Saturday, May 23, 2015

What I Read in January Part VIII . . .

What I Read in January Part VII . . .

Miss Silver Comes to Stay (Miss Silver, #16)Miss Silver Comes to Stay by Patricia Wentworth--historical cozy mystery

When Miss Maud Silver comes to stay with an old friend, she doesn't count on being called on in a professional capacity to solve the murder of James Lassiter. 25 years ago, James Lassiter wanted to marry Rietta Cray, despite her cousin Catherine Lee's attempts to attach him. Alas, James went away penniless, Catherine married Edward Welby and Rietta was left to raise her sister's son Carr Robertson. When Edward died, he left Catherine with hardly anything to live on and she turned to her distant relative, Mrs. Lassiter, for help. Catherine was allowed use of the Gate House and some furniture. Now James Lassiter has returned a wealthy man, determined to sell the estate in tact but it seems as if some valuable items are missing. If only his mother had left some proof of her intentions and if only he could find it and prove Catherine stole from the estate. He's determined to get his revenge. Carr also returns to Melling with his new girlfriend, Fancy, a showgirl, cut in the same mold as his first wife Marjorie. Carr is determined to avenge Marjorie's death caused by a despicable man who left her high and dry. When Carr discovers the identity of the man, he's furious and when that man ends up dead, he becomes one of the prime suspects. The other prime suspect is his aunt, Rietta. No one is sure who did or didn't do it but the Inspector wants to see someone behind bars ASAP. His Chief Inspector intervenes and collaborates with Miss Silver to crack the case.

This mystery is less cozy than I expected it to be. Miss Silver is mentioned once at the beginning and then doesn't appear again until the middle of the novel. She's a professional detective, not a knitting needle toting granny (though she does knit her way through the mystery). The main character is in very real danger of being accused of the crime, as is her nephew. The whole mystery involves many complicated backstories. The red herrings kept me alert. I was certain I had figured out whodunnit but then something happened that changed the course of the mystery and I was proved wrong. I did guess, at that moment, who DID do it but not why. It was all very complicated. I stayed up late to finish the story to see where it all goes. A romance or two is thrown in for good measure.

None of the characters in the novel are appealing at first but I found myself liking Rienna and Carr and feeling sorry for Rienna. I hated Catherine for being a spoiled beauty who lied and manipulated the truth to get what she wanted. James Lassiter is also a very nasty character and I feel those two deserved each other. If you are sensitive about cruelty to animals, you may not want to read every word of this book. It was only a brief mention but enough to make me despise James. He's cruel and vindictive and deliberately hurts people.

I didn't really like the author's writing style. The story was told in a cold, detached manner. The romances have very little feeling, despite the two principals being passionate people. Miss Silver shows no emotion at all and there's a lack of liveliness and humor in the story despite being set in a quaint English village where everyone gossips. The book did remind me of Georgette Heyer's early mysteries so I guess this style must have been popular in the 30s and 40s. It just didn't appeal to me and I don't think I'll be reading any more Miss Silver novels.
Murder at Honeychurch Hall (Honeychurch Hall Mystery, #1)Murder at Honeychurch Hall by Hannah Dennison--Contemporary Cozy Mystery

Kat Stanford has just quit her job at the popular TV show Fakes and Treasures to start an antique shop with her mother. She's also hoping for an official commitment from her (married but separated) boyfriend David. When Kat's mother calls and announces she's broken her wrist and needs Kat's help, Kat is only too happy to step in. Then Kat is shocked to discover her mother has purchased a carriage house in Devon -200 miles from London! Kat promised her late father she'd look after her mother so off she goes to Devon where she finds a fleeing nanny, a little boy obsessed with a fictional WWI pilot and her special antique toy mouse, a dilapidated carriage house and a neighbor out to get her mother. She also discovers her mother has secrets she never knew. The secrets begin to come out as they battle Eric, the owner of a junk yard next door. Eric's wife Vera seems to hate Kat and Iris for some reason and the fleeing nanny up and disappears. When the police get involved, Iris decides to play matchmaker. When Kat stumbles across a dead body, she and her mother become prime suspects. Can she solve the mystery before her mother ends up dead?

This is a cozy mystery but not a typical one. The plot doesn't follow the usual path. There are a lot of mysteries that need to be unraveled and the dead body doesn't appear until 3/4 of the way through. The description on the dust jacket is misleading. The mystery kept me reading until way too late in the night. I had to know how it was resolved. There were some secrets that are easy to guess and others that aren't. I figured out who the killer was before Kat discovered the truth.

I didn't find any of the characters in this novel appealing. There are too many of them to make them real flesh and blood people. I didn't even really like Kat all that much. She insists on keeping her head in the sand regarding her boyfriend, she doesn't really listen to what her mother is telling her in the beginning and her character growth is minimal. David is a jerk and I don't know what Kat sees in him. I found the little boy, Harry, annoying. His interested in Biggles is so obscure that I have never heard of that character. He's cute when he's repeating what he's heard the adults say but mostly I found him annoying. I was fond enough of him that I didn't want him to die. His formidable grandmother, Lady Edith lacks the humor of Maggie Smith's Lady Violet. She's a complex character but doesn't have a lot of "screen" time. Eric and Vera are crazy. Neither of them seem like real people. I hated them both and I know that's what the author intended but they were a bit over the top.

This book is the first in a planned series but I'm not interested enough to read more about the characters.

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