If I could magically become any literary heroine, I would like to be Amelia Peabody. She is smart, independent, witty, and spunky. Elizabeth Peters’ series consists of twenty books spanning thirty-nine years from 1884 to 1923. The series follows the adventures of the unconventional Egyptologist Amelia Peabody Emerson and an ever increasing cast of family, friends, and other characters. All the books blend together mystery, history, romance, and a satire of Victorian-era adventure novels. Nearly all the books are set in Egypt, only two installments take place outside of Egypt. What I love about this series is the progression of the characterization. Peters matures the characters throughout the series and this makes each installment a little different. However, since this is a long series, some of the books drag and barely progress the overarching narrative. The best part of this series is the interaction between Amelia and her husband, Emerson. Almost all of their interactions are the highlights of each book. Though none of them top the scene where Amelia and Emerson first meet. I also enjoyed this series because I am incredibly interested in Ancient Egypt and love the historical facts interwoven into the narrative.
This charming historical mystery series follows the adventures of Thomas and Charlotte Pitt, a police inspector and wife in Victorian England. These books are excellent mysterious and offer insight into Victorian society. The narratives examine issues of the times: prostitution, drug abuse, rape, incest, anti-Semitism, the rigid social class, and child exploitation. Perry allows the reader to experience the whole range of Victorian society by including characters from the lowest to the highest ranks. Inspector Thomas Pitt is the son of a gamekeeper but was given an education by the owner of the estate. Hence, Thomas has the bearing of a gentleman but works as a policeman. Charlotte Ellison is the middle daughter of a middle-class family. When a series of murder occurs on her street, Charlotte and Thomas meet. And the rest of the series explores their life together and their efforts to solve mysterious crimes in London. Each of the installments in the series present more than just a mystery, they also give a fully fleshed out portrait of Victorian Society. The interaction between Charlotte, Thomas, and the rest of the characters is fantastic. Though I would not recommend reading the books one immediately after the other. Sometimes there can be too much of a good thing.
I was first introduced to Miss Marple via the Masterpiece Theatre television series. After watching nearly all of the television episodes, I decided to tackle the books. While the televised series will always be nostalgic, I vastly prefer the books. There is just something intoxicating about watching a mystery unfold one page at a time. No matter how fantastic, a television series just cannot compete. Anyways, Miss Marple is featured in about 20 novellas and 13 novels set in the mid-1930s. Miss Jane Marple is an elderly spinster who lives in the village of St. Mary Mead and is a consulting detective for fun. Christie based Marple off of one of her relatives; either her step-grandmother or aunt. The series is perfect because the premise is hilarious. No one every suspects the little old lady as being a world class detective who always gets the villain. However, unlike Hercule Poirot, the Marple stories are not overly complicated. Sometimes the suspense is missing. But Christie knew how to spin a mystery tale and keeps the reader guessing until the end. Though that is probably because she never revealed key pieces of information until the last couple of pages. It is simply impossibly to read ahead in a Christie novel and have the ending make sense.
These books are also marketed as The Eagle of the Ninth Series. I stumbled upon this series one summer when I spent a couple of days at my aunt’s house. The Dolphin Ring Cycle Series was the only set of books on my cousin’s shelf that seemed vaguely appealing. So I started the first book and was hooked after the second chapter. I finished the entire series in three days. These books cover about nine hundred and thirty seven years, from 133 AD to 1070 AD. Each book deals with the trials and tribulations of Marcus Flavius Aquila and his descendants. Sutcliff did not write the books as a series; instead the main character of each book is linked via the family’s dolphin ring. The books can be read out-of-order, but the narrative flows better if the stories are read chronologically. Times were tough when Rome ruled the known world and Sutcliff perfectly captures this society in her writing. Her stories really pull you into this war filled world of ruthless warriors and the societal consequences of conquering Britain. The Eagle of the Ninth is probably my favorite book out of this series, Marcus is a compelling hero. But all the installments are enjoyable and complex enough to be enjoyed by any serious reader, not just young adults.
This series is set in nineteenth-century Scotland and follows four generations of the Duncan Family. It is actually divided into two trilogies: The Stonewycke Trilogy and The Stonewycke Legacy. I love this series because it is gorgeously written and all the characters are well developed. The first trilogy deals with the rebellious Maggie Duncan and her struggle to be a dutiful daughter while despising her father’s unending quest for money and power. And the second trilogy deals with her granddaughter’s family. Phillips and Pella are both well-established Christian authors, so there is a strong religious message interwoven throughout the narrative. However, this in no way detracts from the story. If anything, it adds another layer to the complexity of both the narrative and the characters. Because this is a multi-generational story, all the characters are matured and it is interesting to see the characters in different phases of life. Also, all the main characters are relatable in one sense or another. And the story is set in Scotland, which is always a bonus. In case it is not obvious by now, I have a weakness for stories about the United Kingdom and King Arthur. Anyways, I think Stonewycke is an excellent story and I enjoy the multi-generational aspect. The one downside is that the books are relatively short and this detracts from the narrative depth. And the books are now out-of-print; so it could be difficult to obtain a copy.
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