A Murder in Time (Kendra Donovan #1) by Julie McElwainA Murder in Time by Julie McElwain
Published by Pegasus Books on April 11, 2016
Pages: 498
Format: eBook
Source: Amazon
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Beautiful and brilliant, Kendra Donovan is a rising star at the FBI. Yet her path to professional success hits a speed bump during a disastrous raid where half her team is murdered, a mole in the FBI is uncovered and she herself is severely wounded. As soon as she recovers, she goes rogue and travels to England to assassinate the man responsible for the deaths of her teammates.

While fleeing from an unexpected assassin herself, Kendra escapes into a stairwell that promises sanctuary but when she stumbles out again, she is in the same place - Aldrich Castle - but in a different time: 1815, to be exact.

Mistaken for a lady's maid hired to help with weekend guests, Kendra is forced to quickly adapt to the time period until she can figure out how she got there; and, more importantly, how to get back home. However, after the body of a girl is found on the extensive grounds of the county estate, she starts to feel there's some purpose to her bizarre circumstances. Stripped of her twenty-first century tools, Kendra must use her wits alone in order to unmask a cunning madman.

Does the cover of this book not beckon you to read it!?

Yes, I will admit, I judged this book by its cover. I am glad I read the story synopsis and thought it sounded rad as well.

This would be a great book to use that Christmas book money on or gift to your bibliophile friends who love murder mysteries, feminist fiction, Doctor Who, and Sherlock Holmes.

I think fans of Outlander are going to fall in love with the Kendra Donovan series.
I think fans of Outlander are going to fall in love with the Kendra Donovan series.

Strong female lead? Check.

Action? Check.

Time travel? Check.

History? Check!

Mystery? Check!

Who can resist a time-travelling-historical-fiction-mystery with a bad-ass female protagonist? Not me, and you will not be able to either, once you are introduced to the crime fighting, slightly messed-up world of FBI agent, Kendra Donovan. ( I really like using hyphens.)

Kendra Donovan is the twenty-something offspring of ambition-driven, cold and calculating parents.

The story of Donovan’s parents and her past sound like they were equally plucked from the early twentieth century and some time in the future. This will make sense if you read the book and are familiar with the term eugenics.

While the first third of Kendra’s story unfolds in the present, the majority of the book takes place in a castle. In nineteenth-century England. DELIGHTFUL.

It was entertaining to listen to Kendra’s thoughts as she compared and contrasted the customs and rituals of polite and lower-class society in 1815 to the customs and social class divisions of our present time. There was a fun Upstairs, Downstairs/ Downton Abbey atmosphere to the story. Unfortunately for Kendra, she was plopped “downstairs” when she travelled back in time, and there are some hilarious moments in which things just aren’t working out for her and she loses her cool.

“The accouterments of humanity may change, but its heartbeat remained the same.”

There is great blend of Jane Austen and Sherlock Holmes-esque imagery and plot in the novel. It was fun to witness how the modern FBI agent had to mask her modern crime detection skills under the guise of being a uniquely educated foreigner.

I kind of ended up imagining Kendra Donovan like this in the present...
I kind of ended up imagining Kendra Donovan like this in the present…
...And like this in the 19th century, although her hair is very different as described in the book.
…And like this in the 19th century (although her hair is very different as described in the book).

The main character often references some of the most familiar historical aspects (writers, tropes, concepts, philosophies) of the time period while trying to navigate her way around society. It might come off as trite, but the reader has to remind themselves that Kendra Donovan is a brainiac, prone to encyclopedic thought-streams.

This book was darker than I anticipated. There are grisly murders and graphic autopsies, but if you are a fan of other nineteenth-century crime/mystery novels, then it is nothing too shocking. Jack the Ripper comes to mind…

If you are looking for something with the level of romance and rendezvous that the Outlander series had, then you will be a little disappointed. While there is the hint of a developing romance throughout the book, we do not see any real ”action” until the end. But I liked this aspect of the novel. I enjoyed that the novel focused on this strong and smart, liberated woman solving crimes instead of her swooning over some English heartthrob. That being said, the story ends in a way that lets us know there is definitely more romance to come in the next novel.

Overall, A Murder in Time was an action-packed, atmospheric, fun and absorbing read. I am excited to read the next novel in the series, A Twist in Time, due out this April.

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Once Upon A Crime: A Brothers Grimm Mystery by P.J. BrackstonOnce Upon A Crime by P.J. Brackston
Series: A Brothers Grimm Mystery #2
Published by Pegasus Books on July 15, 2015
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
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From New York Times bestselling author P. J. Brackston comes the prequel to Gretel and the Case of the Missing Frog Prints, the new novel in the rollicking series featuring Gretel, all grown up and working as a private investigator in 18th century Bavaria.

Gretel (yes, that Gretel) is now 35, very large, still living with her brother Hans, and working as a private investigator. The small, sleepy town of Gesternstadt is shaken to its pretty foundations when the workshop of the local cart maker is burnt to the ground, and a body is discovered in the ashes. It is Gretel who notices that the cadaver is missing a finger.

At first, she does not see this as significant, as her mind is fully focused on a new case. Not that she wouldn’t far rather be investigating an intriguing murder, but her client is willing to pay over the odds, so she must content herself with trying to trace three missing cats. It is not until she is further into her investigations that she realizes the two events are inextricably and dangerously connected, and that the mystery of the missing cats will lead her into perilous situations and frightening company.

Very soon Gretel finds herself accused of kidnapping Princess Charlotte, twice locked up in the cells at the Summer Schloss, repelling the advances of an amorous troll, strapped to a rack in Herr Schmerz’s torture chamber, and fleeing a murder charge. With dubious help from her brother (whose scant wits are habitually addled by drink), she must prove her innocence, solve the puzzle of the unidentified corpse, and find the stolen cats before they meet a grisly end

You can find my other reviews of Paula Brackston’s novels HERE.

Gretel Cover 1

I was sent a copy of Once Upon A Crime from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, so I have not had the pleasure of reading the first book in this series. In fact, I didn’t even know this series existed until the publisher emailed me. I’m going to have to start stalking Paula Brackston so I can stay in the loop about her work. Everything she writes is MAGIC.

Hansel Gretel film

 

Going into this novel, the 2013 film Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, immediately came to mind. OUAC is definitely reminiscent of this film, but where the story and characterization in the movie fell flat for me, Paula captures and creates with such wit and comedic timing in her own spin on the story.

I absolutely LOVED experiencing the same cleverness and lyrical quality I love about Paula’s Historical Fiction/Fantasy novels in this wholly entertaining, satirical masterpiece. Once Upon A Crime is full of knee-slapping hilarity, shady scenarios, and damn good writing.  All things I’ve come to expect from Backston’s work.

Set in 1776 Bavaria, Brackston weaves together a comical mystery revolving around a Princess, dead bodies, missing kittens, a love-sick giant and a lusty troll. I have to say, the characters were more absorbing than the plot for me and that’s exactly how I like it.

Beauty Beer

Thatched roofs, taverns and cottages awash in the warm glow of walk-in fire places, and the kind of frothy beer that strikes up memories of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast are all images that invaded the senses in OUAC. The world building is nothing short of a fairy-tale.

As a spoof on the traditional Hansel and Gretel children’s story, Paula achieves the perfect adult retelling casting Hansel and Gretel as slap-stick detectives in their mid-thirties. The story flowed at a leisurely pace, and the plot kept me guessing until the end. I was completely charmed and humored by this Brothers Grimm Mystery, and I look forward to reading the rest in the series.

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