Book review: The Frangipani Tree Mystery by Ovidia Yu

The Frangipani Tree Mystery by Ovidia Yu

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A new author! And a new mystery series! (For me, anyway.) The setting for this series is in 1930s Singapore, when Singapore was a British colony. It’s a period and place in history that I know very little about, and I love how I can learn more about it while enjoying a well-plotted, well-placed mystery. (Dead bodies always make learning history more fun.)
The heroine of the series is Chen Su Lin, a young orphan girl from the powerful Chen family. She assists the Chief Inspector Thomas LeFroy with a murder investigation by providing local insights and sharp observations.
The description of Singapore and its stratified society is fascinating without being too preachy. Su Lin is a lovely, smart, and interesting narrator. And I have found a new fun and engaging mystery series!



View all my reviews

Book review: Jane and the Man of the Cloth by Stephanie Barron

Jane and the Man of the Cloth by Stephanie Barron

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I had read the first of this series a long time ago because it’s Jane Austen and a mystery, what is there not to like? But as I recall, the debut novel didn’t grab me, and as my TBR list grows daily, I set this series aside. But the author also writes the Merry Folger mysteries set in Nantucket (as Francine Mathews), which I’ve really enjoyed, and I thought I’d give this series a second chance.
My impression of this book is more positive than my memory of the first novel in this series. The author incorporates phrases from Jane Austen’s works into the books, which is fun for Jane Austen devotees. In addition, this book has an interesting plot and while I don’t think the culprit was difficult to pick out, I like the indirect tribute to “Pride and Prejudice.”
It’s a nicely themed series and this book, at any rate, is a quick and engaging read.




View all my reviews

Book review: Singapore Sapphire by A.M. Stuart

Singapore Sapphire by A.M. Stuart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is the first in a series (because, of course, I have finished reading all the other books in all the other series I have started). This book caught my attention because it takes place in Singapore in 1910 during British colonial rule, and it’s a period I know very little about.
I really enjoyed the debut novel to this series. The heroine is strong-willed but flawed, and the portrayal of the constraints of her position as a woman as well as the privileges of her position as a British white woman are both realistically described with little fanfare. The plot is interesting and well-paced. Even though you know the heroine survives (because, a series), the anticipation towards the climax is well done. And the author does an excellent job of portraying Singapore as it was with all its warts without either being preachy and with a deft touch, as the best historical mystery authors can do.
I have already bought the second book in the series and look forward to learning more about the main characters and Singapore during this time period!




View all my reviews

Book review: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee

A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This book (the first in a series) is based on a clever premise: what if there was a female detective agency and what kind of women would be part of that effort? And off we go, launched into the story. A young woman, Mary, is headed for the gallows but is rescued by the head of the all female detective agency. Mary is educated, trained, and given her first assignment. Who would suspect a woman, after all?
Whatever the reality is, the book’s premise is a fun one, and it enables the author to write convincingly about Mary’s background and the era, one where the role of women is extremely circumscribed, with few outlets for a strong, smart woman.
I really didn’t want to start yet another series (my TBR pile is yet again out of control), but the first book, at least, is a quick read, as the series is geared towards YA. It is also a fascinating read of the role of women, the historical period, and of Mary herself. I highly recommend it!



View all my reviews

Book review: Murder on Black Swan Lane by Andrea Penrose

Murder on Black Swan Lane by Andrea Penrose

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is the first novel in a mystery series with an interesting premise. The hero, Lord Wrexford, is a member of the aristocracy and very scientifically minded. The heroine, A.J. Quill, is a satirical artist, who seems to know facts about the murder before the police or Lord Wrexford discover them. The murder of a priest brings them together, working in tandem (kind of).
The plot is an intricate one and while I figured out the villain halfway through (which I try never to do when reading mysteries), I like the main characters, I like the plotting (and the plot), and I like the time period. I also tend to give authors the benefit of the doubt in the first of a mystery series, and this book is well written, which is promising.
I’ve already bought the second in the series! ๐Ÿ™‚



View all my reviews

Book review: Death in Focus by Anne Perry

Death in Focus by Anne Perry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I’ve been a fan of Anne Perry’s for a long time, and I was delighted to see that she had a new series. This is the debut novel of the Elena Standish mystery series. And while the book is a debut novel of a new series, it doesn’t read like a typical debut novel, probably because the author is well-practiced in writing historical mysteries. The writing is sure and the world-building is seamless. This particular book takes place in between World War I and World War II in England as competing factions of government either conclude war is inevitable because of Hitler’s rise to power (see Team Winston Churchill) or those who never want to put the country through the suffering from World War I again (see Team Neville Chamberlain).
If I had a complaint, it is that the plot is a bit scattershot, but that’s a minor quibble. The book is an enjoyable read and the historical setting is an interesting one.
Fans of Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series will also enjoy this one.
I look forward to reading the next book in the series!




View all my reviews

Book review: The Innocents by C.A. Asbrey

The Innocents by C.A. Asbrey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This isn’t the normal setting for my preferred historical mystery books as the book takes place in the U.S. in the late 1860s, but I couldn’t resist the premise of a female Pinkerton detective. Abigail McKay is one of the few female detectives working for the Pinkerton Agency as a result of a tragic backstory (the details of which are unclear). She is tasked with tracking down a notorious gang called the Innocents. Along the way, she encounters discrimination, murderers, prostitutes, and a whole host of interesting characters, not least of which are the gang members that constitute the Innocents. A romance is hinted at but is presumably left to subsequent books in the series.
I really liked Abi–the author depicts her as human and has her struggling with anger at not being taken seriously and struggling with grief and tragedy. The rest of the cast of characters are colorful and the historical detail rendered effortlessly.
I am definitely looking forward to reading the next one in the series, but I need to stop discovering new mystery series that are well-written and fun! ๐Ÿ™‚



View all my reviews

Book review: The Art of Theft by Sherry Thomas

The Art of Theft by Sherry Thomas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is the 4th in the Lady Sherlock series, a clever re-imagining of the Sherlock Holmes character as a woman, with all of the societal constraints implied therein. Each book in the series has been excellent, and this one is no exception. An old friend of Watson’s appeals to Sherlock Holmes for help in rescuing some incriminating letters from a blackmailer, which requires journeying to Paris and visiting a mysterious chateau. Not surprisingly, complications arise in retrieving those letters.
The plot is intricate, as are the many subplots. The writing is engaging and eloquent. And the characters are fascinating and improve with each book.
My only regret at the end of this book is that the next book in the series isn’t being released until October. (Fortunately, my TBR pile is an extensive one.) ๐Ÿ™‚
If historical mysteries are of interest or if you are curious about a unique take on the Sherlock Holmes legend, this book (and series) is for you. (And even if you aren’t but just like a well-told mystery, this series is also for you.)
The series is definitely best read in order, and I highly recommend them all!



View all my reviews

Book review: The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie King

The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This book is the 14th in the series of Mary Russell (wife of Sherlock Holmes). This installment is particularly enchanting as it deals with Mrs. Hudson, Sherlock Holmes’s famous landlady. It turns out that Mrs. Hudson has a backstory and a fascinating one at that.
The book switches between present day events (Mary is missing–has she been murdered?) and Mrs. Hudson’s past, which is somehow intertwined with the question of where Mary is.
In addition to the mystery (or, more accurately, a series of past mysteries wrapped up in the larger current mystery), the book deals with themes of love, revenge, and rehabilitation and what shapes those can take. The mystery(ies) are cleverly plotted, and the writing is sure-handed and deft. And it is both fun and clever to theme this book around Mrs. Hudson.
Four stars and I highly recommend it! (The series is best read in order–if you haven’t read any of the other books, you should anyway!)




View all my reviews

Book review: Deadly Engagement by Lucinda Brant

Deadly Engagement (Alec Halsey Mystery, #1)

Deadly Engagement by Lucinda Brant

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


In this current period of “social distancing,” it’s best to have large amounts of reading material on hand. (Not that my to-be-read pile has done anything but grow over the years.) Enter a Georgian historical mystery series!
This is the first in a series featuring Alec Halsey, the younger son of an Earl and a career diplomat. I really liked Alec as a character and the secondary characters around him were well-portrayed and interesting. The plot also dealt with some issues you don’t typically read about in historical mysteries (no spoilers!) and dealt with them well, in historical context and with nuance. My only complaint is that the climax and ending of the book felt a little rushed. But that is a minor detail in a book that was well-researched with historical detail smoothly incorporated into the writing, an interesting plot, and lovely characters.
I have already bought the second book in the series. ๐Ÿ™‚



View all my reviews