Mystery

Review: The Mystery of the Sorrowful Maiden

The Mystery of the Sorrowful Maiden Title: The Mystery of the Sorrowful Maiden
Author: Kate Saunders
Page Count: 324
Publication: December 2021
Series: Laetitia Rood Mystery #3

[Amazon | IndieBound | BN | Find it at your local library]

(Other reviews: Kirkus, The Times, Publisher’s Weekly)

One of the reasons I started this blog was because most review sites, nay 95% of them, tend to give you a re-written summary of the book and maybe a personal thought or two. Rarely happens and I’m surprised when it does. (Also, places that offer “reviews” such as Kirkus, Pub Weekly, and so forth do the same damn thing.)

And it’s disheartening reading those online reviews because surely I must have missed something if I don’t have the same reaction, or even close to the reaction, as other reviewers. (People on Goodreads tend to be more open and forthwith with their thoughts on such things.)

Maybe my taste is that much different? Sometimes it feels like I’m being purposely contrarian to those around me but truly, if I don’t dig into a book, then why bother writing frothy reviews of it, let alone finish it?

Now that that preamble is out of the way, I’ve been in a cozy mystery mood for some time now and this showed up in Netgalley as right up my alley and I took the chance.

Kirkus says,

The fastidious manners, which fit the 19th-century setting, are leavened with enough humor to suit modern tastes.

Are we even reading the same book?

Eh.

I found the plot and pace slow. I read Victorian lit in college and I do not recall works dragging their feet. The mood of The Mystery of the Sorrowful Maiden seems to be on Victorian brand, though a little heavy handed, and the character development was mostly well thought out but I kept waiting for the pace to pick and carry on with the story. It just wasn’t happening. I found myself flipping through my Kindle pages with dry expectations. I felt like I was reading in Jello and there were no marshmallows or canned fruit in it to liven it up.

Goodreads’ reviews indicate that many who are fans of the series who find it charming and droll, which I don’t see but whatever, but they do note that this book isn’t as charming as the first two so it very well could be I picked a wrong place to start. But what I read was enough to note that I probably won’t pick up the first two. Saunders is also known for her historical biographies so that may be on the pile first.

tl;dr Slow paced and not quite as funny as proclaimed, only worthy if you’re a fan of the series and want a bit more.

 

Mystery

Review: The Midnight Hour

Title: The Midnight Hour
Author: Elly Griffiths
Page Count: 352
Publication: December 2021
Series: Brighton Mysteries #6

 

[Amazon | IndieBound | BN | Find it at your local library]

(Other reviews: Publisher’s Weekly)

It’s simply OK.

When you review a digital ARC, it is hoped that the formatting of the file doesn’t take away from the story and that the reviewer is conscious of this and doesn’t use it against the book content.

That’s the idea anyway.

But I cannot help but mentioned the formatting for this book was not that great. Paragraphs were broken up, words were overlapped, book info was sometimes deposited in between the sentences. I’ve published a book on Amazon before and it’s not really that hard to get the formatting set up if you’re willing to put in the time and energy to do it. That a professional publishing house didn’t see fit to do that, yes yes, it’s an ARC, is a bit lazy.

Back to the story.

The Midnight Hour is the sixth installment in the Brighton Mysteries. At this point, the characters are well established and a history has been formed. I give Griffiths points that she was able to fill in the missing pieces and the book can be read as a standalone. That’s often a difficult job to do, why do authors go on forever?, and Griffiths pulls it out quite nicely.

I also felt the twists and turns of the story were strong, but it was the damned formatting that got me flustered and frustrated. I’m trying to enjoy a novel only to be besieged by a mess.

I didn’t see the murderer coming and it wasn’t obvious whodunnit which is also refreshing. The writing was okay, some places Griffiths was strong and other places a bit lackluster. Griffiths mentions in the afterword that she wrote the book during lock down and we all know that we’re not in the best shape of mind so some parts felt a bit desperate. I did enjoy the characters did travel around England which I bet Griffiths was longing to do herself and let her fictional characters do it for her.

I like historical mysteries (especially cozies but this one is close to but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is) and I this this series has a lot of promise. The timing of the publication and writing period may have not been that great. Like I said, the book is OK. Serviceable and gets the job done. Griffiths won an Edgar for previous work so maybe this is a one off?

Griffiths is prolific. One of my libraries has 20 of her books alone so I’m totally up for reading her other work to see if she is all that and a bag of chips.

tl;dr: Serviceable. Worth if if you’re a fan of the series or of Griffiths herself. Printed and formalized Kindle editions won’t have the formatting issues so take that into consideration and my review affected by this as a grain of salt.

Mystery

Review: Murder at Mallowan Hall

Title: Murder at Mallowan Hall
Author: Colleen Cambridge
Page Count: 272
Publication: October 2021
Series: Phyllida Bright Mystery #1

[Amazon | IndieBound | BN | Find it at your local library]

I knew it!

When I reviewed Tomes Scones and Crones, I knew Colleen Cambridge (Colleen Gleason), based on her The Clockwork Scarab, was a good and decent writer. I enjoyed The Clockwork Scarab muchly and was slightly disappointed by Tomes Scones and Crones. It felt half-assed and rushed. Plus the goddamned librarian stereotype even down to the cardigan.

So we’re 1-1 and while I knew I would pick up Stoker & Holmes series again, I wasn’t quite sure with Tomes Scones and Crones. Nevertheless, based upon description alone, I knew I was going to read Murder at Mallowan Hall.

Enjoyed it muchly, I did!

But to be honest, I’m a sucker for pastiches and anything that happens in English country homes. A vague closed room mystery, I had no idea who the killer was until the very end when Phyllida breaks it on down in the vein of Poirot (someone much admired by our detective heroine). A non-traditional cozy mystery, Cambridge (Gleason) lays down a breadcrumb of a story that at times twists unnaturally but not unnecessarily. This book forces you to pay attention to follow along. But at the same time, it’s a very quick engrossing read. While I don’t think you’ll come back to this book, you will be eager to read the follow-ups.

 

Mystery · Paranormal

Review: Tomes Scones and Crones

Title: Tomes Scones and Crones
Author: Colleen Gleason
Page Count: 298
Publication: October 2021
Series: Three Tomes Bookshop #1

[Amazon | IndieBound | BN | Find it at your local library]

As it is the spooky season, my foray into reading witchy books continues.

I read Gleason’s The Clockwork Scarab (the series where Sherlock Holmes’ niece and Bram Stoker’s sister solve crimes), and I recall really liking it but I never went forth to read the sequels. I think most of you reading this get it: too many books and not enough time. By happenstance, an author friend who happens to be friends with Gleason promoted Tomes Scones and Crones on Facebook and once I recognised the name AND that Gleason is a Michigan girl, I got my hands on an arc.

Which brings us to Tomes Scones and Crones which throws in some Macbeth witchy delight coupled with a magical bookshop in an adorable village with adorable villagers along with the hunky police detective located in N. Michigan with an over the hill (48!) librarian as the protagonist. At first thought:The Scottish play is great! I’m an over 40 librarian! I spend half a year living in a small village in N. Michigan. Is Gleason in my brain!?

Maybe.

Tomes Scones and Crones has a lot going on: it’s got a group of punky crone witches, fictional characters that come to life, an adorable village, a beyond dream of a bookshop, a villain that isn’t really scary, and new friends. The premise is great but the execution of some of it not so much.

First, there is the main character who is the over the hill librarian. Gleason was either writing tongue in cheek, which could be a possibility, or she really believed this archetype of a librarian was the real deal. Not gonna lie, sometimes I wanted to shake her because her attitude towards being a librarian was not what 21st century library science is about and it is TOTALLY OKAY TO EAT AND DRINK WHILE READING IN A LIBRARY! Most libraries allow snack and closed drinks to be near books. Second, the reason how Jaqueline lost her job is also a bit sketch and wouldn’t fly in 2021s sensibilities even though the book was written in the 2020s and not the 1950s. Sometimes it was hard to tell. Third, the mystery wasn’t really satisfying. And the throw in of another character acting a part of the plot felt a bit gratuitous and half-haphazard as if Gleason came up to a point and needed some filler for the story.

You may be thinking, is there anything to like about this book? Of course! The punky crone witches are a lot of fun, the bookstore premise sounded amazing, and the new burgeoning relationship between Jacqueline and her new friends seemed real. I loved how Gleason stylized the yoga instructor and the baker as real people and not characters. The flirt flirt romance with the Thor like police detective wasn’t so bad either.

Taken as a whole, the book IS a fun frothy and quick read and while Gleason has many books under her belt, I’m giving her some leeway on this series because it is a new series and she’s still ironing the kinks out. I do recall that with The Clockwork Scarab, I remember feeling a bit “quois?” about some of the scenes but I loved the idea so much I stopped overthinking and let it just go.

I’ll do the same for the Three Tomes Bookshop series as book two is coming out in the spring. There is a wonderful world to play in, like I said, Gleason has set up some great building blocks now it is only time before she truly shines.