What I Read in February

Friday, February 28, 2020

February has been kind of an eclectic month for me. I’ve been reading a lot of writing craft books and several history books. But I’ve still made time for some mysteries.

The Fourth Descendent
By Allison Maruska

When Michelle receives a call from a Richmond historian, she sees the chance for a much-needed adventure. All she has to do is find a century-old key.

Three others – a guitarist, an engineer, and a retiree – receive similar calls. Each family possesses a key to a four-lock safe found buried in a Virginia courthouse, though their connection is as mysterious as the safe itself. Their ancestors should not have interacted, had no apparent reason to bury the safe, and should not have disappeared thereafter.

Bearing their keys, Michelle and the other descendants converge in the courthouse basement and open the safe, revealing the truth about their ancestors - a truth stranger, more deadly, and potentially more world-changing than any of them could have imagined. Now it’s up to them to keep their discovery out of the wrong hands.

I love a good treasure-hunt mystery and, for the most part, this book fulfilled that classification. Unfortunately, the ending was a bit of a downer, and I was disappointed with the way certain elements turned out.

The Case of the Perjured Parrot
By Erle Stanley Gardner

One of the best plotted books in the series. I kept highlighting things in this book. I remember the ending being a bit of a let-down, which is why only 4 stars.

The Case of the Rolling Bones
By Erle Stanley Gardner

This book shows that all authors have their ups and downs. After loving The Case of the Perjured Parrot, I barely got through this one. As one Goodreads reviewer said “Convoluted plot, with too many characters and one of them with far too many aliases.”

The title of this book comes from a pair of loaded dice, but they don’t play an important part in the story. It’s almost as if Gardner needed a catchy title, then forced himself to work something into the plot to justify using it.

I found it very confusing to follow what was going on, and I wasn’t sure I really cared.

Surprisingly, the most enjoyable books I’ve been reading lately have been non-fiction, research for my historical mystery series. Even though I’m not finished with it yet, I have to recommend:

Other Powers: The Age of Suffrage, Spiritualism, and the Scandalous Victoria Woodhull
By Barbara Goldsmith

This is a fascinating story of the Victorian Age. As last week’s post alluded to, what we learned in school was only the tip of the iceberg. The women who led the the suffrage movement were complex human beings and often worked at cross-purposes to one another.

One aspect of this that I’d never known was how closely woman suffrage was tied to the fight to get black men the right to vote. Some wanted the two issues to be addressed in one amendment. Others thought it would be wiser to separate them, to assure the newly-freed black men the vote, and then attack the second issue. You already know which side won that argument.

Despite the title, Victoria Woodhull isn’t the focus of the story, at least not as far as I’ve read at this point. Yes, she’s mentioned, but I haven’t gotten to the parts I bought the book for yet: her career as a publisher and her run for president.

She wasn’t the only suffragette to run for office. Surprisingly, while it wasn’t legal for women to vote, there was nothing preventing them running for office. I don’t remember any of them winning.

None of this was covered in the history classes I took. I wonder if things have changed very much. If you have school-aged children, I’d be interested in hearing about history classes today.

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