Kate Shakleton. Masie Dobbs. Brother Michael and the physician Matthew. Lady Emily….
There are so many series of detective novels set in Victorian times, Medieval times, the interwar period that it can be a difficult and expensive job to keep up with them all. Many focus on women as detectives, writing about women who either find themselves in the middle of murder mysteries, or who are employed to sort out difficult or fatal situations. Often the women are unusually able to see the clues and answers, sometimes there is a strong man who turns up in the nick of time. My favourite series which I have reviewed here before by Susanna Gregory usually puts her main protagonists in impossible situations which seemingly defy escape, yet both men are still alive after 22 novels…
So do I read them in order? It depends. If I have been following them for years I seize or order them from the library as soon as I can. I can therefore often avoid actually buying them unless I am desperate. Some I manage to find from charity shops or bargain book places, in which case I read where I can, then try to track down copies in libraries to fill in the gaps. I will try and read in order where possible in which case https://www.fantasticfiction.com/ is really useful; although an American site it lists a huge number of authors’ outputs in order and is much clearer than book buying sites. Obviously if an author is writing many books the quality and readability of individual novels may vary, but mostly the characters can bear more or less convincing situations.
One series which I have enjoyed and found disappointing in various novels is Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily series. There are 11 published in America, and probably at least the first ten are available here. Beginning with And Only to Deceive, they follow the progress of an aristocratic lady who finds that murder happens too near home. Her mother is a close friend of Queen Victoria, but Lady Emily is a rebel who conforms initially in marriage but finds herself fascinated by ancient literature and art. Murder and mystery affect her family, friends and associates, and she is able by using her natural abilities and considerable resources to solve many cases.
I read and invested in a few of the earlier books in the series and enjoyed them, but found one that I did not enjoy, partly because of the story which I found wallowed in misery too much, which I did not need at the time. So I picked up Behaind the Shattered Glass at a bargain shop not really expecting much. I really enjoyed it. The situation was convincing, the characters consistent and attractive, and the solution satisfying. There are many red herrings, and on the way Emily involves herself in several interesting situations. It shows conventions challenged, people behaving unpredictably yet within the scope of their character, and all loose ends tied up. It is not great literature and will never trouble prize judges, but I think it represents books that people actually read rather than carry round to impress.
So, whether you enjoy series and find it satisfying to follow character through several situations, or prefer to read one off mysteries, I think you would enjoy these books. Of course, I still prefer Kerry Greenwood’s Miss Fisher mysteries…..