Discussion Forums - Historical Fiction

Topic: Solve a Mystery at Home

Club rule - Please, if you cannot be courteous and respectful, do not post in this forum.
Page:   Unlock Forum posting with Annual Membership.
Subject: Solve a Mystery at Home
Date Posted: 4/22/2010 9:58 AM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
Posts: 10,418
Back To Top

This is the thread for discussing books read for this category (#1). Please feel free to post your comments, opinions, etc. here.

Date Posted: 4/28/2010 7:24 PM ET
Member Since: 5/31/2009
Posts: 2,931
Back To Top

The Ebony Swan by Phyllis Whitney:  This was a comfortable, easy-to-read mystery.  I liked it but determined the murderer before the author revealed it.  I really liked Whitney's character development - Susan Prentice; her maternal grandmother, Alex Montoro; her grandfather, John Gower who was Alex's young lover early in her marriage to Juan Gabriel Montoro; and Peter Macklin, Susan's childhood friend who becomes the love of her life.  I think Whitney would qualify for me as a cozy mystery read.  Nothing gory, bloody or spooky - just a good mystery.  



Last Edited on: 4/28/10 7:26 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 4/30/2010 8:34 PM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2009
Posts: 9,174
Back To Top

I just finished Murder on Astor Place by Victoria Thompson, it is set in NYC  1890's.   Socialite turned midwife Sarah Brant goes to deliver a baby at a respectable boarding house, while there sees a young boarder who reminds her of a school chum.  A day later returns to check on mother and child only to find the police there and the young woman dead.  Enter Detective Frank Malloy, cynical cop, with a chip on his shoulder for midwives.  Well you know the reputation of the NYPD at this time in history is horrible, and Sarah has her own chip on the shoulder for cops.  The girl is her friends sister and Sarah wants the case solved even if the young woman's family doesn't.  Malloy is taken off the case but they are to deep in to it to stop so Sarah with her connections in society goes it alone with help from the reluntant Malloy.  Teddy Roosevelt was the NYC Police Commissioner at the time and is a family friend of Sarah's  though he doesn't make an appearance he is spoken of.

It was not an earth shattering read and I did like the characters, It was the first book in the series and I think it was laying the ground work for the 12 books to come,  It  was just alright.



Last Edited on: 5/1/10 10:59 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Mary (mepom) -
Subject: SOLVE A MYSTERY AT HOME
Date Posted: 5/18/2010 9:29 PM ET
Member Since: 1/23/2009
Posts: 1,192
Back To Top

I thought this would be an easy topic, but most of the historical mysteries that I have read have been outside the US.

ANY THOUGHTS---IDEAS---NO COZIES PLEASE---I WANT TO BE THRILLED, NOT NECESSARILY BLOODY.



Last Edited on: 5/18/10 9:48 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 5/19/2010 10:00 AM ET
Member Since: 7/22/2009
Posts: 2,617
Back To Top

Well, The Alienist by Caleb Carr is certainly thrilling -- set at the turn of the century in NY. I don't know how "bloody" it is. I remember it as dark and gruesome... and absolutely gripping. I highly recommend it. Kelly just finished it so she could tell you more.

I also liked The Dante Club by Pearl -- set in Boston in the late 1800s. In this book, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes and James Russell Lowell team up to catch a serial killer whose murders are taken from the pages of Dante's Inferno. I thought it was clever, interesting, and worth reading.

I don't know if The Devil in the White City by Larson fits into this category since it's non-fiction and not really a mystery.  But it's a fascinating account of a serial killer, set in Chicago during the World's Fair at the end of the 19th century.

(I'm assuming Victoria Thompson's Gaslight Mystery books are too tame for you.)

Oops -- gotta run -- I'm late. If I think of any more, I'll let you know.

Date Posted: 5/22/2010 12:57 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2009
Posts: 298
Back To Top

For this challenge I chose The Blackest Bird: A Novel of Murder in Nineteenth-Century New York. It is a novel of historical fiction with a rich 19th century atmosphere that focuses mainly on two actual murders that took place in 1841 New York -- a city full of gangs, political corruption, social discontent, and an inflammatory newspress. How these murders touched the lives of the rich and famous and raised hue and cry all over the city is explored in the novel.

Halfway through, however, the novel shifts focus from the murders and murderers to Edgar Allan Poe, now a suspect for the murder of Mary Rogers. As a known acquaintance to murderer, John Colt, brother of Samuel Colt (of firearms fame) and to the murdered cigar store girl Mary Rogers, and as author of The Mystery of Marie Roget (based on the murder of the cigar girl), Poe gets the attention of veteran High Constable John Hays. Readers are now able to examine the life of Poe and his consumptive, child-wife, Sissy, always on the edge of poverty, eking out a meager subsistence on his writing - but is he a murderer? Hays, with his interest in 'physiognomy', seems to think he might be.

IMO, the book is stronger in its historical fiction aspects, (it has an authentic flavor), than in its investigative aspect. If you are fascinated by real life murder cases, 19th century NY, or Poe, I would recommend it. It is well-written and obviously well-researched, bit IMO it is the history that drives the novel, not any murder mystery, murder investigation, or thrilling pursuit of criminals.



Last Edited on: 5/22/10 5:23 PM ET - Total times edited: 4
Date Posted: 5/23/2010 12:39 PM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
Posts: 10,418
Back To Top

Great review, Evelina!! Sounds like a very interesting book. Good choice for this category!

I have to get with it now that I am back from vacation. Read 2 books while I was gone and neither were for a reading challenge!!

Date Posted: 5/23/2010 3:25 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2009
Posts: 298
Back To Top

Thanks, Jeanne!  You could tell I worked hard on it.   I edited it 4 times! (lol)  

 

I have to get with it now that I am back from vacation. Read 2 books while I was gone and neither were for a reading challenge!!

We should make it official NOT to take reading challenges on vacation, filed under the category "Leave Your Work At Home" .  wink

Date Posted: 5/23/2010 4:43 PM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
Posts: 10,418
Back To Top

Ah, Evelina, you didn't work hard on that review - it comes naturally to you!

I agree about the challenge books - of course, I SHOULD, since I did exactly what you recommend - lol!wink

Date Posted: 5/23/2010 5:54 PM ET
Member Since: 7/22/2009
Posts: 2,617
Back To Top

Read Victoria Thompson's Murder on Gramercy Park, the third installment in her Gaslight Mystery series. As before, an entertaining and engaging read. The relationship between Sarah Brandt (the midwife) and Frank Malloy (the detective) continues to keep the reader's attention with their verbal sparring and their as-yet- unacknowledged attraction to each other. Thompson seems to capture turn-of-the-century well with her eye for period details -- but I wonder if there are ever any upper-crust New Yorkers in her books who actually welcome police involvement or care about justice. Thus far, Thompson's aristocrats aim to sweep any criminal activity of family members under the rug. And once again, there are a couple instances of either sloppy writing or editing -- when characters know something or are told something one day but seem to be ignorant the next. Still, I enjoy these mysteries -- they're fun, enjoyable, and satisfying.

Date Posted: 5/27/2010 7:27 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,402
Back To Top

For this category, I read Grange House by Sarah Blake.  It is set in an old house, full of secrets, on the coast of Maine.  It is not a 'who done it' - no murders, just a mystery of what happened a generation ago; a bit of ghosts thrown in for good measure.

Linda

Date Posted: 5/27/2010 7:46 PM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
Posts: 10,418
Back To Top

Ahhhh, Linda, those ghosts - they'll snag us every time. This book sounds good - are you enjoying it?? It really is interesting, don't you think, that a mystery doesn't have to involve a murder? How did you happen upon this book? When you get a chance, let us (me) know. cheeky

Alice J. (ASJ) - ,
Date Posted: 5/28/2010 10:47 AM ET
Member Since: 5/13/2009
Posts: 40,401
Back To Top

Like Deb I read Murder on Gramercy Park by Victoria Thompson. I like this series a lot set in turn of the century New York. The historical back ground is interesting as you realize how limited the role of a woman was at that time. I am looking forward to reading more in the series. I recommend this series to all who enjoy this time period.

Alice

Date Posted: 5/28/2010 1:58 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,402
Back To Top

Jeanne:

I did enjoy Grange House.  It was interesting, but not one of those you just have to keep reading.  It follows two generations, creating  a story-within-a-story.  I read about the book on Sarah Johnson's blog, 'reading the past' (Feb. 28 post)  She commented that the ornate descriptions sometimes tend to interfere with the suspense, and I think it was perhaps those ornate descriptions which slowed things down for me.  BTW the author (Sarah Blake) is the author of the recently published and frequently reviewed The Postmistress.

Linda

Date Posted: 5/31/2010 10:22 AM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
Posts: 10,418
Back To Top

Thanks for the information on Grange House, Linda!

I finished The Curse of Cain by J. Mark Powell and L.D. Meagher. This was a first novel for these two - they are CNN Headline News writers. This was a very interesting book, written as a true page turner mystery. It is a different twist on the Abraham Lincoln assassination. It starts in  Feb. 1865 and goes through June of 1866. Many of the characters are in fact historical but many are also fictional. What if John Wilkes Booth wasn't the person who killed Lincoln? What if it was a hired assassin? In the case of this book it was the latter and there are a number of people from both the South and the North who are onto him and trying to stop him. Our assassin (this is known to us early on in the book) is brutal - he has no compunction to ever show mercy and he is extremely clever. Since the war is winding down at this point, the Union Government is on high alert for any danger threatening Lincoln. The South is still hoping to turn the tide and they fear that if this assassin does kill Lincoln, the wrath of the North will be multiplied, so Davis wants it stopped. Booth wants to abduct Lincoln and use him as ransom in order to free Confederate prisoners and thereby continue the war. But one person is being paid mightily to KILL Lincoln and he is determined to do it. Lots of twists and turns and I found that it was hard to put this book down.yes

Date Posted: 6/28/2010 9:11 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
Back To Top

I finished Cassandra, Lost. Meh. 3/5 stars. It's supposedly based on the true story of one of Jean Lafitte's mistresses. Is was like reading a grade B romance.

Mary (mepom) -
Subject: STILL HUNG ON THIS ONE
Date Posted: 7/6/2010 11:08 PM ET
Member Since: 1/23/2009
Posts: 1,192
Back To Top

Still hung up on this topic. I want a suggestion for a book that I cannot "put down." There are so many desirable books on the LIST that I cannot waste time on a DNF.

Spoiled?

Mary

Date Posted: 8/14/2010 10:45 AM ET
Member Since: 3/23/2008
Posts: 2,482
Back To Top

I also read Murder on Astor Place by Victoria Thompson for this challenge.  It was a quick, pleasant read although I pretty much had the crime figured out way before the book ended.  I felt like I could see it coming from a mile away.  This was a time period (1890s) that I don't normally read too much about, so it made a pleasant change from my recent fantasy reads and ancient who dunnits.  I only have one more category left to finish this challenge- the "royal" one and once my copy of Prince of Darkness arrives, Justin de Quincy and I have an assignation for sure!

Date Posted: 8/15/2010 11:15 PM ET
Member Since: 6/5/2007
Posts: 2,507
Back To Top

Cheryl - I really love that series.

Date Posted: 8/25/2010 8:47 AM ET
Member Since: 5/19/2007
Posts: 4,710
Back To Top

I read "Faded Coat of Blue" by Owen Parry for this category.  I loved this book!  It's set in the autumn of 1861, and our hero is Abel Jones, a Welshman with a rich history who has brought his young wife and son to America to begin a new life.  He wants to help this new country of his, but he's wounded at Bull Run, and he is now acting as a clerk in D.C. while his family is home in Philadelphia.  Gen. George McClellan asks him to look into the death of a young, very well known abolitionist, much to Jones's dismay; he has no experience in detecting or police work.  But he's a good, honest man, and that's what is needed.

The mystery was good, but the tone was even better.   I have to admit, Abel Jones and his prejudicial remarks about the Irish, the Germans, the "Hindoos"...shocked my 21st century sensibilities.  But our world is much farther removed from 1861 than I truly understood.  Parry has created a complex, flawed, fascinating character and has captured the time and brought it to life.  There was no such thing as political correctness in 1861, and why should we pretend any differently?  I feel as though I just stepped back out of a time machine.

Parry used real events to flesh out his story, and explains them at the end in an author's note.  I flew through the book.  I am working the rest of this series into the remaining categories for our challenges.  Excellent read!



Last Edited on: 8/25/10 10:31 AM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 8/25/2010 9:19 AM ET
Member Since: 7/22/2009
Posts: 2,617
Back To Top

Great review, Vicky! Yet another series (of 6 books) to add to The List.... (can't you read shorter series, e.g., stand-alone books??!!)

Date Posted: 8/25/2010 10:08 AM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
Posts: 3,823
Back To Top

Yep, great review, darn it. I've had this one on my reminder list for a while; guess I'll have to go ahead and give it a try.

 

Mary, did you ever find a book for this category? You might want to check out the one I got. I haven't read it yet, but it sounds fabulous and it's received planty of great reviews. It's "Hearts and Bones" by Margaret Lawrence.

Date Posted: 8/25/2010 10:34 AM ET
Member Since: 5/19/2007
Posts: 4,710
Back To Top

Stand alone?  What is that, pray tell?  No, I must go for series, the longer the better.  It's ridiculous. 

 

ETA:  Just had to add:  You think you have Abel Jones all pegged...and then something else happens, another facet of his character is revealed.  This happens several times throughout the book, and is just such a masterful way of fleshing out a character.  It's like getting to know a real person; you never know everything from the beginning.  I pity people who may have started this book, and then put it down....



Last Edited on: 8/25/10 10:36 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Mary (mepom) -
Subject: FINALLY
Date Posted: 8/25/2010 3:15 PM ET
Member Since: 1/23/2009
Posts: 1,192
Back To Top

I finally chose a book for this challenge. Forever by Pete Hamill. However, I have several books in my TBR pile and most are from the library. So,not sure when I will begin. The hard part is over, the selection. This was my hairdresser's rec. YOu never know where a good book will turn up.

Mary

Date Posted: 11/8/2010 7:15 PM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
Posts: 3,823
Back To Top

For this category, I read "Hearts and Bones" by Margaret Lawrence. This is the first in a historical suspense trilogy featuring Hannah, a midwife, living in a small town in Maine right after the Revolutionary War. This is a quiet sort of mystery, focusing more on characters and the setting than a page-turner of a plot. It does have a good plot though and I greatly enjoyed it. A large portion of the book centers around "womanly" arts such as piecework and quilt making and the patterns mentioned are even included in the book. The title is actually the name of a quilt pattern and, after searching in vain for it online, I found the "hearts and bones" pattern on the last page of the book. Now I really wish I could sew!

4 stars! I'll be getting the 2nd book in this series to see what happens with Hannah next.

Page: