Tag Archives: mystery

Review of The Affair of the Mysterious Letter, by Alexis Hall

Book cover of The Affair of the Mysterious Letter

I pre-ordered a copy of Alexis Hall‘s The Affair of the Mysterious Letter.

Description from Goodreads:

Upon returning to the city of Khelathra-Ven after five years fighting a war in another universe, Captain John Wyndham finds himself looking for somewhere to live, and expediency forces him to take lodgings at 221b Martyrs Walk. His new housemate is Ms. Shaharazad Haas, a consulting sorceress of mercurial temperament and dark reputation.

When Ms. Haas is enlisted to solve a case of blackmail against one of her former lovers, Miss Eirene Viola, Captain Wyndham finds himself drawn into a mystery that leads him from the salons of the literary set to the drowned back-alleys of Ven and even to a prison cell in lost Carcosa. Along the way he is beset by criminals, menaced by pirates, molested by vampires, almost devoured by mad gods, and called upon to punch a shark. 

But the further the companions go in pursuit of the elusive blackmailer, the more impossible the case appears. Then again, in Khelathra-Ven reality is flexible, and the impossible is Ms. Haas’ stock-in-trade. 

Review:

This book came to me challenged. It simply had so much to live up to. Alexis Hall is one of my favorite authors. But more importantly, several years ago I came across a snippet they’d written that has haunted me ever since. I don’t remember if it was a piece of their then WIP or a standalone scene that had just come to them. But either way, it stuck with me and I’VE WANTED THAT STORY ever since. When I read the synopsis for The Affair of the Mysterious Letter, I desperately hoped this was the story that scrap of writing fit into. And if my memory of that scene serves, I think it is.

The challenge for The Affair of the Mysterious Letter, of course, is how can reality possibly stand up to something imagine by another (however vaguely) for years? In some ways it accomplishes this task admirably, in others it was me who posed an impediment to my own enjoyment.

John is everything I could want in a puritanic Watson- esque hero. Ms. Haas is everything I could hope for in a cryptic, sorcerous Holmes. Hall’s writing is crisp as ever, the story engaging, and (as so many others have said) the story is marvelously queer. However, I struggled with the frequent breaks in the narrative in which John attempted discourse with the reader (especially in the beginning) and the Lovecraftian world full of reality bending gods was at times hard to pin down. (On a side note, I kept waiting for Piccadilly and Co. to make a cameo. I really hope there wasn’t one that I missed. LOL)

All in all, however, once I’d gotten used to the pace, I truly enjoyed this book. Everything about John Wyndham is lovable and 100% hope I sensed a future romance in the works for him. I ship him and [deleted to avoid spoiler] hard core. I don’t know if Hall plans more books in this series. But I’d look forward to reading them if there are more.

Review of Girl Waits With Gun/Lady Cop Makes Trouble, by Amy Stewart

I won copies of book 1 & 2 of the Kopp Sisters series, Girl Waits With Gun and Lady Cop Makes Trouble (by Amy Stewart), through Reading Group Choices.

Description of Girl Waits With Gun:

Constance Kopp doesn’t quite fit the mold. She towers over most men, has no interest in marriage or domestic affairs, and has been isolated from the world since a family secret sent her and her sisters into hiding fifteen years ago. One day a belligerent and powerful silk factory owner runs down their buggy, and a dispute over damages turns into a war of bricks, bullets, and threats as he unleashes his gang on their family farm. When the sheriff enlists her help in convicting the men, Constance is forced to confront her past and defend her family — and she does it in a way that few women of 1914 would have dared.  

Review:

I started this not really knowing what to expect, but with high hopes. I’m happy to say they were sustained. Stewart’s writing is snappy and quite readable. Plus, I simply appreciated so very much about the character Constance. I loved that she’s a woman in her mid-thirties, a ‘substantial’ woman with a past, and not even willing to pretend to the frailties expected of women of the time. Further, her sister Norma is the anti-social introvert we all know and love somewhere in our lives, while Fleurette added some levity. I also liked that the book resisted falling into a romance, even if the elements are there. All in all, I think the best way to tell you how much I liked this book is to say that I read it AND HALF OF BOOK TWO in one day. To say I devoured them would be an understatement.

Description of Lady Cop Makes Trouble:

After besting (and arresting) a ruthless silk factory owner and his gang of thugs in Girl Waits with Gun, Constance Kopp became one of the nation’s first deputy sheriffs. She’s proven that she can’t be deterred, evaded, or outrun. But when the wiles of a German-speaking con man threaten her position and her hopes for this new life, and endanger the honorable Sheriff Heath, Constance may not be able to make things right. 

Lady Cop Makes Trouble sets Constance loose on the streets of New York City and New Jersey–tracking down victims, trailing leads, and making friends with girl reporters and lawyers at a hotel for women. Cheering her on, and goading her, are her sisters Norma and Fleurette–that is, when they aren’t training pigeons for the war effort or fanning dreams of a life on the stage. 

Review:

While I didn’t love this book quite as much as the first, I still greatly enjoyed it. The one thing holding me back was that Constance really pushed her luck and repeatedly disobeyed orders in this one and heroes/heroines that get away with what other characters wouldn’t is one of my pet peeves in books. Beyond that however, I continued to love Constance as a character, really liked seeing Norma start to step out of her shell and grow, and I was happy to see the Sheriff solidified into and even more solid character too. I look forward to continuing the series.

Review of Murder in the Locked Library (Book Retreat Mysteries #4), by Ellery Adams

I won a paperback copy of Ellery AdamsMurder in the Locked Library through Goodreads.

Description:

Welcome to Storyton Hall, Virginia, where book lovers travel from near and far to enjoy the singular comforts of the Agatha Christie Tea Room, where they can discuss the merits of their favorite authors no matter how deadly the topic . . . 

With her twins, Fitzgerald and Hemingway, back in school, Jane Steward can finally focus on her work again—managing Storyton Hall, and breaking ground on the resort’s latest attraction: a luxurious, relaxing spa named in honor of Walt Whitman. But when the earth is dug up to start laying the spa’s foundation, something else comes to the surface—a collection of unusual bones and the ragged remnants of a very old book. The attendees of the Rare Book Conference are eager to assist Jane with this unexpected historical mystery—until a visitor meets an untimely end in the Henry James Library. As the questions—and suspects—start stacking up, Jane will have to uncover a killer before more unhappy endings ensue . . .

Review:

A book-themed murder mystery, heck yeah, I expected to love this. But honestly I just didn’t. It wasn’t bad, but I also wasn’t impressed. Jane is supposed to be the guardian of a trove of dangerous books and the leader of a secret society, complete with martial guards and lifelong legacies, etc. But I never felt the gravitas of it AT ALL. This is very much a cozy mystery and that just doesn’t fit what the author was trying to create. 

What’s more there is A LOT of descriptions. In fact, I think if you took all the superfluous descriptions out, this would be about a 60 page book. Not a lot actually happens. And honestly, since so many of the descriptions are about book-themed decorations, or cakes, or food, it all just eventually felt like author wish fulfillment. I’m very much a bibliophile, but eventually it started to just feel pretentious. These descriptions did a lot more to stall the plot, than progress it, in my opinion. 

It is also one of those mysteries where the characters spend 75% of the book trying to solve it, and then the villain does something drastic and gives themselves away (with a bit of monologuing along the way), such that the heroine doesn’t actually solve the mystery. It solves itself. 

This is book four in a series. So, I’m guessing some people must like this style of story telling a lot more than me. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be a whole series. This one is readable, even if you haven’t read the first three (like me). You feel the lack of those first books, a few things aren’t explained (such as what exactly a Fin is), but you figure them out. And there is a subplot about a missing boyfriend that is obviously a carryover from a previous book and lead-in to a next. But none of it prevents you understanding the events of this one. 

It’s not all bad. I did like the characters and the writing is perfectly readable. I think it’s just a little too Dan Brown meets Mrs. Marple for my tastes.