Friday, January 22, 2016

What I Read in February 2015 Part VI

What I Read in February 2015 Part VI. . .

George Porter and Genevieve Masefield Mysteries 

Murder on the Marmora (George Porter Dillman & Genevieve Masefield, #5)Murder on the Marmora 

Dillman and Genevieve have left the luxurious Cunard Line and taken a job with the P&O Line on board the Marmora. The Marmora is a smaller ship than what they're used to, carrying vacationers to Egypt and Australia. The ship's purser, Brian Kilhendry, is openly antagonistic towards the detectives, particularly Dillman. Kilhendry claims he runs a clean ship and any petty crimes he can take care of right away with the help of his assistant, Martin Grandage. Kilhendry also hates Americans. Working separately as usual, the detectives acquire the usual sorts of quirky friends. Genevieve is befriended by mother and daughter duo Myra and Lillian Cathcart. Newly widowed, Myra is ready to do the things her cautious husband never wanted to do but her daughter is exactly like her father. Myra turns to Genevieve, the woman she wishes her daughter would be, for help bringing Lillian out of her shell. Dillman finds the company of Egyptologist Mr. Goss fascinating but the attentions of teenage Polly Goss, a young woman with her first crush, are a bit hindering. There's also a family of royals to keep an eye on; a testy German photographer and a vain French chef both determined to insinuate themselves with the royals. Genevieve's past threatens to catch up to her when she sees the last person she ever expected or wanted to see on this trip. When several female passengers are robbed, Dillman and Genevieve are puzzled. Then a much-liked passenger is found brutally murdered, Dillman is sure there is a connection. Can they figure it out before they reach Port Said and the villain gets away?

The plot of this book was so complicated that I never ever guessed at anything. I was very shocked at the reveal. I stayed up way way too late reading this book because I just couldn't put it down. The story sticks close to Dillman and Genevieve this time with a little point-of-view shifting. Occasionally the author takes the reader to the scene of the crime before Dillman and Genevieve find out about it. That was a bit jarring. It interrupted the flow of the narrative. The subplot about the royals was really not necessary. There are several red herrings before the conclusion. I wrongly suspected a character of nefarious motives because of their nationality and I apologize to them for that. The one big thing that disturbed me about this book is something that happened to Genevieve. It ruined the whole story for me, though it was accurate for the time. I was shocked at her decision and did not agree with it.

Dillman finally has a personality and allows his passions to shine through. He's intelligent and thoughtful as well as caring. I liked how he handled Polly's crush with a delicate touch, not wanting to hurt her. I also liked knowing about what interests him. The ending absolutely surprised and delighted me. Genevieve's backstory comes out in full, finally. We see another side of her - more vulnerable and softer. I especially liked how she was able to draw out Lillian and help the young woman though she had other things to worry about. I did not like how she handled her unexpected encounters and completely disagreed with her decision. It might be accurate but it's not right.

I'm dying to read the next volume now.

Murder on the Salsette (George Porter Dillman & Genevieve Masefield, #6)Murder on the Salsette 

George Dillman and Genevieve Maesfield are working on the P&O steamer from Bombay to Aden. George loved the vibrant city of Bombay but his first new friend, Mr. Dudley Nevin hates India. A Civil Servant, he's spent his career in the hot, steamy environment and would welcome a change. On board the ship he encounters a man from his past who gives him a black look. Dillman is certainly intrigued. Genevieve has her hands full with an invalid woman, Constance Simcoe, and her daughter Tabitha and a series of thefts the victims demand to be solved. Easier said than done when one of the victims won't share all the information with Genevieve. Dillman has attracted the notice of another young woman, this one on roller skates and he also befriends a Sikh mystic who predicts something terrible is going to happen. His prediction comes true when someone ends up dead. With only 4 days to solve all the crimes, the detectives have their hands full.

The plot was nicely paced and the action happens fairly quickly and doesn't let up. I liked the colorful characters in this novel, especially the journalist writing about women at sea. He actually reveals a big clue so I wasn't surprised at some of the revelations. I did guess about one thing though. I felt it was pretty obvious. I objected to the stereotype of the charming flirtatious Italian, Paulo Morelli but I grew to like him and was rooting for him to succeed. I just wish the author hadn't fallen back on the old stereotype. I also really liked the exuberant young Lois Greenwood. I had never heard of a women's roller derby football team in Edwardian England. That sounds so unusual and fascinating. Lois' father was my least favorite character. He and the Kinnerslys who epitomized the stereotype of British in India at the time. I wish their maid, Suki, had been fleshed out more. I'm still enjoying the series and plan to dig in to the next soon.

Murder on the Oceanic (George Porter Dillman & Genevieve Masefield, #7)Murder on the Oceanic 

George Dillman and Genevieve Masefield are now working for the White Star Line, sailing for New York on the Oceanic. On board is the owner of the shipping line, noted financier J.P. Morgan, who is returning from Paris with a suite of art treasures. Urged by the purser and both detectives to lock up his valuables, he believes his bodyguard, Howard Reidel, will keep away any unwanted thieves. Dillman makes the acquaintance of an eccentric, bohemian artist, the artist's wife, Veronica, also an artist and his model, Dominique. Dillman finds them all charming. He also likes his steward, Manny Ellway, but suspects the man is hiding something. Genevieve is dealing with too much adoration again. A young woman, Blanche Charlbury, latches on to Genevieve and wants Genevieve to know her fiance, Mark. Mark disapproves of Genevieve and tries to curb Blanche's friendship,which angers Genevieve. Blance also introduces Genevieve to Johnny Killick, a rake with no scruples when it comes to the female sex. Not only does Genevieve have to worry about Johnny, she has an irate passenger who lost her diamond earrings and demands their return NOW; an absent-minded lady who lost her purse and a rash of other thefts. She's on her own because Dillman has a bigger crime to solve - the murder of J.P. Morgan's bodyguard and the theft of some valuable artwork. Dillman thinks the thefts are a ruse to distract him from his pursuit of the murderer. He needs Genevieve to solve the mystery quickly so he can catch the thief and murderer.

This story was less interesting than the previous mysteries. Now they're on the famed White Star Line but there's little description of the ship's interior. There's a lot of info dump about the history of the ship which does not bear any relevance to the story. There's a couple of red herrings and I couldn't figure out who committed the crimes. I suspected one person and was partly right. I wasn't sad or surprised that Reidel was murdered. He was too harsh and too stupid to stick around for long. This story lacks the charming characters of some of the previous books. I felt sympathy towards Blanche and hoped she would not work things out with Mark because he is not right for her. The victims of theft are not very sympathetic characters and one is horrid to Genevieve. The stewards and stewardess are the most sympathetic characters because they're just trying to earn a living but because of their social status, they're accused of crimes.

There were two major things I hated about this book: 1)Our detectives get arrogant again and make mistakes. By now they should be so experienced they would act cautiously. 2)Once again Genevieve puts herself in a dangerous situation and needs to be rescued. I absolutely think Dillman needs to teach her some self defense and that she should be smart enough NOT to put herself in that situation. It was horrible for her and horrible to read. At least this time she has a good reason not to press charges but even in 1910 I think she should have stood up for herself more. The minor thing I disliked about the story is that other than J.P. Morgan, the story could have taken place at any time during the steamship era.

Content warning: Dialogue about free love and what that means for the characters; near sexual assault

Murder on the Celtic (George Porter Dillman & Genevieve Masefield, #8)Murder on the Celtic 

George and Genevieve are still working for the White Star Line sailing on the Celtic. They're both in first class but separately. Genevieve's dream is to have a relaxing vacation with George by her side, but that is of course, not meant to be. She becomes the subject of a wager between two rakish businessmen, Mr. Spurrier and Mr. Cleves, to see who can seduce her first. Genevieve knows what they're up to and tries to keep her distance for personal and professional reasons. George is being hunted by a widow and her mother and makes the acquaintance of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The famous author hopes to travel in relative anonymity because he dislikes being crowded and fussed over, but he can barely escape from the overzealous barber who seems to be his #1 fan. Then, while Sir Arthur and Lady Doyle are at a seance, his most prized possession is stolen. George is on the case while Genevieve handles the usual petty thefts and explores the world of spiritualism. When a newly married man goes missing, George is baffled. How could a man disappear on a ship? Meanwhile, in steerage, the huddled masses turned away from Ellis Island are returning to Europe. Returning to what? wonders Miriam Pinnick. Her husband is a glass half full person and is thankful they're alive and can go back to London to their friends. Len Rush isn't so lucky. A maimed former miner, he has nothing left to live for now his beloved wife is dead and buried at sea. He rebuffs Saul's friendship and just wants to be left alone. Could his loner status help provide a clue as to what happened to the missing man?

The mystery in this story really baffled me. I hoped it wasn't murder but then it seemed like it was and I was so sad. The big reveal came as a huge shock. I knew exactly who stole the book and why but the murder plot really surprised me. This last book has the most complicated mystery! The rest of the plot is entirely unnecessary. There are lengthy passages of pointless dialogue especially among the steerage passengers. There's a brief foray into spiritualism and then that's dropped when there's a murder to solve! Sir Arthur Conan Doyle appears too frequently and isn't of any added value to the story except that his stolen book is the key to the mystery. There's too much time spent on the two men who want to seduce Genevieve, two long quotes from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's verse and a lot of background information about the author. This is apparently the last book in the series but there's no closure for the detectives. The book also lacks a p.s. about the ship's history for those who care.

The story lacks the colorful characters because too much attention is paid to Len Rush, Saul Pinnick and the two men who want to seduce Genevieve. I hated both businessmen and hoped at least one would be murdered. I wasn't crazy about Mrs. Trouncer, mainly because she was after George. He always handles his admirers with grace and charm. Noddy Ruggles is the most quirky character and mostly I wished he would shut up. He was certainly colorful but most of his dialogue wasn't necessary. Besides George and Genevieve the characters I liked were the newlywed Lowburys and the medium, Mrs. Burbridge. She was an interesting and complicated character. I wanted more of her and less of everything else.

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