Rosie’s #Bookreview Of #Historical #Mystery Set In 16th Century Poland, MIDNIGHT FIRE by @pk_adams

Midnight Fire (A Jagiellon Mystery #2)Midnight Fire by P.K. Adams

4 stars

Midnight Fire is book two of the Jagiellon mystery series set in Poland during the 1500s. You can read my review of book one here (link).

Set twenty-five years after Book One, Caterina returns to Poland after a married life in Italy. She comes seeking medical assistance for her ailing son, and hopes that one of the queen’s physicians may be able to help.

Queen Bona is pleased to be reunited with Caterina, but her best doctors are with her own son in Lithuania. This is because the queen and her son are currently estranged over his relationships with his mistress. However, the queen is happy for Caterina to visit the royal doctors but she does ask Caterina to act as her envoy in imploring her son, the Duke, to see sense over his desire to marry his mistress. It is a delicate matter, but Caterina agrees for the sake of her own son’s health.

While in Vilnius, an attempt to poison Barbara Radziwiłł, the duke’s mistress, fails, but a servant girl dies instead. Caterina’s reputation for solving mysteries is well-known, and the duke asks her to find the culprit to prevent a second attempt. Once more, Caterina finds herself embroiled in solving a murder case for the Polish royal household.

I enjoyed this story more than I thought that I would; compared with book one in the series, this one had less characters, which helped. Another factor may have been that I was already familiar with many of the names. The mystery was easy to follow with more emphasis on the historical elements than a complex case with twists, so this would probably suit historical fiction lovers more than avid crime fiction readers.

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Book description

In the summer of 1545, Caterina Konarska undertakes the long journey from Bari to Kraków in search of a cure for her ailing son Giulio. In Poland, she finds a court far different from the lively, cultured place she remembers from twenty-five years ago. The old king lies on his deathbed, and the once-charming Queen Bona has aged into a bitter, lonely woman—isolated from power and estranged from the heir, Zygmunt August.

Haunted by memories of a crime she solved long ago, Caterina approaches the queen with caution. Bona promises medical assistance for Giulio, but at a price: Caterina must travel with her son to Vilnius where, in exchange for a medical consultation with a royal physician, she will attempt to dissuade Zygmunt August from marrying his scandal-ridden mistress, Barbara Radziwiłł.

Caterina agrees, but she soon learns that Zygmunt August listens to no one, especially when it comes to his love life. And when a puzzling murder shakes the Vilnius court, the duke immediately suspects his mother’s agents. Caterina is thrust into yet another investigation, but as bodies and clues pile up, she realizes that in trying to clear the queen’s name, she has placed her and Giulio’s lives in grave danger.

The second Jagiellon Mystery, Midnight Fire explores the nature of duty and sacrifice and the unpredictable ways in which personal and political events can trigger buried traumas, with explosive and deadly consequences.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Of #Historical #Mystery Set In Early 16th Century Poland, SILENT WATER by @pk_adams

Silent Water (A Jagiellon Mystery #1)Silent Water by P.K. Adams

4 stars

Silent Water is the first book in the Jagiellon mystery series, which is set in Poland during the 1500s.

Told from the point of view of Contessa Caterina Sanseverino, a lady-in-waiting to Poland’s Queen Bona, the story revolves around a murder during the Christmas celebrations of 1519. Caterina becomes involved in solving the murder, a job made more difficult because she must also oversee the other younger ladies-in-waiting. Keeping them in hand during the Christmas period is especially hard in a court filled with exuberant celebrations, and it hampers Caterina’s investigations.

I’ve read a few medieval stories, but I have never come across the history of Poland from this era. The historical elements were well-written and easy to follow as was the murder mystery. The hardest part for me was keeping up with all of the characters, mainly because I found the Polish names hard to pronounce to myself. However, the author provides a list of names with helpful pronunciations at the beginning for those, like me, who may find them a challenge.

A solid piece of historical fiction; my only complaint was the quantity of characters, as I struggled to remember who they all were.

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Book description

It is Christmas 1519 and the royal court in Kraków is in the midst of celebrating the joyous season. Less than two years earlier, Italian noblewoman Bona Sforza arrived in Poland’s capital from Bari as King Zygmunt’s new bride. She came from Italy accompanied by a splendid entourage, including Contessa Caterina Sanseverino who oversees the ladies of the Queen’s Chamber.

Caterina is still adjusting to the life in this northern kingdom of cold winters, unfamiliar customs, and an incomprehensible language when a shocking murder rocks the court on Christmas night. It is followed by another a few days later. The victims have seemingly nothing in common. Gossip, speculation, and suspicion are rife, but the perpetrator remains elusive as the court heads into the New Year.

As the official investigation stalls, Caterina—aided by Sebastian Konarski, a junior secretary in the king’s household—sets out to find the killer. With clues beginning to point to the queen’s innermost circle, the pair are soon racing against time to stop another murder.

Silent Water is a story of power and its abuse, and the extremes to which a person may go to find redress for justice denied. Although set at the dawn of the Renaissance era, its themes carry uncanny parallels to some of the most topical social issues of the 21st century.

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#NewRelease Rosie’s #Bookreview of #thriller The Fourth Courier by Timothy Jay Smith

The Fourth CourierThe Fourth Courier by Timothy Jay Smith

3.5 stars

The Fourth Courier is a thriller set in Poland during 1992.

FBI agent Jay Porter has been sent to Warsaw after radiation was detected on a murder victim, the third in a series in which a connection is suspected. A defecting Russian scientist, the head of the Yugoslavian security service and the CIA all become involved in this fast-paced drama with high stakes.

Since the fall of communism, Poland has become a corridor for smuggling; now it looks like nuclear arms have joined the long list of smuggled goods.

The setting for this book first attracted me to the story and I was very impressed by the way the author portrayed the hopes of the Polish people and how their dreams fell short once the reality of capitalism became apparent. This was my favourite aspect of the book.

As far as the individual, main characters are concerned, I was less convinced by them; I felt that opportunities to develop them, by accentuating their personality traits in dialogue and inner thoughts, were missed. I did actually wonder if this is down to the author being first (and foremost?) a successful playwright―on the stage or screen, the actors will interpret the words and bring them to life; just a thought. The characters in this book seemed to me to be safe genre stereotypes that never really jumped off the page.

This book contains cold, dark and raw accounts of casual sex and relationships, which, though well-executed, got to a point where they began to overshadow the main storyline.  On the whole, though, there is no doubt that the plot construction, suspense and an authentic, detailed knowledge of the subject matter make the novel commendable. However, the lack of characterisation stopped it being memorable for me. This is, of course, only my opinion―which is all a review ever is―but I need to be immersed in the characters and really feel I’ve got to know them in order to become emotionally invested in the plot developments.

Overall, a good choice for those who prefer plot-driven thrillers.

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Book description

A Fast Paced Espionage Thriller for Alan Furst Fans Set In Post-Cold War Poland.

It is 1992 in Warsaw, Poland, and the communist era has just ended. A series of grisly murders suddenly becomes an international case when it’s feared that the victims may have been couriers smuggling nuclear material out of the defunct Soviet Union. The FBI sends an agent to help with the investigation. When he learns that a Russian physicist who designed a portable atomic bomb has disappeared, the race is on to find him—and the bomb—before it ends up in the wrong hands.

Smith’s depiction of post-cold war Poland is gloomily atmospheric and murky in a world where nothing is quite as it seems. Suspenseful, thrilling, and smart, The Fourth Courier brings together a straight white FBI agent and gay black CIA officer as they team up to uncover a gruesome plot involving murder, radioactive contraband, narcissistic government leaders, and unconscionable greed.

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