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Saturday, March 9, 2013

Review: After the Armistice Ball

Title: After the Armistice Ball
Author: Catriona McPherson
Page Count: 303 pages
Publisher: Carroll & Graf
Genre: historical mystery
Copy for review obtained via my public library

Back Cover Summary:

Dandy Gilver, her husband back from the War, her children off at school and her uniform growing musty in the attic, is bored to a whimper in the spring of 1923 and a little light snooping seems like harmless fun. And what could be better than to seek out the Duffy diamonds, stolen from the Esselmont's country house, Croys, after the Armistice Ball? Before long, though, the puzzle of what really happened to the Duffy diamonds has been swept aside by the sudden, unexpected death of lovely young Cara Duffy in a lonely seaside cottage in Galloway. Society and the law seem ready to call it an accident but Dandy, along with Cara Duffy's fiancé Alec, is sure that there is more going on than meets the eye. What is being hidden by members of the Duffy family: the watchful Lena, the cold and distant Clemence and old Gregory Duffy with his air of quiet sadness, not to mention Cara herself whose secret always seems just tantalizingly out of view? Dandy must learn to trust her instincts and swallow most of her scruples if he is to uncover the truth and earn the right to call herself a sleuth.

This was a random grab off the library shelves for me and I'm super glad for two things- one, that I took the plunge in what is looking like an impressive series, and two, that I read at least the first book in this series in the proper order.  I don't think, moving forward, that it's terribly important to read this series in order, as the repeating characters reprise their same roles and really it's the mystery that's different, but it was nice to have a proper introduction to the important folks.

The story opens five years after the end of World War I, and showcases people in England still trying to adjust to the world after the end of war.  Times are lean for many, so there's a certain level of resentment between folks who have titles and standing but few resources and up and coming wealthy folks.  When an annual dinner goes awry when the Duffy diamonds are stolen our intrepid investigator, Dandy Gilver, is asked by her best friend to investigate.  The best friend thinks the Duffys are trying to pull an insurance scam- if only that were the only thing going on.

This story was engaging, entertaining and thoughtful on a variety of levels.  Dandy is a fantastic narrator- she's witty and bright, and makes no bones about the fact that she's basically making up investigative strategy as she goes along.  Once she's got the scent of a conspiracy, she has to see justice done.  Turns out the missing diamonds are just the tip of the iceberg here, and murder isn't too far off.  But who actually was murdered? And when? And why?  Some of the answers are right there, and others have to be dug for.  It made for a satisfying story.

Another facet of the story that I enjoyed was Dandy's friendship and investigative partnership with Alec, fiance to the murdered Duffy daughter.  There's nothing romantic between these two, and I think they're more kindred souls- after the war, both were expected to just get on with their lives as if nothing had changed, when in fact everything had changed.  Dandy had been working to support the war effort and resented being sent back to basically answering the mail and being decorative, and the things that Alec saw and experienced during the war would not be forgotten any time soon. Having something on which to focus their efforts gave them both purpose and formed a great friendship.

The resolution of the mystery is one you need to read for yourself, and this is a series where I was super happy to find out that there are a lot of installments already in print.  I have the next book out from the library now and am looking forward to reading it.  Hooray!

Overall Rating:

Friday, March 8, 2013

Playing Series Catch Up

I'm one of those people who loves to start a series but has a really hard time finishing them, or even getting current until the next book comes out.  The worst part is that this is an especially big problem if the series is AWESOME.  I think it's because I know the books will be good, so saving them for when I need a sure thing seems like a good idea at the time.

This means that I have a lot of series laying around that aren't current or finished, and no real plan for how to get them finished or current before the next installment comes out.  One of the joys of refocusing on books I own or just want to read for fun is that some of these languishing series can finally get finished.  Here are some series that I'm currently working on getting current with (and a picture of the book in the series that I'm on):

The Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews- I love this series to teeny tiny pieces but have yet to read the most recent installment.  Need to get on this.

The Immortals After Dark series by Kresley Cole- one of my two favorite PNR series and I haven't read the most recent installment.  I know, I know.  On a side note, the audiobook versions of this series are FANTASTIC. Fan. Tas. Tic.

The Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley- so far I finished the second book (The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag) and am about to start the third.

The Charles Lenox series by Charles Finch- the first two books were awesome and are a great way to spend a weekend.  I'm looking forward to getting caught up!

The Lady Julia series by Deanna Raybourn- Julia and Nicholas Brisbane are a great leading couple and the first book that introduced them was great.  Not sure what my delay has been in getting to the rest of this series.

The Lady Emily series by Tasha Alexander- another great historical romance/mystery series with a great first installment.  Better get busy!

The India Black series by Carol K. Carr- detectives and a madam and historical mysteries, oh my!  I've only read the first book and am ashamed to say that I only knew about the second book in this series, not the third and the short story.  Shame on me!

Lots of great reading ahead?  Do you have any series on your shelf that you've been meaning to catch up on?   Share, share, share!
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