Tayor, Jodi. A Symphony of Echoes.

Abercynon, Wales: Accent Press, 2013.

The first volume of the “Chronicles of St. Mary’s” series, Just One Damned Thing After Another, was a hoot — a galloping time-travel adventure larded with British-style understated humor and peopled with some of the most original and entertaining characters I’ve seen in a while. This second outing mostly avoids the problems that are common with sophomore novels, continuing the story of St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Institute a generation or two in our future.


Published in: on 10 October 2017 at 7:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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Bowen, Rhys. The Twelve Clues of Christmas.

NY: Berkeley, 2012.

This is the sixth entry in the “Royal Spyness” mystery series featuring Lady Georgiana Rannoch and set in Britain in the early 1930s. Georgie is 34th in line to the throne — well, 35th, now that her brother the duke has had another son — but she’s also completely without funds. What her father, the late previous duke, didn’t waste gambling went for death duties, so Georgie frequently finds herself casting about for ways to earn a living. Not easy when you’re part of the upper aristocracy, actually. She can hardly work as a shop girl. But she manages — usually. Now the Christmas season of 1933 is fast approaching and she’s looking for some way to escape Castle Rannoch.


Pratchett, Terry. Johnny and the Bomb.

NY: HarperCollins, 1996.

This is the third adventure of thirteen-year-old Johnny Maxwell and it’s also the closest to a classic science fiction plot. Johnny has been working on a project for school (telling adults you’re “doing a project” will get you in almost anywhere you really ought not to be) on the bombing of his little town of Blackbury by the Germans during World War II. It was all a mistake, the Luftwaffe thought it was somewhere else, but an entire street was destroyed and all its residents killed.


Gaiman, Neil & Charles Vess. Stardust: Being a Romance Within the Realms of Faerie.

NY: DC Comics, 1997.

Neil is the modern master of the fairy tale, and he writes all kinds, from comic to wistful to thoroughly noir. This one is of the traditional variety, though often with tongue firmly in cheek. Gaiman won a number of awards for this one, and deserved them. Vess won another bunch of awards for the art which greatly enhances nearly every page. He reminds me a little of Arthur Rackham and a lot of Alicia Austin, and that’s praise.


Magnay, Sir William. The Hunt Ball Mystery.

NY: Brentano’s, 1918.

Magnay, a baronet, was a popular and prolific novelist from the 1880s through World War I but almost no one has heard of him today. His prose couldn’t be called scintillating, nor his plots ingenious, but both were workmanlike and his books were very readable. This classic locked-room mystery was (I think) his last and was published posthumously the year after his death. And while it’s not a bad story, it’s probably best approached as an artifact of early 20th-century social history.


Published in: on 30 March 2017 at 7:20 am  Leave a Comment  
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Waters, Sarah. Tipping the Velvet.

NY: Penguin, 1998.

This was apparently Waters’s first novel and it sort of sets the pace for the five books (so far) that have followed. It’s 1888 and eighteen-year-old Nancy Astley spends her days help her family run its oyster business in Whitstable, down in Kent. Though it’s only an hour or so away by train, none of them have ever visited London, but Nance frequents the Palace music hall in nearby Canterbury and knows all the tunes and the comic turns from the big city.


George, Elizabeth. For the Sake of Elena.

NY: Bantam, 1992.

With the death of P. D. James, George has become the primary writer in English of the “literary mystery.” This fifth book in the lengthy series featuring Detective Inspective Thomas Lynley (who is not only a card-carrying English gentleman but also the Earl of Asherton) and his sidekick, the often belligerently working-class Sergeant Barbara Havers, takes the team to Cambridge University where a young woman, the daughter of a top-level academic. was beaten to death while out jogging one very early, very cold, very foggy November morning.


Cameron, Iain. One Last Lesson.

np: CreateSpace, 2014.

Angus Henderson is a Detective Inspector down in Sussex, having apparently left the North under a cloud. He’s a homicide specialist with the usual team of subordinates and access to all the latest SOCO techniques and equipment. He has a yacht (a very small one), a journalist girlfriend who drives fast cars, a guitarist brother who joined the army, a boss who wants to insinuate a buddy onto Henderson’s team, and a rather scruffy flat, and he hates golf and tartan hats. Actually, that’s just the tip of the list.


George, Elizabeth. Missing Joseph.

NY: Bantam, 1993.

Since the death of P. D. James, Elizabeth George has become the leading practitioner of the “literary mystery.” She pays at least as much attention to telling the characters’ stories as people as she does to laying out the mystery plot for the consideration of Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley, belted earl and homicide specialist. Which, since he’s based at Scotland Yard, means he spends a lot of his time intruding on other cops’ turf. But we often don’t even meet Lynley and his crew for a hundred pages or more.


Edmondson, Elizabeth. The Frozen Lake.

NY: HarperCollins, 2004.

I recently read this author’s A Man of Some Repute and its two sequels, murder mysteries set in Britain in the early 1950s, and found them very entertaining. (She calls them her “Vintage Mystery” series.) This one takes place in the Midlands in 1936, on the eve of the Second World War —