Enjoyed 3 books this week, while continuing to revisit the show Psych (thanks to free streaming via Amazon Prime I didn’t have to wait for USA to go on to the next seasons). We even bought a pineapple at the grocery store this weekend.
First up was The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley. Every year a group of friends who were all together at Oxford gather to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Each year a different friend picks out the spot for the gathering. This year Emma, who is the only one of the group who wasn’t at Oxford but is now dating one of them, picked a retreat in Scotland. The group can hunt deer on the estate and enjoy gourmet meals prepared by Emma while they relive their youth. The story jumps from the present-tense point-of-view of Heather, one of the workers at the retreat, to past-tense chapters from the point-of-view of three of the women in the group, Emma, Katie, and Miranda, as well as from Doug, another worker on the estate. As expected, the four women have very different perspectives on things. Emma seems to be trying too hard to befriend Miranda and also to look like her, which makes a certain sort of sad sense when we learn that Emma’s boyfriend, Mark, has a thing for Miranda and has since Oxford. Katie is feeling like the odd one out in the group, as usual, but this time it seems harder to deal with than in the past. Miranda is hurt and confused by the fact that Katie, who has been her friend since grade school, has withdrawn from her so much over the past year and doesn’t seem to be eager to use their time on this trip to reunite. Doug is wrestling with his PTSD after service in Afghanistan and has come to work on the estate as a way to hide out from the rest of the world. I found that, with the exception of Heather and Doug, I didn’t much care for any of these characters. Despite that, the use of moving from present-tense to past kept me turning the pages, wanting to find out exactly what had happened and who had done it.
My next read was A Brush with Shadows by Anna Lee Huber. It’s the sixth book in her Lady Darby series and it was a delight to be back with Gage and Kiera once more. The setting was wonderfully atmospheric and creepy – a forbidding manor house in the midst of Dartmoor. The house wasn’t made any more welcoming by the occupants, relatives of Gage’s who were downright malicious. There was talk of a family curse, which struck anyone who dared defy the family. And there was the chance to learn more about Gage’s childhood and his mother, which I was just as eager to do as Kiera was. It was a thoroughly enjoyable read and added some new and delightful characters to the group of friends and allies Kiera’s been building all along in this series.
I followed up the sixth book in the Lady Darby series (and I’m struck by how much Kiera would dislike them being called that) with the seventh, An Artless Demise. Kiera and Gage are in London. Kiera is pregnant and coping with the changes in her body while making forays into society once more. Mostly she’s getting along well, though there are always a few mean-spirited people who won’t let her forget about her past. Everything is thrown into disarray however when a group of resurrectionists are arrested for the murder of a young boy whose body they were attempting to sell to one of the medical schools. Suddenly the papers are full of details of the crime and the hearings, as well as reports of attempted “burkings” all over the city. Society cannot help but recall the accusations made against Kiera a few years before, after her first husband’s death revealed her involvement in his work on an anatomy text. Kiera was forced to make the illustrations for her abusive husband, but instead of being treated with sympathy people assumed she was unnatural and involved in her husband’s acquisition of corpses. Kiera knows Sir Anthony likely purchased bodies from resurrectionissts but she was not involved in any of that. Kiera’s father-in-law, Lord Gage, and members of the government are concerned about the possibility of unrest in London as a result of the murder. Gage and his valet/assistant Anderly are tasked with keeping abreast of the public sentiment. Complicating matters, Gage and Kiera witness the murder of a young man, heir to an Earl. The victim was stabbed, but there was a sticking plaster on his face, calling to mind broadsheet illustrations of Burke and Hare’s victims, who were shown being suffocated by a sticking plaster being applied over their noses and mouths (never mind that this wasn’t the way Burke and Hare dispatched their victims). The victim is a thoroughly unpleasant young man and Kiera and Gage might have found themselves in sympathy with his killer if not for the next victim, who was known to be a man of good character and high morals. Adding to their burdens, Kiera receives a blackmail note from anonymous resurrectionists claiming to have information about her involvement in her first husband’s dealings with them and threatening to publish it if they aren’t paid. And if all that wasn’t enough, the surgeon who Sir Anthony asked to complete publication of his anatomy text is now preparing to publish his late associate’s journals, which are sure to show Kiera in a very unfavorable light. There is a lot going on in this novel, making it a suspenseful read. It’s also an enjoyable one as we see Kiera’s small circle of friends rally to help her, and new allies are also found. I am eager for the next in the series, but I also know that at present there are no more after it. I’m torn between wanting to read it at once and wanting to hold off so I’m not left waiting as long for the next!
What have you been reading of late? Do you enjoy reading series, or do you find it too aggravating to have to wait the next installment? Leave a comment and let me know!