New from Kate Parker

Kate Parker’s Deadly Deception is the latest installment in the adventures of Olivia Denis, part-time journalist (limited by the mores of late 1930s London to the Women’s Pages) and part-time unofficial spy and investigator. As the book opens, Olivia finds her father (with whom she does not have a particularly warm relationship), kneeling over a corpse, blood on his hands, his knife in the man’s chest.


Her father may have his faults, but Olivia doesn’t believe for a minute that he killed the man lying on the floor of his house, especially since the victim is an old friend who had been reported drowned two years earlier. But her attempts to prove his innocence clash with his refusal to cooperate and lead Olivia deeper into the maelstrom of pre World War II security.


I’ve enjoyed all of Parker’s books, but Deadly Deception proved to be a real page turner; I had trouble putting it down, and read it over a weekend (when I should have been doing other things).


Parker’s The Mystery at Chadwick House is part mystery, part ghost story, and part romance. Emma Winter is helping her best friend renovate a Victorian mansion, but so much goes wrong that it seems as though the house itself is fighting the work. Or is it someone in the house—that face in the window that shows only in Emma’s photographs? What about the mysterious man who may—or may not—be the last of the Chadwicks, or Emma’s childhood friend, now a police officer? And what really happened in the barn back in 1904? It all adds up to a thoroughly entertaining novella, quite different from Parker’s excellent historical mysteries.

More Cozies

I’ve read been reading cozy mysteries lately, so here are a few I’ve enjoyed, one from a brand new series by Kate Parker, plus series entries from Annabel Chase and Cindy Brown.


The Killing at Kaldaire House begins a new series from Kate Parker, this one set in Edwardian London and featuring Emily Gates, a young, talented, and reasonably The Killing at Kaldaire Housesuccessful milliner who inherited her shop from her mother. Unfortunately some of her aristocratic clients seem to see no need to actually pay their bills, and Emily is forced to take extreme measures, using the burglary skills she learned from her father’s disreputable (but highly successful) family to take their valuables (some of which turn out not to be valuable at all) hostage.


On a late night visit to Kaldaire House, Emily discovers the dying master of the mansion lying on the floor of his study. Unwilling to abandon anyone in that condition, she alerts the household. When Lady Kaldaire promises to vouch for her (and pay Emily’s bill herself) if Emily will help her solve the mystery of Lord Kaldaire’s murder, Emily has little choice.


She doesn’t have much choice when the attractive detective assigned to the case, James Russell, recognizes Emily as a member of the notorious Gates family and promises not to arrest her if she will help him keep an eye on her relatives. Needing her income to send the relative she cares most about, her younger brother Matthew, to a special school for the deaf, she finds herself juggling her investigating for Lady Kaldaire, her family, and her growing attraction to Detective Inspector Russell.


With a range of entertaining supporting characters, lots of period detail, and a good mystery, The Killing at Kaldaire House promises another fun series of cozy mysteries from Parker.


Better Than Hex is the fifth installment in Annabel Chase’s Spellbound series of humorous paranormal mysteries, following the adventures of Emma Hart, who didn’t know she was Better Than Hexa witch until she stumbled into Spellbound, a community of paranormals trapped in their town by a very old spell, and found she couldn’t leave. In this tale, Emma, now the local public defender (and witch in remedial training) takes on the case of a young were-lion who won’t explain why he was caught in possession of deadly nightshade. Meanwhile she frets over the impending marriage of her not-so-secret crush, fallen angel Daniel Starr, to mean-spirited (but gorgeous) fairy Elsa Knightsbridge. Has Daniel really fallen back in love with his ex-girlfriend, or has he been the victim of an Obsession potion administered by Elsa?


Better Than Hex ends on something of a cliffhanger, so I immediately downloaded the Cast Awaysixth installment, Cast Away, in which Emma is only slightly distracted from her concerns about Daniel by a new client (a macho young werewolf accused of peeing inappropriately in a peony bed) and a new mystery (the death of a likable troll found frozen under a bridge). Emma’s experiment with potions at the nightclub hosting Elsa’s bachelorette party goes awry, of course. Will she break the Obsession spell in time to stop the wedding? Or will the secret she’s been keeping trip her up? Chase answers these questions while leaving plenty of story lines for the next books in the series.


Cindy Brown’s The Phantom of Oz is another fun theatrical mystery, this one set in an elegant old theater haunted by the Lady in White. Ivy Meadows is a hardworking young The Phantom of Ozactress who also works for her Uncle Bob’s PI firm (Duda Detectives), so naturally when her best friend, Candy, disappears from the touring company of The Wizard: A Space OZpera Ivy dives in to investigate, landing herself an understudy role with the company in the process. Props include spaceships and Trekian costumes, and the cast includes munchkins and flying monkeys (played by children ranging from adorable to creepy), a famous director, a toxic reality star, a costume mistress who might be a witch, and Toto. Misunderstandings with her boyfriend and her brother only make Ivy’s life more complicated, not to mention the wardrobe mistress’ well-intentioned cold remedies. I love this series, with its madly scrambled theatrical productions and hilariously close-but-not-quite-there movie titles.


And More Mystery Reviews

I’m running out of titles for these review collections—obviously my reading has leaned heavily to cozy mysteries of late. On the other hand, as I write this I’m reading one alternate history novel (The Boleyn King by Laura Anderson) and one alternate world novel (Within the Sanctuary of Wings, the last—alas—Lady Trent Memoir by Marie Brennan). More on those later.


Meanwhile, back in mystery land, Diane Kelly’s Death and Taxes series comes to an end Death, Taxes and a Shotgun Weddingwith Death, Taxes, and a Shotgun Wedding, the twelfth adventure of Tara Holloway, gun-toting IRS Special Agent. I’m sure it’s no spoiler to admit that Tara and Nick do manage to get married by the end of the book, or that shotguns actually are present at the wedding.


Before they make it to the altar, though, Tara tackles a home rental scam, pursuing the fake property manager through an undercover job with Backseat Driver, and all her colleagues lend their talents to track down whoever is sending Tara death threats. That search serves as a trip down memory lane, as Tara and her friends check in with folks they’ve met—and some they’ve arrested—over Tara’s relatively brief career as an agent. (She’s sure packed a lot of action into less than two years on the job!) If you’ve been following the series you’ll enjoy catching up with all the characters.


I’m glad to see Tara’s Happily Ever After (complete with a five-years-later epilogue), but sorry to see the series end. Never fear, though—Kelly’s Paw and Order K9 team of Megan and Brigit will continue, and rumor has it Kelly has a new series in the works.


Zara Keane’s Rebel Without a Claus continues the adventures (and sometimes misadventures) of Maggie Doyle, an American ex-cop starting over on the little Irish Rebel Without a Clausisland where much of her father’s family lives. Maggie and her friend and assistant P.I. Lenny are doing undercover work for their newly established Movie Reel Investigations when they find a body in a bathtub. And that’s not the last body Maggie, widely known as a corpse magnet, will find in the course of the book. Throw in a half dozen Bad Santas, some odd behavior on the part of Liam Reynolds, Maggie’s police officer boyfriend, and the unexpected arrival of Maggie’s estranged sister Beth, now a famous beauty vlogger, and you have the ingredients for another tale combining mayhem and laughter.


I’ve read the whole Movie Club Mysteries series over the past year and enjoyed it thoroughly. I’ll be watching for the next one, Some Like It Shot, due out in the spring.


Deadly Fashion is the third in Kate Parker’s series set in pre-WWII London. Olivia Denis, Deadly Fashiona young widow (she solved her husband’s murder in Deadly Scandal), works as a barely competent writer on the society page of a London newspaper, holding down the job because she’s also handling investigations for the paper’s publisher. In Deadly Fashion, an interview with a long-admired couturier, Madame Mimi Mareau, leads Olivia into murder investigations and another trip to the continent.


Parker does a wonderful job of bringing her setting to life. London is still reeling from the Abdication, everyone knows that war is coming sooner or later, and no one is entirely sure whose side of the conflict their neighbor might be on. Olivia and her good friend Captain Adam Richmond know where they stand, and don’t hesitate to follow their investigations, even when the answers aren’t what they might have hoped for.


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.


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.


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.

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