Historical Mystery

Detective Lavender Mystery Series by Karen Charlton

Karen Charlton has taken a bit of poetic license with the real-life Bow Street Runner, Principal Officer, Stephen Lavender by calling him a ‘detective’.  However, the stories are based on his real-life cases in Regency England.  How she came to learn of Detective Lavender is an interesting story in itself.  If you are interested, you can see that here.

Below are reviews of the first three books in the series and the book blurb for the fourth book in the series, Plague Pits & River Bones.


The Heiress of Linn Hagh (Detective Lavender Mysteries, #1)The Heiress of Linn Hagh by Karen Charlton
Book 1
Barbara’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a great start for what is a new author and series for me. I love her writing style — straightforward, descriptive, well-developed characters, etc. Lavender seems to be a cross between Sherlock Holmes and MacGyver. He’s exceedingly smart, well educated and perceptive, but not particularly ‘people adept’.

I love the relationship between Lavender and Constable Woods. They are friends, but it seems much more than that — almost father/son. Woods is the ‘people person’. He’s one of those good-natured, affable kinds of people who has never met a stranger. People instinctively trust him and talk to him easily.

As a principal investigator for the famed Bow Street Runners, Lavender is often called to various parts of England to solve cases that local investigators cannot solve. As often as possible, Lavender takes Constable Woods with him.

An heiress is missing — from a room that is locked from the inside. Her uncle contacts Bow Street and Lavender and Woods are sent to Northumberland to solve the mystery and find the heiress.

It doesn’t take them long to figure out that there is more going on than just a missing heiress. There is true madness and evil at Linn Hagh and more than one victim. The mystery is sort of gothic in nature – brooding like Wuthering Heights.

I’ve seen a number of questions about the accuracy of the Bow Street runners scenario’s on other reviews. I was questioning at first as well, but the author includes her research and information at the end of the book in the Author’s Notes section that is really interesting. Seems there REALLY was a principal investigator named Lavender.

Some people may find the writing style a little dry — sort of like the old Dragnet series on TV, but I enjoyed it thoroughly and can’t wait to start the next one.


The Sans Pareil Mystery (Detective Lavender Mysteries, #2)The Sans Pareil Mystery by Karen Charlton
Book 2
Barbara’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book two in the Lavender mystery series. Another great addition to the series.

Me Ma says ‘Send a Constable’! Quick! They’re murdering a woman at Raleigh Close on ‘Art Street.” So begins the mystery. In the remains of a dilapidated building, they find the body of a beautiful young woman concealed beneath the floorboards. She’s been dead for two or three days — and — her shoes don’t fit. The young woman is soon identified as an actress from the local theater.

Lavender and Woods investigate and their investigations soon take strange turns — misidentification, spies, murder and general mayhem.

I like the interplay between Lavender and Woods — they play off each other really well. I don’t care for Donᾶ Magdalena, who is Lavender’s love interest. Maybe she’ll grow on me through other books in the series, but so far I don’t like her.


The Sculthorpe Murder (Detective Lavender Mysteries #3)The Sculthorpe Murder by Karen Charlton

Book 3
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What an excellent thriller!  This specific case is loosely based on a case in 1818 when a gang of robbers burst into the home of elderly William Sculthorpe and robbed and viciously assaulted him and his son. The real Stephen Lavender was called to investigate the attack.

You won’t believe how many scallywags there are in this one small town — including the victim himself! There are lots of twists and turns and red herrings thrown at you, but if you pay attention as you read, you can figure out who the bad guys are, but it is always interesting to see how Lavender catches them.

His moral dilemmas at the end are interesting. Lavender is a bit of a nerd — very cerebral and doesn’t interact really well with people so you could see him going either way on those. You’re pretty sure which way he’ll end up going, but — well — it could be either way.

I’m looking forward to the next book.


Plague Pits & River Bones
Plague Pits & River Bones (Detective Lavender Mysteries #4)

Release Date:  January 11, 2018

London 1812: Treacherous gangs roam the capital, and not even the Palace of Westminster is safe. When Detective Stephen Lavender is called in to investigate a highway robbery and a cold-blooded murder, both the cases take a dangerous and disturbing personal twist.

And when Lavender’s trusted deputy, Constable Ned Woods, finds a mysterious severed foot washed up on Greenwich Beach, they soon realize that these ancient bones are more sinister than they first appeared.

With Bow Street Police Office undermanned and in disarray, it will take all of Lavender and Woods’s wit and skill—and some help from Lavender’s spirited wife, Magdalena—to unmask the fiend behind the mayhem, restore peace and justice to the beleaguered city and solve the tragic mystery of the severed foot.

But will they do so in time to foil a plot that threatens to plunge the country into chaos?

This Side of Murder by Anna Lee Huber

Note: If you happen to be looking at reviews on Amazon, you’ll notice that you are seeing ‘Verified Purchase’ reviews. You have to take a couple of additional steps to see ALL of the reviews – and those reviews are definitely worth seeing, so I hope you’ll go deeper to see them all.
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This Side of Murder (Verity Kent, #1)This Side of Murder by Anna Lee Huber

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: Verity Kent #1
Publication Date: 9//26/17

This book is the quintessential mystery. It is interesting, exciting, gripping, and filled with interesting characters. The descriptions of the emotional turmoil of World War I and its aftermath on the soldiers and civilian are so strong that you feel every emotion – just as if you were there. This author’s descriptions of the heroine’s grief over the death of her husband make you feel as if it were your loss, your pain. I just can’t say enough good things about the quality of writing and the depth of the emotions in this story. I almost didn’t request it because it is for a later time period than I usually enjoy, but since I love Huber’s Lady Darby series, I thought I’d give this one a try. I am so very glad I did!

Be sure you have a clear schedule before you start reading because you won’t be able to put it down once you start reading!

Verity married at 18 just as her husband was to go off to war. They never had that time of living together that made the deep memories – the kind where you miss his toothbrush being beside yours or his razor on the sink. Their brief time together was during his short leaves when he came home from the front. They were hurried and intense – and not nearly long enough. Then, a German soldier’s bullet took his life. Verity’s grief was so intense, so painful that she tried to drown it in alcohol and frenetic, frenzied activities such as dancing.

Sidney had been dead for fifteen very long, very difficult months when she received an invitation to a house party to celebrate the engagement of one of Sidney’s life-long friends. She declines the invitation until she receives a letter that says the sender has information about Sidney being a traitor. While she knows that Sidney had been very troubled on his last few trips home, she couldn’t believe he would be a traitor – but she had to know for sure. So, she accepted the invitation and headed to the house party on a private island with about a dozen other people. Each person had ties to Sidney or his service regiment and she had to figure out who sent the letter and find out what they know.

On the way to the ferry to take her to the island, she runs into (almost literally) Max Westfield, the Earl of Ryde. She feels an attraction to him that she hasn’t felt in over fifteen months. But, can she trust him? Is he the one who sent the letter? As she comes to know him better, she really wants to trust him, but he and his family are in a position that he could have easily been the traitor. As the party continues, the attraction grows.

Something about the party and the assembled guests doesn’t feel right to Verity. Then, the first death occurs. Jimmy Tufton was a cynic who had lost an arm in the war – and it was said that he deliberately tried to get himself killed. When he was found hanging, many thought he had committed suicide, but Verity and Max were pretty sure that wasn’t the case. Then, later the second death occurs – and that one definitely isn’t a suicide because there is a very plainly visible bullet wound in his chest. Charlie Montague was a very young man who seemed shell-shocked – and riddled with guilt. Who would be next?

There is a massive storm raging and the telephone wires have been cut, so there is no way to contact the outside world nor to escape. They are trapped on an island with at least one murderer.

Then, after the storm abates a little, the host, Walter Ponsonby is stung by several bees and he’s very, very allergic to the stings. Yes, it was also deliberate. Since everyone knew of the allergy, the unusual method didn’t bring them any closer to discovering the guilty party.

There are many twists, turns, and surprises throughout the book – and the ending is a big surprise. I had half of it figured out, but not the rest! I wish I could tell you more, but I don’t want to spoil the read for you.

I highly recommend this book and this author!

“I requested and received this e-book at no cost to me and volunteered to read it; my review is my honest opinion and given without any influence by the author or publisher.”

An Echo of Murder by Anne Perry

An Echo of Murder (William Monk, #23)An Echo of Murder by Anne Perry

Barbara’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: William Monk #23
Publication Date: 9/19/17

William Monk just keeps on getting better. In many series that have run this long, the stories become repetitive and predictable, but not so with this series. Each new book is exciting and interesting and you never know where it will lead because it is always filled with twists and turns that will keep you guessing right up until the end.

Monk is called out early in the morning to a warehouse near the river. The crime is a grisly murder that has some resemblance to it being ritualistic. The victim is an immigrant from Hungary who was well respected and well liked within his community. Who would want to kill him?

After a week or more of investigation there are no leads and Monk is worn totally out. Then, another early morning call and yet another grisly murder – of a well-liked Hungarian immigrant. Then, they just keep coming – all respectable, well-liked men of the Hungarian immigrant community. Is it somebody with a vendetta against Hungarians? Immigrants? Or are they just random? Monk is sure they are all the work of the same killer because they are all identical.

Hester, Monk’s wife, gets involved because of a very old friend that she thought had died 16 years earlier. Is that old friend the madman killing Hungarians? Surely not – he’s a sweet gentle man. Hester and Monk’s ward (for lack of a better word) also becomes involved in the case because he has befriended and come to admire Fitz, Hester’s old friend.

Did Fitz commit the murders? If not, who did and can they prove any of it? You’ll just have to read it to see because I don’t want to tell too much and spoil the story for you.

I’m already looking forward to Monk #24.

“I requested and received this e-book at no cost to me and volunteered to read it; my review is my honest opinion and given without any influence by the author or publisher.”

Death of a Busybody by George Bellairs

Death of a BusybodyDeath of a Busybody by George Bellairs

Barbara’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Series: Chief Inspector Littlejohn #3
Publication Date: 9/5/17 (Re-release)

I’d actually give it 3.5 stars if I were able, the mystery is good and you aren’t sure who the villain is until almost the end of the book.

This book is the third one in a long series of books by author George Bellairs and was originally published in 1942 and the original hardcovers with dust jackets are quite collectible. The mystery is quite good, the townspeople hospitable, the police force all cooperate with each other and a villain you aren’t sure of until almost the very end.

If you enjoy mysteries, you’ll probably enjoy this one. I found some of the character names humorous. For instance, Miss Tither (as in church tithe) was the victim and was found in the church cesspit.

You also need to understand that there are some references to what would have been a current event or person at the time and you may not be familiar with them. They didn’t bother me enough to make me stop and look them up. The thing that kept sort of jarring me out of the story was that the words were written as the person speaking would have pronounced them. So, I often found myself stopping and going back over some of the words to parse them out before I could be sure what was being said. Another thing you might want to know that it contains a lot of words that are no longer used in general discussion or writing.

All of that said, I did enjoy the mystery and getting to know the inhabitants of Hilary Magna. It was thoroughly enjoyable to read a story where there were no rivalries in the police offices and the local people were a good and cooperative group.

“I requested and received this book at no cost to me and volunteered to read it; my review is my honest opinion and given without any influence by the author or publisher.”

Murder In Mayfair by D. M. Quincy

Murder in Mayfair (Atlas Catesby #1)Murder in Mayfair by D.M. Quincy

Barbara’s Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: Atlas Catesby #1
Publication Date: 07/11/17

Delightful, cleverly plotted, well-developed characters and TWO mysteries that will keep you guessing right to the end. If you love Sebastian St. Cyr, Alec Halsey, Captain Lacey, etc. you will love this book as well. I believe this is Quincy’s first foray into writing a mystery, but it sure doesn’t seem like it.

Atlas Catesby, the youngest son of a baron, is a restless wanderer. He is brilliant and solutions to complex puzzles just leap out at him – when he is calm and can concentrate. To ‘relax’ for concentration he often works on impossible picture puzzles that he special orders because ordinary ones aren’t enough of a challenge. For all of that brilliance, he is filled with guilt and that guilt causes him to constantly be in rescue mode – especially for damsels in distress. Hopefully, he’ll work through that guilt through the course of the series and come to realize he has no blame for what happened to his sister.

Lilliana Warfield is a strong, resilient, intelligent woman but she is also very soft and loving inside. Since the age of sixteen, she has been married to a monster. While he doesn’t physically abuse her, he uses whatever form of mental torture he can think up. Yet she manages to remain sane and defiant and produces two beautiful sons that she loves with all her heart. She also hides a secret that she cannot let anyone discover.

There are several other characters in the book that I hope will become the ‘supporting cast’ of the series. (1) The Earl of Charlton is Atlas’ very good friend. He also seems to have a tendre for Atlas’ married older sister. Will be interesting to see if something happens there or if he just loves teasing her or what. (2) Mrs. Thea Palmer, Atlas’ sister, and a mathematician. She is married but we never meet her husband because they live separately though they care for each other. Will be interesting to figure out that whole relationship. (3) Peter and Robin, Lilliana’s children. Delightful little scamps who just need some love and attention – especially from a caring male. (4) The Duke of Somerville is someone I won’t explain, you’ll just have to read the book to find all of his relationships, but he is a very dear and caring young man.

I won’t give you a blow-by-blow of the book because you can get the gist of the story from the blurb that the publisher has developed. What you should know is that there are many twists and turns and so very many possible culprits. The murder victim is a really nasty, hateful man and you are actually happy to see him gone – the only reason to care who the real murderer is – is because Bow Street is thinking that the murderer is either Lilliana or Atlas! The real murderer will be a surprise.

Lilliana and Atlas have a real attraction between them, but circumstances make Atlas think there is no chance of a future for them. So, we will have to wait and wonder if Lilliana and Atlas get together in a future book or will they each find happiness with someone else. Since I love both of them, I’m hoping for them getting together.

“I requested and received this book at no cost to me and volunteered to read it; my review is my honest opinion and given without any influence by the author or publisher.”

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The Detecting Duchess By Kate Parker

The Detecting Duchess (Victorian Bookshop Mystery Book 5)The Detecting Duchess by Kate Parker

Barbara’s rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: A Victorian Bookshop Mystery #5
Publication Date: May 26, 2016

Kate Parker gives us yet another delightful, intriguing, mystery and adventure set in Victorian England. I feel as if I have waited absolutely FOREVER for this book – and it has been about a year-and-a-half – much too long since the last release. I hope the next book won’t be as long in coming! I also hope the author doesn’t decide to make this the last of the series because I can see so many delightful storylines in this newly wedded state!

Miss Georgia Fenchurch is the middle-class owner of an antiquarian bookstore. She is also a member of the Archivist Society and the fiancé of the Duke of Blackford. The Archivist Society was formed to help individuals who can’t or haven’t been helped by Scotland Yard. It was in one such investigation that Georgia met the Duke of Blackford.

Over the course of the books in the series the Duke has wooed Georgia. He had a time convincing her that she could still be who she really was and be his Duchess at the same time. Finally, in the last book he managed to convince her to marry him! I was so excited – and now – this book brings us to the wedding – so – what trouble can Georgia get into with only a few days left until the wedding . . . .

Eight days before her wedding, Georgia gets a visit from Eugenie Munroe who begs her to find Greyson Burke who is an investigator for the crown. Georgia is itching for something to do in order to keep her mind off the upcoming wedding, but after she hears Eugenie’s tale, Georgia is sure she won’t be able to solve it before the wedding and will only agree to taking on the case if she can involve all of the Archivist Society in the case.

Eugenie had been in Egypt with her uncle who had been tasked to solve the robbery of gold coins valued at over a million pounds. Eugenie’s uncle had been murdered in the course of the investigation and she and Greyson had taken up the task of finding who had committed the murder.

Several murders and an ocean crossing later, the investigation lands on English soil. However, Greyson has disappeared and Eugenie has no idea where to turn – so – she turns to Georgia Fenchurch.

As Georgia investigates, there are attacks upon Eugenie and later on Georgia. Then there are more murders and many, many suspects. Then add abductions and more threats of murder before all is solved. Goodness what an exciting ride through the twists and turns of a delightful investigation.

Then, of course, we have the wedding. Oh! what a romantic time that is. Blackford’s wedding gift to Georgia absolutely could not be any more perfect. My goodness my heart was all aflutter!

I highly recommend this book and hope it delights you as much as it did me!

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Murder On Black Swan Lane By Andrea Penrose

Murder on Black Swan Lane (Quill Mystery, #1)Murder on Black Swan Lane by Andrea Penrose

Barbara’s rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: Quill Mystery #1
Publication Date: June 27, 2017

An impeccably written, exciting, intriguing, engrossingly tangled and twisted regency mystery. I couldn’t put it down once I started reading it. The characters are fully developed and deep with flaws and secrets I’m sure we’ll learn more about as the series goes on. I am so very excited that this is a series and we will get to know them all better. If you are a fan of Sebastian St. Cyr mysteries, you will absolutely LOVE this one.

This is the first book I have read by Andrea Penrose or any of her other pen names — Cara Elliott for Grand Central and Andrea Pickens for NAL, but I can’t wait to read more of this series and to also check out her other Regency mystery series.

I have to admit that my two favorite characters in the book are the two street urchins – Raven and Hawk. They are intelligent and wise beyond their years and even though they have lived their lives, alone, in the stews of St. Giles, they still have sweet and innocent hearts. It will be interesting to see if, over time, they give up being street urchins and let Charlotte care for them.

Since the series is named Quill Mystery, I assume that the main character will be Charlotte Sloane, also known as A. J. Quill. She is the most popular satirical cartoonist in England, but she must guard her identity and gender. She is very intelligent, feisty and not afraid of anything – at least she thinks she isn’t. One of the facts that is uncovered in this mystery is the facts behind the death of her talented artist husband Anthony. She also has another, even bigger, secret in her past and it is hinted at, but not revealed in this book.

The Earl of Wrexford has a brilliant, logical scientific mind and thinks he is incapable of any of the softer feelings. He is also a brilliant chemist – although he keeps that part of his life well hidden. All is logic with Wrexford. So, when everyone thinks he’s the person who murdered a Reverend he’s been publicly feuding with, he decides that he must solve the murder in order to save himself. His first order of business is to uncover the identity of A. J. Quill who has been skewering him in cartoons. The drawings are absolutely too accurate and therefore the artist must know something. There is also some hinted mystery with the death of Wrexford’s brother and I came to feel as if that was what caused Wrexford to close himself off from the softer feelings in life.

Although there is no romance in this book between Charlotte and Wrexford, they do develop a friendship and I hope it will develop into a romance over the course of the series. We do see a bit of ‘softening’ in Wrexford over the course of the book.

The secondary characters in the book are also great and it will be fun to watch their growth over the course of the series. There is Wrexford’s valet cum lab assistant who is smart and sassy. Then, there is Wrexford’s friend who is always short of funds and isn’t thought to be particularly intelligent. We also have a Scot doctor who does the autopsies and is gifted at interpreting what he is finding – Oh shades of St. Cyr Mysteries with their Scot anatomist.

The mystery is full of twists and turns and people with intertwining plots. You’ll have a time figuring out who murderer is and how all of the plots fit together.

“I requested and received this book at no cost to me and volunteered to read it; my review is my honest opinion and given without any influence by the author or publisher.”

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