Set in southern Poland at the turn of the century in 1890, Mrs. Mohr Goes Missing , is the first book in a new series by Maryla Szymiczkowa, a pseudonym for two Polish authors. The book offers a unique look at the culture, lifestyle and social climbing of the upper class society in Cracow, which comes alive through our heroine, Zofia Turbotynska. Zofia is the wife of a university medical professor who is looking to strengthen (and elevate) her social status with a variety of charitable endeavors but finds her true calling as a newly minted sleuth.
Her favorite organization of the moment, Helcel House, is a retirement home run by a bevy of nuns who she finds in panic one morning upon the disappearance of an elderly resident, Mrs. Mohr. Mrs. Mohr is finally located dead in an attic room that would be impossible for her to reach in her immobile condition. Zofia starts her own investigation after the police rule the death an accident. Soon thereafter, another resident of Helcel House goes missing and then a third disappears and Zofia is confident that someone is targeting the elderly residents of the home. Investigating the cases with only her cook and one inquisitive nun in her confidence, Zofia is able to solve the complex case near the end of the book while gathering all the parties together at the Helcel House for an unveiling of the real killer.
Its glimpse into the changing landscape of Poland is what initially caught my attention. As mysteries are my genre of choice, the cultural context and hierarchy of their society was fascinating as well. The author provides a nice summary at the beginning of the book that details the complex history of Poland during the 1800s, which includes being partitioned by the empires of Prussia, Russia and Austria. If you like the feel of a cozy mystery with a rich historical glimpse into the past, Mrs. Mohr Goes Missing is a great choice.
We meet amateur sleuth and former World War I nurse, Kate Shackleton a few years after the conclusion of the war in her small village of Bridgestead, England in the first book of the Kate Shackleton Mystery series, Dying in the Wool by Frances Brody. Kate is still reeling from her husband being declared missing in the war but, at the same time, continues to hold out hope that he is alive. As a nurse in the war, Kate has picked up the skills of a sleuth in helping a few fellow nurses find missing loved ones. She has gained quite the reputation as a novice detective and based on her reputation one fellow nurse, Tabitha Braithwaite, calls on Kate for a mystery of her own.
Tabitha is engaged to be married within weeks and her wish before she walks down the aisle is to find her father, Joshua Braithwaite, who mysteriously disappeared and no trace of him was ever found. Was Mr. Braithwaite, the owner and operator of a textile mill, a victim of someone with a grudge, did he stage his own disappearance or is the truth something more sinister? Kate has little time to dig to the bottom of the mystery before Tabitha’s wedding day. She meets a cast of characters in the village, including many mill workers who may have a grudge against the powerful mill owner and are potential suspects. Kate, along with Sykes, a former detective who she hires as an employee, get closer and closer to finding the truth with potential murderous results. Told in alternative chapters merging past and present, Dying in the Wool gives the reader a glimpse into British society and culture in the early 1920s within a cozy mystery.
One of the most unique aspects of this mystery is the detail that Brody adds to the novel regarding the British textile mill industry immediately following WWI. It is clear she has done her research, giving the reader a sense of the intricacies of how this industry was run. Readers of Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series may want to consider starting this series (the eleventh book in the series came out in November). I’m already nearly done the second book, A Medal for Murder, and am looking forward to the third!
An Act of Villainy is the fifth book in the delightful Armory Ames Mystery series written by librarian Ashley Weaver. The series of mysteries jet-sets across Europe in the 1930s with amateur sleuths Armory Ames and her husband, Milo. In this installment, Armory and Milo find themselves back at home in London and during a night on the town, the couple runs into old friend and playwright Gerald Holloway.
Holloway invites Armory and Milo to a dress rehearsal of his latest play and the couple readily accepts the chance to be among the first to see the production. It is only when they arrive at the theater do they realize that Holloway has cast his mistress, Flora Bell, in the leading role. The duo quickly find out the real reason for the invitation to the dress rehearsal is that Ms. Bell has been receiving threatening notes slipped under her dressing room door. The anonymous author has detailed her demise and Holloway needs their help, imploring Armory and Milo to investigate and find out who is threatening his lady-love. Time is of the essence when the threats increase and Flora Bell’s life could be in danger. It is clear that many others have motive to cause harm to the rising starlet and Armory and Milo are bound and determined to get to the bottom of the mystery before opening night.
Ashley Weaver has created two clever and enchanting characters, whose banter with each other has the ability to sting. I have enjoyed the complicated relationship between Armory and Milo and their growth and development throughout the books from newlyweds to established couple and, at times, everything in between. Weaver brings Armory to life with her stylish wardrobe, wealthy hobbies and pampered lifestyle. If you are a fan of cozy, traditional mysteries with two adventurous personalities, try the Armory Ames Mystery Series!