Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Brooklyn on Fire

Historical Mystery

Sue Hill

3 Stars

January 26, 2016

This is the second book in the Mary Handley series. While there were several references to the earlier case, there was no spoilers for it and also there was little connection so this could be read as a standalone.

The story opens with new woman, Mary Handley, attempting to lead an independent life in a time when the majority of women married and worked in the home. Mary is sharp, confident, capable, and desirous of being taken seriously as a lady detective even if her mother disapproves, her brother is jealous, and her father faintly encourages her. She has found a sponsor of sorts with the owner of the book shop where she works part-time and also keeps an office for her detective agency in his back room. After the notoriety of her successfully solving a previous case and helping out the police, she now twiddles her thumbs waiting for the next case.

This book left me with mixed feelings. On one level, I enjoyed it, but alongside my enjoyment was also some reservations. I thought the author did a stellar job of setting, blending history and fiction, and authentic dialogue. The mystery was well done and kept me entertained.

It gets off to a slow start with me struggling to connect with the story. There were a handful of narrative threads that seem to be running parallel to each other setting up the situations and introducing the large cast of characters, but eventually the reader starts to see how they connect and intersect as the story picks up the pace and gets going.

I had a hard time settling into the style of the writing. It felt stilted and it kept me at arm's length so I could never fully engage. There were some potentially emotional scenes and those were the ones that drew me in the most, but even then I wasn't fully immersed.

Then there was Mary, herself. I both liked and didn't like her. Her 'know it all' attitude and prejudices against the wealthy (which she denied though her thoughts and actions prove her wrong) were a turn off.

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