Wednesday, January 6, 2010


31 Bond Street
by Ellen Horan

Adult Historical Mystery

Pub date: April 2010

I wasn't sure what to expect from this: it was part mystery, part historical fiction, and part courtroom drama. The action shifted back and forth between Henry Clinton, a defense attorney who leaves his comfortable partnership to take on a controversial murder case; and Emma Cunningham, the suspected murderer, who tells her story piece by piece. Emma, a widowed mother of two, is the housekeeper for Dr. Harvey Burdell. When he is found brutally murdered, all evidence points to her. Henry Clinton is the only lawyer brave enough--or foolish enough--to represent the doomed woman. One thing I liked about this book was that I didn't know if Emma was guilty, even right up until the end. I also love the way the novel dealt with nineteenth-century New York: the landscape, the population, the legal system, society, women's roles, slavery, etc. I especially liked the character of Henry Clinton's wife--she has an extremely sharp legal mind but her station doesn't permit her to work in the field.

Drake's Bay
by T.A. Roberts
Adult Mystery

Pub date April 2010

T.A. Roberts actually dropped this book off to me at work last week. He had read some of my reviews and delivered his book right into my hands! I felt famous for about a minute and a half. I took it right home and read it.

I read a lot of mysteries of this type: a lost manuscript of some sort, a professor trying to solve a puzzle, other (sometimes evil) professors racing the main character to find the truth. It's a genre that Dan Brown made popular, but there are a lot of great books that have been published as a result of The da Vinci Code's success. This one distinguishes itself from the pack, however, in several ways. First of all, there is a TON of sailing detail in the book. The protagonist, Ethan Storey, lives on a boat and is trying to find the lost travel logs of Sir Francis Drake before a mysterious antagonist destroys all the evidence (and people) involved. Secondly, there's a lot of California history and geography that I found really interesting. This book is great for people who live in the Bay Area, because so much is familiar and yet there's a lot to learn. I also appreciated that Dr. Storey teaches at SF State, where I'm currently a graduate student. : ) The sometimes-strained partnership between State and UC Berkeley is given some attention in the novel, which I enjoyed.

I did find myself wishing that there was more background on Francis Drake. He's a fascinating figure but I don't know much about him, especially his search for the Northwest Passage, which he called the Strait of Anian. All in all, a good mystery.

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