A Debut Mystery from Charleston

The Holy City Murders (Duke Dempsey Mystery)The Holy City Murders by Ron Plante Jr.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Synopsis: “Duke Dempsey is a private investigator in 1938 Charleston, SC. Thrust into the case of a lifetime when the Vatican comes calling and hires Duke to find an invaluable relic. Charleston is also hit with the mysterious murders of a prominent priest of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and a local cop. Duke is forced into a partnership with the presiding detective, Johnny Stampkin, to find the relic and solve the murders. The case takes a multitude of twists and turns as they navigate through Roman Catholic puzzles, Civil War secrets, and a Nazi Assassin.”

I have been a bit surprised by how much I enjoy historical mysteries. It is not something I actively avoided or sought out before declaring 2019 the year of mystery for myself, but I have certainly had a soft spot for historical mysteries; especially post World War I novels in both the UK and the New England region in the U.S. This one is set a little later (the 1930s) and in the U.S. South and I did not enjoy it as much as I have the others.

I thought this was a very interesting premise: two groups of people trying to find a religious relic in order to protect their own way of thinking. The bad guy kills several good guys, including the one who knows where the relic currently is. A police detective, private detective and a nun now need to find said relic (and yes, they may walk into a bar, too).

The author is clearly knowledgeable about Charleston and its history. There were some great nuggets of information strewn throughout this novel, wish there would have been a little more.

The narrative of this book was difficult for me. I like reading books with snippets of information from the antagonists’ point of view, but they need to be clearly distinguished from other points of view. Often, a chapter would begin with what the Nazi is doing or thinking and switch a paragraph or two later to the private detective’s story line. It was a bit muddled for me.

I think there was a lot of information pointing at this being a new author. He has some interesting ideas and a decent story here. With a little more practice and some character work, I think this may be a fun author to read in the future.

Thank you to Book Sirens and the publisher for giving me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Murder in Belgravia by Lynn Brittney

Murder in Belgravia (A Mayfair 100 Murder Mystery #1)Murder in Belgravia by Lynn Brittney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another historical mystery for me. This one is set during WWI London. I really like the premise of this novel: a police officer realizes he is going to need help from the fairer sex and sets up an under the table operation in order to investigate more sensitive crimes. Then the crimes got a bit dark.

I am enjoying reading more historical mysteries and WWI has been a good time period for me. This one reminded me that the seedy underground has always existed. Heroine available at the local chemist shop, brothels, sex slaves, corrupt police officers and murder. And a war will not stop these activities from continuing.

I thought the characters were well drawn and nuanced. Caroline, the high society doctor lady, was probably my favorite. Although, the very handsome Greek (Billy) was a close second. I am looking forward to see how this group of characters grows and continues to solve mysteries during WWI.

The mystery in this story was a little convoluted. As I said above, there was a lot going on in this very short novel. An abusive husband is murdered after gravely injuring his wife. The investigation uncovers many more undesirable activities. While the major characters were well done, the minor characters felt more like caricatures and did not distinguish themselves well in my head. I was not surprised by the guilty party, but did have a hard time figuring out who it was.

I will be looking for future titles in this series.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my advanced copy!

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When Montezuma Met Cortes by Matthew Restall

When Montezuma Met Cortes: The True Story of the Meeting that Changed History

Mr. Restall has certainly done a lot of research on this subject! I, on the other hand, have not.  I reserved a copy of this book because the title sounded interesting and this is certainly a topic about which I know very little.

I liked his term “mythistory”. The idea we conflate stories so often that they have truly become our history is one I have reflected on often.  History is written by the victors, but does that make it accurate? Does that mean the vanquished have no story?

I have to say I found much of this book pedantic and difficult to read.  I have already stated I am not well-versed in this topic, so perhaps it was too academic a work for this reader.

I appreciated the author’s approach to his research as a mystery with multiple layers: what really happened, what appears to happen, and how the historian figured out which is which.  He then spends much of the book offering up the “old” story, negating it and replacing it with a new version of what really happened.

Two of the myths I do recall from my time before reading this book were that the Aztecs  regularly performed ritualistic and barbaric human sacrifices, and that Cortes was believed to be and treated  as a deity when he arrived in Mexico.  The author’s refutation of each of these stories was interesting and rational.

As this author has dedicated so much of his life, time and energy to studying Central American history, I will be seeking out his other titles when I am next seeking further knowledge of this region.