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A couple of mysteries

A couple more mystery novels today, one straightforward, the other a mix of fantasy and crime.

First up, A Fete Worse than Death by Dolores Gordon-Smith, which was recommended to me by bluespirit_star and I'd like to thank her for the rec. :-)


Jack Haldean is an ex-world war one fighter pilot who now writes crime novels for a living. He's staying at Hesperus, in Sussex, the country house owned by his uncle and aunt, and is attending a fete in their grounds with his cousin, Greg. He suddenly spots a man he served with in the RFC, Boscombe, and things are said which remind Haldean of how much he disliked the man. Some while later, still at the fete, Boscombe is discovered dead in the fortune teller's tent. The case is a real conundrum and Jack, always fascinated by real-life murder cases, begs the police detective in charge, Superintendent Ashley, to be allowed to help solve the murder. He soon lives to regret his enthusiasm as his family and friends come under close scrutiny. Worse still, he has to investigate a notorious event of the war and put himself into very real danger.

Oh, I liked this one very much indeed. It very much has the flavour of 1920s England, all country lanes and garden fetes, but also a very real sense of the horrors and senseless carnage of the war... and the cameraderie that existed between the men who fought. Jack Haldean is an interesting amateur detective, and I liked the way he realistically lost his taste for the thrill of the chase as regards the crime when it started to involve people he knew and loved. It was difficult for him and the author made no bones about depicting that. I also liked that the offical investigating detective was not an idiot... that made for a nice change too. The crime aspect itself I found interesting and absorbing, particularly the WW1 slant. All in all, a good start to a 'new to me' series. I went off immediately to grab the second book, Mad About the Boy, for my Kindle, for the princely sum of 84p from AmazonUK. Bargain.

Next up, Death By Silver by Melissa Scott and Amy Griswold. This is book five for Carl's Once Upon A Time VIII challenge and was lent to me by byslantedlight. Thanks to her for the loan. :-)


Ned Mathey is a newly qualified metaphysician in an alternative universe Victorian London, who is trying to establish a new practice. He's called in to help one Edgar Nevett who thinks he has a problem with cursed silver and wants Ned to see if it so and remove the curse if there is one. Ned is reluctant. Edgar is the father of Victor who was at shool with Ned and as a prefect and being much older than him bullied him mercilessly. But a job is a job and Ned goes and passes the silver as uncursed. Not long after, Ned gets word that Edgar has been murdered and the cause is likely a cursed silver candlestick. Luckily, the police take Ned's word for it that the silver was not cursed and a murder investigation ensues. Ned enrols his close friend and occasional lover, Julian Lynes, and together the two try to solve what is a very tangled web, made more difficult by the fact that Victor, the school bully, is the one who wants them to find out who did it. Can Ned and Julian put aside their hatred of Victor and solve the murder without prejudice?

Well this one was a bit different. Firstly, it's a solid crime story told amid a world where magic and its use is an everyday occurance. People charm household objects to make housework easier (yes please!), use love potions, and use magic to do away with people they don't like. The other difference is that Ned and Julian are gay and although this is against the law, as it would have been in real Victorian society, the authors don't hesitate to bring it into the story and use it as another author might use a straight romance. I found it refreshingly different... some might find it a little explicit. Just a word of warning. There are also quite a lot of descriptions of some rather nasty bullying. Again, it might not be to everyone's taste. If you're OK with that then there really is quite a good crime yarn here. I must admit I suspected the culprit from the start but it didn't spoil my enjoyment. I liked the world building, magic in a Victorian setting is always attractive to me, and I really liked Ned and Julian. I particularly liked the misunderstanding element of their romance. Possibly I would have liked a few less 'gottens' but it seems some American authors never are going to learn that we don't say that word over here so I'd better get over it. I'm hoping there might be more books about these two but as the book has only been out a year it's probably too early to know.


Oh, I am glad you liked Death by Silver! You're much cleverer than me, guessing the villain straight away! Mind you, I was enjoying the story too much to try very hard about that aspect of it, which is probably why I don't really read many whodunnits. *g*

I'm desperately hoping for another book too. There is a rather fun Mathey and Lynes tumblr, which I've synched to my lj, and very cool Victorian things pop up now and then!

I do like the sound of your first book too - *adds yet another to her list*... Yeay! ETA - noooooooo! Only available as an e-book, though I see one of her other Haldane books is in hardback... *grumbles*

Edited at 2014-05-15 04:09 pm (UTC)
I read heaps of crime fic and was therefore immediately suspicious of 'that person'. *G*

It felt like the beginning of a series to me so let's keep our fingers crossed.

Oh... I didn't realise A Fete Worse than Death was only available as an e-book! Well, well.
Thanks for the suggestions.
Now reading, "She Loves Me Not" by Staub; these will be next.

My pleasure.

I just looked She Loves Me Not up. Not heard of Wendy Corsi Staub but that sounds good so will keep an eye out for the author in the library.
I'm glad you liked it. I hate feeling that I've wasted my money but - heigh-ho! And yes - the culprit was rather obvious. :D

'Gotten' is correct for the period although possibly on the verge of being obsolete except in dialect.
Yes, I hate that feeling too and sadly it's not uncommon with me. At least the charity shops benefit from my mistakes. *g*

You probably know more about these historical facts than me so I expect you're correct re: 'gotten'. I just wonder if the authors were also aware... *g*
The authors haven't got a clue. :D It's the sort of thing I think about though when I ponder writing period fiction. I'm not sure that a word should be used even if it's in period. Anything that brings the reader up short is counter-productive. The book I'm reading at the moment is littered with 'gottens' and 'snucks' and they bother me not because they bother me but because they pull me out of the story.

Edited at 2014-05-17 07:07 pm (UTC)
I have downloaded a sample of Death by Silver.

I wonder if the authors knew homosexuality was illegal in Victorian London? Given they thought 'gotten' was perfectly okay to use, one does wonder.

I haven't come across the use of 'gotten' in Holmes or Raffles or the erotic Victorian novels written in the era I've read.
If you do decide to read it I'll be very interested in your thoughts. *g*

Yes, from the story you do deduce that they knew homosexuality was illegal. No, I haven't come across any gottens in my Victorian reading either but I'm really no expert... just a reader. *g* Personally I just think it's another example of American authors setting books in England and just not bothering to check how we really speak or *used* to speak, as there are other examples throughout the book. 'God damn it' for instance. I don't see that as very Victorian English given what a church-going society it was.
I shall let you know.

Ah, right. I'll let them off then *g*

I'm no expert either, but I have a vague (very vague) feeling that it was used at some point, but considerably further back and it was more dialect than anything else.

I really do think it is a case of not bothering to check. Again, I'd agree with you, it doesn't sound quite right.
At a guess, I'd say that it began to disappear in the 18th century but was still in use during the 1840s (to judge by the examples in the OED). It remained in dialect usage even after that. So you could argue that it's not in period for the 1890s but I don't want to pick that particular nit. Neo-Victorian fiction is full of modernisms that neither readers nor writers notice because we're so used to seeing them that we don't see them.