Book review: Garment of Shadows by Laurie King

Garment of Shadows (Mary Russell, #12)Garment of Shadows by Laurie R. King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Mary Russell mystery series is one of my favorite series. (I know–I say that a lot.) At the beginning of this one, which starts almost immediately after the previous book, “The Pirate King,” Mary Russell is suffering from amnesia and has no idea who she is or what she’s doing in Morocco. Sherlock Holmes is anxiously searching for her, as she has missed their rendezvous. Various events occur–some believable, some less so–but in the end, a mystery is solved, a political crisis is averted, memory is restored, and a couple is reunited.
Mary Russell is one of my favorite characters (yes, I say that a lot, too). She is frighteningly competent but vulnerable at the same time. This story is mostly her story with Sherlock Holmes playing a supporting role. The book is filled with rich detail about Morocco of the early 1900s, and the complexity of the political situation is explained coherently (or as coherently as is possible). The secondary characters are filled in nicely (with some favorite repeat characters appearing), and the story is compelling.
All in all, this book is a fine addition to the series.

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Book review: Time and Chance by Sharon Kay Penman

Time and Chance (Henry II & Eleanor of Aquitaine, #2)Time and Chance by Sharon Kay Penman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I rarely give 5 star ratings, but Sharon Penman’s novel on Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitane, and Thomas Becket deserves the rating and more. This is the second in the author’s Angevin series. And while I think no writer or historian can ever completely understand how the marriage between Henry and Eleanor unraveled and how the deep friendship between Henry and Thomas Becket disintegrated, Ms. Penman comes as close as possible to doing so. Her Henry is a complex man–brilliant, determined, and unable to part with any degree of power. Eleanor is equally brilliant and stubborn, but she is constrained by the medieval role for women and chafes at those bonds. Thomas Becket is a man whom Henry elevated from humble beginnings who turns his allegiance from king to God after being appointed Archbishop of Canterbury.
The backdrop is the middle ages–a time of savagery and violence but also a time of deep faith and loyalty. The author depicts the historic events in the context of its time, portraying all of her characters with clarity and yet at the same time, with understanding.
The research is impeccable (with a comprehensive Author’s Note with additional information), the characters vibrant and realistic , and throughout the book, you sense a deep understanding by the author of the subject material and fondness for the people she touches.
The only critique I can give of this book is that it ended, but I reassure myself that there are still more of her books to read!

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Book review: On What Grounds by Cleo Coyle

On What Grounds (Coffeehouse Mystery, #1)On What Grounds by Cleo Coyle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the first in the Coffeehouse Mysteries book series. I wish I could give half-stars as ratings because this book definitely deserves a 3.5 star rating.
Clare Cosi is the manager of a niche coffeehouse who finds her assistant manager at the bottom of the staircase. She is convinced her assistant manager was pushed, but there’s no real evidence of foul play. Along the way to solving the mystery, you meet her charming and philandering ex-husband, the owner of the coffeehouse (who happens to be her ex-mother-in-law), the homicide detective in charge of the case, and a whole host of additional characters.
This isn’t my usual type of mystery (I typically like historical mysteries the best), but the main characters are engaging, Clare is an interesting narrator, and the mystery is well crafted. And there’s plenty of information about coffee for those addicted to the substance.
This is a promising debut novel in the series, and an easy, quick, and relaxing read. I look forward to reading more about Clare’s adventures!

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