Thursday, February 18, 2016
The Hidden Man by Robin Blake is an historical mystery that arrived in the mail. I read it sometime before Christmas.
I like mysteries set in different time periods, often as much for the historical details as for plot or characters. The Hidden Man is the third in a series featuring Coroner Titus Cragg and Doctor Luke Fidelis in the mid 1700's and does give a unique perspective of life in the Georgian period.
Historically, the novel contains a number of fascinating topics, including the beginnings of investment banking (which, in this case, go sadly awry), the circumscribed lives of women, medical practices that sometimes both doctor and patient are reluctant to change, the evolving judicial system of the 1740's, issues with the slave trade, and more.
I was a bit put off by the slow beginning. This may have been partly because I had not read the two earlier novels, but it took the lack of anything else to read at the time to keep me reading. Eventually, I became quite involved with the characters and plot.
The circumstances surrounding the death of pawnbroker Philip Pimbo in a locked room situation are mysterious, but the mayor is less concerned about Pimbo's death than he is about the money that the Preston Guild invested with him. Coroner Cragg and Dr. Fidelis each play a role in solving Pimbo's murder and a subsequent related murder.
I ended up enjoying the book, but unless another free copy arrives in the mail, I probably won't pursue the series.
From Minotaur Books
Historical Mystery. 2015. 353 pages.
Harbour Street by Ann Cleeves is also one from November or December that I had not reviewed. I read one of the books in the Vera Stanhope series before I started blogging, and I've read two books in her Shetland Island series, but haven't kept up with this author like I should. It's a shame because Cleeves creates fascinating characters and atmospheric settings with great twisty plots. A trip to the library is in order so I can catch up with both Vera Stanhope and Inspector Jimmy Perez.
Cleeves excels at character building and the characters she creates are atypical in the police procedural/crime genre. Vera Stanhope is older, overweight, unattractive, brusque, and intuitive. She's lonely and drinks too much, but her instincts and determination make her exceptional at her job. I haven't watched the BBC television series, and probably won't because I don't want anything messing with my own version of Vera.
Briefly: When all but one of the passengers on a train have disembarked, an elegant, elderly woman remains. At some point during the journey, she has been murdered; but why would anyone kill Margaret Krukowski? A quiet, caring woman, Margaret doesn't seem likely to have been targeted for death, and the motive for her murder remains elusive.
Vera Stanhope ends up staying at the bed and breakfast on Harbour Street where Margaret lived and worked. Peeling back the layers, Vera and Detective Joe Ashworth delve into the lives of various people in the small community, puzzling through possibilities, discovering some surprising events from the past.
This is a skillfully plotted and character rich novel! Recommended.
From Minotaur Books
Police Procedural. 2015. 400 pages.
A Bed of Scorpions by Judith Flanders. I loved A Murder of Magpies by Flanders and was excited when this arrived in the mail. Another beautiful cover.
Flanders again fills the reader in about many of the problems and conflicts involved in publishing. While people who love to read enjoy learning a bit about how books reach the public, Flanders may have spent a little too much time on the details at the beginning of the book.
However, when Samantha Clair leaves her office to have lunch with old friend Aidan Merriam, an art dealer, she is shocked to learn that his partner has committed suicide.
To add to her dismay, the investigation is being led by her boyfriend, Inspector Jake Field. Suicide or murder?
Sam finds herself in the uneasy situation of divided loyalties. Even as she tries to distance herself from the investigation, she keeps finding herself dragged in.
I did like it, but not as much as I loved the first book. Does Sam seem a little more befuddled than in A Murder of Magpies? She is not the most socially adept person, but she is smart and witty, and I don't think it showed as much in this book. There are some great secondary characters that reappear, and it is nice when characters that you liked in the first book continue to contribute.
Although this one is a hardback from the publisher that arrived in the mail, the ebook is being offered on Netgalley.
From Minotaur Books
Mystery. 2015. 392 pages.