1. Welcome to BookAndReader!

    We LOVE books and hope you'll join us in sharing your favorites and experiences along with your love of reading with our community. Registering for our site is free and easy, just CLICK HERE!

    Already a member and forgot your password? Click here.

Readingomnivore Reviews

Discussion in 'Book Reviews' started by readingomnivore, Mar 25, 2014.

  1. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,097
    Likes Received:
    81
    A COLD DAY FOR MURDER is the first book in the long-running Kate Shugak mystery series written by Dana Stabenow. It was published in paperback edition in 1992, winning an Edgar, and reissued in e-book format in 2011. It is set in the Park near and around Niniltna, Alaska.

    When Park ranger Mark Miller disappears in October and Ken Dahl, the investigator sent a month later to find him, also vanishes, Jack Morgan of the Anchorage District Attorney’s office and Fred Gamble of the FBI call on Kate Shugak to locate them both. Kate had been Morgan’s best investigator in domestic violence and child abuse cases until fourteen months before when she walked in on a child rape in progress; her throat was cut, but the violator wound up dead. Kate quit her job to retreat to the Park where she now lives isolated from her Aleut kin and neighbors to avoid contact with her grandmother Ekaterina Moonin Shugak (Emaa), de facto ruler of Niniltna and the Park. Kate agrees to find the missing men, both now presumed dead, knowing that the person responsible is likely to be a friend, family member, or neighbor.

    Stabenow deserved the Edgar for A COLD DAY FOR MURDER. The plot is well constructed with subtle foreshadowing that produces a believable, emotionally harrowing conclusion. It, like many later books in the series, balances themes indigenous to Alaska--Anglo versus Native interests and culture, development versus preservation and conservation, basic man versus nature for survival--and personal lives of Kate and her neighbors. Slice of life humor enlivens the series. The episode of Bill, Otis, Chopper Jim, and the D-9 Cat bulldozer is worth the price of A COLD DAY FOR MURDER. Stabenow has a wonderful story-telling voice.

    Sense of place is outstanding. Not only does Stabenow depict the geography of the Park, but she uses atmosphere and local culture to create a vital community. “Niniltna was a village of eight hundred inhabitants that doubled in population in the summer when the salmon were running. This made it a metropolis by Alaskan bush standards. Its building crouched together on the flat, boggy muskeq at the edge of the Kanuyaq River--the river that served as the drainage ditch to the Park, the river into which all the glaciers eventually melted and into which all creeks and streams flowed. It was the river up which the Chinook and sockeye and silver and humpy and dog salmon migrated to lay their egg and die or to be tangled in set nets and air-freighted to Anchorage, there to be cleaned and frozen and shipped to restaurants and supermarkets half a world away. Usually the fishermen were Aleut and Athabascan and Tlingit Indians who fished with centuries-old squatters’ rights. Occasionally a sports fisherman flew in, fished his limit and turned his catch over to one of a half a dozen Native women who would filet it and smoke it, rendering it tough and stringy and delicious. It was said that smoked salmon was not real smoked salmon unless your jaw ached and your house smelled for a minimum of three days afterward.” (41)

    Best are the characters. Stabenow is admirably economical in the number she introduces, and she is adept at short individualizing comments. “It did no good to get irritable with Bernie; he’d just close up like a clam and invite you out of his bar. He had a sign hung over the back of his bar which read, we reserve the right to refuse service, and Bernie took that to be his credo, his guiding light, his raison d’etre, right up there next to no customers allowed behind the bar and free throws win ballgames.” (81) Kate Shugak is by far the most intriguing. Educated at the University of Alaska, with the highest conviction rate in the state’s history for her position in the District Attorney’s office, she is equally skilled at survival in the bush. Emaa constantly pressures Kate, trapped between Outside and Native cultures and suffering from PSTD, to become her designated successor in Native politics; her fiercely independent nature, so similar to her grandmother, makes for a difficult, reluctant relationship.

    A COLD DAY FOR MURDER is an outstanding debut for a powerful series. (A)
     
  2. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,097
    Likes Received:
    81
    A WINTER WRONG is the first novella in the Seasons of Serendipity variants of Pride and Prejudice. It was written by Elizabeth Ann West and published in e-book format in 2014.

    While first Jane and then Elizabeth Bennet are ill at Netherfield, their father Robert Bennet dies from an epidemic that claims many lives in Hertfordshire. William Collins arrives unannounced two days after his death and immediately takes over Longbourn, proclaiming himself head of the family and beginning a new regime based on advice from Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Not only is he pompous, he is miserly, intent on humiliating the pride of the Bennet women by having them work like servants in the household. When he announces his impending marriage to Elizabeth without asking her and she refuses, he plans to hire her out as a governess in the most unpleasant household he can find. Fortunately for the Bennet women, years before Mr. Bennet had consulted Mr. Gardiner and his solicitor, to set up an investment program that provides them £5,000 each. Collins inherits the landed estate but not his cousin’s investments. Mr. Gardiner, not Collins, is executor of Bennet’s will. Infuriated, Collins turns the women out of Longbourn on one hour notice. The three older sisters go to London to make their home with the Gardiners, while Mrs. Bennet and the two younger take up residence with Mrs. Phillips in Meryton. In London, the Bennets meet Georgiana Darcy and through her, Margaret Fitzwilliam, Countess of Matlock, who sponsors them in Society.

    ~~~POSSIBLE SPOILERS~~~

    West strengthens the Cinderella element by making Collins and his actions more repugnant; he so much deserves his pubic humiliation at the Matlocks’ Twelfth Night Ball. It is also satisfying to see Caroline Bingley set down by Elizabeth and Lady Matlock. West introduces few new characters, the most important being Lord and Lady Matlock. She changes few originals, except to make Mary prettier and more mature.

    Problems are minor. Mr. Gardiner giving his son a yo-yo for Christmas is an anachronism. Yo-yos are early twentieth-century in origin. Elizabeth receives a portable stationery (writing supplies) desk, not a stationary (non-moving) one.
    West does stop the novella with the main story line far from complete. Charles Bingley has been remarkably aloof from Jane Bennet despite her social success. Wickham, intent on Lydia’s dowry, beds her but decamps when told Gardiner’s consent to the marriage is required for payment. A WINTER’S WRONG closes with Bingley reopening Netherfield at Darcy’s request, the Bennet girls and Darcy returning to Hertfordshire, and Colonel Fitzwilliam seeking Wickham in London.

    A WINTER’S WRONG is well written fan fiction, enjoyable. (B+)
     
  3. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,097
    Likes Received:
    81
    DEATH IN TAIGH MHOR is a novella written by Melanie Jackson and published in her 2015 MIDSUMMER MURDERS anthology of short fiction. It is part of a series featuring American Jane Blackthorn, whose husband Roderick is a Superintendent at Scotland Yard.

    Jane visits following a summons from American school friend Charlotte, daughter of minor robber baron Alexander Drummond Westerbury IV. Recently married to James Fitzherbert, second son of an impoverished earl, Charlotte now lives at Taigh Mhor, a largely ruined manor on a sea island off the northern Highlands of Scotland. Fitzherbert is committed to restore Taigh Mhor and establish a distillery, for which he requires money from his wife or his father-in-law. Three incidents convince Charlotte that the house is haunted and that she is in danger from a ghost. Jane is skeptical about ghosts but believes someone is acting against Charlotte, either to establish her as insane or to kill her. Who?

    Jane is the first person narrator of this story. She credits herself with a degree of second sight and alludes to college friends being involved in a scandalous murder that she solved. She dislikes her sister-in-law and spoiled unmanageable nephew. Except her suspicious nature (yet willingness to trust Charlotte’s story implicitly), she remains unknown. With only Charlotte and Fitzherbert as potential killer and victim, with both stereotypes from the pages of Mary Stewart and Dorothy Eden, there is little suspense. Description of the house and island is so spooky it seems deliberately camp. Time period is indefinite. One reference says the island is not part of the twentieth century, perhaps not even nineteenth century, yet a dentist is referred to as a tooth-drawer and some women wear corsets. Quite frankly, I do not see the point of the story. (F)
     
  4. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,097
    Likes Received:
    81
    A SPRING SENTIMENT is the second Season of Serendipity novella variant on Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It was written by Elizabeth Ann West and published in e-book format in 2014. It begins shortly after the return of the older Bennet sisters to Hertfordshire that ends A WINTER’S WRONG.

    Elizabeth and Darcy are engaged but must overcome major obstacles before they can wed. They must secure a suitable home and install Mrs. Bennet and her younger daughters, and they must find George Wickham and force him to marry Lydia, with whom he had been caught in flagrante delicto. Lady Catherine de Bourgh visits Meryton, laying hands on Elizabeth in her fury at news of her engagement. Caroline Bingley gossips widely about the Bennets. Lady Matlock introduces Elizabeth to Society and begins planning the Wedding of the Season. George Wickham meets Mrs. Younge in London, where they plan a profitable revenge on the Darcys and the Bennets. Mr. Gardiner is seriously injured in a carriage accident that requires the Bennet women help the pregnant Mrs. Gardiner in the business. Charles Bingley demonstrates changed feelings toward Jane Bennet and endangers his friendship with Darcy. Wickham remains in hiding. Can Elizabeth and Darcy cope with their rapidly changing circumstances and come to a better understanding of themselves and each other before their wedding?

    I summarize the plot sketchily because I do not want to do spoilers. West writes well with few editing problems. I note anachronistic words but, since she uses modern informal style rather than Austen, this is hardly a fair criticism. She is selective about introducing new individuals and careful to develop them, as in a touching scene between Elizabeth and Lord Matlock. West makes only a few changes in the originals. Her Charles Bingley is feckless and hypocritical. Mrs. Bennet delays moving into the home Darcy provides so she can extort new furnishings from him. Jane Bennet is stronger and more decisive in her family leadership. Darcy is insensitive to the stress Elizabeth suffers as Lady Matlock schools her for her role in Society and as mistress of Pemberley, when she has not had time to grieve for her father.

    West follows all the major characters and their developing relationships, which makes for density relieved only by the occasional set down to Caroline, Lady Catherine, or one of Lady Matlock’s social rivals. The Bennet women individually and in various combinations move between Hertfordshire, Gracechurch Street, Darcy House, Matlock House in London, and the Matlock estate so often that it is difficult to keep up with who’s where and why. A SPRING SENTIMENT ends with Lydia accompanying Elizabeth and Darcy on their runaway departure from St. Paul’s following their wedding.

    Two practical considerations bother me. West has Darcy sleeping little because he must write dozens of letters daily as owner of Pemberley even as he carries out a full social schedule. Just as he has a steward to oversee day-to-day operation of the estate, would he not have a secretary to process his business correspondence? The other involves the attempt to locate Wickham, left up to Colonel Fitzwilliam. West gives no details of the search, and she ignores its most practical solution. The Bow Street Runners had been in operation for over fifty years, apprehending criminals, recovering stolen property, and locating missing persons, often for aristocratic or wealthy private individuals. The Runners are the logical searchers for George Wickham.

    West continues a well-written series with A SPRING SENTIMENT. (B+)
     
  5. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,097
    Likes Received:
    81
    A SUMMER SHAME is the third novella variant of Pride and Prejudice in the Seasons of Serendipity series. It was written by Elizabeth Ann West and published in e-book format in 2014.

    Season of Serendipity series is actually a serial published in four parts: A WINTER WRONG, A SPRING SENTIMENT, A SUMMER SHAME, and AN AUTUMN ACCORD. It is important to read them in order because each begins where the previous left off with minimal introduction or conclusion, characters continue and develop from segment to segment, and many of the subplots continue throughout. For this reason summary of A SUMMER SHAME except in the most general terms is impossible without doing spoilers for all three of the novellas.

    A SUMMER SHAME follows newlyweds Fitizwilliam and Elizabeth Bennet Darcy on an extended honeymoon to the Darcy estate Starvet House, near the village of Haddington in Scotland. They are accompanied by Lydia Bennet. The Darcys and Lydia live quietly, not socializing except for Graham Hamilton, a childhood friend of Darcy who owns neighboring Blaylock Farm. During the summer, Elizabeth spends time with Lydia (who remains convinced that Wickham will be found to marry her), learns to ride (astride--gasp!), and plays golf. Jane and Mary take the Ton by storm just as Lady Matlock plans. Jane defends herself against attempted compromise and from assault, becoming even more disgusted with Society, while Mary contributes to apprehending George Wickham and Mrs. Younge. Georgiana Darcy and Kitty Bennet spend the summer in Meryton with Mrs. Bennet before returning to London to begin preparations for their debut under Lady Matlock’s sponsorship. Karma repays the Bingleys. Jane joins the Darcys and Lydia in Scotland in time to treat those injured in a fire that destroys Blaylock House.

    I appreciate that West keeps a multitude of dynamic characters moving realistically. None of the characters experience smooth sailing. Most new characters in A SUMMER SHAME are Society figures who are briefly characterized for one particular event. Movement between the varied locations--Starvet House, Meryton, Darcy House, Gracechurch Street, Matlock House, Cheapside, and Matlock--and shift of focus between individuals chop the flow of the story. I did find one anachronism. West has the Darcys play croquet, which originated in the mid-nineteenth century, not the Regency period. Otherwise, another exceptional installment. (B+)
     
  6. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,097
    Likes Received:
    81
    AN AUTUMN ACCORD is the Fourth Season of Serendipity novella variation on Pride and Prejudice. It was written by Elizabeth Ann West and published in e-book format in 2014. Its predecessors are A WINTER WRONG, A SPRING SENTIMENT, and A SUMMER SHAME. The series follows the Bennet sisters from the death of Robert Bennet while Jane and Elizabeth are ill at Netherfield through one year of changes in circumstances, locations, and themselves, to end with Elizabeth’s first arrival at Pemberley. Despite its being the final installment in the series, there is little sense of conclusion about AN AUTUMN ACCORD. Much is left undone than is settled.

    ~~~SPOILERS~~~

    Following their submitting Kitty’s novel to a publisher with Fitzwilliam Darcy as its author and discovery of the purely social content in their education for their debut, Elizabeth and Darcy return Kitty and Georgiana to the supervision of Mrs. Annesley for a rigorous program of study. Mary Bennet and Colonel Fitzwilliam are deeply in love, but he is unable to provide a home for her and refuses to touch her dowry. Meanwhile, they are separated, with his regiment in training at Newcastle for upcoming deployment to the Peninsular War. Jane is in Scotland at Starvet House where she continues to deal with dead Lydia’s affair, aided by Darcy’s old friend Graham Hamilton. Mrs. Bennet must live with the Darcys at Pemberley because her drinking and ruinous affair with a young con man show her unfit to live independently. For the past year Lady Catherine de Bourgh has paid the Darcy housekeeper for information on the Darcys and the Bennets. Mr. Collins as owner of Longbourn continues to tattle to his esteemed patroness. Triumphant when her engagement to Lord Alphonse Bergamote is announced in the Times, Caroline Bingley discovers him to be a penniless impostor and herself unprotected because Bingley was careless in drawing up her marriage settlements. Learning of his attempt to compromise Jane, Darcy has ended his long friendship with Charles Bingley. Clearly stories are unfinished.

    When the series is viewed as a whole, some problems appear between installments as well as within them. Is Mrs. Bennet Frances and Francine, since Fanny is the nickname for either? Lord Bergamot is sometimes Lord Bergamote, with first name Antoine, or is it Alphonse? Word choice can be jarring. What kind of laugh is a gaff? Anachronistic words turn up--for instance, nappy as a baby diaper is twentieth-century. Correct usage for the name of Charlotte’s father is either Sir William Lucas or Sir William, not Sir Lucas. Accepting the Lydia story line as West spins it out requires gigantic suspension of disbelief. By any common sense interpretation, it ensures either blackmail or the eventual scandal it meant to prevent.

    I am disappointed that there is no closure to the story lines. About all AN AUTUMN ACCORD affords is that Elizabeth, now pregnant, and Darcy have arrived at Pemberley for the first time since their marriage. The very title is misleading, since accord (peace, harmony) at Pemberley is unlikely with Mrs. Bennet and Kitty, Georgiana, and Mrs. Gardiner and the children installed for the winter. I see this failure to resolve as a device to ensure sales of further continuations. If you choose to read the series, go in knowing that it is unfinished and that it will be expensive as its installments multiply. AN AUTUMN ACCORD (C+); Four Seasons of Serendipity (B)
     
  7. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,097
    Likes Received:
    81
    “Mural from the Dead” is the final entry in the MIDSUMMER MURDERS short fiction anthology written by Melanie Jackson. It was published in e-book format in 2015. It features Juliet Henry, former spy and current artist.

    When an earthquake reveals a mural at the family home of Alfredo de Ribera Nunez in Alta California, he calls on childhood friend, artist Raphael James, to evaluate and restore it. Juliet Henry accompanies her lover for company and to assist. The mural had been inexpertly plastered over, so Raphael and Juliet soon have it uncovered. On close examination, she discovers that the figures of a woman and dog had been added to a landscape mural by someone other than the original painter. The emerald crucifix worn by the woman painted into the cemetery elicits the family legend about a fabulous collection of emerald jewelry brought from Colombia; it disappeared with its brutal owner, the first Ribera in California, long before statehood. Juliet’s examination of an early seventeenth-century family portrait reveals clues to a long-ago murder and the present location of the jewelry.

    “Mural from the Dead” is more character sketch of Juliet Henry than story. Juliet is very much her own woman, strong and independent. “To be truly great, one had to throw oneself on the mercy of the gods of art and do their every bidding. Juliet did not like being at anyone’s mercy, nor at some muse’s beck and call. She created her art with mind and body, but her soul remained her own. She had fought too hard to keep it from the devils at the NSA to ever risk it again--even for divine afflatus.”

    Atmosphere and sense of place are outstanding. “The interior proportions of Hacienda del Oro didn’t leave Juliet awestricken as sometimes happened in historic buildings, but there was a strong sense of the walls and timbered floors and oddly low-beamed ceilings being one of the world’s immovable objects. It had taken an act of nature to disturb it, and even then only the outer layer of plaster of one wall had fallen during the temblor.” (A)
     
  8. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,097
    Likes Received:
    81
    ILL WIND is the twelfth novella in the Butterscotch Jones series set in McIntyre’s Gulch, Manitoba.* It was written by Melanie Jackson and published in a Kindle bundle in 2016 with her RAISE THE DEAD, a Miss Henry mystery.

    When the Wings is forced by a defective engine part to land in Irish Camp, it is imperative that Butterscotch pick up the downed supplies. A stomach bug has left McIntyre’s Gulch with a critical shortage of toilet paper. Two problems make the retrieval more than usually difficult. One is that the Mountie is temporarily on duty in Winnepeg; the other is the imminent arrival of an Alberta Clipper that will make the winter trip more than ordinarily dangerous, adding blizzard conditions to the usual perils of bear and the Others. Ex-Russian mafioso Anatoli goes with Butterscotch; they make the pick-up, but no one expects an adventure before they leave Irish Camp.

    ILL WIND is another good slice of life from McIntyre’s Gulch, this one focusing on Butterscotch, the Wings, the Mountie, and Anatoli, with humor added by the Bones and a moose. I like the way Jackson highlights different Gulch residents in her various stories to provide insight into them as people. She continues to hint about the extraordinary origins of McIntyre’s Gulch: “Gulch secrets aren’t superficial and passing like illicit love affairs, or drug addictions, or monetary indiscretions. The McIntyres and Joneses all shared one of the large communal secret in addition to our personal ones, and it had to remain that way forever and ever. Everyone kept mum about the Gulch. No exceptions. It was why we spoke Gaelic, did not have telephones--excepting the Mountie--and didn’t appear on the government rolls. We didn’t pay taxes. We didn’t get medical care beyond what the Bones could supply. We were on our own because we had to be.”

    I do enjoy this series. (A-)

    *If you save Christmas themed stories to read during the holiday season, ILL WIND occurs just before the winter solstice, with determination to be home for Christmas in the Gulch with Butterscotch basic to the Mountie’s actions.
     
  9. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,097
    Likes Received:
    81
    MR. DARCY’S BARGAIN is a variant of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It was written by Regine Jeffers and published in e-book format in 2016.

    The premise in MR. DARCY’S BARGAIN is that George Wickham has entrapped Mr. Bennet, Uncle Phillips, Sir William Lucas, and many others from Meryton in a Ponzi scheme that threatens to ruin them all financially. Mr. Bennet has suffered a mild heart attack, leaving Edward Gardiner and Elizabeth to attempt the recovery of the monies in the month before Wickham leaves with the militia for Brighton. Elizabeth and her uncle, knowing his familiarity with Wickham’s character and history, approach Fitzwilliam Darcy for help. Darcy agrees, but only if Elizabeth promises to marry him. Desperate to save her family and friends from poverty, blaming herself for failure to reveal what she learned of Wickham, and no longer finding Darcy so repugnant as when she refused his proposal at Hunsford, Elizabeth s agrees. The body of the story recounts their efforts, which come to involve Charles Bingley, Colonel Fitzwiliam, and Mrs. Gardiner, to recover the funds, bring Wickham to justice, and prevent scandal.

    The premise is good, but the book is much longer than necessary. The number of characters introduced greatly exceeds those needed to advance the plot, and few of them have more than a line of characterization. Many remain names only. Jeffers has the major characters carry out almost all the investigation, even though Colonel Fitzwilliam has a former sergeant who is now a Bow Street Runner. He uses Cowan only for minor surveillance despite the historic likelihood that the Runners would be called on to gather evidence against Wickham. Use of proper local authorities, even after the protagonists discover forgery involving the Bank of England, is marginal until after Darcy captures Wickham in Brighton.

    Judicious editing could improve MR. DARCY’S BARGAIN. Jeffers uses slang terms set off with quotation marks. Word choice is not always felicitous. Darcy looks constipated; he scampers down the stairs; he resides (instead of presides) at a meeting. Jeffers uses fairing as a synonym for gift, and faradiddle, neither of which I found in two different dictionaries.

    ~~~POSSIBLE SPOILERS~~~

    Changes in characters bother me most. The protagonists are naive in their character analyses. They underestimate Wickham seriously as they doubt his ability to concoct the Ponzi scheme and fail to consider that he may have them watched or have recruited Lydia Bennet as a spy. Despite her loud preference for Wickham, they ignore the possibility that Lydia may help him. (The only satisfactory detail in Lydia’s participation is that Mrs. Gardiner gives her a good smack when recovering her during the elopement with Wickham.) Colonel Fitzwilliam is too deferential for his rank in the Army. Charles Bingley leaves Jane Bennet behind not once, but twice, before he decides he can marry into the Bennet family. Mr. Bennet, convinced that Darcy loves Elizabeth and she is not indifferent to him, agrees to their bargain, but he is dilatory in setting them straight after the scandal Lydia caused.

    I most dislike the changes in Darcy and Elizabeth. Darcy loves Elizabeth and wants desperately to marry her, so his bargain with her is believable if not a good reflection on his character. He carries out his part of the bargain but, between the influence of Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Elizabeth’s obsession with the scandal, he waffles in his commitment to her. It is only AFTER the scandal is mitigated by a government cover-up that he accepts Mr. Bennet’s plan to surprise Elizabeth with a wedding. Elizabeth soon realizes that she is indeed in love with Darcy and wants to marry him, but she looks for reasons to doubt his love and commitment. She shoves him away when Lydia’s elopement brings scandal, not trusting his honor or his feelings for her. I realize the need for dramatic tension in MR. DARCY’S BARGAIN, but the lack of steadfastness in both Darcy and Elizabeth is off-putting. (B)
     
  10. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,097
    Likes Received:
    81
    “Raising the Dead” is a short story written by Melanie Jackson and published in 2016 as part of a Kindle bundle including the novella ILL WIND. It features Juliet Henry, retired NSA operative and artist. Each story in the Miss Henry series seems to include some supernatural element.

    Juliet remains in California when lover Raphael James goes to Guise Hall near Tickhill, an hour north of London, to restore chapel frescoes for new owner Joseph Hamelin. Raphael’s restoration project is delayed by being concurrent with massive rebuilding of the ruined manor, by Hamelin adding a portrait of Lord Henry Guise to the restorations, and by the discovery of a vampire-buried skeleton of a man. Raphael calls in Juliet to help finish the restorations on time. Both dislike the job and want it done--too many accidents and deaths throughout the house’s history, with constant modern accidents delaying the rebuilding, its ruined state and uncanny atmosphere, all leave them uneasy. Polydactyly of the skeleton and in the portrait reveal the dead man to be Lord Henry, known during his late sixteenth-century lifetime for Satanism and other depravities, whose body had disappeared from the family crypt just after his death. When Hamelin comes to Guise Hall to supervise restorations while he finishes divorcing his supermodel wife, Raphael and Juliet conclude that Hamelin believes himself a descendant of the Guise family. Then Juliet discovers Hamelin’s body in the garden, mutilated in the same way as Lord Henry. What is going on at Guise Hall?

    “Raising the Dead” is has so few characters that solving the murder of Joseph Hamelin is not difficult, though the motive for the local participants is not developed.

    Jackson excels at the use of atmospheric description to reveal character: “Her [Juliet’s] gaze had adapted to the dark and it probed the thrashing shadows carefully. The moon walked the garden in bright slippers but avoid [sic] the deepest shadow of the oldest shrubs and trees. She knew there was something out there. Something bad. Probably someone bad and not open to entreaty or appeals to reason. And if they hadn’t done harm yet they needed to be stopped. And if they had done harm? If death was still waiting? Well, they needed to be caught before they perpetrated any more evil.” Juliet Henry is not an ordinary cozy mystery heroine. (A-)
     
  11. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,097
    Likes Received:
    81
    RIBBONS, LACE AND VERSE is a novella variant on Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It was written by Madeline Kennet and published in e-book format in 2016.

    When Fitzwilliam Darcy and Charles Bingley see a display of valentines and learn of the latest fashion for gentlemen to send this symbol of love to women they are courting, Darcy scoffs at the sentimentality, but Bingley decides a Valentine is the way to approach Jane Bennet after his desertion from Netherfield. Georgiana Darcy helps Bingley craft the card, choose confectionery, and obtain flowers. Lady Amesbury has a huge conservatory full of blooming plants and delights in composing posies that convey personal messages in the language of flowers. Bingley inspires Darcy to follow suit, using valentine gifts to reveal his feelings to Elizabeth Bennet and to ask for a second chance. She is confused by his professed love but, as she considers the message of the posy, her opinion of Darcy begins to change. When they meet and reacquaint themselves at Rosings, Darcy proposes and receives a very different response from that in the original.

    This variant is interesting because, for a change, Bingley is the leader. Bingley making his valentine card is good fun. Focus is tight on Bingley, the Darcy siblings, and the Bennet sisters; other canonical characters appear but play only minor roles. There is more confusion about feelings than angst and no doubt about the outcome. The biggest question is how badly Lady Catherine will react when Darcy tells her that he is engaged to Elizabeth.

    RIBBONS, LACE AND VERSE is a nice sentimental re-telling, pleasant but not memorable. (C+)
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2017
  12. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,097
    Likes Received:
    81
    A FATAL THAW is the second book in the Kate Shugak series. Dana Stabenow published it in print edition in 1993 and reissued it in e-book format in 2011. It is set int he National Park surrounding Niniltna, Alaska.

    When Kate Shugak captures mass murderer Roger McAniff, he proudly confesses to killing nine people for no reason; he wounded two others, but they survived. The autopsy reports change the statistics a bit. One of the women victims had been pregnant, leaving the death toll at nine, because one, Lisa Getty, had been killed by another rifle. McAniff had only one rifle. Different gun means a different shooter. With Alaska State Trooper Jim Chopin off the case because he had a recent affair with Lisa, Jack Morgan, chief investigator for the Anchorage District Attorney, has no choice but to call in Kate Shugak. He knows the Park rats will not cooperate with an outsider. The female half of the Park population is glad Lisa is dead--a Marilyn Monroe lookalike, she’d slept with the male other half of the inhabitants without regard for age, condition, or marital status. As Kate investigates, she discovers Lisa had been growing marijuana in commercial quantities and selling it, as well as poaching and selling animal parts in the Far Eastern market; she had been bitterly resented by her heavy, unattractive older sister Lottie, who had been belittled and ignored by their parents even before golden child Lisa had been born and spoiled rotten. With minimal help from her neighbors, can Kate discover who killed Lisa Getty?

    A FATAL THAW is much more character than plot driven. It focuses on the aftereffects on the survivors and the ways in which they cope rather than with the crime itself. “These people were gathered together today [potlatch to say goodbye to spirits of those killed] to seek and receive comfort from the presence of their friends, to to present a united front against the madness forced upon them from inside. In the Alaskan bush it was a long summer day’s journey into that winter night, but the night is longer still, and very dark, and very, very cold. Buried deep in the consciousness of every Park Rat present was the knowledge that the seeds of madness lay within each of them, seeds which, bred in darkness and suckled on the frigid milk of a seemingly endless winter, were all too capable of burgeoning forth into the blood-red blooms of paranoia and dementia. The knowledge of the possibility was there, in the eyes of everyone present. The knowledge, as well as the determination to defeat it.” (88) Stabenow telegraphs the identity of the killer but leaves the timing of Lisa Getty’s death largely unexplained. As in A COLD DAY FOR MURDER, identifying the killer does not lead to justice under the law.

    One of the strengths of this series is Stabenow’s creation of the Park as a viable community of real people with mixed heritages, educational levels, economic conditions, individual interests, and survival skills. I like that she tends to focus on a few characters so that we get to know them individually, and I particularly like the continued slow development of the character her grandmother Emaa-- Ekaterina Moonin Shugak, matriarchal ruler of the Park--and her relationship with Kate and others. “...[Emaa] gave a regal, dismissive nod in Bernie’s general direction. Bernie, amused, had watched the stout old woman make her progress through the crowd, smiling at someone, stepping up to shake hands with someone else, holding up a baby and exclaiming on its beauty, in a manner that reminded him irresistibly of Elizabeth II of England outside Buckingham Palace. He managed now to remove himself from her presence without quite bowing and backing away.” (132) Point of view is omniscient third person but, with most of the action seen through Kate’s eye, Stabenow gives good insight into her mind set.

    Sense of place in the Kate Shugak novels is unsurpassed. Stabenow is adept at creating physical locations and conditions that are integral parts of the plot and at using them to explicate character. References to contemporary events and people--Jim McKay and the Olympics, Princess Diana, Tranquility Base--date the action somewhat but in no way lessen its strength. (B+)
     
  13. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,097
    Likes Received:
    81
    DUTY DEMANDS is a variant on the Pride and Prejudice of Jane Austen that incorporates some quotations from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. It was written by Elaine Owen and published in e-book format in 2016.

    While she is visiting Charlotte Collins at Hunsford, Elizabeth Bennet leaves precipitously when she learns that her father is dying; Mr. Bennet passes before Elizabeth arrives. Faced with immediate eviction from Longbourn with nothing to live on, the Bennet family is divided, with Mary, Kitty, and Lydia to live in Meryton with the Phillipses and Mrs. Bennet, Jane, and Elizabeth in Gracechurch Street with the Gardiners. Then Fitzwilliam Darcy arrives to negotiate with Mr. Gardiner. He will lease Longbourn so that it remains the Bennets’ home and provide an allowance to Mrs. Bennet and dowries for her sisters, if Elizabeth marries him. Elizabeth knows the financial position of her family and, despite her distaste for Darcy, feels she has must accept him. Mr. Gardiner explains the ways of marriage among the Ton, including Darcy’s marrying her because her social inferiority will make her feel grateful for less from him both financially and emotionally; they expect Darcy to beget an heir, then occupy himself with mistresses. The basic misunderstanding between Elizabeth and Darcy deepens with marriage as Darcy remains cold, aloof, and controlling while Elizabeth struggles with the changes in her life, including her opinion of her husband as she sees his behavior at Pemberley. External problems from the campaign of Lady Catherine de Bourgh to force Darcy to set aside his marriage and from the scandal created by Lydia Bennet and George Wickham add to the stress. Can each forgive the mistakes made by the other to find happiness?

    ~~~POSSIBLE SPOILERS~~~

    Owen shows most of the story through Elizabeth, switching to Darcy after establishing what seems to be the marriage predicted by Mr. Gardiner. Both Darcy and Elizabeth are comprehensively ignorant of the thoughts and feelings of the other, generating great angst. Eliminating their confrontation at Hunsford and his letter of explanation, Owen places the scene(s) after the marriage, adding to their tension. When they do finally talk openly, their reconciliation seems too quick to be authentic. Neither the resolution of the Lady Catherine subplot nor the arrangement for the Lydia-Wickham marriage is particularly believable. Owen adds no major characters and changes few of the originals except to emphasize their essential natures as created by Austen.

    Other problems include formatting that changes font and incorrect use of apostrophes in plurals and possessives of names. Darcy’s explanation of the composition of the comet is anachronistic and, if the comet is meant to be Halley’s Comet, its nineteenth-century appearance in the heavens was in 1835.

    DUTY DEMANDS is one of the better Austen fan fiction variants. (B)
     
  14. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,097
    Likes Received:
    81
    GRAVE RESPONSIBILITY is the fourth in the Superintendent Bone series written by Susannah Stacey. It was published in 1990. The series is not available in e-book format, but inexpensive paperback copies are easy to find.

    After three days of disturbed behavior, Dr. Lionel Clare commits suicide by slashing his throat as his car emerges from the car wash of a local garage. A man is seen running away, but neither of the two witnesses can identify him. Two days later his younger brother Clovis Clare and American girl friend Easter Lennox discover the staged bodies of his mother Miranda Shelley and her twin Kay Shelley. Both had been stabbed in the abdomen with the same sword. The staged scene at Summerdown House looks like murder-suicide, but is it? The mutual obsession of Miranda and Kay Shelly had been much too intense to be healthy. The Clare family is maximally dysfunctional, with Lionel monomaniacal on cleanliness and avoiding contamination and Clovis a drifter, intent on avoiding responsibility. Their father, neurologist Dr. Edwin Clare, bitterly resents Miranda’s desertion more than three decades before, taking with her an heirloom necklace she refuses to return, but leaving her sons for him to rear. Everyone lies to the police and to each other. The case is further complicated by attempted blackmail, by vicious gossip, by death during a burglary, by an American compulsively intent on photographing Summerdown House, and by a child bitterly wronged by the twins in their childhood.

    Superintendent Robert Bone of the Kent Constabulary is realistically complicated: “Remembering the petulant but controlled man he had met [Edwin Clare], Bone tried to see if he had shown the latent violence in his nature. It was in Lionel’s too, what about Clovis? Bone palmed his eyes and, in the darkness, wondered about heredity, deprivation of maternal guidance; of Charlotte and his efforts to be both parents to her, while all the time as a cop he was married to his job. And he should be keeping his mind on his job now. What about his own life? Where in all this was Grizel, and what right had he to involve her?” (104) Stacey surrounds Bone with a believable investigative team as continuing characters, and other major characters are distinctive. Stacey uses Miranda’s diaries effectively in both exposition of the twins’ early life and individualization of them. Because this series is largely character driven, it is best read in order.

    Stacey is skilled at using atmosphere to establish character. “Easter who, when she did visit a church, did so for historical research rather than for its official function, decided that the crematorium chapel chosen for Lionel’s funeral service would not rank a star in any hypothetical AA Book of Recommended Ways to Go. It smelled of floor-polish which seemed to have been laid down on the liver-colored tile like triangles of gleaming offal all down the nave, so thickly as to make walking a hazard. It had a sickly artificial lavender smell that went badly with the odor of moldering hymnbooks, and the colors chosen for the windows were picture-book primary, the robe for a sugary Virgin in a blue so shrill it offended like the wrong note in a bugle sounding the Last Post.” (84)

    Experienced readers may discern the identity of the person responsible for each death, but the related questions of the motive and timing of each are less apparent. The conclusion is both satisfying and believable. I do like this series. (A-)
     
  15. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,097
    Likes Received:
    81
    AN UNLIKELY FRIENDSHIP is a variant on Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It was written by Jann Rowland and published in e-book format in 2015.

    What if Caroline Bingley fostered, rather than opposed, marriage between her brother Charles and Jane Bennet? What if she does not want to marry Darcy herself but wants to see him happily married to Elizabeth Bennet, of all people? What if she decides to play matchmaker to both couples? That is the basic premise in AN UNLIKELY FRIENDSHIP. The title alludes to the friendship as well as business association between her father and George Darcy (Darcy wealth comes more from investments in Bingley businesses that from the estate) that leads to the orphaned Bingley siblings growing up at Pemberley with the young Darcys. It also refers to Caroline taking the lead to bond with Jane and Elizabeth. Most of the story occurs at Hollyfield, the Northamptonshire estate belonging to Caroline’s new husband, David Powell, a Cambridge friend of her brother and Darcy, where newly-weds Charles and Jane Bingley, the Darcy siblings, Elizabeth, and Colonel Fitzwilliam are guests for a spring house party. Angst and a nefarious plot provide dramatic tension as the courtship plays out.

    Rowland introduces only a few new major characters, mainly Powell and two local gentlemen who are both attracted to Elizabeth. Gabriel Jamison combines the worst traits of William Collins and George Wickham, while his foil Major John Trent returns to his regimental duty. Darcy in company and in his initial interaction with Elizabeth at Hollyfield is stiff and more unpleasant than in the original, but he changes his behavior literally overnight. Elizabeth must resolve her confusion about Darcy’s mercurial behavior and whether it will last. The major change is in Caroline Bingley. Instead of a harpy, Rowland makes her into a fairy godmother. She convinces Collins that Mary is a more appropriate choice for his wife, leading to their marriage; she relates to Elizabeth the Darcy history with George Wickham, advising that Mr. Bennet make Wickham known to Meryton as a womanizer and gambler who runs up debts. No wonder Elizabeth has trouble figuring out her motives!

    AN UNLIKELY FRIENDSHIP is a unique reinterpretation of Austen. (B+)
     
  16. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,097
    Likes Received:
    81
    DEAD IN THE WATER is the third book in the Kate Shugak mystery series written by Dana Stabenow. It was originally published in print edition in 1993, then reissued in e-book format in 2011. It is set in the Aleutian Islands.

    When two crewmen disappear under suspicious circumstances off the crab boat Avilda out of Dutch Harbor, Alaska, Jack Morgan, chief investigator for the District Attorney's Office in Anchorage and Kate's sometime lover, hires Kate Shugak to go undercover on the boat to find out what happened to them. Kate works full out setting and hauling crab pots, while looking for evidence against Harry Gault, captain of the Avilda. She finds records linking him to fraudulent bank loans and to fraud in the cleanup of the 1986 RPetCo Anchorage oil spill that devastated large areas of Prince William Sound, but the other two crewmen support his story about the missing men. What can they be involved with that made it necessary to get rid of the other two?

    DEAD IN THE WATER is a thriller rather than a mystery since it's clear from the beginning that Gault and the surviving crew are responsible for the death of Stuart Brown and Chris Alcala. The question is one of motive; that and whether Kate will manage to complete her assignment before her cover is blown. DEAD IN THE WATER includes appropriate graphic violence.

    Characters are always strong in the Kate Shugak stories. Especially appealing are Andy Pence, nineteen-year-old rookie crew with Kate on the Avilda, a laid-back New Age California surfer; Sasha, a young woman suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome who teaches Kate about storyknifing, an Eskimo tradition; and Olga Shopsnikoff, her mother who instructs the girls of Unalaska a nearly extinct form of basket making. Part of what makes Kate Shugak such an appealing protagonist is her emotional baggage, no small part of which is the tension between the two cultures she inhabits. "[Kate] might not have been so open to Olga's tales and teachings had she not been first exposed to Andy's enthusiastic and indiscriminately endorsement of all things Alaskan. Oh, she would have gone along with the old woman, would have listened to her, might even have taken a few winds with a weaver on a spoke, but it would have been in a mood of amused tolerance and only as a means to an end; specifically, a way to weasel herself into the old woman's confidence. Instead, she had been an actively interested participant. All her childhood she had listened to the stories and watched the ivory carvers and the basket weavers and the oomingnak knitters and kayak builder, but she had resisted taking an active part, chiefly, she realized now with no little chagrin, because of her grandmother's determination that she would." (113-4) In DEAD IN THE WATER, Kate shows massive overconfidence that nearly gets herself and Andy killed.

    Snabenow's settings introduce historical and cultural elements that root stories and characters in place and time. Stabenow excels at showing exactly what Kate perceives. She's also adept at using humor: "They celebrated mass...out in the open, partly because there wasn't room for them all in the church, but Kate thought mostly so that they could be closer to the sea, so He would make no mistake about what they were asking His blessing for. The Russian Orthodox patriarch was very specific. He asked God to make the fishermen wise and strong. He asked that their boats be sound and seaworthy. He asked that the sea be fruitful. He reminded Him that the opilio and king crab seasons were about to open, and asked His blessings on the catch. He mentioned the weather only in passing, as if aware that even the power of God went only so far." (163)

    DEAD IN THE WATER is a definite keeper. (A-)
     
  17. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,097
    Likes Received:
    81
    LISTEN TO YOUR HEART is one of Leenie Brown's variations on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in e-book format in 2015.

    While Fitzwilliam Darcy and Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam visit at Easter, Anne de Bourgh accidentally finds papers containing the late Sir Louis de Bourgh's arrangements for her marriage and the inheritance of Rosings. This causes Anne categorically to refuse to marry Darcy, to insist she will marry a man of her own choosing, and to announce her immediate removal to the dower house. She will no longer allow Lady Catherine de Bourgh to rule her life. Aware of Darcy's feelings for Elizabeth Bennet and convinced by Charlotte Collins of Elizabeth's attraction to him, Anne recruits Colonel Fitzwilliam to assist in her matchmaking for them. Despite an inauspicious beginning to their courtship, Darcy and Elizabeth are soon engaged. In the meantime, Lady Catherine encourages Christopher Barrows, second son of her neighbor and oldest friend Mrs. Muriel Barrows, to court Anne; he is eager, but for Anne or for Rosings? What is the secret about which he hints that will ruin Anne and all her family if he discloses it?

    ~~~POSSIBLE SPOILERS~~~

    Brown's back story on Lady Catherine de Bourgh's marriage and how it came about makes her almost a figure deserving sympathy. Almost, since her abrupt change seems unlikely because of its speed and its intensity; her treatment of Anne and her attitude about trade reflect too much of her father to make the change believable. The "happy ever after" conclusion for her does not ring true. Anne's sudden grasp of control over her future life, even when supported by her male cousins (who are empowered by Sir Louis to give consent to her marriage), seems improbable on the same grounds. Brown's Anne is suddenly so self-confident that she proposes to the man of her choice.

    Lady Catherine's secret dates back more than 25 years with a multitude knowing of it, including not only private individuals but the British government at the highest levels. It seems improbable that no rumor or gossip developed since, as Ben Franklin observed, three can keep a secret if two of them are dead. The speed and violence in its modern playing out do not seem realistic, and its conclusion is definite Deus ex machina.

    Some problems irritate me. Brown's introduced characters are undeveloped stereotypes. Names and spellings change gratuitously--Anne's companion is now Mrs. Jenkins (not Jenkinson), while Georgiana's is Mrs. Ainsley (not Annesley). Brown's characters smirk too much; smirk and smile may be listed as synonyms, but their connotations are distinctly different. Yet again, apostrophes are misplaced in plural and possessive names.

    LISTEN TO YOUR HEART has an interesting premise, but it requires much suspension of disbelief. (C+)
     
  18. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,097
    Likes Received:
    81
    THE HOUSE OF EYES is the twentieth book in Kate Ellis's Wesley Peterson police procedural series. It was published in print and e-book editions in 2016. Wes Peterson studied archaeology and worked for several years in Scotland Yard's elite Art and Antiquities Squad before transferring to Tradmouth CID in Devon. The plots in the Wesley Peterson series have always included his archaeologist friend Dr. Neil Watson who is working on some historical or archaeology project that turns out to be connected to Peterson current case. Often multiple crimes are involved and sometimes more than one criminal.

    ~~~POSSIBLE SPOILERS~~~

    When does an elegant sufficiency become too much? THE HOUSE OF EYES takes the basic series premise to a new level. It opens with the 1958 abduction of a small baby from his backyard in Turling Fitwell. It continues with 1786 excerpts from the journal of Richard D'Arles, a young aristocrat accompanied by his cousin Uriah Trelaven and escorted by the Reverent Micah Joules on the Grand Tour. In current day, Darren Hatman reports his nineteen-year-old daughter Leanne missing; she aspires to be a model and has been involved with photographer Barney Yelland, who seems obsessed by her physical type. Watson, supervising a dig in Sicily for two weeks, meets Yelland, who's photographing locales visited by the D'Arles party for In the Footsteps of the Grand Tourists; Yelland goes missing from Sicily about the time Leanne is reported missing. Watson returns to the UK to begin a dig at an old mill near the Eyecliffe Castle Country Hotel and Spa, property of the D'Arles family from the time of Henry VIII until its sale in 1970 by Miss Henrietta D'Arles, who still lives in the Dower House. He uncovers the skeleton of a man with a watch engraved with the D'Arles arms, buried inside the mill in the late eighteenth century.

    Danny Hatman bought the old barn near the hotel to renovate into holiday cottages; when he is killed with a crossbow bolt in the chest and his wife Muriel plans to continue the project, she is killed with the same weapon. Leanne is still missing. Guests stage a major art theft (an unknown Turner watercolor) from the hotel; an employee of the hotel attempts to blackmail its owner David Palmer, who goes in fear of his mother who runs the hotel. While investigating the murders, Wes discovers that two young women disappeared from the immediate vicinity of the hotel, one in 1952 and another in 1953. When Wes ties the barn to the murders, Watson finds two new skeletons buried there, one of a young baby and the other a mature woman wearing a D'Arles signet ring. James Garrard, amateur archaeologist working on the mill dig with Watson, complains to the police of anonymous gifts sent to him, some valuable, the last with a note, "I am so sorry." He is understandably frightened. Besides dealing with various characters' obstructing justice by lying to the police and aiding and abetting suspects, Wes discovers the murderer of the girls reported missing in the 1950s, the murderer of the Hatmans, the murderer of the woman and baby in the barn, and the person responsible for the death of Leanne Hatman. He reveals who abducted the baby boy and a long term impersonation. DS Rachel Tracey is shot in the chest with a crossbow. Counting those from the eighteenth century, a total of seven separate individuals are revealed as killers. As if more drama is needed, Pam Peterson discovers a lump in her breast, so she and Wes undergo the anxiety and uncertainty of her diagnosis and treatment for cancer.

    I am disappointed at the degree to which this series has deteriorated. The continuing characters are static; new characters are unnecessarily abundant and often only minimally sketched. So many coincidences strain probability. Sense of place, so strong before, is almost gone. Most of the journal excerpts are so brief and general that they convey little concrete information while obstructing the flow of the story. Resolution of the eighteenth-century story line is unlikely, while that of Leanne Hatman is unsatisfactory because pertinent details are concealed until the final chapter. THE HOUSE OF EYES needs a thorough revision. As is, it reads as more as first draft than final edition. (D-)
     
  19. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,097
    Likes Received:
    81
    FATES ENTWINED is Erin Butler's variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in e-book format in 2017.

    ~~~SPOILERS~~~

    When Mr. Bennet died some years before this story opens, the Bennet women lose Longbourn and are left destitute. Now Mrs. Bennet and Jane live in Gracechurch Street, where the Gardiners struggle to support them as well as their own family. Lydia and George Wickham are married, living in Newcastle with two small children. Kitty Bennet is shuffled between the Gardiners and whoever takes her as a temporary visitor. Mrs. Bennet refuses to allow Jane to work since she still expects Jane to attract a wealthy husband to support the family. Mary Bennet teaches at a school in the West Country. Elizabeth Bennet is governess to Edward Waters, son of Mr. and Mrs. George Waters; Mrs. Waters is the former Miss Georgiana Darcy. Elizabeth learns her relationship to Fitzwilliam Darcy only when he visits London to be available if needed by his pregnant sister while Waters travels on business. Will the drastic drop in Elizabeth and Jane's social position prevent their reconnection with Darcy and Bingley?

    I am not impressed by FATES ENTWINED. Characters show little development. Despite the stigma of having low connections in trade, Georgiana has married a businessman. George Waters, despite being a fair man, is autocratic, rough-edged, and apt to jump to conclusions; Georgiana is shy and subservient. Butler minimizes the change in Elizabeth's status in moving from gentleman's daughter to governess. Action is rushed, with little dramatic tension even in Georgiana's possible miscarriage. Use of apostrophes in plural and possessives of names is uniformly incorrect. If writers can't or won't learn the correct usage, they should choose names they can modify accurately.

    What bothers me most is the indefinite time frame. How long ago did Mr. Bennet die, at what point in the original version? Allusions to "some years before" do not specifically date his death. Jane says she has not seen Bingley for four years, presumably since his abandoning Netherfield, but how does that fit? Edward Waters is old enough to have a governess instead of a nurse, he talks fluently and acts as if he's at least five years old, so when was Georgiana married? She'd only been sixteen years old when the original ended, not to come out in Society for at least another year. Butler implies Darcy has no contact of any kind with the Bennets after Hunsford, so had Mr. Bennet's death prevented the visit of the Gardiners and Elizabeth to Pemberley? Does Darcy play any role in the marriage of Lydia and Wickham? I am a linear thinker, so I expect a clear timeline in a story.


    Since the change in Elizabeth's circumstances s so little developed, what's the point? (D-)
     
  20. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,097
    Likes Received:
    81
    A COLD-BLOODED BUSINESS is the fourth book in Dana Stabenow's Kate Shugak mystery series. It was originally published in print editions in 1994, then reissued in e-book format in 2015.

    The Prudhoe Bay oil field is active, and RPetCo has a major cocaine problem at its Base Camp and outlying stations on the North Slope. There have been four overdoses and one death this month, so far. On recommendations from Jack Morgan of the Anchorage DA's office and Alaska State Trooper Chopper Jim Chopin, John King, CEO of the Alaska Division of RPetCo who runs the western half of Prudhoe Bay, hires Kate Shugak to go undercover and discover the dealers. While she despises the oil company and the irreparable damage done by the RPetCo Anchorage spill in the Gulf of Alaska, the money is too good ($1,000/day + $250/day expenses for which no receipts will be required) and her curiosity about the North Slope too strong for Kate to turn down. Hired on as a roustabout, Kate spends most of her first week driving a bus for PR representative Toni Hartzler who provides transport and guided tours for visiting dignitaries. Cocaine and alcohol are ubiquitous and their use unremarked. As she investigates the drug traffic, Kate discovers theft and sale of Eskimo artifacts from a dig on nearby Tode Point, a violation of the federal Archaeological Resources Protection Act. Are the crimes separate or related?

    The plot is securely anchored in time and space, its action possible only in the extraordinary conditions of life and work on the North Slope. Stabenow uses vivid imagery: "The fog hung close to the tundra, causing the windows on the bus to weep long, rolling tears of condensation that collected along the sills and dripped on the shoulder of the passengers. The little lake visible at the fog's edge were frozen hard. The fog, the snow flurries, the white, icy surface of the road and the endless length of frozen tundra melded into each other and distorted the horizon. It was disconcerting to have to remind oneself of which way was up." (26) She plays fair with appropriate foreshadowing and a satisfying conclusion.

    Stabenow uses humor to lighten the plot and to establish place. "The cheery twinkie...ran down the Iditarod leaders so quickly it was hard to make sense of the names and cut immediately to another twinkie on satellite reporting local color from Kaltag. This twinkie was enveloped in an oversize parka with the hood pulled so far forward that all that could be seen of his face was a frostbitten nose and a microphone. The picture cut to footage of a barfing sled dog being loaded into a Cessna 206 and a few grave word from a gloomy veterinarian, followed by an interview with the Alaska head of the SPCA, who unburdened himself of an unequivocal and comprehensive denunciation of the sport of dog mushing in general, the race to Nome in particular, all fifty mushers individually and collectively, the Iditarod Trail Committee, the race sponsors and, last but not least, ABC'S Wide World of Sports." (15-6) Her account of the turtle race at Base Camp is worth the price of the book.

    Characterization is strong in this series because Stabenow keeps the continuing characters dynamic with realistic problems and baggage. Jack deals with demands from his ex-wife Jane who uses their son Johnny as leverage. Kate deals with cousins Martin, who overdoses at Base Camp on cocaine laced with speed, and Axenia in Anchorage, who bitterly resents Kate. New details of the backstory between Kate and her grandmother Ekaterina Moonin Shugak help to explain their complicated relationship. The North Slope forces Kate again to examine the contradictions between her Native cultural background and life in the world outside the Park.

    I have two minor complaints. One is the introduction of too many characters who are tangential to the plot. The second is a pet peeve--Stabenow has a native Texan address Kate individually as "y'all." A COLD-BLOODED BUSINESS is another good read. (B+)
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2017

Share This Page