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I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley

A young man is taking London society by storm.  He is said to be the son of the scandalous Lord Byron.  But is he really Byron’s son or is he an imposter?  Why is he under the protection of the mysterious Mr Vickery?  Liberty Lane – newly married to Robert Carmichael – is appointed by Mr Vickery to find out the identity of the letter writer who wants him to bring George – his young protégé – to meet her.  Is Helena her real name and what does she want?

Liberty is concerned about Vickery himself as she is sure he has some sort of agenda.  When she finds a murder victim close to Vickery’s house in Muswell Hill she is even more disturbed.  I really enjoyed this well written historical crime story.  It is fast paced and intriguing and takes the reader into the London criminal underworld as Liberty and her helpers investigate both the commission they have undertaken and the individual who is employing them.

I have read other books in this series and I really like Liberty Lane herself.  She narrates the stories and I really do feel as though I am seeing London in the 1840s through her eyes.  I like the way she goes about her investigations and the network of helpers she has gathered about her.  The books in the series can be read in any order and this is number eight in the series.

In at the Death

Mordecai Tremaine and Chief Inspector Jonathan Boyce are interrupted in their chess game by a call from Scotland Yard.  There has been a murder at Bridgton – a popular doctor has been shot in a deserted house while apparently visiting a patient.

When the pair arrive on the scene they are puzzled by the personal interest the Chief Constable is taking in the case.  At first there seems no reason at all for the victim’s death but a little but of digging soon reveals some surprising facts.  Mordecai’s particular skills prove invaluable in this case.

Mordecai Tremaine is a charming character.  A retired tobacconist with an encyclopaedic knowledge of criminology and an ability to pass unnoticed in any situation is a gift to the professional detectives as he can find out facts which might remain hidden from the professionals.  He has an excellent knowledge of human nature and a sentimental streak which means he enjoys reading romantic stories and wants to see all young people in love.

Even though this book was written more than half a century ago it is still worth reading today.  It shows how different crime investigation was before the advent of sophisticated forensic techniques and DNA analysis.  If you like classic detective stories give Mordecai Tremaine a try.

A House of Knives: Breen & Tozer 2 (Breen and Tozer)

DS Cathal Breen finds himself suspended from duty when he is in the middle of what is definitely a politically sensitive case. The son of a prominent politician is found dead in a house fire but his injuries are not consistent with a fire.  Breen is convinced something is being hidden.  Do the members of a squat nearby have information which could shed light on the mystery?  Breen is still battling with his feelings for his father who has recently died and he looks like losing a friend when DC Helen Tozer decides to leave the force and return to her family’s farm in Devon.

The book is well written and shines a searchlight on the corruption of the political system and of the police in the 1960s.  Casual racism, sexism and total absence of care for others is all too common – both inside the police and in the wider community.  A complex plot with many strands is played out against a background of the music of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones along with drugs and transcendental meditation.

This is the second book in the Breen and Tozer series and really needs to be read after you have read the first book – A Song From Dead Lips – as several plot strands from that book are picked up in this one.  I found this book a compulsive read.  Some aspects of it totally repelled me but I still found I had to read on to find out what happened and of course I wanted Breen and Tozer to succeed against the corruption and the attempts at a cover up.  I shall definitely be reading the next book in the series and I recommend this series to anyone who enjoys well written crime novels.

Murder has a Motive

Mordecai Tremaine is staying with an old friend in the village of Dalmering.  He is in the right place at the right time to investigate a murder.  The local amateur dramatic society is involved in the rehearsals for a play about murder but the star of the play has been murdered.  Mordecai’s friend Chief Inspector John Boyce from Scotland Yard is on the scene to investigate the crime but he is more than willing to accept Mordecai’s help.

This book was first published in the 1940s but has stood the test of time very well in my opinion.  The characters are well drawn and Mordecai himself is a marvellous person who gradually collects small snippets of information to build up the whole picture.  However he isn’t quick enough to prevent further murders.

This is a well plotted mystery with a closed group of suspects in the best traditions of classic detective fiction.  I recommend it to anyone who likes classic detective fiction.

Monk's Hood (Chronicles Of Brother Cadfael Book 3)

Brother Cadfael comes face to face with the love of his life in this well written and intriguing mystery. A guest at the Abbey is taken ill and Brother Cadfael is sent to try and treat him.  The sick man’s wife – Richildis – was once betrothed to Cadfael before he went off to the Crusades.  She did not wait for him to return and married another.  Now her husband has been poisoned with something which could have come from Cadfael’s stores.

Cadfael finds himself facing suspicion of murder when the man dies as well as trying to defend Richildis’ son, Edwin against similar suspicions.  This is a fast paces story with plenty of action and some clever reasoning from Cadfael which almost leads him into mortal peril.

This is the third book I’ve read in this series and it is growing on me.  I love Cadfael – he is a marvellous character – wise and humorous and totally suited to his calling.  He sees further through a brick wall than most.  Because of his life before the cloister he is wise in the ways of the world as well as in the ways of God.  I am looking forward to reading the fourth book in the series.

Earthly Remains (Brunetti)

While he is interviewing a powerful businessman who is reported to have given some pills to a young girl who subsequently died Brunetti takes a strange course of action which has ramifications he could not have imagined.  His actions and the interview itself cause him to question his own career and he takes leave to try and work out where his life is headed.

He decides to go and relax on the island of Sant’ Erasmo – one of the islands in the Venice Laguna – staying in a villa owned by his wife, Paola’s family.  There he finds he is able to relax.  He spends his time eating good food, rowing in the Laguna with Davide  Casati. the villa’s caretaker.  Then Davide goes missing following a violent storm Brunetti finds he must set aside his relaxation and investigate what happened.

This is a thoughtful and thought provoking mystery founded on the widespread corruption which underpins Venetian life at all levels.  It also shows how simple pleasures ultimately last longer than the more sophisticated pleasures of modern society.  I enjoyed reading about bees and the wild life in the Laguna and about the effects of hard physical activity can unravel the knots in one’s mind.  I felt this book gave more insights than usual into Brunetti’s character.

Some of the later books in this series have contained, for me, too much of an environmental message but in this one Donna Leon has got the balance right I think and I didn’t feel that this was a mystery wrapped up in a message.  It is much more a mystery with environmental aspects affecting individuals.  It does show Venetian life from the inside and brings this unique city vividly to life.

Murder on the Pilgrims Way (Whitstable Pearl Mysteries Book 4)

Pearl Nolan is off on a short break with her mother Dolly, but Dolly has kept their destination secret and when Pearl finds out what they are actually going to do for a week she has mixed feeling about it.

She doesn’t welcome instruction in cookery at the best of times and to discover that the week is to be hosted by famous chef Nico Caruso makes her heart sink.  But she needs to get away and try and work out what she feels for DCI Mike McGuire who has been conspicuous by his absence from her life for the last few weeks.

In the beautiful surroundings of the Villa Pellegrini – so called because of its Italian decorative style even though it is situated in the Kent countryside – Pearl begins to relax and enjoy the surroundings, the cookery and even the attentions of Nico himself.  Then murder intervenes and the Villa’s guests are thrown into the middle of a police investigation.

This is the fourth volume in the Whitstable Pearl mystery series and it is every bit as good as its predecessors.  I like Pearl herself and her mother Dolly and the background of cookery and food is interesting.  This is a traditional country house murder mystery with a closed group of suspects but it is brought up to date though in fact the only additions which make it obviously twenty first century are microwaves and mobile phones.

It shows how the traditional mystery format is still relevant and entertaining.  If you enjoy reading mysteries with a mixture of amateur and professional detectives then this series is worth trying .  I shall be looking forward to the next book.