The good news is that according to my counter, I have read 84/100 books I challenged myself to read this year. And this isn’t even counting books I’ve re-read in 2016 (most notably, the always excellent ‘Hilary Tamar’ series by Sarah Caudwell). Sixteen books in twelve weeks sounds quite doable, especially when I consider what I already have on the shelf waiting for me at the store.
I’m not sure how it ended up on my ‘to read’ pile, but I’ve worked my way through Gregory Harris’s ‘Colin Pendragon Mystery’ series this summer. The series is set in turn-of-the-century London and features a young aristocrat, Colin Pendragon, and his companion Ethan Pruitt. My tagline would be, “what if Sherlock were gay and had social skills and Watson were the former drug addict”. Like similar series, they are at constant odds with Scotland Yard. The books bleed into each other, so we were introduced to the next book in the final chapter of the first. We only have book #4, The Dalwich Desecration, in store at present (in new and used), but you will not be at a disadvantage if you start there. Books #1-3 are available to order with book #5 coming in March, all in trade paperback.
Long-time readers of the newsletter will know that I am the guardian angel that brought Gail Carriger to Whodunit. Soulless was a revelation and I loved the whole ‘Parasol Protectorate’ series. I quite enjoyed her foray into YA in the same world with the ‘Finishing School’ series. ‘The Custard Protocol’ series stars Alexia and Connall’s daughter, overtly raised by Lord Akeldama, Prudence. I liked the first book, Prudence (in store in trade paperback). But I sat on the second book, Imprudence. And even having gulped it down, I wasn’t sure if I enjoyed it. I think my challenge is that Carriger has done what very few authors are willing to do, which is to properly retire their main characters. Alexia and Conall are an important part of the plot, but they are still secondary and more importantly old. They are not the same people they were in the Soulless, they are a grown-up woman’s aging parents. But upon reflection, it was all quite wonderful and I shall look forward to any future adventures. It is worth noting that this one is very much NOT appropriate for younger audiences, if you know what I mean. Available in trade paperback in February.
I read As Death Draws Near, #5 in Anna Lee Huber’s ‘Lady Darby’ series not long before The Dalwich Desecration, so it was a lot of murders in religious orders that week. This is a smart series featuring a crime-solving aristocratic couple, so if you like Deanna Raybourn’s ‘Lady Julia’ series or Tasha Alexandra’s ‘Lady Emily’ series, this will be right up your alley. Kiera and Gage find themselves in Ireland where a young nun-in-training has been murdered and they find the locals not particularly sympathetic (nor to Catholics in general). I don’t think these books are quite as fun as Raybourn or Alexandra, but they are still an engrossing read and do a lot to make us consider what is appropriate “women’s work”. We’ve got this one in store in used as well as books #1 and #4.
I have mixed feelings about Rhys Bowen’s ‘Her Royal Spyness’ series. I started out loving it, then after about book #6 I refused to buy it in hardcover anymore, because I thought it was just silly. I was also frustrated that the plot didn’t seem to be moving anywhere, particularly in relation to Georgie’s relationship with Darcy. We seem to be moving forward on that front though and Malice at the Palace (book #9, in store in mass market) featured some interesting plotlines. I’m nervous of course as we plunge closer to WWII, as I’m not sure how the tone of these books will handle Nazi Germany. Book #10, Crowned and Dangerous, is available for order in hardcover, but I’m waiting for the mass market, as yet unscheduled.
As for the books I’m looking forward to for the rest of the fall, book #2 in David Morrell’s excellent ‘Thomas and Emily De Quincey’ series, Inspector of the Dead, is now available in store in trade paperback with book #3, Ruler of the Night, coming in November. Tasha Alexander’s ‘Lady Emily’ #10, A Terrible Beauty, is also in store in hardcover. Her first husband is back from the dead, it seems, but is he really? And speaking of Deanna Raybourn, she speaks highly of the new ‘Lady Sherlock’ series that launches this month (in trade paperback) with A Study in Scarlet Women. I love Sherlockian stories with a female twist, so I have high hopes for this one!
Lots of yours and my favourite authors often publish short stories available online only for Kindle, Kobo, or iBooks. Fortunately, Laurie R. King has taken pity on us and published all her ‘Mary Russell’ short stories in one collection, Mary Russell’s War. Nine short stories, one brand new, this will be an excellent Christmas gift for the Mary Russell fan. In stores in trade paperback this week.