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, historical mystery, Mystery, New York, Uncategorized

Murder on Astor Place by Victoria Thompson (Gaslight Mystery #1)

Publication Info: Published May 1, 1999 by Berkley Prime Crime. I read the paperback edition, purchased through Thrift Books. Other editions available.

Summary: Sarah Brandt is a widow working as a midwife in late Victorian era New York. While she was born into wealth, she became estranged from her family for following her heart, rather than social norms. Her physician husband’s death still weighs heavily in her memory.

While on a call at a boarding house, Sarah sees a distressed young girl in that reminds her so much of an old school friend that she calls out her old friend’s name. Startled, the girl flees from the doorway. Two days later, when she returned to check on the woman who just gave birth, Sarah learns that the girl was found murdered. Because of the dead girl’s resemblance to her old friend, Sarah is able to identify her as her friend’s younger sister. But what was an upper class girl doing living in a shoddy boarding house?

In an era of extreme police corruption, Sarah knows that few crimes get solved unless the investigation is greased with cash. Sarah takes it upon herself to find out who murdered the girl and why.

Comments: I happily settled into this book with its strong female character, historical setting and grisly murder accompanied by a cup of hot tea and a blanket. I enjoyed every minute of this mystery. The Gaslight series has been on my wish list for several years and. I liked plucky Sarah Brandt and even the gruff Detective showed himself to be more complex than he first appeared. Murder on Astor Place is the first in a series of twenty-three titles. I’m putting the second book, Murder on St. Mark’s Place on my to read list as soon as I hit the publish button on my blog!

Recommended for readers of mysteries, especially historical mysteries.

My rating: 4 STARS

Posted in Cultural, Fiction, Historical, India, Mystery, Uncategorized

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

Publication date, January 9th, 2018, by Soho Press.

Summary: Perveen Mistry assists her father in the family law firm. As the first – and only – female solicitor in 1920’s Bombay, she isn’t allowed to present cases at court. That is the purview of the male barristers, but there is plenty of work for her to do handling wills and eThe Widows of Malabar Hill.jpgstates.

For many years, the Mistry Law Firm has represented the interests of Mr. Farid and his wives. The wives are purdanashin, which means they live in seclusion and have no contact with men outside their own household except to speak with them through a screen. After Mr. Farid dies, the Mistry Law firm must negotiate the rather complex terms of the will. Perveen is uniquely qualified to work with the Farid wives. She is well-versed in estate law and as a female, she can be granted direct access to the Muslim women in the compound.

When the women’s appointed guardian, Mr. Mukri, is found murdered, Perveen’s legal concerns expand to the safety of the three wives and their children. The male detectives aren’t allowed in the women’s area of the home, so she becomes their eyes and ears.

But Perveen has safety concerns of her own. She recently spotted a man in town who resembles her abusive husband. Perveen escaped from Cyrus and his family four years previously but because of Parsi law, was unable to secure more than a legal separation. She is worried that she may be abducted back to Calcutta.

Comments: The Widows of Malabar Hill is rich in atmosphere and history. The Mistry family are Parsis, descendants of immigrants to India from Persia, current day Iran. They maintain their own unique culture and religion in the predominantly Hindu and Muslim nation of India. They worked well with the British colonial government and became wealthy and well educated.  This background makes Perveen a believable protagonist.

This novel is the first in a new series by Sujata Massey. If you like multi-cultural mystery fiction, look for her other books, the Rei Shimura novels.

5 books for a thoroughly engrossing, well researched novel.

5 out of 5 books