Posted in Africa, British Mystery, Cozy Mystery, historical mystery, Series

Love and Death Among the Cheetahs by Rhys Bowen

Her Royal Spyness Series #13

Georgie and Darcy are on their honeymoon at last. After Darcy announces their upcoming trip to Kenya in front of the queen, Georgie is stunned by this surprise. She quickly gains her composure when the queen pulls her aside and tells her that David is also on his way to Kenya. She asks Georgie to keep an eye on her son, who might just take the opportunity to elope with that Simpson woman.

After an exhausting whirlwind of travel by a variety of conveyances, the newlyweds arrive in Happy Valley. Georgie and Darcy met a few people along the way, particularly Freddie, the local government man. Upon arrival, they meet their hostess and neighbors. Their hostess is a lovely, independent woman named Diddy Ruocco. The rest of the residents of Happy Valley are less lovely. Georgie finds herself among leches, hedonists, liars, and a potential diamond thief. She begins to suspect that Darcy has arranged this honeymoon to be a bit of a busman’s holiday. After a prominent landowner is murdered, it is obvious that there is more than one criminal harboring secrets.

At the time Love and Death Among the Cheetahs takes place, this area of Africa was under British rule and was called the Colony and Protectorate of Kenya. The native peoples mentioned in the novel, the Maasai and Kikuyu, were forced into servitude. In her introduction, Rhys Bowen comments a bit on the history of the area and the treatment of the indigenous people. She realizes that today’s readers may find parts of the novel offensive. But, she is trying to be realistic in her portrayal of that time and place. The author also did extensive research and includes a bibliography of sources at the end of the book.

I like the way the author handled a tricky, serious, historical topic in a cozy mystery. While the majority of the Happy Valley residents are absolutely horrid to the native people, Georgie’s inner thoughts are the voice of dissent for the reader. Georgie’s reactions are completely in character. Despite her royal heritage, Georgie is always good-hearted, down to earth and not the least stuck-up.

After thirteen novels, I have come to love the characters. This is my go-to series when I just want to snuggle up with a book that feels like going home.

Book cover

My Rating: 5 Stars, Grade A

Posted in British Mystery, Cozy Mystery, Historical Fiction, historical mystery, Historical Romance, Light Romance

Above the Bay of Angels by Rhys Bowen

Publication Info: Published February 11, 2020 by Lake Union Publishing. I listened to the audio edition through my Kindle Unlimited edition. Other editions available.

Summary: Raised in a genteel household, orphaned and impoverished Isabella Waverly finds herself with no skills to support herself and her younger sister after her parents die. She goes into service as a maid, but discovers she has a talent for cooking.

One day, a tragic bus accident critically injures another young woman who was on her way to interview for an apprentice cooking job at the palace. Isabella rushes to comfort the dying girl, who gives her an envelope. When Isabella opens it later, she realizes that fate has handed her an unique opportunity. The unfortunate woman was on her way to a job interview as a cook at the palace. Isabella, whose current employer is a cruel taskmaster, decides to take the other woman’s place. She becomes Helen Barton.

Helen’s cooking skills grow by leaps and bounds. Her pastries come to the attention of Queen Victoria. When the queen decides to move to a hotel in France for the summer, she takes a retinue of cooks and servants along with her. Helen’s ability to speak French gains her a place in the entourage and some additional status among her fellow chefs.

After a nobleman is murdered by poison, suspicion falls on Helen. She must use her knowledge of cooking and her wits to prove she is innocent.

Comments: I got hungry listening to this book! The descriptions of the French pastries and dinners were mouth watering. I loved the main character, who is a plucky, intelligent young woman. Isabella faces page-turning challenges and risks of exposure as she works to guard her secret. Rhys Bowen’s stand-alone novel, Above the Bay of Angels, is gentle and enthralling.

Highly recommended for readers of historical fiction, light romance and light mysteries, especially those set in the Victorian era.

My rating: 5 STARS

Posted in British Mystery, Cozy Mystery, Mystery

A Royal Pain by Rhys Bowen (Her Royal Spyness #2)

Publication Info: Published July 1, 2008 by Berkley. Kindle edition courtesy of my local library. Other editions available.

Summary: Lady Georgianna is struggling to make ends meet, so she takes on odd jobs as a maid for the more prosperous members of her set. Some of them could recognize her so she does her best to keep her head down. But being inconspicuous is difficult when you are cousin to the queen and thirty-fourth in line for the throne of England.

Georgie, as she likes to be called, is summoned to tea by the queen. The queen then informs her that she is to play hostess for a visiting Bavarian princess. This puts Georgie in a bit of a bind as she has no servants and her house is mostly closed up. Some creative thinking and scrambling is in order!

But the princess turns out to be more than a handful. Fresh out of the convent at 18, she is boy crazy and talks like an American gangster. She says she learned English by watching American films. When Princess Hannelore chases after a dashing, lower class and Communist (gasp!) young man, dead bodies start showing up in her wake. The queen asks Georgie to get to the bottom of it before something else happens.

Comments: After reading several rather intense books, I wanted something lighter. This definitely fit my reading mood. I read the first in the series a while back and was a tad disappointed, but the pace is rapidly picking up in A Royal Pain. There is a fun cast of characters and I’m really getting to like Georgie. I definitely plan on reading the next book in the series.

Posted in British Mystery, Fiction, Mystery

The Long Call by Ann Cleeves (Two Rivers #1)

Publication Info: Expected publication date, September 3rd 2019 by Minotaur Books. Kindle Pre-Pub edition courtesy of NetGalley

Summary: In North Devon, England, a man’s body is found dead on the shore. His most identifying mark is a tattoo of an albatross on his neck. No wallet or paperwork is found on the body. For the moment, his identity is a mystery as there were no direct witnesses to the crime.

Lucy, a Downs syndrome woman who goes to the local Woodyard Center, tells her father that her bus companion is missing. The man sat with her and gave her sweets. Alarmed, Lucy’s father questions her about the man’s behavior, but Lucy says he was nothing but a nice man.

The detective in charge of the case was born and raised in the area. He is also married to the head of the Woodyard Center. Concerned about some possible conflicts with his connections to the Center and people from his past, he considers excusing himself from the case.

When Lucy disappears near the Woodyard Center, the case takes on new dimensions. It becomes even more imperative to find out who murdered the man on the beach.

Comments: This was the first book I’ve read by this author and will have to read more! The Long Call was well written, with well developed characters. There were enough clues along the way to make the ending believable. I particularly liked the inclusion of the Downs Syndrome characters. That added further dimension and believably to the plot.

Highly recommended for mystery readers. It is also a great starter book for those unfamiliar with Ann Cleeves work, as I was.

My Goodreads rating : 4 stars

Posted in British Mystery, Fiction, Mystery

A Share in Death by Deborah Crombie

A Share in Death is the 1st book in the Duncan Kinkaid & Gemma James series.

Summary: Duncan Kincaid was overdue for a holiday. After dealing with a particularly gruesome series of murders, the Scotland Yard Detective Superintendent accepted his cousin’s offer of a week in a countryside timeshare. While the timeshare wasn’t his idea of a perfect getaway, it was free, which suited his budget perfectly.

After arriving at Followdale house, he met the sales manager, Cassie, and the assistant manager, Sebastian. From an overheard argument between them, it was clear there was a reason for the friction, but Duncan was determined to lay low, have his quiet vacation and not let on that he worked for Scotland Yard.

His resolve was shattered when Sebastian’s electrocuted body was discovered in the swimming pool.

With a house full of quirky timeshare residents and a local constable more interested in throwing his weight around than finding the truth, it became clear to Duncan that he would have to use his skills to help solve the crime.

Comments: I found the large cast of characters rather confusing and several of them had very little to do with the plot. The book casually introduces the reader to the other half of the detective team, Gemma James, but it was puzzling as to why Duncan asked Gemma to drive around interviewing people who weren’t present at the house. It became clear at the end of the book but felt rather contrived.

Flaws aside, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this mystery and can’t believe I haven’t read any of the author’s books before. (There are currently 17 in this series). The story was like a modern English country house murder. The mansion, guests and evening cocktail hour made me think fondly of the various Bed & Breakfasts I stayed in when I lived in the Washington, D.C. area. I’m looking forward to reading the next in the series.

4 books out of 5 for a bit of nostalgia along with a story I didn’t want to put down.

4 out of 5 books