Sunday, March 11, 2012

Recent reads

Before the Poison, Peter Robinson, 2011
When Maidens Mourn, C.S. Harris, 2012

I had never heard of Peter Robinson, the author of an U.K. police procedural series featuring Inspector Banks,,
when I saw Before the Poison at my local library.

I was drawn to the cover with its enigmatic picture of a woman in a '50s style dress. This novel is a stand-alone, the story of Chris, composer and ex-pat. Brit. come home from living in the U.S. He's recovering from the death of his wife and buys a house in Yorkshire in a deserted spot only to discover it's the house of a woman hanged for murdering her husband after the war. A story perhaps similar to Ruth Ellis, a real life hanged murderess played by Miranda Richardson in a movie some time back. Chris gets pulled further and further into the story of the dead woman and whether or not she killed her husband, and if she did, why.

The setting is atmospheric and well drawn, the post war history skillfully recreated. The dialogue is well written and Chris is an appealing and sympathetic protagonist. The plot is so complex I kept reviewing it in my mind and it really keeps you guessing. This was a great find; I will be looking for the Inspector Banks series.

I love the series by C.S. Harris about the wolflike nobelman, Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, who investigates crimes during the English Regency period. They are wonderfully well researched, written, and hard to put down. Harris, the pseudonym for Candace Proctor, a historian of the French Revolution, writes a series that is part police procedural, part thriller, and part romance. They are written in a serial fashion so plenty of questions are left at the end of each one. Ongoing plot lines involve Sebastian's mysterious mother, his family, and his relationship with his new wife Hero, daughter of his enemy Lord Jarvis. They are no regency romances; the stories are much darker and more mysterious.

When Maidens Mourn, the latest, does not disappoint. Sebastian and Hero, an excellent wife for him, become closer while solving the mystery of the death of young female antiquarian friend of Hero's. The archaeology sub plot is cool and the story satisfying. Can't wait for the next one!

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