Book Review: Haunting Investigation by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Haunting Investigation
A Chesterton Holte Mystery #5
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Smoke & Shadow Books, December 2015
ISBN: 978-1-943052-01-1
Hardcover

First of all, detective Chesterton Holte is a ghost, and only newspaper reporter Poppy Thornton can see or hear him⏤aside from her Aunt Jo’s old dog and the cat. And the only reason he’s haunting her is because he directly led to her father being executed as a spy during World War I and this is his way of making it up to her.

The year is 1924 and the country is still reeling not only from the war, but from the millions of lives lost to the Spanish Flu. Women are taking jobs usually considered the male prerogative and Poppea Thornton is one of them. She is a budding newspaper reporter, up to now assigned to the society pages as she is one of Philadelphia’s upper crust. But when one of society’s own is murdered, Poppy, to her satisfaction, receives the job of reporting the news. In her duties, she meets a handsome police detective, which serves her well when she becomes the murderer’s target, but it is the ghost, Chesterton Holte, who helps Poppy root out the clues.

Against a whole lot of opposition, Poppy works hard and diligently to make her way in a man’s world.

I liked the characters. I formed good pictures of Aunt Jo, cousin Stacy, the widow, and all the others. The setting is well done. I enjoyed the descriptions of the cars, the attire of the day, and especially, the food and drink⏤lots of drink. And during prohibition, too, wink, wink. However, the murder methods seemed odd to me. Also, there didn’t seem to be any real resolution to the story, ending more with a whimper than a bang. Even so, I enjoyed the journey with Poppy and Holte and Detective Loring. One assumes it is to be continued.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, October 2016.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder and Four Furlongs.

Book Review: The Spook Lights Affair by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini

The Spook Lights AffairThe Spook Lights Affair
A Carpenter and Quincannon Mystery #2
Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini
Forge, December 2013
ISBN 978-0-7653-3175-5
Hardcover

Set in 1890’s San Francisco, Carpenter and Quincannon, Professional Detective Services, is unique in that the Carpenter of the agency is female. Smart, able, and relentless in her duties, Sabina Carpenter is a fine character, and more than capable of holding John Quincannon’s amorous tendencies at a distance.

Quincannon is not quite so sympathetic a character. Lots of flaws in this man, including the fact he’s a bit on the greedy side. He also does a lot of smirking, which does become annoying. He’s a good detective, though. A match for Sabina.

San Francisco is almost a character, as well, if one can call a city that. Muller & Pronzini set us down in the town and bring it alive for the reader. From the hell-holes of the Barbary Coast to upper crust socialites on Nob Hill—which brings us to this episode of these two detectives’ continuing escapades.

Sabina is investigating the disappearance of a debutante, who may, or may not have committed suicide while Sabina was watching. But why? That’s the question. Was she murdered? Leave it to Sabina to find out.

Meanwhile, John is hot on the trail of bandits who robbed a Wells Fargo office. With a 10% reward on the line, he’s determined to bring the culprits to justice. All does not go smoothly, of course, what with a character who claims to be Sherlock Holmes butting in. And the thieves themselves are only too ready to defend their evil-doing.

This is a well-plotted mystery appealing to readers who appreciate the old days, as well as those who usually plant their feet in the present day.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, February 2015.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

Book Review: The Bloodied Cravat by Rosemary Stevens

An old favorite resurrected from my “Dark Ages” files:

 

The Bloodied Cravat HCThe Bloodied Cravat
A Beau Brummell Mystery
Rosemary Stevens
Berkley Prime Crime, May 2002
ISBN 0-425-18539-7
Hardcover
Now also available in ebook format

It is the height of London’s Society season in 1806 and George “Beau” Brummell has gone to Oatlands, the country home of Frederica, the Duchess of York, for a weekend party celebrating her birthday. Unfortunately, he is having some difficulty maintaining his usual sartorial splendor as the esteemed Robinson and Beau’s luggage are long overdue.

As it turns out, Robinson has been held up by a highwayman and all of Beau’s belongings have been stolen except his gift for Freddie, which Robinson protected at risk of life, limb and dignity. Among the missing items is Beau’s scrapbook which contains a letter written to him by Freddie in a moment of weakness, a letter which, if exposed, could cause a Royal scandal and lead to Beau’s disgrace. At all costs, Beau must find the letter, and that means he must unmask the highwayman.

In the meantime, Freddie’s other guests have arrived, including a few of questionable quality. There are some thefts and Freddie receives the first blackmail threat. Feeling betrayed by Beau, she becomes noticeably cool towards him and begins to show favor to those who would be pleased to see him lose his high place in Society.

The Bloodied Cravat ebookA guest who has managed to antagonize nearly everyone is murdered during the house party. Freddie calls in John Lavender of Bow Street, a dour Scot with a low opinion of Society in general and George Brummell in particular, largely because of his earlier attentions to Lavender’s lovely daughter, Lydia. Beau knows that Lavender would like nothing better than to prove him guilty of the murder, propelling him into his own attempt to solve the murder as well as find the letter. Above all, Beau needs to win back the Duchess’s affection and trust.

Agatha award-winning and national bestselling author Rosemary Stevens brings the reader into the heart of Regency life, ranging from high society to the criminal world of Seven Dials, with both pathos and humor. The Siamese cat Chakkri, “otherwise known as Master and Supreme Ruler of the Brummell Household”, continues to be Robinson’s nemesis while Beau contends with more bodies, blackmail threats, spying and the malevolent gazes of Lavender and Freddie’s companion, Ulga. Red herrings abound to keep the reader guessing and Beau’s pain and confusion are evident as his feelings for both Freddie and Lydia become more apparent in this third entry in the Beau Brummell series. Ms. Stevens has created another winner and readers will clamor for more.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2002.