Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Case of the Dotty Dowager: Cathy Ace


Summary from Goodreads:
Meet the Women of the WISE Enquiries Agency. The first in a new series.
Henry Twyst, eighteenth Duke of Chellingworth, is convinced his mother is losing her marbles. She claims to have seen a corpse on the dining-room floor, but all she has to prove it is a bloodied bobble hat.

Worried enough to retain the women of the WISE Enquiries Agency one is Welsh, one Irish, one Scottish and one English. Henry wants the strange matter explained away. But the truth of what happened at the Chellingworth Estate, set in the rolling Welsh countryside near the quaint village of Anwen by Wye, is more complex, dangerous, and deadly, than anyone could have foreseen.
I should start this review by saying that I enjoyed reading this book a lot and I will be continuing on with the series. It took me a while to get into it, so I think I need to say that up front.

I initially thought this book was going to be too cozy for me. It really depends on how you define "cozy" of course. The protagonists are four women who have banded together to form the WISE Women Enquiries Agency. They chose this name because they hail from different areas in the UK. Carol is from Wales, Christine is from Ireland, Mavis is from Scotland, and Annie is from England. They all now live and work out of London. For this case, Carol, the computer wizard, stays in London to coordinate the investigations, and the other three women go to Wales to investigate.

I would say it took me close to half of the book before I was hooked. Then, boom, I was engrossed in the story and the characters. It may be that the story seemed slow at first to me because the author had to introduce the four main characters and their relationships and that slowed down the pace for me.

I wasn't the only reader who had this problem (see this review from the Galesburg Public Library) and I am pointing this out so that readers will keep reading... It gets really interesting in the second half.

I liked the portrayal of the characters, primary and secondary. Some of them felt like stereotypes in the beginning, and later were fleshed out and seemed more realistic and believable. I was quite fond of some of the secondary characters and most of them turned out to be more than their initial portrayal implied.

This article at Publisher's Weekly confirms that the series is continuing:
The series—for which Ace has already written the second book, The Case of the Missing Morris Dancer (coming out next year), and sketched out the third—is character driven first and foremost and offers a “fascinating look at the way these women from very different backgrounds can work together, not so much despite their differences but because of their differences.”
See these reviews:
Cathy Ace has also written a six books series starring a Welsh-Canadian professor Cait Morgan. Like the protagonist of that first series, Cathy is Welsh-Canadian, born and raised in Swansea, South Wales, and now a Canadian citizen.

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Publisher:   Severn House, 2015
Length:      244 pages
Format:      e-book
Series:       A WISE Enquiries Agency Mystery, #1
Setting:      UK
Genre:        Mystery
Source:      Provided by the publisher for review.


16 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you found this worth the perseverance, Tracy. I like Cathy Ace's work, so I admit I'm biased. Still, nice to know you enjoyed this.

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    1. I did enjoy it and I will be trying the Cait Morgan series also, Margot. I thought I remembered that you had read some of that series.

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  2. Hmmm, interesting pick: I haven't read any Ace yet.

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    1. Rebecca, I was primarily motivated to read this because she is a Canadian author. Even though it was not set in Canada, which I prefer. I ended up very pleased that I had picked it, because on the surface, it did not seem like my type of book. Still may not be for everybody, and it is on the cozy side.

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  3. Sounds like a must read, Tracy!

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    1. I think I can safely say you would enjoy it, Peggy.

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  4. Hmm, I think the title and cover are enough to put me off. Glad you enjoyed it, but I won't be joining you on this journey I'm afraid.

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    1. Oh well, Col, I did not think you would be swayed by my review.

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    2. Nothing personal! I kind of think with the English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish characters, it seems a bit too contrived for me.

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    3. I really just meant it isn't your kind of book. I agree that the group of women from four different areas is somewhat contrived, and there are other things like that too... but I enjoyed it and those items were not problems for me... so I consider it a good read.

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  5. Thanks for bringing this writer to our attention, Tracy. I like the title. The Kindle Edition of this book to pre-order is $13.99. What interest I had disappeared after seeing that price.

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    1. I have to agree with you, Keishon. I would not pay that much for a Kindle book. I rarely pay over $2.99 for books on the Kindle. But I am glad you liked the title. Initially I did not like the title, but it grew on me.

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  6. OK, that does sound interesting, and that's a very helpful warning about sticking with it!

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    1. It is interesting, Moira. Maybe too cozy for some, but I found it very entertaining once I got into it.

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  7. Tracy, books often take time to grow on me but they usually do by the time I am into the second half. I like the title and the cover of this novel; it kind of reminds me of "Downton Abbey."

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    1. That estate on the book cover is really impressive, Prashant. I don't think I realized quite how huge it was when I was reading the book. This is a fun book.

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