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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Latest Captain Lacey Novel: A review

I love a good read. Love it. I love to curl up with a good book (or now with my beloved Kindle) and lose myself in it. I have an extreme fondness for Regency era mysteries with a dash of romance thrown in. Seriously, you should see how many are on my Kindle.  Or maybe not.  You might think I have an obsession.  Which I don't.  Mostly.

A few months back I was moping around waiting for the next book in one of my absolute favorite Regency mysteries to come out when I went to my Amazon recommendations. I saw a book I had not heard of, but was only .99 and thought what have I got to lose?  Aside from .99 and really, what's that?  I am so glad I laid down (or electronically transmitted) my .99 because I found a fantastic new series by Ashely Gardner.

The series follows Captain Gabriel Lacey, a former Army captain, home from the Napoleonic wars, injured, lost and suffering from bouts of melancholy (post traumatic stress, perhaps).  Lacey stumbles upon the mystery of missing girl, a grisly murder and uncovers corruption and dark dealings in the first book, The Hanover Square Affair. He finds that solving the mysteries somehow help him find his own way and deal with the dramatic change in his life from army officer to an unemployed and often penniless civilian.  There is also a great cast of supporting players, who each have their own secrets.  Sometimes the supporting characters are my favorites because I want to know more about them. 

The latest book, A Death in Norfolk, is my favorite so far (each book is better than the last!).
While traveling to his rundown ancestral home Lacey is tasked with delivering a message to a neighbor by a high end criminal named James Denis, who has been both friend and foe in previous books, only to be told by the recipient that he has just delivered a death sentence.  Lacey's strong sense of honor causes him to help his neighbor escape only to discover that the real mystery is just starting.

Lacey becomes involved in a hunt for priceless paintings, murderers, and thieves, as well as the  mystery of a missing girl and the local parish church's silver from 10 years earlier.  Along the way Lacey learns more of his own family's secrets, finds himself fighting for his life and making decisions that cause him to question his own honor, a character trait that has in the past defined him, and his sense of right and wrong. 

Ashley is a prolific writer who has more than 30 novels and novellas under her belt and of the several I've read, she crafts them well.  Her writing is smart and and her attention to detail vivid.  Another thing I really like (and appreciate) is that while she is descriptive, her prose isn't bogged down with too much detail.  I've read books that have entire pages dedicated to what the characters are eating.  Snooze.  Even when Gardner mentions the characters eating, which I don't really mind,  it's a sentence or two and then it's on with the story.

While the characters' problems are decidedly early 19th century, as people they are very relatable.  Lacey et al are complex (especially James Denis who is the most enigmatic of the characters) which makes them realistically drawn. They get tired, irritated, angry, jealous, and sad, like real people, ache when they are hurt (both physically and mentally) and are joyful, thoughtful and grateful when appropriate.  I dislike books where the lead characters are so perfect you'd probably hate them in real life.  Ashley has a done a beautiful job of crafting characters who are beautifully flawed.  Lacey's world is complicated, often dangerous, and terribly exciting. 

The mysteries themselves are well crafted and intricately woven.  One of the best things in my opinion is that I can't guess the "bad guy(s)" and their motivation within the first chapter or two.  I really hate when it's incredibly obvious who did it and why before I've even really met the main characters.  Gardner does the mystery aspect well.  I'm often genuinely concerned for the characters and hoping they'll make it.  It can be stressful!  There are twists and turns and multiple suspects in each book that keeps me wanting to read straight through to the end.

If you love a good mystery with a dash of romance, Regency styling or even if you're just looking for a good read, I highly suggest Gardner's series.  So far there are 7 complete novels and 2 novellas.  While each book could be read on its own, it's best to start at the beginning to get a true feel for the characters and to understand the overall plot arc(s).  And for .99-2.99 per down load, what do you have to lose?

***This is not a paid or sponsored review*** 


Confessions of a Plate Addict said...

Looks like a good read! So glad you got a date for your move. Keep us posted! Hope you are having a great week!...hugs...Debbie

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