Newest Crime (Historical) Reviews

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Review of

Death and the Brewery Queen (Kate Shackleton Mysteries) by Frances Brody

4.5star.jpg Crime (Historical)

Kate Shackleton runs her investigation agency from Batswing Cottage, ably assisted by Jim Sykes, who lives in Woodhouse and her housekeeper, Mrs Sugden. She's been approached by William Lofthouse of the Barleycorn Brewery in Masham. Something is going wrong with his business and he'd like Kate to look into it discreetly: he's hoping that his nephew and right-hand man, James Lofthouse, will be back from a trip to Germany before long. James went to see what the continental brewers were doing and what changes Barleycorn might need to make. William is worried that James is perhaps enjoying himself a little bit too much or is going to bring back a German bride but he'd like the business to be ship-shape before his nephew returns. Full Review

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Review of

Eight Detectives by Alex Pavesi

5star.jpg Crime (Historical)

It's 1930 and Megan and Henry are staying with Bunny at his house in Spain. It's unbearably hot and Bunny drank too much at lunch: he's going to have a rest and then he wants to talk to Megan and Henry about something serious. Only it never gets that far: when Bunny doesn't emerge after his siesta his guests find that he's been murdered. How can that have happened? There's no one else in the house, so one of them must be the killer. Full Review

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Review of

The Turning Tide (Dandy Gilver) by Catriona McPherson

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Those who were with us at the end of A Step So Grave will remember that Donald was engaged to Mallory Dunnoch. They're now married and Mallory is having twins. When they arrive no one can doubt the charms of Lavinia Dahlia Cherry and her brother, Edward Hugh Lachlan Gilver. There are two drawbacks: they're noisy and they're staying with Dandy and Hugh. Dandy and her detective partner, Alec Osborne, had not taken up the chance to look into a problem at the Cramond ferry when it was offered to them twice before, but suddenly the possibility of being out of the house at Gilverton seems irresistible. Full Review

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Review of

The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo and Louise Heal Kawai (translator)

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To many readers, the phrase 'locked room murder mystery' is enough to make the book one to read; preferably quantified by the words 'clever' or 'good'. For those who need more, here is the extra background – we're in rural Japan in the 1930s. The oldest son of an esteemed family is belatedly getting married, although the whole affair is really not as ostentatious as it might be – hardly anybody has turned up, what with it being arranged at great haste. She only has an uncle representing her family, for one thing. Either way, the celebrations have gone ahead as planned, only for the wedded couple to be slashed to death in their private annexe before the sun rises on their marriage. What with a man missing parts of his fingers being in the neighbourhood, and some mysterious use of a traditional musical instrument at the time of the crime, this case has a lot of the peculiar about it. Full Review

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Review of

Murder at the Dolphin Hotel by Helena Dixon

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Elowed Underhay was just twenty-seven when she disappeared from Dartmouth in June 1916, leaving her daughter, Kitty, in the care of her grandmother. A great deal of money had been spent to find out what happened to her and the conclusion was that she was dead, mainly because there was no evidence to suggest otherwise. Kitty has come to terms with this and in 1933 she was running the Dolphin Hotel in Dartmouth with her grandmother when her grandmother had to leave to look after her sister who was ill. She was reluctant to leave Kitty in charge - and Kitty could not understand why. She's always coped with the mix of holidaymakers, boating people and the naval college on the edge of town before - and she's done every job in the hotel. And she particularly cannot understand why her grandmother's friends have been roped in to keep an eye on things and why Captain Matthew Bryant has been hired to take charge of security at the hotel. Full Review

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Review of

The Body on the Train (Kate Shackleton Mysteries) by Frances Brody

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From Christmas to Easter a train ran from Leeds City Station to King's Cross, arriving before dawn so that the forced rhubarb it carried could be taken to Covent Garden. In early March 1929, one of the porters who was unloading the boxes discovered the body of a man, stripped naked and with no means of identification. Scotland Yard hit a dead end and called on the services of Kate Shackleton in the hope that her knowledge and connections in Yorkshire would give them the lead they needed. Kate immediately found herself hamstrung: Commander Woodhead remembered her as a child and could not come to terms with the fact that she was now a woman experienced in dealing with murder. He was reluctant to give her all the information which the police held. Full Review

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Review of

Indian Summer: a Mirabelle Bevan Mystery by Sara Sheridan

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Life has changed dramatically for Mirabelle, our favourite fifties sleuth, since the war, and not always for the better. When she first settled in Brighton she was alone, rudderless and secretly grieving for Jack, the lover who died before he could leave his wife. As time went by she found in herself an ability to solve crimes, made friends including an ebullient and determined young woman called Vesta who refused to let a little thing like racial prejudice stop her doing what she wanted, and even found consolation in the arms of a rather charming policeman. Full Review

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Review of

The Courier by Kjell Ola Dahl and Don Bartlett (translator)

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Nazi-occupied Oslo, 1942. There, I've given the game away. For in a book that centres around a murder, I've told you who did it – the Nazis, surely? Well, that certainly has to remain to be seen in this volume, which splits its time between one of war, when a young woman sees her father arrested, and their store condemned as Jewish and rushes to her best friend to help – not knowing she will never see her alive again, and the late 1960s, when great consternation is being felt. In this timeline, a maverick agent is back in town, one who might have been fingered for murdering that female victim, even though she and he lived together with their baby as a young family, except he was thought by all to have died in the War… Full Review

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Review of

Mrs Mohr Goes Missing by Maryla Szymiczkova and Antonia Lloyd-Jones (translator)

3.5star.jpg Crime (Historical)

Meet Zofia. A socially climbing wife of a medical professor, she's intent on making herself known as a charitable lady, and keen on her husband progressing yet through his esteemed career. In 1890s Cracow, life is pretty good, but she knows it could always be better. Meanwhile, other people's life could certainly be better – cholera is nearing the city due to lack of hygiene, and many people have to fall on charity and almshouses to keep a roof over their heads. One such was Mrs Mohr, although she was rich enough to keep private lodgings and staff in her charitable home. I say was, for she has vanished. Only due to Zofia's help does she get found, dead and in a place the near-lame woman could never reach by herself. Just who could be killing people in a charity home, and to what end? And why does Zofia feel the need to make a name for herself by answering those questions? Full Review

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Review of

Things in Jars by Jess Kidd

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A child has gone missing. The detective asked to take on the case is still struggling with the shame and frustration left by a previous case, where the child was not found in time. Hardly original themes for a private eye thriller. And yet . . . take another look. This detective is a woman, and the setting is Victorian London, with all the rich and colourful paradoxes of that era: technical and scientific progress jostling for space beside superstition and a fascination with the bizarre and the downright hideous. And before you're more than a couple of pages in, you realise just how much more unusual our heroine is than you expected. Bridie Devine may dress in half-mourning, with a widow's cap and stout, shiny boots, but the tobacco she smokes in her pipe (my dear, what an utterly fast thing for a lady to do!) is mixed with a nugget of something, well, let's say recreational, created by her chemist friend Prudhoe. The fact that it's actually meant to cure bronchial problems is by the by. Her housemaid, being seven-foot-tall, is also somewhat remarkable. And then, of course, there's the ghost. Ruby Doyle, world-famous tattooed boxer (deceased) accompanies Bridie all through her investigation, and it's clear he has a soft spot for the determined young woman. If he really exists, that is. Full Review

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Review of

A Snapshot of Murder (Kate Shackleton Mysteries) by Frances Brody

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Even detectives need a break and for Kate Shackleton, photography gives her the mental relaxation which she needs. When the local Photographic Society proposed an outing, Kate was keen to take the opportunity to visit Haworth and Stanbury, not least because the deeds of the Brontë Parsonage are being handed over so that it can become a museum and her parents will be there for the event. What could be better than seeing her family, witnessing a momentous event and having the opportunity to take photographs of the setting for Wuthering Heights? Nothing could go wrong. Or could it? Full Review

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Review of

Charlesgate Confidential by Scott Von Doviak

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In 1946 a gang of criminals pull off an audacious art heist, making off with priceless works of art from a Boston Museum. These missing artworks are never found. In 1988, a student finds himself caught up in the mystery of the missing art and hot on the trail of the multi-million-dollar reward. In 2014, the art is still missing and now dead bodies are turning up at the eponymous Charlesgate, filled with alumni celebrating their 25th reunion. As the body count rises, will we discover the truth behind the art theft decades earlier? Full Review

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Review of

A Step So Grave (Dandy Gilver) by Catriona McPherson

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Dandy Gilver and family had made the arduous journey to Wester Ross, but Dandy had mixed feelings even when they arrived. They were there to meet the family of Mallory, her son Donald's fiancee. It wasn't that Dandy thought Donald to be rather young at twenty-three to be contemplating matrimony, but that Mallory was rather old for him at thirty. There was also a niggling worry because Donald wasn't the sharpest pin in the cushion. All the doubts had faded into insignificance though when they arrived at Applecross: they might have come to celebrate the fiftieth birthday of Lady Lavinia, Mallory's mother, but it soon became obvious that Donald was smitten by the mother rather than the daughter. Dandy and Hugh were considering whether or not they should try to put an end to the engagement when the news arrived that Lady Lavinia had been found dead. Full Review

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Review of

So Many Doors by Oakley Hall

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Vassilia Caroline Baird, known to all as V, is dead. Jack sits in his cell refusing to talk to the lawyer tasked with his defence. Starting at the murderous finale, Hall skillfully weaves together the stories of his key players, in a tale of love spanning decades and states, marriages and tragedies. By the time the truth is revealed, V will be dead but who else will lose their life? Full Review

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Review of

A Necessary Murder by M J Tjia

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It's 1863 and a little girl has been found murdered at the family home in Stoke Newington. A few days later and a few miles across London, a man is found dead in a similar way outside the opulent townhouse of Heloise Chancey, courtesan and part-time detective. Could they be connected? And what, if anything, does either of them have to do with Heloise's maid, Amah Li Leen, and the troubling events in her past which are threatening to resurface? Full Review

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Review of

Russian Roulette by Sara Sheridan

4.5star.jpg Crime (Historical)

It makes a pleasant change to have a female detective who isn't a slightly eccentric grandma, a world-weary cop with as many hang-ups, bad habits and family traumas as her male colleagues, or a slick, skinny, sharp-shooting type who lives in a loft and works out in the gym after work, boxing with (and trouncing) every big burly bloke they can throw at her. Mirabelle may have somehow got herself involved in crime-fighting, with all the requisite tropes of climbing through unguarded windows, contacts who are not one hundred per cent on the right side of the law, and a refusal to faint at the sight of blood, but she is, as everyone around her will attest, first and foremost a lady. Indeed, the first encounter we have with her in this, the sixth book in this excellent series, sees her giving a police superintendent an icy stare for his lack of manners. No matter what the life-and-death crisis, there's no reason not to be polite, is there? Full Review

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Review of

The Murder of Harriet Monkton by Elizabeth Haynes

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manufactured creature, that exists only for this blessed inquest: something to be summed up like a spirit, to be examined and pored over, to be sneered at and judged. Harriet deserves to be remembered as she was to us, not picked at like carrion.

And that was the problem: it seemed that there were two Harriets. There was the one her friends - a fellow teacher, her would-be lover, her seducer and the man who was her landlord who was also her lover - knew. Some spoke of her as kindly, virtuous and pious, but that was before her body was found behind the chapel which she regularly attended in Bromley. She'd been poisoned - or had taken her own life. After the inquest was opened another Harriet would emerge, one who was about six months pregnant and who had obviously not been living the chaste life expected of a young, unmarried woman in 1843. Full Review

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Review of

Greeks Bearing Gifts: Bernie Gunther Thriller 13 by Philip Kerr

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Set in Germany in 1957, Greeks Bearing Gifts is a historical crime thriller with everything from dodgy Nazi past histories to insurance fraud. Bernie Gunther is a Berliner, who was a serjeant during the second world war and now, in this novel, is working in the morgue of a hospital. He finds himself embroiled in a mystery, taking on a new role as an insurance claims investigator. The investigation takes him to Greece, and back into the dark times of the war. With layered plots and double-crossing left, right and centre, there's lots to keep you guessing throughout this story. Full Review

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