy, but I was reading some early reviews and it sounded too fun to pass up. I was right, this is just a light read, a wonderful combination of historical romance and mystery. Usually, I’m not a fan of romance clogging up my mysteries, but I do like it when a mystery helps along a romance, which it does here. I guess it comes down to how it’s being sold – as a mystery or a romance.  At heart, I Adored a Lord is a romance and an enjoyable one at that.

Ravenna is not a society charmer and it’s her sister’s fault she’s at this party. Ravenna is a gifted medic adores animals. She’s a bright woman and not afraid to be who she is. Well, I take that back, she prefers to be seen as less special than she is. Vitor has issues – he’s been celibate for a couple of years, was tortured at one point in time and has a reasonable distrust of his brother. But he’s not the pushy, alpha-male. He makes men puff their chests out and woman stare from under lowered eyelids, but he tries not to notice. Sparks are apparent at their first meeting in the stable, but the romance is a slow-simmering one. There’s plenty of heat, but it doesn’t build too quickly. The reason I really liked Vitor though is that he appreciates Ravenna’s intelligence, curiosity, tenacity. Yes, he finds her beautiful and tempting and enjoys teasing her, but he would not want her to act like the other society maidens with their fawning, their cattiness. That’s what makes them a great pair, both as potential lovers and as a pair of detectives.

The book does have a large cast of characters to keep track of, but eventually you get to know them all. They are (almost) all suspects and it’s interesting to try to guess whodunnit as the clues are revealed. So many suspects, none seemingly with much of a motive. I was kept guessing, but I usually am.

It is the second in the series, but works fine as a stand-alone. I may go back and read the first one, though, just because I enjoyed this one so much. Or not and I’ll just wait for the third. I do think Katherine Ashe is an author I’ll read more of.

I Adored a Lord is probably one of my favorite books I’ve read this year. It’s just fun and made me smile.

Audiobook Review: Angelica’s Smile by Andrea Camilleri

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angelica's smile

Title: Angelica’s Smile (Inspector Montalbano #17)

Author: Andrea Camilleri

Translator: Stephen Sartarelli

Read by: Grover Gardner

Category: Mystery

Audio published: June 24, 2014 by Blackstone Audio

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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A rash of burglaries has Inspector Salvo Montalbano stumped. The criminals are so brazen that their leader, the anonymous Mr. Z, starts sending the Sicilian inspector menacing letters. Among those burgled is the young and beautiful Angelica Cosulich, who reminds the inspector of the love-interest in Ludovico Ariosto’s chivalric romance, Orlando Furioso. Besotted by Angelica’s charms, Montalbano imagines himself back in the medieval world of jousts and battles. But when one of the burglars turns up dead, Montalbano must snap out of his fantasy and unmask his challenger.

I like this series more in theory than I do in fact. Angelica’s Smile was okay, but not outstanding. Of course, it probably didn’t help that I missed all the Orlando Furioso references, since I’d never heard of it, let alone read it. Apparently, it’s “one of the most influential works in the whole of European literature” and I’ve missed out on it. Once again, Montalbano falls in lust at first sight. Maybe it’s some kind of midlife crisis, he feeling old, she’s attractive, he decides cheating on his girlfriend is an option after all. Meh.

The burglaries themselves are rather interesting, although the criminal is contacting Montalbano directly, which happened in the last book I listened to in this series. Does that actually happen often in real life? I kinda doubt it.

The Sicily setting is fabulous and does often lead to some great food. And I like the general attitude, it’s amusing and clever. Montalbano’a a bit of a jerk, but in a good way. I don’t think I’d like him in real life, but he’s enjoyable to read about.

This one didn’t grab me though. There was nothing that really elevated it from your average mystery. The cast of secondary characters/suspects was a bit long and with all the Italian names they were hard for me to keep straight. The end was a bit confusing too, maybe because it was on audio and I wasn’t fully paying attention, but I was happy with at least part of the whodunnit.

Grover Gardner did a good job as the narrator, I thought. He has the right tone for Montalbano and he makes it sound foreign but not too much so, if that makes sense. The audio’s short, about 5½ hours, and has a lot going on, so it kept my attention. For a good quick read, it’s not bad, but the first few I read in the series I enjoyed more than the last couple. I don’t know if I’m being more picky now, or if they’re just not as good.

Edit: If you’re interested, here the link to the Wikipedia article on Orlando Furioso.

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