Category Archives: Mystery

Death and the Courtesan (Arabella Beaumont Mystery #1) by Pamela Christie

Unique light hearted bawdy entertainment


Death and the Courtesan (Arabella Beaumont Mystery #1) by Pamela Christie
Kensington Mystery, June 2013, $15.00
Paperback 229pp
Historical Romance/Somewhat inspirational
Review copy provided by the publisher for review in the August 2013 Historical Novel Society magazine
Burton Book Review Rating:


Pamela Christie’s sparkling historical mystery goes beyond the modest drawing rooms of Regency London in the company of the city’s most esteemed and scandalous courtesan…


Since the age of sixteen, Arabella Beaumont has been happily employed as a highly paid woman of pleasure. True, respectable ladies of the ton would never deign to call at Lustings, her delightful home. Then again, Arabella has no desire to make dreary small talk and sip tea when she could be enjoying the company of amusing, intelligent, and extremely generous gentlemen.


But while Arabella’s admirers are legion, she also has enemies. A paper knife stolen during one of her salons was discovered near the body of a former rival. Arabella was entertaining her wealthy benefactor on the night of the murder, but the engaged duke can’t provide the alibi she desperately needs. It falls to Arabella and her resourceful sister, Belinda, to clear her good—or at least innocent—name. Utilizing all the talents in her arsenal, the irrepressible Miss Beaumont will endeavor to catch the real culprit, before the hangman catches up to her…

It’s the flamboyant age of the Regency, where Miss Arabella Beaumont makes her living as a courtesan offering her physical wares to very rich fellows. With witty banter such as how size matters relating to ribbons for condoms, a story unfolds of how Arabella seeks to clear her name of murder. Her favorite Duke assures the authorities of her cooperation therefore she is free to roam and investigate at whim, thus introducing the reader to many characters.

The writing is drenched with sexual innuendo as an attempt at humor or charm, but the intrusive narrator who occasionally addresses the reader lacks the charm intended. Sadly, the mystery takes a back burner as Arabella struts around town telling stories, until finally the point of the novel reemerges with the final scenes. The text includes some archaic words such as clew, shew and chuse but the tone might be right for those desiring unique and lighthearted entertainment.

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2 Comments

Filed under #histnov, 2013 Releases, 2013 Review, Mystery

The Orphanmaster by Jean Zimmerman

50% too strange for me and the other 50% completely epic

The Orphanmaster by Jean Zimmerman
Viking Adult, June 19, 2012
Hardcover 432 pages
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you (I think)
Burton Book Review Rating:

From a debut novelist, a gripping historical thriller and rousing love story set in seventeenth-century Manhattan


It’s 1663 in the tiny, hardscrabble Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, now present-day southern Manhattan. Orphan children are going missing, and among those looking into the mysterious state of affairs are a quick-witted twenty-two-year-old trader, Blandine von Couvering, herself an orphan, and a dashing British spy named Edward Drummond.
Suspects abound, including the governor’s wealthy nephew, a green-eyed aristocrat with decadent tastes; an Algonquin trapper who may be possessed by a demon that turns people into cannibals; and the colony’s own corrupt and conflicted orphanmaster. Both the search for the killer and Edward and Blandine’s newfound romance are endangered, however, when Blandine is accused of being a witch and Edward is sentenced to hang for espionage. Meanwhile, war looms as the English king plans to wrest control of the colony.

This “gripping historical thriller” didn’t begin to interest me until after about two hundred pages in. I was confused and disgusted for the first half of this novel as the author attempted literary prowess with the shock value feature, and I was very close to setting it aside. It was only the reviews of other bloggers that pulled me through, as those who had stuck with it had seemed to love it. And there were others who stuck with it and didn’t love it either. As a whole, I would say the novel was pretty good, if you could sift through the minutia of the first half.

The beginning was the major hurdle, as it introduced a slew of characters who merely promised an intriguing story. The onslaught of initial characters wreaked havoc on my attention span, even if most were not too important in the long run, but trying to keep a tally of who was who in the world of New Amsterdam was proving to be a daunting task. And underneath them all, we had to discern between who was good and who was evil. But still, it was not what I would call a character-driven story because there were so many other intrinsic parts to this novel.

The first half of the novel plodded slowly along as I slowly began to piece together a semblance of a plot, though it was so painstakingly slow I wondered what the real plot was. Was it about Blandine the girl who bested men at the trade of trading and her romantic life, or was it about the mad psycho killer who ate orphans? (It was about both, of course). There was commentary throughout the novel, perhaps attempting philosophical debate within the story that smacked of wasted space as if to fill up pages (or was this the literary prowess?). I could not help but feel for the first hundred or so pages a sense of nothingness except for the wickedness that was portrayed, as the exact stage of the plot was still at the same stage as the very beginning (145 pages in). As I tried to ignore the grotesque images that predominated the story, I meandered through these lives of various characters where it always seemed like we were going two steps back with each step forward. The orphanmaster himself was a mixture of good and bad, and we wonder about him throughout the entirety of the story. He is indeed the glue that holds it all together, hence the title.

Some of the shock factor had to do with this being a ‘thriller’ and the theme of insatiable cannibalism. There was indeed a flesh-eating monster/man/something targeting orphans who were brought to the New World with promise of a new life. But this novel is not for a vegan, or for the faint of heart/queasy stomach. From mentions of human bones throughout the story -of the slaughtered orphans- we also have the underlying theme of a painted beast getting ready for his next slaughter, as well as various intermittent images thrown in (for that over the top thrill factor I suppose) such as a young boy generating income in allowing others a peek at a prize possession: a jar containing a miscarried fetus.

And then, we get to the last quarter of the novel and things are finally moving along – and actually occurring.

Finally we are immersed in the history of New Amsterdam (Manhattan) and we understand more of the concept of living there in the 1660’s with the convergence of Dutch settlers, Indians, Africans and the English. I loved the historical context, and the details of the era during the novel. The author also started some chapters with several sentences of what else was going on in the world outside of New Amsterdam, from sea to shining sea. When I was finally able to appreciate the novel, I found myself barreling towards the conclusion with enthusiasm, staying up way past my bedtime to finish it. After all this, was the redeeming last quarter of the novel worth it? For those who enjoy the Stephen King factor with their historical fiction, this would be just the thing. I certainly will not be forgetting this one for a long time.

11 Comments

Filed under 17th Century, 2012 Releases, 2012 Review, Mystery, Thriller

Illusion by Frank Peretti (Giveaway & Review)

Spellbinding mix of Science, Spirit, Afterlife, Thriller!

Illusion by Frank Peretti
Howard Books, March 6, 2012
Hardcover 512 pages
Review copy generously received from the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:LOVED!

Dane and Mandy, a popular magic act for forty years, are tragically separated by a car wreck that claims Mandy’s life—or so everyone thinks. Even as Dane mourns and tries to rebuild his life without her, Mandy, supposedly dead, awakes in the present as the nineteen-year-old she was in 1970. Distraught and disoriented in what to her is the future, she is confined to a mental ward until she discovers a magical ability to pass invisibly through time and space to escape. Alone in a strange world, she uses her mysterious powers to eke out a living, performing magic on the streets and in a quaint coffee shop.
Hoping to discover an exciting new talent, Dane ventures into the coffee shop and is transfixed by the magic he sees, illusions that even he, a seasoned professional, cannot explain. But more than anything, he is emotionally devastated by this teenager who has never met him, doesn’t know him, is certainly not in love with him, but is in every respect identical to the young beauty he first met and married some forty years earlier.
They begin a furtive relationship as mentor and protégée, but even as Dane tries to sort out who she really is and she tries to understand why she is drawn to him, they are watched by secretive interests who not only possess the answers to Mandy’s powers and misplacement in time but also the roguish ability to decide what will become of her.
Frank Peretti has crafted a rich, rewarding story of love and life, loss and restoration, full of twists and mystery. Exceptionally well written, Illusion will soon prove another Peretti classic.

Peretti’s marketing team had done a stellar job promoting this novel on Facebook, and I read an excerpt there which had me hooked. I have rarely every read samples or excerpts in their entirety before, but this one was good. When I finally got around to reading it, I really had no idea what to expect, even after the first chapter.

Married and professionally successful in the magic business for many years, Dane and Mandy Collins are in a horrific car accident which leaves only one alive. Sort of. Dane survived, and continues his grieving process in Mandy’s hometown in a new house they were supposed to live in together. Soon enough, he meets up with the alter ego of Mandy. Going by Eloise, she is a young woman thinking she should be in the hippy 70’s, but it’s really 2010. When Dane meets Eloise, there is a connection, but neither one of them realizes the magnitude of it. Could it really be Mandy, reincarnated so to speak, as her former self at age nineteen?

Enter Corporal James Dose. Screeching tires sound effect because I really wanted him to go away since he just sort of inserted himself into the story which was gearing up towards love lost and found… now we have some sort of spygate/terrorist cell thing out of nowhere. Turns out, he is just one of a few of the ripple effect Eloise’s sudden appearance causes.

Sixty year old Dane is grieving for his wife Mandy, and when Eloise walks up to his front door, he knows something crazy (but magical?) is going on. Convincing himself that Eloise is Mandy’s former younger self/spirit doesn’t take much. But Eloise doesn’t know what’s going on either, not does she know where she fits in the universe. It turns out there are many timelines, and Eloise is just one of them. And how is Eloise doing all these fantastic magic tricks, wowing everyone she sees? And who is she, and where did she come from? Enter a few mad scientists, trickery, deceit and a love that surpasses all odds, and you’ve got yourself a story like no other. I completely fell in love with Dane and Mandy, and her doves, and his loyalty and willingness to believe in the impossible.

I need to mention that when books fall into a paranormal or timeslip category, I don’t read any further. If you read this review and feel like it something that you wouldn’t normally enjoy, you might very well could be wrong. This was an awesome story for me well deserving of its five stars, even though it may not be something I would usually read. There is a Christian theme and a thriller theme, all blending seamlessly with this undying love for a spouse. Packed with fantastic storytelling, Frank Peretti lives up to his good name. Illusion is a bit of a magic show in itself: mystery, thriller, spirituality, romance.. and as Mandy/Eloise say to each other, “You are in for a ride!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~GIVEAWAY!!!!!!!!!~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I have one new ARC to give away, courtesy of the publisher’s marketing team (thank you!).
To enter for your very own magical copy….please follow the Burton Book Review and comment here with your email address.

MANDATORY:

Follow this blog via Google reader/GFC whatever it’s called these days

Extra Entries to those who Tweet or Facebook this post! Thanks!
 Open only to USA residents, ends April 22, 2012.

For another chance, go enter the giveaway being held at the Calico Critic!

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Filed under 2012 Releases, 2012 Review, Frank Peretti, Inspirational, Mystery, Thriller

Review: Edge of Dark Water by Joe R. Lansdale

Edge of Dark Water by Joe R. Lansdale
Mulholland Books, March 25, 2012
Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
304 pages Hardcover
978-0316188432
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating::Creepiest 4.5 Stars EVER

Mark Twain meets classic Stephen King–a bold new direction for widely acclaimed Edgar Award winner Joe R. Lansdale.

May Lynn was once a pretty girl who dreamed of becoming a Hollywood star. Now she’s dead, her body dredged up from the Sabine River.

Sue Ellen, May Lynn’s strong-willed teenage friend, sets out to dig up May Lynn’s body, burn it to ash, and take those ashes to Hollywood to spread around. If May Lynn can’t become a star, then at least her ashes will end up in the land of her dreams.

Along with her friends Terry and Jinx and her alcoholic mother, Sue Ellen steals a raft and heads downriver to carry May Lynn’s remains to Hollywood.

Only problem is, Sue Ellen has some stolen money that her enemies will do anything to get back. And what looks like a prime opportunity to escape from a worthless life will instead lead to disastrous consequences. In the end, Sue Ellen will learn a harsh lesson on just how hard growing up can really be.

Oh my creepiness. This is a crazy fun story in a sick kind of way – and if you go for that sort of thing, this is absolutely awesome. It’s a Stephen King macabre style of a tale that doesn’t let you sleep once you get past the initial set up. I admit, since this is not my normal sort of thing the last few years, I was a bit taken aback for the first fifty pages or so. What we’ve got here are themes of abuse and poverty set in East Texas somewhere circa the Depression and then a whole lot of Scary Sh*t.

A thriller being what it is, I can’t really give out too much of the story because you’ll be thrilled for yourself once you get your trembling hands on this one. But I will tell you it is the story of some teenagers who set out on the murky Sabine River escaping their cruddy lives (so they think) to head out to California to bury their murdered friend May Lynn. The narrator’s speech of Sue Ellen was a bit rough to get used to, but in those days she didn’t get much of an education. I was bothered by the tone of the book simply because of the abusive/violent culture that I had to get my head wrapped around. Once I did that, I was totally scared speechless and had to keep reading to see which evil would find them first: the evil enigma of the legendary Skunk the murderous human tracker or Sue Ellen’s crazy family folk with the crooked lawman.

Along for the journey with Sue Ellen are friends Terry and Jinx (and May Lynn’s ashes and a bunch of money). Terry, “a sissy boy”, holds them all together. And Jinx was the “colored girl” who sure had some colorful thoughts that she had no reason to hold back. I even found myself laughing out loud at Jinx. Add in the crazy folk chasing them, and we’ve got ourselves a page turner. I have a new found respect for lard cans. Slipped in throughout are revelations of faith, death and family bonds. Somehow, I loved it. Stomach twisting kind of love, that is.

2 Comments

Filed under 2012 Releases, 2012 Review, Mystery, Thriller

Review: The Gilded Shroud (Lady Fan Mysteries #1) by Elizabeth Bailey

The Gilded Shroud (Lady Fan Mysteries #1) by Elizabeth Bailey
Berkley Trade September 6, 2011
Paperback 368 pages
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:

First in a new series that has the perfect mix of Regency murder and mystery.
When the marchioness is found murdered at Polbrook mansion, the Dowager Lady Polbrook’s new companion, Ottilia Draycott, finds herself in a house of strangers and every one of them a suspect. Only she can unmask and outwit a desperate killer and keep a Polbrook family secret buried.

Ottilia Draycott finds herself in a rare situation first day on the job as a companion. She supposed she would be bored to death when taking on the task of amusing the Dowager, but it turns out she is investigating a death the first day on the job. Not one to shy from others, Ottilia immediately forges herself into the family dramas and attempts to become a private detective of sorts. The Dowager’s daughter-in-law is murdered in her bed, and her son the Missing Marquis is the prime suspect. The other son is Francis, affectionately call Fan-Fan, who runs the Hanover House, and encourages Ottilia’s interference with curiousity. Of course we wonder if theirs’ will be a love match in the making since Ottilia keeps flushing at Fan’s smiles.

There is a limited cast of characters, despite the many servants, thus the whodunit was plausible to be this one person from the start, but I hadn’t totally pinned it on one person till the end. Yet the whole plot of going about uncovering the clues by Ottilia was witty and entertaining, as the author has a fluid writing style that reads quite well. The life of the party was not supposed to be the Dowager, but the old lady was amusing as well as the relationship she had with others. The family was an interesting odd bunch, and the fact this is book one in a new mystery series excites me to know that I can visit these characters again.

This historical mystery would be entertaining for those who like Georgette Heyer’s mysteries. The tone is a bit different than that of the more antiquated Heyer, but is still a very enjoyable Pre-Regency-style read. With fluent writing and a fabulous ending, author Elizabeth Bailey is sure to have a hit mystery series on her clever hands.

1 Comment

Filed under 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews, Mystery, Regency

Review: The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma

The Map of Time: A Novel by Felix J. Palma
Hardcover: 611 pages
Publisher: Atria Books; Reprint edition (June 28, 2011)
ISBN-13: 978-1439167397
Review copy provided by Atria, with many, many thanks!
Burton Book Review Rating:Fabulous.

THE PHENOMENAL INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER
Set in Victorian London with characters real and imagined, The Map of Time boasts a triple-play of intertwined plots in which a skeptical H.G. Wells is called upon to investigate purported incidents of time travel and thereby save the lives of an aristocrat in love with a murdered prostitute from the past; of a woman bent on fleeing the strictures of Victorian society; and of his very own wife, who may have become a pawn in a 4th-dimensional plot to murder the authors of Dracula, The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds, in order to alter their identities and steal their fictional creations.  
But, what happens if we change history?  Felix J. Palma raises such questions in The Map of Time. Mingling fictional characters with real ones, Palma weaves a historical fantasy as imaginative as it is exciting, a story full of love and adventure that also pays homage to the roots of science fiction while transporting its readers to a fascinating Victorian London for their own taste of time travel. 
I’ve always been a non-conformist. So, there are times when books from Oprah’s Must-Have list immediately get ignored by me, just because. (Not that this one is on it.. because does Oprah even do that anymore?) I have seen The Map of Time getting some attention here and there, and I must admit that The Map of Time is worthy of whatever accolades come its way. There are quite a few (deserving) gushy blurbs on this book, such as:
“Strange and wonderful. Magical and smart.”~M.J. Rose
“Singularly inventive, luscious story with a core of pure, unsettling weirdness.”~Cherie Priest
I can’t really add more to that except that I heartily agree. Let’s just say, I got it. I really got it. And then there are some who won’t get it, but I am glad I was one of the lucky ones. The book is a gorgeous piece of work in itself which got it on its first path to my heart: a hardcover with embossed gold lettering, intriguing imagery on the cover and the endpapers and then the book is a hefty 611 pages. So, I read a few other books before tackling this one because I figured I’d be bogged down with those 611 pages and I would probably have to carve out a chunk of my life to devote to this book. BZZZZZ I was wrong. I found myself reading over one hundred pages a night, and that is a feat considering that I typically read half that in twice the amount of time as I tend to fall asleep rather easily. The Map of Time was different.
It is so different that I cannot even strictly classify this book. Historical fiction because it is set in 1896, but it jumps ahead to the year 2000 which makes it a time travel book. And that means science fiction and that means I have lost you, haven’t I? WAIT.. come back!!!!! I admit that there was a paragraph or two in the scientific explanations that started to wear me down, but the rest of it was, quite frankly, genius.
So along with history and science there is a bit more that makes up this whole circle of life: Romance. Heroes. Suicidal tendencies. Murder. Jack the Ripper. Evil inventors. Automatons. H.G. Wells. Insights into mankind as a human race. An omniscient narrator you want to smack every now and then. Just a little bit of everything for everyone all wrapped up in this magnificent book that I honest to God truly snuck out of my desk drawer and read at my desk at work. There was just something about this story, however convoluted it strived to be- how it connected and reconnected in circles of time from the past and the future, that really grabbed me. The whole concept of these ripples of time and the effect of the time continuum through the past to the present to the future was very well plotted out in all of its intricacies. And the addition of intriguing characters like Bram Stoker, H.G. Wells, and the Elephant Man were fantastic little escapades into the author’s clever world of alternate history. It was really a pretty complicated storyline, but the way it all started filling in as I went along ended up enhancing the story more and more for me, although I wish the ending was a bit more dramatic than it wound up being.
So what was it all about anyway, you ask.. well, it opens to a young man contemplating suicide because his girlfriend is gone. But his cousin saves him by giving him hope that he can go back in time when she was alive and perhaps alter the future.. and that was part one. Along comes part two, and we meet another set of characters, yet they cross paths with the first group.. and the very important fabric of time is thus created.. but what happens if we pull on that one stray thread? What exactly does unravel? A bit of treachery and dishonesty starts to fray the fabric and yet we remain still stuck in the circle of time and reality becomes a bit dimmer as the hope for a better future brightens the present…
I don’t want to spoil it anymore… the synopsis alone gives off a lot of information that should be enough to whet your appetite. Since this is a book of an eclectic origin, I think there are a select few who just won’t be able to understand or appreciate the storyline, but then there will be others like me who are fortunate enough to have enjoyed climbing out of the box with this one. And be careful with that box, folks, because there are dragons and ferocious beasts that will kill you if you open it…


The intro to part 3, via camera phone.



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Filed under 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews, Best of 2011, Mystery, Victorian

{Giveaway!} Review: No Rest for The Dead: A Novel by 26 Writers

“I enjoy puzzles. Trying to write a chapter in this novel without really knowing what had already happened and what would happen later was certainly like a puzzle. I decided to be a little perverse. I asked myself what would happen if my chapter turned everything around?” —R.L. Stine
“It’s said that organizing writers is like herding cats, and one fears for the man or woman who tries. I wrote my chapter and, as a novelist is advised to do in Hollywood, threw the manuscript over the e-fence and ran in the opposite direction. Imagine my delight – the inimitable Andrew Gulli has not only brought together a world atlas of writers but in the process has created a world-class mystery. It’s been a pleasure. And the rest of us didn’t even have to break a sweat.” —Gayle Lynds
“I think for me the most exciting part of being involved in this project was to be in the company of so many fine writers–not only because I’ve admired their work for years but because it gave me an insight into the different techniques they employed and their approach to the craft of writing fiction. Normally I’m not an author who “plays well with others,” but it was exhilarating to be part of a team working together in such harmony, all for the benefit of our readers.” —Jeffery Deaver

No Rest for The Dead: A Novel by 26 Writers
Hardcover, 272 pages
Touchstone (July 5, 2011)
ISBN-13: 978-1451607376
Editor’s proceeds to benefit Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:Four Stars

When Christopher Thomas, a ruthless curator at San Francisco’s McFall Art Museum, is murdered and his decaying body is found in an iron maiden in a Berlin museum, his wife, Rosemary, is the primary suspect, and she is tried, convicted and executed. Ten years later, Jon Nunn, the detective who cracked the case, is convinced that the wrong person was put to death. In the years since the case was closed, he’s discovered a web of deceit and betrayal surrounding the Thomases that could implicate any number of people in the crime. With the help of the dead woman’s friend, he plans to gather everyone who was there the night Christopher died and finally uncover the truth, suspect by suspect. Solving this case may be Nunn’s last chance for redemption … but the shadowy forces behind Christopher’s death will stop at nothing to silence the past forever.

In this innovative storytelling approach, each of these twenty-five bestselling writers brings their distinctive voice to a chapter of the narrative, building the tension to a shocking, explosive finale. No Rest for the Dead is a thrilling, page-turning accomplishment that only America’s very best authors could achieve.

Written by some of the mystery genre’s most noted writers, No Rest for The Dead is a clever collaboration that is intriguing, engrossing and suspenseful. The concept of the many authors was the first thing that hooked me, but the storyline that followed was a feat in itself. I am rarely stumped during formulaic mystery novels, but this one kept me guessing.

The story begins as Rosemary is executed, and then we go back in time to see how we get to that point. We figure out early on that Rosemary was framed for murdering her husband, but with the large cast of characters we could never really figure out who was who. This presented a minor drawback, as the character pool was so large I started to get confused, but that also kept the suspect pool large and therefore my curiosity remained peaked.

With the many different authors we are also presented with many different angles, some first person and some third person, of several of the characters. There was the detective who became washed out has been because of Rosemary’s case, and several of the museum employees where the victim, Christopher Thomas had worked. Family members and art aficionados complete the cast and we are in for a ride as we are presented with one plot twist after the other.

As for the writing, you always felt the transition between the authors as each writer flowed to the next, and some chapters were better than others. There were some that I didn’t like the feel of the writing, but I knew soon enough that I would be rewarded with a new chapter and a new writer. For mystery lovers, this is a win-win: twenty-six authors all packed into one entertaining novel. Plus, the editorial team is donating their portion of the proceeds to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, which is another win-win.

Authors include Sandra Brown, Jeffrey Deaver, Diana Gabaldon, Michael Palmer, R.L. Stine and Alexander McCall Smith. Watch the video embedded above for a fun look at them.

And for an extra special treat, there are two copies of this book up for grabs! Leave a comment here telling me your email address, and you are entered! Offer open to USA only and ends 8/16/11.

And a note to my regular readers, I will now resume regular programming with historical fiction very soon..

17 Comments

Filed under 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews, Mystery

{GIVEAWAY!} Review: Incognito by Gregory Murphy

Please see the end of the review for details on how to enter for book Giveaway of Incognito!

Incognito by Gregory Murphy
Paperback, 320 pages
Berkley Trade July 5, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0425241035
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:Four NY Shiney Stars!

An elegant literary mystery set during the Gilded Age.
 New York City, 1911. Representing the widow of a Wall Street financier, lawyer William Dysart travels to a small Long Island town with a generous offer for Miss Sybil Curtis’s cottage and five acres of land. But when Sybil refuses to sell, the widow threatens to use her influence with the state to seize the property.
Intrigued by Sybil’s defiance and afflicted by a growing affection for her, William develops a desire to help her that becomes an obsession he cannot define, one that tears away the facade of his life, and presents him with truths he’s unprepared to face.

When I first saw this novel’s blurb I was immediately intrigued by “Gilded Age” and “Long Island”. Long Island is where I spent twenty years of my former self, and it would be exciting to be able to capture a bit of those memories and glitter it with the Gilded Age. Incognito is a quick summer read, with a bit of suspense, mystery and love all tangled up into a historical fiction novel. The dapper William Dysart finds himself in a horribly unromantic marriage but he seemingly has everything else while working as an attorney for a successful firm. In reality, he is still struggling to decipher his family’s past and the death of his mother from years ago. His father offers no answers and his wife offers no love. William becomes involved in a court battle between a high society matron and a small town girl of Long Island, and William finds himself drawn to the simplicity of this country life and the young woman, Sybil Curtis.

Along with William’s own secrets, there are quite a few to unravel to get to the heart of the issue between Sybil and the powerful Lydia Billings. Sybil has her own family mystery and is hiding a torturous secret while for some reason Lydia is willing to stop at nothing to destroy Sybil. William crosses the boundaries of professional versus personal as he becomes more and more attracted to Sybil, despite the fact that he is married to Arabella, the most beautiful woman in the city. It is quite obvious Arabella’s beauty is only skin deep, and prefers fashion, frivolity and balls as opposed to her husband.

Best quote from the book that sums up William’s thoughts on society:
“An impressive stage, he thought, on which to act out yet another of life’s foolish pageants sanctified by tradition and contrived to give meaning to the meaningless.”
While we immediately dislike Arabella, we are that much more impressed with William. Stumbling through the shadows of the past, William forces himself into the middle of the battle of property which turns into something so much more than he can handle. With threats of scandal and destroyed reputations, the novel pulled me into its clever web of deceit and treachery and I didn’t stop until I reached the last page. With a mix of elegance and evil our beloved New Yorkers were portrayed along with power, prestige and the contradictions of supposed blessings of the rich. I loved the exquisite blend of themes, with the many New York attitudes and the magnificent backdrop of Long Island, the city and all the quirks of high society as it were, once upon a time. Incognito is perfect for those looking for an absorbing novel that has much to offer within its small package, and is a fantastic debut for Gregory Murphy, who I can happily report is working on his second novel.

The publisher is offering one lucky follower of Burton Book Review their own copy of Incognito!
To enter, please comment on this review with your email address so that I may contact the winner..
This giveaway open to followers in USA and Canada, and ends on 8/12/11.

For extra +1 entries, facebook this post, tweet it, or blog it! Be sure to leave me those links. Thanks!

24 Comments

Filed under 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews, Mystery, New York

Review: Oscar Wilde and the Vampire Murders by Gyles Brandreth

Oscar Wilde and the Vampire Murders by Gyles Brandreth
Touchstone, May 2011
Trade Paperback, 400 pages
ISBN-13: 9781439153680
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:Great fun! Four stars!

Oscar Wilde and the Vampire Murders opens in 1890, at a glamorous party hosted by the Duke and Duchess of Albemarle. All of London’s high society — including the Prince of Wales — are in attendance at what promises to be the event of the season. Yet Oscar Wilde is more interested in another party guest, Rex LaSalle, a young actor who claims to be a vampire.

But the entertaining evening ends in tragedy when the duchess is found murdered — with two tiny puncture marks on her throat. Desperate to avoid scandal and panic, the Prince asks Oscar and his friend Arthur Conan Doyle to investigate the crime. What they discover threatens to destroy the very heart of the royal family. Told through diary entries, newspaper clippings, telegrams, and letters, Oscar Wilde and the Vampire Murders is a richly atmospheric mystery that is sure to captivate and entertain.

I love me some history with mystery and vice versa. Vampires, no, not so much. But last year I read Dracula in Love by Karen Essex and really loved it. The theme of medical experimentation is in both of these books, horrific as the thought is. I knew this Oscar Wilde series by Gyles Brandreth already had accumulated a following due to the prior mysteries, so I wanted to give this fourth one a try. Oscar Wilde was truly an amazing man, and I enjoyed how his character was so efficiently infused in this mystery. The absolute main draw of this mystery was the wittiness of Oscar and his never ending amount of one liners.

Apparently different from the previous forms of the series, this installment utilizes many different narrators as told via notes, letters and diaries. The main characters are all distinguished gentlemen who behaved in similar fashions, so I had to sometimes go back and look at the heading of the particular note or letter to see who was speaking presently. The narrations were short and swiftly changing, hence the minor confusion at times. This would be the only negative about this book, as the story was full of these British guys partying like 1890’s rock stars and doing their little investigations of the murders along the way. There was indeed one of those guys who swore he was a vampire, and the murdered victims were adorned with vampire-like wounds, but that was pretty much the extent of the vampiristic tendencies except of course for the men discussing the habits of vampires. The first victim was a beautiful duchess named Helen, whom Oscar liked to quip “She is Helen, late of Troy, now of Grosvenor Square.” The sleuths had to decipher whether there was a big cover-up going on because “the prince detests scandal” or was the prince never really involved at all.

Along with Oscar Wilde, other famous notables we have would be his close friend, Bram Stoker, aspiring vampire author, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the slowly becoming famous author of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Among the suspect pool we have doctors, Princes, and of course, the vampire friend Rex LaSalle whom Oscar was infatuated with. And then of course there was the magnificent character of Victorian England herself, where the author did a magnificent job of setting the scene and reimagining the cobbled streets of the era. I especially enjoyed the High Tea scenes, where it boasted a feast that excluded only tea. One of the suspects, the Prince of Wales, is the same prince who became Edward VII in 1901, and it was his order that none of this vampire murder business be published while he was alive, which is why we have this splendid story at our disposal now (wink, wink).

And as far as the mystery goes, I had a feeling regarding the whodunit part, but the why part was intriguing as well. The novel was definitely the “rattling good yarn” the author wanted to give us, and I will definitely keep an eye out for his other Oscar Wilde history mysteries since I enjoyed this one so much.

Some witty Oscar Wilde lines in the novel:
The man who thinks about his past has no future.”
It is, of course, the the second editions of my books that are the true rarities.”
The one duty we owe to history is to rewrite it.”

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Filed under 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews, Mystery, Victorian

>Review: A Poisoned Season by Jennygirl

>Another review from Jennygirl, the resident book reviewer here..

 

A Poisoned Season by Tasha Alexander
Pub. date: 2007
Genre: Mystery/suspense/historical fiction
From Harper Collins:

London’s social season is in full swing, and Victorian aristocracy is atwitter over a certain gentleman who claims to be the direct descendant of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Adding to their fascination with all things French, an audacious cat burglar is systematically stealing valuable items that once belonged to the ill–fated queen.


But things take a dark turn. The owner of one of the pilfered treasures is found murdered after the theft is reported in the newspapers, and the mysterious thief develops a twisted obsession with Lady Emily Ashton. It takes all of Lady Emily’s wit and perseverance to unmask her stalker and ferret out the murderer, while faced with a brewing scandal that threatens both her reputation and her romance with the dashing Colin Hargreaves.

JennyGirl’s Thoughts:

This book was a fun and fabulous read. Emily is fortunately an “independent” woman who is ahead of her time. She furthers her intellectual pursuits, such as learning Greek, while trying to maintain balance with her position in society and its conventions. Victorian women were not supposed to be strong, intelligent women, who were interested in the goings on in the world. Gossip and fashion were a woman’s domain. Emily is an independent thinker, and unfortunately this got her into trouble with society’s matrons. Luckily for her, Emily was able to manage her troubles.

Tasha Alexander captures the conventions and formalities of Victorian society very well. Women were usually trapped with no real voice or opinion with respect to their futures, yet Emily is lucky enough to be able to try and control her fate by staving off another marriage, to a man she is in love with no less. The conversations between her and Colin Hargreaves are sweet, romantic and passionate. The conversations reminded me of a duel.

Keep in mind, Emily did all this while trying to solve a few mysteries along the way. The mysterious circumstances in the book were quite suspenseful. They seemed like multiple plot lines and yet connected. One mystery from many different angles.

Emily is a delightful a heroine who is quite capable of not only taking care of herself, but others who may find themselves in need of assistance as well. This book was truly a novel of suspense and kept me guessing until the very end, including the romantic aspects as well. I felt as though I was transported to Victorian times, and I look forward to reading the next in the series as well.

I would like to note, that this is the second book in the series. Events from the first book are described, but I liked this book so much that I will go back and read the first one too. Regardless of knowing the plot.

This was a very satisfying, enjoyable, fun, and easy read. I highly recommend it!

Thanks to Jennygirl for allowing us to republish this review here. Visit Jennygirl and read more of her book reviews at her website Jenny Loves To Read.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Mystery