Sunday, November 6, 2011

Recent reads

Pirate King, Laurie King
A Crimson Warning, Tasha Alexander

Two new novels in these popular and well-written historical series. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. They share appealing heroines in Mary Russell (Mrs. Sherlock Holmes) and Lady Emily Hargreaves. Both have interesting historical settings and characters.

Pirate is set in the post-WWI British film industry, a story about a film within a film (of Pirates of Penzance) set in Portugal with a real and scary pirate and various other folks. I've enjoyed every one of the revisionist Mary Russell mysteries. They are a cut above - amusing and thought provoking with interesting slice of history with interesting settings and still a hint of the curmudgeonly charm that makes Conan Doyle's Holmes so enduring. Anyway, this one is a bit tedious with its silly film plot and it takes a long time to get to the point. Mary is still appealing, the dialogue is fun, and Portugal/North Africa setting dreamy and scary.

Crimson, the latest in the Lady Emily series, is set in Victorian England. Lady Emily is a bit of classics scholar turned detective and secret agent. I complained about her two previous novels set, respectively, in Turkey and France ( and

This latest one has her back in London in her high society life in which she is not entirely comfortable. It's hard to feel too much sympathy with the perfect Lady Emily and her romance novel marriage. Her friends think she's brilliant - only her mother doesn't like her (thank God for this). Red paint is splashed on the houses of those with secrets and all society is afraid - a horrific murder, mysterious downtrodden deaf people, and Ivy (sweet Ivy!) has a secret. And those who dislike Emily must be odious. But I still found things to enjoy - such as glimpses of Victorian society, the British Museum and Library.

So I recommend both with qualifications. Read the early books in these series!

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