Thursday, October 30, 2014

Secrets of Sloane House

Title:  Secrets of Sloane House (A Chicago World’s Fair Mystery #1)
Author:  Shelley Gray
Story Length:  316
Year:  2014
Publisher:  Zondervan
Reid Armstrong is trying to fit in to society as best he can.  His parents are middle class, but his father struck it rich with an investment in a silver mine, catapulting their wealth exponentially.  Now, after attending the best schools and learning all the intricacies of society, Reid is expected to put his training to good use as his parents want him to make a good match and marry a society belle.  Reid, however, is drawn to a maid at a friend’s house.  He learns of her mission to find her missing sister and offers to help.  He initially heeds his parents’ wishes as to his marital status, but the more time he spends with Rosalind, the more intrigued he is by her.
Rosalind Perry has arrived in Chicago to work as a maid at Sloane House where her sister used to work as well.  Her sister used to send letters and money home to their farm in Wisconsin, but then the letters suddenly stopped.  Her sister had hinted in her last couple of letters that she was afraid, but wasn’t specific as to what she was afraid of.  Rosalind’s father traveled to Chicago, trying to get some answers to his daughter’s disappearance, but was rebuffed by the Sloane family as well as the police.  Rosalind has arrived to find out the truth though she uses a different last name to sleuth undercover.  She is timid and in awe of the city and the many people there.  She doesn’t learn a whole lot about her sister, but when Reid defends her she tells him her plight.  He promises to help and gives her aid when she needs it most.  Will she ever find out what really happened to her sister?
I really wanted to like this book a lot, but the story just fell flat for me.  The two main characters didn’t come to life for me or make me care what happened to them or their relationship.  I read the summary on the back cover and thought the book would be exciting and looked forward to a good “whodunit”; however, the book didn’t live up to the synopsis.  There wasn’t much action and tension to lead up to the climax of the story.  The events didn’t seem to build on each other to ratchet up the tension, so when the mystery is solved, it just didn’t fulfill my expectations.  The setting of the Chicago World’s Fair was a great idea, and the depiction of the relationship between the wealthy and their servants in most wealthy households was accurate and well-researched.  The amount of work required of a maid was enormous and the expectations and sacrifice high, which the author showed well.  There is a brief excerpt from the next book in the series, Deception at Sable Hill, which features Eloisa Carstairs as the main character and is due to be released in the Spring of 2015 that sounds intriguing.  I look forward to the next book and hopefully that mystery will be more satisfying.
My rating is 3 stars.

Note:  I received a complimentary copy for an honest review of this book.  The opinions shared in this review are solely my responsibility.  Other reviews can be read at  Also follow me on Twitter @lcjohnson1988, FaceBook at

The Daughter of Highland Hall

Title:  The Daughter of Highland Hall (Edwardian Brides #2)
Author:  Carrie Turansky
Story Length:  322 pages
Year:  2014
Publisher:  Multnomah Books
Kate Ramsey is 18 and about to be presented to the King and Queen of England prior to her debut for her season in London society.  Her aunt is her sponsor and will stop at nothing to see that Kate is matched favorably to a wealthy titled aristocrat before the season ends.  Her aunt constantly criticizes Kate and makes her feel she isn’t doing her duty to her family if she doesn’t succeed in catching a husband.  Kate wants to please her family and thinks these ought to be her goals as well.  She has grown up at Highland Hall and is used to a life of privilege.  Her father’s untimely death, leaving no male heir, causes Kate’s home to pass to a second cousin, whose story is told in book one of the Edwardian Bride Series, The Governess of Highland Hall.
Kate begins the rounds of balls, teas and suppers to be seen as an eligible bride.  She meets a wealthy aristocrat who seems interested in her at her first social outing.  The two seem to have a lot in common and Kate wonders if she could be so as to find a husband so quickly.  In the meantime, Kate’s guardian and second cousin, William Ramsey, has invited his fiancée’s brother to live with the family over the summer in order to complete his medical studies and attain his degree.  Jon Foster has spent half his life in India working alongside his father, doctoring the poor.  He thinks he will return to India after his studies are complete to continue his father’s work, but as he spends more and more time around Kate he is unsure if he can return to India and leave her.  He prays for guidance and direction as he faces several choices in regards to his career and his future with Kate.  Kate seems to have a compassionate heart, but is she his equal spiritually?  Has she turned her life over to Christ and allowed Him to be her focus?  Can he stay in London if Kate isn’t his future?
There isn’t a lot of action or suspense in this book, but I think readers will enjoy the descriptions of life in London in 1912.  Kate and Jon, both have a lot of decisions ahead of them that will impact their future.  I enjoyed reading this story because of the spiritual aspect deftly woven into the tale.  Jon and Julia (Jon’s sister and William’s fiancée) set a wonderful example in their dedication to living their lives for Christ and bringing Him into every detail of their lives.  They weren’t shy about sharing their beliefs, were willing to help those in need and willing to stand firm in their faith no matter what.  The next book in the series, A Refuge at Highland Hall, is due to be released in October 2015 for those interested.
My rating is 4 stars.

Note:  I received a complimentary copy for an honest review of this book.  The opinions shared in this review are solely my responsibility.  Other reviews can be read at  Also follow me on Twitter @lcjohnson1988, FaceBook at

Charles Todd novel "A Matter of Justice"

Title:  A Matter of Justice (Inspector Ian Rutledge #11)
Author:  Charles Todd
Pages:  330
Year:  2009
Publisher:  William Morrow
The psychological aspect is ramped up in this novel.  Inspector Ian Rutledge is called from a friend’s wedding celebration to take over an investigation of the murder of a member of the local gentry that universally was disliked.  Ian has his hands full of suspects where normally his investigations take time to turn up a single suspect.  Several in the town have motives to kill the cruel man found dead, hanging from the ceiling in an old barn by a contraption used during the local Christmas pageant to make the angel fly.  Who would want to humiliate this man?  What is the meaning of having the victim trussed up with angel wings dangling from the ceiling?
As Ian’s investigation progresses, there are two attempted suicides, an act of vandalism at the town bakery and a policeman under suspicion as a possible suspect for the murder.  Ian is relentless in pursuing justice and leaves no stone unturned.  He pushes himself beyond his limit physically and is involved in a car accident, but as soon as his car is back on the road, he is off to London to continue asking questions and gathering information.  He also is always on guard lest someone suspect he is mentally unstable.  He must guard against anyone discovering the existence of Hamish.  He is often on his own, confronting suspects or reluctant witnesses.  He is also often seen as the “bad guy” as he keeps asking question after question until he gets an answer in his pursuit of justice.
This particular story brought to the fore the capacity of humans to show great greed, deception, anger, manipulation, lie, cruelty and spite.  Inspector Rutledge must sort through all these traits and emotions to find the truth in order to bring justice to the victim.  His constant companion guilt via the manifestation of Hamish sometimes helps and sometimes hinders.  The depravity of some people is depicted vividly.  While sometimes distressing, it made for a realistic and riveting story.  Just when I thought the mystery was over, there was another twist.  I can’t wait to read the next book in the series!
My rating is 5 stars.

Note:  The opinions shared in this review are solely my responsibility.  Other reviews can be read at  Also follow me on Twitter @lcjohnson1988, FaceBook at

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Pale Horse by Charles Todd

Title:  A Pale Horse (Inspector Ian Rutledge #10)
Author:  Charles Todd
Pages:  360
Year:  2008
Publisher:  William Morrow
Inspector Ian Rutledge barely has time to breathe between cases that his superior sends him out to solve.  Secretly, his boss hates Ian and is hoping he fails; then, he’ll have proof to have him removed from the force.  However, Ian isn’t cooperating and keeps coming up stellar with his sleuthing abilities.
This current case takes Ian back to a place he visited as a young boy with his father.  There is a giant pale horse carved in a hillside by long ago peoples.  Ian remembers fondly the time spent here with his father, but now he is sent to track down a missing scientist by order of the military.  This, after he just returned from investigating the finding of an unknown corpse in a church abbey, wearing an opera cloak and a gas mask.  No one has seen the dead man before and the local constable likes the school teacher for the murder, pursuing a personal vendetta against the school teacher.  Ian is able to clear the school teacher, but still needs to identify the body before burial.  Before he can accomplish this, he is sent on his quest to watch for the reappearance of this scientist.  The scientist lives in a set-apart area just below the pale horse in one of nine small cottages.  Each cottage is occupied by a person who wants to be left alone with their secrets.  Ian finds help with the blacksmith, but all the other cottage dwellers are terse with him.  No one seems to want to identify the body in his other case either.
Then, a cottager is found murdered soon followed by another.  Ian finally is able to link his two cases together, but still must find out who killed the man found in the abbey and who is killing off the cottagers one by one.  Ian patiently waits sometimes and sometimes purposely plants seeds of doubt when talking to suspects or potential witnesses.  All the while he is drawn to the pale horse and remembers his past.  Unfortunately, that past includes his time in France during WWI.  He still is transported at times back to the battlefield whether in nightmares or while awake.  His horror, grief, anger, shame and guilt are his constant companions in the voice of Hamish MacLeod, a corporal under Ian’s command during the war who Ian had executed.  Can he ever be rid of Hamish?  Can he discover the killer’s identity and proof before the killer strikes again?
This story was slow in some parts, but the psychological aspects of Ian and how he deals with his guilt among other emotions and how he interacts with others while trying to ferret out information is interesting to read and kept me tuned in to the story.  The ability to perform his job while still carrying around so much anguish is remarkable.  The depictions and descriptions by the authors about WWI bring it alive on the pages of the story.  I’ll be reading book eleven in the series soon and am very interested to see what case Ian will be investigating next.
My rating is 4 stars.

Note:  The opinions shared in this review are solely my responsibility.  Other reviews can be read at  Also follow me on Twitter @lcjohnson1988, FaceBook at