Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Notting Hill Mystery by Charles Adams

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The Notting Hill Mystery
by Charles Adams


ISBN-13: 9781464204807
Paperback: 235 pages
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Released: 1862; Aug 4, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.com.

Book Description from Goodreads:
The Notting Hill Mystery was first published between 1862 and 1863 as an eight-part serial in the magazine Once a Week, written under the pseudonym Charles Felix. It has been widely described as the first detective novel, pre-dating as it does other novels such as Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone (1868) and Emile Gaboriau's first Monsieur Lecoq novel (1869) that have previously claimed that accolade.

The story is told by insurance investigator Ralph Henderson, who is building a case against the sinister Baron 'R___', suspected of murdering his wife in order to obtain significant life insurance payments. Henderson descends into a maze of intrigue including a diabolical mesmerist, kidnapping by gypsies, slow-poisoners, a rich uncle's will and three murders. Presented in the form of diary entries, family letters, chemical analysis reports, interviews with witnesses and a crime scene map, the novel displays innovative techniques that would not become common features of detective fiction until the 1920s.

Now made available again, with George du Maurier's original illustrations included for the first time since the original serial publication, this new edition of The Notting Hill Mystery will be welcomed by all fans of detective fiction.


My Review:
The Notting Hill Mystery is a historical mystery novel set in 1856 in England. It's actually a reprint of a story written as a contemporary mystery. This book was written in a unique format, even for the time. The narrator is a man who was sent to investigate a suspicious death for an insurance agency who wanted to make sure the death was not murder. The investigation has concluded and the story is essentially his report written in chronological order of the victims life. So we get letters that set the whole thing up, then statements and reports about events that led up to the death. It's essentially a detective book filled only with interviews.

I loved how the story unfolded and I could see how it was all slowly connecting together. There is a section at the end where it's all explained for those who missed the clues. The narrator thinks it murder but can't quite believe how it was done. It's based on the idea that these twin sisters will react to the illnesses and injuries of the other, plus that hypnotism was used. It's meant to leave the reader a little uncertain--could it really happen? I think it did an excellent job at what it was trying to do.

There was no sex or bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this intriguing mystery to those interested in mystery stories before the genre got it's modern rules.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Royal Assassin by Kate Parker

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The Royal Assassin
by Kate Parker


ISBN-13: 9780425266625
Trade Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Released: July 7, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
When the Duke of Blackford enters her bookstore, Georgia Fenchurch knows the secret Archivist Society is in need of her services as a private investigator. The Tsar of Russia and his family are visiting Queen Victoria on the auspices of the engagement of the Russian princess Kira to the son of the Queen’s cousin. When Kira’s bodyguard is found dead on a train returning from Scotland, the Queen calls on Blackford to discreetly protect the princess and prevent an international incident.

The Russian royalty refuses help in finding the murderer, suspecting anarchists and demanding every extremist in London be hanged. But that is far from the English way. To get the job done, Georgia must go undercover as Kira’s English secretary.


My Review:
The Royal Assassin is a historical suspense novel set in September 1896 in London, England. It's the third book in a series, but you don't need to read the previous novels to understand this one. However, there is an ongoing quest for justice throughout the series so far, and some aspects of that storyline are spoiled in this book.

I love this heroine. She's smart, capable, and sensible (except when it comes to the handsome duke, who inspires silly, giddy thoughts). Her male colleagues respect her. She's not perfect, but she's likable. She and the other characters acted realistically.

The author captured the time period well in terms of technology and manners. (Georgia pushed the edge of 'proper behavior' in private, but I suspect even that is realistic). The suspense came from the danger to the Russian princess and those around her. The mystery of whodunit is more complex than it initially appears, though whodunit is guessable from the clues.

There was no sex or bad language. Overall, I'd highly recommend this fun, exciting novel. It was just a really fun romp, and I've already bought the previous two novels so I can read them.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Grace Cries Uncle by Julie Hyzy

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Grace Cries Uncle
by Julie Hyzy


ISBN-13: 9780425259689
Mass Market Paperback:
304 pages
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Released: July 7, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
When Grace Wheaton’s estranged sister Liza shows up on her doorstep, the timing couldn’t be worse. Grace’s beloved boss and benefactor, Bennett Marshfield, has finally gotten her to agree to a DNA test to establish if he is her uncle. If so, Grace would move from being the trusted curator and manager of Marshfield Manor to Bennett’s heir. And her duplicitous sister would be right behind her in the line of inheritance.

Liza is not the only mysterious visitor to arrive in town. A man claiming to be an FBI agent has shown up, and a swarm of avaricious antique collectors have descended on Emberstowne for a prestigious convention. When Bennett reveals he’s in mind to acquire a secret antique and the FBI agent turns up dead, the plot thickens. And Grace can’t help but wonder if Liza is at the center of it all


My Review:
Grace Cries Uncle is a suspense novel. It's the sixth book in a cozy mystery series, but you don't need to read the previous novels to understand this one, and this story didn't spoil the previous mysteries. This series has always had some suspense at the end, but the heroine was focused on solving the murder, so it's a mystery. In this novel, Grace was focused on uncovering a series of mysterious happenings (which include a murder) and making sure that people she cares about didn't end up dead from whatever is going on.

The suspense was partly from relationship tensions--is Bennett a relative? and what is her sister up to now?! But it was also from physical danger and mysterious happenings. There were clues as to what was going on and whodunit. The scenario that I came up with using the clues did turn out to be the correct one, but the author had me wondering if I was right until the final scenes. Though whodunit is solved by whodunit confronting Grace, in this case it was for knowledge that she did have about something whodunit wanted. Grace wasn't stupid. Proof of guilt was acquired in the process. All good.

There was no sex. There was a very minor about of bad language (in this case, the use of "God" as a exclamation). Overall, I'd highly recommend this suspenseful novel.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Hooked on Ewe by Hannah Reed

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Hooked on Ewe
by Hannah Reed


ISBN-13: 9780425265833
Mass Market Paperback:
304 pages
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Released: July 7, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
It’s early September in Glenkillen, Scotland, when American expat (and romance novel writer) Eden Elliott is recruited by the local inspector to act as a special constable. Fortunately it’s in name only, since she has more on her hands than just her writing.

Eden has volunteered to help at a sheepdog trial on the MacBride farm—a fundraiser for the local hospice. Her friend Vicki also needs encouragement to continue with her first yarn club skein-of-the-month deliveries. Everything seems to be going well until the head of the fundraiser committee is found strangled to death with a club member’s yarn.

Now Eden feels compelled to honor her commitment as constable and herd together the clues, figure out which ones are dogs, and which ones will lead to a ruthless killer.


My Review:
Hooked on Ewe is a cozy mystery. This book was the second in the series, but you don't need to read the previous novels to understand this one and this story didn't spoil the previous whodunits.

This was a clue-based mystery with enough complexity that I was unsure if my whodunit suspect was correct until nearly the end. The heroine writes romance, not mysteries, so she caught onto some connections/clues immediately but took a little longer on others. I liked that she came across as suitably smart, just not experienced yet. While it came across as realistic and Eden did progressively learn from her mistakes, she was a bit reckless about following proper police procedure. She paid for this recklessness in the end...luckily she also knows how to take care of herself when in sticky situations.

There was a very minor amount of UK bad language (the blood-related word). There was no sex. Overall, I'd recommend this interesting mystery.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Capturing Jasmina by Kimberly Rae

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Capturing Jasmina
by Kimberly Rae


ISBN-13: 9781606828533
Paperback: 116 pages
Publisher: Journey Forth
Released: May 27, 2014

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.com.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Capturing Jasmina, fiction for young adult readers by Kimberly Rae, is the story of Jasmina, a young girl in India, and her brother, Samir. The children are sold by their father to a man promising them an education and good jobs.

But, as Jasmina and Samir soon discover, the man is providing an education, not in a school, but as a slave in his sweatshop garment factory. While Samir quickly submits to his new life of misery, Jasmina never stops planning an escape. She comes to realize that escape doesn’t always mean freedom.


My Review:
Capturing Jasmina is Christian, young adult fiction. This short book is the first in a series. Through Jasmina's story, we learn what life is like for a trafficked child and a street child and about Christian outreaches to these people. Based on my knowledge from non-fiction sources, I believe this story accurately portrays human trafficking and what life is like in India.

Perhaps due to its young adult target audience, not a lot of time or graphic description was spent on the horrors of child slavery--just enough detail to let you know what it's like and how it effects a person without personally pulling you into the horror of it.

However, people sometimes explained more than I think they would in real life. I doubt the factory owner would have explained to his new slaves that his "work until you pay back your debt" system was designed to keep them in perpetual debt. That system works through maintaining their hope that they can, someday, pay off the debt. But it would be difficult to explain some of what's going on in a natural way because most readers will be so unfamiliar with it.

I think this is a great way to introduce teens to other cultures and important issues. As an adult, I found the story interesting enough to want to know what happened to her brother, which is the topic of the second book in the series. Overall, I'd recommend this novella.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Submerged by Dani Pettrey

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Submerged
by Dani Pettrey


ISBN-13: 9781441271167
ebook: 320 pages
Publisher: Bethany House
Released: April 15, 2012

Source: ebook bought from Christianbook.com.

Book Description from Goodreads:
Bailey Craig vowed never to set foot in Yancey again. She has a past, and a reputation--and Yancey's a small town. She's returned to bury a loved one killed in the plane crash and is determined not to stay even an hour more than necessary. But then dark evidence emerges and Bailey's own expertise becomes invaluable for the case.

Cole McKenna can handle the deep-sea dives and helping the police recover evidence. He can even handle the fact that a murderer has settled in his town and doesn't appear to be moving on. But dealing with the reality of Bailey's reappearance is a tougher challenge. She broke his heart, but she is not the same girl who left Yancey. He let her down, but he's not the same guy she left behind. Can they move beyond the hurts of their pasts and find a future together?


My Review:
Submerged is a Christian romantic suspense novel. It's the first in a series, and it can be read as a stand-alone novel.

The Russian history aspect of the story was interesting (though it's a fictionalized, "what if" take on it). The mystery had clues that slowly uncovered a past event and helped with discovering whodunit. The suspense was created by the physical danger to a number of characters and from the emotional healing Bailey and Cole go through. The romance was about overcoming past hurts and actions, and it moved at a reasonable pace.

The Christian element was mainly a few prayers and Bailey learning to live like she's forgiven by God. There was no sex or bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this suspenseful novel.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Summer of Promise by Amanda Cabot

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Summer of Promise
by Amanda Cabot


ISBN-13: 9781441235947
ebook: 416 pages
Publisher: Revell
Released: January 1, 2012

Source: ebook bought on Christianbook.com.

Book Description from Goodreads:
Though she had planned to spend the summer in Vermont, Abigail Harding cannot dismiss her concerns over her older sister. Charlotte's letters have been uncharacteristically melancholy, and her claims that nothing is wrong ring false, so Abigail heads west to Fort Laramie, Wyoming. When her stagecoach is attacked, Wyoming promises to be anything but boring. Luckily, the heroics of another passenger, Lieutenant Ethan Bowles, save the day.

Abigail plans to marry when she returns to Vermont, just as soon as she attends to her sister. As the summer passes, she finds herself drawn to this rugged land and to a certain soldier determined to persuade her to stay. When summer ends, will she go back East, or will she find her heart's true home?


My Review:
Summer of Promise is a Christian historical romance set in 1885 in Wyoming. It's the first in a series but can be read as a stand alone novel. The author vividly described the area and what fort life was like at this time without slowing the pacing. There's a mystery throughout about who is involved in the stage coach robberies. We're told enough to guess at the unknowns, but it's realistic that Ethan doesn't immediately suspect certain characters. We have more information than he does.

The characters were complex, likable, and acted realistically. Ethan and Abigail fell in love slowly as they spent time together and got to know each other. They want to help each other, and their friendship develops into something deeper. Charlotte's part of the story deals with a husband and wife who love each other yet still have hurt feelings as certain choices create tensions.

The Christian aspect is mostly in how the main characters treat those around them but also in where they look to understand what love truly is and to find forgiveness. There was no sex or bad language. Overall, I'd highly recommend this enjoyable novel.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.