The Vanishing of Dr. Winter by L.B. Hathaway

vanishA feisty sleuth digs into a wartime disappearance for a woman she hated.

This is my 4th Posie Parker (a feisty private detective in the 1920’s). L.B. Hathaway has very readable books that are easy to get through in a few hours.

Posie is a consistently developed character. The premise is fantastic – this one about a doctor presumed dead in the war who is later spotted in Oxford. Having the person who hires Posie turn out to be someone she hated and who also hated her was an excellent twist.

I enjoyed the puzzle and the clues, although I was very surprised to hear for the first time that Posie has a brother who was never mentioned in the previous 3 books. The plot line of the missing doctor happened to help her connect with her dead brother.

The romantic angle is promising, I don’t know how it continues to grow despite the fact that we almost never see Posie and Alaric together. In the brief glimpses he maintains his allure – gorgeous, good-hearted and always somewhere else.

I was surprised by the addition of a real ghost but it fit into the motif of the book (ghosts of the war).

I greatly admire L.B. Hathaway and look forward to the next book!

The previous books are Murder Offstage, The Tomb of the Honeybee and Murder at Maypole Manor.

Murder at Maypole Manor by L.B. Hathaway

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A cozy crime mingles with espionage in a classic isolated mansion.

I’ve been following Posie Parker (a feisty private detective in the 1920’s) along her adventures with pleasure, in Murder Offstage and The Tomb of the Honey Bee.

Posie continues to be a consistent, well-vocalized character who pines for her adventurous lover. But luckily for us that doesn’t stop her also looking for bad guys and generally being feisty.

This was one of my favourite settings, the classic mansion in a snow storm with exotic characters and at least one person who is lying in a way that cannot be verified while they’re cut off from everything. The characters were distinct enough to follow – film stars, artists, peers, agents and even a clairvoyant.

I enjoyed the puzzle and the various clues – there are a lot of elements for you to solve and consider in this book!

The storyline with Posie’s insane, obsessive and immensely rich criminal stalker was the least intriguing piece for me. As an arch-nemesis he provides a foil for Posie, but I’m not a huge fan of the one that wants to marry her and finds her so irresistible that he won’t let go.

This continues to be a very enjoyable series!

The Tomb of the Honey Bee by L.B. Hathaway

honeybeeA feisty 1920s sleuth solving a crime through glamourous London, Sicily and Egypt.

Posie is a feisty private detective in 1920’s London. She plunges dangerously into situations without always thinking it through and they often go awry, but she makes it up in pluck.

In book #2, Posie is in the throws of heartache and finds herself helping a ravishing and broke peer, Violet, whose explorer brother has gone missing. And she’s being paid in extraordinarily expensive honey. Potential suspects include the other brother, a drinking wastrel of money, his wealthy and jealous wife, a highly suspicious valet and a unrequited-love-crazy mystery writer.

A great setup and the book’s highlight is Posie’s international jetsetting to interesting places. The killer here is a different kind of crazy ruthless and manages to do a fair amount of destruction for a comparative amateur.

An enjoyable series and I’m distinctly interested in the next books!

A Useful Woman by Darcie Wilde

darcie.jpgA compelling Regency heroine solves the murder of a young man.

This is a deeply immersive mystery set in Regency London. The intelligent heroine Rosalind is demure yet spirited, her life of privilege disrupted by her father’s financial crimes.

There’s a lot of mystery hinted at with her sister and father vanished, and her mother basically gone over the deep end. Her position is as a “useful” woman who understands and helps smooth over social functions with her knowledge of people and position, yet is too lowly to attend many functions.

The mystery plot is well done. Rosalind finds a man’s body in a privileged ballroom. She doesn’t start out as a sleuth, but when the man’s family asks for her help she ends up investigating. The characters are well-developed and Rosalind is torn by all sorts of loyalties and conflicts. She sometimes stumbles along the way, but always with increasing skill and urgency. The romantic angle is well-written but a little over the top at times.

An immersive book that fans of Jane Austen and cozy crime will appreciate!

30-day e-book loan courtesy of NetGalley.

The White Cottage Mystery by Margery Allingham

whiteAn old-fashioned and twisty British crime classic.

This is the first mystery novel (and second novel) for a brilliant mystery writer. It is surprisingly well put together for such an early effort. It doesn’t feature her charming Albert Campion, but instead an avuncular older detective W.T. and his Watson-like son Jerry. The story is more old-fashioned than her others, it reminds me rather of Agatha Christie’s shorter stories but it is novella length.

W.T. is called in on a case of murder – a neighbor has wandered into another man’s house and been shot. From the start it becomes clear that everyone absolutely hates the man and has a motive. The man is even crueler than the average unlikable victim, and a kind of blackmailer who enjoys torturing his victims rather than making money from it.

The suspects are all unique. In the house we find the brimstone and fervour of the servant Estah, the nervous and charming Mrs. Christensen with her little daughter, her feisty sister, and the handicapped war hero husband Mr. Christensen. In the dead man’s household we have the grimy, worm-like Lacy and the mysteriously vanished Mr. Cellini. All have excellent motives and in some cases quite good alibis.

Moving between England and France, the novel does a good job setting the scene without a lot of details. W.T. is very kindly and intelligent, he presses for the truth. His son Jerry is much more the muscle-bound Watson or Hastings, an invaluable help to W.T. but a victim of his own emotions. (Ah, always Hastings you fall for the auburn haired girls!)

The plot is a simple one but continues to open up confusing little twists and sends you scurrying from one suspect to another along with W.T.  I did not predict the ending but like any classic Golden Age novel, it provides an ah-ha moment.

30-day e-book loan courtesy of NetGalley.

The Female Detective by Andrew Forrester

cover87931-medium (1)A historically significant classic crime book featuring an early female sleuth. 

Published by the fabulous Poisoned Pen PressThe Female Detective is a great find for anyone interested in the history of crime fiction. Originally published in 1864, I’ve heard it claimed this is the first or one of the first female detective books.

The main protagonist is a sort of female Sherlock Holmes who is vastly independent and courageous for the era.

She holds to truth and justice at whatever the cost – even to an evil old man regaining his fortune from the kindest of people.

I had a hard time connecting to her emotionally but as a beginning for the long line of female detectives this is a classic work.

30-day e-book loan courtesy of NetGalley.

Murder Offstage by LB Hathaway

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An enjoyable and fun debut featuring a 1920s sleuth and a cursed jewel.

Posie is a feisty private detective in 1920’s London with a gorgeous male assistant who thankfully doesn’t do all the dirty work. She plunges dangerously into situations without always thinking it through and they often go awry, but she makes it up in pluck.

The characters all stand out, which is a feat when juggling so many. The friend and ditzy young heir who is accused of murder (think Freddie Threepwood from Wodehouse’s ‘Leave it to Psmith’) has in fact fallen prey to a stunning femme fatale (think ‘Maltese Falcon’). Inspector Lovelace is the smart, helpful one and Inspector Oates is the grumpy, don’t-tell-me-how-to-do-things one, recognizable from many a Marple. The mastermind behind it all comes across as very Moriarty.

The setting is reasonably developed, picturesque without being over the top and immerses you in London. Every once in a while it lacks detail that would plant me more firmly in the era but overall it did the job well.

There were plenty of twists and turns as to how Posie would navigate her way through, although seasoned readers may be able to guess some pieces earlier.

A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd

dutyAn elegantly written romantic mystery with a surprisingly gruesome plot.

A Duty to the Dead was quick to read and immersed you instantly into the setting. It had many lovely and quotable passages. I was surprised by how dark the plot was, it featured multiple violent incidents against young children by authority figures.

The main character is Bess, a war nurse who was believably courageous and intelligent with a love of justice from her upbringing in India. She reminds me a lot of Anne Perry’s Charlotte Pitt.

After a deathbed request from a young soldier she nursed, Bess eventually goes to his family. She finds his mother and step-father along with two brothers. Arthur’s dying words of ‘Peregrine didn’t do it, mother must be told‘ ought to be good news – but it’s clear that the family isn’t at all pleased.

After learning Peregrine is in an insane asylum, Bess is soon caught up in the seemingly unrelated death of a young maid when the boys were kids and a local soldier who is suffering from PTSD. She continues to persevere even as more people are murdered and her life is threatened.

I’ll definitely give the next book a try, but I intend to keep an eye out for the violence level.

Mr. Bazalgette’s Agent by Leonard Merrick

L_ISBN_9780712357029A sparkling tale of the first lady detective in England, brought back to print by the British Library.

This amusing story was first published in 1888. Ms. Miriam Lea is an engaging and delightful narrator. She is surprisingly sassy given that she is a woman in the late 1800s. Despite being down on her luck, she manages to secure a position as a detective for an agency.

She is soon travelling through the continent and headed to the diamond mines of South Africa to pursue an embezzler. There are many twists and turns in the case but I found myself both amused and a little disappointed by the ending. I suppose it was 1888 after all.

The book is written in diary form, which I usually detest but in this case it worked out quite well and made for a very fast read.

Strangely, Leonard Merrick never wrote another detective novel and went on to buy and destroy all the copies he could find. “It’s a terrible book. It’s the worst thing I ever wrote. I bought them all up and destroyed them. You can’t find any.”

Thankfully he didn’t get quite all of them.