The Silver Pigs (1989): Lindsey Davis

★★★

Marcus Didius Falco: Book I

Falco and I have been waiting for a long time to get to know each other. Now, as I come to the end of my review copies (just three to go before I have a clean slate!), I’ve decided to treat myself to an introduction to everyone’s favourite Roman sleuth. As you’ll have noticed, I tend to avoid historical mysteries, simply because they’ve become so much of a cliché in recent years; but I’m willing to make exceptions for Falco and for Cadfael, both of whom were in on the act before it became a bandwagon. Thanks to Master and God, I already knew that I loved Lindsey Davis’s writing style. This first Falco novel isn’t as polished as her more recent work, but it was heaps of fun and I’m eager to carry on.

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The Malice of Fortune (2012): Michael Ennis

★★

It’s 1502. Women are being murdered in the Romagna, and their deaths may hold the secret to a mystery that has plagued Pope Alexander VI: the brutal murder of his beloved son Juan, Duke of Gandia. Eager for revenge, he sends an agent north to find out more. The former courtesan Damiata arrives in the town of Imola, the headquarters of the Pope’s second son Cesare, with a powerful motivation to succeed: her infant son is being kept as a hostage at the Borgia court. Yet she isn’t the only one seeking the truth about these murders. Two others are also trying to identify the killer: one is the put-upon Florentine envoy, Niccolò Machiavelli; the other is Cesare’s engineer-general, the Tuscan polymath Leonardo da Vinci.

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Arsenic for Tea (2015): Robin Stevens

★★★★

A Murder Most Unladylike Mystery: Book II

First off, a Happy New Year to one and all! I hope that 2017 brings you lots of exciting discoveries, wonderful stories and engaging discussions. For my own part, I kicked off the year with a self-indulgent treat: the second book in Robin Stevens’s schoolgirl detective series. You may remember that I was utterly charmed by Murder Most Unladylike and I was itching to see what Daisy and Hazel’s next case would be. It turns out that the sequel is no less delightful.

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Murder Most Unladylike (2014): Robin Stevens

★★★★

A Murder Most Unladylike Mystery: Book I

Were you a Malory Towers or St Clare’s type? For me it was always Malory Towers. As a child I dreamed of going to such a boarding school, with a saltwater swimming pool at the base of a cliff, midnight feasts, a French mistress called ‘Mam’zelle’, san, tuck and lacrosse. Never mind that such a school hadn’t existed since the 1950s: my comprehensive school seemed thoroughly dull in comparison. And so I fell completely in love with this delightful book – allegedly for children, but really just as enjoyable for grown-ups – which taps into this nostalgic strain of British literature with its tongue firmly in cheek.

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Death on the Cherwell (1935): Mavis Doriel Hay

★★★

Sally Watson, Daphne Loveridge, Gwyneth Pane and Nina Harson meet on the roof of their Oxford college boathouse to swear foundation oaths for a new society, the Lode League. Their purpose is to stand against the pernicious influence of Persephone College’s hated Bursar and to do everything in their power to repay her for some of the misery she inflicts on the poor students. But, as they share out wire rings to mark themselves as members of this noble enterprise, something happens that they could never have expected. Down the river in the twilight comes a canoe, nosing its way along the bank; and in the canoe lies the figure of the Bursar herself; and the Bursar, when the girls manage to hook in the canoe with a punting pole and paddles, is definitely and unequivocally dead.

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