Saturday, April 28, 2012

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Death at Bishop's Keep : A Victorian Mystery by Robin Paige (Susan Witting Albert and Bill Albert)

Miss Kathryn Ardleigh of New York is a writer of "penny-dreadfuls." She loves the thrilling gothic tales of adventure but she may run out of material soon if she doesn't actually have any adventures. When she discovers that a long-lost aunt in England wants Kate to be her secretary, Kate jumps at the chance to have a bit of an adventure of her own. When she arrives in England she makes the acquaintance of her aunt's aristocratic neighbors, The Honorable Bradford and Miss Eleanor Marsden and their friend, Sir Charles Sheridan. Sir Charles is a scholarly man with an interest in photography and the newly emerging field of forensics. When a body is discovered at an archeological dig, Sir Charles thinks his camera may provide some clues as to the man's identity. Sir Charles' astute observations uncover the fact that the man had more than a passing interest in Ancient Egypt. When Kate arrives at her new home, Bishop's Keep, she learns that her father had not one but two estranged sisters. Aunt Sabrina, who has hired Kate, is kind and caring. Her sister, Mrs. Jaggers, is the exact opposite. She is a strict and dour lady who has charge of the running of the household. Kate refuses to answer to her aunt's cruel rules and stands up to the lady ensuring that Kate is not welcome by at least one person at Bishop's Keep. The servants seem to be a sullen lot and they are keeping secrets from Kate. Kate delights in her work for Aunt Sabrina who is a member of a secret society called the Order of the Golden Dawn. Kate believes this is just the thing for her novels and wants to join. First though, she has to attend meetings and learn their secret ways. She also is charged with investigating the dead body found at the archeological site. Even after Aunt Sabrina backs off the investigation, Kate can't help but be curious. Her investigations intersect with Sir Charles' investigations. He is puzzled by the unusual young lady. He finds her shocking yet appealing at the same time. Charles and Kate are both independently on the same trail but shocking events occur that change Kate's life forever and may make her the next victim. This mystery kept me reading far too late into the night and then I figured out the clues just before Kate did even without evidence. It was pretty obvious by that point who the murderer was and why. Despite the fact that I couldn't put the book down, I really didn't like it all that much. Kate is very naive and thinks life is like one of her novels. She finds adventure and excitement where she should not. Sir Charles is too cool and analytical to be an appealing hero. He has some Victorian ideas about what ladies should be like but his opinions are less annoying than the typical Victorian make ideas some other characters spout. Even so, his ideas make him less appealing. The plot was far too dark for me and there were way too many things going on. Some of the chapters don't advance the storyline at all and serve as character development but they are unnecessary and awkward. I probably will not read the rest of the series.

Death at Dartmoor : A Victorian Mystery by Robin Paige (Susan Witting Albert and Bill Albert)

Lord Charles and Lady Kate are now married and vacationing on the moors. Charles wants to try out his new fingerprinting program at the prison and Beryl Bardwell (Kate's alter ego) wants to attend a seance with Lady Duncan, a local Society lady. Also interested in the moors and seances are Dr. Conan Doyle, author of Sherlock Holmes, and his new writing partner Mr. Robinson. Patsy Marsden, an independent spinster and friend of Kate and Charles is there too. Charles finds the prison just as horrific as he was told it was but something about one of the prisoners makes him think the man may not be guilty of murder. If only Charles could convince the authorities to take more stock in forensic science. Dr. Spencer doesn't wish to have his sentence overturned. He has his reasons and he's keeping them to himself. When three prisoners escape, including Dr. Spencer, the locals are terrified. Their fear increases after a man is found dead and mutilated and everyone assumes it was a certain prisoner who committed the crime. Charles is not so sure and neither is Kate, for one of her new friends had a shocking communication from a spirit before anyone knew the person was dead. Charles and Conan Doyle begin an investigation to find the true murderer while Kate and Patsy make the acquaintance of another unconventional lady who may know a thing or two about the murder. This story is less dark and gothic than Death at Bishop's Keep. It contains elements of the supernatural but the characters debate whether the event was supernatural or natural and the conclusion is left to the reader to decide. I liked this book better than Bishop's Keep because it wasn't so dark. I was a bit disappointed in this novel though because I expected Charles and Kate to investigate together like Nick and Nora Charles in the Thin Man series. The married couple don't spend a lot of time together. Much of the book is given over to Doyle and his problems. As with the Beatrix Potter mysteries, the author(s) step out of the story to provide the history behind the story. This time it works slightly better because some of the history is shared by characters in the novel. This book would be appropriate for young adults and adults but not suitable for children.

Out of Sight, Out of Time (Gallagher Girls 6) by Ally Carter - Young Adult Contemporary Fiction

Cammie Morgan wakes up in a convent in Switzerland with no idea how she got there. Worse, she learns it's October when she thought it was June which means she can't remember her summer at all. No memory is a dangerous thing for a spy-in-training. Back at the Gallagher School, Cammie's friends seem angry with her and she can't figure out why. She also believes that her best friend and her "sorta" boyfriend Zach have gotten closer together. Cammie's mom tells her not to try to remember too much because some things are worth forgetting. Cammie isn't about to take her mother's advice. She seeks the help of Zach's faculty adviser Dr. Steve, to help her regain her memory. Soon she discovers that whatever happened last summer, The Circle no longer needs her alive. Cammie must use all her wits and training to stay alive and find out exactly what happened over the summer. If you've read the Harry Potter series most of this book won't come as a huge surprise. I learned not to trust anyone in this sort of novel and Cammie has not yet learned that lesson because otherwise of course, the plot wouldn't work out. Cammie's friends are a lot like Harry Potter's friends, especially Liz, who is a carbon copy of Hermione. There are some odd plot holes and time line issues in this novel. My biggest question is: why did Cammie's friends let her go? Harry's friends anticipated what he was up to and went with him and Cammie's friends, being super intelligent spies-in-training, should have too.  Despite my suspicions, the plot took me on a non-stop ride with one dangerous adventure after another. It doesn't follow the common plot structure of a novel but it's exciting and I couldn't put it down. This book answers a lot of the questions from the previous novels but there are still many questions left unanswered. It's best just to read it and go with the adrenaline and not question things too closely. I think this is a fun series for young teenage girls.

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