Greetings, mystery readers! and welcome to the first and only edition of Mystery 1-2-3, brought to you by the Heights Matchmakers!
What is Mystery 1-2-3? It’s a very special blog entry that will intrigue and delight you with descriptions of the first book in a mystery series, the second book in a second different mystery series, and… wait for it, wait for it… the third book in a third different mystery series! For extra fun, play Spot the Subgenre and What Is Andrea’s Favorite Type of Detective? Answers at the end!
Jennifer Ashley’s series launch Death Below Stairs is pretty much what it sounds like; a period mystery that takes place in a house wealthy enough to have a “below stairs” household staff. It’s set in the posh London neighborhood of Mayfair in the 1880s and is narrated by the cook, Kat Holloway. Kat is a recent arrival in Lord Rankin’s household, bringing a sterling reputation as an excellent cook with her. She has been employed in her new position exactly one day when she finds the body of the kitchen maid in the larder. Who was in Lord Rankin’s house and why a seemingly-innocent young girl would be the victim of murder are the questions of the hour. Kat is joined by a friend and admirer, Daniel McAdam, who moves in high society as smoothly as he works as a deliveryman with a Cockney accent. Lady Cynthia, Lady Emily Rankin’s scandalous sister, and Daniel’s friend Mr. Elgin Thanos, a mathematician, create a foursome determined to crack the case. I enjoy Kat’s narrative voice and in fact, all the characters are well-developed. Looking forward to the next in this series!
I was delighted to see the second in the Gilded Age Mystery series by Rosemary Simpson, because I enjoyed the first one, What the Dead Leave Behind, so much (see how much I enjoyed it here). This second book, Lies that Comfort and Betray (and isn’t that a terrific title?), is, like the first one, set in New York City in the late 1880s. Heiress Prudence MacKenzie begins her career as a private investigator along with her lawyer friend Geoffrey Hunter. As they are opening their new offices, they learn of the violent death of Nora Kenny, a young Irish girl whose family has long been of service to the MacKenzies, especially at the Staten Island home where Prudence’s mother passed away. Prudence, naturally, wants to repay the Kenny family’s loyalty to her own parents by investigating and solving Nora’s murder, when the bodies of more young women are found, all mutilated in the same horrifying way as Nora’s. Prudence and Geoffrey pursue the case in spite of many hints from the police in charge that their amateur efforts aren’t welcome. Nevertheless, they persist, and uncover a singularly sinister state of affairs. This book is considerably more gory than the first one, due to the nature of the crimes, which are repeatedly compared to those of Jack the Ripper, who is concurrently terrorizing London. It’s a pleasure to watch Prudence come into her own as an investigator, fighting against her roles as a woman and as a member of high society all the time. It’s particularly refreshing to me that there is no love interest here, especially as there is certainly enough going on in the plot without it. Characters from various walks of life appear in this complex story. It’s immersive and well-plotted, and every bit as good as the first one.
And now for my favorite, the unparalleled Veronica Speedwell, appearing in her third mystery, A Treacherous Curse. If you want to know how fervently I adore Veronica, see my previous blog entry here. In this third installment, Veronica is intrigued by the lurid story of the Tiverton Expedition, a British-led archaeological exploration into Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. The Tivertons and their entourage are getting a lot of attention in a London scandal sheet, and when it turns out that Stoker has a close connection to one of the individuals involved, Veronica and Stoker begin to investigate. Characters from previous books, most notably Scotland Yard inspectors and women explorers, make a reappearance in the book. The plot involves a stolen Egyptian diadem, a burning building, and the drainage system beneath the streets of London. And that’s absolutely all I want to say about it, for fear of spoilers. Veronica remains tough and unapologetic about breaking through the constraints that Victorian society places upon women. Her relationship with Stoker continues to develop and deepen in a fascinating way that sheds light upon both characters. If you haven’t yet met Veronica Speedwell, you have a treat in store for yourself with the first in the series, A Curious Beginning, as well as the second book, A Perilous Undertaking. The series has stayed consistent and strong through all three books.
And now, as promised, here are the answers to the games:
Spot the Subgenre: Historical Mystery
What Is Andrea’s Favorite Type of Detective?: The Woman Amateur Sleuth
Thank you for reading and thank you for playing! Maybe someday there will be another opportunity to talk about three terrific historical mystery series in the same blog entry! Until then, here is Mystery 1-2-3 signing off. Happy reading!