Weekend Reads: “Murder By Misrule”

Murder by Misrule (Francis Bacon Mystery #1)Murder by Misrule by Anna Castle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5/5 stars

The late Anna Castle knew her way around a historical mystery. This is the first of her Tudor-era books that I have read.

Francis Bacon agrees to tutor four students at the Gray’s Inn law school after their own tutor is murdered … and soon the five are not only involved in investigating the matter, but are also in the murderer’s sights themselves.

There’s an additional subplot about Bacon trying to be received at court again, and currying favor with his uncle William Cecil, but it’s not the most important subplot. That belongs to student Tom and portrait painter Clara, the latter of whom hails from Brussels. We not only see a great deal about women’s roles during the period but also about geographical and religious prejudice as this part of the story unfolds.

As for the mystery, it’s a fair play puzzle with numerous twists, turns, and more red herrings than a London fishmonger’s. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

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Weekend Reads: “Four Cuts Too Many”

Four Cuts Too Many (Sarah Blair Mystery, #4)Four Cuts Too Many by Debra H. Goldstein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a cute cozy mystery, taking place of a small community college in Alabama. When the potential new head of the culinary department is murdered, Sarah Blair’s long-time friend Grace is the prime suspect. But Sarah knows Grace too well to believe it’s true. Despite cautions from both her attorney boss and the local police chief to stay out of it, Sarah puts her amateur sleuthing skills to use.

There’s a subplot involving Sarah’s on-again/off-again relationship with a fellow named Cliff, and her interest in the new shelter veterinarian, Glenn. This is not resolved; there are more book in the series. However, Sarah’s love for her Siamese, Rahrah, and her tiny mutt Fluffy, tell me that she’ll probably have a twinkle in her eye for the animal rescue guy.

The ‘whodunnit’ was satisfying and believable, and the small-town folks in the story felt believable. There were enough red herrings to make the read a lot of fun. Recommended for lovers of the cozy genre.

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Weekend Reads: “Mrs Harris Goes to Paris” and “Mrs Harris Goes to New York”

As both novellas are in the same volume, my review this week is a “two-fer.”

Mrs Harris Goes to Paris & Mrs Harris Goes to New YorkMrs Harris Goes to Paris & Mrs Harris Goes to New York by Paul Gallico
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mrs. Ada Harris is a London charwoman (housekeeper) in the 1950s. She hasn’t got much money, but when she falls in love with a client’s Christian Dior dress, nothing will do but she must have one for herself. So, she scrimps and saves for two years to make the trip to Paris to buy her dress. Along the way, she manages to make several new friends who are so charmed by her determination and lack of pretension that they fall all over themselves to help make her dream come true. I was actually in tears at the end of the first book.

The second book was a bit more of a challenge due to some racial stereotypes (I had to remind myself of when it was written a couple of times). This time, Mrs. Harris goes to New York because one of her clients needs help setting up a household there. Mrs. Harris takes advantage of the opportunity to help a young boy being abused by his foster family — by smuggling him aboard the ship on which she’s sailing, since his father is American and she’s certain she’ll find him.

With the help of friends old and new, everything comes to a satisfying end. I’ll be looking for more Mrs. Harris books.

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Weekend Reads: “The Brotherhood of the Rose”

The Brotherhood of the RoseThe Brotherhood of the Rose by David Morrell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of the most complex spy thrillers I’ve ever read. Don’t let the publication date, and the correspondingly dated technology (actual phone booths are used) put you off.

The premise starts with the idea that the highest level operatives in all of the international spy agencies meet and establish a network of safe houses. These sanctuaries are inviolable, regardless of one’s agency.

Cut forward a number of years, when someone is killed in sanctuary … and another operative is framed for it.

That’s where the book really begins. Friends Chris and Saul are CIA agents who’ve known each other since their childhood in an orphanage. They’re recruited to a paramilitary boarding school, which eventually feeds them into the spy network. They’ve got to figure out who was behind the murder in the safe house which, of course, puts them in danger.

The book is tightly constructed and filled with plausible spycraft and believable characters. Everyone is the hero of his or her own story, which makes the book and its characters complicated.

Highly recommended.

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Weekend Reads: “This is Not a Book About Benedict Cumberbatch”

This Is Not a Book about Benedict Cumberbatch: The Joy of Loving Something--Anything--Like Your Life Depends on ItThis Is Not a Book about Benedict Cumberbatch: The Joy of Loving Something–Anything–Like Your Life Depends on It by Tabitha Carvan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Author Tabitha Carvan is a young, married mom when she finds herself crushing on Benedict Cumberbatch. The crush is unexpected, to say the least, and Carvan decides to figure out what it might mean.

Through interviews with other Cumberbatch fans, as well as her own introspection, Carvan reaches an interesting conclusion (with which I happen to agree). Unlike men, whose enthusiasms for any number of things (primarily sport-oriented, though) are not only socially acceptable but lauded, women’s enthusiasms are discouraged as we’re told not to be childish. So, the things that women loved and enjoyed unabashedly, the way kids enjoy things, become secrets that we are told to be ashamed of. Especially if we’re married and have crushes on actors (Carvan is asked repeatedly what her husband thinks of her crush on Cumberbatch, just as I am about what my husband thinks of my crush on Ramin Karimloo. Answer: both men are fine with it).

Anyway, the book is an interesting look about how women, particularly those of us in mid-life, might be searching for meaning/feeling after feeling squelched a bit by the world around us. Definitelyworth the read.

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