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.

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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.

The Pilgrim of Hate – Ellis Peters

95e514747efe615597061796a67434f414f4141Here’s a Brother Cadfael book where the murder doesn’t occur in Shrewsbury (which is probably a good thing – all those murders in one town can’t be that good for civic moral).

At the same time as the festival of the Translation of Saint Winifred to the monastery, while pilgrims are arriving, the Abbot is returning from London, where a shocking murder of a partisan of the Empress Maud has shaken both sides of the Civil War. It’s only known that the killer was a young man, and that he may have headed in the general direction of the Shrewbury.

Naturally, he does come through Shrewsbury, and Brother Cadfael helps solve the crime, but this is a also a story about Brother Cadfael. The first book of this series was when the monks went to Wales to fetch Saint Winifred, and it was Brother Cadfael who ended up leaving her in Wales, substituting another body into the casket they transported. He believes she approved of this choice, and is still watching over them, but he would like some sort of sign that he did the right thing. And into this story returns his son, who he met several books ago, and does not know that Cadfael is his father. He is able to see Olivier again, and even tell his friend Hugh that he does have a son, even though he never intends to tell Olivier. And thus ends this book – feeling very much a transitional story, but still very enjoyable.

The Wine of Angels – Phil Rickman

e3d2a69434cb04c597262376651434f414f4141Merrily Watkins has begun her first real posting as a vicar – it’s in the small village of Lewardine, and she quickly finds herself in the middle of a neighborhood drama involving a play about a long dead vicar in the same church, who was accused of being a witch.

Add in a teenage daughter (Jane), who’s not sure about the whole My-Mother-is-a-Vicar thing, and the tension between the old families of the village and the newcomers moving in to find an idyllic country life, with a little possibility of a haunted apple orchard, and things gets interesting.

I enjoyed this book. It turns into a straightforward mystery (and I did not see the villain coming – totally should have though), but it’s got a great supernatural atmosphere to it. And while I don’t live in a small English village, I have seen enough small town Maine life to recognize how to true to form it is there. Definitely a series with potential.

Dead Man’s Ransom – Ellis Peters

b00luznvsw-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_The civil war between King Stephen and his cousin, the Empress Maud, continues, and now the Welsh are wading in. Gilbert Prescote, the sheriff in Shrewsbury, has gone north with his men to stand against Welsh raiders who are trying to help some rebel barons, and has the misfortune of being caught by the Welsh in the action. At the same time, young Elis ap Cynan, a kinsman of Prince Owain of Gwynedd, is captured in the fuss. It seems the perfect exchange- Elis for the sheriff. While arrangements are being made, Elis is given the run of the town, and meets Gilbert’s daughter, Melicent, and falls head over heels in love.

Prescote is returned to Shrewsbury, but injured, and during his first night back, in the Abbey’s infirmary, he’s murdered. Melicent assumes it’s Elis, trying to stay with her (her father has always hated the Welsh). Brother Cadfael of course knows that’s not true, and is on the case.

This was an interesting story – I think I most enjoyed the contrast between the Welsh and English senses of honor. I really didn’t see the murderer coming – it was a very interesting twist for me. All in all, another great outing in this series.

A Quiet Life in the Country – T. E. Kinsey

9472a03105430ec596b35356e67434f414f4141Lady Emily Hardcastle and her maid Flo are retiring to the country after an apparently interesting time traveling the world, both before and after the death of Lady Hardcastle’s husband. Naturally, there’s a murder in their new village, and they feel compelled to investigate.

I was a little let down by the women’s past. I was promised a maid who is an expert in the martial arts, and all I really got was hints about things the women had done in China and India. If that’s going to be blurbed, I expect a little more. (Granted, this appears to be the first book in a series, so there is time for that later.)

That aside, this was an enjoyable book. I see it compared to Wodehouse and Heyer – I’d say Heyer is better, but this book shows promise. I’ll definitely consider reading more in the series.