Book Review: A Proposal To Die For (A #LadyAlkmene Callender Mystery – Book 1), by Vivian Conroy

Publisher:  Carina UK

Publication date:   19th September 2016

a-proposal-to-die-for-my-review

a-proposal-to-die-forWhen it’s as charming as A Proposal to Die For mystery and history make the most wonderful combination.

Lady Alkmene Callender is half social butterfly, half wannabe amateur sleuth. Finding too much time on her hands while her globetrotting father investigates his latest botanical obsession, Lady Alkmene has a desire to investigate intriguing situations involving persons in her close circle.

Instead of solely concentrating her efforts on attending functions and reacting appropriately to polite conversation, she shows an unconventional interest in detective pursuits and prefers to expand her knowledge by reading books like ‘Rigor Mortis’.

Unfortunately for Lady Alkmene she has neither the streetwise sense nor life skills to draw swords against people already hardened against the world she has been protected from. Her naivety often impairs her judgement leaving her open to a wide range of predicaments.

Rather than be content with reading the morning’s papers and simply call for more tea upon hearing the news that the wealthy art collector Silas Norwhich has expired, she has already concluded there has been a callous murder, a spot of theft, to be followed by a dash of blackmail. It’s all hearsay, of course. One recently eavesdropped conversation later leaves an American heiress and actress Evelyn Steinbeck firmly in the spotlight which will outshine any of her Broadway appearances.

Events unfold with the impromptu assistance of Anglo/French relations in the form of Jake Dubois, a charming but tough, sharp-tongued journalist, who has also taken and a similar interest in the unofficial case into Norwhich’s death, even though the police think it’s nothing more than a tragic accident. Dubois is a terrific character – where he lives, how he responds, especially to a certain Lady’s interference.

Quite often Alkmene is under the illusion she can match Dubois’s skills as a sleuth, while she’s no push over his background lends a much wiser touch to these matters, generally underlining their interactions with an insult aimed at the Lady’s privileged background.

So, high society mingles with the ‘lower classes’ and by doing so each sees how the other half lives and the issues they contend with daily. Sometimes that divide closes, and at others it widens. But one thing is for sure, regardless of their backgrounds both Dubois and Alkmene actually want the same thing – to catch a potential killer and tie up the loose ends that are unravelling.

A Proposal to Die For is the epitome of its wonderful cover, evoking a sense of period where the art of a good old fashioned mystery can thrive. Here, possessing a title is not simply a lifelong ticket to not launder your own washing, it also leaves you ample leisure time to attend to the right kind of gossip where your connections could come in fairly handy, or may even place you in the line of fire. Thank goodness for that or we wouldn’t have been given the learning curves of a new amateur sleuth on a silver platter, now would we?!

Rating:  4/5

(I was delighted to be approved by the publisher to receive a digital copy of this title from NetGalley. Huge thanks to them, as this was a wonderful read.)

a-proposal-to-die-for-book-summary(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

The first book in the new Lady Alkmene Callender Mystery series.

A murderous beginning.

With her father away in India, Lady Alkmene Callender finds being left to her own devices in London intolerably dull, until the glamorous Broadway star Evelyn Steinbeck arrives in town! Gossip abounds about the New York socialite, but when Ms Steinbeck’s wealthy uncle, Silas Norwhich, is found dead Lady Alkmene finds her interest is piqued. Because this death sounds a lot to her like murder…

Desperate to uncover the truth, Lady Alkmene begins to look into Ms Steinbeck’s past – only to be hampered by the arrival of journalist, Jake Dubois – who believes she is merely an amateur lady-detective meddling in matters she knows nothing about!

But Lady Alkmene refuses to be deterred from the case and together they dig deeper, only to discover that some secrets should never come to light…

The twenties have never been so dangerous.

Don’t miss the next Lady Alkmene Mystery:

1. A Proposal to Die For
2. Diamonds of Death
3. Deadly Treasures

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a-proposal-to-die-for-author-profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Find out more about Vivian Conroy, the daring author of The Lady Alkmene Mysteries.

Vivian Conroy discovered Agatha Christie at 13 and quickly devoured all Poirot and Miss Marple stories. Over time Lord Peter Wimsey and Brother Cadfael joined her favourite sleuths. Even more fun than reading was thinking up her own fog-filled alleys, missing heirs and priceless artifacts. So Vivian created feisty Lady Alkmene and enigmatic reporter Jake Dubois sleuthing in 1920s London and the countryside, first appearing in A PROPOSAL TO DIE FOR (published by Carina UK/Harper Collins).

For the latest #LadyAlkmene, with a dash of dogs and chocolate, follow Vivian on Twitter via @VivWrites.

TWITTER   |   CARINA WEBSITE

Book Review: A Poisonous Journey – A Lady Evelyn Mystery, by Malia Zaidi

Publication date: 27th August 2015  |  This edition: Kindle (Review Copy)

A Poisonous Journey My Review

A Poisonous Journey CoverLeaving only a note to state her intended whereabouts, young Lady Evelyn Carlisle hastily packs to escape the monotony of her life with Aunt Agnes, leaving a miserable, rain soaked England behind her. She sails toward adventure and into the open arms of hospitality offered by her cousin, Briony and her husband, Jeffrey.

Their gorgeous Cretan home nestled amidst spectacular scenery and the warming rays of sunlight are everything she dreamed of – yet the idyllic surroundings are riddled with deceit.

Shortly after her arrival, the discovery of a body of among the grounds disturbs the welcoming atmosphere and leaves everyone wondering if they’ve been dining with a potential murderer. Suspicions are raised, but everyone seems too lovely or well-respected to morph from friend to fiend during the course of an afternoon!

Before long, Evelyn politely pokes her little nose into other people’s affairs, discretely, of course, as only a true Lady would. In the process she uncovers all manner of unsavouriness while dicing with danger herself on occasion.

Still keeping up appearances, Evelyn hopes her amateurish meddling will assist the authorities, who have been slow to produce results. Although the police have several lines of enquiries, their investigation appears as easy going as Island life itself. The young sleuth also wonders if her clue solving could help Daniel, an intriguing house guest and longstanding friend of the deceased. And if a murderer lurking in the shadows wasn’t enough, a callous thief is on the loose, as there are missing artefacts to find from Jeffrey’s museum dig!

Just how well do these English settlers know the close knit community and even their own acquaintances? All will be revealed by peeling back the layers of a world where a War changed the people in it forever. We see how secrets can breed unhappiness, but the bond between the cousins remains unbroken and the little conversation snippets into their personal lives are truly wonderful.

Combine the food, the fashion decisions, and the community spirit and there’s a genuine sense of Cretan life and culture, topped with a classic English twist. The island setting lifts what could have been a run of the mill mystery and turns it into an rather interesting read. There are no major thrills or gasps of horror in store, just a well written murder mystery of the gentler paced variety to keep things bubbling along until the end.

Personally, I found the pace a little slower than I’m used to, but it was an enjoyable distraction nonetheless. If you’re partial to a traditional who-done-it with a relaxed pace and delicate hints of romance, then A Poisonous Journey will be right up your street.

Rating: 3.5/5

(My thanks to the author for providing a digital copy of this book for review purposes.)

A Poisonous Journey Book Summary

The year is 1925, a time that hovers between two catastrophic wars, a time of jazz and sparkle, and a time of peace and reflection. For Lady Evelyn, struggling to outrun the ghosts of her tragic past, it is a time of transformation. Left orphaned after a fire when she was only four, Lady Evelyn Carlisle was raised in London by her stern aunt and uncle.

Now, twenty years later she has grown restless and is keen to escape her chaperone’s grasp. A letter from her cousin, Briony, living with her husband on Crete, comes at just the right time. Packing what she can, Lady Evelyn makes off for foreign shores. Welcoming her are not only Briony and her husband, Jeffrey, but also his handsome and mysterious friends, Caspar Ballantine and Daniel Harper. Though the latter carries with him tragic memories of the Great War, Evelyn is glad to be in their company. With the sun warming her back and the dazzling sea in her sights, this fresh start seems destined for happy days ahead.

Little does she know . . . What starts off as a sunny holiday quickly turns into a sinister nightmare, when Evelyn stumbles across the corpse of one of her cousin’s houseguests. Drawn into the mystery surrounding the murder, Evelyn embarks on a mission to discover the truth, forcing her to face her own past as well as a cold-hearted killer. With the help of her cousin, the handsome local police detective, and the mysterious Daniel Harper, will she uncover the truth, before another life is claimed? A varied cast of characters, an engaging mystery at its core, an exotic setting, and a thoughtful, plucky heroine provide a story that will appeal to fans of many genres.

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Book Review: The Jazz Files (Poppy Denby Investigates – Book One, by Fiona Veitch Smith

Publisher: Lion Fiction  |   Publication date:  17th September 2015   |   Review edition: Paperback

The Jazz Files My Review

The Jazz Files by Fiona Veitch Smith - Cover onlyThe Jazz Files encapsulates the highs and lows of an era shortly after the First World War.

With the author’s discretion, certain historical facts have been remoulded to fit this story, where we follow the young and ambitious Poppy Denby as she pursues a career in journalism.

Poppy was invited to London to work as a companion to her aunt, an actress and feisty member of the suffragette movement. Her aunt encourages her niece to fight for the employment she desires, after all, it’s what she and her friends campaigned for, and some of them did not survive. But no amount of support and encouragement will prepare her for the danger she is about to face, where blackmail, unsavoury characters, and evil shadow from the past all thrive.

Starting as an office assistant Poppy will meet all manner of larger than life characters, each having their own piece of unique history attached. For starters, there’s her boss, who is an ‘all American editor’ called ‘Rollo’ Rolandson. He gives the bright young gal a chance, when a missing editorial slot needs filling urgently. Having a friend in the arts is a Godsend, as she can get the interview she needs to set her on the right track. Little did she know that journalism could lead to such deadly pursuits! There are such delightful ones too, as a dashing newspaper photographer has a twinkle in his eye for young Poppy. Their relationship inside and outside the paper’s offices is played out wonderfully.

Soon, chases, betrayal and a cloak and dagger rescue are all on the cards. Poppy chips away at information she gains during her employment hoping to discover the truth about her aunt Dot’s accident, which left her confined to a wheelchair. And what really caused the death of her aunt’s friend? Then, there’s the fate of a poor woman held in an asylum hanging in the balance! Who is responsible for causing such grief and how can they be stopped? This is difficult to discern, as most of the people Poppy meets have secrets they are not revealing.

The original members from the suffragette movement and their nieces / daughters work together as a formidable team to solve the puzzle that has haunted the older generation. It’s a nice touch to bring all the threads together and form a unified bond ‘in the now’ – but someone is always one step ahead of the investigation…

With the embittered memories for the loss of their old friends and exposing those responsible, this is an incredibly engaging story. Told in a rhythmic, breezy style, our marvellous mystery solving gal perseveres, despite the many obstacles both her gender and difficult circumstances present in the age of The Jazz Files.

It’s safe to say I adored this book and would happily recommend it to those who like being transported to a different time, where an adventurous journalistic crime mystery will keep you on your toes – the 1920’s have never felt more alive!

Rating: 5/5

(My sincerest thanks to the publisher and Rhoda Hardie for providing a gorgeous paperback of this title for review.)

The Jazz Files Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

“It stands for Jazz Files,” said Rollo. “It’s what we call any story that has a whiff of high society scandal but can’t yet be proven… you never know when a skeleton in the closet might prove useful.”

Set in 1920, The Jazz Files introduces aspiring journalist Poppy Denby, who arrives in London to look after her ailing Aunt Dot, an infamous suffragette. Dot encourages Poppy to apply for a job at The Daily Globe, but on her first day a senior reporter is killed and Poppy is tasked with finishing his story. It involves the mysterious death of a suffragette seven years earlier, about which some powerful people would prefer that nothing be said…

Through her friend Delilah Marconi, Poppy is introduced to the giddy world of London in the Roaring Twenties, with its flappers, jazz clubs, and romance. Will she make it as an investigative journalist, in this fast-paced new city? And will she be able to unearth the truth before more people die?

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The Jazz Files Author Profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Formerly a journalist, Fiona Veitch Smith has written books, theatre plays and screenplays. She is best known though for her novels and children’s picturebooks. Her ‘Young David Picturebook’ series (illustrated by Amy Barnes Warmington) are based on the Biblical character of King David when he was a young boy. ‘The Jazz Files’ is the first novel in her mystery series, Poppy Denby Investigates, and is set in the 1920s. Her standalone novel, ‘The Peace Garden’, is a romantic thriller set in England and South Africa. She lives with her husband, daughter and two dogs in Newcastle upon Tyne where she lectures in media and scriptwriting at the local universities. She has a passion for cheesecake, Pilates and playing the clarinet – preferably not at the same time!

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