The Poisoned Chalice Murder A 1920s English mystery
by Diane Janes
Pub Date 01 Nov 2018
Diane James’s second 1920s mystery, The Poisoned Chalice Murder, is even more enjoyable than her debut - a stunning accomplishment. Frances Black and Tom Dod are a charming pair of amateur detectives, working well together despite a frisson of attraction they dare not act upon. Frances is the more perceptive of the duo, and the novel focuses on her perspective. Diane James skillfully portrays the social dilemmas Frances is faced with. Being separated from her husband is scandalous, despite the fact that he ran off with another woman. Accepting a divorce, even more so. As a woman on her own, being respectable is of central importance. Tom is also constrained, as he married his dead brother’s fiancée so their children would be legitimate.
Tom’s aunt has asked them to look into a trio of deaths. Superficially they don’t appear suspicious,...
Treacherous Is the Night by Anna Lee Huber
Historical Fiction , Mystery & Thrillers
Pub Date 25 Sep 2018
Treacherous is the Night is an amazing piece of historical fiction. Not only does it provide insight into the changing role of women after WWI, it doesn’t shy from discussing the effects of time in the trenches on soldiers or from portraying the callous “patriotism” of those not directly involved in the war. The effects of war play a central roles in this espionage/mystery. On the one hand, there is the strain on Verity and Sidney’s marriage. (Verity had believed Sidney dead until only recently, and he was unaware of her work for the secret service). On the other hand is the more complex and compelling mystery- the disappearance of one of Verity’s former associates. Anna Lee Huber’s characters are complex, flawed, and affected realistically by their experiences. She is balanced in her portrayals, clearly understanding why some individuals collaborate...
A Ring of Truth is not a mystery novel. It is a period romance with only the tiniest touch of mystery (a stolen ring). Most of the novel is devoted towards class related angst as Henrietta fears her family’s poverty and lack of education make her an inappropriate bride for Inspector Clive. While the novel is well written, the whining tone makes it difficult to bear. Henrietta is a sweet heroine, innocent and good intentioned. We see far less of Inspector Clive. He is more two dimensional. the prince to Henrietta’s Cinderella. I rolled my eyes a bit when I discovered Henrietta’s mother was actually an heiress who ran away, giving up her inheritance. It appeared to be engineered solely to justify Henrietta’s status and to elevate her family. It definitely wasn't realistic.
Martin Fawley can easily be seen as an early precursor to James Bond - Debonair, quick witted, and unashamedly a spy. He is definitely a professional.
Readers should remember this book was originally published before the onset of WWII and is set against the volatile political backdrop of 1930s Europe. I had some initial misgivings as Fawley is employed by the Italian government, but I put them aside. The Spy Paramount is political but apolitical. I say that because politics play an important role, but the details of what the different groups stand for does not. I was glad I set aside my prejudices because The Spy Paramount is truly a good story.
While there is no "Bond villain" there is plenty of action and intrigue, as well as a beautiful and compelling love interest who has dangerous connections. The Spy Paramount has the charm of a Sean C...
Kate Shackleton is a rarity in rural post WWI England - a professional private detective. Independent, pragmatic, and highly perceptive, Kate is an excellent investigator, despite the limitations of the time on communication and travel. She is assisted by her colleague Sykes, a former policeman.
In Death of an Avid Reader, Kate is drawn into two possibly overlapping cases. First, Lady Coulton has asked Kate to find the daughter she gave up for adoption many years ago. Second, the discovery of a body in the basement of the library prompts Kate to investigate, as the police are all to ready to accuse a deathly ill man of his murder. As the man is clearly too sick to have committed the crime, Kate is eager to discover who is truly responsible.
Part of what makes this novel so enjoyable is the vast array of well defined charac...