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 Amateur Sleuth, Cozy Mystery, Mystery, Paranormal Mystery, Supernatural

Suddenly Psychic by Elizabeth Hunter (Glimmer Lake #1)

Publication Info: Published February 18, 2020 by Recurve Press LLC. I read the Kindle edition through my Kindle Unlimited subscription. Kindle and paperback editions are available.

Summary: Three forty-something women, Robin, Val and Monica, are headed up a winding, dark road on their way to a restaurant to celebrate Monica’s birthday. Suddenly, a white deer appears in the roadway, which Robin swerves to avoid. Her car plunges off the hillside into the lake below. The women aren’t seriously injured, but they are trapped and sinking deeper and deeper into the chilly water. As they frantically search the car for something to break a window open, a mysterious man appears and smashes a window open with a rock.

The event is life changing in more ways than one. In addition to surviving a harrowing accident, the three women discover they have gained some unusual psychic talents. Because of their new skills, they find themselves in a position to solve a decades-old murder, as well as ridding a house of a very nasty ghost.

Comments: I love discovering a fun read by sheer serendipity. I found myself between required book reviews and nothing on my book shelf at home was calling to me. Frankly, during this COVID-19 pandemic, I am increasingly drawn toward escapist reading. Finding Suddenly Psychic on Kindle Unlimited was like having a wish granted!

The story revolves around 3 older women, something I can relate to. The women have psychic talents but still deal with normal life problems. The book is well written and the characters were people I would like to have as friends. There is real emotion, including a scene that even brought tears to my eyes.

The second in the series, Semi-Psychic Life, is also on Kindle Unlimited and I’ve already downloaded it. The third, Psychic Dreams, is due out in August. Yay!

My Rating: 4.5 STARS

Posted in Cozy Mystery, Mystery

Shades of Earl Grey by Laura Childs (A Tea Shop Mystery #3)

Publication Info: Published January 7, 2003 by Berkley Books. I read the paperback edition, purchased from the online bookstore Thriftbooks. Other editions available.

Summary: Charleston resident Camille Cantroux is looking forward to her engagement party. Although her wedding to Captain Corey Buchanan is to take place in Savannah, most of her friends live in Charleston and her aunt, Delaine Dish, worked hard to make her niece’s party a grand affair.

The party is barely under way at the lovely Lady Goodwood’s Inn when a huge crash is heard coming from the Garden Room. The guests discover that the glass ceiling has collapsed. At the center of the rubble is Captain Buchanan, dead from a glass shard embedded in his spine. The wedding is now most certainly off.

An investigation and search reveal that the heirloom wedding ring is missing. Theodosia Browning, amateur sleuth and owner of the town’s popular Indigo Tea Shop, thinks that a cat burglar came through the roof just to steal the ring. After other expensive items begin to disappear downtown, she is sure of it. She tries to convince the police of her theory but they don’t appear to take her seriously. Theodosia is determined to discover the identity of the cat burglar and bring the perpetrator to justice.

Comments: Shades of Earl Grey is the third in the smartly written cozy mystery from Laura Childs. I love the atmosphere and characters. I stayed in Charleston for a couple of nights many years ago and thoroughly enjoyed my time in this historical, charming city. With its fine teas and delicious sounding baked goods, I would live to have an Indigo Tea Shop near me! There are some recipes included at the back of the book for those who like to bake.

Recommended for readers of mysteries, especially cozy mysteries, and those who like books set in Charleston, South Carolina.

My rating: 4 Stars

Posted in Cozy Mystery, Mystery

Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin Walker

Publication Info: Published April 6, 2010 by Vintage. Previously published in 2008 by Walker and Watson, Ltd. Other editions available.

Summary: Bruno is the chief of police in the fictional small town of St. Denis in southern France. He enjoys his job, which mostly consists of being friendly and coaching kids’s sports teams. He loves his quiet lifestyle and has no desire to make a name for himself. He also really enjoys assisting the townspeople in foiling the E.U. inspectors attempts to enforce the market hygiene laws. After all, people had been eating the local eggs and cheese for centuries without harm. The new rules forbidding their sales at farmer’s markets were silly.

Besides their historical markets, the residents of St. Denis love parades. They proudly bear flags and march through the streets of town for every national holiday. Their oldest, and most honored, citizens are veterans of WWII and the Algerian War of Independence. After one of these parades, an Algerian Muslim grandfather is discovered murdered in his home with a swastika cut into his chest. His death stirs up anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant feelings in the town and beyond. While the national police are looking into hate groups for the murderer, Bruno does his own quieter investigations.

Comments: This series was recommended to me about five years ago, when I was in a book club. I shoved it to the back of my reading list until I came across this first in the series in a local independent bookstore in Fort Collins, CO (Old Firehouse Books). I don’t purchase many books — at the speed I read I’d be broke in short order — but I do like to buy from independents when I visit them.

Anyway, I finally got around to reading, Bruno, Chief of Police, and fell instantly in love with the series. While I read the occasional cozy, I like something with more depth and this book fits that little niche between cozy and harder mysteries perfectly. With its gentle pacing, quirky town and characters that will develop over time, the series may appeal to readers of Louise Penny.

Recommended for Mystery readers and those who like fiction set in rural France.

My rating 4.5 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.