Sunday, June 23, 2024

The Santa Klaus Murder by Mavis Doriel Hay

 

Publication Date:

1936

Length:

253 pages

Summary:

Hay only published three novels and all were detective mysteries written in the 1930's. I had not heard of her before reading this one. I thought the cover was adorable and the perfect read for the hot June weather. So I am calling this review a "Christmas in June" book review. This is part of the revived collection of British Library Crime Classics and so it falls into the category of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. I am glad these books are being republished and with such vibrant, beautiful covers. The story is told in a series of chapters written from the perspective of each character, with the main detective having most of the story from his thoughts on the case. It is unique, giving insight into how each person is thinking.

The Melbury family is gathering for their annual Christmas. Sir Osmond, patriarch of the clan is domineering and particular in how he likes things done. His five children: George, Hilda, Edith, Eleanor, and Jennifer are all very different personalities, including how they feel about and handle their father. There is also the money and inheritance to consider as each vie for what is in theirs and their children's best interest. Although they don't always see eye to eye, they gather together and try to get through another trying holiday reunion.

Various other guests, spouses, family friends, and the family secretary are also present and horrified when Sir Osmond is found dead in his study on Christmas Day with a bullet through his head. The main suspect, dressed as the resident Santa Klaus for entertainment, is not someone who would stand to gain financially from Sir Osmond's death. As Constable Halstock begins to investigate he realizes there are actually two Santa Klauses and now the search becomes even more bizzare and complicated. Having known the family well for years, Halstock is baffled because he believes one of them is behind the murder, owing to the fact that they are not all honest about who they really are behind closed doors. It is up to Halstock and his cranky partner, Detective Rousdon to find out the truth.

My Thoughts:

This story follows a rhythm very similar to an Agatha Christie novel. The first half is told by character development and relationships and the second half is the detective work solving the crime. The cozy, country house feel is all there along with the clues that there is something darker and more sinister going on that is hanging in the air. You are kept guessing with clues and coincidences and just when you start to rule someone out or suspect them, there is a twist. 

The dynamics between the siblings, their spouses, Sir Osmond, and the secretary/housekeeper, Grace Portisham, all serve to keep the reader off balance. Grace seems to have been Sir Osmond's favorite and the children don't trust her fully. Grace sees the children as unsupportive of their father and doesn't trust them. I thought this served as an entertaining backdrop of tension that really made the story unpredictable. I also enjoyed the chapters written from each person's point of view. Colonel Halstock's investigation was unique because he already knew the family well and was able to add his own opinions on their motives and character. It is a cute, cozy mystery that has a satisfying conclusion. Nothing spectacular but great for a nice, clean story.

It's surprising the author didn't write more novels as she had a good grasp of the genre. There are so many of these published during the 1920's and 30's it seems I'll never run out. It's fun trying and sharing different ones as I find them.


Sunday, June 16, 2024

Stacking the Shelves #30

 


Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Reading Reality. It's a place to showcase any books I have purchased, borrowed, or been lucky enough to have been given an advance copy of. Hope you find something that looks interesting to you or that makes you remember a favorite book you need to finish. Enjoy your reading this week :) 




This looked like an interesting mystery series. Set in WW II in Sydney, Australia with an intriguing main character, I was drawn to the cover, the synopsis, and the setting. I bought book one on sale for Kindle and hope to start it this year. There are ten books in the series so of course I had to pick another set of books I can't possibly read at once! But I'll start here and see if it's good enough to continue with more. The author has won an impressive array of awards for this series as well as previous ones.





On my current TBR Summer 2024 list, this book is unique and I doubt I'll find another historical fiction story with the main character of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. I know absolutely nothing about him so this looked like a great novel to dive into. I don't think the author has even written anything else. She is German and this is the only book I found, having been translated from her native language. 



Set in Cairo in 1913, another draw for me, along with the mystery element and interesting main character. The plot looks intricate, with historical facts interwoven with Indian and British culture of the time playing as the backdrop. This time and place always fascinates me so I'm hoping it's good. While this is Book 17 in the series (It was the one on sale so I bought it) I don't mind and if I like it I'll go back and read Book One. 

















Saturday, June 15, 2024

Traitor's Arrow by David Field (The Medieval Saga Series Book Two)

 

Publication Date: 
April 25, 2022

Length:

222 pages

Summary:

I have always been interested in what really happened in the forest all those years ago when King William Rufus mysteriously died from an arrow wound. His brother Henry racing to Westminster to seize the royal treasury seemed like a cold hearted act to me. Field portrays this from a new perspective using some real historical people and facts and some fictional ones as well. While no one can ever be sure what really happened, Traitor's Arrow manages to give an entertaining story of the rise of Henry I due to the demise of his wicked brother, while also portraying him as a sympathetic character, only doing what he needed to save England and usher in a new era of stability.

Will Riveracre, or as he is now known in Book Two, Sir Wilfrid de Walsingham, having been knighted and land bestowed to him, is content to live out his days with his family. The current King William Rufus has other plans for him and needs constant support to field off his enemies in foreign and domestic entanglements. Wilfrid is unable to have a moments peace when William is king and longs for the day he can finally be left alone in his advancing years. Trying his best to walk a line between his family and his loyalty to the King, he eventually finds himself a prisoner for two years, scared and alone and far from home. When William Rufus meets his demise in the forest with the mysterious arrow and Wilfrid is brought before the new King Henry, he is amazed to discover he has been tasked with Henry's request of finding out what happened and clearing Henry of any wrong doing in the death of his brother.

As he sets out to unravel the truth, Wilfrid must contend with uncomfortable realizations that implicate important nobles of the day and what he believes are innocent others caught in the scandal. 

Intertwined throughout the story is the day to day life of Joan, Wilfrid's wife who is frustrated, feeling forgotten by her absent husband as she struggles to raise their children and his grown son Thomas, on crusade with Stephen of Blois. Will Wilfrid be able to give Henry the answers he is looking for? Will he be reunited with his family, Thomas safe, and Joan still trusting him? And until he can satisfy King Henry, will he be safe or thrown into captivity again?

My Thoughts:

Field has once again taken a true story and added his historical fiction touch to create a great tale that teaches as well. I enjoyed his theory as to what really happened on that fateful day in the forest and he added information he researched that I'd not heard before. His desriptions of William Rufus and his decadent court were scandalously portrayed. By the time he dies, you are thankful. Field is clearly sympathetic to King Henry and believes he is innocent in the death of Wiliam, although not sorry he is gone. 

I have grown fond of Wilfrid and his family and back story. He is portrayed as a man with great character who stumbles but adds enough color to the book as to not make it boring. I didn't care much for his wife, Joan. She often comes across as a bit nagging and weak but Wilfrid loves her despite that. Their family and the nuns they live with are an interesting side note to the battles and court intrigue. 

I will be reading all of Field's books if I can fit them in the next couple of years. I contacted him through Facebook to tell him how much I am learning and enjoying reading them. He was gracious and replied which was really nice. While I am probably finished with this particular series for now (the middle books on the Anarchy, Henry II and Richard I are topics I don't need more study of right now), his new mystery series, Australian sagas, New World Nautical sagas, and Tudor dynasty series are sure to be excellent. He also has two Victorian era mystery series he published before his historical fiction books. Quite a library to choose from!

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie (A Hercule Poirot Mystery): Read Christie 2024 March Selection

 

Publication Date: 
March 29, 1928

Length:

296 pages

Summary:

This was the Read Christie 2024 selection for March but I didn't quite get to it in time to review that month. Better late than never though, right? 

The story begins with a prologue that seems to purposefully confuse the reader. Shady characters seem to be discussing jewels and the reader can't quite grasp if these are victims or villains. When Book One begins, Poirot boards Le Train Bleu, the Blue Train, traveling to the French Riviera. So does heiress Katherine Grey and Ruth Kettering, an American who is also wealthy but leaving her husband due to the problems in their marriage. She is also in love with another man and wants to meet up with him. When Ruth is found strangled to death suspicion is immediate due to the priceless jewels she was carrying. Her father, Rufus Van Aldin, had given her an incredibly expensive ruby dubbed "Heart of Fire" and it is found to be missing. He hadn't wanted her to take the jewel with her and is heartbroken that it may have been the cause of her death. 

When Van Aldin and his secretary, Major Knighton ask Poirot to investigate he finds himself delving into Ruth's romantic life. While her love interest, the Comte de la Roche is certainly a suspect, Poirot is not sure he is the one. The clues just don't add up. As he digs further, he finds it strange that Ruth's husband, Derek Kettering was on the same train and seen going into Ruth's compartment but claims he never saw her. Additionally, it is discovered that Derek was conducting an affair of his own with a Parisian dancer, Mirelle, who is not of the best character. She is scheming and manipulative and becomes a suspect due to her jealously and pettiness. Poirot doggedly pursues the case and as it unfolds he realizes the answer is as far from the obvious as he can imagine. 

My Thoughts:

When I read the synopsis of what the book was about I remember reading "Poirot recreates the crime on the train." I thought that sounded fun. The story and clues were clever and I definitely didn't figure it out ahead of time. The ending was creative and the red herrings throughout the story were entertaining. 

I felt a little sad and sympathetic toward  Ruth. She was shown as a woman unhappy in her marriage and wanting to be with the man she loved but also with a father who desperately wanted her marriage to work out for his own reasons. I even had a fleeting moment where I wondered if he'd been involved in her murder. You will have to read to find out!

Some of the more memorable moments for me were between Derek and MIrelle as she pouts and schemes and I could just hear her in her accent as she whined and threatened. She added that villainous touch that made you dislike her while wanting to hear what she had to say too. 

I enjoyed this one very much and don't agree with some who have said it was thin on character development. I actually found the opposite to be true and I also loved the different ways in which Christie tried to throw in curveballs. It's always interesting to see how each of her books can be viewed so differently by so many. 




Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Can't Wait Wednesday: The Pyramid Murders by Fiona Veitch Smith (Miss Clara Vale Mysteries Book Three)


 

For this week's Can't Wait Wednesday, hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings, I'm featuring, The Pyramid Murders, by Fiona Veitch Smith.  If you subscribe to Amazon Prime the first two in the series are free to read. So I might go back and tackle those too. 

Hope you have found something you can't wait to read this week! 

June 13, 2024

Historical Mysteries



Description courtesy of Amazon

A night at the museum, a dead body and a trail to Cairo. Sounds like a case for Miss Clara Vale!

1930Miss Clara Vale, chemistry major turned detective, is taking a night off from sleuthing to attend the launch party of a new exhibition at the Hancock Museum in Newcastle. But when the piece de resistance, a rare ornate sarcophagus, is finally opened and it turns out the mummy inside it is a fake it looks like there is no rest for Clara after all...

Later that night, she is summoned back to the museum and asked to investigate a series of stolen Egyptian artifacts. Using her scientific and forensic prowess, Clara, with her trusted assistant 
Bella in tow, embarks on a trail that will lead from Newcastle to London and along the river Nile to Cairo.

But she is not the only person hunting for stolen antiquities and when she uncovers an international smuggling ring with a penchant for murder, it becomes clear that Clara's own life is in danger too.

Can Clara catch the smugglers before they get away with another murder among the pyramids?