Sherlock Holmes once remarked to Watson that “the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside.”
Indeed, readers who enjoy suspense, strong characters, and immersing themselves in the deceptively quiet and sometimes lethal English countryside of Victoria’s reign should enjoy Anne Perry’s A Christmas Visitor. Though it does feature a character from her well-established William Monk series, it is not necessary at all to have read those books to appreciate this one.
Tessa Harris’ The Anatomist’s Apprentice plunges the reader into the viscera of 18th-century English culture and crime.
I love a book with an inventive narrative structure and, like Scheherazade, Kate Atkinson has 1,001 plots in her novel, Life after Life. Ursula Todd, born on a snowy night in 1910 to banker Hugh Todd and his aristocratic wife Sylvie dies and lives--over and over again. But this is a novel not just about reincarnation but also about how a writer writes and makes choices. The chapters reveal the choices a writer--or a human being--makes and how it changes the path a life takes.
Author Gideon Defoe has established a successful micro-franchise with his comedic novels about the misadventures of the dim-witted yet lovable Pirate Captain, beginning with The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists and continuing throughout the 2000s and 2010s to the latest installment, The Pirates! In an Adventure with the Romantics. Defoe’s ridiculous tales are dominated by the presence of the Pirate Captain, a man who never found a boast too ridiculous to make, a ham too large to eat, or an amount of money too large to spend. It is this last attribute that forces him and his bizarre crew into their latest adventure. Deeply in debt, they decide to take some wealthy intellectuals on an “authentic” pirate adventure in hopes of making some quick money. Unfortunately for them, those intellectuals turn out to be Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, and Mary Godwin, and a variety of bizarre, hilarious events ensue.
"The game's afoot!"
Eleven of the Great Detective's finest cases are brought together in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. From his Baker Street digs, a bored Sherlock sorts through newspapers, puffs on his pipe, and makes tea with his less-than-scrubbed chemistry set until the next puzzle presents itself. His chronicler Watson passes on the questionable tea but is only too happy to take a little time away from his doctor's practice to assist his old friend on adventure after adventure.
Widower William Rees drove his wagon into town like a man possessed. Normally an easy-going, itinerant weaver, Rees has just discovered that his kinfolk have cheated him, and his son has run away to be with the Shaker religious community. In 18th-century, rural Maine, it is not so easy to retrieve a teenager who hates you, get your land back, or solve A Simple Murder.
In A Vision of Light, by Judith Merkle Riley, Margaret of Ashbury is a rather ordinary albeit quite pretty woman—ordinary that is, except for the Voice she sometimes hears and the visions she sometimes sees. One day, the Voice tells Margaret that she should write a book about the extraordinary things that have happened to her. She argues with the Voice… she is a woman so who would listen to her, and what is more, like nearly everybody, she does not know how to write. And further, she has not done any great deeds worth writing about.
The Voice answered:
“Put in it what you have seen. There is nothing wrong with being a woman, and doing ordinary things. Sometimes small deeds can show big ideas. As for writing, do as others do: get someone to write it for you.”
“Voice,” I said, “how do I know you are from God, and not the Devil, tempting me into something foolish?”
“Margaret,” answered the Voice, “isn’t it a good idea? God never gives bad ones.”
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Fingersmith by Sarah Waters: "Raised by a loving family of thieves, orphan Sue Trinder is sheltered from the worst of the seamy Victorian underworld until it becomes her turn to make her clan's fortune. She must help a professional rogue named Gentleman marry an heiress and then steal the poor girl's inheritance by declaring her insane. Sue wants to please her adoptive mother and friends and persuades herself that she can do the job, but once she's confronted with the seemingly hapless victim, Maud, she begins to have doubts. Sue and Maud's connection is just one reason the scam quickly falls apart. Each clearly drawn character is ensnared by secrets and lies that force his or her actions, and everyone is both a predator and a victim." (Library Journal)
As Cecilia Holland’s historical romance Great Maria opens, our young and pretty heroine is doing what any well-bred medieval girl might be about on a blustery afternoon: visiting a religious shrine some miles from home and contemplating a life in the convent. Guarded as she is by a handful of her father’s knights, she cannot help noticing that one of them is extremely young and handsome... and that he has noticed her. But when a sudden vicious attack leaves her in dire peril, it is an older knight with cool gray eyes who defends her and brings her back to her father’s castle.
Enough with the zombies, already! Before the undead purportedly trod the moors of Georgian England, it was a relatively pleasant, safe place—albeit humming with an occasional murder and talk of international intrigue. Certainly that should be quite enough to keep a heroine’s attention. Indeed when Jane Austen’s friend Isobel becomes a friend in need upon the suspicious death of her new though elderly husband, it is up to quick-witted Jane to save her life—and reputation!-- in Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor, by Stephanie Barron.