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On a cold February night in Regency London, a dark curtain falls on the Sans Pareil Theatre following the death of April Clare, a promising young actress, whose body is found in mysterious circumstances. Detective Stephen Lavender and his dependable deputy, Constable Woods, quickly discover that nothing is quite as it seems. As successive mysteries unfold, they soon realise On a cold February night in Regency London, a dark curtain falls on the Sans Pareil Theatre following the death of April Clare, a promising young actress, whose body is found in mysterious circumstances. Detective Stephen Lavender and his dependable deputy, Constable Woods, quickly discover that nothing is quite as it seems. As successive mysteries unfold, they soon realise that it is not only the actors from the Sans Pareil who are playing a part. With the Napoleonic War looming dangerously across the Channel, this is a time of suspicion and treachery. Following the clues from the seedy back streets of Covent Garden up through the echelons of society, Lavender and Woods begin to fear that the case is much bigger than they’d dared imagine—and worse, that they are at risk of becoming mere players in a master criminal’s shadowy drama. It will take all of Lavender’s skill and wit, and help from the beautiful Magdalena, to bring the mystery of the Sans Pareil Theatre to a dramatic conclusion in the final act.


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On a cold February night in Regency London, a dark curtain falls on the Sans Pareil Theatre following the death of April Clare, a promising young actress, whose body is found in mysterious circumstances. Detective Stephen Lavender and his dependable deputy, Constable Woods, quickly discover that nothing is quite as it seems. As successive mysteries unfold, they soon realise On a cold February night in Regency London, a dark curtain falls on the Sans Pareil Theatre following the death of April Clare, a promising young actress, whose body is found in mysterious circumstances. Detective Stephen Lavender and his dependable deputy, Constable Woods, quickly discover that nothing is quite as it seems. As successive mysteries unfold, they soon realise that it is not only the actors from the Sans Pareil who are playing a part. With the Napoleonic War looming dangerously across the Channel, this is a time of suspicion and treachery. Following the clues from the seedy back streets of Covent Garden up through the echelons of society, Lavender and Woods begin to fear that the case is much bigger than they’d dared imagine—and worse, that they are at risk of becoming mere players in a master criminal’s shadowy drama. It will take all of Lavender’s skill and wit, and help from the beautiful Magdalena, to bring the mystery of the Sans Pareil Theatre to a dramatic conclusion in the final act.

30 review for The Sans Pareil Mystery

  1. 4 out of 5

    ✨Susan✨

    A good cozy that brings my mind back to Nancey Drew/Hardy Boys type mysteries but with an older detective. A fast moving plot and a great narration kept me entertained throughout.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    I enjoyed the first book in the series and when I saw the rest of the series on kindle daily deal, I was more than happy to buy the rest of the series to date. This one I actually preferred to the first one. Set in London, where I’ve always lived, I was fascinated by the Regency version of a bawdy neighbourhood, around Covent Garden and Theatre land. I love learning history through historical fiction and in this book I learned more about how the Spanish were affected and treated during the Napole I enjoyed the first book in the series and when I saw the rest of the series on kindle daily deal, I was more than happy to buy the rest of the series to date. This one I actually preferred to the first one. Set in London, where I’ve always lived, I was fascinated by the Regency version of a bawdy neighbourhood, around Covent Garden and Theatre land. I love learning history through historical fiction and in this book I learned more about how the Spanish were affected and treated during the Napoleonic wars. This was new for me. I liked the development in the relationship between Magdalena and Stephen Lavender: in the first book Lavender seemed to be slavering over Magdalena. In this book, feelings have settled down a bit! We learn more about Lavender’s family and history and his partner Wood’s home life too. A pretty good read. Recommended. I also enjoy the Sebastian St. Cyr series, another Regency hf mystery series, for those with an interest.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tracey

    I made 126 notes and highlights on this book in Kindle. That's either an excellent sign … or a really, really bad one. I sincerely wish I had paid more attention to the author's and main character's names before requesting this from Netgalley, because I read a free novella by Charlton featuring Detective Lavender some time ago. I loathed it. I didn't believe a word of it, and I never would have chosen another in the series; it was with a sinking feeling that I began to recognize all the things I I made 126 notes and highlights on this book in Kindle. That's either an excellent sign … or a really, really bad one. I sincerely wish I had paid more attention to the author's and main character's names before requesting this from Netgalley, because I read a free novella by Charlton featuring Detective Lavender some time ago. I loathed it. I didn't believe a word of it, and I never would have chosen another in the series; it was with a sinking feeling that I began to recognize all the things I disliked in the writing and characterization, and with a sigh that I decided to keep reading. I honestly don't know why I bothered to finish; duty, I suppose. Willingness to give a second chance. That'll teach me. Positive things … positive things … Oh! I apparently learned why a theatre green room is (was) a green room: "the soft green interior walls, which according to tradition, helped to rest the cast’s eyes after the glare of candlelight on the stage." And … um … nope. That's it. The hero of the book is Steven Lavender, a young rising star detective whose youth and whatnot I had to keep reminding myself of; he is written as a stuffy and irritating pedant. It was jarring to read that his age was very early thirties. He is cardboard. He is clandestinely seeing a Spanish refugee who is feisty and spicy and all sorts of other clichés. The way she was written, I didn't trust her as far as I could throw her (which, with her being a fictional character and all, isn't far), and I found myself increasingly uncomfortable with the increasingly romance-novel relationship between the two of them. I'll come back to that. This woman hides part of her past from Lavender until the bitter end, and it's one of the silliest examples of a silly trope I've ever seen. The part she wants to hide is not what I found detestable; she's worried about the fact that she shot a couple of French soldiers who would like as not have killed and/or raped her. I felt she ought to be more ashamed of the fact that she abandoned a couple of elderly servants who fought for her. And her husband "‘never forgave me for abandoning his parents.’" My comment: "Good for him." At several points she talks about returning to Spain; whether this was honest or something meant to elicit a reaction is debatable. She has her son in an expensive school, and seems to only suddenly have the realization that she'll have to pay the fees before too long, which will be a challenge without any income. She settles in what she sees as graceful poverty into a hovel, and seems not to realize that cleaning – or having her servant clean – the place might make it less of a hovel; it's described as being cobwebby. "…She preferred to believe that she lived in simplicity rather than squalor." I believe that would be called "delusional". The third wheel in the book is Constable Woods, of a mounted police unit, whom Lavender keeps co-opting for his own investigations, duties be damned. Did London have an equestrian police force in this period? It's a bit irrelevant, really, since Woods never does his job as part of said. A superior gripes about it, but no changes are made. Woods is all of the clichés of 19th century police constablehood, rather jolly and earthy, a combination of unschooled ignorance and salt of the earth wisdom. Of course Lavender finds him indispensable. The narrative tells us that the two of them are besties – another thing I could not believe in. It is funny, though, that mounted cop thing. Woods and Lavender spend a fair amount of the book galloping hither and yon across London, and it seemed strange. "I propose that we saddle up and go straight to Wandsworth", says Lavender, and it struck me that I never see people riding about the streets of nineteenth century London; they always take a cab. It's a symptom of my dislike of the book that I didn't believe in it. With another author I might never have questioned the hero hopping on a horse and heading off. The writing … Oh, I don't know. The nuts and bolts were serviceable. But … Faced with a corpse that shows no signs of violence, Woods proclaims, ‘It must have been poison …There’s no other way. That’s how the bastards murdered her.’ What about suffocation? Someone scampers about in too-large shoes, and is all uncomfortable; however, the person she swapped shoes with never seems to complain about walking in shoes two sizes too small. I've worn shoes that were about half a size too small ("They'll stretch"), and it was excruciating after about ten minutes. As so often happens, Captain Obvious pays a visit or two: "The room had been ransacked: drawers pulled out, papers thrown everywhere and the wardrobe emptied. It is possible that whoever broke in was looking for something." Ya think? Ah, and that romance. One note I made, at the mention of "Magdalena’s curvaceous body", was "like the corpse", which took me a moment to decipher. Then I remembered: the murder victim was a lovely young woman, whose curvaceous body our intrepid heroes made note of, rather ashamedly. The language of the "romantic" scenes was nauseating – purple, overheated, out of character, out of place. Unbelievable. Part of the impenetrability of the book is the repetition. location 760: ‘Did she have a sweetheart, or a lover?’ Lavender asked. location 764: ‘Did she have a sweetheart, or a lover?’ Lavender asked again. Fine, he had to repeat the question. Did it have to be completely identical? The setting of the theatre – one thing which was a draw for me; I love other mysteries based around the theatre – was, for this author, an odd excuse to over-exercise the word "strutting". I don't know if she has a fixation on "a poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage", but good … grief. (Ow.) Strutting across the stage in men’s clothing" and "famous for strutting across the stage in men’s clothing" and "wear a pair of breeches and strut across a stage" and so on. It's absurd. Oh, look – there's another one: "the actors and actresses strutted across the stage". That's pretty bad. Everyone's speech patterns feel off. Lavender reads like he's supposed to be Sherlock Lite, socially inept in a clueless and puzzled manner. He's irritating. The members of the working class who appear combine stereotypical dropped g's and added h's and so on with incredibly stilted passages. Like "Prostitutes wantonly ply their trade in the Close, outside on the street and inside the rooms." A prostitute solicits Woods – "Martha and I can do you the beast with the two backs for an extra shillin’"… Wouldn't that be three backs? Just sayin'. "You’re debauched – the bleedin’ lot of you!" Really?? And everyone seems to say "Good grief". It's enough to put one off Charlie Brown. Those who don't exclaim "Good grief!" cry out "Gawd’s teeth!" Someone exclaims something (not "good grief", this time) in a whisper. "Several red curls were now plastered to the side of her face with wet tears." How? "…Wiped the greasy gravy from his mouth with the sodden handkerchief he had retrieved from Mrs Willoughby." Ew. A major plot point is that someone is bald when he should have hair – even though last time I checked it's not that unheard of for a man to shave his head. (And if hair was a major clue, it ought to have been more prominently mentioned earlier.) The real evidence comes quite a bit later. And, oh, the comma abuse. I kept reminding myself that this was an ARC, but the kind of comma misuse in this book is as much bad writing as lack of editing. I said I would come back to the romance element, and I'm afraid that's where I'm going now. As I think I've made pretty obvious, I didn't like Lavender, and I found Magdalena shifty and too secretive to make a relationship with her palatable, even with someone I didn't like. To make matters worse, the writing in the love scenes was purely nauseating. ‘Is that what I am to you, Stephen?’ she yelled. ‘A lewd squeeze in a darkened room? A bit of fun?' The suggestion he makes more than halfway through the book certainly makes it seem rather that way. It was out of character, it was all kinds of inappropriate, and I was shocked at both the proposition and the fact that the author wrote it in. It made no sense in the circumstances. Worst of all, I called a major plot element well before it was revealed. I've said a hundred times that if I can predict how a mystery is going to go – I, the worst guesser in the known universe, the anti-Holmes – then the author has done something terribly wrong. Then the whole thing devolves into the world's dumbest ever spy novel … By which I mean the spies are the dumbest and the spy techniques are the dumbest and the top-secret data being fought for is the dumbest … It was only when someone evades the following dynamic duo of Lavender and Woods by the single most asinine maneuver I have ever had the misfortune to read that I started using profanity in my Kindle notes. Why did I give this two stars to start with? I guessed most of the book's mystery, but this I can't figure it out. I think I was trying to be nice. I think I'd do better to be honest. The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Leni Iversen

    I'm not going to read the rest of this series. The mysteries are just too easy to solve, there are no surprises. And while I rather like the characters, they are so anachronistic. I keep having to remind myself that the story is set in 1809 and not 1909. It's a shame, as the author has clearly put in a lot of research as to buildings and people and events, but she utterly fails capture the feel of the era. This is why I don't read much historical fiction, especially historical fiction set in the I'm not going to read the rest of this series. The mysteries are just too easy to solve, there are no surprises. And while I rather like the characters, they are so anachronistic. I keep having to remind myself that the story is set in 1809 and not 1909. It's a shame, as the author has clearly put in a lot of research as to buildings and people and events, but she utterly fails capture the feel of the era. This is why I don't read much historical fiction, especially historical fiction set in the Regency era or Victorian times. I love 19th Century literature and should just stick to the real deal.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ali

    Received from Netgalley. London; February 1810 and the body of a young actress is found in an abandoned building in the process of being demolished. The young woman, a baron’s daughter, worked at the Sans Pareil theatre, (now called the Adelphi) a theatre unusually run by a woman. That this theatre was (and still is) a real place and that it was run by a real historical figure, adds a nice little flavour of authenticity to this story. In fact I thought many of the historical details seemed very r Received from Netgalley. London; February 1810 and the body of a young actress is found in an abandoned building in the process of being demolished. The young woman, a baron’s daughter, worked at the Sans Pareil theatre, (now called the Adelphi) a theatre unusually run by a woman. That this theatre was (and still is) a real place and that it was run by a real historical figure, adds a nice little flavour of authenticity to this story. In fact I thought many of the historical details seemed very realistic, and Kate Charlton does a really good job at bringing this fascinating period to life. For me as a reader, I enjoy very much being swept up by a period, in reading The Sans Pareil Mystery the modern world frequently melted away from me as I became immersed in the cold, murky gas lit world of Regency London Full review: https://heavenali.wordpress.com/2015/...

  6. 5 out of 5

    megan

    Great female character building. Love the addition of real actresses.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Leah

    The Regency world in a parallel universe... Regency London 1810: Bow Street detective Stephen Lavender and his colleague Constable Ned Woods are called to a derelict building about to be demolished. A neighbour insists there's a woman in the building, but when Lavender's men search it, they find no one. The demolition proceeds and when the wall falls down, the corpse of a beautiful young woman is revealed beneath the floorboards. It's not long until she is recognised as one of the actresses at th The Regency world in a parallel universe... Regency London 1810: Bow Street detective Stephen Lavender and his colleague Constable Ned Woods are called to a derelict building about to be demolished. A neighbour insists there's a woman in the building, but when Lavender's men search it, they find no one. The demolition proceeds and when the wall falls down, the corpse of a beautiful young woman is revealed beneath the floorboards. It's not long until she is recognised as one of the actresses at the Sans Pareil theatre... This is a light-hearted romp, as much a romance novel as a crime novel really. In the beginning it looks as though April Divine has been murdered during a botched attempt to kidnap her and hold her for ransom, but gradually the plot widens out to take in aspects of the ongoing Napoleonic Wars with spy rings and secret documents a-plenty. The plotting is undoubtedly the best bit of the book, though it's not a mystery as such – the reader learns and understands what's going on at the same time as the detectives. I look for a couple of things in historical crime fiction. Firstly, the detection element must be in line with the time it's set in – no amazing foresight to 20th century science, for instance. Secondly, the time period must feel right – the characters should either fit in to the contemporary rules of society or they should be obviously misfits and seen as such by the other characters. Sadly this book fails fairly spectacularly on both of these requirements. I stuck it out for about 70% and then couldn't take any more, so skipped ahead to the end... I was interested enough in the plot to want to know who the baddies were, hence my generous 1½-star rating, rounded up. The whole thing around the Bow Street runners felt completely inauthentic somehow. It's not something I know anything much about, especially in this period, but I couldn't believe in Lavender's character. He is highly intelligent and well educated, mixing with the aristocracy on terms of near equality, and yet working as a policeman in 1810? And also mixing socially with the constables who are clearly way down the social ladder? Even the use of the word “detective” feels all wrong for that period. Dickens was still hesitant enough to be using quotation marks around the word decades later than this period, long after Bow Street had given way to Scotland Yard. The Oxford Dictionary dates it to mid-19th century. That piece of in-depth research took me roughly 30 seconds. The female lead is Dona Magdalena, a Spanish lady who has fled the war and is living in near-penury in a run-down part of London. Despite her aristocratic background, she is the love interest for Lavender. This is just so wrong for the class-ridden British society of the time. She too mixes with both nobs and the hoi-polloi – I'm guessing the book must have been set in a parallel universe, because it simply couldn't have happened in this one. The book is stuffed full of anachronisms in manner, behaviour and speech. The aristocratic women are all feisty, independent types out there in the world earning their own living. The amount of kissing and canoodling that goes on would have shocked Ms Austen's heroines into fits of the vapours, and I get the impression that more than kissing went on during the bit I skipped. My question is – why set something in a time period and then have the characters all be 21st century people? Surely the point of historical settings is to show us how different society was, not to pretend it's the same but have them in horse-drawn cabs rather than cars? People talking about feeling “challenged” by their jobs, aristocrats offering to help out the hoi-polloi in the kitchen – ugh! And, you know, if you're going to talk dirty, at least get it anatomically correct. Propositioning Constable Woods, a good-hearted prostitute offers him a special deal for quantity... "Martha and I can do you the beast with the two backs for an extra shillin’" Er... three backs. And I hasten to add the only research I did for that one was to learn arithmetic. Enough already. Not my kind of thing, and I fear I can't recommend it to anyone who likes historical fiction to feel well researched and authentic. But it’s probably fine as a light-hearted romance in Regency frocks. NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Thomas and Mercer. www.fictionfanblog.wordpress.com

  8. 5 out of 5

    Paromjit

    The background to this novel is the Napoleonic wars abroad, the war for colonies and trade routes between France and England, and the world of theatre and culture at the beginning of the nineteenth century in London. It is populated with Spanish refugees like Dona Magdelena. In this story, we are thrust into the world of political intrigue and naval espionage. It all begins with a discovery of a dead woman hidden under the floorboards of a building being demolished. It turns out that this woman The background to this novel is the Napoleonic wars abroad, the war for colonies and trade routes between France and England, and the world of theatre and culture at the beginning of the nineteenth century in London. It is populated with Spanish refugees like Dona Magdelena. In this story, we are thrust into the world of political intrigue and naval espionage. It all begins with a discovery of a dead woman hidden under the floorboards of a building being demolished. It turns out that this woman had been kidnapped from a carriage heading to a soiree organised by Lady Caroline. There is a case of mistaken identity with the dead body which is later exploited by Lavender and Woods. The kidnappers were seeking a lost document left accidently with a script at the Sans Pareil theatre. This document indicates a spy ring operating within the theatre. The crack team of Lavender and Woods relentlessly pursue the culprits, finding themselves and those close to them in danger. The author creates an authentic atmosphere of London with the food, markets, scents, dishes and transport of that time, not to mention the theatres, actresses and performers and the lives they lived. I found myself immersed in the time and the central mystery within the story. The suspense is built well throughout and there is good news regarding Stephen Lavender’s love affair with Magdalena at the end. I can recommend this book to others as a well written and researched story. I would like to thank the publisher for a ebook copy via netgalley for an honest review.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Cathy Cole

    This follow-up to the first Detective Lavender mystery, The Heiress of Linn Hagh, is set in an actual theatre of the time that was run by a woman. And speaking of women, Lavender's love interest, the beautiful Spanish Magdalena, plays a much more important role in this book-- both as lover and in having her share of the action. In that day attitudes towards Catholics generally were not at all sympathetic, especially the opinions of people in authority. If Lavender marries Magdalena, it could be This follow-up to the first Detective Lavender mystery, The Heiress of Linn Hagh, is set in an actual theatre of the time that was run by a woman. And speaking of women, Lavender's love interest, the beautiful Spanish Magdalena, plays a much more important role in this book-- both as lover and in having her share of the action. In that day attitudes towards Catholics generally were not at all sympathetic, especially the opinions of people in authority. If Lavender marries Magdalena, it could be a career-ending (or at least -limiting) move. It will be interesting to see how Charlton deals with this in future books. The pacing of The Sans Pareil Mystery tends to be slow until just before the end when all the pieces of the puzzle start coming together. It's a solid entry in this fledgling series and holds a great deal of promise for the future.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    Detective Stephen Lavender and his trusty sidekick Constable Woods first appeared in The Heiress of Linn Hagh, which I also enjoyed. The novels are set in the Regency Period and in this one the Napoleonic War on the continent creates an environment in which treachery thrives. A young woman is found dead in a derelict house, and Lavender must discover who she was and why she died. A solid mystery in which the lovely Magdelena again appears. My favorite part was discovering that the Sans Pareil thea Detective Stephen Lavender and his trusty sidekick Constable Woods first appeared in The Heiress of Linn Hagh, which I also enjoyed. The novels are set in the Regency Period and in this one the Napoleonic War on the continent creates an environment in which treachery thrives. A young woman is found dead in a derelict house, and Lavender must discover who she was and why she died. A solid mystery in which the lovely Magdelena again appears. My favorite part was discovering that the Sans Pareil theater really existed (it later became The Adelphi) and that Jane Scott (1779-1839), along with her father, was developer, manager, performer, and playwright. That really is quite something for the time. NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer Historic mystery. Oct. 6, 2015. Print length: 322 pages.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kerrie

    The second in the Detective Lavender series, set in London in 1810, Lavender is the chief detective in the Bow Street Runners. The body of a young woman is found under the floor of a derelict house about to be demolished. She is identified by the pathologist who had seen her on stage at a local theatre. Apart from the murder mystery, the story gives interesting insights into Regency London. The Napoleonic Wars are not going well and London is full of foreigners such as Spanish that have fled from The second in the Detective Lavender series, set in London in 1810, Lavender is the chief detective in the Bow Street Runners. The body of a young woman is found under the floor of a derelict house about to be demolished. She is identified by the pathologist who had seen her on stage at a local theatre. Apart from the murder mystery, the story gives interesting insights into Regency London. The Napoleonic Wars are not going well and London is full of foreigners such as Spanish that have fled from the invaders and French spies and those who who have fled from Bonaparte's regime. William, Duke of Clarence, who lives with an actress, is one of the circle of those who patronise the Sans Pareil theatre. (From the early 1790s until 1811, William lived with his mistress, the actress Dorothy Jordan. They had 10 children who took the surname Fitzclarence). Later he becomes William IV, married to Queen Adelaide. Ironically, in view of the 10 earlier children, their marriage is childless. Lavender himself is very friendly with a Spanish widow. She is also a Catholic in a largely Protestant England. The story becomes a tale of espionage when a coded document is discovered among the dead actress' papers. This was one of those books that could have done with much better proof reading. The "typos" were made more noticeable by an earlier borrower who had gone through with a pencil striking words out and indicating omissions. Some errors were obviously caused by the use of an auto-correcter where the wrong version of a word had been accepted. All would have been funny if it hadn't become so annoying.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Annette

    Another great case for Lavender and Woods. The second installment in the Detective Lavender series. This book was quite enjoyable, just as good as the first one. Love the core characters. Absolutely love the way historical events and places are woven into the story. This time Stephen and Ned must deal with the death of an actress who happens to be connected to the peerage and also is an identical twin. They along with Magdalena also get caught up in uncovering a French spy ring. Action, mystery a Another great case for Lavender and Woods. The second installment in the Detective Lavender series. This book was quite enjoyable, just as good as the first one. Love the core characters. Absolutely love the way historical events and places are woven into the story. This time Stephen and Ned must deal with the death of an actress who happens to be connected to the peerage and also is an identical twin. They along with Magdalena also get caught up in uncovering a French spy ring. Action, mystery and romance. A most excellent read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Olga

    The second book in the series, and I am still true to my first impression of the story. The mystery is done well, and makes you anticipate the coming events, even if the "switched" part is a bit tropy. The process of investigation is exciting enough to keep attention, and the actual solution was not the thing, that was expected after few first chapters. I do like the characters, the friendship between Lavander and Woods is priceless. Love-line is fine, does not takes too many attention, which is The second book in the series, and I am still true to my first impression of the story. The mystery is done well, and makes you anticipate the coming events, even if the "switched" part is a bit tropy. The process of investigation is exciting enough to keep attention, and the actual solution was not the thing, that was expected after few first chapters. I do like the characters, the friendship between Lavander and Woods is priceless. Love-line is fine, does not takes too many attention, which is ok by me, and at times is highly entertaining. Definitely continue with the series. Should be fun.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Carol Evans

    There were several good things about The Sans Pareil Mystery. I enjoyed learning about the theater in London in 1810 and it is interesting to note that both the San Pareil Theater and the woman running it did actually exist. The mystery itself was okay, although the clues were not necessarily as noticeable as the big flashing arrows saying "this is s bad guy." I like Lavender and Wood as a team, but Lavender seems older to me than young 30s, his attitudes and actions don't necessarily fit. Or ma There were several good things about The Sans Pareil Mystery. I enjoyed learning about the theater in London in 1810 and it is interesting to note that both the San Pareil Theater and the woman running it did actually exist. The mystery itself was okay, although the clues were not necessarily as noticeable as the big flashing arrows saying "this is s bad guy." I like Lavender and Wood as a team, but Lavender seems older to me than young 30s, his attitudes and actions don't necessarily fit. Or maybe the reader's voice sounded older and that projected on to the main character? I had to remind myself that he was younger than I think. For the time period, it was also notable that women played central roles in the story, not just in the plot, but on the side-lines too. We meet women who have younger lovers, who support themselves and their household, who are brave, who are loyal, who are killers, who are willing to lie to save their own skins. So, good mystery and a decent setting, London in the early 1800s is atmospheric and dirty, but a place and time that's used extensively. I did like how Charlton used the Napoleonic Wars as an integral piece of the story and the conflict between Catholics and Anglicans was clear. I didn't like the love story between Lavender and Magdalena. I'm not against romance in a mystery, I just felt like those sexual tension scenes and off-screen sex were just not in keeping with the tone of the story. It felt like there was an asterisk beside those pieces that stated "see, I could write a romance if I wanted," but it would be a melodramatic, slightly uncomfortable one. Maybe now that the relationship has settled a bit we can get back tot he mysteries. I hope in the next one, Lavender and Woods will head out of town, leave London and Magdalena for a while.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jean Gill

    Hang on to your carriage-straps and enjoy the ride! What a cracking first chapter, misleading the reader nicely! If you enjoy a classic whodunit story and immersion in a previous time period, you’ll love the latest escapades of Detective Lavender and his sidekick Woods. Karen Charlton cleverly interweaves history with fiction, both the background of the theatre and the wider European stage of war. Lavender’s Spanish girlfriend is a focus for Spanish, French and English tensions, with many mysteri Hang on to your carriage-straps and enjoy the ride! What a cracking first chapter, misleading the reader nicely! If you enjoy a classic whodunit story and immersion in a previous time period, you’ll love the latest escapades of Detective Lavender and his sidekick Woods. Karen Charlton cleverly interweaves history with fiction, both the background of the theatre and the wider European stage of war. Lavender’s Spanish girlfriend is a focus for Spanish, French and English tensions, with many mysteries about Magdalena’s past remaining in the air – for the next book, I hope. The story itself is neatly plotted but what I enjoy most is the vivacity and humour, set in its historical context. I am becoming very fond of Woods, who is far more than a comic foil to Lavender’s better education. The shopping and the shoes neatly reminded me that some human characteristics remain the same but at the same time the range of female characters challenges some stereotypes about the early 19th century. I’m not always comfortable with the representation of dialect and accent but once I’ve settled in to Lavender’s world, I love the thieves’ cant and insults; ‘buttock-broker’ is one of my favourites and I look forward to expanding my vocabulary when Book 4 comes out.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Lloyd

    I read this 19th century detective story without realising that it was the second investigation in Regency London for Detective Lavender and Constable Woods, but this was no handicap. Although Stephen Lavender is reserved, we slowly learn of his sad past, his new budding romance and his renowned detective abilities. Assisted by dependable Ned Woods, he is able to cut through the mystery to the dangerous underlying plot, while dealing with his tortuous private life. The other main character, Donᾶ I read this 19th century detective story without realising that it was the second investigation in Regency London for Detective Lavender and Constable Woods, but this was no handicap. Although Stephen Lavender is reserved, we slowly learn of his sad past, his new budding romance and his renowned detective abilities. Assisted by dependable Ned Woods, he is able to cut through the mystery to the dangerous underlying plot, while dealing with his tortuous private life. The other main character, Donᾶ Magdalena, has a troubled past and an insecure future, which aids the plot considerably. I would have liked the villains to have had more substance and subtlety but the developing drama keeps the reader on the edge of her seat. I enjoyed discovering more about the Bow Street Magistrates and the London theatre in 1810, without feeling that I was being taught. It is a refreshing change to have a detective story set in this era. The precarious position of women in a male dominated society is clearly shown while still maintaining the exciting drama and sweet romance. I shall certainly be seeking out the earlier story

  17. 5 out of 5

    D.L. Kaiser

    Fabulous Mystery! I would heartily recommend this novel for all readers of period mystery! Excellent characters, most thoroughly researched, intertwine in an intelligent, well thought out plot. I appreciated the fact that this was not bogged down with mindless details excessive to the plot, or pointless sex scenes. If you are looking for a fun mystery romp through the early 1800's, this is it!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kiesha ~ 1Cheekylass

    This one fell short for me... After book 1, I wanted to understand more of the romance between Lavender and Magdalena. The author gave us TOO much of them in book 2 but yet the romance doesn't seem genuine. It felt like I missed something from the start. Magdalena was heavily involved in this book which unfortunately took away from the mystery. The mystery wasn't that great either. I sure hope book 3 is better. Story 2.5 Narration was great, 5

  19. 5 out of 5

    Angie

    I really enjoyed the strength of Dona Magdalena. Great Read. Enjoy this book, it also has wonderful descriptive narratives ring Love this. Felt like I was in the middle of the Naval Espionage of 1810. Really wonderfully crafted read. Read This

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dorothy Lamp

    .The sans parcel mystery review I really enjoyed the book . I loved the intelligent and independent Magdalena and her accomplishments during such a stifling time period for women I was glad detective lavender couldloveher for herself.

  21. 4 out of 5

    L

    War. Refugees. Murder. But most of all, what Charlton has here is a number of strong, independent female characters in a time and place in which there is a price to pay for that. She portrays their strengths (some out of necessity), their sacrifices, and their struggles.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    Exciting. Never a dull moment. From beginning to end the mystery moved along with good detective work and good comeradary. It also ended well. I loved it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bess

    Like the first book, the mystery was quite interesting. Unlike the first book, Detective Lavender became quite a bit more likable in this book. I think the bones were there in the first book, but I think the author stumbled a bit trying to find a voice for him that was not quite the cold and socially maladroit Sherlock Holmes, and yet gave a purpose for the burly man-of-the-people Constable Woods. The sweet spot was found here. Detective Lavender is still wickedly intelligent, impatient, talks ab Like the first book, the mystery was quite interesting. Unlike the first book, Detective Lavender became quite a bit more likable in this book. I think the bones were there in the first book, but I think the author stumbled a bit trying to find a voice for him that was not quite the cold and socially maladroit Sherlock Holmes, and yet gave a purpose for the burly man-of-the-people Constable Woods. The sweet spot was found here. Detective Lavender is still wickedly intelligent, impatient, talks above people's heads, and a fancy dresser (which does not endear him to the common folk) but in this book he has real friendships, has stopped coldly staring at the lady's bosom, has fallen quite believably in love, and has shown that he has a bit of hot blood and a bit of human sympathy. Much, much more likable. And despite being less removed, he still needs Constable Woods for comic relief, friendship, someone to interview the common folk, and someone to watch his back. Truly, Lavender's friendship with Woods and his family is quite well rendered and a pleasure to read. The mystery itself was magnificent. There were a number of conclusions that I satisfyingly arrived at just when the Detective did, and yet there were some mysteries that kept me guessing until much later. I also appreciate that there were unresolved red herrings (view spoiler)[ why does that one "Italian" actress orgasm in French? Is she another spy? The drama and tension were also kept high throughout the book with chases and lives in danger. Last point of praise: I love how well couched in history this book is. The suspicion of foreigners (there being a war with Napolean's France going on) just rolls off the page pervading all kinds of plot points. The lives and difficulties of everyone from the low-born, to artists and actors, to the street prostitutes, to pauper princes is rendered with a great eye to human-level details. Had it not been a 2-book sale, I probably wouldn't have gotten past the first book. As it was, I think this book has been on my digital "shelf" for almost two years since I finished the previous one. I don't think I'll wait so long again before seeking the next one. (hide spoiler)]

  24. 4 out of 5

    wendi wigham

    Lavender's Infatuation Whilst having high regard for the work done by those in the early days of law enforcement, I do feel that 'super detective ' Lavender is acting one an idiot in this scenario. He makes no attempt to put his lust for Magdalena aside, but appears to carry on his duties putting her feelings first - & how it will favour his ambitions to get in her bed! Woods & Read both caution him with regards to this liaison, but like a teenager with rampant hormones, he is not thinking Lavender's Infatuation Whilst having high regard for the work done by those in the early days of law enforcement, I do feel that 'super detective ' Lavender is acting one an idiot in this scenario. He makes no attempt to put his lust for Magdalena aside, but appears to carry on his duties putting her feelings first - & how it will favour his ambitions to get in her bed! Woods & Read both caution him with regards to this liaison, but like a teenager with rampant hormones, he is not thinking with his brain. As to his condition that she must accept his marriage proposal, before he accepts her offer of a night's bed & bawd, please credit the reader with more intelligence. He has spent the majority of the book trying to grope her with the intention of bedding her at the first opportunity. Now it's offered to him on a plate, & he doesn't jump at the chance before she changes her mind. Marriage Banns first reading the following Tesday. I can only think Ms. Charlton wanted to dangle a carrot, intending to encourage the reader to purchase book 3 in the series. I intend to read the other two books in this series, with the hope that Principal Lavender reverts to using the inteligence 4God gave him.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sabrina

    Mystery & Intrigue...1810 Style! Detective Lavender and Constable Ned Woods shine once again as my new favorite duo. It's a wonderfully written and captivating mystery on a trip back in time to 1810 into the lives of the San Pereil Theater. A young and beautiful actress April Clare is found dead in a run down dilapidated building slated for demolition and the suspect pool is limited. The mystery slowly unwinds under the capable skills of Detective Lavender and Constable Woods as they weave t Mystery & Intrigue...1810 Style! Detective Lavender and Constable Ned Woods shine once again as my new favorite duo. It's a wonderfully written and captivating mystery on a trip back in time to 1810 into the lives of the San Pereil Theater. A young and beautiful actress April Clare is found dead in a run down dilapidated building slated for demolition and the suspect pool is limited. The mystery slowly unwinds under the capable skills of Detective Lavender and Constable Woods as they weave through the deceit. The picture is far bigger than they imagined and the price even steeper should they fail. Magdalena is given a proposal that is hard to refuse and losing her reputation could end up being the least of her worries. I believe this 2nd installment is by far more intriguing and entertaining in the way of Magdalena's time as well as learning more about Detective Lavender and Constable Woods. It's definitely worth your time if you enjoy historical mysteries. Now off to the one! ~Read through Kindle Unlimited~

  26. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

    This was a great who done it cozy mystery. It turned out to be about spying, and mistaken identity, and, romance. This is not a sexy , or bad language written story. It all revolves around a theater, it's cast, and those who are back door Johnny' s. There is also a mystery surrounding the widow that Lavender has a love interest in. I really like his partner, and his family. He is a constant, and is the married Watson to the quick witted Lavender. I already have the next one tagged to order. This This was a great who done it cozy mystery. It turned out to be about spying, and mistaken identity, and, romance. This is not a sexy , or bad language written story. It all revolves around a theater, it's cast, and those who are back door Johnny' s. There is also a mystery surrounding the widow that Lavender has a love interest in. I really like his partner, and his family. He is a constant, and is the married Watson to the quick witted Lavender. I already have the next one tagged to order. This is not a fast moving murder investigation, since it takes place in London, when none of the modern investigational tools exist. That is part of its charm. They must put each piece of the puzzle together, then try to figure the next part. It is well written, just not a fast read. It kept my interest,.I still am not sure about the widow, and Lavender. Problems all around with that relationship, and I feel some of that is a,hero complex, other than true love. I guess we will find out in book three. I also liked that the murderer was caught, no cliffhanger.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Apurva Khadye

    I loved heiress of linn hagh. I couldn't put it down. So all Detective lavender mysteries are on my list now. However, this one took me longer than I expected to finish it. It revolves around sans Pareil theatre quite ironically theatre has a French name and Lavender and woods are trying to catch french spy ring. It also gets mixed up with actress's death. Dona Magdalena helps lavender solving mystery. However, author has a focused more on Lanvender's love story with Magdalena than actual myster I loved heiress of linn hagh. I couldn't put it down. So all Detective lavender mysteries are on my list now. However, this one took me longer than I expected to finish it. It revolves around sans Pareil theatre quite ironically theatre has a French name and Lavender and woods are trying to catch french spy ring. It also gets mixed up with actress's death. Dona Magdalena helps lavender solving mystery. However, author has a focused more on Lanvender's love story with Magdalena than actual mystery. And most of the times he discovers things by accidents than using his own intellect. Also, each time Magdalena is mentioned there are many lines discribing her beauty (we get it she is beautiful, move on). Maybe these were the reasons it took me more time to finish it. However, all things said and done Lavender saves the day. I enjoyed it except overwritten passages about Magdalena's beauty.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Edna L. O'Donnell

    Very, very disappointing. This book is listed in the wrong category. It is NOT a mystery primarily, it is a Romantic Novel with the traditional happy ending of marriage! The mystery part of the book was so lame as to be nothing. The so-called villains were plainly evident by the 3rd and 4th chapters and nothing new was added for the rest of the 35 chapters. Every chapter was heavily marked with romantic doings or thoughts...so much so that I believe Det. Lavender could hardly have time to think Very, very disappointing. This book is listed in the wrong category. It is NOT a mystery primarily, it is a Romantic Novel with the traditional happy ending of marriage! The mystery part of the book was so lame as to be nothing. The so-called villains were plainly evident by the 3rd and 4th chapters and nothing new was added for the rest of the 35 chapters. Every chapter was heavily marked with romantic doings or thoughts...so much so that I believe Det. Lavender could hardly have time to think of anything else. Solving this so-called mystery was lame and certainly did not show the kind of writing in the 1st book "Heiress of Linn Hagh" which did have twists and turns and even a surprise or two. I was disappointed and will not be reading of Det. Lavender and his newly acquired lifestyle of a married man. I don't believe I will try other books by Ms. Charlton either.

  29. 4 out of 5

    F M Smith

    A bit slow in detecting is Stephen Lavender The first book in this series I gave 4 stars because I have a soft spot for historical detective fiction, and I overlooked the obvious errors in craftsmanship. But this 2nd book started to wear thin one-third through, and I am now regretting having purchased the whole series. The detectives are frankly rather thick in picking up the obvious clues, which points to only average writing ability. Lavender always realises his obtuseness in hindsight long aft A bit slow in detecting is Stephen Lavender The first book in this series I gave 4 stars because I have a soft spot for historical detective fiction, and I overlooked the obvious errors in craftsmanship. But this 2nd book started to wear thin one-third through, and I am now regretting having purchased the whole series. The detectives are frankly rather thick in picking up the obvious clues, which points to only average writing ability. Lavender always realises his obtuseness in hindsight long after missing the obvious clues, and fails to question suspects and witnesses properly, leaving one wondering how he got his reputation and keeps his position. I assume this slow action is how the author pads out the book. I won't finish this series despite paying for it. It is not engaging enough.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lora

    I liked this Sherlock and Watson-type mystery, but not as much as the first book in the series. The main problem was a lack of momentum. It's not a page-turner, but it is interesting and features strong female characters - including two from real history: - Jane Scott (theater manager, actress and playwright). - Dorothy Jordan (famous comic actress who financially supported 10 children and her lover, the Duke of Clarence, who later because King William IV). Prince George (later King George IV) w I liked this Sherlock and Watson-type mystery, but not as much as the first book in the series. The main problem was a lack of momentum. It's not a page-turner, but it is interesting and features strong female characters - including two from real history: - Jane Scott (theater manager, actress and playwright). - Dorothy Jordan (famous comic actress who financially supported 10 children and her lover, the Duke of Clarence, who later because King William IV). Prince George (later King George IV) was mentioned, too. The book touched upon the fact that he was secretly married to a widow named Mrs. Fitzherbert (which was against the Royal Marriages Act) when he married his first cousin Duchess Caroline.

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