As part of my Summer Seasonal Challenge on Goodreads, I have been reading some books that have been on my bookshelf for quite a while. All of them have something in common–victims, villains, and some unusual settings. Ice Blue by Anne Stuart delves into the Japanese culture and more particularly the doomsday cult that is likened to the cult behind the Tokyo sarin gas subway attacks, Eggescutive Orders — a cozy — goes behind the scenes to the White House kitchen, Death in Devil’s Acre inhabits the world of Victorian English whorehouses and other places of disrepute, while the rural village setting of The Andoyne Necklace traverses two worlds–the ordinary and the horror-filled.
If you want fast paced, in your face killings with a subtle romance overlay from either the male or female perspective and that tends toward the erotic, Ice Blue is for you. If you want more of the psychological novel, with the killing of people happening off stage (think Agatha Christie style where the reader finds the body afterwards) and the barest hint of romance, The Andoyne Necklace is for you. Death in Devil’s Acre is similar but the deaths are more gruesome than in any except Ice Blue and the subject matter (sexual practices involving prostitutes of all persuasions and ages) may be revolting to the more tender readers. Eggesecutive Orders would merit a PG rating; t it is a fast read that keeps the readers’ interest — the killings occur off stage and are not overly gruesome. All but Ice Blue revolve around ascertaining the identity of the killer.
Culture plays a large part in Ice Blue — differences between American and Japanese culture as well as the differences within the Japanese culture. The latter, a fascinating subject, is where Anne Stuart could have introduced more without killing the pace of the story. Although set in a bygone era, Death in Devil’s Acre is an excellent example of the incorporation of Victorian societal practices, including its patriarchal hierarchy and all of its limitations. The Andoyne Necklace accomplishes the same in a more limited way and Eggecutive Orders with its focus on the inner workings of the White House appropriately focuses on the interaction between the kitchen staff and others who work in the White House or otherwise serve or visit the President.
The Anodyne Necklace, Death in Devil’s Acre, and to a lesser extent, Eggesecutive Orders are mysteries laid out on a detective-type of character (or a law enforcement agency) and helper working to solve the crimes. In the last two, the helper is not wanted and is actively discouraged by the investigating agency. Of course the helper “continues” to help. They can’t help themselves. The Anodyne Necklace has many helpers though the author introduces one who is supposed to be the main one, but who did not seem to be that helpful until the very end of the story. Ice Blue operates outside the traditional sphere of detective/agency working to solve a crime. There is a crime about to happen by a more malevolent force than the force that is attempting to stop the evil.
In order of enjoyment, my rankings would be: Ice Blue, Death in Devil’s Acre, The Anodyne Necklace, and Eggesecutive Orders.