Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Captain Lacey Regency Mystery Series by Ashley Gardner

Title: The Captain Lacey Regency Mystery Series (6 books in all)
Author: Ashley Gardner

Type: Mystery
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime

Why: I found this series by accident last year, nabbing the fifth book from my library’s paperback swap shelf. Loved it and have been meaning to read the remaining titles. When I hit this last reading slump, I reached for book one, hoping it would capture my interest. It did and then some. Thank God.

What Does It For Me: Captain Lacey. He is the ultimate hero. Even though these are not romances, he easily captures the reader’s attention and interest. Gardner in no way paints him as romantic hero. She provides little in the way of physical description. I know he is taller than average and that he has a bad leg (war injury) that makes him reliant upon a walking stick. That’s it for appearance. Still, I was more than half in love with him by the last installment.

The rest of his character emerges through Gardner’s storytelling. Or rather, through Lacey’s narration. Lacey himself tells us of his past—his life in the military, his wife’s desertion, the events that destroyed a powerful friendship, and more. In some instances, the reader learns things about Lacey that remain unknown to his present acquaintances. It feels very intimate and renders a loyalty to him that makes the reading experience more personal. We feel his melancholy, rally behind his determination and laugh at his astute, biting observations of regency society. He really is rough around the edges, but highly, highly likeable.

His cast is also likeable. Again, through Lacey, we get to know each of them. As he sees them, yes, but with the sense that we have come to know them as well as he does. All interesting, all unique and all from the many different layers of England’s class system. Gardner is wonderfully adept at bringing all walks of life together through the experiences of a single character, a character that can walk London’s seedier streets or attend the opera on the arm of a viscountess with equal confidence.

I’d actually liken this series to Robb’s In Death series. In voice, cadence or rhythm, and ensemble cast. Under Captain Lacey’s POV, the prose is clipped and the pace brisk. Both mirror Lacey’s military bearing. And both remind me of Robb’s police procedurals. We get methodical, linear thinking from a central character, complex criminal cases that can only be solved by that character’s diligence, and a host of regulars lending assistance at every turn. Additionally, as the reader, I experience the same easy slide into the rhythm of speech with each book I pick up. It is instantly recognizable and comfortingly familiar.

I just can’t say enough about this series.

To Save You Some Time: There are six books in all:

The Hanover Square Affair (2003)
A Regimental Murder (2004)
The Glass House (2004)
The Sudbury School Murders (2005)
A Body In Berkeley Square (2005)
A Convent Garden Mystery (2006)

Gardner’s website offers no mention of the series’ fate and her blog (under penname Ashley Gardner) left off suddenly after October 10, 2006. I don’t imagine there will be more Lacey mysteries. They are definitely worth finding and reading however.

Next, I’ll be moving onto Jennifer Ashley, another penname for Gardner. I’ll read The Queen’s Handmaiden first, then have a look at what looks to be some paranormal titles, a Highlander tale and some older historical romances.

I also see that she writes erotic romance as Allyson James. Coming in August 2008, Private Places, an erotic collection of historical tales by Robin Schone, Claudia Dane, Shiloh Walker, and Allyson James.

3 comments:

  1. I have really enjoyed everything I have read written by Jennifer Ashley. I haven't managed to track down this series yet though.

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  2. Hi Marg! I was able to get this series through my library's statewide lending system. As some of the titles are no longer in print, that may be the only way to get them. I look forward to reading her other books and am happy to hear from someone who has and enjoyed them. Thanks!

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Have you read it? What do you think?

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