The Case of the Wandering Scholar

The Case of the Wandering Scholar by Kate Saunders

While this is the second book in the Laetitia Rodd series, this is an excellent place to begin this thoroughly enjoyable Victorian mystery series. Laetitia is a middle-aged widow of an archdeacon, and sister to Fred, a criminal barrister. Fred occasionally finds Laetitia assignments as a discreet private investigator. She moves in a variety of society circles, has a wide acquaintance among the clergy, and can certainly use the money. A dying man is looking to be reconciled with his brother Joshua, once a scholar at Oxford, who now wanders the countryside. Mrs. Rodd’s search becomes tangled with a series of murders and a long-ago theft. When two young friends are arrested for murder, Laetitia investigates, along with the gruff Inspector Blackbeard. 1851 London and Oxford really come to life, the mystery is intricately plotted, and Laetitia is absolutely wonderful company. I look forward to her next assignment. The first book is The Secrets of Wishtide.

Brenda

 

Royal Holiday

Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory

This is a fun, frothy contemporary romance, a very appealing read. Social worker Vivian Forest accompanies her daughter Maddie to England for a December vacation after Maddie gets a chance to be stylist to a young duchess for the Christmas season. Vivian meets Malcolm, the Queen’s private secretary, and he gives her a tour of the Sandringham estate, takes her riding, and the pair exchange notes delivered by footmen. Vivian is very down-to-earth, funny and considerate. Malcolm is a bit more formal and private, but is clearly smitten by Vivian. It’s so refreshing to have the main characters in a contemporary romance be in their fifties. The Sandringham and London settings make an amazing frame for the slightly predictable story so that the reader can enjoy armchair travel along with a joyful but not steamy romance. What Anglophile wouldn’t enjoy a private museum tour, or getting to park inside the gates at Buckingham Palace? What will happen when Vivian goes back to California with the possibility of a job promotion? Sadly, no scone recipe is included, but all the other ingredients for a perfect holiday read are there, from helping pick out a dress for the duchess to fireworks over the Thames River. Enjoy!

Brenda

The Sentence is Death

The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz

In this very clever mystery, private investigator Daniel Hawthorne summons writer Tony Horowitz to a house on the edge of Hampstead Heath where a divorce lawyer has been killed with an expensive bottle of wine in the sequel to The Word is Murder. Horowitz is supposed to editing a tv script for Foyle’s War, but instead is playing Watson to Hawthorne’s Holmes as he tries to solve the mystery before Hawthorne or the threatening Inspector Grunshaw. Three cavers, a single mom, an art gallery owner, and a successful poet are all connected to the victim, Richard Pryce. Horowitz, with a book contract to write about Hawthorne, is quickly in over his head, getting in trouble at a bookstore, persuaded to attend a book club where no one wants his opinion on the mystery being discussed, and stumped by false leads on why the number 182 is painted on the wall near Pryce. Suspenseful, intriguing, and occasionally funny, with an excellent audiobook narration by Rory Kinnear; I found this a very compelling read.

Brenda

A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder

A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder by Dianne Freeman

After widowed Mary Archer is killed in London in the summer of 1899, Frances mentions that her late husband’s cousin Charles had been courting Mary, making him a suspect. Frances teams up with handsome neighbor George and young family friend Lottie to investigate Mary’s death in this lively sequel to A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder. Frances, Lady Harleigh, is shocked to learn that Mary was a gossip columnist and possibly a blackmailer. The off season in London has rarely been so exciting. Suggested for Regency or Victorian romance readers who enjoy cozy mysteries, or fans of Elizabeth Peters or Deanna Raybourn. Witty and delightful, this is a charming Victorian mystery with some humor and a hint of romance.

Brenda

Goodnight from London

Goodnight from London by Jennifer Robson

In June, 1940, Ruby Sutton, a young reporter in New York City, accepts an assignment to report on the war from London at Picture Weekly magazine. Ruby, as an American, brings a fresh perspective to stories of home front England and the Blitz, mentored by veteran photographer Mary Buchanan and editor Kaz. Ruby is befriended by Captain Bennett, who has a secret wartime job; a romance seems likely. Over the next few years, Ruby, raised in an orphanage, finds a new family and home in London. A very compelling read, there are naturally some poignant scenes, but this is more heartwarming than many novels set during the war. If you’re in the mood for an excellent historical novel with memorable characters, this is a sure bet. For more about Ruby, Kaz, and Bennett, read The Gown, which we’re discussing Tuesday night at the library. Readalikes include books by Jennifer Ryan, Lissa Evans, Beatriz Williams, and AJ Pearce.
Brenda

 

The Right Sort of Man

The Right Sort of Man by Allison Montclair

Despite the title, this appealing first novel is a historical mystery, not a romance. In 1946, Iris Sparks and Gwendolyn Bainbridge, a war widow, have combined their unique talents to open The Right Sort Marriage Bureau in Mayfair, London. Iris can’t talk much about her work during the war, but she has all sorts of contacts and can pick locks. Wealthy Gwen has a young son and a gift for matchmaking. After their latest client, shop clerk Tillie La Salle, is found dead and her match, accountant Dickie Trower is charged with her murder, Iris and Gwen team up to save their business. They investigate Tillie’s connections to the black market and Gwen learns to travel around London by bus, visiting Dickie in prison, where he’s worried about his goldfish. The postwar London setting is richly detailed, the characters are likeable and believable, and the dialogue is witty. I’m already looking forward to Montclair’s next book, A Royal Affair, to be published next June.

Brenda

A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder

A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman

This entertaining Victorian mystery is perfect summer reading for fans of British mysteries or Georgette Heyer’s witty Regency romances. Set in 1899 in Surrey and London, American-born Frances Wynn, the elder Countess of Harleigh, is just finishing her year of mourning for her husband Reggie. Frances and her young daughter Rose are moving to London, over the protests of her brother and sister-in-law, who want Frances to fund repairs to their manor house.

Frances’ aunt and younger sister Lily arrive for the season, and Lily acquires three suitors. After a stolen bracelet is found in Frances’ bag, Frances and her neighbor George Hazelton are concerned that one of Lily’s suitors may be responsible for recent thefts at society balls. If that wasn’t enough, Inspector Delaney calls to ask Frances questions about Reggie’s death. Lighthearted and fast-paced, this first novel is a delight. I enjoyed the audiobook narration of Sarah Zimmerman, and look forward to reading A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder, which is available now.

Brenda