Friday, March 17, 2017

What I Read in January 2016 Part VI

What I Read in January 2016 Part VI. . . 

Death Wears a Mask (Amory Ames Mystery #2) -- Historical Cozy Mystery

Death Wears a Mask (Amory Ames Mystery, #2)
Amory Ames is looking forward to rekindling her romance with her rakish husband Milo but agrees to attend a dinner party at the home of her mother's friend Mrs. Barrington. Mrs. Barrington has an ulterior motive for inviting Amory; Mrs. Barrington wants Amory to discover what has happened to her missing jewels. Amory isn't sure the jewels were stolen in the first place but agrees to help. The suspect list includes the Barrington's nephew, James Harker; a famous tennis player, Mr. Foster; the handsome and very roguish Viscount Dumore; Dumore's rumored mistress Mrs. Garmond; a Mr. Garmond; a pair of spinster sisters, Marjorie and Felicity Rccles; and a newly wed couple from different social classes. Amory has her work cut out for her but when Mrs. Barrington suggests they lay a trap for the thief at a masquerade ball hosted by Lord Dumore, Amory goes along with the plan. Then one of the suspects dies and Detective Inspector Jones enlists Amory's help to find out who the murderer was. Amory has her hands full dealing with her husband's routine disappearances, his appearances in the gossip rags on the arm of a lovely French actress and fending off the advances of Viscount Dunmore. She's determined to solve the mystery herself to keep occupied until she decides what to do about Milo.

I enjoyed this book much more than Murder at the Brightwell. The mystery grabbed me right away and I had a very hard time putting the book down until I knew everything. Though I guessed half the mystery, I never guessed who did it. There were so many suspects and so many motives that it could have been any of them. I didn't feel the story was overpopulated with characters though since most of the story focuses on Amory. There's a lot more Amory and Milo and their relationship. All love scenes are hinted at as Amory and Milo attempt to kiss and make up. I liked Amory a lot more in this story. I felt bad for her and agreed that Milo was not being a very good husband. He's selfish and doesn't consider how his actions, no matter how innocent he claims them, reflect on Amory and how much she cares what others think of her. He should have more respect for her feelings. They seem to love one another but as Anory says sometimes love just isn't enough.

There are a ton of new characters here. Mrs. Barrington seems nice if a little forceful and maybe forgetful. Her husband seems to love her which is unusual in an upper-class marriage of that time. I liked Mr. Barrington until his secrets were revealed. (Not a spoiler everyone has secrets). I also really liked Amory's new friend, Mrs. Douglas-Hughes. She's refreshingly open and kind, a result of her American upbringing and time spent on the stage. Her husband is not particularly appealing. He has secrets and he's a bit stuffy. I also liked sweet Felicity Eccles and wanted to know more about her. I disliked her sister Marjorie right away and was convinced that Marjorie was bullying her sister about something. They don't have much of a story but one may be a thief or murderer or both. Amory's maid Winnelda is cute and a more toned down version of Queenie in the "Her Royal Spyness" mysteries.

The male characters don't fare as well as the women. The remaining men don't have many redeeming qualities and one should be arrested. I had bad vibes about that person right away and knew they were up to no good. The revelations about him surprised me though I disliked him immensely.

I recommend this series to fans of 1920s and 30s set mysteries. Downton Abbey fans may enjoy the high society aspect. 

The Scrapbook of Frankie PrattThe Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston--Historical Fiction

Frances "Frankie" Pratt is a high school girl who has big dreams of becoming a writer. Sadly, her father died when she was younger and her mother works as a night nurse to make ends meet. When Frankie takes a job as a "babysitter" for an elderly lady, little does she know how her destiny will change. From meeting the man of her teenage dreams to Vassar College to Paris and home again, Frankie records everything in her scrapbook diaries.

I just adore the concept of this novel. Vintage ephemera is right up my alley. An an archivist/history nerd, I find this stuff endlessly fascinating. The magazine clippings were especially fascinating. I only wish that I could touch some of the 3D objects. It looks like the author had a lot of fun putting together the ephemera scrapbooks and telling the story.

Frankie is a likable character and I was rooting for her to succeed. She made some stupid decisions along the way and my feminist sensibilities didn't much like the ending but for the most part, Frankie is charming. I'm not a fan of the 1920s though so that is why I rated the book only 3 stars. I didn't really like her bohemian Parisian lifestyle. I liked the section at Vassar the best and it went by too quickly. The roaring 20s are a little too roaring for me. The story isn't racy per se but Frankie is curious about sex and includes a drawing of male anatomy from her health and hygiene class at Vassar. She also hints at James Joyce's seminal novel Ulysses being very racy. I would have preferred a Gilded Age story.

The story moves quickly and I was able to read it in one evening. It's engaging enough to keep the reader interested though most of the page is a scrapbook. There's so much to look at that it may be better to read an e-book version if you can get a closer look at some of the objects. I highly recommend this to those who love the 1920s, Charles Lindbergh, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Edna St. Vincent Millay and other famous authors of the period.

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