Monthly Archives: June 2013

Cut to the Quick by Kate Ross

Cut to the Quick

Trendsetter Julian Kestrel didn’t know what would follow a random act of kindness. He had no idea he would become embroiled in scandal: imagine a dead woman being found in his room! He feels emotions rather uncommon to a member of high society: worry for his servant who is suspected of the crime, sorrow for the dead woman and concern at what will happen next. It will take all the hidden wit he has to unravel the maddening puzzle of what happened and why…

Ross takes an interesting path in portraying the Regency period. She provides glimpses of dress, food and behavior. What makes her portrayal of the time come alive in a unique way, though, is including vocabulary from the time. She does this in a way which makes dialog understandable but also from the time period.  For instance, the varied ways Kestrel’s servant Dipper refers to law officers shows how a certain subsection of society is creative at their tasks and wants to avoid the attention of the law. This book is also a good read for the characters. Kestrel is multilayered: he acts like a dandy but his actions show that is not all there is to him. He is loyal, clever and not comfortable with praise (unless it’s for his clothing). Dipper can join the rogue’s gallery mentioned in the entry for The Giant Thief. The Scottish doctor MacGregor is prickly, but also kind in a gruff manner. (For fans of Star Trek, his prodding of Kestrel reminds me of southern doctor McCoy’s way of acting with Captain Kirk.) The plot also keeps the reader’s attention. How could an unknown woman get unseen into the household and killed without anyone knowing? Kestrel’s path to the answer is fast paced and delves into secrets other characters would best leave secret. Cut to the Quick is a great read for its portrayal of the time (including language), engaging characters and interesting plot.

Want more books like Cut to the Quick?

The Hanover Square Affair by Ashley Gardner is another Regency mystery with a detective drawn into mystery at least partly by kindness. Here a former captain, out if kindness and a desire to escape his past, looks into a woman’s disappearance…

The Regency Underworld by Donald A. Low explores crime in the Regency time period.

What Angels Fear by C.S. Harris also features a member of high society who solves a crime in Regency England. In Sebastian St. Cyr’s case it’s the only way to prove his innocence…

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A Dangerous Inheritance by Alison Weir

A Dangerous Inheritance

In 1483, Kate Plantagenet hears rumors that her father, Richard the III, murdered his nephews. Disturbed, she searches for the truth. One hundred years later Katherine Grey, sister of the executed Jane Grey, runs across Kate’s notes. Bound together by the mystery both women also face perils due to their royal blood…

Weir skillfully brings royal England of two time periods to life with descriptions of items and how people react to events. She shows how royal life can be lavish, but also dangerous. Her protagonists live lives of great luxury but also great peril. They find love is a luxury and that politics could mean their death. I felt both characters gave a believable look into their time periods. Weir’s afterword was instructive because it showed what was fact and what was fiction, but the whole story felt real. This could have been because Weir has written other nonfiction and/or fiction books taking place in the two periods. The premise of finding the truth about the two princes, a mystery which historians have debated, was intriguing by itself but made more suspenseful by the curiosity of her protagonists.  A Dangerous Inheritance is a good read for those wanting to slip into England of 1480-1580 and those wanting a historical quest.

Interested in A Dangerous Inheritance?

Philippa Gregory’s The White Queen also ponders what happened to the princes. This novel looks into events through the point of view of Elizabeth Woodville: mother to the princes…

Karen Harper’s Mistress of Mourning also touches on what happened to the Princes in the Tower and other secrets related to the Tudor dynasty…

Three Maids for a Crown by Ella March Chase also covers the tumultuous time when it was contested who would rule: Queen Mary or Queen Jane…

 

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Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey

Menolly’s gift for tune writing and singing has gotten her into trouble time and again. Tired of being treated unfairly she runs away into the wilds of her planet Pern. There she becomes caretaker of telepathic fire lizards and pursues her gifts in peace. Fate isn’t done with her yet, for Menolly has gifts that aren’t meant to be hidden away in the wild…

Menolly catches the reader’s attention because she is a dreamer but practical as well. She creates her songs while also planning how to take care of her fire lizards and herself. Her practicality helps her, but also like with all of us, makes her wonder if her dreams can come true. The desire to leave an unpleasant situation for a place where one’s gifts and self are appreciated is a theme popular in literature. For instance, look at the many versions of the Cinderella story. Menolly is no fainting damsel: faced with a challenge she’ll figure out a way to brave it or, in one case, outrun it. Menolly’s tale is also worth reading because of the world she inhabits. We meet telepathic dragons and fire lizards, singers and sailors and get a look on a world where life is centered around avoiding a threat from the sky. This book is technically written for young adults, but I enjoyed it. It’s worth reading for its determined heroine and look at a world far different from our own.

Want other books like Dragonsong?

All of these books are technically for young adults, but can be enjoyable reads for adults as well.

Dealing with Dragons, by Patricia Wrede, is more humorous than Dragonsong but also features a heroine who rejects her traditional role. Princess Cimorene runs away to live with a dragon and has to save the day.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine is a modern take on Cinderella. Ella is cursed to be obedient to her odious family but is determined to find a better fate.

Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman, focuses on a musical heroine who must figure out her unique connection to dragons in a dangerous and uncertain world.

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Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Murder on the Orient Express

Hercule Poirot expects a restful train ride home on the Orient Express. This expectation is broken when one of the other passengers is murdered. Poirot takes the case only to find that nothing adds up: the clues are contradictory and everyone has an alibi! Poirot is determined: this will not be a case he cannot solve…

I’ve been meaning to read an Agatha Christie mystery for a while due to my fondness for the David Suchet PBS series. I picked Murder on the Orient Express because the idea of solving a murder on a train sounded intriguing. The plot kept me guessing because for a while it seemed impossible for the crime to have happened at all. Then Poirot started interpreting the clues and it made sense. The story moved -at the risk of sounding too metaphorical- like a quickly moving train. Murder on the Orient Express is also worth reading for the characters. First, there is the endearingly dignified and fastidious Poirot. Those traits could seem annoying in another person, but in Poirot they result in a likable character. Poirot has a way of looking at the human aspect of each person without letting that element make him biased. The suspects are an intriguingly diverse group. There is everyone from a princess to an Italian salesman to an American detective. For a reader looking for a fast paced mystery with interesting characters Murder on the Orient Express is a good choice.

Want more Murder on the Orient Express?

The book has been remade into movies. There is a 1974  movie with Andrew Finney as Poirot. There is also a 2001 remake which is described as having “a modern twist”. (Clicking on the years brings you to the Internet Movie Database pages for each.)

There is a  2010 episode of the PBS series Poirot with David Suchet as Poirot.

There is an audiobook published in 2001 by Audio Partners Publishing Corporation as part of their Audio Editions Mystery Masters series. David Suchet reads the book.

Want to learn what inspired Murder on the Orient Express and/or learn more about all things Christie in general? Mike Holgate’s Agatha Christie’s True Crime Inspirations could be of interest.

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