My November Reading Log

Connections in Death by J.D. Robb is 48th in the Eve Dallas series of futuristic mysteries, and yet I bought it and read it and enjoyed it. Formulaic books are great for when I only have tiny bits of time over the course of a few days in which I can read, so I don’t lose track of the story. Familiar plot progression, familiar characters, and a certain outcome are satisfying. This one had gang violence as one of the crimes that needed to be addressed, and great progress has been made by the end of the episode, I mean book, but I really mean episode, because this series is very like a long-running and popular television cop show.

Sing for the Coming of the Longest Night by Katherine Fabian and Iona Datt Sharma was recommended to me by a friend. It’s set in contemporary London if London had magic and magicians. A quirky magician has gone missing, and his two partners, who don’t know each other well, have to work together to find him and save him from peril; in the process they get to know and appreciate each other. The female partner, who is Indian, is married to another woman and they have two small children; the non-binary partner has two non-binary friends. The magician character, as you might imagine, doesn’t have many lines, but you learn about him through the eyes of his partners. A fun read.

I pre-order the Benjamin January mysteries in hardcover these days, then hoard them; but I decided I’d been hoarding long enough and wanted to catch up, at least a bit. Ran Away by Barbara Hambly is roughly split into two linked stories; for the first time, we get to see Ben solve a mystery during his past in Paris, when he was married to the dressmaker Ayasha, then flash forward to a possibly related crime in New Orleans. We’ve previously only gotten glimpses of his time in Paris, mostly linked to Ben’s sorrow and grief at Ayasha’s death in a cholera epidemic. What I particularly loved about Hambly’s approach to this book is that narrative choice is actually a character choice; Ben hasn’t been able to fully remember Ayasha and their life together because of how traumatically it ended, and in this novel he’s able to come more to terms with her death. We also see that Ben is the sort of person who gathers people around him; he and Ayasha had a trusted network of friends in Paris, just as Ben later accumulated a new group of trusted friends in New Orleans. History-wise, we learn a bit about Ottoman Empire politics, through two characters with differing thoughts on allying with Europeans.

The Affair of the Mysterious Letter by Alexis Hall is a Doyle/Lovecraft mashup and homage. Captain John Wyndham needs a roommate, and ends up with consulting sorceress Shaharazad Haas. Co-tenant required. Rent reasonable to the point of arousing suspicion. Tolerance for blasphemies against nature an advantage. No laundry service.

This bit made me literally laugh out loud: Just as I was beginning to contemplate the opportunities my unexpected successes had placed before me I was struck down by an extratemporal jezail, a fiendish weapon whose bullets displace themselves in time and space, meaning the injuries they cause recur unpredictably. Although I am quite well most of the time I shall, on occasion, be afflicted with a stabbing pain in my shoulder or my leg or, most peculiarly, by the recollection of such a pain in the distant past, long before I had even thought of going to war. Such a condition made me unfit for military service. (Fans of Sherlock Holmes know that John Watson’s wound is described in different stories as being in different places.)

I was familiar with Hall from the Kate Kane paranormal noir series (which I need to catch up on, one of these days). If you like meta, and dry humor, and pastiche, you will very likely like this book.

The Killer in the Choir by Simon Brett is a relatively straightforward English mystery set in the town of Feathering. It was nineteenth in the series, but though it was my first, it was self-contained and easy to follow. I picked it up because it had choir in the title. It was good enough that I kept reading, not enough that I would necessarily read more in the series unless I felt like an undemanding, old-fashioned mystery. Which is sometimes what one wants.

Louise’s Crossing (A Louise Pearlie Mystery Book 7) by Sarah R. Shaber was more to my taste. The first-person narrator is a young widow working for the OSS during World War Two. She’s been transferred from the D.C. office to London as OSS is ramping up for the Allied invasion of Europe. Almost the whole story takes place on the Liberty Ship on which she makes the crossing. On the good side, it shows some awareness of racism and historical attitudes. The murderer and their motive is not a huge surprise to me, but I don’t necessarily need a mystery to be terribly mysterious. I liked the narrative voice and setting enough that I’d be willing to read another in this series.

Favours Exchanged (Clorinda Cathcart’s Circle Book 5) by L.A. Hall continues to add to the original series, but in a way that is more for continuing readers than for new ones. I loved getting more about Maurice, and more Clorinda.

An Unacceptable Offer by Mary Balogh is an early Regency by one of my favorite romance authors. What I found interesting was the initial scene, which involved two men discussing the Season and the Marriage Mart in a way that was clearly an infodump for readers who knew nothing of either; this is something that became far less necessary as Regencies became a Thing and vast swathes of the genre were set in that time period. So far as the romance between the characters went, the heroine was convinced her feelings were unrequited, and the hero had to realize that he actually did have feelings for her. They probably should have talked honestly with each other a bit earlier on. The secondary romance was brief but delightful.

three white horses by magdaliny is angstful and emotionally satisfying, exploring how Steve Rogers mourns for Bucky Barnes. With a happy ending.

the way a traveler knows a traveler by thedoubteriswise is a story about the building friendship between Steve Rogers and Natasha Romanov, which incorporates a little comics canon into the MCU. I really liked the characterization.

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen [she, her] currently writes cozy space opera for Kalikoi. The novella series A Place of Refuge begins with Finding Refuge: Telepathic warrior Talia Avi, genius engineer Miki Boudreaux, and augmented soldier Faigin Balfour fought the fascist Federated Colonies for ten years, following the charismatic dissenter Jon Churchill. Then Jon disappeared, Talia was thought dead, and Miki and Faigin struggled to take Jon’s place and stay alive. When the FC is unexpectedly upended, Talia is reunited with her friends and they are given sanctuary on the enigmatic planet Refuge. The trio of former guerillas strive to recover from lifetimes of trauma, build new lives on a planet with endless horizons, and forge tender new connections with each other.
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