Tag Archives: historical mystery fiction

Book Review: Dressed for Death

6 Jul

This Traditional British Cozy Mystery Gets a Regency Twist

Drew and Madeline Farthering celebrate their six-month anniversary by attending a fancy Regency era costume party. Drew is glad to see Talbot Cummins, an Oxford classmate, and his fiancée, Alice Henley, though many present seem worried about the couple. Everyone’s concerns are realized when, at the concluding grand ball, Alice dies of an overdose of cocaine. Tal refuses to believe she took the stuff intentionally, and Drew is determined to find out if her death was an accident or murder.

Drew is shocked and disillusioned when the police arrest Tal’s father and reveal that the man has been smuggling drugs into the country for the past twenty years. Reeling from the death of his fiancée and the revelation about his father, Tal begs Drew to find out what’s going on. Drew, now questioning his own ability to see people as they really are, does so reluctantly, not ready for the secrets he’s about to uncover — or the danger he’ll bring down on everyone he holds dear.

 

Julianna Deering (also writing as DeAnna Julie Dodson) has always been an avid reader and a lover of storytelling, whether on the page, the screen or the stage. This, along with her keen interest in history and her Christian faith, shows in her tales of love, forgiveness and triumph over adversity. A fifth-generation Texan, she makes her home north of Dallas with three spoiled cats and, when not writing, spends her free time quilting, cross stitching and watching NHL hockey. Her series of Drew Farthering mysteries set in 1930s England debuted with Rules of Murder (Bethany House, 2013) and is followed by Death by the Book and Murder at the Mikado (Bethany House, 2014). Dressed for Death (Bethany House, 2016), and Murder on the Moor and Death at Thorburn Hall (Bethany House, 2017).

 

My Impressions:

The fourth book in the Drew Farthering Mystery series by Julianna Deering, Dressed for Death, finds Drew and Madeline attending a week-long party at the Cummins family country home. The theme is Regency England, and all the guests are required to dress and act the part. Yachting trips, picnics, and a ball are on the agenda, but so is murder. While the bodies continue to pile up, the crimes hit a little too close to home for Drew. Faced with his own inadequacies, Drew perseveres to find out just whodunit.

Deering’s mystery series takes place in 1930s England, and she does a wonderful job of bringing the era to life. Dressed for Death adds another layer with the Regency party. Both Drew’s time with its cultural references and the Regency era are wonderfully integrated — kudos on the meticulous historical research! Jane Austen fans will love the numerous references to the author’s works. The mystery itself is puzzling up to the end. I had my suspicions, but was surprised as Drew solved the case. Drew is an interesting character. Part of the wealthy class of England, he certainly doesn’t have to work for a living, but his calling as an amateur detective presents challenges. In Dressed for Death, Drew grapples with discouragement and doubt as he examines what it really means to be called by God. The local vicar advises: “Don’t let anyone despise the gifts you’ve been given, and don’t you do so, either. They may not fit anyone else’s idea of a calling, but the world has all sorts of needs, and God has provided for each of them to be filled, if we all do our part. It would be a shame if your part were left undone.” (p. 303) A great message no matter the task God provides.

Dressed for Death comes in the middle of the series, with book 5 now available and book 6 due out in November 2017. It can be read as a standalone, but I think the series is too good to miss any of the fun. If you haven’t read any of the books, start now with Rules of Murder and then progress through the rest. You’ll be all caught up just in time for Drew’s latest adventure!

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to Bethany House for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Happy Book Birthday! A Lady in Disguise by Sandra Byrd

21 Mar

A Lady in Disguise by Sandra Byrd is releasing today! Yay! For fans of historical romance with more than a bit of mystery, this one is right up your street! Check it out.

 

In this intriguing novel of romance, mystery, and clever disguise set in Victorian England, a young woman investigates the murder of her own father.

After the mysterious death of her father, Miss Gillian Young takes a new job as the principal costume designer at the renowned Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. But while she remembers her father as a kind, well-respected man of the Police Force, clues she uncovers indicate he’d been living a double life: a haunting photograph of a young woman; train stubs for secret trips just before his death; and a receipt for a large sum of money. Are these items evidence of her father’s guilty secrets? His longtime police partner thinks so.

Then Gillian meets the dashing Viscount Thomas Lockwood. Their attraction is instant and inescapable. As their romantic involvement grows, Gillian begins to suspect even Lockwood’s motives. Does Lord Lockwood truly love her? Or is his interest a front for the desire to own her newly inherited property? And what should she make of her friend’s suggestion that Lockwood or men like him were involved in the murder of her father?

Soon Gillian is convinced that her father has left evidence somewhere that can prove his innocence and reveal the guilty party. But someone wants to stop her from discovering it. The closer she comes to uncovering it, the more menacing her opposition grows. With her life on the line, Gillian takes on an ingenious disguise and takes on the role of a lifetime to reveal the true killer—before it’s too late both for her and for those that she loves.

To purchase, click HERE.

After earning her first rejection at the age of thirteen, bestselling author Sandra Byrd has now published fifty books.

Sandra’s new series, Daughters of Hampshire, historically sound Gothic romances, launched with best-selling Book One: Mist of Midnight. That book earned a coveted Editor’s Choice from the Historical Novel Society. The second book, Bride of a Distant Isle, has been selected by Romantic Times as a Top Pick. The third in the series, A Lady in Disguise, will publish in March 2017. Sandra’s latest nonfiction title is The One Year Home and Garden Devotions.

Check out her contemporary adult fiction debut, Let Them Eat Cake, which was a Christy Award finalist, as was her first historical novel, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. To Die For was also named by Library Journal as a Best Books Pick for 2011 and The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr, was named a Library Journal Best Books Pick for 2012.

Sandra has published dozens of books for kids, tweens and teens, including the best-selling, The One Year Be-Tween You and God, Devotions For Girls, and two read aloud picture books.

She is passionate about helping new writers develop their talent and their work toward traditional or self-publication. As such, she has mentored and coached hundreds of new writers and continues to coach dozens to success each year via novelcoaching.com

Please visit http://www.sandrabyrd.com to learn more or to invite Sandra to your book club via Skype.

Book Review: The Kill Fee

19 Jan

51p-hv1vxklPoppy Denby, Arts and Entertainment Editor at The Daily Globe, covers an exhibition of Russian Art, hosted by White Russian refugees, including members of the surviving exiled Romanov Royal family. There is an armed robbery, a guard is shot, and the largest Fabergé Egg in the collection is stolen. The egg itself is valuable, but more so are the secrets it contains within – secrets that could threaten major political powers. Suspects are aplenty, including the former keeper of the Fabergé Egg, a Russian Princess called Selena Romanova Yusopova. The interim Bolshevik Russian ambassador, Vasili Safin inserts himself into the investigation, as he believes the egg – and the other treasures – should all be restored to the Russian people. Poppy, her editor Rollo, press photographer Daniel, and the other staff of the Globe are delighted to be once again in the middle of a sensational story. But, soon the investigation takes a dark turn when another body is found and an employee of the newspaper becomes a suspect… The race is on to find both the key and the egg – can they be found before the killer strikes again?

fiona-treeFormerly a journalist, Fiona Veitch Smith is a writer of books, theatre plays and screenplays.

Her children’s picturebooks, the Young David series, are now published by SPCK Publishing. Her adult mystery series set in the 1920s, Poppy Denby Investigates, is published by Lion Fiction.

She is a member of the British Society of Authors and the Association of Christian Writers. Fiona is also the editor of the popular writing advice website The Crafty Writer and her courses attract students from around the world.

She lives with her husband, daughter and two dogs in Newcastle upon Tyne where she lectures in media and scriptwriting at the local universities.

 

My Impressions:

The intrepid Poppy Denby is back in Fiona Veitch Smith’s latest book, The Kill Fee. The newly minted journalist is on the case when priceless Faberge eggs go missing and the bodies start piling up. An historical mystery filled with all the jazz of the Roaring 20s, this novel manages not only to capture the essence of the era, but keep the reader guessing with a well crafted story. For fans of British whodunits, this one is a great choice.

The Kill Fee involves not one, but two mysteries. The stories are told within two separate storylines, and intersect at the end. The Russian revolution is still ongoing and the brutality of the war between the Whites and the Reds spills into London as royal Russian refugees and Bolshevik loyalists clash over the ownership of priceless works of art and fabulous jewels. I very much enjoyed getting a glimpse into what was going on in politics of this time. There are a number of interesting characters and suspects galore. Poppy is again in the middle of the action as she discovers bodies and clues and manages to stay one step ahead of the authorities. While The Kill Fee is really not a Christian novel (as we see it in America), the author’s worldview informs her characters. Poppy calls on God for help at a critical point in the novel, someone she has neglected since arriving in the big city. Her faith, a bit covered with cobwebs, is realistically portrayed.

A fun novel, The Kill Fee kept me guessing and the pages turning as I followed the adventures of Poppy Denby. I’m looking forward to many more exciting times with this series.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to Kregel and Lion Hudson for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Top 10 Tuesday: 2016 Releases I Didn’t Read (But Should)

10 Jan

My TBR pile has reached staggering heights since I started blogging. Is it possible to have too many books? I think the problem is really not enough time to read — stuff like laundry and work just keeps getting in the way! In an effort to read what is on my shelves in 2017, I am practicing saying no to shiny new books. We’ll see how long that lasts. 😉 In the meantime, here is a list of the books that were released in 2016 that I failed to read, but really, really plan to. Can we put a freeze on 2017 releases until I get caught up?

For other bloggers woefully behind on their reading, check out The Broke And The Bookish this week.

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2016 Books That I Need to Read

The Cottage by Michael Phillips

Delilah by Angela Hunt

Dressed for Death by Julianna Deering

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The End of Law by Therese Down

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hall by Julie Klassen

Lead Me Home by Amy Sorrells

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The Shattered Vigil by Patrick Carr

Sins of The Past by Dee Henderson/Dani Pettrey/Lynette Eason

You’re The One That I Want by Susan May Warren

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Have you read any of these 2016 releases?

Which one should I read first?

Audiobook Mini Review: Anne Perry’s Christmas Crimes

23 Dec

Page Turners read Anne Perry’s Christmas Crimes in November and December. This 2-novella set includes A Christmas Garland and A Christmas Homecoming. I listened to the audiobooks which are offered separately. Both are historical mysteries, one set in India following the Rebellion of 1857, the other set in a manor house in northern England. The only things they have in common are the murders to be solved, the time of year– Christmas, and their Victorian era. Not particularly Christmas-y despite the timeframe, they are interesting mysteries to keep you engaged. I had not read Perry before, but she is a great favorite of one of our members. I found both books well-written and full of great historical details. The mysteries kept me guessing until the end. The narrators for the audiobooks were very good. Both books are recommended to those who like complex, historical mysteries and want a bit of the feeling of Christmas.

51vc8gcajjl-_sx322_bo1204203200_A CHRISTMAS HOMECOMING

Charlotte Pitt’s mother, Caroline, is spending the holiday with her young husband, Joshua Fielding, in Whitby, the fishing village where Dracula first touches English soil in Bram Stoker’s sensational novel. Joshua has arranged to produce a stage adaptation of Dracula, written by the daughter of millionaire Charles Netheridge, but tempers flare after a disastrous first read-through of the script. As wind and snow swirl around Netheridge’s lonely hilltop mansion, a black-cloaked stranger emerges from the storm. At the same time, a brooding evil makes itself felt, and instead of theatrical triumph, there is murder — shocking and terrifying.

A CHRISTMAS GARLAND

The year is 1857, soon after the violent Siege of Cawnpore, and India is in the midst of rebellion. In the British garrison, a guard is killed, a prisoner escapes, and a luckless medical orderly named John Tallis is arrested as an accomplice simply because he was the only soldier unaccounted for when the crimes were committed. Though chosen to defend Tallis, young Lieutenant Victor Narraway is not encouraged to try very hard. His superiors merely want a show trial. But inspired by a simple Christmas garland, and his own stubborn faith in justice, Narraway is determined to figure out the truth, despite the appalling odds. In an alien world haunted by massacre, he is the accused man’s only hope.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(I purchased the audiobooks from Audible. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Review: Lucifer’s Harvest

12 Dec

514ihgwgogl-_sx326_bo1204203200_Lord Gilbert Talbot must provide soldiers for Prince Edward’s battle in France. He wishes his surgeon–Hugh de Singleton–to travel with the war party to tend any injuries. Among those on the road is Sir Simon Trillowe, Hugh’s old nemesis, who had once torched Hugh’s house.

Finding himself in the same war party, Hugh resolves to watch his back in the presence of the knight, who is still holding a grudge. But it is Sir Simon who should not have turned his back….

When Trillowe’s body is found, many suspect Hugh has wreaked revenge on his adversary. To clear his name, Hugh must once again riddle a reason for murder.

 

authorMel Starr was born and grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He graduated from Spring Arbor High School in 1960, and Greenville College (Illinois) in 1964. He received an MA in history from Western Michigan University in 1970. He taught history in Michigan public schools for thirty-nine years, thirty-five of those in Portage, MI, where he retired in 2003 as chairman of the social studies department of Portage Northern High School.

Mel married Susan Brock in 1965, and they have two daughters; Amy (Kevin) Kwilinski, of Naperville, IL, and Jennifer (Jeremy) Reivitt, of Portage, MI. Mel and Susan have seven grandchildren.

 

My Impressions:

The tenth installment of The Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon, Lucifer’s Harvest, continues the adventures of Master Hugh as he accompanies the military campaign of Prince Edward of England as he seeks to recover his lands in Acquitaine. Hugh’s role of surgeon may keep him out of direct military involvement, but it does not keep him from danger. The death of his nemesis mobilizes Hugh to uncover the murderer before he finds himself on the end of a rope.

Mel Starr does a great job of bringing medieval society to life. In Lucifer’s Harvest, the emphasis is on war. Starr’s impeccable research is evident in the detail portrayed in the story. Warfare was very different in the 14th century than it is today, and I found the strategy and weapons used very interesting. Hugh, as always, is resourceful in his investigations. With only limited understanding of science and forensics, his intelligence and intuition keep him on track. Hugh is dedicated to truth in all things. His religious views border on the heretical for the time, but add to the thoughtfulness of his examination of human motives and God’s justice. Lucifer’s Harvest is a bit darker than Starr’s previous books. Life is precarious and death comes for all, young and old. The pragmatism in a time of low life expectancies and high child mortality does not subtract from the grief and sorrow of a loss.

It is not necessary to read the previous 9 books of the series to enjoy Lucifer’s Harvest, but I definitely recommend beginning from the beginning of this series. All the books get a recommended rating from me.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to Kregel for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

December Book Club Selections

6 Dec

I am a bit late posting the books my book clubs are reading this month. My mind has been filled with lots of distractions including the upcoming wedding of my youngest son. All the books have Christmas connections, although not necessarily Christmas-y themes. Have you read these books? What did you think?

51d5h-ifykl-_sx322_bo1204203200_Finding Riley by Dan Walsh. An unexpected surprise brings the Mitchell family of Savannah a chance to experience the Christmas trip of their dreams. An unexpected disappointment threatens to turn it into the worst Christmas of their lives. John Finch and his friend Alfred live in the woods. Been doing it for decades. He likes wintering in Florida, but this year’s been particularly harsh. Between the cold, freezing rain and terrifying lightning storms, John’s starting to wonder how much more of this lifestyle he can take. A new friend enters the picture and changes everything. Kim Harper, the dog trainer introduced in Rescuing Finley, is contacted by a billionaire philanthropist seeking her help with a new dog training project that will help the homeless. Is he for real? And is her co-worker right? Does this rich, handsome man’s interest in Kim go much deeper than her dog-training skills?

 

51vc8gcajjl-_sx322_bo1204203200_Christmas Crimes by Anne Perry (2 novella volume).

Christmas Homecoming. Charlotte Pitt’s mother, Caroline, is spending the holiday with her young husband, Joshua Fielding, in Whitby, the fishing village where Dracula first touches English soil in Bram Stoker’s sensational novel. Joshua has arranged to produce a stage adaptation of Dracula, written by the daughter of millionaire Charles Netheridge, but tempers flare after a disastrous first read-through of the script. As wind and snow swirl around Netheridge’s lonely hilltop mansion, a black-cloaked stranger emerges from the storm. At the same time, a brooding evil makes itself felt, and instead of theatrical triumph, there is murder—shocking and terrifying.

Christmas Garland. The year is 1857, soon after the violent Siege of Cawnpore, and India is in the midst of rebellion. In the British garrison, a guard is killed, a prisoner escapes, and a luckless medical orderly named John Tallis is arrested as an accomplice simply because he was the only soldier unaccounted for when the crimes were committed. Though chosen to defend Tallis, young Lieutenant Victor Narraway is not encouraged to try very hard. His superiors merely want a show trial. But inspired by a simple Christmas garland, and his own stubborn faith in justice, Narraway is determined to figure out the truth, despite the appalling odds. In an alien world haunted by massacre, he is the accused man’s only hope.