Thursday, September 12, 2013

July Books I Loved

A BLOODY FIELD BY SHREWSBURY/Edith Pargeter
Best known for her Brother Cadfael medieval mysteries (under the pen name Ellis Peters) Pargeter also wrote beautiful historicals including this one: the story of Harry 'Hotspur' Percy and his rebellion against Henry IV. Perhaps the most intriguing character of the lot is young Hal, the teenage Prince of Wales who will one day be Henry V. The kind of historical fiction that makes me say, "If this isn't how it happened, it's how it should have happened."

NAME OF THE STAR and THE MADNESS UNDERNEATH/Maureen Johnson
The first two books in a trilogy about Rory Deveaux, an American student newly arrived in London just as a Jack the Ripper copycat begins a killing spree. Rory has enough trouble keeping up with classes, but after a near-death moment she realizes she can see ghosts, a skill that puts her in danger as the killings continue. I absolutely adored the first book; I was ever so slightly let down by the second, which was slimmer and quicker and didn't deliver quite as much story as I wanted. But the ending was harshly beautiful and I follow her on Twitter partly to follow her progress in finishing the 3rd book (but mostly to laugh, because Maureen Johnson is very, very funny!)

THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE MONGOL QUEENS/Jack Weatherford
A companion to Weatherford's book about Genghis Khan and the rise of the Mongol Empire. I loved this book's focus on the women among Genghis Khan's family and descendants, for even more than the men, they were responsible for the spread of the empire along the famed Silk Route. Weatherford begins with the excision of Genghis Khan's daughters from Mongol written history, leaving only a single tantalizing sentence that hinted at his respect for women, and from there dissects the outlandish stories that trickled into Europe about these women. Highly recommended.

HOUSE AT SEA'S END and A ROOM FULL OF BONES/Elly Griffith
The third and fourth books in the mysteries series featuring forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway. In House, Ruth is called in to investigate bones found on a remote Norfolk beach. They turn out to belong to German soldiers from WWII, and the mystery of their deaths threatens to unearth local secrets. In Room, the opening of a medieval bishop's tomb is complicated by the murder of the museum curator. When the museum's owner is soon found dead in his horse racing stables, at least one of Ruth's friends is implicated. Where do her loyalties lie? Ruth is an engaging character, not least because she can be abrasive and difficult.

DEAD SCARED/SJ Bolton
DC Lacey Flint is still recovering from the effects of her last case (from NOW YOU SEE ME) when she is sent undercover to Cambridge to investigate a rash of unusual student suicides. Working with college psychologist Evi Oliver, who suspects a website might be encouraging troubled students to kill themselves, Lacey is dragged into a much darker and more horrific conspiracy. And then the nightmares begin . . . Bolton is a master of psychological suspense and Lacey is an intriguingly broken character who holds herself together through sheer force of will.

ANATOMY OF MURDER/Imogen Robertson
The second in the series featuring 18th-century anatomist Gabriel Crowther and forthright Harriet Westerman. Harriet's husband, a naval captain, has been gravely injured in a sea battle and she distracts from her worry by investigating the case of a body pulled out of the Thames. The case involves French spies and English traitors and Captain Westerman may unknowingly hold a key piece of evidence. A good portrait of an era, with wonderful characters, and a plot that continues to surprise until the end.

JEWELS/Victoria Finlay
The subtitle is "A Secret History", and Finlay's engaging narrative combines geology, travel, history, legend, and science to go behind the pretty colors and expensive sparkle of the world's gems. With chapters like Pearls, Rubies, and Diamonds, I know far more than I ever expected to care about knowing and also found many wonderful tidbits about historical jewels that I can use in my novels. A charming and informative book.

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