Tag: Historical Mystery

Guest Review: The Other Lady Vanishes by Amanda Quick

Posted May 29, 2018 by Jen in Reviews | 4 Comments

Guest Review: The Other Lady Vanishes by Amanda QuickReviewer: Jen
The Other Lady Vanishes (Burning Cove #2) by Amanda Quick, Jayne Ann Krentz
Series: Burning Cove #2
Published by Penguin, Berkley
Publication Date: May 8, 2018
Point-of-View: Third Person
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 368
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four-stars

The New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Knew Too Much sweeps readers back to 1930s California--where the most dazzling of illusions can't hide the darkest secrets...

After escaping from a private sanitarium, Adelaide Blake arrives in Burning Cove, California, desperate to start over.

Working at an herbal tea shop puts her on the radar of those who frequent the seaside resort town: Hollywood movers and shakers always in need of hangover cures and tonics. One such customer is Jake Truett, a recently widowed businessman in town for a therapeutic rest. But unbeknownst to Adelaide, his exhaustion is just a cover.

In Burning Cove, no one is who they seem. Behind facades of glamour and power hide drug dealers, gangsters, and grifters. Into this make-believe world comes psychic to the stars Madame Zolanda. Adelaide and Jake know better than to fall for her kind of con. But when the medium becomes a victim of her own dire prediction and is killed, they'll be drawn into a murky world of duplicity and misdirection.

Neither Adelaide or Jake can predict that in the shadowy underground they'll find connections to the woman Adelaide used to be--and uncover the specter of a killer who's been real all along...

The Other Lady Vanishes continues the Burning Cove series, which is set in a California resort town for the 1930s Hollywood crowd. This time our heroine is Adelaide Blake. Adelaide is a tearoom waitress (and sort of amateur herbalist) who escaped from a sanitarium after being wrongly locked away. She’s struggling to build some sort of life for herself in Burning Cove, even while she’s worried someone will come after her and try to drag her back. Jake Truett is a visitor to town, ostensibly to “rest his nerves” on the orders of his doctor. He becomes a regular tearoom visitor, and when the opportunity presents itself, he jumps at the chance to go on a date with Adelaide. Their date doesn’t quite go as planned, however, and they get sucked into a grisly murder. Clues keep adding up suggesting that Adelaide’s past is not as far behind her as she had hoped, and Jake’s true reasons for coming to town may be related as well. They have to work to investigate the increasing crimes and stay alive while doing so.

I really enjoyed the twisty, turny mystery of this book. There are a lot of players double crossing each other and trying to advance their own hidden agendas, and it’s fun to see Adelaide, Jake , and their friends untangle the threads. (We hear more about Luther Pell, the mysterious nightclub owner we met in Book 1. I am so intrigued!) This book has a bit of a gothic feel to it, despite being set in the 1930s, mostly because of the sanitarium. Rushbrook is a creepy building where horrible things take place, and it is absolutely terrifying to think of Adelaide being forcibly locked up there with no seeming way out. There’s also a drug involved that can trap people in their nightmares, and that adds a very macabre touch, too. It was a bit of a stretch like many mysteries since there were so many coincidences and tidy solutions, but I was hooked.

I liked Adelaide, even if it did take her a little while to come into her own. At the start, she is understandably doubting herself. She knows she wasn’t ill…and yet she spent months being told she was and being dosed with a hallucinogenic drug. Of course, that would plant a seed of doubt in someone’s mind. More than that, though, she is afraid that other people will think she’s mentally ill. I thought her caution and reticence to get involved with Jake at first made sense, and I really appreciated that she doesn’t drag out her standoffishness forever. Jake is an ok character, but we never really learn that much about him. He has a backstory with a dead wife and some far-fetched involvement with international intrigue, but we only get a vague sense of him as a person. I liked him with Adelaide, but theirs is not a particularly well-developed, character-driven romance. Their dialogue can also be a bit stilted at times.

I did want to mention a big old trigger warning for discussions of mental illness and, to a lesser extent, rape in this book. Mental illness in particular is a thread that comes up in several different ways throughout the book, and it’s not always handled with a modern sensibility by these 1930s characters. To my mind, nothing was egregiously offensive, but characters in the book do things like call the residents of the sanitarium “poor wretches” and “crazy,” and generally residents are used as part of the creepy scenery rather than human characters in their own right. Better was the discussion of Jake’s wife and her own mental health issues, which I thought was treated with more respect. In other words, it’s not all bad, but YMMV.

I liked the mystery of this book better than the mystery of Book 1, but I didn’t quite love the characters as much. Still, this is a good read if you enjoy a good old-fashioned mystery with a little romance mixed in.

Grade: 4 out of 5

Burning Cove

four-stars


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Guest Review: The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne

Posted November 1, 2011 by Tracy in Reviews | 1 Comment

Published by Berkley, Penguin

Tracy’s review of The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne

Attacked on a rainy London street, veteran spy Justine DeCabrillac knows only one man can help her: Hawker, who also happens to be the enemy. With London crawling with hidden assassins and someone out to frame Hawker for the assault, the two spies must work together to find who’s out to destroy them…

Justine is on her way to British Intelligence Service headquarters to see Sir Adrian Hawkhurst – head of the BIS – when she is stabbed. She manages to make it to Meeks St. where they attempt to save her life. As she lays fighting for her life Adrian thinks back on the many years that he and Justine have known each other.

Adrian first met Justine when they were but 12 or 13 years old. He worked for the BIS and she for the French Secret Police. They shouldn’t have even spoken to each other, much less worked together. As the years went on they continued to work with each other from time to time and eventually became lovers. Adrian fell for Justine but since they worked for such different factions they could never be together. We get some great details of their time together and see how the two fell in love.

Now as Justine recovers they must figure out who tried to kill Justine and for what reason, especially when they discover that not only the attempt on her life but the murders of two others are being pinned on Adrian.

This is a book of Bourne’s that I have been waiting for for so very long. I have loved Hawk from the moment he was brought into the picture in past books. He was always such an intriguing character and I just knew that there would be a wonderful story behind him, and I was right. The man pulled himself up by his bootstraps, with help from his friends, to make something of himself. He was a great spy, a great friend and an excellent strategist. He knew what he was doing in his line of work and because of that became the Head of BIS. I couldn’t admire him more.

With Justine it took me a bit of time to warm up to her. I really liked her and admired her as well for what she had become – especially knowing what she had lived through in her life. She was a person that held herself back for fear of being hurt and betrayed and frankly I didn’t blame her…it just made it harder to get close to her – for Adrian and for me as the reader. After a bit I came to understand her better and when that happened I saw the charm of the woman and could see what Hawk saw in her. Truly they were a perfect couple together and I loved reading their story.

I’ve truly loved reading this serious and hope it’s not over yet. There’s Pax I need to know more about and hope we get his story some day. If you haven’t read this series you should – it’s well worth the time.


Rating: 4.5 out of 5

You can read more from Tracy at Tracy’s Place

This book is available from Berkley Sensation. You can buy it here or here in e-format.


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Guest Review: Mere Mortals by Erastes

Posted September 25, 2011 by Ames in Reviews | 0 Comments

Ames’ review of Mere Mortals by Erastes.

Orphaned Crispin Thorne has been taken as ward by Philip Smallwood, a man he’s never met, and is transplanted from his private school to Smallwood’s house on an island on the beautiful but coldly remote, Horsey Mere in Norfolk.

Upon his arrival, he finds that he’s not the only young man given a fresh start. Myles Graham, and Jude Middleton are there before him, and as their benefactor is away, they soon form alliances and friendships, as they speculate on why they’ve been given this new life. Who is Philip Smallwood? Why has he given them such a fabulous new life? What secrets does the house hold-and what is it that the Doctor seems to know?

Mere Mortals was a very interesting gothic tale. Right from the beginning we are immersed in this mysterious, dark, almost foreboding atmosphere.  Told from Crispin’s point of view, I was intrigued with the mystery and loved how the setting (Norfolk countryside) really played a key role in the story.

Crispin is an orphan and has been raised in a boarding school.  When he was caught with another boy, he thought for sure he’d be booted out with nothing to his name.  But such was not the case.  Crispin became the ward of the mysterious Phillip Smallwood and after completing his final year at school, Crispin went to live with his benefactor, a man whom he’d never met.

When he arrives in Bittern’s Reach, Crispin meets two other young men whom Phillip became benefactors to:  Jude Middleton and Myles Graham. And it’s not too long before Crispin realizes both these men prefer the company of other men as well.  And then they meet their mysterious benefactor.  Phillip quickly sets their schedules up-they are to continue schooling, but they will also receive training in other areas, to be young gentleman.  He even decides on their clothing.  Despite this regimented schedule, the men do have a certain freedom on Phillip’s estate.  Unfortunately for them, living in Norfolk, to go anywhere else, they need to travel by boat.  Keeps them isolated.

As the story progresses, the setting and atmosphere really work well together to engender a feeling of quiet menace below the surface of their lives.  There’s something off a bit with the way everything is going down and Crispin isn’t quite sure what.  And the what is a bit of a surprise.  I was so engrossed in Crispin’s tale and since it’s from his point of view we only have the same clues he does to work with.  I thought it all came together in a satisfying way.  I really enjoyed Crispin’s character and thought the other characters were well done too.  But the real star of this novel was the setting.  Erastes did such a good job of placing us in that Norfolk countryside.  That really set the mood for the story, and not in an obvious way.

If you’re in the mood for a gothic historical m/m, I recommend Mere Mortals. 4 out of 5

This book is available from Lethe Press. You can buy it here in e-format.


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Guest Review: Silent on the Moor by Deanna Raybourn

Posted July 1, 2011 by Ames in Reviews | 3 Comments

Ames’ review of Silent on the Moor (Lady Julie Grey, Book 3) by Deanna Raybourn.

Despite his admonitions to stay away, Lady Julia arrives in Yorkshire to find Brisbane as remote and maddeningly attractive as ever. Cloistered together, they share the moldering house with the proud but impoverished remnants of an ancient family: the sort that keeps their bloodline pure and their secrets close. Lady Allenby and her daughters, dependent upon Brisbane and devastated by their fall in society, seem adrift on the moor winds, powerless to change their fortunes. But poison does not discriminate between classes….

A mystery unfolds from the rotten heart of Grimsgrave, one Lady Julia may have to solve alone, as Brisbane appears inextricably tangled in its heinous twists and turns. But blood will out, and before spring touches the craggy northern landscape, Lady Julia will have uncovered a Gypsy witch, a dark rider and a long-buried legacy of malevolence and evil.

I’ve tried to remain non-spoilerish about the central couple in this series, but that all ends here. LOL

Nicholas and Julia want each other. She’s not afraid of it, but he is, and at the end of the first two books, he’s pushed her away. But not anymore. Julia is going after Nicholas and we know she’s stubborn and she’s going to put this thing to rest between them once and for all.

Nicholas has purchased a property up in Yorkshire.  It’s a crumbling down estate and in Silent in the Sanctuary, he had extended an invitation to Portia to come help him set up his home.  Julia invites herself along, which pleases none of the occupants at Grimsgrave.

As much as I enjoyed this book, it wasn’t perfect.  I thought the mystery was a bit slow to gain momentum.  Until some bodies are found, Silent on the Moor just comes across as a dark read.  Which is fine, but again, a bit slow.

Fortunately, that didn’t bother me too much because of two things.  The increasing intensity between Nicholas and Julia and the descriptive setting.  The moor is practically a character the way it’s so richly described.  I felt like I was there in that desolate country, avoiding bogs and foggy patches.  The moor is a dangerous place and it almost felt like there was a presence there trying to catch an wandering traveler.

Now, Nicholas and Julia.  He is still trying to push her away, but a gypsy friend told Julia to listen to what people say but also to pay attention to what they’re body is trying to tell you.  And Nicholas is definitely sending out mixed signals.

But what I remembered most vivdly was that even as his right hand had gripped my chin so cruelly, forcing me to face him as he raged at me, his left hand had stolen into mine, clasping it with all the desperation of a drowning man.

I loved the push and pull between these two characters.  And Nicholas is just so intense!  I liked how Julia is the one who is goes after what she wants.  Compared to the Julia we met at the very beginning of this series, this shows how far she’s come along.  She’s taking control of her life.

Portia is in this book too, and things are not going well for her.  I can’t wait to read book 4, the Dark Road to Darjeeling, to see how things work out for her.  4 out of 5.  The mystery though, would get a 3.5 out of 5.

The series:
Silent in the GraveSilent in the Sanctuary: A Lady Julia Grey MysterySilent On The Moor (A Lady Julia Grey Novel)Dark Road to Darjeeling (Lady Julia Grey)The Dark Enquiry (A Lady Julia Grey Novel)

This book is available from Mira. You can buy it here or here in e-format.


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Guest Review: Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn

Posted July 1, 2011 by Ames in Reviews | 2 Comments

Ames’ review of Silent in the Sanctuary (Lady Julie Grey, Book 2) by Deanna Raybourn.

Fresh from a six-month sojourn in Italy, Lady Julia returns home to Sussex to find her father’s estate crowded with family and friends— but dark deeds are afoot at the deconsecrated abbey, and a murderer roams the ancient cloisters.

Much to her surprise, the one man she had hoped to forget—the enigmatic and compelling Nicholas Brisbane—is among her father’s houseguests… and he is not alone. Not to be outdone, Julia shows him that two can play at flirtation and promptly introduces him to her devoted, younger, titled Italian count.

But the homecoming celebrations quickly take a ghastly turn when one of the guests is found brutally murdered in the chapel, and a member of Lady Julia’s own family confesses to the crime. Certain of her cousin’s innocence, Lady Julia resumes her unlikely and deliciously intriguing partnership with Nicholas Brisbane, setting out to unravel a tangle of deceit before the killer can strike again. When a sudden snowstorm blankets the abbey like a shroud, it falls to Lady Julia and Nicholas Brisbane to answer the shriek of murder most foul.

Six months after the events of Silent in the Grave, we find Lady Julia Grey in Italy with two of her brothers and a young Italian count, who is very attentive. Their father has summoned them home for Christmas and so everyone is bundled up and headed home, with the young count joining them.

Back in England, Julia discovers that the infuriating Nicholas Brisbane is to join her family at their estate for the Christmas holidays. She believes that it’s her family’s attempt at matchmaking and this annoys her. She’s annoyed with herself even further when Nicholas is there with his fiancée, and she has to admit, she’s jealous. Her bestest sister Portia urges her to make Nicholas jealous with the young Italian stud. It’s a true testament to Julia’s character that she thinks about it for a second, but doesn’t actively try to do it. As much as I have to admire the writer keeping the character true to herself, this romance reader would have liked some more jealousy on Brisbane’s part.

Once back at home, there are some new characters on the scene. More of Julia’s family makes an appearance, there’s Brisbane’s fiancée, and there’s also some locals. With this mix of people, it’s only a matter of time until a body shows up…which it does, during a game of hide and seek.

Despite Julia wanting to keep away from Nicholas, her curiousity and her inability to turn away from a good mystery keeps her in close contact with the mysterious and frustrating man.

Silent in the Sanctuary takes the parts of what I truly enjoyed from the previous books and improves on it. The characters are the driving force of these books. At the heart lies Julia, a woman who enjoys her freedom but is still irresistibly drawn to Nicholas. Nicholas continues to be a mystery but more of his past is coming to the forefront, and each nugget of truth makes us more curious. It makes Julia more curious too. The pleasant surprise here was Julia’s family – there are a fun bunch and I’m glad she has so many relatives. Portia is a definite favorite of mine. Portia is a lesbian and has been living openly and at the edges of society since her husband died. In fact, she is living with her husband’s cousin. Portia is a strong character that urges Julia to step outside her comfort zone and pushes Julia and Nicholas together.

There were two mysteries in this book and it took me forever to figure them both out. I’m so clueless and I’m one of those readers that totally misses the themes that the author is showing us throughout the narrative. So Silent in the Sanctuary was a good mystery.

Great characters, strong mystery and an intense connection between our two lead characters leaves us with another enjoyable read from Deanna Raybourn. I definitely recommend this series. 4 out of 5

The series:
Silent in the GraveSilent in the Sanctuary: A Lady Julia Grey MysterySilent On The Moor (A Lady Julia Grey Novel)Dark Road to Darjeeling (Lady Julia Grey)The Dark Enquiry (A Lady Julia Grey Novel)

This book is available from Mira. You can buy it here or here in e-format.


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