The Mystery of Mrs. Christie

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict

Marrying right before World War I, Agatha Miller followers her mother’s advice to put her new husband Archibald Christie first. Unfortunately, other than surfing and playing golf, nothing Agatha does seems to make Archie happy. She even puts time with her daughter Rosalind at a lower priority, and leaves her behind to travel with Archie. Finally, Agatha thinks about what makes her happy: time with her daughter, mother, and sister Madge, and writing mysteries. It’s not so enjoyable reading about Agatha and Archie’s increasingly unhappy marriage. Then Agatha suddenly vanishes in December 1926, the same day she and Archie have a loud argument during breakfast. The story really takes off here, and the disappearance is related from Archie’s point of view, as the police become suspicious of his role in her disappearance. I wanted to know more about Agatha Christie’s life after reading this novel, which is based on the real disappearance of the author. It’s been 100 years since the first Hercule Poirot mystery was published; so it’s perfect timing for a novel about the creator of Poirot and Miss Marple. This mystery will be published in late December.
Brenda

The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne

The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne by Elsa Hart

Lady Cecily Kay, a botanist, is in London in 1703, studying Sir Barnaby Mayne’s collection of botanical illustrations. The amazing collections filling the mansion are a source of fascination for many other collectors, and Lady Cecily joins them on a tour. She is surprised to meet Meacan, a childhood friend who is doing some illustrations for the eccentric Mayne. When Sir Barnaby is found dead in his study at the end of the tour, an unlikely suspect confesses, then flees. Lady Cecily and Meacan investigate, learning more about the society of obsessive collectors. The early 18th century London setting is fascinating, and the mystery is intricately plotted. Readalikes include The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton and The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley. Historical fiction readers looking for an unusual setting will also be interested in this intriguing, absorbing read. I don’t see a connection to Hart’s other historical mysteries, beginning with Jade Dragon Mountain, but I enjoyed them as well.

Brenda

This Side of Murder

This Side of Murder by Anna Lee Huber

In this atmospheric and intricately plotted mystery, war widow Verity Kent attends an engagement party in 1919 that is anything but a celebration. Verity drives to the coast in her late husband Sidney’s roadster, and travels to Umbersea Island, where she finds that most of the guests are connected to Sidney’s army unit. When one of the men is found dead and bad weather strands the guests and a few employees on the island, the tension level cranks up to high. Everyone seems to have a secret, including Verity, who did intelligence work during the war that even Sidney didn’t know about. Many plot twists kept my interest, along with the fast pacing and a very clever mystery. This is the first Verity Kent mystery; the sequel is Treacherous is the Night.

Brenda

The Other Windsor Girl

The Other Windsor Girl by Georgie Blalock

Princess Margaret is 19 when Vera Strathmore’s cousin Rupert introduces them. Vera, who lost her fiancé in the war, writes romance novels under a pen name and dreams of moving to New York City to write. Swept up in Princess Margaret’s social set, Vera becomes a lady-in-waiting to the temperamental princess. In Blalock’s novel, the princess enjoys dancing, drinking, smoking, flirting, and Captain Peter Townsend. Vera puts her writing dreams on hold indefinitely, and her work for the princess gets more demanding over the years. Viewers of The Crown will be familiar with the plot and setting, but Vera’s viewpoint has both clarity and empathy. A fun, escapist read, with plenty of gorgeous gowns.

Brenda

The Lost Jewels

The Lost Jewels by Kirsty Manning

Long buried treasure. An American historian specializing in jewels, Kate Kirby. Her great-grandmother, Irish immigrant Essie Murphy. An antique pendant worn by Kate’s cousin Bella. All of these, along with a handsome photographer, are linked to the true story of the Cheapside Jewels, over 500 pieces of jewelry buried in a cellar sometime before the Great London Fire of 1666, and uncovered in 1912. They include a diamond from India, an emerald from Columbia, and a cameo of Queen Elizabeth I. Kate and photographer Marcus search for the story of these jewels and find long-hidden secrets of Essie and her sister. A page-turner that’s occasionally bittersweet but ends happily in two time periods, this is a good readalike for historical novels by Beatriz Williams, Kate Morton, and Fiona Davis.

Brenda

The Exiles

The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline

The author of Orphan Train returns with a novel set in the 1840s, in England, on a perilous ocean voyage aboard the Medea, and on an island in southeastern Australia. This is not the sort of book I was in the mood to read, yet I couldn’t put it down. Naïve governess Evangeline is transported as a convict to Australia along with young Hazel, an herbalist and midwife, who delivers Evangeline’s baby on the ship, along with a sympathetic doctor. Also on the island unwillingly is Mathinna, orphaned daughter of an Aboriginal chief, who is taken from her stepfather by the governor of Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania). Hardship, the abuse of power, the resilience of women, opportunity, and hope fill this well-researched epic novel. This is an August LibraryRead selection.

Brenda

Three Mysteries

A Divided Loyalty by Charles Todd, Grey Mask by Patricia Wentworth, & Trouble in Nuala by Harriet Steel

Travel back in time with me to three mysteries set in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1921, Inspector Ian Rutledge travels to Avebury in Wiltshire, to investigate a death by a standing stone, part of the largest stone circle in England. Since then, many more of the stones have been uncovered, but even then it was apparently an uncanny place. Rutledge, having solved a similar crime in Shropshire, is asked to take over Chief Inspector Brian Leslie’s case. When some new evidence, painstakingly discovered, contradicts Leslie’s report, Rutledge has to decide where his loyalty lies. There are many twists and turns along the way, an atmospheric setting, and even a pursuit at night on horseback. One of the best in this long-running series.

In 1929, Charles Moray has come home to England to his inherited house, only to hear voices and see a light in the supposedly vacant house. His former fiancée Margaret, is mixed up in a gang of criminals, but is willing to help Charles save the life of a lovely but naïve young girl, Margot. This is the first mystery featuring Miss Maud Silver, retired governess turned sleuth, and the mystery was suspenseful and fast-paced. I found the book hard to put down, surprising me as this book was published in 1929. Perhaps a new mystery with a similar setting and plot would have more violence, but maybe not. Miss Silver was a contemporary of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, but is not as well known.
The first Inspector de Silva mystery is set in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, in the 1930s. Shanti de Silva is enjoying his work in the town of Nuala, driving his Morris car and picnicking with his wife, until a complaint is made against an English tea plantation owner, and then a body is found at the plantation. Shanti’s wife Jane, a former governess, befriends the plantation owner’s wife. A lovely setting, a cricket game, and some fine detecting add to the reader’s pleasure. Dark Clouds Over Nuala is the next book in the series.
I enjoyed all three mysteries, and plan to read more by these authors.
Brenda

 

A Royal Affair

A Royal Affair by Allison Montclair

I thoroughly enjoyed this delightful mystery, a sequel to The Right Sort of Man. Widowed Gwen Bainbridge and former intelligence operative Iris Sparks run The Right Sort Marriage Bureau, where their diverse talents make them successful matchmakers in post World War II London. When Gwen’s cousin asks for help in vetting a suitor for Princess Elizabeth, the adventures begin. Wonderfully witty dialogue, appealingly complex characters, and lots of action scenes put this mystery on my list of sure bets for summer reading. A July 28 publication date is planned.

Brenda

A Useful Woman

A Useful Woman by Darcie Wilde

This is the engaging first book in a mystery series set during the Regency period in London. In 1817, a few years after her family’s fortunes changed for the worse, Rosalind Thorne lives on the fringes of London society as a personal secretary for fashionable ladies, helping to organize events, shop, and plan debuts for young ladies. When Rosalind’s godmother, Lady Blanchard, is late leaving a meeting with the other patronesses of Almack’s Assembly Rooms, Rosalind finds a body in the ballroom. The dead man’s sister asks Rosalind to look into his death, along with Adam Harkness, a Bow Street Runner. A former beau reappears in Rosalind’s life, and she must balance uncovering secrets with keeping her good reputation. A pleasantly diverting read, followed by A Purely Private Matter, then And Dangerous to Know, which I plan to add to my reading list. All of these titles are available from Media on Demand, our Overdrive/Libby collection. A fourth book is expected in November.

Brenda

Light Changes Everything

Light Changes Everything by Nancy E. Turner

Readers of Turner’s historical novels These Is My Words and Sarah’s Quilt will be eager to read about Sarah’s niece, Mary Pearl Prine. Mary is 17 in 1907 and lives on her family’s pecan farm in Arizona Territory. She loves to read and draw, and is invited to study art at Wheaton College in Illinois. May’s mother would rather see her get married, and Mary does have a likely suitor. Family life on the frontier contrasts strongly with life at Wheaton College, where society girls care more about parties and dresses than studying. Mary, with her horse and pistol, doesn’t exactly fit in. She discovers a talent for photography, and a photograph of lightning becomes especially valuable to her family. A personal crisis sends Mary home straight into a ranger war, with her younger brothers in grave danger. Full of drama and adventure, Mary’s coming-of-age story is a memorable, compelling read.

Brenda