In the Market for Murder – T. E. Kinsey

5e869c8ddc08e66596c78787377434f414f4141I had to go find my review for the first book in this series, and I find I have the same complaint about this book as I had in the last. Lady Hardcastle and her maid Flo have retired to the English countryside after a life of adventure, and I’m just not getting enough stories of the adventure.

After the previous book, the police have noted the pairs’ detective skills, so when a local farmer who everyone hated turns up dead, they’re enlisted to help. After all, it’s pretty hard to narrow down the suspects when absolutely no one liked the man, including his own family. I will admit, I admired how a theft at the local rugby club ended up being connected. And Flo did get to work a few of her connections from their prior life, but I want more. This is definitely a series I’ll only continue if I can read it for free.

The Darkling Bride – Laura Anderson

0425286436.01._sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_This is one of those past and present stories, where a brooding location (Deeprath Castle in Ireland) links the past and present together in a mystery. In the present, we have Carragh Ryan, hired to catalog the library of Deeprath. The latest Viscount, Aidan Gallagher, has decided to give the castle away to the National Trust. He hasn’t been back since he was a child, and was the one to find his father, murdered, in the library. His mother was found later the same day, having apparently jumped to her death from the Bride’s Tower, the oldest part of the castle.

Carragh takes the job partially because she’s always been fascinated by Evan Chase, a Victorian author who married Jenny Gallagher, the only heir to the Viscount at the time. Jenny died tragically young, leaving a young son, who Evan Chase left in Ireland when he returned to London. He never wrote again.

Evan Chase was there to research the tale of the Darkling Bride, a fairy story associated with the family back to its Norman routes. Jenny had always associated herself with the Bride, and the painting she had commissioned for her wedding, showing both her, and the Bride, hangs in the room Carragh is given in the castle.

I enjoyed this story. You can pretty much see the plot twists coming from a mile away, though I will admit, it did take me a little while to settle on the murder. Still, it’s very comforting to ready this kind of story – perfect Fall reading.

The Heretic’s Apprentice – Ellis Peters

9ef31c048f16561596749706e77434f414f4141Our story begins when a young man named Elave returns from the Holy Land, bringing back the body of his master, William of Lythwood. They’d left on pilgrimage a number of years ago. Elave had been the clerk for the Lythwood family, and while they’re sad that William is gone, they’re happy to see Elave again.

The family has a foster daughter, Fortunata, who has grown up in the time that William and Elave has been gone. William has sent home a beautiful box to be her dowry.

It’s hard to go into more detail about the story – it’s very detail specific, and all the details are important. (Including why the word heretic is in the title – that’s a tldr in the making.) What I will say is that the reason for the murder is actually set up quite early, and though I noted it as a detail, its importance escaped me. So I had a really good aha moment about who the murder was, and exactly why, barely ahead of the action of the book, even though it had been there to see the whole time. That completely earns my respect – great mystery writing!

The Confession of Brother Haluin – Ellis Peters

057d75cfdc65b27597a72705a41434f414f4141It’s winter in Shrewsbury, and a particularly bad storm puts a hole in the roof of the Abbey. While the brothers are up fixing it, Brother Haluin falls from the roof. His injuries are grave, and they do not expect him to live. Because of this, he makes a confession that Brother Cadfael is there to hear. And then, he lives.

Though his legs were shattered, and he can only walk on crutches, Haluin pledges to make a pilgrimage to the grave of a girl that he wronged before he took his vows, and Cadfael goes with him, to help him along the way. You really need to read the book to get the full sense of the transgression that Haluin is trying to atone for, and exactly how many things on his pilgrimage go so incredibly right to help him do it. It’s a different book than many of the others in this series. There is a murder, but it’s almost a side action. It’s really a story of following your heart when it tells you must do something.

Jane and the Genius of the Place – Stephanie Barron

6d766dcc6677d645939536e5a77434f414f4141In this book, Jane is staying at her brother Edward’s estate in Kent (which he has because he was adopted by a wealthy, childless couple – this is real life detail). While there, they go to the races, where the wife of one of the other local landowners is found dead. Mrs. Grey had not been well liked in the neighborhood – she was French, and Napoleon was poised just across the Channel, making plans to invade. Still, Edward is the local magistrate, and is obligated to the investigate. And as we all know from the previous three books in this series, Jane is not a bad investigator herself, so naturally helps.

This ends up being a really interesting commentary on womens’ lives in Regency England, mixed up with the politics of the war, and with a bit of landscape gardening thrown in for good measure. How the murder ends up working into that ends up being very interesting – I will admit I hadn’t figured it out before the reveal.

These books are definitely anachronistic, but fun enough that I don’t mind.

The Rose Rent – Ellis Peters

2b9bf2c836e179e59746e366667434f414f4141The young widow Perle had donated the house where she had lived happily with her husband to the Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. She had no need of it – she was also the heiress to one of the foremost weaving families in Shrewsbury, and could live in her family home, away from her memories. She asked only for a single white rose from a bush in the yard as rent.

It’s been a late year for all plants, but the rose comes ready to bloom just in time for the rent payment, only the young monk in charge of paying the rent is found dead beside the rosebush. It’s no secret that several men would like to marry the young widow (and gain her substantial dowry), and it’s up to Brother Cadfael to figure out which one of these men is the murderer.

This is a surprisingly quick tale, perhaps because it plays out at a truly local level, unlike some of the other stories in this series. It’s a great ending – way more interesting than you would think from the initial set up.

Lord Darcy – Randall Garrett

70e1f63cbd8f17159756a756a67434f414f4141This is an omnibus of three books of mostly short stories about Lord Darcy, the chief investigator for Prince Richard, Duke of Normandy, in an alternate world where King Richard the Lion-Heart survived the cross bow attack that killed him in our world. His family is still in charge of an Angevin empire that includes a good chunk of Europe, as well as North and South America.

The books were written in the 60s and 70s, so are set in that timeframe, but it’s a timeframe where science didn’t really go anywhere, and magic is the norm instead. Lord Darcy works with a sorcerer, Sean O’Lochlainn, who’s basically his walking forensics lab. Darcy’s absolutely brilliant, and usually knows who’s done it – it’s just a matter of getting the evidence.

I really enjoyed these books. That they’re mostly short stories was a bonus – it allowed a pretty wide variety of cases. Things were really well plotted, and just really interesting. I think they’ve also aged pretty well – they’re not particularly of their time, so it’s easy to just drop in. My only complaint is that I’m not sure why we had to be reminded every single time he entered that Sean is “tubby”.

Jane and the Wandering Eye – Stephanie Barron

380c536451d9019597937685977434f414f4141Jane is back in Bath, absolutely not enjoying herself, and is more than happy to accept a commission from Lord Harold Trowbridge to keep an eye on his niece, the Lady Desdemona. At a party given by Mona’s grandmother, a shocking murder occurs, drawing Jane into the world of the Bath theatre.

Yes, this is Jane Austen solving mysteries. And it’s completely anachronistic. (At least in this book, her family starts commenting that she’s spending a bit too much time in some rather unladylike pursuits.) But it’s all good fun, and other than Jane not really being Jane, the author layers in a lot of other interesting historical flavor.

The Raven in the Foregate – Ellis Peters

d73c161c49fcab75939617a5767434f414f4141The priest of the lay parish attached to the Abbey has died, and when the Abbot returns from a meeting of the English church fathers, he brings a replacement with him. Father Ailnoth brings with him a housekeeper and her nephew, a young lad who’s quickly volunteered for help for Brother Cadfael.

The old priest, Father Adam, had been beloved by his parishioners, having his finger right on the pulse of exactly how hard to push his parishioners when they had sinned, but not going overboard with punishment. Father Ailnoth is not that kind, and quickly alienates the entire parish. On Christmas night, before services, Cadfael sees him leave the church to head into town, and he’s never seen alive again. There are too many suspects- including his housekeeper’s nephew, who clearly has a much more interesting background than originally presented.

There is an interesting twist to perpetrator of this crime – I will fully admit I did’t see it coming. Other than that, this didn’t feel like a particular original story compared the others that came before. There definitely seemed to be a combination of elements of other stories that came together to make this one. It’s not bad because of this, just not one of my favorites. (I probably partially feel this way because the last book has a very interesting central plot, and this one just can’t compare.)

An Excellent Mystery – Ellis Peters

dc5a85894c45fdf593255635267434f414f4141This Brother Cadfael book actually isn’t about a murder, for a change.

After Winchester was sacked as part of the civil war between King Stephen and the Empress Maud, the brothers of the Benedictine monastery there have scattered to neighboring monasteries. Brothers Humilis and Fidelis have come to Shrewsbury, which is near where Brother Humilis was born. Before he became a brother, he was a crusader, and a wound from his time then will be the death of him, and probably soon. It’s his last wish to return to the place of his birth.

His former lieutenant, Nicholas Harnage, comes to find Humilis. It was Nicholas that had to break the word to the girl that Humilis was to marry that he was a broken man, and would be unable to wed. Nicholas has never forgotten the girl, and three years later, has come to find Humilis to ask his permission to pursue this girl, if she is not yet wed. Humilis has no objections, so Nicholas rides to her family home, which is also near Shrewsbury. And there, he uncovers a mystery, for Julian Cruce supposedly took the veil shortly after her engagement was ended, but no one at the nunnery she supposedly entered has ever heard of her.

What follows is a story all about fidelity. If you’re paying attention, it’s not long a true mystery – what the real mystery is is how everything that has happened to a number of people will be resolved, and I very much enjoyed that story.