Review: Bacon’s Dozen by Anna Castle

This collection of thirteen stories is a must-read for fans of the Francis Bacon mysteries. Some of the short works are mysteries featuring Bacon. Others star major characters from the series, and one features the woman who does his laundry. My favorite series-linked short is All Englishmen Look Alike, not only for the colorful adventure, but for what it reveals that the main characters in the books don’t know. Yet.

The short works not related to the Bacon series are also historical with one exception. They range from the tale of a Mayan beekeeper coping with the arrival of the Spanish in Mexico to a Western caper set in northern New Mexico on Jicarilla Apache land. There’s also a sample Moriarty mystery, a chance to discover Castle’s other historical series. The non-historical exception is Extinction, a mystery with a subtle paranormal touch set in modern Austin TX. The Sneeze is a hybrid of modern Texas and Elizabethan England. If you’ve ever experienced the pollen of the Southwest in early spring, you’ll appreciate this one. Or if you’ve ever gotten lost in your research.

I strongly recommend this collection for an intelligent, original escape from 2020.

 

First in Series #Free

Discover a variety of mystery series, from crime fiction to mystical to historical, with a #freedownload of the first book.

 

 

 

 

 

Ant Farm by James M. Jackson

Botulism as a murder weapon. A hit man who calls himself the Happy Reaper. Villains who will stop at nothing to keep their secrets.

In this page-turner, we meet Seamus McCree, a single father who wants to fight for the little guy against those who abuse their power.

When police can’t figure out why someone murdered thirty-eight retirees at a Labor Day picnic, they ask Seamus, a financial crimes investigator, to follow the money. He’s anxious to move from behind his computer to the front lines to help investigators ask the right questions.

As Seamus untangles a web of financial chicanery, those threatened place a target on his back.
And there are consequences. He’s willing to risk his own life to bring justice, but when his actions place his son in danger, Seamus must overcome his deepest fears.

The Calling by Amber Foxx

The first Mae Martin Psychic Mystery

Obeying her mother’s warning, Mae Martin-Ridley has spent years hiding her gift of “the sight.” When concern for a missing hunter compels her to use it again, her peaceful life in a small Southern town begins to fall apart. New friends push her to explore her unusual talents, but as she does, she discovers the shadow side of her visions— access to secrets she could regret uncovering.

Gift or curse? When an extraordinary ability intrudes on an ordinary life, nothing can be the same again.

The Mae Martin Series

No murder, just mystery. Every life hides a secret, and love is the deepest mystery of all.

Murder by Misrule by Anna Castle

Francis Bacon is charged with investigating the murder of a fellow barrister at Gray’s Inn. He recruits his unwanted protégé Thomas Clarady to do the tiresome legwork. The son of a privateer, Clarady will do anything to climb the Elizabethan social ladder. Bacon’s powerful uncle Lord Burghley suspects Catholic conspirators of the crime, but other motives quickly emerge.  Rival barristers contend for the murdered man’s legal honors and wealthy clients. Highly-placed courtiers are implicated as the investigation reaches from Whitehall to the London streets. Bacon does the thinking; Clarady does the fencing. Everyone has something up his pinked and padded sleeve.

Even the brilliant Francis Bacon is at a loss — and in danger — until he sees through the disguises of the season of Misrule.

Review: Publish and Perish by Anna Castle

In this fourth Francis Bacon mystery, author Anna Castle strikes a perfect balance among her lead characters, each pursuing his or her own life goals and his or her unique approach to solving the same mystery, the murder of a several writers hired to counter the pamphlets of a popular and witty critic of the Church of England sometimes. (Pamphlets were the popular media of the day.)

The reader is onto a secret known to Lady Alice Trumpington but not to Bacon or his clerk and her close friend, Tom Clarady. I won’t say what it is, even though it’s revealed to the reader fairly soon. Even at that point in the book, it’s such a wonderful revelation, I won’t spoil it. The secret adds a layer of fun to the men’s attempts to solve this aspect of the puzzle. It was a hard mystery to solve overall, with believable red herrings, and I never did figure it out, but when the solution was revealed, it made sense. I could see the clues and motives.

The themes of women’s roles and restrictions, the complexities of the law, and the politics of church and state may sound dense and heavy, but they’re not—not in Castle’s hands. The story is lively and colorful, with diverse settings ranging from the offices of the most powerful people in Elizabethan England to the rough neighborhoods and taverns where writers could be found. Sometimes collaborating, sometimes keeping things from each other, the three leads take the reader on a lively journey peopled with historical personages of the day.

Castle handles backstory well, giving just enough to keep the story flowing with clarity, so if you should decide to start here and go backward, the other stories wouldn’t be spoiled. However, I recommend beginning the series at the beginning and getting to know the characters.

Buy links: https://www.annacastle.com/francis-bacon-series/publish-and-perish/

 

Review: Deadly Occupation: A Michael Stoddard American Revolution Mystery

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A Different Angle on History and Mystery

 I’m a fan of in-depth, accurate history, with a particular interest in the eighteenth century American South, therefore I had high expectations for this book. I’m happy to say it met all of my history buff needs. I didn’t find a single anachronism or inaccuracy—even things I thought had to be wrong turned out to be right. (Did you know that the use of the word “lousy” to describe feeling poorly dates back earlier than the 1780s?) Adair uses her knowledge smoothly, never slowing the story while still effectively setting every scene with the right touches of period detail.

A novel set in North Carolina during the American Revolution with a young British lieutenant as the protagonist gives American readers a new slant on our history. Shortly after British troops occupy Wilmington, Michael Stoddard’s commanding officer asks him to look into the disappearance of a local woman. From that first inquiry, Stoddard begins to trace weapons smuggling and possibly kidnapping and murder. He is not a stereotypical hero. I liked his physical ordinariness, his persistence, and his dedication to his work as a special investigator for the British occupying forces. He’s open-minded for his times, but not so much so as to seem modern. He struck me as too forceful at times, and he misses a few things he should have seen. This mix of flaws and goodness makes him human. He’s not a genius or a saint. He’s a hard-working man in a difficult situation, someone I think most readers will be able to identify with and root for.

The plot is complex and fascinating. The main and supporting characters are fully developed. I especially liked Private Spry, Stoddard’s assistant in the investigations. I also found the romantic subplot realistic and enjoyable. There are a number of strong female characters in this book.

The intertwining mysteries were more than enough to keep me interested. I would have liked the book better without the flashbacks and backstory about Stoddard’s unfinished dealings with a very disturbing fellow officer. I’m a first-class wimp when it comes to reading about that kind of villain, and I’m not fond of long flashbacks, so this material briefly took me out of the story. It looks like it’s a continuing plot thread weaving through the whole series, and I expect other readers may like the idea of an ongoing conflict with a nemesis Stoddard seeks to finally defeat. The book was otherwise a compelling page-turner, and this one shortcoming in my view is due entirely to my personal tastes, not the author’s skill in telling a story. She has mastered that art, and history buffs should get hooked on this series.

Buy links:

Nook http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/deadly-occupation-suzanne-adair/1122780410

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1048353039

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/deadly-occupation

Paperback: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0988912937

Kindle UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B016FJNWA4

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B016FJNWA4

Author’s blog and web site: http://www.SuzanneAdair.net