Tag Archives: Elizabeth Peters

Audiobook Love: The Mystery of Richard III

It’s been a busy week here (although I did manage to blog every day – yay!). I unexpectedly went from having no deadlines to several, all due today and the next two days, so I’ve spent most of my time working, and the rest of the time getting Dylan to dance class or Nutcracker rehearsals.

I only have one deadline left to work on, and I can already smell the freedom!

I haven’t had a chance to do much reading at all. Mainly I’ve been doing rereads in audio. When I’m doing mark-up on my indexing projects I can usually have an audiobook going, as long as it’s not too involving. Rereads work the best because I can miss bits here and there, and still know what’s going on. Most of the time, it’s like the story’s going on in the background and a part of me is able to keep up with it, even while I’m working.

Last month, I went through a relisten of the entire Harry Potter series this way. It was great! Made my deadlines feel much less tedious. Sometimes when I have too many deadlines going on, non-stop, I can get really close to burnout. Having an audiobook going on in the background really helps with that.

These are the audiobook relistens that got me through this past week:

Murders of Richard III

I’ve read almost all of Elizabeth Peter’s non-Amelia Peabody mysteries. (I’m rather behind on the Amelia Peabody mysteries, though.) I love her books – her main characters are wonderful, quirky, strong and independent women, and her books are just pure fun. Jacqueline Kirby is one of my favourite Peters characters, so this week I decided to do a relisten of The Murders of Richard III.

In a remote English manor house, modern admirers of the much-maligned King Richard III—one of Shakespeare’s most extraordinary villains—are gathered for a grand weekend of dress-up and make-believe murder. But the fun ends when the make-believe turns more sinister . . . and deadly. Jacqueline Kirby, an American librarian on hand for the festivities, suddenly finds herself in the center of strange, dark doings . . . and racing to untangle a murderous puzzle before history repeats itself in exceptionally bloody ways.

I always find the book blurbs for Peters’ books never seem able to capture the spirit of her books. The blurbs always try to make the books out to be sinister and thriller-ish, which does nothing to capture the pure fun and quirkiness of the actual story. Yes, there’s a mystery, but there’s always more, too. Jacqueline Kirby is an extremely confident and independent librarian (who, to give you an idea, in other books tries out romance writing for fun and profit) and she’s an amateur detective the reader can get herself solidly behind. The Jacqueline Kirby novels never fail to make me smile.

There’s a reference in The Murders of Richard III (who stands accused in the halls of time of the treacherous murders of his nephews, the famous Princes in the Tower, who stood between him and the throne) to Josephine Tey’s  Alan Grant novel about Richard III, so of course that was the next audiobook I turned to.

The Daughter of Time

Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time is another old favourite of mine.

Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, recuperating from a broken leg, becomes fascinated with a contemporary portrait of Richard III that bears no resemblance to the Wicked Uncle of history. Could such a sensitive, noble face actually belong to one of the world’s most heinous villains—a venomous hunchback who may have killed his brother’s children to make his crown secure? Or could Richard have been the victim, turned into a monster by the usurpers of England’s throne? Grant determines to find out once and for all, with the help of the British Museum and an American scholar, what kind of man Richard Plantagenet really was and who killed the Little Princes in the Tower.

One of the things on my fun-to-do list is to someday take the time to plunge into some of the research into the mystery of Richard III. Was he as villainous as the history books (and Shakespeare) painted him? Or is he a stellar example of how winners can rewrite history to reflect a perspective that’s more favourable to them?

Interestingly enough, earlier this month scientists revealed that DNA tests of old bones found under a parking lot in Leicester, England, are the bones of Richard III.

Richard_III_earliest_surviving_portraitPhoto credit: Wikipedia

And guess what? He wasn’t a hunchback. Nor was he brown-eyed and dark haired, as he is normally depicted in portraits. Scientists say he was likely blue-eyed and blond haired. Interesting, as often in history the “good guys” have been depicted as “fair” and the “bad guys” depicted as “dark”:

Royal portraiture was more symbolic rather than realistic: the surviving images of Richard, which come from the Tudor period, are well known for the narrowing of his eyes and lips and the raising of his shoulder, to paint him as the villain. With external defects considered to correlate with inner vices, Richard’s hair might have also been darkened from the 1520s onwards to depict what were perceived to be his “dark” deeds. When queens were portrayed as blonde and beautiful regardless of their actual looks, the opposite effect may have been employed as a metaphorical criticism of Henry VII’s adversary. (New Statesman)

Ahhh, history. A bit on the malleable side, perhaps?

And there were apparently some sexual hijinks going on that disrupted the royal family line somewhere along the way, too. The current British royals shouldn’t worry too much about their lineage, though. According to Dr. Anne Whitelock, in an interview with the BBC, “The Queen’s right to reign in based on the 1701 Act of Settlement that restricted succession to Protestant descendants of Sophia of Hanover. A medieval false paternity does not challenge the current Queen’s right to reign.”

Surburban Spies, A Dead Ex, Wicked Plants, Genius Kids, and The Mystery of the Dead Romance Writer

Wouldn’t you know it? Just as I’m really getting into my blogging rhythm again, my deadlines undergo a mini-explosion and now my January looks very much like my December and November.

In other words, lots and lots of work.

But, since I really don’t want to lose this new blogging rhythm of mine, here I am! And because, despite the deadlines, I’m still managing to sneak in a few pages here and there, I thought it was high time for an “I’m Currently Reading …” post.

Suburban Spies: Original Sin, by Beth McMullan


Synopsis from the publisher:

She has a license to kill. And carpool.

Seeing Lucy Hamilton, you would think she is just like any other suburban stay-at-home San Francisco mom. She takes her three-year-old son Theo to the beach, playground, and the zoo. She makes organic applesauce, folds laundry, and plays on the floor with Matchbox cars until her knees ache. What no one knows about Lucy, not even her adoring husband Will, is that for nine years she was known as Sally Sin, a spy for the USAWMD (United States Agency for Weapons of Mass Destruction). And that’s just the way Lucy wants to keep it – a secret.

Ian Blackford, a notorious illegal arms dealer and Lucy’s long-forgotten nemesis, returns to the USAWMD’s radar, and they are forced to call Lucy back to action to lure Blackford out into the open. As she races to unravel the mystery that surrounds Blackford’s return (and get dinner on the table), she realizes that the answers she needs lie in a past that she’s tried very hard to forget. In a race against time, Lucy must fight to save herself, her family – and, oh yes – the world.

I just started reading Original Sin: A Sally Sin Adventure, by Beth McMullan last night (ARC courtesy of NetGalley and Hyperion), and so far, it’s been a funny read. I haven’t yet gotten to the part where Lucy gets called back into action, but it’s definitely very promising.

A Dead Ex: Dead Ex, by Harley Jane Kozak


Synopsis from Amazon:

When David Zetrakis, the producer of a popular soap opera, is found shot to death the day after Christmas, Wollie Shelley finds herself caught up in the murder investigation. Zetrakis was one of the many Mr. Wrongs in Wollie’s career as a serial dater, and her friend Joey has emerged as the media’s prime suspect. A hot-tempered celebrity who had dated Zetrakis and was fired from his show some years ago, Joey has inherited a million-dollar Klimt from him. But Joey is not the only potential suspect. Zetrakis left lots of nice bequests to the cast and crew of the show. And as the dating correspondent on a talk show called SoapDirt, Wollie, who’s required to dine and dish with the stars, quickly discovers that the behind-the-scenes intrigues of television soaps are as highly charged as the on-screen shenanigans.

When Wollie is not trying to protect Joey from an onslaught of predatory reporters, she’s helping her brother make the transition from a mental hospital to a halfway house and negotiating her relationship with Simon, her FBI-agent boyfriend. Dead Ex is another full-out romp of a mystery sure to please Kozak’s many fans—and win her many new ones, too.

I discovered to my absolute delight last night that my library is now loaning out ebooks – and not only that, I’m able to upload them to my iPad and read them (not with the app that my library’s using, which isn’t optimized for the iPad, but with Bluefire Reader, which works with Adobe DRM’d ebooks, both the pdf and epub versions).

So I checked out Harley Jane Kozak’s Dead Ex, featuring Wollie Shelley. Back in 2009 I’d read and reviewed A Date You Can’t Refuse and absolutely loved it, even though it was a whirlwind read with a lot going on, and I normally dislike books that have too much going on. A Date You Can’t Refuse is actually the fourth book in the series; Dead Ex is the third.

I’ve only had a chance to quickly dip into this one, but I’m expecting a very good read out of it.

Those Wicked, Wicked Plants: Wicked Plants, by Amy Stewart


Synopsis from Amazon:

A tree that sheds poison daggers; a glistening red seed that stops the heart; a shrub that causes paralysis; a vine that strangles; and a leaf that triggered a war. In Wicked Plants, Stewart takes on over two hundred of Mother Nature’s most appalling creations. It’s an A to Z of plants that kill, maim, intoxicate, and otherwise offend. You’ll learn which plants to avoid (like exploding shrubs), which plants make themselves exceedingly unwelcome (like the vine that ate the South), and which ones have been killing for centuries (like the weed that killed Abraham Lincoln’s mother).

Menacing botanical illustrations and splendidly ghastly drawings create a fascinating portrait of the evildoers that may be lurking in your own backyard. Drawing on history, medicine, science, and legend, this compendium of bloodcurdling botany will entertain, alarm, and enlighten even the most intrepid gardeners and nature lovers.

Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities, by Amy Stewart, has been on my “I want that!” list since I first read about it on some book blogs early last year. Don’t ask me why I’ve been wanting to have it in my library so badly; I kept thinking, “What a fun read this will be! And it’s writing research, for when I need to slay a character with something deadly. No, really! Doesn’t it sound so good?”

I can hanker for something for only so long before I cave in to my acquisitional instincts. So last month, as I was ordering books left right and center for all the people on my gift list, I sneaked in an order for Wicked Plants just for me (you all do this, too, right?). I don’t intend to read this one through from cover to cover; I’m using it for inspiration.

So yes, my idea of fun is to open the book up at random and discover some atrocious plant which might one day come in handy in a story. I’m weird that way.

Genius Kids: The Atomic Weight of Secrets, by Eden Unger Bowditch

image Synopsis from the publisher:

In 1903, five truly brilliant young inventors, the children of the world’s most important scientists, went about their lives and their work as they always had.

But all that changed the day the men in black arrived.

From all across the world, they’ve been taken to mysterious Sole Manner Farm, and a beautiful but isolated schoolhouse in Dayton, Ohio, without a word from their parents as to why. Not even the wonderful schoolteacher they find there, Miss Brett, can explain it. She can give them love and care, but she can t give them answers.

Things only get stranger from there.

So far, I’ve read the first chapter of The Atomic Weight of Secrets, or The Arrival of the Mysterious Men in Black, by Eden Unger Bowditch (ARC courtesy of NetGalley and Bancroft Press); it hasn’t quite caught my imagination yet, making me want to speed through to the end, but the story is still intriguing enough for me to stick with it and see where the story will take me. And it really is quite an interesting premise, isn’t it?

The Mystery of the Dead Romance Writer: Naked Once More, by Elizabeth Peters

image Synopsis from the publisher:

She may be a best-selling author, but ex-librarian Jacqueline Kirby’s views on the publishing biz aren’t fit to print. In fact, she’s thinking of trading celebrity for serenity and a house far away from fiendish editors and demented fans, when her agent whispers the only words that could ever make her stay: Naked in the Ice.

Seven years ago, this blockbuster skyrocketed Kathleen Darcy to instant fame. Now, the author’s heirs are looking for a writer to pen the sequel. It’s an opportunity no novelist in her right mind would pass up, and there’s no doubting Jacqueline’s sanity…until she starts digging through the missing woman’s papers — and her past. Until she gets mixed up with Kathleen’s enigmatic lover. Until a series of nasty accidents convince her much too late that someone wants to bring Jacqueline’s story — and her life — to a premature end.

Of course, no period of heavy deadlines is bearable without a few good audiobooks on hand, for those moments before bed when I don’t want to look at another proof or the computer monitor, and I just want to relax before sleep.

So I’m rereading Elizabeth Peters’ Naked Once More in audio (Blackstone Audio, narrated by Grace Conlin); it’s been wonderful meeting up with Jacqueline Kirby again (my favorite Peters series character).

As always, this Peters mystery is liberally spiked with a lot of humor, and Jacqueline is as quirky and headstrong and wonderful as always. And Kirby’s take on the whole romance writing biz is just so funny!

So that’s what I’ve been up to reading-wise lately. What are your current reads?