Review: Death Comes as the End by Agatha Christie

Death Comes as the End is the only historical mystery by the Queen of Crime, and in one of my very favourite settings–ancient Egypt. This was a reread for me but after a long time so I had forgotten much of the story including whodunit.

Miss Marple, Christie’s elderly lady detective, often uses her knowledge of human nature to solve mysteries, for that she believes remains the same irrespective of where one is. And that is what seems to be the case in this story as well for it may well be 2000 BC but people remain just the same—their nature, motivations, desires. The idea of the setting was suggested to (actually pretty much forced on) Christie by Prof Stephen Glanville (to whom the book is also dedicated), who gave her plenty of possible source material, from which she settled on some letters by a fussy father, annoyed with his sons and instructing them on what to do (Autobiography, p. 514). Based on these, she created the family in the book.

In our story, we are introduced to Renisenb, the recently widowed daughter of a Ka-priest (a mortuary priest), Imhotep. She has returned home with her daughter Teti, and thinks she finds things just as they were when she had married and left. At home is her old grandmother Esa, her brothers Yahmose and Sobek, their wives Satipy and Kait, and also a step brother Ipy. Also always on the scene is her deceased’s mother’s unlikeable poor relation, Henet, always snooping, and creating trouble with her tongue. And there is also Hori, her father’s scribe and assistant. While things may seem as usual, there are dissatisfactions beneath the surface for both Yahmose and Sobek want more active roles in their father’s business (agriculture and timber) as does Ipy (still treated as a child, which he is), while Imothep is controlling and seems to want to keep his family under his thumb. Satipy and Kait, but especially the former harangue their respective husbands, and bicker among themselves. But the last straw is when Imothep, who has been travelling, returns with a new concubine, Nofret, who at nineteen is younger than even Renisehb.  

Nofret seems determined to create trouble for each of the family, especially rifts between Imothep and his sons, and leaves no opportunity to stir up trouble (mostly with her poisonous tongue). When Imothep has to travel again and leaves Nofret behind contrary to his mother’s advice, matters get worse as Nofret pushes each of the others (with the exception perhaps of Renisenb) to the edge, and then manipulates things to cause Imothep to disinherit his sons. Henet who has a similar nature readily assists her while Kameni, the scribe who had come to summon Imothep and remains here is forced to, on Imothep’s instructions. But Nofret has taken one step too far and before long is found dead. Hers is not the only death for as time passes, more deaths occur as those remaining are left wondering whether this is indeed the curse of Nofret or the work of a human hand.

Though narrated in third person, we witness most events through Renisenb’s eyes. Though Renisenb at first believes that everything is as it was, she finds she is seeing the people in her house differently—her father who seemed to inspire awe in her is pompous and a little foolish, her sisters-in-law always bicker (and she can see that at least until Nofret comes on the scene, this is just friendly fighting, no real hurt intended), and she also realises what Henet is really up to. In a reflection, perhaps of the more modern day in which the book was written, she also questions whether as her sisters-in-law see it, the only life for women is around their children and the inner courts of the home. She is a likeable character with a different way of seeing things; and none of the others really wish her any ill.

But while Renisenb has a different outlook and does try to determine (even if not consciously) who is responsible for all that is happening, two others are closer to the answer. Another character I really liked in the book, Renisenb’s grandmother Esa is one of these. Esa cannot see much because of her age, yet she sees much more than anyone else. She is able to see the true nature of people and situations, warns the person concerned well in time, including her son Imothep, but many don’t pay enough heed and must face the consequences. Her great interest in life though is her meals and one can see the relish with which she enjoys them.

Other than Esa, the scribe Hori too, it is clear, sees a lot though he chooses not to speak. He tries to get Renisenb to see things more clearly as well. He seems far more sensible than any of Renisenb’s brothers and Esa seems to rely on him as well. But he can well be one of the suspects. As can Khameni, perhaps, besides the rest of the family.

As in most Christie stories, there is a thread of romance here as well. Khameni falls for Renisenb almost at first sight and she seems to like him too. Does she find a second chance at happiness amongst all that is happening?

The mystery itself I found to be an interesting one, and as (almost) always, Christie had me thinking along a completely wrong track. This one has more than one death, in fact many more and as things go on, one really begins to wonder. But despite having read this before (it was long ago) I had entirely forgotten the solution, and was glad Christie was able to surprise me again. [Her autobiography mentions that there was a point about the denouement that she had agreed to change (and a moot point at that), but regretted later, and since she doesn’t specify what, one is really left wondering.]

The setting was of course also something I really enjoyed as well. There is the Nile in the background with boats going along, the fields that belong to Imothep, the various rituals that take place like appeasing a deceased family member to avert the evil that has befallen the family, and some food too, that especially Esa enjoys. I wondered at there being few details about the structure of the house itself but found in Christie’s autobio that this was something that was difficult to find information on, though she constantly pestered Stephen Glanville for information on various points that she needed. Still I felt overall one does get the ‘feel’ of being in Egypt, and that made it all the more enjoyable for me.

 An interesting and different (although still familiar) read.

I read this with a Goodreads group reading less well-known Christie’s, one each month of the year. This was the book for May.

Shelf Control #138: Catnip by Valerie Tate

Wednesday, the 5th of May, and time again for Shelf Control! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, all you do is pick a book from your TBR pile, and write a post about it–what its about, why you want to read it, when you got it, and such. If you participate, don’t forget to link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks as well!

My pick today combines several things I enjoy, and is not unsurprisingly a mystery. From my seemingly endless pile of mysteries on Kindle, today’s pick is Catnip by Valerie Tate. First published in 2014, Catnip is the first in a series, the Dunbarton Mysteries, which has six books so far, each set around a member of the animal world–Catnip, Horse Sense, Frog’s Legs, and so on. And the title and cover of this one should reveal the other thing that attracted me to this title–the kitty of course (but really, I would read anything with animals but with caution as I don’t like it when they are harmed or hurt in any way, even in a story).

In this one, an elderly matriarch dies leaving everything she has to her cat. Set in Dunbarton, Ontario, this is a mystery with a cat right at the centre of it. The dysfunctional Dunbar family is expectedly rattled when the family fortune is left to the cat, and before long we see catnapping and even murder (not the cat, I’m fairly certain). While the cat is formidable and proves to be more than a match for the humans, he is unfortunately caught one day, stuffed into a sack and carried away. The estate’s lawyer, Christopher Mallory and the Dunbars themselves are under suspicion but when a murder occurs, Christopher finds himself confronting a ruthless killer who will stop at nothing to conceal their identity.

This one sounds really cute, and I am pretty sure from the whole idea of the series that nothing will happen to kitty. Mysteries are of course, a staple read for me and one with a cat, and one who can outsmart everyone is just the perfect kind–how could I resist? While I have read books set in Canada (L.M. Montgomery for starters), I don’t think I’ve read a mystery set in Canada so that should be fun too.

Have you read this one or any of the others in the series? Which one/s and how did you find it? Any other animal centric mysteries that you’d recommend? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!

Lisa’s pick this week is a book that’s on my shopping list as well, The Familiars by Stacy Halls (here)

Book cover image and info from Goodreads (here)

Review: Hyde by Craig Russell

My thanks to Little, Brown Book Group UK and NetGalley for a review copy of this one.

This was an exciting, interesting, very dark and also slightly unsettling piece of historical fiction set in Edinburgh, and combines a mystery with psychological aspects and elements of Celtic folklore and the occult. The Hyde of the title is Captain Edward Hyde, who has returned from service in India and is now Superintendent of Detective Officers in Edinburgh’s City Police.

Our story (being narrated by Hyde to a certain author, I’m sure you can guess who) opens with the creepy wail of what seems to a banshee which stops a young factory worker in her tracks. On the trail of this wail is also Captain Hyde—only he doesn’t remember how he came to be there or following it. Still, he continues on, and it leads him to a grisly sight—a man cruelly murdered and hung upside down, in a manner that Hyde soon realises is connected with Celtic ritual for the victim has been thrice killed. But there is no clue who the person could be.

Meanwhile Hyde has been working on another case, a young man accused of murder (and executed) who Hyde is unsure committed the crime he was accused of. Then an heiress to a department store, Elspeth Lockwood, who was involved with the mysterious but unsavoury Fredric Ballor (dabbling in the occult and seeking the Celtic Otherworld) goes missing, and Hyde is charged with finding her before it is too late. And if that weren’t enough, he is also asked by his boss to keep an eye on the political doings of an artist. Amidst all of this Hyde is struggling with his own losses of memory, periods of time which he can’t account for, where he can’t remember where he was and what he was doing, leading him to fear that it might be himself who is responsible for some of the horrors he comes across (despite his doctor’s assurances to the contrary).

The doctor/surgeon who conducts the autopsies for the police is the historical Dr Joseph Bell, the real-life inspiration behind Sherlock Holmes (including him, and in a role that he would have played in real life, was great fun). And assisting him is Dr Cally Burr who Hyde becomes interested in, and eventually seeks help from, confessing his condition to her. Women doctors were few at the time, and confined to limited areas of practice not being generally accepted as professionals and in Cally’s character we see some of these struggles, added to by her background.

This was a pretty complicated mystery or should I say set of mysteries, with plenty of twists and turns, and also plenty of bodies. While I did manage to guess who the first body might turn out to be, I wasn’t entirely sure about how the ending would turn out or how the pieces of the puzzle would fit together. The entire atmosphere with Celtic rituals and occult elements, gruesome deaths, characters living dual lives (more than one and in more than one way), and one at least trapped in frightening darkness, made this a really creepy read—just perfect for the Halloween/Winter season. In fact, of all the darker-themed books I read around the time, this one was certainly the scariest and most unsettling. I also liked how within all this, the author also managed to weave in and highlight historical issues like the prejudice that some had to face simply for who they were. And the end had a fun touch as well, despite the graver tone of the book as a whole. An excellent read!

Review: The Custard Corpses by M.J. Porter

My thanks to Books Go Social and NetGalley for a review copy of this one.

The Custard Corpses is a historical mystery/police procedural set in the 1940s and involving a cold case. Our story opens with Chief Inspector Sam Mason—not serving in the war due to an injury—who is visited by Rebecca McFarlane whose brother Robert had been found dead in mysterious circumstances 20 years earlier when he was only 7. The case was from a time when Mason was a rookie. In charge was his Chief Inspector Fullerton who had left no stone unturned, but had still been unable to solve it; the failure preying on his mind till his death after he retired. Rebecca has been seeking updates regularly but on this visit has brought with her a newspaper report she chanced upon, of another cold case. The case dates back to three years after her brother’s and the details are very similar. Mason is surprised because the station had sent out notices regarding Robert’s case but had received no reports of similar cases. But the lead is promising and he is determined to follow it up. He feels especially strongly about the matter because of Fullerton’s efforts as well as since the victim was known to his son. Tracking his new lead in Weston, he soon finds that not only is this other case similar, but there were also others. We follow Mason and his constable O’Rourke (for a time joined by a Scottish constable, Hamish) as they painstakingly gather information, compare details, and attempt to work out who was responsible for these dastardly crimes.

This was a bit of a mixed read for me as there were aspects, particularly the plot and the way Mason and O’Rourke piece together the puzzle that I really enjoyed but other elements that were not as satisfactory. When I started the book, the prologue (which definitely leads one to expect something creepy) captured my attention but at the same time I found the writing—in places the expressions used and language felt a touch too modern for time period (like ‘sicko’ for instance)—was taking away from my enjoyment a little.

But once we get into the thick of things, as details begin to come to light, more cases are revealed, I was once again completely absorbed.  It was interesting that it is not Mason but his wife who finds the most important clue. I really enjoyed the process of investigation, with Mason and O’Rourke making various charts, comparing drawings and following clues. The murders themselves were rather unsettling so the case has a pretty creepy feel as well. Another aspect I enjoyed was the ‘Custard’ connection about which it won’t be fair to write any details but I will say, it was well done, creative and different.

While the investigation and build up, and even the whodunit were enjoyable, I felt at the end that the explanation, the ‘why’ as well as part of the connection between the events of the prologue and what we learn later were not as satisfactory, which made it feel a little flat for me.

But still overall, this was enjoyable read, especially for the plot and the interesting title and how that works out in the story. 3.75 stars!

Shelf Control #130: To Fear a Painted Devil by Ruth Rendell

Wednesday, the 10th of March, and time for Shelf Control once again! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, simply pick a book from your TBR pile, and write a post about it–what its about, why you want to read it, when you got it, and such. If you participate, don’t forget to link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks as well!

Today my pick’s is another mystery, this time by Ruth Rendell, an author I want to explore more of. I have read a couple of her Inspector Wexford books but she’s written a number of novels and short story collections and I want to pick up a few more. To Fear a Painted Devil is a standalone first published in 1965. This is set in a fictional housing development, Lichester, separated from the grander houses in the area by a line of trees. In our story, Patrick Selby dies on the night of his beautiful wife’s birthday party. At the end of the evening, Patrick is attacked by wasps suffering several bites, and the next day he is found dead. But was it the wasps that killed him? Apparently not, for Dr Greenleaf believes that someone has poisoned him. But who?

English author Ruth Rendell, best known for her character Inspector Wexford, wrote thrillers and psychological murder mysteries. Born in Essex in 1930, she became a features writer on her local Essex Paper after high school. Her first published novel was From Doon with Death in 1964, the first Wexford book, before which she had written two unpublished novels. Besides the twenty-four Wexford books, she also wrote several standalones and short-story collections, and a number of books under her pseudonym Barbara Vine. To Fear a Painted Devil was her second book.

This is a short volume and sounds fairly interesting. From Goodreads reviews I see the victim was expectedly a nasty character and more than one person had a motive. I’ve only read one other book where wasps were the cause of death (though I realise here they probably aren’t) but should be interesting to see how it turns out.

Have you read Rendell? Wexford books or others as well? How did you find them? Any you’d recommend? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!

Find Lisa’s pick this week, the Wayward Pines books, by Black Crouch here.

Book cover and description from Goodreads (here) and author info from Wikipedia (here)

Review: Ordeal by Innocence by Agatha Christie

I revisited this standalone as part of an Agatha Christie challenge (reading lesser known assorted Christies) with the Reading the Detectives group on Goodreads. This one is certainly quite different from Christie’s usual, and though not my favourite I enjoyed it very much.

Our story opens with Dr Arthur Calgary, a scientist (we don’t know exactly what he does) who we learn has returned from an expedition to the pole, and been essentially out of touch with events back in England over the past couple of years. We go on to discover that around the time before he left the country, he had given a lift to a young hitchhiker who made an impression on him. But soon after Dr Calgary met with a minor accident and suffered a concussion which wiped out these memories from his mind. That young hitchhiker was Jack ‘Jacko’ Argyle convicted for the murder of his adoptive mother. Not only that, Jacko died six months into his life sentence, of pneumonia. Calgary feels guilty over this, and though he realises that this was not his fault, he still makes his way to the Argyle home and reveals all. He expects bitterness, even gratitude but not the reaction he actually gets. For in the family’s view, he should have let sleeping dogs lie.

Rachel Argyle a wealthy but childless woman had adopted five children, most unwanted by their own families and with no prospects in their own homes (most of these were war evacuees). She lavished everything on them from education to material needs but her controlling nature meant that she never left the children to themselves leaving them resentful rather than grateful. Among the five Mary, Micky, Hester, Tina, and Jacko, Jacko was the bad egg, the one always in trouble, and needing to be rescued. So seeing him as the one who murdered his mother, at a time when he needed money to get him out of another of his scrapes was easy for everyone. But with Jacko’s alibi strongly established, what Dr Calgary hasn’t realised is that this means everyone else is under suspicion—Leo Argyle, Rachel’s intelligent but ignored husband now set to marry his secretary Gwenda, the remaining children Mary, Micky, Tina, and Hester, most of whom resented her and even the nurse/governess Kirsten Lindstrom. But was their resentment sufficient motive? When Calgary realises what his revelation has done to the family, he also decides that the responsibility to set things at rest is his as well.

This was as I said quite different from Christie’s usual mysteries, even the standalones. As even though we have Dr Calgary who is looking into matters, speaking to the various people involved, we are not only looking at our characters and suspects from his eye, but are also given a chance to look at their thoughts, their fears. And Christie gives us just enough of a glimpse to give an idea of them and yet realise that they all have fears and perhaps, secrets which are hidden from us. The tension of the situation where everyone suspects the other (or at least one other) and no one is in the clear also comes through clearly and one does feel sorry for all of them for it is only one that has done it. I enjoyed this different approach.

As far as the mystery is concerned, as always Christie gives us quite a few clues peppered throughout the book but while one realises their relevance in retrospect, I didn’t feel these were strong enough to come to a definite finding like in some of her others. Nonetheless, as always (and despite this being a revisit) I didn’t remember or guess who it was until well near the denouement (we do have a typical denouement scene at the end, with Dr Calgary taking on a Poirot-like role). So from this angle too, it was enjoyable for me.

The different approach and a mystery I couldn’t guess the answer to made this one a rather interesting read for me. Enjoyed this revisit.

Have you read this one? How do you like it? Which is your favourite standalone Agatha Christie book? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!

Cover image as always from Goodreads.

Review: The Dead in their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley

This review contains spoilers for the previous book.

This is book 6 of Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce mysteries. In Speaking from Amongst the Bones, the previous book, Flavia solves the murder of the church organist Mr Collicut—killed and hidden in the crypt of St Tancred, the patron saint of their village Bishop’s Lacey. At the end though there is a shocking revelation—Flavia’s mother—lost on a mountaineering trip when Flavia was just one—has been found.

In this book, we learn what that revelation means. Flavia has been living in Bishiop’s Lacey with her two older sisters Daphne (Daffy) and Ophelia (Feely), their father Col Haviland de Luce, a former pow in the second world war, and Dogger who had saved the Col’s life in the army and now serves them in various capacities. The family has been living in Buckshaw their family home which was owned by Harriet but as she was missing and had left no will, there was no indication what becomes of it. Money is tight and the family must consider selling the house. Flavia, though eleven (twelve or nearly twelve in this one) is an amateur chemist with access to her uncle Tar’s laboratory, and has a rather keen interest in poisons—she even has a ‘poison’-based alphabet. She has so far used this knowledge of chemistry to solve various murders in the village.

In this one when the family is waiting for Harriet at the station, a tall stranger approaches Flavia and charges her with delivering a rather strange message to her father. And before she even knows what’s happening the stranger falls to his death in front of the train, most likely pushed. And with it Flavia once again has a mystery on her hands. Alongside there are other things occupying he attention, her mother and what happened all those years ago.

This book was actually very different from the previous books in the series, and also gives the series an entirely new direction. But at the same time it also preserves the flavour of the earlier books as Flavia as always, returns to her chemistry lab for the answer to whatever problems are plaguing her, in this case to do with her mother.  She also has to deal with some relations who have popped up (whom she knew nothing of before), and who are not the most endearing of people. Because of all this, the murder the book starts with stays mostly on the sidelines for much of the book.

It was interesting to see the author trying to give the series a different direction (than just a young girl solving murders in her village), and with it now, Flavia is also set to go to new places. We also learn some secrets from the de Luces’ past, a little of what Dogger did for Flavia’s father in the war, and of course the story of what happened to her mother all those years ago. There was even a rather surprising visitor when the train with Harriet arrives. I enjoyed the book overall but my only complaint was while the stranger’s death is solved, it doesn’t get as much attention in the book as I’d have expected/liked it to.

Have you read this one? How did you like it? Looking forward to your thoughts!

Review: Miss Moorthy Investigates by Ovidia Yu

I only came across Ovida Yu come months ago in a response to a comment on YouTube and her works immediately piqued my interest since the comment mentioned that she wrote mysteries set in Singapore. Other than Crazy Rich Asians, perhaps, I don’t recall reading any other book set there. Looking her up further and the series she has written, I also came across this one which I thought would be great to start with since it is relatively short (207 pages) and a standalone but still ticks the boxes of being set in Singapore and as a bonus is also a historical mystery being set in the 1970s. And I’m really glad that I picked this up because it turned out to be really delightful!

In the story we meet Savitri (or Savi) Moorthy who is born to parents who have both had careers linked with music. She herself has been a performer but much to her parents’ horror, she doesn’t not want a career in music but would rather be a school teacher. Her morning routine not being very suited to her family’s (she has to be in school by 7.15) she moves out and shares a flat with her friend Constance Chay, a producer of TV shows. And her old college-mate and friend Maj. Antony Tan who admires her (and regularly proposes), happens to be a medical examiner.

In Singapore meanwhile, a killer known as the “strangler” is on the loose, who targets young and successful career women (and cuts off their hands) but Miss Moorthy is not particularly bothered by this until her colleague Evelyn Ngui is murdered. And this seems to be the work of the Strangler. Even though Evelyn was not much of a friend of Miss Moorthy’s, she was previously seeing David, a friend of Anthony’s, so she does have a personal connection. Then the Strangler breaks into Miss Moorthy’s flat putting both her and Connie in danger. So of course Miss Moorthy decides to investigate. But investigating the case and Evelyn Ngui’s possible connection with it ends up also placing Miss Moorthy in her fair share of danger (of course she has Antony and Connie by her side for the most part). But does she manage to solve it?

This was a really enjoyable read; I especially loved how the author managed to write a murder mystery with all its actual dangers, even an encounter with a murderer (which however, seemed almost funny rather than serious) and still keep the general tone and writing full of humour. The characters are also a great deal of fun—Miss Moorthy, her parents (though we don’t actually meet them), Connie with the latest TV dramas that she’s producing and even the more serious Antony. Like Miss Marple, to whom many reviewers have compared Miss Moorthy, the latter too has insight into people, and this makes her observations on them rather fun to read. Evelyn Ngui whose murder it is that Miss Moorthy is trying to solve had a fairly complicated life with more than one love interest—and so Miss Moorthy certainly has her hands full trying to understand the colleague she didn’t know very well. She soon enough figures out Evelyn’s murderer was most likely a copycat and so there are a range of suspects to pick from. And of course, in the tradition of murder mysteries, there is a second death as well. I did not really guess whodunit or why in this one so I enjoyed the mystery element too.

And of course I loved the setting in Singapore—places are referenced, also the different cultures that comprise it—Malay, Chinese, Indian— come through and there’s also food (plenty actually) like Madam Wee’s lavish meal or even snacks. There are also period details from HDB (Housing Development Board) flats to American TV shows that were popular like Hawaii Five O and Mannix. But my favourite part was the writing itself—humorous and pleasantwhich made the book a really lovely read. I wish there were more mysteries with these characters; and I would certainly like to explore the other series by the author, especially the one set in 1930s Singapore!

p.s. I didn’t much like the cover of this one though it does represent the story well.

Have you read this one or any others by the author? How did you find it/them? Looking forward to your thoughts!

Cover image: Goodreads

Shelf Control #120: The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey

Wednesday, the 30th of December, and time for Shelf Control once again–the last one of 2020 if you can believe it! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, all you do is pick a book from your TBR pile, and write a post about it–what its about, why you want to read it, and such. If you participate, don’t forget to link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks as well!

Today my pick is a relatively newer acquisition and not surprisingly once again a mystery–The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey. Last year I read and reviewed A Murder at Malabar Hill which was the first in this series set in 1920s India featuring the fictional Pervin Mistry, India’s first female lawyer (based on the real-life Cornelia Sorabji and Mithan Tata Lam). Pervin has struggled against all odds (though she does belong to a relatively well-to-do family of lawyers) to get her degree but can’t practice since female lawyers are not socially accepted at this point. So she joins her father’s firm where as luck is on her side, a case comes in involving three purdhnashin widows (in seclusion), who only she can speak to being a woman. Of course, there is a murder mystery involved which she solves as well. Alongside we go back in time and learn more about Pervin’s life so far. This was a book I really enjoyed and so when the sequel came out, of course I had to get it. I bought this one around mid-October.

This, the second installment, take us to 1922, and to a fictional princely state. India had around 560 princely states until independence, and though most were in an alliance with the British, their internal matters were largely their own. In this book, we travel to Satapur, a princely state in the Sahyadri Mountains where after the Maharaja and his teenage son’s death, the dowager queen and her daughter-in-law rule. A lawyer is found to be required when the two ladies end up in a dispute over the young crown prince’s education. Of course the Maharanis live in purdah, and so it must be a woman lawyer who meets them–and that of course is Perveen Mistry, Bombay’s only female lawyer. In the Satapur Palace, Pervin finds cold-blooded power play and vendettas. Before long she falls into a trap–can she escape and save the royal children?

From reviews, it seems this installment is not as enjoyable as the first one though it is still a good one. And since I enjoyed the first one so much and love historical mysteries, I do want to give this one a try. What interests me most is the setting in a princely state–I know of them but would want to know what life there was really like–not very pleasant it seems from teh description. A third installment in this series also featuring a Prince, The Bombay Prince is supposed to come out next year.

Have you read this one? How did you like it? Looking forward to your thoughts!

Find Lisa’s pick this week, Blackberry Wine by Joanne Harris here.

Book info and cover image from Goodreads here

Book Review: One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

One of Us is Lying is a young adult mystery that really kept me hooked (and guessing) from start to finish.

This story is told in four narratives/voices side by side, each telling things from their points of view so that we follow both developments in the mystery and each character’s life. The story is essentially this—five high-schoolers find themselves going into detention but we see from the start that they insist that they haven’t done the thing they are being given detention for—yet no one seems to believe them. The students are Bronwyn who hopes to get into Yale and has the grades to achieve that dream; Cooper, baseball star, expecting to be recruited before long; Addy, prom queen with a perfect boyfriend and seemingly perfect life; Nate who unlike the others has been convicted for dealing in drugs and is struggling to survive in a family that has failed him, and Simon, who runs a gossip app in the school on which he posts everyone’s deepest secrets, and has brought both trouble and unhappiness for his victims.  But in detention, Simon suddenly suffers an allergic reaction, and no epipens are at hand. Before long he dies, and it comes to light that his death may not have been an accident. Not only that, each of the other four students inside with him had a secret, one which he was about to post on his app the very next day, and which would have brought sure ruin on them. But which of them actually did it?

This is a fast paced read in which the action starts from the get-go, because of which I found myself reading well into the night and not wanting to put it down (but then I did have to eventually since at 360 pages, this wasn’t one I could read in one sitting). I found myself interested in each of their stories, and also to see how things would turn out for them; even though one is always reading with the idea of catching one of them on something they say, or trying to identify which of them did it, yet none of them is really unlikeable or off-putting; rather to the contrary, one actually feels sorry for what each is going through. Like many teens, each is facing different issues from the pressure to do well academically or in sport to that of living up to a certain image that one is supposed to have, or dysfunctional or even absent families for others; and added to that is not only the scrutiny there are under from the police investigating the case but also insinuations and fingers being pointed at them on social media in school. As a result, the four ‘suspects’ who really have very little in common end up finding support from and in each other, finding a new set of friends which was nice to see.   But this doesn’t mean they aren’t hiding things; in fact, there are secrets aplenty and these take you by surprise each time one is revealed. This is a pretty complicated mystery as well with an ending, I did not see coming. In fact, I had caught on to what I thought was a pretty strong clue though it was about a person I didn’t think did it; and while that was explained and the author wove it in well with the twist at the end, the solution was completely different from what I thought it was. Very enjoyable read. I’m certainly looking forward to exploring other titles by this author.