by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
This week we have reviews & giveaways of 5 mysteries all set in different parts of the UK-London Calling: A Mirabella Bevan Mystery by Sara Sheridan, In Prior’s Wood: Max Tudor series by G. M. Malliet, The Marmalade Murders: Penny Brannigan series by Elizabeth J. Duncan, The Golden Hour: A Nora Tierney English Mystery by M. K. Graff, and Lost Books and Old Bones: A Scottish Bookshop Mystery by Paige Shelton. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 5 books (including signed copy The Golden Hour: A Nora Tierney English Mystery by M. K. Graff), along with links you can use to purchase them.
London Calling: A Mirabella Bevan Mystery by Sara Sheridan
Review by Sandra Murphy
Mirabelle Bevan and her best friend, Vesta Churchill, are going to be busy at their business, McGuigan & McGuigan Debt Recovery. Now that the Christmas holidays are over, bills are coming due, and some, not likely to be paid. Vesta works best in the office, Mirabelle in collections.
It’s London 1952, when jazz is becoming all the rage, bootleg liquor is easier to come by than you’d think, ration cards never last long enough, and although race issues are more acceptable in England than America, the friendship between Mirabelle, a white woman of class, and Vesta, a black woman of lower class is still looked upon as an oddity.
Lindon, a jazz sax player and childhood friend of Vesta’s, shows up at the office to ask for advice. A rich white girl had talked to him at the club the night before and now she’s gone missing. Word has it that the police are looking for Lindon as a person of interest. Mirabelle introduces him to her friend, a local cop, who takes him to London for questioning.
Things go wrong after that with dire consequences. Mirabelle is much more than she seems, so when she and Vesta decide to investigate, they know what they’re doing. The mystery goes much farther than one sax player.
Sheridan gives readers a look into the post-war years in London as times and society change. Mirabelle is a fascinating character with hidden talents and a sense of daring. Her society status allows her to get away with more than the average person. Vesta has her own talents. Together, they are a force to be reckoned with. There’s a lot of history, but it’s blended into the story seamlessly and doesn’t distract. The mystery unravels at a good pace but will leave readers guessing until the very last page as the last piece of the puzzle falls into place. This is certainly an entry on my Best Books of 2018 list.
This is the second book in the series, following Brighton Belle. Look for England Expects, coming soon.
In Prior’s Wood: Max Tudor series by G. M. Malliet
Review by Sandra Murphy
Max Tudor used to be a spy for MI5 but is now the vicar of St. Edwold’s Church in Nether Monkslip, a place where it’s rumored that a young woman went missing in Prior’s Wood. No one has ever found her or even a clue. As a matter of fact, several women have gone missing over the years.
Colin, a local man, has finally found a job in Saudi Arabia after being out of work for a year. His wife, Jane, stayed behind to care for Colin’s mother and stepdaughter, Poppy. Mostly Jane loves her job as librarian for Lord Duxter.
Poppy isn’t fond of her stepmother, but it’s hard to say if her feelings are fact-based or teenage rebellion. When Colin’s mother dies suddenly, there’s some speculation about the death. It couldn’t be called unexpected as the woman was eighty-years-old. Colin comes home to attend to his mother’s affairs.
When what looks like a suicide pact is carried out, the local Constable calls on Max’s past expertise to help figure out just what happened. It seems so unlikely on the face of it. Max is eager to leave an uncooperative attempt at a sermon to ask questions and theorize.
Things go from bad to worse when another young woman goes missing, a house burns, and a dead body is found inside. Max has to call on his training to solve this mystery.
Max and his wife, Awena, make a good couple. She owns the New Age shop in town and if anyone finds that odd, given Max’s job, they don’t say much about it because Awena is well-liked. The town is a typical village with the idea that unless your family has lived there for hundreds of years, you’re still a newcomer. Still, it’s a place you’d like to visit, but you’d probably want to stay out of Prior’s Woods after dark.
This is the tenth book in the series. The setting is well described—you’ll feel like you’re there when reading. Readers can start with this book but be warned, you’ll want to go back to the beginning and read from the start.
The Marmalade Murders: Penny Brannigan series by Elizabeth J. Duncan
Review by Sandra Murphy
You’d think murder would be a rarity in a small village in Wales, but Penny Brannigan manages to find bodies now and again. This time it’s at the agricultural fair where cows and sheep are shown and all the local cooks get a chance to show off their jams, jellies, marmalades, pies, and cakes.
Someone is not above being petty in order to win. Florence is a wonderful baker and finally agrees to enter her carrot cake, raspberry jam, and orange marmalade. The entry deadline is Friday night, but Florence gets a phone call telling her to arrive on Saturday morning. Luckily, a call from Penny sets the matter right, and Florence makes it to the big tent with minutes to spare.
However, the next day, there’s no sign of her carrot cake or marmalade. She does win a prize for the jam, but where are her other submissions?
A black Labrador retriever pokes his head under a table and emerges with a blob of icing on his nose. Penny investigates and finds the carrot cake and a body—the winner of the marmalade prize, the only person whose entry wasn’t on hand before the deadline.
The dead woman wasn’t well-liked, even by her family, so there are a few suspects to consider. Her sister-in-law looks to be hard up for money but just spent a bundle on renovations to her dog kennel. Her brother seems to be in the beginning stages dementia. An ex-husband and his new love, who wants to be his new wife, are also in the running as killers. A mysterious transgendered woman, new to town, would make a good choice, rather than a local person one knows.
In the end, the smallest of details, a slip of the tongue, will expose the culprit.
This is the ninth in the series. Penny is thoroughly likable. She and Virginia run the local spa and are involved in the community as volunteers, enjoyable and good for business. Her gentleman friend turned out to be just that—a friend, rather than a romance and she’s fine with that. Florence and her friend, Mrs. Lloyd are an entertaining pair.
Reading Duncan’s books is like a visit to the Welsh countryside. Be sure to stop at the spa for a manicure.
The Golden Hour: A Nora Tierney English Mystery by M. K. Graff
Review by Sandra Murphy
American Nora Tierney was in the midst of breaking up with her English fiancé when his plane crashed. A few weeks later, she found out she was pregnant. Thankfully, she was his beneficiary and is not only able care for herself and son, Sean, but help her friends a bit.
She met and loves Declan, a police detective in Oxford. She’s staying with friends so theirs is a commuter relationship for the time being. Each is thinking they should live together but leery of saying so out loud.
Nora writes children’s books. Her routine is fairly predictable: writing time, Sean time, and friend time. Sleep time is hard to come by at the moment because Sean is teething. There’s also the worry that she’s being followed. She has nothing concrete to go on, but when she finds a tracker in her bag, there’s no other explanation for it.
Nora’s off to her first book signing and that will take her mind off her stalker—until she finds a tracker on her car. Meanwhile, Declan has a case of what could be terrorism and is torn between solving the case and being with Nora and Sean.
What starts as a serene look into the English countryside soon turns into a page-turner thriller as the stakes get higher. Two murders, seemingly related, a mugging, and all of it is getting closer to Nora. Secrets are told, secrets are kept, and the question is, will England survive?
This is the fourth book in the series, but the first I’ve read. I like Nora and her friends enough that I’ll have to go back to the beginning and read all four to see how it all started.
M. K. Graff has also written one Trudy Genova Manhattan mystery.
Lost Books and Old Bones: A Scottish Bookshop Mystery by Paige Shelton
Review by Cynthia Chow
It’s only been a year since Delaney Nichols moved to Grassmarket, Edinburgh, on an adventure to apply for a position working at rare book and manuscript shop, the Cracked Spine. Delaney has never regretted a minute of it, fully embracing the Scottish lifestyle, meeting a promising love interest, and forging new friendships. Two of these new friends are medical students at the University of Edinburgh, young women who take Delaney out for a night of drinks along with another student, Mallory Clacher. Their night of levity is interrupted by an awkward meeting with their instructor Dr. Bryon Eban, whose affection for the teachings of Dr. Robert Knox lends him a distinctly creepy air. Dr. Knox notoriously paid serial killers William Burke and William Hare for the corpses he studied, and Dr. Eban seems to believe that the knowledge gained was worth the loss of life.
When one of the students is found murdered after appearing to have broken into the Cracked Spine, Delaney can’t help but suspect that it’s related to the medical school or one of instructors. A rare set of medical books had been sold by one of the girls to the shop in order to pay for her tuition, while Dr. Eban was rumored to have engaged in far too-friendly student relationships. When the young women at the medical school bond together, opposing Delaney’s investigation, she will have to rely on her fellow store employees, landlords, and especially her intuitive “bookish voices” to provide her with the perfect insight needed to prevent yet another murder.
This unique series fully immerses readers into the delightful Scottish setting and even more distinct dialect. The perfect book quotations that pop into Delaney’s head and lead her to clues appear less frequently than in the earlier two installments, allowing her to follow a more practical investigation into the murky politics and relationships of the medical university. Familiar characters continue to enhance both the novel and Delaney’s life, although she would probably wish for fewer encounters with her boyfriend’s many exes. This series is a delight for those who love delving into niche areas of research, and here the lore of museum collections, Burke and Hare, and history of medicine is endlessly compelling. The compassionate and brave Delaney is the ideal guide for armchair travelers as they traverse through an unpredictable plot and enchanting Scottish lands.
To enter to win a copy of all 5 books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “british,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 12, 2018. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
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