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Readingomnivore Reviews

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

  1. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    "A Summer's Grass" is a short story in J. J. Salkeld's Natural Detective series featuring former policeman, now hill farmer Owen Irvine and the officers of the Kendal CID, Cumbria Constabulary. It was published in inexpensive e-book format in 2017.

    When Dan Bowness is arrested for robbing a hotel, Owen Irvine believes that the younger man is innocent. Granted he had been a skilled burglar and had served time for robbery, but Dan had worked for Irvine after his release and given every evidence of going straight. With a decent job and happy with his wife expecting their first child, why would he suddenly revert to his criminal ways? But the robbery used the same modus operandi as one of his early jobs, Dan has no alibi for the time of the robbery, and the police find the stolen goods except for a £6,000 Rolex in his flat. Why would anyone go to so much trouble to set Dan up? Case solved so far as the police are conceerned, but Andy gives Irvine a few days to see what he can find.

    I enjoy this series. I like the characters, especially the assorted members of Kendal CID, ably run by DI Andy Hall and DI Jane Francis, life partners who job-share. As DS Kathy Stone, Irvine's lover, tells him, "You know Andy. As far as he's concerned the only useful function of the rule book is to give him something to put his mug of tea on." DS Ian Mann's method to deal with criminals can be satisfying. Irvine himself is pleasingly complex. Sense of place is well-developed. Salkeld is a skilled writer of short fiction.

    I recommend "A Summer's Grass" highly. (A)
     
  2. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    THE DARCYS OF PEMBERLEY is the first of Shannon Winslow's sequels to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in e-book format in 2011. Others in the series include Miss Georgiana Darcy of Pemberley, which covers the same events as THE DARCYS OF PEMBERLEY but from Georgiana's point of view, and Return to Longbourn.

    The first two-thirds of THE DARCYS OF PEMBERLEY proceeds slowly with expected events beginning immediately after the death of Reverend William Collins in "Mr. Collins's Last Supper." Charlotte Lucas Collins goes to live with Ruth Collins Sanditon, his widowed sister-in-law. Mrs. Sanditon receives tenancy to a cottage near Kympton and Pemberley, at Reddclift, the estate of her widower brother-in-law, thus drawing him into the Pemberley circle. Charles and Jane Bingley, too close to Longbourn at Netherfield, purchase Heatheridge, an estate in Staffordshire some thirty miles from Pemberley. Jane is pregnant and bears twins. The Darcys visit London to bring Georgiana "out" in Society. George Wickham is discharged from the army, so he and Lydia move in with the Bingleys. Georgiana confesses her romantic love and desire to marry Colonel Fitzwilliam to Elizabeth and swears her to secrecy, first about the colonel, then about Mr. Sanditon's proposal of marriage. Darcy is more withdrawn than usual and often engaged on unexplained "business" both at Pemberley and in London. Elizabeth becomes pregnant. Then everything goes to h*ll in a hand-basket.

    I found THE DARCYS OF PEMBERLEY not terribly satisfying on several counts. The plot is unbalanced, with the tension between Darcy and Elizabeth that dominates the larger first segment easily dealt with if they had talked to each other. The histrionics of the final portion deadens the opening. Again Mrs. Bennet and Lydia escape consequences for their deeds: Mrs. Bennet tells childbirth horror stories to Jane as she lies in labor, Lydia forges Elizabeth's handwriting in a love letter that Wickham uses to blackmail Darcy. Just once, I would like to see their karma operate appropriately. The epilogue is so drawn out, it becomes anticlimax.

    Writing style is not nineteenth-century literary style like Austen's, but it is fairly formal standard English with several anachronistic words. For the most part, they are not offensive. However, "party spirit" and the use of "you all" (American Southern colloquial plural of "you") glare. "Discrete" and "discreet" are different words.

    I'm most disappointed in the characters. How likely is Sanditon--a widower and father of two small children, a man at least as old as Darcy--to propose marriage to Georgiana, a girl not yet "out" in her first Season, before consulting her brother and guardian? How probable is the engagement between Colonel Fitzwilliam and Anne de Bourgh as it plays out? How believable are Lady Catherine's reactions to her nephews' ultimatums and to Anne's wedding? How realistic is Charles Bingley's failure to meet his responsibilities as head of his household?

    Most displeasing are changes in Elizabeth and Darcy. Elizabeth Bennet Darcy agrees to hide Georgiana's confessions from Darcy, causing her own angst and his suspicions. Despite knowing Wickham's history and knowing Darcy worries that he is a danger to her and Georgiana, a heavily pregnant Elizabeth pulls a TSTL and goes alone with Wickham to check on Lydia. Darcy is just as bad, paying blackmail when he should know better than anyone else the depths of Wickham's wickedness. He shows little faith in Elizabeth's honor. He pulls his own TSTL when he, knowing that Wickham skulks, strips Pemberley of its male servants to go look for a carriage accident that Elizabeth saw in a nightmare.

    THE DARCYS OF PEMBERLEY has some interesting events and better than average writing, but a thorough revision could improve it significantly. (B-)
     
  3. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    PICTURE MISS SEETON is the first book in Heron Carvic's mystery series featuring Miss Emily Dorothea Seeton, an elderly art teacher whose sketches often reveal her perceptions of their subjects' character and activities. It was originally printed in 1968, then published in e-book format n 2016.

    On her way home from a Covent Garden production of Carmen, Miss Seeton sees a man, she thinks, hit a woman; she pokes him with her umbrella and tells him to stop. She's surprised when Scotland Yard Superintendent Alan Delphick (aka "The Oracle") and Detective Sergeant Bob Ranger reveal that she's the eye witness to a murder; she is able to identify but not describe the killer. Delphick asks her to sketch the scene, which she does with enough insight for them to identify the killer as Cesar Lebel, a longtime criminal on the edges of the drug trade. Miss Seeton, who's inherited the cottage Sweetbriars in Plummergen, Kent, from her godmother, removes herself to the country during the school holiday to decide if she will live there in her approaching retirement. As an in-comer to the small village and a celebrity after press coverage of her role in the Covent Garden murder, Miss Seeton is the object of great curiosity with her arrival precipitating both gossip and serious criminal activity.

    Carvic establishes the village of Plummergen in PICTURE MISS SEETON, introducing its villagers and defining their relationships. The most important relationship for Miss Seeton begins in London with Delphick and Ranger, a professional duo who respect each other and Miss Seeton's strange ability. As the perceptive Delphick explains to Ranger, "She's everybody's conscience...the universal maiden aunt, cousin, or sister. Humanity's backbone. Throughout history she's gone to the stake for you again and again, not with any sense of heroism, but as a matter of principle and because it would never occur to her to do anything else." In Plummergen, Martha and Stan Bloomer, who "do" for Miss Seeton in house and garden, appoint themselves her guardians. Miss Seeton excites Miss Erica Nuttel (aka "Eric") and Mrs. Norah Blaine (aka "Bunny"), collectively known as The Nuts, endlessly snooping, jumping to conclusions, and spreading vicious gossip. She's taken under the wing of Sir George and Lady Colveden and their eighteen-year-old son Nigel, the leading family in Plummergen. Many villagers are over the top, but Carvic makes it easy to suspend disbelief and enjoy them.

    Humor is a large element in PICTURE MISS SEETON. It's based on Miss Seeton's so often not understanding with what she's involved, on the law of unexpected consequences, and on her dithering attempts to explain. None of her actions in a tricky situation produce the results she intended. The series is a cross between a cozy (Miss Seeton is most definitely an amateur), a police procedural (The Oracle and Ranger follow allow behind, picking up clues from her sketches and arresting the criminals), and a genuinely funny story.

    I enjoy the whimsical nature of Miss Seeton and her talent in PICTURE MISS SEETON. (A-)
     
  4. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    BLAKELY HILL is another of Perpetua Langley's variant tellings of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in e-book format in 2016. It is set after Wickham has given up the living at Kympton but before he goes to study law in London; its action occurs in Derbyshire.

    ~~~POSSIBLE SPOILERS~~~

    The basic change from the canon is Charlotte Lucas's marrying Harry Wheatley, a nondescript militia officer stationed in Meryton. He owns only a small farm in Dorset, but it is a love match on both sides, and they are happy. When an elderly cousin and his sons die unexpectedly, Wheatley becomes the Viscount Blakely, inheriting title, fortune, and the estate Blakely Hill bordering on Pemberley near Lambton. Charlotte invites Jane and Elizabeth Bennet for an extended visit to Blakely Hill, putting them in position to meet the Darcy siblings, George Wickham, and the Bingleys. Darcy and Elizabeth are immediately attracted to each other, but she suspects Wickham's too evident charm. Wickham trades on Georgiana's friendship to annoy Darcy and to insinuate his way into Society, plotting to elevate himself to the status of gentleman to which he feels entitled. When Mrs. Bennet finagles an invitation for herself and Lydia to Blakely Hill, their outrageous behavior at Pemberley causes Elizabeth to refuse Darcy's first proposal because she thinks it based on honor, his having raised her expectations, rather than on love. How will Wickham be thwarted, and how will love survive such wretched relatives?

    Langley introduces interesting new characters in BLAKELY HILL. There is a definite Upstairs, Downstairs or Downton Abbey motif with Charlotte's maid Betty, Chambers the butler, and Mrs. Talkin the housekeeper providing commentary on their superiors' activities. (The Weakleys win them over, as do Elizabeth and Jane Bennet, but the servants despise social-climbing Wickham and Caroline Bingley and uncouth Mrs. Bennet and Lydia.) Harry Wheatley--a warm, intelligent, hospitable man--becomes Darcy's good friend.

    Langley's take on Darcy is different from that in many fan fiction variants. Moving the action back in time slightly prevents her Darcy from alienating Elizabeth. There is no assembly in Meryton; Wickham has no story of misuse to poison her mind. Darcy is reserved but well-mannered and displays his attraction to Elizabeth from their meeting. Despite calling Mrs. Bennet ghastly, he shows that his love overrides her family's behavior. He treats Elizabeth as an intellectual equal. My only reservation about Langley's Darcy is whether, since he is already suspicious of Wickham, he would accept his reference of Mrs. Younge as a suitable companion for Georgiana at Pemberley.

    Langley's Elizabeth is wiser than the original. Her first impressions of his humor, pleasant nature, and good public manners, led Elizabeth to praise newcomer Mr. Brown to everyone in Meryton; when he marries, she learns that he physically abuses his wife. Publicly embarrassed by her mistake, she now appraises new acquaintances carefully and expresses her opinions discreetly. This Elizabeth is even more her father's daughter, able intelligently to discuss with Darcy events in the war with Napoleon and conditions in England's boarding schools. She is definitely a feminist. Twice Langley's Elizabeth directly criticizes Mrs. Bennet and Lydia's behavior and its consequences even though, of course, they don't listen to her.

    Langley's writing style is somewhat formal but not Austen-esque; attitudes are more modern than the original but not outrageously so. The number of characters and Langley's frequent cuts between locales and characters make reading choppy. An epilogue that rounds out the story satisfies, but its length tends toward anticlimax.

    Taken as a whole, BLAKELY HILL is one of the most original variants on Pride and Prejudice that I have read. (A)
     
  5. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    MISS SEETON DRAWS THE LINE is the second book in Heron Carvic's mystery series featuring art teacher and police sketch artist Miss Emily Dorothea Seeton. It was published in print edition in 1969 and in e-book format in 2016.

    Miss Seeton is worried when she's suddenly unable to complete for the mother an acceptable sketch of Effie Goffer, a rather repulsive village child. She can't draw the right side of Effie's face. Meanwhile, Superintendent Delphick, the Oracle, covers the murder of the fifth victim of a serial killer targeting children between ten and fourteen years old, all garroted, four victims in Kent and one in London. When Miss Seeton consults Dr. Knight about the possibility of a stroke that is affecting her ability to draw, his daughter and office nurse Anne, who's courting with the Oracle's legman Bob Ranger, sends Bob one of Miss Seeton's unsatisfactory sketches. The Oracle sees in Miss Seeton's sketches connections between the child killings, robberies of local subpost offices by a pair of motorcyclists before the murders, and increased thefts from local homes following. He believes that the sketch indicates Plummergen for the next robbery and Effie as the killer's next victim. Can he catch the killer before she dies?

    The Oracle's boss Assistant Commissioner Sir Hubert Everleigh characterizes Miss Seeton and her role succinctly: "...the woman is undoubtedly a catalyst... The dictionary definition is 'a substance which, added to other substances, facilitates a chemical reaction in which it is, itself, not consumed.' The case of these child killings is at a standstill on our side. It needs a change, or change of approach. By dropping a catalyst into it I'm hoping to get a reaction. In other words, although Miss Seeton may, almost certainly will, remain the same, the case, more than likely, will not."

    Miss Seeton's self-perception is different: "Her occasional and irrepressible breakthroughs of inspiration and originality she deplored, or excused as being notes to be worked on later. So in her life Adventure sought her out, cavorted round her, and intruded. Miss Seeton, armored in Respectability, ignored it, or when perforce involved, she used the Nelson Touch; refused to see... In life, for her congenital imbroglios and escapades...she would blame herself, a misconception here; there a failure to understand; nor would she admit to any sequence in such events since to do so would be to deny the placid, conventional existence she truly believed she led." Her serene acceptance of the most outre circumstances produces much of her charm as a character.

    MISS SEETON DRAWS THE LINE is not as tightly plotted as PICTURE MISS SEETON. It includes two secondary story lines extraneous to the child killings: an embezzling bank cashier and murderer, and raids on village gatherings by a bicycle gang, the Ashford Choppers. The Oracle's failure to have Miss Seeton draw the robbers escaping from the Plummergen post office or the men abandoning a stolen car in a ditch delays the solution of the robberies and the murders. Humor abounds , especially in the Oracle's dealing with the "infallible" payroll computer about Miss Seeton's name.

    While a pleasant read, MISS SEETON DRAWS THE LINE is not as strong as its predecessor. (B)
     
  6. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    RETURN TO LONGBOURN is another in Shannon Winslow's series of sequels to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in e-book format in 2013.

    RETURN TO LONGBOURN focuses on Mary Bennet and on the arrival of Tristan Collins, younger brother and heir of the late William Collins, to inherit Longbourn upon the unexpected death of Mr. Bennet. In the months before Collins's arrival, Mrs. Bennet convinces herself that he will marry Kitty and the Bennet women will not have to leave Longbourn. Mary already has removed herself; she lives at Netherfield as governess to the children of retired Navy captain Harrison Farnsworth, a widower of commanding disposition. Kitty, who does not want to marry Tristan Collins, requires Mary to promise to try to win him for herself while Kitty prospects for suitors in the wealthier neighborhoods of Pemberley and Heatheridge. Mary does so, opening herself to the possibility of love and marriage, but also to dashed hopes.

    Most of the action is seen through the eyes of Mary Bennet, now 29 years old and accomplished, the responsible sister: "...she felt a special kinship with Martha from the Bible, whose worth she always considered unfairly disparaged. Although she counted it a very fine thing to sit reverently at the master's feet for a time, sooner or later somebody had to attend to the utilitarian as well. She had taken that role upon herself, allowing others leisure to weep alongside of their father's casket. Her own sorrows she reserved for solitary hours." She prides herself on independence and logic but lacks the self-esteem to trust her perceptions of people.

    ~~~POSSIBLE SPOILERS~~~

    RETURN TO LONGBOURN is derivative, not just of Pride and Prejudice, but also of Austen's Sense and Sensibility and of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. Mary Bennet's personality closely resembles that of Elinor Dashwood, though Elinor is more self-confident. Mary's feelings and actions in the face of Kitty's raptures over her expected engagement to Tristan Collins echo Elinor's as Lucy Steele triumphs in her engagement to Edward Ferrars.

    The connection is clearer with Jane Eyre. The "master marrying governess" motif is central. Harrison Farnsworth is a clone of Edward Rochester--older, brusque, commanding, never explaining himself. He sets up a house party at which Mary is to be a guest and introduced to his friends; he invites and pays attention to Miss June Hawkins who's intent on becoming the second Mrs. Farnsworth, to make Mary jealous. Following an accident to eight-year-old Michael Farnsworth, Mary runs away in the middle of the night without disclosing her destination, leaving Farnsworth to search for months. The story of Farnsworth's first marriage is extraneous to the main plot line, seemingly intended to increase the similarity to Rochester by providing a scandal in his past for which he can be forgiven. There's even a parallel with St. John Winters's proposal to Jane Eyre in Monsieur Hubert's proposal to Mary, with each heroine reprievd from a loveless marriage.

    Winslow's writing style is somewhat formal without being Regency. A few anachronistic colloquialisms glare: "odd man out" (1873); "dim-witted" (1934), "tom-foolery" (1812). She introduces several non-essential characters, most notably the Beam siblings who follow Collins from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Winslow ignores the effect of politics and war between the United States, Great Britain, France, and Spain on travel between countries and, financially, the cost of round-trip passage for two, unlikely to be affordable for a working farmer for a pleasure trip. Except Farnsworth and to a lesser degree Tristan Collin, most new characters are only slightly sketched.

    RETURN TO LONGBOURN is one of the best Pride and Prejudice sequels to date, even if many elements are borrowed. (A-/B+)
     
  7. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    KILLING GROUNDS is the eighth book in Dana Stabenow's Kate Shugak Alaska mystery series. It was published in print in the late 1990s and issued in e-book format in 2011.

    When the salmon run opens, Kate, working for Old Sam on the tender Freya, has a ringside seat to see Cal Meany deliberately cut off another fishing boat and brutally beat his son. Meany had extorted title to a fish camp on Amartup Creek near the Shugak family site from its rightful owners. Ownership of the land rests on a coming court decision between the tribe, the state, and the federal government. Meany tries to scare Auntie Vi Shugak to sell their camp, where he wants to develop a resort. He abuses the rest of his family, including his brother Neil, and he is caught in flagrante with Myra Sarakovikoff, with whose husband Tim he'd had a run-in earlier in the day. With the drunken shenanigans of fishermen striking to protest a drop in salmon prices and celebrating the Fourth of July, is anyone surprised that Meany dies with multiple lacerations on his upper body, his larynx crushed, and his lungs unfilled with water? His killer wants no possible doubt of his death.

    Stabenow excels at grounding her Kate Shugak novels in the unqiue setting of Alaska and Alaskans: "...Alaskan fishermen were the last of the independent businessmen, stubborn, self-reliant, always cantankerous, frequently adulterous and, in Kate's admittedly biased opinion, wholly admirable. The state had done its best to regulate where they fished but the fishermen still delivered to whoever they damn well pleased, which was probably whoever paid them the most per pound, but could also be whoever had pissed them off the least, and the opportunities for pissing off an Alaskan fisherman were legion. They were sovereign unto themselves and fiercely beholden to none, as long as the Mother of Storms saw fit to let them be, and so long as they got their boat payments to the bank on time." (17-8)

    Characters remain strong. The Aunties--Vi, Joy, Edna, and Mary--are more firmly delineated as they move into tribal leadership following the death of Ekaterina Moonin Shujak. An intriguing introduction is Ernest Lee Weustenfeld, Harbormaster of Cordova, aka "Shi***ng Seagull." A wannabe Indian, he took his name for the first thing he saw after his vision quest, and he reserves all the mooring strips for transient boats for extra-terrestrial visitors: "...Gull rebroadcast the latest headline news from abroad, a tale involving the secretary general of the Council of Planets, centrally located on Deneb Prime; the son and heir of the warlord of Dubhe; the nubile daughter of the prime minister of the United System of Sidus Ludovicianum; a rare element called merakium found only on, you guessed it, Merak; the Free Traders, and pirates from Spica Four." (53) I would like to know these people.

    KILLING GROUNDS is a good read. (B+)
     
  8. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    LOST IN LOVE is a novella variation on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was written by Madeline Kennet and published in e-book format n 2017.

    The major change in plot is moving the action to the week following Darcy's unsatisfactory Hunsford proposal and subsequent letter of explanation. En route to Meryton, Elizabeth Bennet and Maria Lucas plan a few days' visit with Jane Bennet who's been several months with the Gardiners in Gracechurch Street. On an excursion to Hampton Court, the Gardiner party accidentally meets with the Bingley party: Charles Bingley, his sisters Caroline and Louisa, Mr. Hurst, and Mr. Darcy. The parties join, much to Caroline's disgust, and by the end of the day, Jane and Bingley are engaged. Darcy and Elizabeth have talked frankly about their misconceived ideas and their current feelings; Elizabeth has tacitly agreed to courtship.

    LOST IN LOVE is a quick, quiet read. Too quiet. Nothing happens. The outcome for the lovers is a given. Caroline Bingley, who's fighting out of her weight class when she takes on Mrs. Gardiner's social skills, offers only token resistance. :p Wickham is alluded to, but there is no Lydia-Wickham scandal. Since Lady Catherine and Mr. Collins do not appear as characters, their comic relief is missing. Kennet introduces no new characters or insight on the old ones. The manuscript needed proof-reading as well as spell-checking. "Latter" and "later" are not the same word. Plural possessive of "Gardiner" is not correct in the text.

    There's nothing objectionable about LOST IN LOVE. The writing style is adequate, there are no glaring anachronisms, But nothing makes it special in any way. Why bother? (D)
     
  9. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    WITCH MISS SEETON is the third book in Heron Carvic's Miss Seeton mystery series. It was originally printed in 1971 and reissued in 2016 in e-book format.

    WITCH MISS SEETON opens with DI Chris Brinton worried over the sacrifice of a heifer in an upsurge in witchcraft in his area of Kent. The long-abandoned Iverhurst Church had been the scene of an interrupted black mass, and there seems to be a new apocalyptic cult Nuscsciience recruiting well-heeled locals. He wants Miss Seeton's drawn opinion of the Nuscience people and involves "the Oracle" Detective Superintendent Alan Delphick of Scotland Yard on a watching brief. Miss Seeton, now officially retired, accepts Headmaster Martin Jessup's tender of the substitute teacher job at Plummergen School and the Assistant Commissioner's retainer for first call on her services as a contract artist for Scotland Yard. Her first official "case" is to attend a local meeting of Nuscience. Brinton and the Oracle both believe that Nuscience and the witches are connected, but there's no evidence of illegal activity. In the meantime, many Plummergen villagers have concluded, under the unbiased leadership of Miss Nuttel and Mrs. Blaine, aka "the Nuts," that Miss Seeton is the leader of the witches.

    By definition, events in a Miss Seeton plot will be outre and characters over the top. Fortunately, Carvic makes it easy to suspend disbelief and enjoy the silliness. "Even when forced by circumstances to admit the oddity of some predicament in which she finds herself, [Miss Seeton] can reject the oddity as an accident which might happen to anyone. In such circumstances she consider that it is one's own behavior that counts: it is important to remain normal and correct. The fact that Miss Seeton's normal and correct behavior in strange circum-stances generally leads to chaos is unfortunate and she has always been loathe to concede any sequence in the curious events that befall her. To do so would be to recognize a pattern of oddity, and a pattern of oddity in the life of a gentle-woman would no be normal and most certainly would not be correct. For those around her, the question will remain: is she an innocent, tempest-tossed, or does she toss the tempest?"

    Despite the fantastic nature of Miss Seeton's unconscious abilities, Carvic creates the sense of a living community around her--friends (the Colvendens, the Knights, Stan and Martha Bloomer, Reverend Arthur Treeves and his sister Miss Molly), enemies (the Nuts and their followers), and police colleagues. In WITCH MISS SEETON both DI Brinton and DC Foxxon deepen their appreciation for the unique lady. A funny, quick read. (B+)
     
  10. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    THE ANGEL OF LONGBOURN is Jann Rowland's latest variation on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in e-book format in 2017.

    Traveling ahead of the rest of the Bingley party en route to Netherfield, on horseback in rain and cold, an already-ill Fitzwilliam Darcy falls unconscious near Longbourn. Elizabeth Bennet finds him, Mr. Bennet and the servants rescue him, and the apothecary confines him to bed at Longbourn in serious condition with typhoid fever. Since Elizabeth had typhoid in childhood, she is the natural choice to nurse him. Mr. Bennet is careful that neither Darcy nor Elizabeth be compromised in this unusual situation but watches the developing feelings between the two with great interest. With the arrival of the militia in Meryton, the uninvited coming of William Collins, and the descent of Lady Catherine de Bourgh on Longbourn brought on by Collins's revelation of Darcy's illness, the courses of convalescence and of courtship do not run smooth.

    ~~~POSSIBLE SPOILERS~~~

    Rowland makes changes that make for a interesting retelling of the basic story. Opening before the militia arrives in Meryton, Rowland does away with the negative impressions of Darcy spread by Wickham. By the time the militia arrives, Colonel Anthony Fitzwilliam is on hand to warn Colonel Forster and Mr. Bennet about Wickham's lack of character; he does no damage to the Bennets. Darcy is still too ill to attend the asembly in Meryton, so he does not insult Elizabeth. The repellent Reverend Collins arrives to choose a wife and insists on staying at Longbourn despite Darcy's recuperation in the guest bedroom; his tale-bearing leads Lady Catherine to fetch Darcy to Rosings. When he and his physician refuse to risk the move, she demands that Kitty, Lydia, and Mr. Collins be removed so that she and Anne may be installed to "guard" and "protect" Darcy, still fully determined that he will marry Anne. During her stay, Lady Catherine does get to hear some home truths about her personality and behavior.

    Lady Catherine's residence at Longbourn is the least probable part of the revised story. Rowland's Mr. Bennet is stronger, more active man than Austen's original, with a Puck-ish sense of humor. He allows Lady Catherine to push into his household because he considers her a joke and means to enjoy her antics. I don't see his enduring her disruption of his household for more than a fortnight before her behavior toward Elizabeth becomes too egregious to be borne.

    A few editing problems bother me. Rowland uses an unfamiliar idiom, "like badgers hunting truffles." Verb tense is incorrectly used in "I shall not trod..." Proof-reading as well as spell-checking is needed: "preserved" and "presented" are different words as are "discrete" and "discreet,"

    Rowland's THE ANGEL OF LONGBOURN is one of the better fan fiction stories published recently. (A-)
     
  11. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    MURDER AT THE OPEN is one of Angus MacVicar's mystery series featuring journalist Angus MacVicar and his friend Professor Aiden Caerlavrock Campbell, Professor of Literature and Poetry at Glasgow University, whose "essays in deductive logic" occasionally help the police. It was originally printed in 1965 and reissued in e-book format in 2016.

    On Sunday morning before the Open Tournament at St Andrews begins on Wednesday, MacVicar and Campbell walk the course and discover the body of Conrad J. Lingstrom, American millionaire and President of Golf Products Incorporated. He'd hosted a major party at their hotel the night before to celebrate his first hole-in-one, and now he's dead in the Road Bunker, his head beaten in. Suspects abound within his own group--niece, secretary, chauffeur-caddie, youthful business rival and niece's lover, and a suspicious solicitor--but all have alibis for the apparent time of death.

    I'm giving up at approximately twenty percent. I am not greatly moved by golf, even the august traditions of St Andrews. Neither protagonist appeals. Campbell is derivative of several "eccentric professor" sleuths from the period around World War II. References to golfers of the period (Nicklaus is 23 years old), Goldwater, and the John Birch Society (cleverly renamed the John Rich Society) date the story. The clincher is that there is absolutely no reason why Detective Inspector Samuel McLintock would welcome Campbell's input. No grade because not finished.
     
  12. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    MR. DARCY'S PERSISTENT PURSUIT is Claire Owen's 2014 e-book variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

    When Fitzwilliam Darcy proposes to Elizabeth Bennet at Hunsford in MR. DARCY'S PERSISTENT PURSUIT, she does not give him the original full-blast refusal. To reveal her knowledge of Darcy's interfering with Bingley and Jane's resulting unhappiness would be an invasion of Jane's privacy; to condemn Darcy's treatment of George Wickham could leave Wickham open to Darcy's retribution. Elizabeth cites the "only tolerable" insult from the Meryton assembly as her reason for refusing Darcy's proposal. Darcy apologizes and convinces Elizabeth to allow him to show his true character in hopes of changing her opinion. When Colonel Fitzwilliam confesses that he'd told Elizabeth about Darcy's saving a friend from an imprudent marriage, Darcy goes immediately to Bingley to confess his interference. Bingley is soon back at Netherfield and successful in his courtship, Darcy tells Mr. Bennet enough of Wickham's background to warn him and the neighborhood. To avoid the confusion at Longbourn as Mrs. Bennet goes wild with planning Jane's wedding and to give more privacy for their developing relationship, Darcy invites the Gardiners and Elizabeth to stay at Pemberley during their four-week visit to Lambton and Derbyshire. The lovers move toward engagement with only minor interruptions caused by Caroline Bingley, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and Lydia Bennet.

    Owen's changes are creative, but her Darcy is more manipulator than wooer, using external events to speed Elizabeth toward marriage, while she savors her power by prolonging the courtship. Even with the Gardiners as chaperones, Mr. Bennet's decision to allow Elizabeth to visit Pemberley for a month before their engagement seems improbable, as does the Bennets' failure to keep watch on Lydia when she is known not once, three times, of slipping away from Longbourn without permission. Lady Catherine, after high threats, capitulates too easily in the face of the Darcys' marriage.

    Editing problems include the need for proof-reading as well as spell-checking. Use of letters for exposition distances the reader from the action of the story. The epilogue devolves into anticlimax.

    MR. DARCY'S PERSISTENT PURSUIT has undeveloped potential. (C)
     
  13. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    DEAD HILL is the first in John Dean's projected police procedural series featuring Detective Chief Inspector Jack Harris of the Levton Bridge CID in the North Pennines. It was published in e-book format in 2017.

    When DCI Jack Harris goes to arrest Eddy Rawmarch, Paul de Luca, and Gerald Hopson on Dead Hill, he is deeply angry because the men have stolen the eggs from the first active golden eagles' nest known in the area in a hundred years. But only Rawmarch and Hopson come down the mountain, de Luca lying dead in the quarry below the nest. He appears to have died from a blow unrelated to the fall. Some fifteen years before, a local Jimmy Roscoe had disappeared in the same area and never found. Harris, a local himself, had been in school with both de Luca and his younger brother Robert and Jimmy and his brother Garry Roscoe. Paul de Luca, Jimmy, and Garry had all been criminals since school, but Harris with his father's help, went into the Army and straightened his life out. Does de Luca's death have anything to do with Jimmy Roscoe's disappearance, and can the egg theft be tied to a further range of criminal activities? More murders ensue before Harris sifts through the past and comes to surprising conclusions.

    Jack Harris shows good potential for a series protagonist. He's early middle-aged, a loner but with good friends both inside and outside the Force, fiercely devoted to raptors and their protection both individually and as part of his duty; he sees wildlife crimes as part of larger criminal enterprises. Divorced for years with no children, his closest companion is the black Labrador Scoot who accompanies him everywhere, including to work. He reads and walks the hills for relaxation, part of his technique for anger management. He identifies himself as part of Death Hill, content only in the North Pennines. It will be interesting to see how Dean develops Harris.

    Dean uses some police procedural cliches. In Superintendent Phillip Curtis, Harris has the stereotypical ambitious boss more skilled at playing politics than solving crimes, not very fond of Harris, who largely ignores him. Harris's relationship with his legman Sergeant Matty Gallagher is tentative since the younger man is a recent transfer from the Met, eager to be transferred to a larger city. Two women, DI Gillian Roberts and DC Alison Butterfield, are strong members of the team; DC Robbie Graham, whose father is DCI at Roxham and who's actively after Harris's job at Levton Bridge with Curtis's support, is more problematical. Again, strong foundation for development.

    The plot of DEAD HILL seems more drawn out than necessary, and Dean conceals information about a key witness hat might have led the reader to identify the killer before the denouement. The number of deaths exceeds those necessary for the advancement of the main story line, as does the multiplicity of killers. Sense of place is good.

    DEAD HILL is an encouraging start to a new series. I will definitely read the next Jack Harris story. (B)
     
  14. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    THE ABOMINABLE MR. DARCY is a fan fiction variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was written by J. Dawn King and published in e-book format in 2016.

    At the Meryton assembly, Fitzwilliam Darcy is struck by the bearing and beauty of Elizabeth Bennet without knowing who she is. When importuned to dance with Elizabeth, he declines in the rudest of ways in her hearing. Seeing Charles Bingley and Jane Bennet's mutual interest, Elizabeth determines to do all in her power to give them the chance to become acquainted without interference from her family, Darcy, or Caroline Bingley. Under the influence of Colonel Fitzwilliam Darcy apologizes for his boorish behavior toward Elizabeth and moves toward tentative friendship with her. He is much attracted, and her opinion towards him softens. The colonel, in the meantime, enjoys his acquaintance with Charlotte Lucas, with whom he works to bring Darcy and Elizabeth together. The developing relationship seems to end after Caroline Bingley, to impress Darcy with her hostessing skills and awareness of his tastes, serves out-of-season oysters, resulting in severe food poisoning for Jane Bennet and death for Gilbert Hurst. Darcy loves Elizabeth but is unwilling to marry her until he hears William Collins's wedding plans, which produce epiphanies in both Darcy and the Colonel.

    This variant contains more dramatic action than most, with Elizabeth dynamic in her action, including a misrepresentation of her father's instructions to prevent Mrs. Bennet, Kitty, and Lydia, ruining Jane's second meeting with Bingley. Mr. Bennet guides his family into better behavi, especially after the militia arrives in Meryton. King's Colonel Fitzwilliam is an attractive protagonist in his own right.

    A few things bothered me. One is the reference to Darcy's horse. Is Katerina a mare or a filly? To horse people, the terms are not interchangeable. Another is the reference to William Collins as Mr. Bennet's nephew. The canon is explicit that he's a distant cousin. More importantly, Lady Catherine's establishing herself at Longbourn for months following her apoplexy over Darcy and Elizabeth's engagement seems highly unlikely.

    All things considered, THE ABOMINABLE MR. DARCY is a solid read. (A-)
     
  15. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    GONE DARK is the latest to date in Steven F. Havill's long-running Posadas County. New Mexico, mystery series that began with Undersheriff Bill Gastner and continues with Undersheriff Estelle Reyes-Guzman and Sheriff Robert Torrez. It was published in e-book format in 2016.

    Someone tagging one of the railway cars on Miles Waddell's NightZone railway and putting the same design on the giant radio telescope dish is annoying but seems relatively harmless. Anyway, artist Efrin Garcia hit a deer in his old truck, then careened into a utility pole and may not live. But the next morning Stacie Willis Stewart, wife of Todd Steward of the Posadas State Bank, leaves her two-year-old daughter Ginger and her puppy in her car in the scorching parking lot, walks into The Spree superstore, and disappears. About the same time, a school custodian discovers Clifff Scott, coach of the spectacularly successful Posadas County High School Jaguarettes volleyball team, shot dead in the girls' locker room. Nearby is an incomplete tag by Efrin Garcia, begun the previous night. When Guzman and Torrez examine Efrin's truck, they conclude the damage to it and Efrin was not accidental. What is going on?

    GONE DARK follows the general pattern for Havill's Posadas County plots--a slow start, often beginning with what seems an accident, an odd occurrence, or a minor crime that proves to have unexpectedly serious ramifications. Havill is adept at this layering of events. He plays fair with foreshadowing and with presenting information as the officers find it.

    Havill includes personal detail in the lives of the men and women of the Posadas County Sheriff's Office to keep the sense of their being real, living people. Tom and Linda Pasquale await the imminent arrival of twins. Bill Gastner is recovered from his broken hip of the previous year and now works closely with Miles Waddell on the NightZone astronomical project. Estelle's musical-prodigy son Francisco makes an unauthorized road trip home from conservatory in Missouri to celebrate his grandmother's one-hundredth birthday. The authenticity of this community of peace officers is the major strength of the series.

    GONE DARK disappoints me. Missing are almost all the humor and most of the great sense of place that marked the earlier books. The narrative voice has become more impersonal, less story-telling, with Gastner's gradual replacement as the focus of the series. Continuing characters seem more static with fewer insights into personality or back stories to keep them vibrant. Still, GONE DARK is well above average. Recommended. (B)
     
  16. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    BELIEVING IN DARCY is the latest to date in Renata McMann and Summer Hanford's variations on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in e-book format in 2017.

    When the Collinses and Maria Lucas return to the parsonage at Hunsford following Fitzwilliam Darcy's disastrous proposal to Elizabeth Bennet, Mr. Collins is adamant that Charlotte, who's not been sleeping well, take the sleeping draught prescribed by Lady Catherine de Bourgh, in the recommended dosage of six tablespoons. When Elizabeth intervenes, in a fit of temper, he downs it himself and dies of an overdose of laudanum. Callous in her guilt for Collins's death, Lady Catherine refuses to serve as executor of his will and gives Charlotte a week in which to vacate the rectory. Darcy volunteers to execute the will and to represent the pregnant Charlotte's interest in the Longbourn entailment--if her child is a son, he inherits, otherwise the estate passes to William Collins's younger brother. The younger Mr. Collins is also a clergyman, vicar at East Lambton, in Derbyshire near Pemberley. When Elizabeth returns to Hertfordshire, she discovers that her father is preparing for his own imminent death. When he passes, Darcy's dealing with Charlotte's financial affairs keeps him involved with the Bennet family. His feelings for Elizabeth are unchanged, but he is unwilling to risk rejection again. The Bennet family is broken up, Elizabeth invited to live with the Lucases who consider she the savior of Charlotte and their first grandchild. As she sees more of Darcy in his ordinary dealings, Elizabeth's opinions gradually change, to produce their expected happy ending.

    General comments about characterization in BELIEVING IN DARCY--Mr. Collins's death is entirely appropriate, based as it is on his blind faith in Lady Catherine's supreme wisdom. Mrs. Bennet is even more selfish, self-centered, and vulgar than Austen's original. Kitty Bennet shows more fortitude in dealing with her changed life and her mother's company than expected. Lydia and Wickham manage to mess up their lives even more thoroughly after their paid-for marriage. Charles Bingley grows a spine and forbids Mrs. Bennet or Lydia at Netherfield. The younger Mr. Collins is an intelligent, charitable man who deserves good fortune. Both Elizabeth and Darcy dither and delay acting on their feelings for too long.

    Some misgivings about BELIEVING IN DARCY--the whole theme of Elizabeth's doubts based on Darcy's owning a mill seems unlikely. If he is a mill owner, Darcy is, by definition, in trade himself, so how to justify his self-proclaimed superiority to those in trade? The younger Mr. Collins does not have a Christian name. Use of apostrophes in plurals and possessives of proper names is incorrect. "Slew" in the sense of a large assortment of items is an anachronism. Proof reading as well as spell checking is needed. "Soul" and "sole" are not the same words.

    BELIEVING IN DARCY is a solid adaptation with intriguing changes to the canon. (A-)
     
  17. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    UP IN THE AIR is part of Melanie Jackson's series of mystery novellas featuring meter-maid / detective Chloe Boston of Hope Falls, Washington. It was published in 2014 in e-book format.

    Festivals in Hope Falls often feature fatalities, and the first Kite Festival is no exception. Organized by Chloe's mother and the Garden Club to raise money for the animal shelter, one of its major participants, master kite maker Gerhardt Brandt, is found dead under the large "Welcome to Hope Falls" sign at the venue. Brandt had been hit in the head, and his chest crushed when the sign was brought down on his body. Competitors Amos and David Michaels had argued with him at the Morningside Inn the night before, and investigation turns up others with major grudges against Brandt: his brother Jorge, who divorced his wife over an affair with Gerhardt; Jorge's ex-wife Linda, whom Gerhardt had not married after the divorce; and Jocelyn, his ex-wife who took Gerhardt for everything in their own divorce. But who killed him, and why?

    I enjoyed earlier titles in this series very much, but its later novellas are generic. There is no new development of the continuing characters and only minimal differentiation between new introductions. Linda Brandt and Jocelyn Brandt are practically clones. Granted that Gerhardt must die, but such a very public site and such a clumsy method seem improbable. The clue that Chloe uses to identify the killer is coincidental. Sense of place is lacking. (D)
     
  18. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    ONE THREAD PULLED: THE DANCE WITH MR. DARCY is the massive variation on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice published by Diana J. Oaks in e-book format in 2012.

    What to say about ONE THREAD PULLED? It's all too much. Oaks piles change upon change, with enough ideas for several novels, to the point that the story loses focus. She introduces few new characters; most of the original characters are heightened versions of themselves. Both Darcy and Elizabeth experience prolonged angst over their feelings, as do Jane, Bingley, and Mary Bennet. Mr. Collins, Caroline Bingley, Lady Catherine, and Mrs. Bennet are especially despicable. Bingley, Anne de Bourgh, and Mr. Bennet grow spines. Rapid shifts between characters make for choppy reading.

    The plot of ONE THREAD PULLED reminds me of Charles Dickens' being paid by the word, piling up action to keep the story going. Most of the changes are interesting enough, but their sheer volume is overwhelming. It incorporates the dawn meeting of Darcy and Elizabeth from the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, as well as the episode of Elizabeth playing with Darcy's dog from the 1995 mini-series. In addition, editing as well as spell checking is needed. Apostrophes are misused in plurals and possessives. There is no organized London police at the time to become involved in Wickham's death. It seems unlikely that Mr. Bennet would not have investigated the entail long before the events of the story, and its story negates it as justification for Mrs. Bennet's histrionics.

    ~~~SPOILERS~~~

    Oaks multiples the major events in the story line. Jane Bennet is severely concussed in a riding accident as she goes to Netherfield Park, leaving her delusional, thinking that she's married to Bingley and the mother of his chiildren. Her time at Netherfield caring for Jane begins the change of Elizabeth's attitude toward Darcy. Lady Catherine descends on Hertfordshire to deliver Mr. Collins to Longbourn and to evaluate the Bennet girls for herself, to choose which he should marry; she's en route to London to advise her nephew about his personal business. By the time of the ball at Netherfield, Bingley has asked permission to court Jane, and Elizabeth has betrayed her feelings by embroidering a handkerchief with initials "E. D." Jane and Elizabeth do a make-over on Mary, who falls in love with Mr. Collins and actively pursues him. The night of the ball, Elizabeth falls ill with a dangerous fever, so Jane remains at Netherfield to nurse her, as Darcy fights his feelings and Elizabeth has her own delirious fantasies.

    Wickham arrives in Meryton to be routed by Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam, then to engage in an extortion scheme for money and revenge on Darcy. He threatens to disclose a compromising letter written by Georgiana in Ramsgate if Darcy attempts any relationship with Elizabeth. Darcy goes to London to deal with Wickham, who's beaten and left on the doorstep of Darcy House to die; Darcy is briefly suspected of his murder before he and Colonel Fitzwilliam discover the killers.

    In Darcy's absence in London, Mrs. Bennet encourages Mr. Collins to compromise the ill Elizabeth to force their marriage, and Caroline Bingley attempts to poison Elizabeth with wine laced with laudanum. When Mary rejects him, Collins removes himself to Lucas Lodge, where he is soon engaged to Charlotte and contracts the fever. His critical condition leads Mr. Bennet to investigate the terms of the entail in case of Collins's death, to discover that Collins is not a Bennet by blood but adopted by William Collins, Sr., as a baby fraudulently to obtain the entail on Longbourn. Mrs. Bennet is safe from the hedgerows. In and around all this, Elizabeth and Darcy waffle and weave as they doubt their feelings, the other's intentions, and society's reaction to the misalliance between Darcy and a poor country maiden. Even then Mr. Bennet consents to their wedding only after Elizabeth has spent a Season in London, to determine if she can be happy in the milieu of the Ton. Whew!

    ONE THREAD PULLED would better be served as several stand-alone variants, each dealing with only one or two of the great changes. (C)
     
  19. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    FIRE AND ICE is the first book in Dana Stabenow's series featuring Alaska State Trooper Liam Campbell. Originally published in 1998, it was reissued in e-book format in 2013.

    FIRE AND ICE opens with the arrival of Liam Campbell at his new posting in Newenham, Alaska; he's recently demoted following the death of a Native family in Denali caused by the negligence of troopers under his supervision. He carries serious emotional baggage. Following a year-long affair with Bush pilot Wyanet Cehouinard, his son Charlie was killed n a car wreck, and his wife Jenny left in a chronic vegetative state. Unable to divorce her, he sees his losses as punishment. His mentor and friend Lt. John Barton has transferred him to Newenham, where Wy bought her air taxi service, as a last chance to get his life back on track. Wy has her own problems with keeping her business afloat and financing the court case to adopt Tim Grosuk, the twelve-year-old Native boy she rescued from the mother and boyfriend who almost beat him to death. Personal lives are important in this series.

    Campbell arrives at the Newenham airport just in time to begin the investigation of the decapitation death of Bob DeCroft, Wy's spotter in flights directing fishing boats to the great balls of herring ready to spawn. It's dangerous but lucrative work. DeCroft had been an experienced Bush pilot, so why had he spun a prop on Wy's 78ZULU without checking that it was turned off? Campbell quickly discovers that the wire had been cut, disabling the switch while leaving the prop turned on. So who wanted him dead? Without a handover briefing from the departing Trooper, a place to sleep, or a wearable uniform, Campbell fields murder, rape, beatings, and long-concealed secrets, all in his first three days in Newenham.

    Stabenow excels at uniquely Alaskan plots and people, with FIRE AND ICE as no exception. Its action is based on herring fishing, and it introduces two of her most interesting characters: Moses Alakuyak, a self-proclaimed shaman who teaches Campbell tai chi chuan, lover of Linda Billington ("Bill"), owner of the local saloon and magistrate for Newentham. Campbell's first solved case involves her pronouncing sentence on Teddy Engelbretsen for shooting the juke box at the saloon while it was playing Jimmy Buffet's "Margaritaville": "A magistrate for the state of Alaska didn't need a law degree, didn't need more than a high school diploma or its equivalent and some standing in his or her community. Official arrest procedures called for the swearing out of a warrant, a reading of rights, an arraignment, a grand jury, a trial, a conviction--all those nitpicky little due process things required by the Constitution of the United States and affirmed by the Bill of Rights, not to mention two hundred and twenty years of Supreme Court case law. Belief in thee things made Liam the kind of trooper he was, but they didn't seem to count for much here and now... It could be worse, he thought. At least Newenham's magistrate had taken the Sixth Amendment to heart, if no other. Teddy Engebetsen's trial had been speedy, and it sure as hell had been public. A dimension beyond sight and sound, he thought.... A dimension known as the Twilight Zone."

    I prefer Stabenow's Kate Shugak series, but for those who enjoy conflicted protagonists, the Liam Campbell series in solid. (B)
     
  20. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    COURAGE RISES is the first book in Melanie Rachel's Courage series of sequels to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in e-book format in 2016.

    Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Bennet Darcy have been married for four months when he must travel to London on business; it is their first separation, and both feel it keenly. With the journey prolonged by excessive rains and flooding, Darcy arrives in London to a mysterious summons from Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam. Young Captain Oliver Hawke saved the Colonel's life at the battle of Vitoria and in a final letter asked him to find and provide care for his sister, Miss Evelyn Hawke. Honor bound to do so but suffering from PTSD, the Colonel turns to Darcy and Bingley for help. Meanwhile, Elizabeth is anxious about establishing herself as mistress of Pemberley in the eyes of the upper servants, when an outbreak of influenza strikes the children and elderly servants on the estate. Cut off from Darcy and forced to act on her own, she organizes and provides care for the sick by converting the ball room into a make-shift hospital where she quarantines the ill and follows the medical theories of apothecary Mr. Waters.

    COURAGE RISES is a good follow-up, showing the evolution of the Darcys' marriage as each must deal with uncertainty and the possibility of loss. It is uneven in intensity because Elizabeth is minutely engaged in a literal life-and-death struggle as she must make decisions, while Darcy and the men are long unsure about the problem in which they are involved. Their story line is typical Gothic novel plot of wicked uncle, beautiful sisters, rescue by gallant champions, and political intrigue involving the Earl of Matlock.

    One thing that bothered me in COURAGE RISES is the ambiguous status of John Briggs. He's introduced as a footman, later referred to as the head groomsman, yet again as a coachman. On an estate the size of Pemberley, surely these are three separate positions.

    A unique interpretation. (A-)
     

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