Tag Archives: Mistress of the Art of Death

Book Review: The Specimen by Martha Lea

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From Goodreads:
The year is 1866. Edward Scales is a businessman, a butterfly collector, a respectable man. He is the man Gwen Carrick fell in love with seven years before. Now he is dead and Gwen is on trial for his murder.

From country house drawing rooms to the rainforests of Brazil, The Specimen explores the price one independent young woman might pay for wanting an unorthodox life.

Set in a Victorian world battling between the forces of spiritualism and Darwinism, polite society and the call of clandestine love, Gwen and Edward’s tale is a gripping melodrama, a romance and a murder mystery that will compel readers to its final thrilling page.

A sweeping drama with a Victorian backdrop, The Specimen is a book worth examining.

The Specimen has so many interesting characters. Gwen and Effie, two sister who are the complete opposite of one another become the bane of each others existence. Mr. Scales, the womanizing doctor, betrays his wife with various affairs that help to weave a web of deceit. All three are tangled together into a drama that ultimately leads to murder.

The chapters alternate between the present year, 1866, which finds Gwen on trial for the murder of Mr. Scales, and the past, the years leading up to the murder itself.

Gwen and Effie have inherited their father’s estate in Cornwall. Being polar opposites, their relationship is anything but smooth. Gwen seizes the opportunity for escape when she falls in love with Edward Scales and is invited along to Brazil as an assistant helping Edward collect and catalog specimens.

Gwen soon finds that the man she fell in love with during those fleeting moments of lust repulses her in the light of day. She endures the journey, through all sorts of conditions, only to find that she has been betrayed beyond anything she could ever have imagined.

There are many twists and turns in this murder mystery. The author allows the reader to come to some their own conclusions and doesn’t feel the need to bog us down with details but allows our imagination to fill in some of the plot. I really liked this style of writing. Some pieces of the puzzle were given out of order, which at first made me feel like I must have missed something. But, smartly, the answer becomes known later in the story.

Martha Lea has created such a wonderful Victorian setting for this book, making a unique reading experience. The changes in locale made the story interesting and reflected what was transpiring among the characters. I was surprised to find a little humor and had to laugh at some of the quips made by some of the minor characters.

If you enjoy unconventional murder mystery that makes you think outside the box like The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax or Mistress of the Art of Death, you’ll enjoy this book.

This book was provided for review by Netgally.

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Book Review: The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Potzsch

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A murder, a witch hunt and a wonderful set of olde world characters makes The Hangman’s Daughter a superb read for historical fiction lovers.

From Goodreads:
A historical thriller set in Germany, 1660: When a dying boy is pulled from the river with a mark crudely tattooed on his shoulder, hangman Jakob Kuisl is called upon to investigate whether witchcraft is at play in his small Bavarian town. Whispers and dark memories of witch trials and the women burned at the stake just seventy years earlier still haunt the streets of Schongau. When more children disappear and an orphan boy is found dead—marked by the same tattoo—the mounting hysteria threatens to erupt into chaos.

Before the unrest forces him to torture and execute the very woman who aided in the birth of his children, Jakob must unravel the truth. With the help of his clever daughter, Magdelena, and Simon, the university-educated son of the town’s physician, Jakob discovers that a devil is indeed loose in Schongau. But it may be too late to prevent bloodshed.

I flew through this book! I just couldn’t put it down. It has such a great set of characters. The Hangman, smart and magnanimous, is a respected but separated killer of necessity. He’s bound by family to do the towns dirty work of torture and death but we get to see the softer side of this hulking man. His kindness does not go unnoticed as he turns detective to protect a women he believes is innocent and a daughter he would die for.

The setting of the book is just as important as the characters and the author does a wonderful job mixing modern words with olde world surroundings. The backdrop is a town in Germany which has seen war and witch hunts. It’s run by first families and a last name can mean the difference between poverty and privilege.

There’s lots of suspense which made this story a real page turner. There’s a bit of humor too. It is a bit predictable, but the greatness of this book doesn’t lie in the destination but in the ride along the way.

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If you liked this book, give Mistress of the Art of Death series by Ariana Franklin a try. It’s a great historical, smart murder mystery set in medieval England.

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