Another Review at MyShelf.Com


Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: November 2002
ISBN: 0007134231
Format Reviewed: Hardcover
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Genre: Mystery / Historical Crime (1699, St Germain, France)
Reviewer: Rachel A Hyde
Reviewer Notes:

The Ambitious Stepmother
A Countess Ashby De La Zouche Mystery , No. 3
By Fidelis Morgan

     A humorous novel is a strange beast; too often the humor takes the place of plot and in a whodunit this is usually a sign that the novel will be as shallow (and silly) as a children's paddling pool. When it is done well, however, the whole is a joy to behold and the humor adds an extra dimension. So you can have a jolly good laugh when you are reading this, together with trying to figure out whodunit and why (not easy) and being impressed with the standard of the research. It's London in 1699 when the tale opens and Countess Anastasia Ashby de la Zouche and her busty companion Alpiew are wondering what to spend their money on--money earned during their new venture as gossip columnists. But soon it seems they will be the recipients of even more money as a certain Mrs Franklyn-Green wants them to find her stepdaughter and husband. An all-expense- paid trip to France and the princely sum of 100 guineas seems too good to miss and soon there they are. But all does not go as planned, and instead of a dizzy round of balls and parties, the pair finds themselves robbed by highwaymen, and even worse, their lodgings are at the exiled Catholic court of the erstwhile King James II. The food, cooked by two warring chefs, seems all right, but when somebody is poisoned it is time to escape before things get really dangerous…

     The Bastille, Louis XIV, the Man in the Iron Mask, peas, wolves, béchamel sauce and an interesting use for ladies with strong teeth are some of the ingredients in this glorious concoction of a novel. As usual, the characters are lively and well drawn, the situations larger-than-life and plenty of humor of a frequently risqué - but never crude - style. This is the third outing for Ashby and Alpiew and I can comment that what started good seems to be getting even better and into its stride, now having a holiday from London and finding plenty of opportunities for murder, mayhem and mirth. This is not a period often portrayed in books, so it all has the added dimension of being novel. Dare I say the words "Hugely Enjoyable", the highest praise I give any novel? Almost, as this really is that sort of book. Guaranteed to appeal to more people than just those who enjoy historical crime, this series seems to stand apart from the herd.

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