Friday Book Whimsy: Murder at Archly Manor

I’ll be honest with you; lately I’ve read so many of these mysteries featuring high-society lady detectives that they’re all starting to run together. Murder at Archly Manor, the first in what’s called the High Society Lady Detective series by author Sara Rosett, while not quite Agatha Christie material, was a fun romp with high society in 1920s England.

Olive Belgrade is a solid member of the aristocratic class in London, but that doesn’t mean she’s rich. In fact, she is barely making ends meet, and is finding job-hunting to be unsuccessful. While visiting relatives, she learns that her cousin Violet is newly engaged to a man that nobody trusts. There is too much about his background that is vague. This leads to that, and Olive is hired by her aunt to look into Alfred’s background.

To this end, Olive attends a weekend party given by an aristocrat who actually IS rich. Unfortunately, before Olive can find out too much, Alfred is killed. Olive sets out to find the murderer.

First novels are always hit-or-miss. The reader needs to learn a lot about the characters. Rosett does a good job of introducing us to Olive and her friends, making them likable and mostly believable.

I found Murder at Archly Manor to be a good cozy mystery, and I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Here is a link to the book.

Friday Book Whimsy: The Ashford Affair

I’m honestly beginning to think that the more prolific female fiction writers are starting to use plot templates that they got from a secret club to which they all belong, and they simply change the names, locales, and the precise situations to fit the template. What else could account for the oh-so-predictable story line of a busy contemporary professional woman running smack dab into the glass ceiling despite working harder than any man, and then finding out about a family secret that changes their life, while meeting the love of her life in the meantime? What follows is the inevitable back and forth between a character from the late 19th or early 20th century to a more contemporary heroine. It is starting to get so tiresome, and authors are starting to seem so lazy.

I’m afraid that my boredom with this plot technique colored my opinion of The Ashford Affair by Lauren Willig. Willig is actually a good writer, so it is a disappointment to see her fall into this same trap. The Ashford Affair’s only saving grace – at least as far as this reader is concerned – is that some of the story takes place in Kenya which made the plot more interesting. The earlier time period is the early 1920s, and I happen to find this period in world history quite interesting.

Clementine Evans has worked her tail off pursuing her dream of making partner in the law firm in which she works in 1999. Unfortunately, her elderly grandmother Addie – who loved Clemmie very much and helped her deal with a disapproving mother – takes a turn for the worse, and is dying. Before she dies, Clemmie becomes aware of a secret that could change everything she knew about her family.

Flashback: Addie’s mother and father are killed when she is 5, and Addie is sent to live with a cold and uncaring aunt and uncle in England. Addie’s only friend is her cousin Bea, who, though only 7, is beautiful and already being groomed to marry well. The two become dear friends until they are grown up and Bea betrays Addie by stealing her boyfriend and marrying him.

Flash forward: When Clemmie’s grandmother dies, she goes to the funeral instead of a meeting she was expected to attend, and is turned down for partnership. Shock. So she and a distant cousin with whom she once had a fling decide to try and solve the mystery of their family’s background.

What follows is a predictable, if well-written, story that was a good enough read to keep me marginally engaged but predictable enough to make me work to try and keep from getting confused with other novels I’ve read.

I can’t unequivocally recommend the book unless you are in the mood for something that won’t require a lot of thinking.

Here is a link to the book.