Back to the 1920s

>> Sunday, October 28, 2018

Two novels set in the 1920s today.

TITLE: A Monstrous Regiment of Women
AUTHOR: Laurie R King

This is the second book in a series about Mary Russell, a young woman who becomes Sherlock Holmes' colleague, friend, and then something more (review of book 1 here). In this book, Mary 's relationship with Holmes has reached a bit of a turning point, and she seeks a bit of distance, to better consider things. As luck would have it, she meets an acquaintance from university and through her, comes into contact with a feminist/religious society led by an extremely charismatic figure. When she discovers a series of mysterious deaths (with all the deceased leaving their wealth to the society), Mary feels she must investigate. She's in a good position to do so, as she's about to come into her inheritance and, for someone looking at her from the outside, she may look like exactly the sort of person who'd go for the sort of cult the society seems to be. Of course, before long, Holmes is involved as well.

The mystery is interesting, and I particularly liked the setting. Not just the details about life in those circles in the 1920s, but also the feel of it. But what I liked the most was the character development. Mary launches into her investigation feeling very sure she's immune to the charisma of the leader, but it's not that straightforward, and this helps her understand where she still needs to work on herself. And her relationship with Holmes continues to develop very satisfyingly. I'm not usually the biggest fan of relationships with such big age gaps, but with these two, King convinces me that their minds are so in sync that age really doesn't matter.


TITLE: The Other Side of Midnight
AUTHOR: Simone St James

Ellie Winter is a medium operating in 1920s London. She's the real deal, which is why she's given up on the heavy stuff, the contacting-the-dead kind of work. That's much too traumatic when you're not faking it. But when one of her former colleagues dies, Ellie can't disregard the message from the dead woman asking her to investigate. Gloria was the only other person with real psychic powers that Ellie knew of. So she ends up working with James Hawley, a veteran who's dedicated to debunking fake psychics, to find out what happened to Gloria.

Simone St James writes books that should be my crack, but don't quite hit the mark. Everything about this one should have really worked for me. The plot, the time period, the conflict in the romance (Ellie and James have a bit of a past, when he was part of a group that set out to discredit her mother and her in a way she thought was unfair). There's nothing truly wrong in any of it, but the book just didn't captivate me. I'd put it down and then never felt particularly keen to pick it back up. There's something in the writing and plotting of her books that keeps me a bit distant. I guess sometimes an author's style doesn't completely click with a particular reader...



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