Sunday, May 31, 2009

Why Shoot a Butler? by Georgette Heyer

Why Shoot a Butler?

Why Shoot a Butler?
by Georgette Heyer

Trade Paperback: 329 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc.
First Released: 1933 (reprinted in 2009)

Source: Review copy from publisher

Back Cover Description:
Every family has secrets, but the Fountains' are turning deadly…

On a dark night, along a lonely country road, barrister Frank Amberley stops to help a young lady in distress and discovers a sports car with a corpse behind the wheel. The girl protests her innocence, and Amberley believes her—at least until he gets drawn into the mystery and the clues incriminating Shirley Brown begin to add up…

In an English country-house murder mystery with a twist, it's the butler who's the victim, every clue complicates the puzzle, and the bumbling police are well-meaning but completely baffled. Fortunately, in ferreting out a desperate killer, amateur sleuth Amberley is as brilliant as he is arrogant, but this time he's not sure he wants to know the truth…

This is a mystery novel set around 1933 in Britain. It's also a romance since Frank Amberly, our hero, falls in love with a certain young lady. I will mention, though, that the author likes to make matches that are not exactly destined for peaceful, blissful marriages.

I'd actually label this book a suspense novel rather than a straight mystery. After just a few clues at the beginning, I was able to correctly guess why the murders were happening and who was doing them. The hero quickly figures it out, too, though he doesn't tell anyone. However, his main problem is getting firm evidence to back up his ideas while keeping the next targets alive.

The pacing is excellent, the mystery was interesting, and the tension was kept up throughout the book. However, it's the characters that really shine. They're varied, interesting, and entertaining. Though Frank Amberly can be a bit rude and doesn't always stick to the rules, he is charming, persistent, and clever. I enjoyed every minute I spent reading the book.

I think there are a few British swear words in the book. There is no sex or gore. Overall, I'd rate this as "very good, clean fun."

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: Chapter One
The signpost was unhelpful. Some faint characters on one of its blistered arms informed the seeker after knowledge that Lumsden lay to the west, reached, presumably, at the end of a dubious-looking lane. The other arm indicated the directions of Pittingly, a place Mr. Amberley had never heard of. However, if Lumsden lay to the west, Upper Nettlefold ought to be found somewhere in the direction of the obscure Pittingly. Mr. Amberly switched off his spot-lamp, and swung the car round, reflecting savagely that he should have known better than to have trusted to his cousin Felicity's enthusiastic but incomplete directions. If he had had the sense to follow the usual road he would have been at Greythorne by now. As it was, Felicity's 'short way' had already made him late for dinner.

He drove on rather cautiously down a bumpy lane flanked by quickset hedges. Wreaths of autumn mist curled across the road and further exasperated him. He passed a road winding off to the left, but it looked unpromising, and he bore on toward Pittingly.

The lane twisted and turned its way through the Weald. There were apparently no houses on it, nor did Pittingly--a place towards which Mr. Amberly was fast developing an acute dislike--materialise. He glanced at his watch and swore gently.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Unfinished Clue by Georgette Heyer

The Unfinished Clue

The Unfinished Clue
by Georgette Heyer

Trade Paperback: 321 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark, Inc.
First Released: 1934 (reprinted in 2009)

Source: Review copy from publisher

Back Cover Description:
A houseful of people he loathes is not Sir Arthur's worst problem…

It should have been a lovely English country-house weekend. But the unfortunate guest-list is enough to exasperate a saint, and the host, Sir Arthur Billington-Smith, is an abusive wretch hated by everyone from his disinherited son to his wife's stoic would-be lover. When Sir Arthur is found stabbed to death, no one is particularly grieved—and no one has an alibi. The unhappy guests find themselves under the scrutiny of Scotland Yard's cool-headed Inspector Harding, who has solved tough cases before—but this time, the talented young inspector discovers much more than he's bargained for.

This is a mystery novel set in Britain around 1934 (which is when it was written). The mystery was clever, and the world-building and pacing were very good.

The author introduces a lot of the characters quite rapidly at the beginning, but it's clear how everyone is related to each other. The characters were all engaging and entertaining. There is a good-natured humor to the book which shows up in the dialogue and in the quirks of the various characters.

There were plenty of clues to this mystery. It's quite possible to guess the who and the why, and yet at the same time you're not likely to guess correctly. (As in, it's the perfect balance of being guessable without being too easy.)

There were two uses of very mild cuss words. There were no sex scenes. Overall, I'd rate this as "good, clean fun."

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: Chapter One
It was apparent to Miss Fawcett within one minute of her arrival at the Grange that her host was not in the best of tempers. He met her in the hall, not, she believed, of design, and favoured her with a nod. 'It's you, is it?' he said ungraciously. 'Somewhat unexpected, this visit, I must say. Hope you had a good journey.'

Miss Fawcett was a young lady not easily discouraged. Moreover, she had been General Sir Arthur Billington- Smith's sister-in-law for five years, and cherished no illusions about him. She shook him briskly by the hand, and replied with perfect equanimity: 'You know quite well it's impossible to have a good journey on this rotten line, Arthur. And how you can say I'm unexpected when I sent an expensive telegram to prepare you both for the joy in store for you —'

The General's scowl deepened. 'Short notice, you'll admit!' he said. 'I suppose you've brought a ridiculous quantity of baggage?'

'Something tells me,' remarked Miss Fawcett intelligently, 'that I'm not really welcome.'

'Oh, I've no doubt Fay's delighted!' replied the General, with a short laugh. 'Though where she is I don't know. She packs the house with visitors, but can't trouble herself to be here when they arrive.'

At this moment his erring wife came down the stairs. 'Oh, darling!' she said in a voice that held a plaintive note. 'How lovely to see you! How are you?'

Miss Fawcett embraced her warmly. 'Hullo, Fay! Why didn't you send a wire to put me off ? Arthur's all upset about it.'

The large, rather strained blue eyes flew apprehensively to the General's face. 'Oh, no!' Fay said. 'Arthur doesn't mind having you, Dinah. Do you, Arthur dear?'

'Oh, not at all!' said the General. 'You'd better take her up to her room instead of keeping her standing about in the hall.'

'Yes, of course,' Fay said. 'You'd like to come up, wouldn't you, Dinah?'

This was said a trifle beseechingly, and Miss Fawcett, who wore all the signs of one about to do battle, relaxed, and agreed that she would like to go up to her room.

'I've had to put you in the little west room,' Fay told her. 'I knew you wouldn't mind. We're — we're rather full up.'

'Yes, so I gathered,' said Dinah, rounding the bend of the staircase. 'It seems to be worrying little Arthur.'

She had a clear, carrying voice. Fay glanced quickly down the stairs. 'Dinah, please!' she begged.

Dinah threw her a glance of slightly scornful affection, and replied incorrigibly: 'All right, but it's putting an awful strain on me.'

They ascended the remaining stairs in silence, but as soon as the door of the west room was securely shut on them Dinah demanded to know what was the matter with Arthur.

Lady Billington-Smith sank down on to a chair, and put up one of her thin hands to her head, pushing the pale gold hair off her brow in a nervous gesture peculiar to her. 'Something dreadful has happened,' she answered. 'It has upset Arthur terribly.'

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Frederica by Georgette Heyer


by Georgette Heyer

Trade Paperback: 438 pages
Publisher: SourceBooks CasaBlanca
First Released: 1965 (now released in 2008)

Source: Review copy from publisher

Back Cover Description:
One of readers favorites, Frederica is full of surprises

When Frederica brings her younger siblings to London determined to secure a brilliant marriage for her beautiful sister, she seeks out their distant cousin the Marquis of Alverstoke. Lovely, competent, and refreshingly straightforward, Frederica makes such a strong impression that to his own amazement, the Marquis agrees to help launch them all into society.

Lord Alverstoke cant resist wanting to help her

Normally wary of his family, which includes two overbearing sisters and innumerable favor-seekers, Lord Alverstoke does his best to keep his distance. But with his enterprising - and altogether entertaining - country cousins getting into one scrape after another right on his doorstep, before he knows it the Marquis finds himself dangerously embroiled...

This novel is a Regency romance. There was a playful, light-hearted feel to this book that, along with the engaging characters, totally charmed me.

At the beginning, the hero was a cynic, and the heroine was a bit too controlling of her family (though always with the best of intentions). When together, though, they brought out the best in each other. As they spent time together, they fell in love almost without realizing it.

A large number of characters were introduced at the beginning, but their relationships to each other were clear and I was able to quickly sort them all out. The pacing was very good, and the world-building was excellent. The author skillfully wove a lot of details about the time period into the story (helped along in part by a young boy interested in the newest technologies of the day).

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is my favorite historical romance, but Frederica is now my second favorite. If you like Pride and Prejudice, I'd highly recommend that you give this book a try.

There was no sex. There was a minor amount of swearing of the "Good God, no!" variety. Overall, I'd rate this "very good clean fun."

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: Chapter One
Not more than five days after she had dispatched an urgent missive to her brother, the Most Honorable the Marquis of Alverstoke, requesting him to visit her at his earliest convenience, the widowed Lady Buxted was relieved to learn from her youngest daughter that Uncle Vernon had just driven up to the house, wearing a coat with dozens of capes, and looking as fine as fivepence. 'In a smart new curricle, too, Mama, and everything prime about him!' declared Miss Kitty, flattening her nose against the window-pane in her effort to squint down into the street. 'He is the most tremendous swell, isn't he, Mama?'

Lady Buxted responded in repressive accents, desiring her not to use expressions unbefitting a lady of quality, and dismissing her to her schoolroom.

Lady Buxted was not one of her brother's admirers; and the intelligence that he had driven himself to Grosvenor Place in his curricle did nothing to advance him in her good graces. It was a fine spring morning, but a sharp wind was blowing, and no one who knew him could suppose that the Marquis would keep his high-bred horses waiting for more than a few minutes. This did not augur well for the scheme she had in mind.

Behold, Here’s Poison by Georgette Heyer

Behold Here’s Poison

Behold, Here’s Poison
by Georgette Heyer

Trade Paperback: 329 pages
Publisher: SourceBooks Landmark
First Released: 1936 (now released in 2009)

Source: Review copy from publisher

Back Cover Description:
It's no ordinary morning at the Poplars - the master is found dead in his bed, and it seems his high blood pressure was not the cause. When an autopsy reveals a sinister poison, it's up to the quietly resourceful Inspector Hannasyde to catch the murderer in time to spare the next victim. But every single member of the quarrelsome Matthews family has a motive and none, of course, has an alibi.

This is a mystery novel set in Britain around 1936 (which is when it was written). The mystery was clever, the pacing was good, and journey (full of the the characters' foibles) to the answer was fun.

The author introduces a lot of the characters quite rapidly at the beginning. It's not immediately clear how everyone is related to each other (especially since it's an odd assortment of relationships), but it all gets sorted out fairly quickly.

Most of the characters aren't exactly nice people, but they are interesting and idiosyncratic. Initially, I didn't like a single character (except maybe Stella), but I soon found myself enjoying all of them. The author adds a good-natured humor to the book which shows up in the dialogue and in the quirks of the various characters.

Though this is a mystery, the trouble with solving the mystery comes from the lack of obvious clues rather than from an abundance of them. I solved every part of the mystery except the who-done-it because the critical piece of information wasn't revealed until the very last moment. (However, the murderer was #3 on my list, so it is technically possible to guess.)

There is a small amount of swearing by one character. Many of the characters say derogatory (though usually true) things about the others. There are no sex scenes. Overall, I'd rate this as "good, mostly clean fun."

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: Chapter One
It was going to be a fine day. There was a white mist curling away in wreaths over the Heath that told Mary, standing on the half-landing with the dustpan in her hand, and gazing out through the tall window, that it would be sunny and really warm by lunch-time. She would be able to wear the blue voile after all, in spite of Rose's gloomy forebodings. Rose said that it always rained on anybody's half-day. Well, it wasn't going to rain today, not if Mary knew the signs.

She leaned up against the window, watching the mist, approving the heavy dew that lay like a grey sheet over the lawn in front of the house.

It was early. The Heath, which later on would be scattered over with children, and nurses pushing perambulators, seemed quite deserted, nor was there any traffic upon the road that lay between the iron gates of the Poplars and the edge of the Heath. Craning her neck, Mary could obtain a glimpse of the next-door house through a gap in the trees.

Curtains still drawn on the backstairs, she noted. Well, she didn't blame the girls at Holly Lodge, she was sure. If your master and mistress went away to the seaside you were entitled to take your ease. Not but what those girls were a lazy lot of sluts, come to think of it. Common, too. Like mistress like maid, said Rose, and that was true enough. She wasn't any class, Mrs Rumbold.

Mary turned her head, transferring her gaze from Holly Lodge to the house on the other side of the Poplars. It was a smaller house, and she could not see much of it, but she noticed that the garage doors were open. That meant that the doctor had been called out early. It was a shame the way people sent for the doctor at all hours, and half the time for nothing more serious than an attack of indigestion, so Miss Stella said. A real gentleman he was, too, and ever so handsome! She didn't wonder at Miss Stella being sweet on him. It was a pity the Master had taken such a dislike to him.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

She's in a Better Place by Angela Hunt

She's in a Better Place

She's in a Better Place
by Angela Hunt

Trade Paperback: 337 pages
Publisher: Tyndale
First Released: 2009

Author Website

Source: Review copy from publisher

Back Cover Description:
Jennifer Graham is struggling to make ends meet while running the Fairlawn Funeral Home, raising two children, and studying for her national board exam. Her work takes on a new dimension when Gerald Huffman, her assistant and mentor, reveals that he has a serious illness. When she learns that he and his daughter haven’t spoken in years, Jen decides to help them reconcile . . . but things don’t go exactly as she planned.

Jennifer is longing for stability in her life . . . but she soon discovers that life isn’t stagnant; it’s always changing. Once again, the mortuary is a setting for lessons of laughter, love, and life.

The book is a Christian fiction novel with some romance in it. This novel is the last in the series, but you don't need to read the previous books to fully understand this one.

The novel is written in present tense ("I go to the window and close it") instead of the more typical past tense ("I went to the window and closed it"). This sounds very odd to me since people usually tell stories in past tense, and I have a hard time settling into stories told in present tense.

The story is initially set up as a conflict between a man who needs to buy Jennifer's funeral home and Jennifer, who is having severe financial troubles. From this set-up, I expected the main story to be about the man trying to convince Jennifer to sell the funeral home while she painfully debates whether or not to sell while everything seems to go wrong. Shortly after this set-up, however, the plot threads are diverted and the book turns into a touching story about dealing with losing someone you love to terminal cancer. I even cried at the end.

The problems brought up at the beginning are neatly tied up at the end, but we're not given any real explanation about why some of them aren't problems anymore. I would have liked it if the author had taken more time at the end to explain the motives behind the choices of a few of the secondary characters.

The main characters were all likable and acted realistically. The pacing was very good. The world-building was excellent: the city, the people, and Jennifer's job really came alive. The author skillfully wove in many details of the funeral industry without overloading on those details.

Christianity plays a deep role in the character's lives and how they treat others. There is no cussing or sex. Overall, I'd rate this book as "good, clean fun."

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: Chapter One
Corpses should be better behaved.

Mr. Lyle Kourtis, aged ninety-three years, has been resting on my embalming table for less than a hour, but he's already belched four times. I wouldn't mind so much--the dead do burp and even shift occasionally--but the hour is late, darkness is pressing at the windows, and I'm alone in the chilly prep room.

Gerald had run to the drugstore for cotton balls, so I've been left to bathe Mr. Kourtis. The job won't be difficult--the old man is as thin as a bird, and rigor is not so pronounced that he's resisting my efforts. The arterial embalming is well under way, the Porti-Boy rhythmically clicking as it sends embalming fluid through a plastic tube and into our clients carotid artery. A bath will help the solution move through the arteries in the gentleman's limbs.

I pick up the hose, turn on the water, and test the temperature by spraying a stream over my wrist, the same place I used to test bottles of formula when Clay and Bugs were babies. The water doesn't have to be warm, of course--Mr. Kourtis certainly won't care if it's cool--but Gerald has ingrained in me such a respect for the dead that I can no more imagine giving my client a cold shower than I could perform an embalming without a hand towel draped over the body's most private organs.

Read the rest of chapter one.

And the Winner Is...

Three people entered the contest for a copy of "Enduring Justice" by Amy Wallace. Using a random number generator and numbering the entrants in the order I received them, the winner is:


Congratulations! I'll be contacting you for your address.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Giveaway: Enduring Justice

The publisher has provided me with a giveaway copy of "Enduring Justice" by Amy Wallace. Due to shipping costs, this contest is for USA residents only.

To enter the giveaway:

1) you can twitter me saying "@genrereviewer Enter me to win ENDURING JUSTICE. The title of another book by Amy Wallace is ________." Of course, you need to fill in the title of one of Amy Wallace's previous books to win.


2) You can leave a comment to this post asking to be entered and naming one of Amy Wallace's previous books.

The winner will be randomly selected. I'll announce the winner at noon (Central Time, Daylight Savings Time) on May 9th on this blog. If you entered using twitter, I'll send you a @ telling you of your win and asking where to send the book. If you entered using the blog comments, you'll need to check back to see if you won so you can e-mail me the shipping address.

I hope everyone has fun with this!

Enduring Justice by Amy Wallace

Enduring Justice

Enduring Justice
by Amy Wallace

Trade Paperback: 316 pages
Publisher: Multnomah
First Released: 2009

Author Website

Source: Review copy from publisher

Back Cover Description:
Hanna Kessler’s childhood secret has remained buried for over two decades. But when the dark shadows of her past threaten to destroy those she loves, Hanna must face the summer that changed her life and the man who still haunts her memories.

As a Crimes Against Children FBI Agent, Michael Parker knows what it means to get knocked down. Difficult cases and broken relationships have plagued his entire year. But when the system fails and a white supremacist is set free, Michael’s drive for retribution eclipses all else.

A racist’s well-planned assault forces Hanna and Michael to decide between executing vengeance and pursuing justice. The dividing line between the two is the choice to heal. But when the attack turns personal, is justice enough?

This is a Christian romantic suspense novel. Frankly, I got the feeling that people who'd read the first two books in the series would better understand what was going on with the characters in this book.

The pacing was excellent as was the world-building. However, in my opinion, important information about the characters was often given too late. I was frequently confused about why Michael (and, at the very beginning, Hanna) acted the way they did. This killed a lot of the suspense for me. In fact, the critical information for Michael wasn't given until page 180. At that point, everything seemed to come together and I really started enjoying the book.

There's no reason this information couldn't have been given earlier in the book. Since knowing this information adds suspense and makes the characters more understandable, here it is: Hanna was raped by a neighbor as a child and has lived with her secret shame and fear ever since. Michael was/is verbally and physically abused by his father. He's angry and frustrated that his father was never stopped while at the same time he desperately wants his father's never-given approval.

I think people who have been abused as children will get the most out of this book. I wasn't abused. I had a hard time relating to the characters due to their way of coping with their problems (even though their behavior was realistic and understandable). On the other hand, I never got exasperated or frustrated with the characters, so the author managed to pull off a difficult balance.

The 'good guy' characters were sympathetic and varied. They grew realistically throughout the novel. Sean, the main bad guy, didn't feel realistic to me. He never fears, never doubts, never justifies his actions. We never find out why he hates "mud races" so much that he's willing to kill. However, not everyone will be bothered by this lack of information.

Both main characters were Christians. God plays a major role in the healing in their lives, though often they're not being very cooperative with God.

There is no explicit sex (and no sex between the main characters). The cussing was of the "he swore" variety. Overall, I'd rate this "good, clean fun."

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: Chapter One
The wall she'd built with years of secrecy started to crack.

Hanna Kessler wrapped trembling arms around her waist and stared through the glass door into her parents' backyard. A place she'd avoided her whole stay. Sunlight danced in the still water of her mother's koi pond and highlighted all the landscaping changes Dad had made since Mom's death.

Hanna closed her eyes against warring memories of past and present. As a child, she'd loved feeding the beautiful orange fish and hearing Mom laugh as the koi swarmed to the food. Now the little pond area was the only bit of her mother remaining. Maybe that was why she'd glanced outside and then stood transfixed. She needed her mom now more than ever.

Link to Read the rest of the first chapter.