BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: DEATH AMONG RUBIES

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Death Among Rubies is the second Lady Frances Fflokes mystery (the third will be published in November).  I did a review on Death on the Sapphire two weeks ago and wanted to do the second book as soon as possible.  So here it is…..

We find Lady Frances and her lady’s maid, June Mallow traveling with two of Frannie’s friends, Gwendolyn and Tomasina to visit Gwen’s family estate, Kestrel’s Eyrie.  After dinner with assorted guests, Gwen’s father, Sir Calleford, a powerful diplomat, is stabbed to death, in his study, with his ruby encrusted dagger.  Frannie who we learned in the first mystery is quite adept at solving murders much to the dismay of Scotland Yard…is at it again!  The guests include a Turkish diplomat, an American heiress and her loving father, a French couple, a couple of impoverished widows, Gwen’s aunt and her son, Christopher who is like a brother to Gwen.  The plot isn’t terribly involved but does, indeed, have twists and turns.  Of course, the dagger has a curse associated with it, Scotland Yard Special Branch becomes involved as does Frannie’s love interest and her attorney, Hal, and her disapproving brother (of her lifestyle), Charles.  The story even gives Mallow a bit of romance.  Frannie again involves Mallow in her intrigues and Mallow, rises to each occasion and becomes more educated and a bit less uptight in the process.  I love that she is more concerned with how Lady Frances looks that Lady Frances is…adds a touch of humor to the story especially when Frannie dresses in working man’s clothing, a scandal in Mallow’s eyes! Most of the story is set in the countryside estate, not in London.  I enjoyed the stories of the staff’s views of their employers, and how they will talk to others of their station, such as Mallow and not to Frannie, although she does have a way of getting information from everyone.  The view of the peer system is a big part of the story.

I found the continuation of the suffragette story an interesting one…nothing new there but Frannie was really living two lives, which she has no intention of giving up, it was fascinating to me.  On one side she is an aristocrat and on the other a free-thinking modern woman…at that time, the early 20th Century, not unusual for many young (and not so young) women, but unless one was as outspoken as our heroine I would imagine a difficult path.  Her understanding of the times, the mores of all classes, make it an interesting look at an era that was evolving very quickly.  For some unknown reason, Frannie reminds me a bit and only a bit of  Phryne Fisher and the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, (I do love the books and the television series) a later time and place but still a thoroughly independent, engaging woman who we admire and want to know more about.

Now my opinion of the book, I did enjoy it but not as much as the first of the series, Death on the Sapphire. I do like Koreto’s writing (I did find a couple of repeated phrases within a couple of pages, that should have been caught by his editor, but never mind!!!!).  Outside the main characters, I found the others to be rather stereotypical, the wealthy American heiress and her father looking for a titled husband, the Turkish diplomat who seems suspicious (is he!?), the village widows who are more than they seem (in that case they were!), etc. All in all an enjoyable read…not one that stretched my mind but then after a busy few weeks that isn’t all bad.  I am looking forward to the further adventures of Lady Frances Ffolkes and her band of characters.  Let me know your thoughts when you read it.

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: DEATH ON THE SAPPHIRE

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Another book that I have no idea how I heard about it.  As I have mentioned in previous book posts I read many book blogs, newsletters, newspaper reviews and on and on and I put upcoming releases on my to be read list.  Death On The Sapphire is one of those books and it has been sitting on my TBR list for awhile. It is R.J. Koreto first novel and the first in a series, the second has just been published, I’ll review that at a later date.

As you also know, I really hate pigeonholing books, especially when they are called “cozy mysteries”…I am sure some would put Agatha Christie in that category, pity that! This mystery is a lovely read with quite a few twists and turns…not a blood and thunder novel.  I don’t really enjoy those too much, I like a bit of suspense, a little romance, a well written story with an intelligent protagonist and one that keeps my interest to the end.  This one met all those requirements.

The heroine, if you will, is Lady Frances Ffolkes, who is very much an independent young lady living in the changing world of Edwardian England.  Raised to have a mind of her own, to a degree, and to that end she lives in a very upscale “boarding house” with her Lady’s Maid….things must be proper, we are talking about polite society, after all.  She is educated, at Vassar no less (also the University of the author, who, by the way is male, I don’t even know why I say that other than his handling of our young Lady and her Ladies Maid, June Mallow, is quite tender and wonderful) and due to her position in society has access to places that a lower class woman of the time wouldn’t have. It is the beginning of the the suffragist movement and the story tells that piece of history as well as the main story of a manuscript that has gone missing and is reported to contain details of a battle gone wrong costing many lives in the South Africa’s bloody Boer War. What the details are can be damaging  and embarrassing to the Establishment (my opinion, that this is being investigated by a young woman is salt in the wound!) and Scotland Yard (doesn’t it always) becomes involved along with the their Special Branch and the British Secret Service.  Love enters the picture with two gentlemen who may not be all they appear to be.  Lady Frances, Frannie, finds herself being followed, ends up in unusual neighborhoods…let’s just say where Ladies of her station should not be seen…following clues to the missing manuscript and to two murders.  I particularly loved the way her maid, Mallow, maintains the standards of how her Ladyship should behave and most of all how she should dress and coif her hair…it is delightful.  June is very much a part of the story and involves just as much as her mistress, I might say, even more.

I found that women being taken seriously has evolved, but has it really!!!!  Yes, we have the vote in the States, in the UK and many other nations but most certainly not all over the world…we basically can be whatever we want to be, in any profession we choose.  But what about equality..what about no more sexual harassment, equal pay…my the list does go on.  However, when we examine how things were a hundred years I believe we must say we have come a long way but have a long way to go.  I personally have never felt inferior to anyone nor have been put in a compromising situation but the headlines say I am in the minority and that makes me very sad.  We still have so much to accomplish and events like the Women’s March, I hope, will help change the status quo!  Enough of the soapbox…which is what the early suffragists actually stood upon to make their voices heard…let’s continue their journey until everything, in every way, is equal everywhere.

You do know I love a good historical mystery and this is one I highly recommend.  If you loved Downton Abbey, like Rhys Bowen’s Molly Murphy and Royal Spyness mysteries, Victoria Thompson’s and Carola Dunn’s books then you will be thoroughly engaged with this beginning of a new series.

imageThe next volume is out now, I would suggest you read Death on the Sapphire first. Koreto has also written a series of Alice Roosevelt mysteries…need to get those as well, I am!

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