Summer Reads: Historical Mysteries #amreading

My usual monthly Book Review Club is still on hiatus, but I thought I’d share some reviews anyway of four historical mysteries I read this summer.

Anatomist's Wife coverThe Anatomist’s Wife
by Anna Lee Huber,
Book 1 in the Lady Darby Mystery Series

Historical Mystery, Scotland 1830

My friend, Rebecca Anderson, recommended this book to me and I was glad she did.

Keira, Lady Darby, is the widow of a notorious anatomist who married her because of her artistic talent and then forced her to illustrate his anatomy book by observing autopsies. There was a scandal after his death and her part became public knowledge. She has been hiding out at her sister and brother-in-law’s estate in Scotland, until her sister decides to throw a house party and all the old pain comes back. The other guests treat her with disdain and mutter about her behind her back.

Then one of the female guests is murdered in a brutal fashion, and Keira is asked to help Nicholas Gage, who has some experience as an inquiry agent. Her anatomy training comes in handy, but she has a hard time dealing emotionally.

Very engaging main character and excellent mystery. I will read more in the series.

Maisy Dobbs Bundle 1 civer

Maisie Dobbs Bundle #1:
Pardonable Lies and Messenger of Truth

by Jacqueline Winspear
(actually books 3 & 4 in the series)

Setting: England in the early 1930s

I read the first two books in this series, Maisy Dobbs and Birds of a Feather and wanted more.

In Pardonable Lies, Maisie is asked to confirm the battlefield death of a man’s son, as well as to find out more about a friend’s brother who was reported missing, presumed dead, in WWI as well. It means Maisie must return to France and fight her own demons after being wounded at a battle station while nursing. And to make matters worse, someone wants her dead. I loved this book. I think it’s one of the best so far, after the first book which was excellent.

Messenger of Truth also revisits the specter of WWI. A female journalist, Georgina Bassington-Hope, asks Maisie to investigate whether her artist brother’s death was murder or a terrible accident. Maisie, who is a psychologist as well as an investigator, never does anything half way, so she ends up dredging up a lot of skeletons from the Bassington-Hope closets. Also good, but not quite as good as Pardonable Lies.

I do recommend this series to mystery readers looking for more depth of character than often found in series books.

Sovereign coverSovereign
(C. J. Sansom)
by C. J. Sansom,
Audiobook narrated by Stephen Crossley

When King Henry VIII goes on a progress to York, which rebelled the year before, Matthew is hired to assist with petitions from the Yorkers to the king. Henry is trying to consolidate his power and force the nobles to swear allegiance to him. Of course, nothing goes right for poor Matthew, a hunchback lawyer at Lincoln’s Inn. His father dies, so he and his assistant Jack Barak make a side trip to his old home, arriving a day late in York. Then a glazier removing stained glass from an abbey church falls into a wagon full of broken glass and dies after making a strange prediction about the king. Matthew can’t resist a mystery, so he sets out to investigate only to be foiled by higher up authorities, but not before Matthew uncovers an important clue, putting his life in danger.

This is a really long book, 676 pages in print, and 21 hours in audio, so it took me two months to finish. It’s really good though. Steven Crossley’s narration is excellent given the number of voices and accents involved.

Great series, though I recommend reading the books in order. The first one is Dissolution, set earlier in the reign of Henry VIII.

What have you been reading this summer?

Linda

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Book #Review Club: It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis

paperback cover

paperback cover

It’s time for Book Review Club again and my choice this month is It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis. I read the audiobook narrated by Grover Gardner.

Sinclair Lewis wrote It Can’t Happen Here about how facism could possibly come to the US in the 1930’s. In his tale, a populist demagogue, Senator Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, defeats Franklin Roosevelt for the Democratic nomination in 1936 and wins the general election over Republican Walt Trowbridge. Once in office, Buzz replaces our democratic republic with a corporate state and rules with a heavy hand, largely through his private army, the new Minute Men.

The main character is Doremus Jessup, a 60ish newspaper editor in Fort Beulah, Vermont, who opposes the regime, though quietly at first. Tragedy strikes when he goes public with his distaste for the “corpos” and he has to find a way to work underground. His nemesis is Shad LeDue who used to work (none too diligently) as the Jessup’s hired man. In the new regime Shad becomes the district commander of the MM’s.

audiobook cover

audio cover

While I found the book interesting, it is a little slow in places, but gets better toward the end. Though I found the ending unsatisfying, I understand that European fascism was a work in progress when Lewis was writing, and it wasn’t clear if or how it would all end. I enjoyed Grover Gardner’s narration. He did a good job of making the narrator sound like an old-time New Englander without going full nasal Down Easter.

Recommended for followers of current affairs. Authoritarianism seems to be making a comeback in various places around the world, and I found it interesting to compare Lewis’s vision of fascism with contemporary nationalism.

As always, click on the graphic below for more great reviews in Barrie Summy’s Book Review Club.

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