Three Good Mysteries

Kate Parker’s Deadly Wedding continues the adventures of Olivia Denis, begun in Deadly Scandal. Set in London in the late 1930s, the series combines mystery with a touch of cloak and dagger adventure. When Olivia agrees to help out with the wedding of a distant cousin, she doesn’t expect to find herself investigating a deadly-weddingmurder. And two attempts and another murder. As Olivia probes the family’s secrets, she has more and more reason to be glad that these people, with whom she spent much of her childhood, are only distant relations. Along the way she learns things she never knew about her father (they’re working together to investigate the murders, but Sir Ronald still doesn’t want to acknowledge Olivia’s job as a journalist), she sees some terrible sights on a trip to Vienna shortly after the Nazis move in, and the coming war colors everyone’s future. Olivia is a determined, independent woman, surrounded by a range of interesting characters, and her instincts for mystery solving are strong. I hope we’ll be seeing more of her Deadly adventures.

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Send In the Clowns is another (#4) thoroughly enjoyable Country Club Murder from Julie Mulhern. This time Ellison Russell witnesses a murder in The Gates of Hell—a haunted house attraction where her daughter Grace appears to have overstayed her curfew. Of course the body disappears send-in-the-clownsbefore the police get there, but when it does turn up it opens a whole can of worms for Kansas City society. Ellison deals with her snobbish mother, her goodhearted but old fashioned father (who thinks Ellison needs a man to “manage” her), and struggles with her up and down feelings for police detective Anarchy Jones and lawyer Hunter Taft. I love the characters in Mulhern’s series, and the 1970s setting is spot on.

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Janet Evanovich’s Turbo Twenty Three is the latest in the long-running series about Stephanie Plum, accidental (and accident-prone) bond recovery agent. I still love this series. Stephanie and Lula still make me laugh out loud. If Lula’s turbo-twenty-threedescription of going into a public men’s room (her idea for a new reality series, after Naked Bungee Jumping didn’t work out) doesn’t make you laugh, you should probably be reading something else. This installment features an enraged clown, murders at an ice cream factory, Grandma’s new boyfriend (a tattooed biker, but age appropriate), Randy Briggs (the three-foot-tall naked bungee jumper), Joe, Ranger, Rex the Hamster, a slimy booby trap, several fugitives, and another wrecked car. All in a day’s work for Stephanie and Lula.

Kate Parker’s Deadly Scandal

Kate Parker begins a new series with Deadly Scandal, set in 1937 London, a few months after the Abdication, when gossip in the city ranges from Mrs. Simpson to the rise of the Nazis. Olivia Denis Deadly Scandalthought she knew Reggie, her quiet, mild-mannered husband of three years, but when he is found in an alley, dead of a presumably self-inflicted gun shot, she discovers how little she really knew. But she’s sure he didn’t shoot himself, and she sets out to prove it.

To do that, she’ll have to find a way to support herself and avoid moving back in with her socially prominent and very proper father. Through a childhood friend, she finds work at a newspaper, ostensibly as a society writer. Her editor has other work in mind—with Olivia’s social connections, she’s ideally suited to attend parties and bring back information gleaned from high society, and from Reggie’s colleagues at the Foreign Office and their counterparts at the German Embassy.

Was Reggie responsible for documents going missing from the Foreign Office? Whatever she’s learned about him since his death, Olivia can’t believe that. But someone must, or why would they search her flat or follow her on the street? Olivia doesn’t know who to trust, but she teams up with Adam Redmond, an Army Intelligence officer, one of the few people who believe that Reggie was murdered, to dig through the increasing layers of mystery and intrigue.

Olivia is a fine heroine, smart, determined, and resourceful. Her sleuthing takes her into the darker corners of a fascinating period in London, with society still shaken by the Abdication and unwilling to believe in the coming war. She discovers that not all the British are loyal—and not all the Germans are what they seem. I hope we’ll see Olivia again soon.

The Vanishing ThiefIn the meantime, don’t miss Parker’s Victorian Bookshop Series, set at the end of the nineteenth century, and its heroine, bookshop proprietress Georgia Fenchurch, beginning with The Vanishing Thief.

The Victorian Bookshop Mysteries

The Royal Assassin is the third installment in Kate Parker’s Victorian Bookshop Mystery series, continuing the adventures of Georgia Fenchurch, owner and operator of Fenchurch’s Books and member of the Archivist Society, a group dedicated to solving mysteries no one else can handle.

The Royal AssasinWhen the bodyguard of a Russian princess in London to meet her arranged fiance, the Duke of Sussex, is murdered, the Duke of Blackford shows up at Georgia’s shop looking for her assistance. He has contrived a position for Georgia as temporary secretary and English tutor in the home of the Duke of Hereford, where the Russian princess is staying. Rather against her better judgment, Georgia agrees; she finds it very difficult to say no to the Duke. But are they dealing with criminals, anarchists, or royal intrigue? Or perhaps all three?

Georgia and the Archivists are back in The Conspiring Woman. With the Duke of Blackford off The Conspiring Womantouring his American investments, Georgia undertakes the search for a missing child and his mother. When Lady Hale is found dead, the Archivists soon discover that she’s not the only wealthy, and unhappy, wife to disappear in recent months. Where is her little boy? And what’s become of those missing women? Georgia finds some surprising answers in her search for a killer—and then the Duke comes home. Have his travels changed his mind about the requirements for a suitable duchess?

The series (which begins with The Vanishing Thief and The Counterfeit Lady) is set in the late Victorian era, as telephones and electric lights begin to appear in London; the characters are well drawn and interesting, and the plots are entertaining. I hope there will be more Victorian Bookshop Mysteries, but in the meantime The Conspiring Woman wraps up some questions that have run through the series and sets Georgia on a new path.

Kate Parker: The Counterfeit Lady

The Counterfeit LadyThe Counterfeit Lady is the second in Kate Parker’s delightful Victorian Bookshop Mystery series, in which Georgia Fenchurch, the solidly middle-class proprietress of Fenchurch’s Books, once again becomes involved in murder and mayhem through her somewhat prickly friendship with the dashing Duke of Blackford and her participation in the Archivist Society, a secretive investigation agency.

This time around, a cousin of Georgia’s friend and house mate, Lady Phyllida Monthalf, is murdered, and Phyllida refuses to believe that her cousin’s husband, arrested for the crime, is guilty. As if this weren’t distressing enough, the murder was committed during the theft of the blueprints of a new battleship—designed by the accused husband. Is he a murderer? A traitor? Or an innocent man, as Phyllida believes?

The political repercussions of the theft bring the Duke into the picture, and Georgia unwillingly agrees to his plan to investigate the crime—by posing as a prosperous widow recently returned from Singapore, an old flame of Blackford’s ready to renew their relationship.

Between worrying about leaving her shop in the hands of friends, avoiding anyone who might know her as Georgia or who might be expected to know a widow from Singapore, dealing with an impostor, going off to a country house party, and struggling with her real feelings for the Duke, Georgia is out of her element. But if anyone can cope with the unexpected, it’s Georgia, whether it involves international spies, a stolen hat box, or dealing with snobbish aristocrats.

I love the setting of this series, late Victorian London, where electric lighting is coming into vogue and the Duke has a telephone installed in the shop (with no delay—he’s a director of the telephone company). The viewpoint of a middle class spinster focused on making a living, sure that nothing will ever come of her attraction to a Duke, is refreshing, and the cast of supporting characters is entertaining. I’ll be looking forward to Georgia’s next adventure in investigation—and her next encounter with the Duke.

Another Box of Books

When I got home from work last night, I found a lovely box of books on my doorstep. Now, you might think, with all the (mostly free) books I brought home from the RWA conference, that I wouldn’t need to be book shopping again any time soon. (Well, no, if you stop by here often, you wouldn’t think that at all.)

most books 2Ha! I always need books. I’m a book junkie. And the August release of books in two series that I never miss sent me mousing over to Amazon a couple of weeks ago to order them: Paw And Order, the latest Chet and Bernie mystery from Spencer Quinn, and Death, Taxes, and Silver Spurs, the latest adventure of Tara Holloway, Diane Kelly’s intrepid (and armed) IRS Special Agent. Chet, Bernie, and Tara are among my very favorite book people (well, Chet’s a dog, but he’s still a favorite character) and I never miss their stories.

As long as I was there (and making sure to order enough for free shipping—I have yet to succumb to the lures of Amazon Prime, for fear I would never be able to tear myself away from all those videos), I ordered Kate Parker’s The Counterfeit Lady (the second installment in the Victorian Bookshop Mysteries) and Lauren Christopher’s The Red Bikini, a contemporary romance set on a California beach.

I’d heard through the RWA grapevine that the writers who went to Lisa Cron’s workshop were raving about it, and about her book, Wired for Story, so I ordered that, too. Haven’t cracked it yet, but a friend who has been reading it assures me that she’s gotten a lot of ideas from it. The subtitle, The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence, is a bit intimidating (Brain Science? Really?), but I’m always up for a few nuggets of inspiration.

I wanted one more book from a series I’ve loved since its beginning, Marcia Muller’s The Night Searchers, the latest Sharon McCone mystery, but when I pulled it up on Amazon, it was listed at full price and with a possible two-week delay. Aha—published by Grand Central and caught in the ongoing feud between Amazon and Hachette.

So I moused on over to the Mystery Guild. I’ve belonged to the Mystery Guild and the Science Fiction Book Club since the pre-Internet days of the early 1970s, when I lived in a small town in Louisiana, thirty miles from the nearest book store (and short of money at that). Over at the Mystery Guild, I not only found The Night Searchers, but they were running a sale, so I preordered another series favorite, Margaret Maron’s latest Deborah Knott mystery, Designated Daughters, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ new release, Heroes Are my Weakness.

Then last weekend I went to a West Houston RWA meeting and bought three new books by chapter sisters: Sophie Jordan’s A Good Debutante’s Guide to Ruin (first in a new historical romance series), Shana Galen’s Love and Let Spy (third in the Lord and Lady Spy trilogy), and Heather MacAllister’s Taken By Storm (Harlequin Blaze romance).

Clearly, I’m still devoted to the paper book, but I’ve added several novels to my Kindle since the conference, too, some by friends, some through BookBub (even more temptation than the Kindle Daily Deal!). As soon as I find another day or two in the week to devote to reading, I’ll put up some more reviews.

Meanwhile, what are you reading?

Abibliophobia

Kate Parker: The Vanishing Thief

Kate Parker’s The Vanishing Thief is a delightful debut novel and the first in her Victorian Bookshop Mystery series. Georgia Fenchurch, the proprietress of said bookshop, is a member of the Archivist Society, a secret association of investigators. Well, they strive to be secretive, but it The Vanishing Thief doesn’t always work out that way, as Georgia learns when a strange woman bursts into her shop, insists that the Duke of Blackford has kidnapped her neighbor, and demands that Georgia and her fellow Archivists investigate.  As unlikely as the woman’s story seems, it intrigues Georgia enough to set an investigation in motion, an investigation that soon becomes entangled with a tragedy from Georgia’s past and the events that brought her into the world of detective work years before.

Guided by the enigmatic Sir Broderick, head of the Archivists, and aided by her shop assistant Emma, a beautiful former street urchin, Georgia infiltrates the high society world of the suspect Duke, a most attractive and possibly dangerous man. He has his own secrets, but do they involve the missing man, or something else entirely? And just what was the missing man up to? How did he manage to learn so many dangerous secrets, and which of those secrets might have led to his disappearance—or worse?

Georgia is a down-to-earth middle class spinster, wondering if she’s gotten in over her head trying to untangle a puzzle involving the family secrets of the aristocracy, and her attraction to the Duke doesn’t help at all. The time is the late Victorian Era, electric lighting is coming into use, and life in London is beginning to change. But class attitudes are as entrenched as ever, and shop-owner Georgia is not prepared for some of the tasks she must undertake. Is the Duke really helping, or is he steering her in the wrong direction?The Counterfeit Lady

Surrounded by a diverse cast of supporting characters, Georgia is a first-rate investigator and a delightful new heroine. Her next adventure, The Counterfeit Lady, arrives in August, and it’s definitely on my shopping list.