Monday, August 26, 2013

What I Read Last Week

What I Read Last Week . . .

The Moon Was Low (Mariana) by Monica Dickens -- Historical Fiction

While Mary waits to learn news of her husband whose ship was sunk by Germans (WWII), she reflects on her life, the people and events that brought her to where she is today. She grew up with a close-knit family: her mother and Uncle Geoffrey, the actor in London (her father died in WWI) and the whole Shannon clan at her grandparents' estate where she spent childhood summers and holidays. There's school, Mary is an average student; watching Uncle Geoffrey in films; growing up; leaving the nest and finding herself. There really isn't any plot in this novel at all. Mary comes of age between the wars, she makes mistakes, she tries to find herself and finally she gets her happy ending and then the war breaks out. I had a hard time getting into this book. It's short but it took me three nights to finish. I didn't like Mary very much. I found her annoying and a bit self-centered. Her young adult years bothered me because I knew where she was going wrong and what she shouldn't do. The other characters can be pulled from the traditional stock characters of between the wars novels. The ending was very rushed and I wanted more to it. I wanted more Bingo the Cairn too. The message that comes at the end is very heavy handed. This would be a better book for a high school or college class than for pleasure reading. It really didn't interest me much.

The Inspector and Mrs. Jeffries : A Victorian Mystery by Emily Brightwell -- Historical cozy Mystery

Mrs. Jeffries is housekeeper for Inspector Witherspoon, an Inspector Scotland Yard. Her employer is the kindest, most generous man but not the sharpest inspector around. In order to help their beloved employer, the staff combine their talents to help the Inspector solve his cases without letting on they're doing it. In this mystery, Dr. Slocum, a Knightsbridge doctor is found dead, poisoned in his study. The post-mortem reveals death by poisonous mushroom. The Inspector is quick to pin the blame on the cook but Mrs. Jeffries feels an innocent woman will hang if she doesn't get to the bottom of the case. The servants' gossip reveals a web of blackmail and treacherous deeds. Any number of people could have wanted the doctor dead, but who actually did it? This is a nice, light little mystery that can be read in one sitting. The characters are drawn from typical English stock characters and aren't really three-dimensional. The local people are quirky and amusing. I thought I had this mystery all figured out but I was completely wrong! I was surprised at the big reveal. I think others might be able to figure it out. I liked the book well enough to want to read more. I don't know how many I will read but they're fun and lighthearted and after lots of heavy reading just what I need.  

Heirs and Graces (Her Royal Spyness) by Rhys Bowen -- Historical mystery

Georgie is left high and dry again when Mummy decides to go to Switzerland with Max rather than writing her scandalous memoirs and spending time with her only daughter. Fig refuses to allow Georgie the use of the London home, Darcy is still penniless and out of the country and Belinda is searching for a sugar daddy. Georgie has no choice but to rely on the royal cousins for help. Queen Mary introduces Georgie to the Dowager Duchess of Eynsford who is looking for someone to teach her long-lost Australian sheep farmer grandson how to get along in Society. The Duke sees himself as a patron of the arts and surrounds himself with silly, effeminate young artistic chaps. Rounding out the household are the Duke's sister Lady Irene and her three children and the Dowager Duchess' eccentric sisters.  Georgie thinks she's landed on her feet, despite a nasty woman-hating Duke. The heir, Jack, is handsome, young, and totally out of place. Georgie sympathizes with him, being half aristocrat. When the Duke is found dead with Jack's hunting knife in his back, it's up to Georgie to keep a calm head and prevent the Inspector from hauling Jack off to prison. This story piggybacks on the English manor craze. It's very much in the model of Gosford Park. The Dowager Duchess could be played by (a  well padded) Maggie Smith. She's very old-fashioned and clings to the traditions of her youth. She's not an easy character to like. Unlike Lady Violet Crawley, she doesn't seem to have much heart or care about anything other than tradition. The other characters are stereotypical too. The only one I liked was Sissy and she was a bit too good. Jack comes off as a total rube. He's such a fish out of water that I couldn't help but feel bad for him, but on the other hand, he sounds like a walking advertisement for Crocodile Dundee or some other movie character. Queenie adds some amusing, light-hearted moments and I felt sorry for her because Georgiana was acting like such a snob. The period details are interesting though and I liked the contrast between Jack's life on the sheep farm and his life in England. I actually kind of sympathized with the Duke. He had the right idea but went about it all wrong. The mystery is engaging. I figured out what bothered Georgie because I had seen Gosford Park. I absolutely could never have guessed "whodunnit." I was convinced it was someone or possible someone else or two others but never ever figured out who it actually was. There are some nice romantic moments. Georgie's romance is heating up a bit but the story is still clean with only suggestive hints at what Georgie and Darcy would like to do if they were alone. This isn't the best book in the series but fans of the other books should like it. Newcomers to the series can start here and not miss too much. Fans of Gosford Park and Downton Abbey will want to read this. 

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