Book Review: A Counterfeit Suitor (Rosalind Thorne Mysteries #5) by Darcie Wilde

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Genre: Historical Fiction Mystery
Publisher: Kensington
Publication Date: November 30th, 2021
Pages: 304, hardcover
Source: NetGalley

Among the ton of Regency London, one breath of scandal can be disastrous. Enter Rosalind Thorne, a young woman adept at helping ladies of quality navigate the most delicate problems—in this charming mystery series inspired by the novels of Jane Austen…

It is every mama’s dearest wish that her daughter marries well. But how to ensure that a seemingly earnest suitor is not merely a fortune hunter? Rosalind is involved in just such a case, discreetly investigating a client’s prospective son-in-law, when she is drawn into another predicament shockingly close to home.

Rosalind’s estranged father, Sir Reginald Thorne—a drunkard and forger—has fallen into the hands of the vicious scoundrel Russell Fullerton. Angered by her interference in his blackmail schemes, Fullerton intends to unleash Sir Reginald on society and ruin Rosalind. Before Rosalind’s enemy can act, Sir Reginald is found murdered—and Fullerton is arrested for the crime. He protests his innocence, and Rosalind reluctantly agrees to uncover the truth, suspecting that this mystery may be linked to her other, ongoing cases.

Aided by her sister, Charlotte, and sundry friends and associates—including handsome Bow Street Runner Adam Harkness—Rosalind sets to work. But with political espionage and Napoleon loyalists in the mix, there may be more sinister motives, and far higher stakes, than she ever imagined… 

Rosalind Thorne, a “useful woman,” is back in A Counterfeit Suitor by Darcie Wilde. Having recently rejected a duke’s proposal, and having lost her housekeeper because of that choice, Rosalind is a bit adrift. Fortunately, her friend Alice is there to ground her, as she faces the greatest threat yet to her hard-won freedom.

Women of that era were rarely independent. Even if they built solid lives for themselves, it could be taken away by the courts and given to a male relative. So when Rosalind’s felon father escapes from her sister’s caretaking and is taken in by her enemy, she is understandably knocked for a loop. This happens at the same time as she is trying to organize a charity ball and help an anxious mother keep her daughter from possibly eloping. There are undercurrents there that threaten to sweep Rosalind away.

When Rosalind’s father is murdered, suspicion falls on her family, including her courtesan sister. Complicating the investigation are Rosalind’s feelings for Bow Street detective Adam Harkness, who is assigned to investigate the case. 

Wilde has written a wonderful mystery within a mystery for Rosalind to unravel. Bonapartists, blackmailers, forgers, and gamblers all combine in a knotty puzzle. It’s also good to see her interactions with Alice, and her childhood friend, Sebastian Faulks. Most of all, though, it’s good to see her start to examine her feelings for Adam, and admit to herself, and others, that she cares for him.

Joint Book Review: Oddball (Sarah’s Scribbles #4) by Sarah Andersen

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Genre: Graphic Novel
Publisher: Andrews McHeel Publishing
Publication Date: November 30th, 2021
Pages: 112, paperback
Source: NetGalley

The newest Sarah’s Scribbles collection from New York Times bestselling author Sarah Andersen

The fourth book in the enormously popular graphic novel series, the latest collection of Sarah’s Scribbles comics explores the evils of procrastination, the trials of the creative process, the cuteness of kittens, and the beauty of not caring about your appearance as much as you did when you were younger. When it comes to humorous illustrations of the awkwardness and hilarity of millennial life, Sarah’s Scribbles is without peer.

Gina’s review:

Oddball, the latest of Sarah’s Scribbles by Sarah Andersen is another great collection of her work. As a fellow introvert and cat lover, I’m predisposed to like her “scribbles,” and this book was a joy from cover to cover. I think my favorite cartoon was when she went to Heaven and saw all the dogs, and then wondered where all the cats were. No spoiler, so I’ll just say they were having a GREAT time.

Sarah’s cartoons are very relatable and always enjoyable. Lots of people struggle with social interaction and want to stay home and avoid it all. Sometimes these people also have cats. This is a Venn diagram of the two groups. A good chunk of these have appeared online, but this is a great collation of her work, and you don’t need to have read/seen any of her cartoons before to thoroughly enjoy this book.

Miranda’s review:

Sarah Andersen is one of those artists whose work speaks to my soul. I, too, am an introverted oddball who prefers the company of my cats and books/fanfics rather than other people. I would love to have some of her comics framed and hanging on my walls, such as my favorite from this collection, the comic where Medusa adopts a blind cat.

This is yet another great collection of Andersen’s comics. Since I sometimes don’t see these when they’re posted on Twitter, I appreciate having them collected into a book to keep forever. Andersen’s understanding of comedy in her art style, from expressions to body language, is topnotch as always. Her ability to use a comic format of only about four to six squares to get her ideas across in funny, heartwarming ways is always amazing.

I hope these collections continue, as I love having them on my shelf.

Book Review: The Return of the Pharaoh: From the Reminiscences of John H. Watson, M.D. (Nicholas Meyer Holmes Pastiches #5) by Nicholas Meyer

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Genre: Historical Fiction Mystery
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: November 9th, 2021
Pages: 272, hardcover
Source: NetGalley

In 1910, Dr. John Watson travels to Egypt with his wife Juliet. Her tuberculosis has returned and her doctor recommends a stay at a sanitarium in a dry climate. But while his wife undergoes treatment, Dr. Watson bumps into an old friend–Sherlock Holmes, in disguise and on a case. An English Duke with a penchant for egyptology has disappeared, leading to enquiries from his wife and the Home Office. 

Holmes has discovered that the missing duke has indeed vanished from his lavish rooms in Cairo and that he was on the trail of a previous undiscovered and unopened tomb. And that he’s only the latest Egyptologist to die or disappear under odd circumstances. With the help of Howard Carter, Holmes and Watson are on the trail of something much bigger, more important, and more sinister than an errant lord.

Watson’s wife has consumption, and they travel to a specialized clinic in Egypt to effect her recovery. Holmes is also in Cairo, hunting a missing nobleman who disappeared from an apparently non-existent hotel room. The Return of the Pharaoh by Nicholas Meyer takes Holmes and Watson on a hunt for a missing nobleman, and a long-dead Egyptian king. 

Nicholas Meyer captures Watson’s voice well, although I might quibble that his Watson is a bit more progressive than Conan Doyle’s. The story is interesting, and a few historical characters, such as Howard Carter, are scattered through, which will delight Egyptophiles. Naturally, there’s a mummy, as well as a tomb, and the duo must navigate not only the unfamiliar terrain, but the political landscape as well. England is still in full colonial mode, and still stinging from the defeat at the hands of the Mahdi some decades before.

If Watson is more progressive, Holmes is more fallible. The missing hotel room should not have taken him long to solve, even with the distraction of a dead waiter, and the arrival of his demanding client. There’s also a revelation toward the end of the book that could change their relationship. 

Would Conan Doyle have sent Holmes to Egypt to search for a missing lord? Maybe, maybe not, but the story is well-written and I felt Meyer did a good job capturing the characters and crafting an intriguing mystery.

Book Review: The Dying Day (Malabar House #2)by Vaseem Khan

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Hodder Stoughton
Publication Date: November 2nd, 2021
Pages: 352, hardcover
Source: NetGalley

Bombay, 1950

India’s first female police detective, Persis Wadia, is summoned to the 150-year-old Bombay Royal Asiatic Society at Horniman Circle. The society’s preeminent treasure, a priceless manuscript of Dante’s Divine Comedy, has vanished, as has the society’s head curator, William Huxley, an Englishman with a passion for Indian history. 

Tasked to recover an item for which Benito Mussolini once offered one million pounds, Persis soon uncovers a series of murders, and a trail of tantalising coded clues that lead her into the dark heart of conspiracy…

Set in 1950s post-Partition and post-colonial India, The Dying Day by Vaseem Khan features a unique protagonist. Persis Wadia is the first female police detective in India. This is her second outing in the series, and features a DaVinci Code-esque hunt for a copy of The Divine Comedy, which has been stolen from the Bombay’s Asiatic Society archives by an English researcher.

Khan does a great job showing the effects of Partition and independence on post-WWII India and the impact on both Indians and colonists. Persis, daughter of a well-known Parsee Bombay bookseller, is the first and only female detective on the police force. She is called upon to solve two cases – the first is the missing manuscript, and the other is the death of a white woman found on the railroad tracks. She finds that old sins cast long shadows, and that events from the previous decade are still causing problems in the new. 

Persis encounters an old flame, while trying to decide whether to pursue a relationship with an English forensic scientist. She is also commanded, by her boss to speak at a women’s event, but Persis does not consider herself a trailblazer, and has no desire to call attention upon herself as a example of “the new woman.”

Khan is the author of the Inspector Chopra series, which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. Persis has a strong voice, and has a solid core, much like Chopra. Also much like Chopra at the beginning of his series, she is in transition, and trying to find her place in an unfamiliar role as her society changes around her.

The one thing I didn’t care for in the novel was the reappearance of Persis’s old flame. He seemed more of a throwaway, swooping in like a deus ex machina, when Persis was demonstrating that she was well able to take care of herself. He didn’t really add anything to the story for me.

Khan also recaps enough of the first book, Murder at Malabar House that readers will not feel like they’re missing backstory if they haven’t read it.

This fresh new series, set in a period and country not often found in mystery series, is recommended.