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:
    4,497
    Likes Received:
    90
    CAVE OF BONES is the fourth book in Anne Hillerman's Leaphorn, Chee, and Manuelito novels using the characters created by her father Tony Hillerman. It was published in 2018 in both traditional and digital editions.

    Leaving her vision spot during the last night of a wilderness camping experience for troubled teenaged girls leads Annie Rainsong to discover a cave containing human bones in a looted Native American gravesite and produces a search and rescue mission to find Domingo Cruz. Annie makes it back to base camp, but the assistant director and wilderness guide for Wings and Roots, who'd gone after her, does not. Bernie Manuelito is assigned to help the search and to confirm the gravesite; as she works, doubts about activities and questions of misused funds by Wings and Roots emerge. In the meantime Chee, in Santa Fe for special training at the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy, as a favor tries to locate Shiprock local George Curley, whose mother is worried. He discovers that neither wife nor mother has heard from George in three weeks. Chee intrudes on sister-in-law Darleen's love life when he discovers current boy friend Clayton Secody is a friend of ex-con Clyde Herbert, whom Chee had arrested for drug dealing and domestic violence. Both Bernie and Chee call on Joe Leaphorn, now a private investigator, for background research and sage advice on their cases.

    Hillerman could strengthen the plot by combining functions of some of the too-numerous characters, but she handles a complex story line with skill. Foreshadowing and linkages are used effectively to produce a believable conclusion. Bernie's involvement with her Mama, increasingly confused and forgetful, and her sister Darleen, alcoholic hopefully recovering, is the on-going secondary story line, adding a sense of reality to individuals in CAVE OF BONES.

    Most of the action is conveyed from Bernie's point of view, making her the most delineated character. A skilled police officer and investigator, she is still profoundly influenced by her traditional upbringing: "She should never have mentioned suicide to Franklin. He was partially unglued already, judging not only by his unkempt look but by his tears and impulsiveness. His mental stability had been hanging by a thread, and her questions might have taken him to a dark place. She'd spent too many nights talking to cops, she'd decided. She knew that words had consequences, that was why the Holy People had taught the Navajo to use them wisely and with restraint. Talking about the negative, as she had done, brought it into the forefront, like inviting evil into the hogan... She was only talking, not thinking. Talking too much, a little too proud, too full of herself. All behaviors the Holy People warned against." All the continuing characters are so closely identified with the Navajo ethos that it's difficult to visualize them elsewhere.

    Anne Hillerman is the most successful writer to date who continues a series begun by another. I recommend the series. CAVE OF BONES (A-)
     
  2. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,497
    Likes Received:
    90
    HYPOTHETICALLY MARRIED is a novel variant by Renata McMann and Summer Hanford on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2018.

    Uncle Phillips became guardian of the five Bennet sisters after the unexpected deaths of both Mr. and Mrs. Bennet within a year. Since Mr. Collins predeceased Mr. Bennet, Longbourn passed jointly to the Bennet sisters; the estate was sold to enable equitable distribution, leaving each with a respectable dowry and additional funds held in trust under Uncle Phillips's control. Their Aunt Phillips's death extends their mourning period to over two years, so that the three older sisters have missed the social activities to attract suitors. Detected in flagrante with George Wickham, Lydia Bennet is married under conditions much different than he imagines; Uncle Phillips keeps control of her finances, allowing Wickham access only to her £500 (paid quarterly) allowance, with interest from the trust going to pay off Wickham's debts to Meryton merchants. He refuses to pay Wickham's gambling debts, leading to resentment among the militia officers and the spread of anti-Bennet gossip. Mary Bennet marries Uncle Phillips's clerk Jonathan Winterstcone and remains in Meryton, but Uncle Phillips and the unmarried sisters remove to London, where the young women will have a better chance of finding husbands. Fortunately, Uncle Phillips has also plans for London.

    I like sympathetic development of a canonical character who's largely ignored in Austen fan fiction. The few previous examples before HYPOTHETICALLY MARRIED have left Uncle Phillips merely a name, at best bungling and/or uncouth, at worst a villain. This Uncle Phillips is shrewd, perceptive, a gifted strategist, devoted to protecting all his nieces, even the undeserving Lydia. He orchestrates Jane, Elizabeth, and Kitty's introduction to London society under Anne de Bourgh's aegis, ensuring their interaction with Charles Bingley, Fitzwilliam Darcy, and Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam. I love his management of Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

    The story follows the developing relationships as the young people pair off, the authors even including Darcy's friend, the wealthy Mr. Searle for Anne. A triple wedding, followed by a surprise fourth marriage the next day, is a bit much. Darcy and Elizabeth's nuptials require another month. The story line reminds me of young teenagers using friends as go-betweens to discover each others' feelings. Darcy and Elizabeth become facilitators who use hypothetical situations to save face for their friends. This device becomes tedious.


    I have a problem with George Wickham as presented in HYPOTHETICALLY MARRIED. I simply do not believe in his reformation. No reasons or details of his actions are given until he publicly confesses his misdeeds against the Darcys and apologizes. Misleading foreshadowing also increases doubt. Wickham doing the right thing seems thrown in simply to provide a "happily ever after" ending for everyone. (B)
     
  3. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,497
    Likes Received:
    90
    A NIGHT OF ERRORS is the eleventh in Michael Innes's Inspector Appleby series. It was originally published in 1947 and reissued in digital format in 2018.

    Innes is one of the masters of the late-Golden Age mystery genre, successful in creating an appealing series protagonist, authentic sense of place, and complex plots involving literary, artistic, academic, and/or aristocratic elements. His plots are so intricate, in fact, that they require total suspension of disbelief. A NGHT OF ERRORS is no exception.

    Forty years before "a night of errors," Sir Romeo Dromio, maddened by the damage done his family by the birth for generations of triplet heirs, fired the nursery wing of Sherris Hall, two infant sons dying in the blaze; he saved only the brother subsequently identified as Oliver, the eldest. In present day, after a long sojourn in America, Sir Oliver returns home, where he's awaited by his mother Lady Dromio, who doubts the death of her other two sons; his foster-sister Lucy whom he'd seduced and who's in love with him; and his mother's friend Mary Gollifer whom he'd been blackmailing. Also on the scene are his uncle Sebastian Dromio, who' tired of keepingt the family business afloat financially, and Geoffrey Gollifer, who's in love with Lucy and discovers that night both her involvement with Oliver and Oliver's blackmail. A man's body, oddly burnt after being killed by a blow to the head, is discovered in the study and identified as Sir Oliver Dromio. But is it he? Or maybe one of his brothers? Why was the man killed? John Appleby, newly retired from Scotland Yard and living nearby, is called in by Inspector Hyland of Sherris Magna to elucidate the bizarre case that comes to include multiple deaths, transported corpses, and Sherris Hall burnt to the ground, all within twenty-four hours.

    I enjoy Innes's atmospheric passages. "The air was stifling and still; frogs could be heard croaking very far away, and from farther yet, with an effect of inconceivable distance, a train whistled in the night. To the west heavy clouds were banked, but overhead the stars were clear. They moved down into the garden and behind them the house stood silhouetted in moonlight. The lawn...gleamed like a pale velvet; across it sprawled the distorted shadow of two stone hippogriffs pedastaled high in the air--a pomp with which some long-dead Dromo had thought to embellish a large formal garden which had never been brought to completion. The creature stood with wings outspread and a raised and threatening paw; the shadows seemed crouched and waiting to strike a premeditated blow."

    I try to evaluate a vintage novel by the conventions of the period in which it was written because standards of the genre may have changed greatly in the interim. This is sometimes difficult because I tend to be whimsy-impaired. In modern common sense terms, A NIGHT OF ERRORS is far too outré to be believable. Fortunately, Innes's virtuosity as a writer makes it easy to accept and enjoy his fantasy. (A-)
     
  4. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,497
    Likes Received:
    90
    TO SAVE AND PROTECT is Paisley James's variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2018.

    The morning Fitzwilliam Darcy gives Elizabeth Bennet his letter of explanation, Rosings Park is alarmed to receive notice from neighbor Admiral David Sandry that escaped fugitives on a crime spree have been sighted nearby. He recommends that Rosings's residents stay indoors and mount guards until the criminals are caught. Darcy, aware Elizabeth is walking alone, goes after her; meeting his friend from University Captain Robert Sandry, the Admiral's younger brother, in the woods, he accepts the offer of safety at Sandry Hall. But things are not as they seem. Before their rescue, Darcy and Elizabeth discover identity theft, fraud, and intended rape, Darcy is gravely wounded, four men are killed, and Elizabeth and Darcy are engaged. And the trouble is just beginning.

    James starts off with an interesting premise, but she carries it on much too long, though the action of the Sandry story line covers a bit more than a fortnight. Some plot elements are over the top. One is Darcy, aka the Regency Superman. He's shot in the shoulder with major loss of blood; he is forced to ride horseback to the parsonage; for the slug to be removed, he undergoes an hour of difficult surgery with only brandy for anesthesia, without losing consciousness or crying out in pain; he spikes a high fever that breaks before daylight the next morning; within two days, he's riding horseback. Then he spends two weeks dashing from Kent to London to Pemberley (where he rested two whole days) to Hertfordshire to London and back to Kent. I don't think so, on both physical capacity and time-distance grounds.

    Another unbelievable element is Darcy's willingness to conceal the murder of five men to protect Elizabeth's reputation from scandal--to protect her from rape by the Admiral, Darcy had spent the night (chastely) in her bedchamber. They have already resolved most o their misunderstandings and are in love, and any scandal could be quickly squelched by their marriage. Darcy's solution leaves the surviving villains free to scheme and blackmail. The denouement for the Sandry plot seems contrived, its primary purpose to shock.

    Both Darcy and Elizabeth pull major TSTLs that put themselves and each other in peril. Darcy's high-handedness takes a backseat to Elizabeth's stubbornness when he delays their initial return to Rosings because Elizabeth refuses to ride on a horse with him (it's improper, even if they are in imminent danger, and besides, she's afraid of horses); she refuses to accept his precautions for her own safety, haring off to Kent to the final confrontation. Both ruminate continually on doubts, regrets, and anticipated pleasures of the marriage bed. The final chapters and epilogue, covering their engagement, wedding, and early marriage, drag on, their major purpose seemingly to detail their foreplay. Enough, already.

    TO SAVE AND PROTECT starts off well, but it quickly becomes too fantastic to be satisfying. (C)
     
  5. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,497
    Likes Received:
    90
    THE KEY is one of Patricia Wentworh's long-running Miss Maud Silver mystery series. Originally published in 1946, it was reissued in digital format in 2011.

    German-Jewish refugee scientist Michael Harsch has completed experimentation on a new explosive that will shorten the war; he reports his success, arranging to hand over his research to the War Office the next morning. Instead, he is found shot, an apparent suicide. Suspicious of the timing of his death, the War Office concludes Harsch had been murdered and sends Chief Detective Inspector Lamb and Detective Sergeant Frank Abbott to Bourne to investigate. Concerned about her companion Medora Brown and the death of her friend Harsch, Miss Sophy Fell invites Miss Silver for a visit, and the little ex-governess soon discovers the German secret agent.

    THE KEY contains many elements of a standard Miss Silver story. There's a chaste romance between childhood friends Major Garth Albany (Miss Sophy's step-nephew) and Janice Meade. There is a cheeky boy Cyril Bond who snoops and knows things. There is village poacher Ezra Pinchott who sees something and tries to profit from his silence. There's a bitter spinster, a selfish invalid, and a fast young widow. There are hidden relationships, past secrets, village gossip, and Miss Silver's quotes of Alfred, Lord Tennyson. There are bits of deft characterization and atmospheric description. I'm not sure villages like Bourne exist outside British Golden Age mystery novels, but it's easy to suspend disbelief and go along for the ride.

    That being said, THE KEY's conclusion is unsatisfying. Instead of showing the process of Miss Silver's solving the crime, Wentworth has two unlikely coincidences lead the killer to reveal himself. Foreshadowing is minimal, largely negative in nature--the criminal is named several times in connection with village activities but so resolutely ignored in the Harsch murder that it raises an experienced reader's suspicions. (C)
     
  6. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,497
    Likes Received:
    90
    NETHERFIELD PARK IS LET AT LAST is a novella variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Written by Mary Lydon Simonsen, it was published in digital format in 2018.

    When Charles Bingley impulsively contracts to rent Netherfield Park without proper examination before the lease takes effect, he prevails upon his friend Fitzwilliam Darcy to inspect the property. Darcy combines his tour of Netherfield with a visit to Cambridge friend Sir James Hearn at nearby Hearn Hall. Scheduled to meet with Meryton solicitor Mr. Phillips, who'd drawn up the lease, Darcy is surprised by the arrival of Elizabeth Bennet. Her uncle is in bed with the grippe, her father is out of town, so Elizabeth has been conscripted to show Bingley's agent about Netherflied. His self-introduction interrupted by Elizabeth, she believes him "Mr. Fitzwilliam," an agent in service to Bingley's friend Mr. Darcy. Conversing freely as they tour the house and part of the garden, Darcy is impressed by both the estate and Miss Bennet and, for the first time, looks forward to his stay at Netherfield and to socializing in Hertfordshire. Elizabeth, in turn, is taken with the agent's looks, keen mind, and enlightened attitude toward women. Both anticipate the upcoming assembly at Meryton with pleasure. So what happens when "Mr. Fitzwilliam" reveals himself?

    It's unusual for me to say there's not enough angst in a Pride and Prejudice variation, but neither Darcy nor Elizabeth suffers much over Darcy's deception. At the time Darcy makes no attempt to correct Elizabeth's misunderstanding of his identity, yet he's surprised that she's angry at what she perceives as a cruel joke against herself. She, in turn, is too quick to agree to meet him privately and to accept his explanation. Both's emotions seem superficial.

    What bothers me more is the modern tone throughout NETHERFIELD PARK IS LET AT LAST. Sir James Hearn gives traditional Regency views of appropriate female behavior and attitudes, marriage, and family life, in contrast to Darcy's more advanced feminist views. At the same time, Hearn's talk to Darcy of sex after marriage and his wife's pregnancies is not Regency. Darcy's request that his valet Mercer, ill when they arrive at Hearn Hall, be housed in a guest room for proper care is decidedly out of period. Most of all, sending Elizabeth to Netherfield with only a twelve-year-old male servant as chaperone, to conduct business with a total stranger, is another modern device. So is the freedom with which she and Darcy meet and talk. Even in current context, their meeting is much more a get-acquainted date than a business meeting. Then both are guilty of great impropriety when Elizabetth and Darcy meet early the morning after the assembly at a secluded spot for explanations.

    Customs and appropriate behavior between the sexes are changed so much since Jane Austen's time that adaptations bringing her characters into the present day seldom work well. Neither do variants that, like NETHERFIELD PARK IS LET AT LAST, purport to be Regency but have a modern ethos. Don't bother. (F)
     
  7. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,497
    Likes Received:
    90
    THE PLANTAGENET MYSTERY is the first book in Victoria Prescott's Wynderbury Mystery series featuring historian Rob Tyler. Published in 2014, it is available in free or inexpensive digital format.

    While working his part-time archivist job at the Wynslade County Archives Office, Rob Tyler reads and transcribes a family history manuscript written by William Amory, Of the Commonweal of Wynnelade, written in the `1590s. In it, he mentions Sir Thomas Mildmay's protection and burial of an elderly bricklayer at Ashleigh Manor in the 1550s, hinting that the bricklayer was more than he seemed. Then Emily Finch, an amateur genealogist in Rob's family history class at the Adult Education Center, asks him to transcribe handwritten notes in a 1745 Finch family history. Finches had intermarried with the Amory and Mildmay families through the centuries, so Rob is not surprised to find references to Siir Thomas. He is surprised when the notes reveal the bricklayer to have been Richard Plantagenet, identified as a previously unknown illegitimate son whom Richard III promised to place in his proper position if he survived Bosworth. But when Emily Finch's house is burglarized and she injured, Rob and his mate Chris Bailey become involved in both treasure hunt and murder.

    THE PLANTAGENT MYSTERY is a solid start for a series. The writing style is simple, the history accessible and realistic. Even though the action scenes seem more reported than experienced, there are definite strengths. Rob and Chris are an odd-couple duo, with Rob a somewhat ivory-tower academic while Chris is a builder renovating to flip his first house, not interested in the past and resentful that his lack of school certificates hampers him. Characterization is low key, promising development of an interesting relationship.

    The plot bothers me a bit because the evildoer escapes justice. His identity, if not his name, is foreshadowed adequately, with even a bit of red herring. Chris and Rob's actions are a bit over the top, though Prescott gives them adequate reasons to avoidbthe police. I'm not sure how many real-life historians would make the same decision as Rob over his discovery of Richard Plantagenet, especially considering the surprise ending Prescott neatly sets up.

    THE PLANTAGENET MYSTERY is well-done. I have already ordered the second Wynderbury mystery. (B
     
  8. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,497
    Likes Received:
    90
    GUIDING AND PROTECTING is a variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Written by Deborah Ann Kauer, it was published in digital format in 2018.

    Kauer makes two fundamental changes in the canonical storyline. The first gives both Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet guardian spirits who appear in their lives at approximately the same time, when each needs support and comfort. Fourteen-year-old Elizabeth is hiding literally up a tree from her irate mother, and Darcy stands over his father's new-made grave. Elizabeth comes to identify her spirit as Alex, an invisible, protective older brother, while Darcy sees his female guardian as his mother, Lady Anne. The spirits are assigned to advise, guide, and warn of danger throughout their lives.

    The second major change puts now eighteen-year-old Elizabeth with the Gardiners in Ramsgate, where she becomes friends with Georgiana Darcy, on holiday at the seashore with her companion Mrs. Young. She's immediately suspicious of the woman and of George Wickham and, with advice from Alex, foils the plot against Georgiana. Thus begins her relationship with Darcy.

    GUIDING AND PROTECTING is neither fish nor fowl. On the one hand, the emphasis on propriety, rules governing men and women in company, a family's social standing ruined by scandal, marriages forced by a compromise, are all Regency. On the other, attitudes about education for women, marriage based on love, respect, and partnership, even the father being present during childbirth and delivery, are distinctly modern. The contrast is jarring.

    Several aspects of the revised story are troublesome. One is the revenge element, with Wickham deliberately seeking out Elizabeth and joining the Meryton militia for access to her. While his attack might be foreseen, the resolution to the Wickham subplot is left largely unexplained. The attack is possible because Elizabeth makes a TSTL decision to walk alone in early morning, aware that Wickham blames her for rescuing Georgiana, slandering her name in Meryton, and warned by Alex. She brings on much of her own angst by overhearing parts of conversations and then jumping to conclusions. Change in Lydia's character is not believable.

    Another discordant element is Darcy's insistence that his and Elizabeth's marriage settlements be drawn and signed before Lady Catherine de Bourgh learns of their engagement. He comments that, once this is complete, there will be nothing legitimate his aunt can do to prevent their marriage. Why this is so important is never explained, though Darcy insists on multiple copies, all legally signed, registered, and deposited in separate locations, lest she attempt to nullify the engagement by having the document stolen and destroyed. After all this foreshadowing of Lady Catherine's opposition, when she's rebuffed by Elizabeth at Longbourn, she slinks back to Rosings, muttering imprecations. The foreshadowed explosion is instead a squib.

    Editing issues include identifying the French philosopher Rene Descartes, whose Meditations Elizabeth discusses with Darcy, as Decarate. Mrs. Younge's name becomes the more modern Mrs. Young, and Colonel Forster is alternatively Forester. Usual problems with plurals, possessives, and apostrophes and homophones occur. Punctuation and word choice in latter portions suggest that the story may have been dictated via a voice-recognition program.

    GUIDING AND PROTECTING is acceptable, but it could have been much better. (B)
     
  9. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,497
    Likes Received:
    90
    BURIED ROOTS is the second book in Cynthia Raleigh's genealogy-based mystery series featuring nurse Perri Seamore. It was published in digital format in 2016.

    Perri goes with best friend Nina Watkins and her husband Tom, a Civil War re-enactor, to Richmond, Virginia, for a weekend encampment. There Nina buys a reproduction of a Confederate officer's side knife and scabbard from the Calders, newcomers selling the stock inherited from her brother's on-line business in Revolutionary and Civil War reproductions. Perri, Nina, and Tom become involved when Russell Calder is found stabbed to death in the wooded area of the grounds and, to their surprise, the knife turns out to be genuine, a valuable custom-made Civil War relic. Break-ins at the Calders' home and their hotel room convince them and Virginia State Police Sergeant Archer Vaughn, himself one of the re-enactors, that someone is willing to do whatever it takes to recover the knife.

    I am disappointed in BURIED ROOTS. Characterization is not advanced beyond that of the original story. Perri and Nina are presented sympathetically but with only Perri's family history interest to differentiate them. Tom is generic nice guy, his only distinguishing trait enthusiasm for periodically living in 1863 as part of the Union army (Raleigh never says Union specifically, but Tom's from Indiana).

    Addresses and geographic features establish physical location without creating much sense of Southern ambiance. Foreshadowing of the identity of the person after the knife is blatant. Events in the history of the knife sound authentic, but the speed with which Perri uncovers its story is improbable. The action of the story covers a long weekend. From knowing only that the knife had been manufactured by a Memphis armory, in two days Perri discovers its entire provenance--she finds a diary that identifies its possible owner, papers of the owner's family giving its history, the family home, and the identity of the person seeking the knife. Real life research just doesn't happen that fast. The conclusive flourish of a hidden treasure is gratuitous.

    I may give the series one more chance, but BURIED ROOTS fails to impress. (C)
     
  10. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,497
    Likes Received:
    90
    LOST AND FOUND is Christie Capps's novella variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2018.

    Visiting the library at Rosings Park, Elizabeth Bennet goes missing. Lady Catherine, assuming she has returned to the parsonage alone (without proper expression gratitude and leave-taking, the impertinent chit!), refuses a search for her. Fitzwilliam Darcy, remembering the location of a hidden passageway at Pemberley, searches the library and is, in turn, entrapped with her. Severely claustrophobic since twelve years old after being buried in an abandoned mine shaft by George Wickham, Darcy suffers an anxiety attack and hyperventilates; Elizabeth comforts and calms him. Waiting for rescue by Colonel Fitzwilliam, they talk, resolve their misunderstandings, declare their feelings, and emerge happily engaged, much to Lady Catherine's fury.

    LOST AND FOUND is a soothing quick read, its only change from the canon Darcy and Elizabeth's time trapped that fosters their honesty and frank discussion. Angst is minimal. Characters are reasonably faithful to the originals. Pleasant enough, but nothing new. (C)
     
  11. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,497
    Likes Received:
    90
    MOONSHADOW MURDER is the fourth book in Rich Curtin's Manny Rivera police procedural series set in the Four Corners region near Moab, Utah. It was published in digital format in 2014.

    When MoonShadow commune resident Sunshine Templeton is found strangled, Deputy Sheriff Manny Rivera investigates her death. Soon thereafter and nearby, local rancher Raymond Stinson, with whom Sunshine had an altercation some weeks before her death, is shot to death. Already upset by mineral exploration drilling on land leased from the Bureau of Land Management, Stinson had forbidden Sunshine to enter "his" property to search for the seeds and stones to make the jewelry she sold. Are the murders connected, or is their proximity merely coincidence? Then Rivera and Dr. Amy Rousseau discover on BLM land a panel of petroglyphs from which several have been removed, a serious violation of federal laws governing Native American artifacts. Have they found the motive for the murders?

    MOONSHADOW MURDER continues Curtin's series in style. He provides personal details and ethical decisions that humanize Rivera. Frustrated working for newly elected Sheriff Denny Campbell, totally inexperienced with rural policing, a micromanaging bully, Rivera does not want to leave Moab. Curtin is skilled in using setting to enrich character: "He felt an uplifting as he took the first few step toward Secret Spire. The track curved it way through rocks and outcroppings, slowly rising toward the huge sandstone dome on top of which the spire stood. There was something relaxing about being alone in this broken, eroded landscape a plants and animals had learned to survive despite the scarcity of water. Maybe it was the clarity about life that came with appreciating the immensity of the universe and the tiny role humanity played within it. In a way, the high desert seemed to underscore the lack of importance of the human race. It put the trouble o a lone deputy into perspective."

    Setting is also of major important in Curtin's plotting. The sparse population of Grand County, its huge size and isolated difficult terrain, create problems in policing that affect every case. I like that forensics play second-fiddle to traditional detective techniques. Curtin plays fair with foreshadowing, which in turn makes for a satisfying conclusion complete with a surprise langniappe. MOONSHADOW MURDER is well-constructed. (A-)
     
  12. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,497
    Likes Received:
    90
    ELIZABETH BENNET'S WEDDING is Olivia Kane's 2018 variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It is available in free or inexpensive digital format.

    A month before the double wedding of daughter Elizabeth to Fitzwilliam Darcy, master of Pemberley, and Jane to Charles Bingley, master of Netherfield, Mrs. Bennet is using the wealth and status of her soon-to-be sons-in-law to enhance her own sense of superiority and entitlement. To maintain peace, her daughters have resigned their wishes to her grandiose plans. Also eager to maintain peace in his family, when Lady Catherine de Bourgh offers to host their wedding at Rosings to be sure it is carried out in the style befitting Darcy of Pemberley, he agrees, even though it means separate ceremonies, changing venues, and moving the date. Is there a reader who doesn't see where this story is going?

    ELIZABETH BENNET'S WEDDING is an interesting extension of the canon, accessibly written, well-edited (a few anachronistic words are not glaring), with only one important character introduced. The personal elements of the Collins subplot are extraneous to the main story line. Darcy's solution to his aunt's plans for his wedding day is neat.

    ~~~SPOILERS~~~

    All that being said, I dislike this story intensely for what Kane does to Elizabeth and Darcy. Spirited, independent, outspoken Elizabeth simply caves to her mother, accepting her inappropriate behavior, her public criticism to all and sundry including shopkeepers, and her total disregard for her daughters' preferences, to keep the peace. She's so concerned to please Darcy that she accepts his decision to move their wedding to Rosings and ignores the disrespect implied for her family. Once there, she never acknowledges the humiliating treatment meted out by Lady Catherine. Lizzy, what became of your spine?

    Darcy is even worse. He's so oblivious to everything except reconciling with his aunt that he makes Mr. Collins look perceptive. To placate Mrs. Bennet, he moved his and Elizabeth's wedding from Pemberley to Meryton, so she can produce the social spectacle of a double wedding, then to placate Lady Catherine, he moves the wedding celebrations to Rosings. "Fitzwilliam Darcy was relieved to be back home at Pemberley. He felt inexplicably light-hearted, as if a terrific burden had been suddenly lifted from him, and he knew in his heart that the amiable reconciliation with his aunt and her generous insistence that she host the wedding was the reason for his good cheer. His aunt had not said the words straight out, but he was confident that she did not hold a grudge against him or Elizabeth any longer. He knew his aunt; when she turned against a soul her heart was as frozen as a water pump in deep-winter. No, whatever animosity she fel toward Elizabeth seemed to be gone." Really? After Elizabeth's arrival at Rosings, he fails to see Lady Catherine's slighting treatment, showing Elizabeth open disrespect, sabotaging her presentation to Kentish society at the wedding ball, and humiliating her by instruction by Rosings' servants in household management. He does not discern his aunt's intent until the late night before their wedding ceremony.

    Elizabeth and Darcy had each experienced Lady Catherine's strictures on heir engagement. Both know her implacable nature and manipulative behavior. Neither canonical character would be taken in by her faux amiability. Kane's characters are milksops, not authentic. (C-/D+)
     
  13. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,497
    Likes Received:
    90
    THE OTTER OF DEATH is the fifth book in Betty Webb's Gunn Zoo series of mysteries featuring keeper Theodora "Teddy" Bentley. It was published in digital format in 2018.

    Sea otters, one of the few non-primate species of tool-users, often carry a rock or other favorite object to crack the shellfish that make up most of their diet. So Teddy is not surprised when wild otter Maureen, who often comes to the Merilee for snacks, turns up with a cell phone. She is, however, surprised to discover on it a selfie of a murder. The phone belongs to Professor Stuart Booth, professor of marine science at Betancourt College, involved with Teddy and two others for a Otter Conservancy count in the Gunn's Landing Slough, crucial to document the effect on the otter population of offshore drilling and toxoplasma gondii, a parasitic feline disease contaminating waterways through flushable litters. Known for charges of sexual harassment of female students for years, Booth had been married to Hannah Betancourt, daughter of Pacific Prime Oil head Miles Stephenson Betancourt IV, neither of whom mourns his death. Trying to stay out of the case, as requested by her fiance San Sebastian County Sheriff Joe Rejas, when friend Lila Conyers, whose life imploded years before when her sexual harassment charges against Booth were dismissed, becomes the prime suspect and Teddy's boss demands information, has she any choice about involving herself?

    I like this series. THE OTTER OF DEATH is up to the standards of its earlier books, with humor and emphasis on Teddy's interaction with the myriad animals of the Gunn Zoo. Her presentation of animals on KGNN's Good Morning, San Sebastian, the latest with ocelot El Capitan, four-foot green iguana Lilliana, and non-releasable bald eagle Samuel is worth the price of the book, as is the wedding at the zoo's venue. Protagonists Teddy and Joe, Teddy's mother Caroline Piper Bentley Mallory Huffgraf Peterson Grissom and her boss Aster Edwina Gunn, are well-developed; Webb includes enough daily life to create believability. Foreshadowing and motivation in the plot are reasonable, though an experienced reader may discern the killer before the reveal.

    I do have a complaint. Webb includes nearly every employee of the Gunn Zoo and every liveaboarder (people like Teddy who live on boats docked in Gunn Landing Harbor), even if they serve no necessary function in the plot. This makes for a long story that in places loses focus. Still, THE OTTER OF DEATH is an enjoyable read. (B+)
     
  14. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,497
    Likes Received:
    90
    THE IMMOVABLE MR TANNER is the fourth book in Jennifer Joy's Meryton Mystery series of variants on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2018.

    Jonathan Tanner, older natural half-brother to Georgiana and Fitzwilliam Darcy, reluctantly agrees to a month's visit with them in London. They insist that he be part of the family. There's also strong mutual attraction between himself and Mrs. Arabella Annesley, Georgiana's beautiful companion. When her brother Ambrose Hardcastle is shot to death through the front window as he's come to Darcy House to warn of great danger to Mrs. Annesley, they are again embroiled in crime, this time against a sociopathic aristocrat.

    THE IMMOVABLE MR. TANNER is more technically thriller than mystery, since any doubt about the identity of the villain is soon resolved. The problem becomes how can he be brought to justice. Part of the conflict is the struggle between Tanner for secrecy and the Darcys' determination to welcome him openly as family. "If the circumstances of his birth were found out... Tanner shuddered at the thought. Scandal and gossip had ruined many a family before, and he refused to allow it when Darcy and Georgiana had proved themselves to be honorable, distinct from their father. Tanner often thought he must have inherited all the negative tendencies of their sire to leave the best for his brother and sister. In his mind, they were practically perfect (though he would die before admitting as much to Darcy. It would only go to his head.)" (8) His perception of the impact of such disclosure seems exaggerated since, during the period, illegitimate offspring for wealthy gentlemen were relatively common.

    Joy strikes a satisfying balance between internal and external conflict. Mrs. Annesley married for love, causing her family's to disown her; having suffered abuse and privation, and widowed after her husband was beaten to death when caught cheating at cards, she doubts both her and Tanner's feelings. Tanner is even more conflicted. Always conscious of the stigma of his bastardy, Tanner considers himself unworthy of Mrs. Annesley and must deal with his own reverse snobbery toward "superiors" whose behavior does not match their breeding. Both are appealing, though the illegitimacy issue is a sharp contast to most other, more modern attitudes. THE IMMOVABLE MR. TANNER is high-quality Austen fan fiction. (A)
     
  15. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,497
    Likes Received:
    90
    THE HAWTHORN VILLA SECRET is the second book in Victoria Prescott's Wynderbury Mystery series featuring Rob Tyler, historian and archivist. It is available in free or inexpensive digital format. I do not find a publication date.

    When he receive a request from Rodney Spencer to research his mother's family, the Vyners, Rob Tyler discovers Spencer's maternal great-grandfather Horace Goswell had been Mayor in 1897, Jubilee Year, when a typhoid epidemic struck Westerbury Decisions taken by the City Council led by Goswell, and by the Westerbury Water Company, of which Goswell was a director, prolonged the outbreak, upping the death toll. In current day politics, Rob and friend Chris Bailey get caught in Keith Hallum's candidacy for a seat on the City Council; neither is impressed with Hallam's program or his minion Simon, though both become suspicious when two rallies are disrupted, one by a fire false alarm and the other by a noxious odor. Both are harassed by teens from the Greenway, Westerbury's blighted council estate, Hallum's primary campaign issue. Then local journalist Kirsty Ford discloses that Hallum is a direct descendant of Dr. Arthur Pickering, the Deputy Medical Officer who detected and organized response to the 1897 typhoid emergency, yet was blamed by many for its severity. How can current events possibly be connected?

    Characterization is good. I like the occasional flash of idealism Chris exhibits and the bit of derring do from Rob, though Rob goes TSTL when he goes into the deserted Hawthorn Villa after a villain who carries a container of hydrochloric acid. Prescott is admirably restrained in her use of returning characters; new characters are individualized, necessary parts of the plot. Motivation for the antagonist seems inadequate. I dislike that sleaze-ball Simon has no family name and is permitted to slink off unpunished. Sense of place is adequate but not outstanding.

    THE HAWTHORN VILLA SECRET twists the usual mystery-from-the-past plot by having the suspected major crimes, murder and attempted murder, occur in 1905, while the most serious current acts are vandalism and assault. Prescott holds readers' attention on the modern situation, including a slight surprise in the reveal; happenings in 1897 and 1905 are more obvious to an experienced reader. Research seems authentic except for the speed with which it's accomplished. I will continue reading the series. (B)
     
  16. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,497
    Likes Received:
    90
    CAROLINE BINGLEY'S PERFECT PLAN is C. A. Miller's novella variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2018.

    Seeing Fitzwilliam Darcy's growing attraction to Elizabeth Bennet and feeling increasingly desperate that her two-year pursuit has not resulted in his proposal of marriage, Caroline Bingley resolves to force the issue. She and sister Louisa Hurst come up with a cunning plan. Caroline stages a faux assault in the Netherfield woods, first saying her attacker had been a stranger; however, she writes good friend Felicity Hallowell, who will be glad to spread gossip, that she'd been molested by Darcy. With rumors spreading throughout London, Bingley points out that Darcy's honor requires him to salvage Caroline's reputation through marriage. How will the accusation affect Darcy's understanding with Elizabeth? Can Colonel Fitzwilliam discover and prove Caroline's falsehoods?

    The premise is interesting, certainly one within Caroline Bingley's canonical character. It is gratifying that her hubris brings her own downfall. Darcy, on the other hand, is oddly passive in the face of Caroline's claims, leaving it up to Colonel Fitzwilliam to discover the origin of the rumors about the compromise. Bingley blows in the wind, believing Caroline's stranger story when the incident occurred, then returning from London determined that Darcy redeem her alleged compromise even if he's not guilty. If Darcy is dishonorable enough to attack Caroline in the first place, why should Bingley assume his integrity will cause their marriage?

    CAROLINE BINGLEY'S PERFECT PLAN seems more an extended summary than a story. It contains little direct action and minimal angst, given the gravity of the central situation. Emotions are told, not felt. Adding two more relationships to the Bennet-Bingley and Bennet-Darcy pairings prevents effective development within the novella length. Some problems escaped editing. Darcy's income is "$10,000 pounds a year." Darcy "exceeded" Mrs. Bennet, when "eluded" or "escaped" or "frustrated" are more appropriate to the context. Plurals and possessives of family names are often incorrectly formed.

    CAROLINE BINGLEY'S PERFECT PLAN promises more than it delivers. (C)
     
  17. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,497
    Likes Received:
    90
    MYSTERIOUS MR. DARCY is one of Monica Fairview's variants on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2018.

    When MYSTERIOUS MR. DARCY opens in October 1814, Fitzwilliam Darcy is recovering from a wound in seclusion at his uncle's estate in Cornwall, back from the Continent where he'd served three years in the army. Consumed by guilt, he's given his cousin Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam management of Pemberley, and he's not seen Georgiana in three years. To lessen her pain at his isolation and because Bingley won't stop badgering him, Darcy agrees to visit Netherfield, relying on use of the modified name John Darcy, and on the relative isolation of Hertfordshire n for concealment. In Meryton, they become involved with the Bennet family, both men falling for Elizabeth Bennet. (Jane is married to a solicitor and living in London.) Complications ensue from Darcy's secrecy, misunderstandings of feelings, Mr. Bennet's sudden illness, and Elizabeth's determination to make a "sensible" marriage if Bingley offers.

    Darcy as fugitive from justice is a novel idea, but its execution is less than stellar. The ambiguity about why Darcy is guilty goes on far too long, though it's not hard to draw an accurate conclusion. While dueling was prohibited by law, trials were not common. Evidence and witnesses in Darcy's twenty-minute 1815 trial lead to his acquittal on a manslaughter charge; they would have done the same three years before. With his resources, it's hard to believe that Darcy did not receive competent legal advice . Fairview touches on but does not much develop the different treatment shown the unknown John Darcy ant that of Darcy of Pemberley. It could have been an enlightening experience.

    Darcy would have been conspicuous as a Cornet at his age, since the rank (lowest grade of commissioned officer) was usually filled by young men, many not yet attained legal majority, their first posting. How he became a commissioned officer is also a significant question. One did not simply enlist as an officer. Commissions were bought before or during training at one of the military academies (most famously, Sandhurst), then sold when the officer left the army. This process created records identifying both purchaser and holder of a commission and that officer's postings, so it's improbable that authorities seeking Darcy would overlook him for three years.

    Some editing problems slipped through. The former mayor of Meryton is called "Sir Lucas." Singular possessive of a name is incorrectly formed. Darcy buys "parchment paper," distinctly different materials related only by both serving as surfaces on which to write. Port is ordered in an inn, but consumed as brandy a few sentences later. Darcy rescues Elizabeth from being crushed by an overloaded, runaway public coach, then thinks of it (in the next paragraph) as a speeding curricle.

    MYSTERIOUS MR. DARCY is readable, but its potential is unrealized. (B)
     
  18. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,497
    Likes Received:
    90
    THE FIRE CARRIER is the fourth book in Jean Hager's Mitch Bushyhead police procedural series. Originally published in 1996, it was reissued in digital format in 2018. Mitch Bushyhead is Chief of Police in Buckskin, Cherokee County, Oklahoma.

    While Buckskin police and officers of surrounding counties deal with multiple thefts of expensive saddles and other horse tack, Henderson Sixkiller escapes from jail, desperate to reach Cherokee County and rescue his sister Jessie Hatch from her violent husband. When Tyler Hatch breaks into the Cherokee Nation Family Clinic where Jessie had been treated after the latest beating, he is enraged, threatening to kill its occupants; Dr. Rhea Vann clubs him in self-defense, driving him away. The next morning, coon hunters discover his body outside Buckskin, in woods where Amos Flycatcher reports the return of the Fire Carrier, a malevolent Cherokee spirit. The cause of Hatch's death is a blow to the base of the skull. Is Dr. Vann responsible? Has Sixkiller caught up with his abusive brother-in-law, or has Hatch's fifteen-year-old son Jason carried out his threat to kill his father to defend his mother? Few outside his family know Hatch's history of violence, but his womanizing, especially among the students at the Job Corps Center he directed, also created enemies. Who most wanted him dead?

    Mitch Bushyhead is an appealing protagonist. Half-Cherokee but reared in Oklahoma City by his white mother, on the job Bushyhead often encounters unfamiliar aspects of Cherokee culture, including a stomp dance: "A group of men in the center of the clearing sang in Cherokee, and others pounded out the rhythm on small skin drums. People came into the circle behind the singers and drummers and the women wearing the shell rattles. They joined hand and moved in the same quick, stomp-slide steps as the women. The hiss of the turtle shells and the singing went on and on, the drums beating in the background, until it began to seem that the rhythm was coming from deep in the ground and entering Mitch's body. It was as though he could feel the earth's heartbeat." A widower with a sixteen-year-old daughter Emily, at home he faces the challenges of single parenthood. He and Emily, as well as the other five members of the Buckskn Police Department (four officers and a dispatcher), are believably individual. Personal interactions and professional activities are realistic.

    Hager's handling of the plot is deft, hiding in plain sight the motive for Hatch's murder, then using it to produce a surprising yet logical conclusion. More than geographic details, Cherokee culture creates the distinct sense of place in THE FIRE CARRIER. Hager integrates this exposition with plot details and characterization so that it does not impede the flow of the story. A satisfying read in a good series. (A-)
     
  19. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,497
    Likes Received:
    90
    CONFOUNDING CAROLINE is the latest to date in Leenie Brown's novella variants on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Copyrighted in 2017, It was released in digital format 24 May 2018,

    Fitzwilliam Darcy is aware of great change in the personality and behavior of his friend Charles Bingley following their removal some months before from Netherfield and Jane Bennet. Darcy, learning from Caroline Bingley that she'd concealed from her brother that she'd refused to accept Jane Bennet's social call, confesses to Bingley his real objection to the relationship--marriage between Jane and Bingley would lead to frequent contact with Elizabeth Bennet, whom Darcy loves but who does not meet his family's criteria to marry. He tells Bingley of Caroline's duplicity and promises to promote his reconciliation with Jane. In turn, Bingley leads Darcy to consider the real-life consequences of his marriage for duty or for love. Darcy chooses love. Thus begins a campaign, devised and carried out with aid from the Gardiners, Colonel Fitzwilliam, Georgiana, and Jane, to change Elizabeth's negative opinion of Darcy and to remove Caroline Bingley as an impediment to both Charles and Darcy's courtships of the Bennet sisters.

    Most of the individuals in CONFOUNDING CAROLINE are believable developments of the canonical characters, though most attitudes are more modern than Regency. It's ironic that Darcy and Bingley, choosing to marry for love themselves, arrange Caroline's compromise and maneuver her into a marriage of convenience. Point of view is primarily Darcy's, with Bingley's secondary. Caroline and Elizabeth are both manipulated, mostly passive.

    Brown makes major changes in Charles Bingley. Bingley is strong, decisive, and fed up with Caroline's attempts to control his life. Her cutting Jane and her scheme to compromise him with Miss Clark lead Bingley to restrict Caroline's activities and to engineer her marriage forthwith. His is the voice of common sense to Darcy about marriage.

    Jane Bennet is even more changed. Brown makes Jane, so often depicted as placid to the point of catatonia, both perceptive and active. When Bingley calls on her at the Gardiners' home, she bluntly asks his intentions. Determined to prevent her interference between Darcy and Elizabeth and not to share a home with Caroline, Jane devises the plan and physically sets up Caroline's compromise.

    CONFOUNDING CAROLINE is one of the Brown's better variants. Recommended highly. (A)
     

Share This Page