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Topic: 2015 Historical mystery Challenge - Info and discussion

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Subject: 2015 Historical mystery Challenge - Info and discussion
Date Posted: 11/9/2014 10:07 AM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
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Okay! I'm setting this up the way I described previously. This challenge starts on January 1, 2015 and ends on Dec. 31, 2015

In this challenge, we can apply the subjects however we see fit, just so long as they "fit" somehow !!! (I'll put in some examples):

1.)  A little bit creepy in here. (paranormal aspect, or the word "creepy or creep", or the word "little" etc.)

2.) Pick a color - any color (pretty self explanatory- word of a color in title or however you would like to interpret this)

3.) Is this the place? (title has a location which could be a country, county, manor, etc.)

4.) Royal Scoundrels (something to do with royalty, scoundrels, etc.)

5.) For heaven's sake (something to do with religion, the word "heaven" or the word "sake")

6.) We don't need no stinkin' badges (someone other than police who work on a mystery, the word "stink or stinking", the word badges, etc.)

7.) All that jazz (has to do with music or the roaring 20's etc)

8.) Diamonds are a girl's best friend (jewels, girl, friend, etc.)

9.) When Johnny comes marching home (war, uniforms, march, home, etc.)

10.) You're killing me (you get the picture by now!)

I will do a drawing for these: There will be a prize of one book of my choosing from the winner's WL (those who finish the entire challenge)  and a chance to win 2 credits for those who read at least 6 books from the challenge!  Note: There will only be one first prize winner and 1 second prize winner. Please be sure to clearly mark the books you have finished.

I will set up another thread for Lists Only.

Questions? Please post them in this thread as others may have the same question.

Thank you all for participating.

Date Posted: 11/12/2014 7:05 PM ET
Member Since: 10/6/2007
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Okay --- I will try this one more time!!!!

Date Posted: 1/1/2015 6:39 PM ET
Member Since: 7/6/2007
Posts: 747
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I'm starting off this challenge reading Laurie R. King's The Beekeeper's Apprentice (thanks to my Secret Santa ;) ).  I think Sherlock Holmes is the absolute best fictional character ever created, so I'm curious how this will play out.  I'm only 20 pages in- so far , so good! I'm thinking it will got in #8 Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend. Mary Russell is a 15 year old girl.

 

Date Posted: 1/1/2015 11:52 PM ET
Member Since: 7/22/2009
Posts: 2,617
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Oh, Carolyn -- you are in for a treat. I loved The Beekeeper's Apprentice...and the next few books in the series. Mary Russell is a terrific character and the relationship between her and Sherlock Holmes is tremendously entertaining. (Unfortunately, as often happens with series, the later books aren't nearly as good.)

Date Posted: 1/13/2015 8:28 AM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
Posts: 929
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Just finished The Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, the 7th Flavia de Luce mystery and my first book for the challenge. 

This newest installment finds the now 12-year-old Flavia banished to a girls' finishing school in Canada. Homesick and confused by her role in a secretive British society, Flavia nevertheless manages to uncover the mysteries surrounding several suspicious deaths using her considerable pluck and chemistry genius.

While I think the plot was a bit thin in this one, Bradley has certainly hit his stride in writing Flavia's snarky, irreverent yet vulnerable voice. Unlike many series, this one is still holding up quite well at #7. I can't wait for the upcoming TV series!  5*****

 

Date Posted: 1/13/2015 10:50 AM ET
Member Since: 3/23/2008
Posts: 2,451
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#5  For Heaven's Sake

I finished The Abbot's Agreement, the 7th book in the Hugh Singleton series by Melvin Starr.  This one was an okay read, certainly not one of my favorites, but it did provide some good red herrings for me right up to the end.  I'd give it 3 stars.

Date Posted: 1/20/2015 7:34 PM ET
Member Since: 3/23/2008
Posts: 2,451
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#3  Is this the Place?

For this selection I'm using Raiders of the Nile by Steven Saylor.  This is the second book in his "re-do" of the Gordianus the Finder series.  Gordianus is now a much younger man, as opposed to the original series that ended with him being quite the elderly detective.  He has now been in Alexandria for some time after touring the 7 wonders of the world.  I can't quite rate this one as highly as the very excellent Seven Wonders of the World, but it's a good read, especially if you enjoyed the first ones.  Gordianus has quite a different voice in this set as opposed to the originals, much more Greek than Roman.  I suppose that's a product of his world travels.  I did rate this one 3 and a half stars out of 5 stars.
 

Date Posted: 1/20/2015 8:29 PM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
Posts: 10,209
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Wow Cheryl, you are really hitting these books! Good for you and thanks for the reviews!

Date Posted: 1/21/2015 11:16 AM ET
Member Since: 3/23/2008
Posts: 2,451
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I've managed to acquire so many good h/f mysteries lately that I just can't resist reading them!

Date Posted: 1/22/2015 4:13 AM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
Posts: 10,209
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Finally read my first book for this challenge: The Impersonator by Mary Miley and it's going in the " All That Jazz" category. Fun, fun read. Very interesting characters and the author has very nicely described the time period (prohibition era) and the place. The plot wasn't too dense but the author's writing style made me want to continue reading and I hated to put this book down.

Date Posted: 1/22/2015 1:26 PM ET
Member Since: 7/22/2009
Posts: 2,617
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I guess I should do this challenge since I love prizes and I've already read 8 historical mysteries this month (#4-9 of the Sebastian St. Cyr series and #1-2 of the Abel Jones series) -- relatively easy when given 3 weeks off work, a high tolerance for fast food and an unkempt house, and an even higher dose of laziness. However, I will have to exercise a bit of creativity to get the books to match the categories. Fortunately, Jeanne is my good buddy and will turn a blind eye to any cheating I may have to do. Wait -- did I say that aloud? I meant that Jeanne is a flexible, lenient, and generous challenge master.

Date Posted: 1/22/2015 2:56 PM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
Posts: 10,209
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Deb - what a finagler! LOL! I thought I made those categories soooo lenient that just about anything would work! wink Just get the books read and off your TBR pile. At the rate you're going though I should say that my leniency is contingent on you doing the swap TWICE! devil LOL!!!! (not really).

Date Posted: 1/23/2015 2:19 AM ET
Member Since: 7/22/2009
Posts: 2,617
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So, for example, for category #7 All that jazz (has to do with music or the roaring 20's etc) -- is it good enough if the word "music" or "jazz" appears somewhere in the book or or if one of the characters likes music or if I listen to music or hum to myself while reading the book?

Date Posted: 1/23/2015 7:58 AM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
Posts: 10,209
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Yes, Deb, that works (except the humming to yourself part!) but you could probably use Where Shadows Dance for that category since dancing usually involves music!

Date Posted: 1/27/2015 4:06 PM ET
Member Since: 3/23/2008
Posts: 2,451
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#10 You're Killing Me

I'm continuing my h/f mystery reads with the second Flavia de Luce, The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley.  I thought this one was a particularly clever use of a title for the category if I do say so myself; which I do!  I didn't like this one quite as well as book #1, but I do really enjoy the character of Flavia and her lovely, snarky comments.  I did really feel sorry for Flavia in this book with the way her  sisters really emotionally abuse her, though.

Date Posted: 1/30/2015 7:49 PM ET
Member Since: 3/23/2008
Posts: 2,451
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#1 A Little Bit Creepy in Here

I've been reading Miramont's Ghost by Elizabeth Hall on my kindle.  It was a January freebie for prime members I think.  Wow this was a strange and very upsetting book.  I really wasn't prepared for all the emotional and sexual abuse (including pedophilia) in this book and I didn't care for it at all.   Miramont is an actual mansion in Colorado that was abandoned by it's owner under very mysterious circumstances and is supposed to be haunted.  I guess I would visit the house and skip reading the book.  I can't recommend this one.

Date Posted: 2/24/2015 10:16 AM ET
Member Since: 4/22/2005
Posts: 5,469
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Cheryl, I got that book free for my Kindle a couple months ago. Haven't started it yet. Thanks for the heads up......not sure I would have gotten it if I known it had that subject matter. Probably won't move it to the top of the heap.



Last Edited on: 2/26/15 8:23 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 2/24/2015 10:53 AM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
Posts: 10,209
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Thanks for that review Cheryl! I got the book as a freebie too but not sure I will keep it now. angry

Date Posted: 2/24/2015 1:17 PM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
Posts: 929
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Starting Dark Fire (Matthew Shardlake #2) today to get going with the challenge.

Date Posted: 3/1/2015 2:19 PM ET
Member Since: 5/19/2007
Posts: 4,709
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#9 When Johnny Comes Marching Home

Or in this case, when Sir Alan Dale comes marching home in Warlord by Angus Donald.  I'm using this because of the mystery surrounding Alan's father: who really ordered his execution, and why? I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery within the campaign to Normandy.  I love this series...thanks again Jeanne for being my enabler! cheeky

Date Posted: 3/5/2015 4:01 PM ET
Member Since: 11/14/2008
Posts: 1,679
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Well I am glad I found you all had been looking in the wrong places.  Only had been watching lists.

Date Posted: 3/7/2015 11:01 AM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
Posts: 10,209
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I finished Keeping Bad Company by Caro Peacock for "Diamonds" category. Another very good installment in this series which centered around the East India Co., opium smuggling and jewels. This edition also had a lot of involvement by Liberty's brother, Tom and that was a nice change in the plot.

Date Posted: 3/10/2015 2:09 PM ET
Member Since: 5/31/2009
Posts: 2,858
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1.)  A little bit creepy in here. (paranormal aspect, or the word "creepy or creep", or the word "little" etc.)  The Demon's Parchment by Jeri Westerson, (There is a golem (?) and murders of boys who are sodomized, garroted with entrails removed), 6/20/2015, 2 stars  (There is a golem (?) and murders of boys who are sodomized, garroted with entrails removed), 6/20/2015, 2 stars   I really thought that the hero, Crispin Guest, was supposed to be admirable but I found his actions in this novel deplorable. He feels sorry for himself page after page and drowns his sorrows in drink. Not only that but he is getting beaten far too often for the supposedly brilliant man known as the tracker. There is a story here but it often gets bogged down in drink and the stupidity of the hero. Perhaps the author lost her character description.   I liked the first novel and will go for the next, hoping that the characterization improves. The murders are sadistic as they should be in this situation and the murderer is unexpected which is a plus.

2.) Pick a color - any color (pretty self explanatory- word of a color in title or however you would like to interpret this)   Sister Pelagia and the Red Cockerel by Boris Akunin, 4/5/2015, 3 stars  In this book, Sister Pelagia is asked to solve yet another strange murder. She leaves the monastery where she is a teacher intending to find the murderer of a man named Manuila, a charismatic Russian preacher. Is the murdered individual the preacher who established a sect of Russians whose goal is to live like Jews and travel to the Holy Land or is he not? When she discovers that the murdered man is a member of the group disguised as Manuila, she is determined to find the real Manuila. Obviously, his life is in peril. In addition, Matvei Bentsionovich Berdichevsky, a public prosecutor who is enthalled by Sister Pelagia, is following her tracks in an effort to protect her from harm. However, he finds himself embroiled in the political chaos of the time. While the ending is strange and somewhat unbelievable , I liked this read. Nevertheless, my head is still spinning as I muse about the story and the intent of Sister Pelagia's travels. As usual, the author has created a complex mystery that keeps the reader struggling to figure out what is happening. This is one of the reasons that I love his mysteries. Yes, once again there is political intrigue, humor, mystery, Russian history and more in the novel.

3.) Is this the place? (title has a location which could be a country, county, manor, etc.)  The Bones of Paris:  A Novel by Laurie King, 1/10/2014, 3.5 stars.  Laurie R. King is one of my favorite historical mystery writers. I fell in love with her Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes novels. Once I got past that barrier in my mind, I found that I liked Harris Stuyvesant. Harris is a big man whose temper and love of alcohol get him in trouble occasionally and of course it happens in this novel, too. Obviously, he is no Sherlock Holmes but he is a private detective who seeks to find answers for his clients. In this case, he is looking for a young American woman named Philippa (Pip) Crosby in Paris. Hired by her uncle and her mother, he searches the quarters of the city looking for where she might have gone. Consequently, he feels guilt because he had a fling with the missing Pip and maybe could have helped her.   Finding no trace of Pip, he encounters other murders and missing people. To find answers, he teams with a policeman of Paris to try to solve the mystery of the missing. The murders are ghastly and the tale is a bit spooky time and again leaving the reader wondering who will next be murdered and why.

4.) Royal Scoundrels (something to do with royalty, scoundrels, etc.)   The Stolen Crown: The Secret Marriage that Forever Changed the Fate of England by Susan Higgenbothem, 8/14/2015, 4 stars  Read about changing royalty as the Lancasterians and the Yorkists duel over who should be king.  Lots of tragedy and blood as supporters of whoever is out of power are imprisoned, killed in battle or executed in one way or another.  The two characters I liked best were Harry and Kate who tell the story.  We begin with King Henry who is deposed because of madness.  King Edward IV comes to the throne.  Than he isn't king.  Than he is.  Than he isn't.  Chaos put the nobles on their toes.  When King Edward falls in love with Kate's sister Elizabeth (Bessie) he marries her in secret.  When the marriage is announced, Kate goes to court where she becomes the wife of the Duke of Buckingham.  Both are very young, understanding little  of the political arena.   King Edward brings peace to the country at last but when he dies unexpectedly the chaos begins again as Richard decides he wants the throne.  Innocents die, lies are spread and King Edward's two sons are murdered.  Kate hates the new king but her husband supports him until the murder of the young princes.  Much has been written about the princes in the tower and I have read other takes on what happened.  This is Higginbotham's view which she explains at the end of the novel along with her reasoning and references.  I rated it four stars.

5.) For heaven's sake (something to do with religion, the word "heaven" or the word "sake") What Remains of Heaven by C.S. Harris or Sister Pelagia and the White Bulldog by Boris Akunin, 3/31/2015, 3 stars  Sister Pelagia and the White Bulldog is a good read with a plot that is convoluted and interesting. Murdered dogs bring Sister Pelagia onto a scene where several other murders occur. The author points the reader first one way and then another so it's not easy to determine who committed the murders. Normally I can follow the clues to the culprit but not this time. I like that in a mystery read. However, I am not sure that I liked one aspect of this novel. The author on occasion comments directly to the reader about the novel, Russia, the culture and the people. I like to see such musings at the end or the beginning of the book.

6.) We don't need no stinkin' badges (someone other than police who work on a mystery, the word "stink or stinking", the word badges, etc.)  The  Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley, 1/24/2015, 3 stars  

I'm not sure how this book let me down but it did.  Maybe it's because so many of the characters in other books of the series were not included.  I do like Dogger.  He's a wonderful character whose depth can surely be explored in future novels. 

The mystery of the man who was killed by being pushed under a train takes second place for some time while Flavia's family deals with their own problems.  However, I thought that the author did a creditable job of entwining the two even if it seems a bit disjointed at times.  Nevertheless, if you have been reading this series you will probably enjoy this one, too.  After all, our Flavia is growing up.

7.) All that jazz (has to do with music or the roaring 20's etc)  A Letter of Mary by Laurie King, 3/27/2915, 3.5 stars.  The characters are so much fun and the interplay between Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes is so realistic for a husband and wife duo that I found myself laughing at times. I gave this one three stars because the author gave away too many details much too soon for my taste. However, this is a fun read threaded with Greek words and symbols (brought statistics courses back to mind). The premise that a letter written by Mary Magdalene had surfaced after all these years seems almost impossible but since I know little about how it might survive in airless conditions in a closed container I accept the author's premise albeit with doubt. The character of the eccentric amateur archaeologist is interesting and colorful. She added so much to the plot and the story. Entertaining read!

8.) Diamonds are a girl's best friend (jewels, girl, friend, etc.)  Night of a Thousand Stars by Deanna Raybourn or Queen of Hearts by Rhys Bowen, 8/5/2015 2 stars.  This was a so so mystery for me.  Lady Georgiana Rannoch, thirty-fifth in line for the British throne, is an interesting character but her only talents seem to be playing her royal role or investigating murders.  Her paramour, Darcy O'Mara, is likewise an interesting young man whose role in this novel is to catch a jewel thief, let alone a murderer.  Thus two mysteries are move apace with two different investigators as well as romance and a career driven mother.  The story is thin in places and the plot is ok but not exactly stimulating.  I notice that others found earlier books in this series more interesting so I may have to check some of those out.

9.) When Johnny comes marching home (war, uniforms, march, home, etc.):  Mission to Paris by Alan Furst,  1/22/2015, 4 stars  Yup, I needed a historical novel for a mystery challenge. This is a historical spy/thriller featuring an Austrian-American actor named Frederic Stahl. To all appearances Stahl is at the top of his career when his studio sends him to Paris to make a movie. He agrees in spite of the turmoil on the continent and his fear that refusal will harm his career status. 

This is my first read by this author and, of course, I happened to pick up a novel in the middle of a series. However, it has a complete story that makes it a stand alone. 

Most of the action occurs in Paris but the reader is moved to Berlin and a Hungarian palace for other scenes, like the movie Stahl is making. However, the Germans are working to recruit him as a spy or at least use him in a political way for their own purposes. Inducements, meals, parties and luxurious travel are offered by those who are so repugnant to him. The menace and violence are subtle but all too real. He tries to ignore their aggressive efforts by focusing on acting for the movie. Instead, he finds himself unwittingly drawn into becoming a spy for his country. It's a good story and an interesting read that is chilling and realistic for the reader.

10.) You're killing me (you get the picture by now!)  When Gods Die by C.S. Harris, 3/10/2015, 3.5 stars   I like Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin.  He's my type of hero - courageous, brave, determined and human.  I only wonder how he manages to get through all his scrapes without serious injury yet goes out and does it all over again the next day.  Couldn't help laughing when his servant resigned after so many ruined costumes!  The reads in this series are comfortable and just plain fun.  In this one he is trying to discover who murdered a lovely young woman found in the Regent's arms with a knife in her back.  



Last Edited on: 8/18/15 5:35 PM ET - Total times edited: 17
Date Posted: 3/10/2015 3:52 PM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
Posts: 10,209
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Great choices REK!

Date Posted: 3/20/2015 7:12 PM ET
Member Since: 11/14/2008
Posts: 1,679
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Just finished 'Who Buries the Dead' by C S Harris...loved it the characters are wonderful and this is as good as all the others.  I started a couple of other books and put them down for this one. 

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