Monday, September 23, 2013

Review: A Disappearance in Drury Lane (Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries #8) by Ashley Gardner

Captain Gabriel Lacey agrees to investigate the disappearance of a famous Drury Lane actress after she received threats and an explosive package. But he has to balance his investigation with managing his new marriage, getting to know his daughter again, and avoiding a new Bow Street runner determined to see him hang for his involvement with criminal James Denis. All while not getting himself killed, of course.

So there's a lot going on in the eighth installment of this series and it kept me guessing until the end, making it hard to put down. As always, the characters are a big part of what makes me return to this series, whether protagonist or antagonist, they each have their own intricate backgrounds and unique personalities.

My only criticism is that I didn't find Mr. Holt's motive very believable. I could get on board with Mrs. Holt's obsessive dedication to her sister but I didn't really understand why her husband would get involved.

After eight books, it has not gotten stale at all and I'm already eagerly awaiting the ninth book.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Review: The King's Grave: The Discovery of Richard III's Lost Burial Place and the Clues It Holds by Philippa Langley and Michael Jones

Received ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.
Release date: October 29, 2013

I was eager to read this because the discovery of Richard’s grave was an incredible moment in history and I wanted to learn more about it and how it changes what we know of Richard.

The information about the dig was very interesting and exciting to read about. But Langley’s obvious bias was thick throughout much of the book. She accuses Vergil of having an “all too apparent bias”, which is not a completely unreasonable comment but in the past, the same thing was said of Rous’ comments about Richard’s “hunchback”, which turned out to be based in truth. I am aware that scoliosis is not what we now consider a true hunchback but in the Middle Ages, there would have been little to no distinction, they likely would have called any spinal deformity a "hunchback", particularly a "severe" case like Richard's. But this fact is totally overlooked in the book. Langley admits that when she first heard the word "hunchback" after finding the skeleton with the curved spine, she was devastated to think it would validate all the negative accounts of Richard. But the moment she finds out it was scoliosis instead of kyphosis, she dismisses any possibility that this should still throw other presumed “propaganda” into some question too. If the legend of his hunchback was based in fact, what else that she is dismissing as propaganda might actually have some truth to it?

Additionally, going back to Vergil, she later uses his more positive comments about Richard's sharp wit to show how intelligent Richard was. While I'm not denying that Richard was intelligent, it just seems to me that Langley is picking and choosing which Vergil comments are accurate and which aren't purely to suit her agenda.

Langley claims that she never wanted to paint Richard as a saint but she proves herself wrong on that account every step of the way. That said, it appears that co-author Michael Jones was brought in to attempt to counterbalance Langley's bias. When it comes down to it, the official line in the book regarding the fate of the princes in the tower following an attempt to break them free says:
"On the basis of all the material available we do not know what happened to the princes. (This is an issue where the co-authors disagree - for this, see the debate in Appendix 1.) But there is strong circumstantial evidence that Richard now ordered their murder, possibly on the advice or yielding to the persuasion of Buckingham - as most people thought at the time."
So in the end, I did feel that the book attempted to be objective and put forward more than one viewpoint, but Langley's bias still managed to shine through much of the book. Also disappointing is that while the book names several sources within the text, there are no citations throughout the book and so most of the historical accounts, particularly Langley’s take on the (non-medical) details of how Bosworth went down, are completely unsourced.

(For the record, I do think Richard is most likely suspect in the murder of his nephews but I don’t think that necessarily makes him evil and I do agree there was negative propaganda put out about him too).

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Review: Bloody Lessons (A Victorian Francisco Mystery #3) by M. Louisa Locke

In the third full novel of this series, Nate Dawson's little sister joins Annie Fuller's boarding house in San Francisco. While dealing with events from the previous year, she takes up a teaching job in place of her best friend, Hattie, who has abruptly resigned and plans to hurriedly marry the principle. Meanwhile, several teachers are receiving threatening letters and Nate, Annie, and Laura collaborate to find the blackmailer.

I really enjoyed this cozy historical mystery, although I have to say I called "it" on both counts from the beginning! So it wasn't a big mystery but sometimes you just have to enjoy the journey there, it's not all about finding out "whodunnit". There's a lot going on in the story to keep readers wanting to know more.

I liked that a new character was brought into the investigative fold, while it took Annie a little off center stage for a while, it was a refreshing change of pace. But don't worry, Annie and Nate still play significant roles and their romance is not neglected!

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