Easter weekend for some. The child is in Chelsea visiting. No rain yet and I should be out in my garden clearing out dreck from last year but instead I’m drinking coffee, talking to the dog and catching up on my mystery challenge. Then I’m going over to work on the Children’s Garden at Fern Persons Elementary. Somedays it is easier to work in someone else’s garden. I’ve never quite figured out why.
I’ve read four more books in the challenge. Caught up on three of the St. Cyr books and am now current (except for her newest.) I now have all the background material on Lord Devlin, St. Cyr and his labyrinthine relationships with his father, sister, mother, Kat and so on. I read, in order, What Angels Fear, When Gods Die, and Why Mermaids Sing.
Harris’ background in history is evident in the detail she brings to her books and to me, that is every bit as important as the level of complexity in plot line. She develops some pretty intricate plot lines that delve into some of the deeper tabus of our culture, violations of our moral codes by an actor that then cause another to violate the code through murder. St. Cyr’s personal history and experience in Britain’s wars with France give him insight into the darker places of the human soul and his own demons make him face what he sees so that he challenges social niceties for the sake of justice. I don’t want to describe the tabus that are violated because to do so would spoil the plots of the various books. Harris gives you the information you need as you read to help you get to the theory of the case with St. Cyr and I don’t want to take away from the experience. My advice though, read these in order. I read the last book first and it spoiled a fairly significant continuing plot twist pertinent to St. Cyr himself. I missed out on what would have a been a major OMG moment because of it.
My introduction to historical fiction/mystery was set by Dorothy Dunnett with her Crawford of Lymond series. I’ve had arguments as to whether you can consider the series mystery (I do) and my experience is that one either loves the books or hates them. I love them. I love the geographic, historical and literary detail she pours into each book as well as the psychology that underlies each character. Dunnett’s Crawford books set the bar for me for good historical fiction so I look for work that can come close. Harris puts the kind of work into her series that gets her close. I’m looking forward to her next effort
My last book for the challenge (I guess, sigh,) was Murder Has No Class by Rebecca Kent. This is a fluffy piece set in an Edwardian finishing school in England. The protagonist is a headmistress who sees ghosts, in this case, the ghost of a nobleman who was hanged for shooting his father. The ghost indicates that he was wrongly convicted and executed and the headmistress and two of her associates at the school investigate in order to see if they find out who really killed the old man. The book is the third, and according to the author, the last of the series. With all due respect, I have to say I won’t pine away from the thought that Headmistress Meredith Llewellyn will investigate no more. There were suffragette housemaids who were instigating riots among the students, burgeoning love interests between Meredith and the owner of the school and a police inspector, psychologically wounded faculty, a caddish assistant, and none of the characters were really developed fully. The story was a bit too light and a bit too fluffy. The book is by the same author who has produced the Pennyfoot Hotel series so I got a sense that perhaps it was an experiment. Not what I would have chosen really to end my challenge with so perhaps I’ll find something else to officially close with. There are, after all, a couple of Sister Fidelma books I have not yet gotten to.
And, my coffee is done, it isn’t raining yet and I have no more excuses for not going and working in someone else’s garden. Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate it, and to those of you who don’t, enjoy the fact that Spring is come.