Reading journal 4: more history and mystery

theft  of lifeI may have mentioned that I love historical fiction.
I love it so much I have been writing it.
And what I discover in doing this is that:
1> when I’m writing, I’m not reading.
2> when I’m writing, I’m not reviewing.
3> when I’m writing, I’m not actually in this century in any meaningful way, except the physical one.

So I have once again fallen sadly behind with my reviews, but at least it’s not because I have read an excessive number of books.

I don’t think that makes it any better.

Anyway, here are six historical mysteries that I read SIX months ago – aaaargh!!

#23 Theft of Life by Imogen Robertson (Read 14/02/2015)
I absolutely adore this series – I think Harriet Westerman and Gabriel Crowther are fascinating and engaging characters and the author’s historical research is never obtrusive and always interesting. Here the intrepid pair are delving into the nasty legacy of the slave trade and the fortunes that were made by those willing to view other human beings as a commodity. Start with Instruments of Darkness to enjoy the whole of this exceptional series.

#24 Abracadaver by Peter Lovesey (Read 16/02/2015)
The trials of Sergeant Cribb, having to deal with Constable Thackeray and mishaps at a Victorian-era music hall failed to enchant me. I didn’t find it as much fun as it thought it was, unfortunately. Maybe it was the whole array of stereotypical music hall acts, which never felt like people, or maybe it was the painfully contrived denouement that wrecked it for me. Never mind, onwards and upwards, right?

#25 The Winter Ground by Catriona McPherson (Read 19/02/2015)
Another historical mystery with performers, but this time a circus, resting at a winter ground in Scotland. The Dandy Gilver mysteries are quite a good series and readers should start at the beginning to see Dandy develop as a detective and how her family comes to terms with that. Set in 1925, the circus folk offer a splash of bright colour in the snowy environs of rural Perthshire, but the behaviour of the rich and beautiful is the real heart of the book. I found it dragged a little in places – enough for me to put it aside, but not to abandon it.

#26 The Anatomy of Ghosts by Andrew Taylor (Read 22/02/2015)
There was quite a lot that appealed to me in the premise of this novel, but I felt let down by it at the end. It has a charming sub-title “An inquiry into the distressing circumstances surrounding an alleged apparition lately recorded in Cambridge : set down for the curious in the form of a novel” and an interesting central character who has written a refutation of ghosts after a personal tragedy. Set in 1786, it is very much a ‘slow boil’ kind of book – things happen, but not quickly, and it’s another easy one to set down.

#27 The Iron Tongue of Midnight by Beverle Graves Myers (Read 23/02/2015)
This is the fourth in the series of Baroque mysteries starring Tito Amaro, a castrato opera singer in Venice in 1740. I’m feeling like a curmudgeon reporting on these books because this one also made me grumpy. The author’s hand was too apparent, by which I mean that I was conscious of the mechanics of the plot being presented. I don’t know that I’m explaining it very well – I knew that the author knew that she was writing a country house cozy mystery and that certain forms must be filled. It felt – forced.

#28 A Rare Interest in Corpses by Ann Granger (Read 25/02/2015)
The first of the Lizzie Martin mysteries is set in London in 1864, with Lizzie arriving from the coalfields of Derbyshire to be a lady’s companion. Coincidentally, she is delayed by the removal of a corpse from slum clearances near what is to be St Pancras Station. Coincidentally, the corpse proves to be the body of her predecessor as lady’s companion who mysteriously disappeared but no-one cared. Coincidentally, the police officer investigating the crime was a lad from Derbyshire whose education was paid for by Lizzie’s father because the plot god required it. Coincidentally, I didn’t like it as much as I had hoped.

And that’s five out of six curmudgeonly reviews.

Sorry. I recommend you go and read Imogen Robertson because she is awesome.