Adult Fiction, Blog, Historical, Review, Reviews

Book Review:A Poisonous Journey: A Lady Evelyn Mystery


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Book Title: A Poisonous Journey: A Lady Evelyn Mystery

Author: Malia Zaidi

Pages: 397

Genre: Adult Fiction, History Fiction, Mystery, Crime

Format: ARC

Declaimer: I’ve received this book from the author herself in exchange for an honest review. I would like to send big thanks to Malia Zaidi for sending me this book!

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Book Description: The year is 1925, a time that hovers between two catastrophic wars, a time of jazz and sparkle, and a time of peace and reflection. For Lady Evelyn, struggling to outrun the ghosts of her tragic past, it is a time of transformation. Left orphaned after a fire when she was only four, Lady Evelyn Carlisle was raised in London by her stern aunt and uncle. Now, twenty years later she has grown restless and is keen to escape her chaperone’s grasp. A letter from her cousin, Briony, living with her husband on Crete, comes at just the right time. Packing what she can, Lady Evelyn makes off for foreign shores. Welcoming her are not only Briony and her husband, Jeffrey, but also his handsome and mysterious friends, Caspar Ballantine and Daniel Harper. Though the latter carries with him tragic memories of the Great War, Evelyn is glad to be in their company. With the sun warming her back and the dazzling sea in her sights, this fresh start seems destined for happy days ahead. Little does she know . . . What starts off as a sunny holiday quickly turns into a sinister nightmare, when Evelyn stumbles across the corpse of one of her cousin’s houseguests. Drawn into the mystery surrounding the murder, Evelyn embarks on a mission to discover the truth, forcing her to face her own past as well as a cold-hearted killer. With the help of her cousin, the handsome local police detective, and the mysterious Daniel Harper, will she uncover the truth, before another life is claimed? A varied cast of characters, an engaging mystery at its core, an exotic setting, and a thoughtful, plucky heroine provide a story that will appeal to fans of many genres.

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My review

I want to make a little comment. This book, like many others, talks about Greek Mythology. I’ve noticed that Helena’s, or Greece’s, history and culture is reduced to the Ancient Times. Greece has more to offer than Ancient legends and beliefs. I mean, it’s an Orthodox country for almost 2000 years. And the Ottoman’s were not kind and friendly; Greece was under the Ottoman Empire for many years, and those were hard time. Anyway, this has nothing to do with the book itself; I just had to get this off my chest.


The book, or at least my version, needs to be edited. There are words that are missing, or spelled wrong. It needs to be cleaned up a little bit. This has nothing to do with the author’s writing, or the story’s quality. However, it will improve the reader’s experience.

 World Building

The book is set in 1920s, and most of the action takes place in Crete. I’ve never read a fiction set in Crete; most books are set in USA or UK, which is a pity really. The author makes a very good job at describing the place, and she also makes the island more real by offering some information about Crete. For example, we read, through Evelyn’s eyes, the information provided in a travel guide. The writer also describes the locations, and houses very well. It was very easy for me to imagine Briony’s house, the villages, the town, even the road itself.

I would’ve like to read about Crete’s most recent history. What happened in Crete during the Great War? What happened after Greece was finally freed from the Ottoman Empire? Also, I would’ve love to read some description of Cretans national clothes, customs and traditions. This is a personal preference.  The book is not about Crete’s history, therefore it was not mandatory to include this information. For me, the book would’ve been even better than it was if more history was included.

Overall, the information provided about Crete and Greece is correct, which is a great. It shows that the author did some research, and she didn’t limit herself to Wikipedia.

Except, maybe, the orphanage scene. Was that monastery Catholic? I am asking because Orthodox monasteries, be it in Crete, Greece, Russia, Romania etc., are very different than Western monasteries. They’re purpose is not to take care of orphans, or do social things in general, therefore is not very often that you find an Orthodox monastery that takes care of orphans. That’s what civilians are for. Anyway, it is not a major sub-plot, or anything like that. As I said, in general the information is correct.

For the world building, I give a rating of 4.5 out of 5.

Plot

The story is written in the first person, present tense. Therefore, there were some inner rambling on Evelyn’s part, but other than that everything was fine.

The book has 50 chapters. Some of them are short (4-6 pages), some longer (10+ pages). In the beginning, the story was a little bit slow for me. It took me a few chapters to get pulled in by the story. It’s not a bad thing; there are great novels out there that are not fast reads.

I think the story is slowed down by Evelyn, Briony and others eating. There are many chapters with scenes where the characters are eating breakfast, dinner or lunch. Granted, Evelyn and her friends are always having conversations while eating, and some information is revealed during those scenes. However, when you read scene after scene with them eating, it gets a little bit boring. Plus, since they eat so much, the food is also described.  Some people like reading about food, and are not  bothered by it. Personally, I don’t care much what the characters are eating.

The bath scenes and the clothes descriptions are also slowing down the plot, but these are not necessarily a bad thing. It was interesting to read how women washed themselves in the 1920s, and what kind of clothes they used to wear. I think these scenes were necessary to take the reader back to the 1920s; to help him or her picture those times.

The main plot of this novel is Evelyn discovering who committed a murder.I didn’t know who the murder is until the author decided is time for the reader to find out. I had my own theories, but they were wrong. It was fun trying to guess to killed the guy, or who cheated on whom. I needed to keep reading to find out what happened, and why that man was killed. I loved the plot twists, and the way everything played out.

There are some sub-plots as well, like Briony’s marriage, or Evelyn relationship with her aunt. This book also tackles adultery, thus adding more suspense to the story.

Overall, the book has an interesting plot, and I liked it. I give it a rating of 4 out of 5.

Characters

The main character is Evelyn, an English young women who had to live with her aunt, since her parents died in a fire. I liked Evelyn; she is smart, energetic, curious, a loyal friend, and independent. Evelyn is also haunted by her past; she never get passed the fact that her parents died, and her cold relationship with her aunt didn’t help much. The reader gets to read her inner thoughts about this, and about her sad moments. On the bright side, she’s not the kind who whines and mops because of what happened to her. Evelyn doesn’t want to stop living, and she is trying her best to move forward. I also think that the scenes about her past and emotions help the reader understand Evelyn; she is not just a shell who catches the criminal. In other words, Evelyn is a dynamic character, not a static one. She changes, she grows, she learns, she falls, she stands up. Evelyn from the beginning of the story is not the same person at the end.

Briony and Jeffery. Briony is Evelyn’s cousin, and also her best friend. She is a kind, lovely young women. However, she is a little bit sad due to the fact that her marriage is not what she expected. Mostly because of her husband, Jeffery. Now, Jeffery is not a bad guy; he’s self-absorbed and doesn’t see that his wife is not happy. Briony is also a dynamic character; there is more to her than being Evelyn’s best friend. Jeffery is a little bit static, and is not that complex, but there are some layers to him.

Daniel, Casper’s friend. An orphan, just like Evelyn. He went to war, his best friend got killed, he doesn’t have a family. Poor guy. He is determined to find out who killed his best friend, even though he found out that his friend was not a great person. I like Daniel, especially because he didn’t give up on Casper after he realized what kind of man Casper was. Daniel chose to remember Casper as his good friend, and see the good in him.I also liked the fact that he was kind and sweet with Evelyn. He treated her as an equal, and he admired her determination and will to find the killer. Daniel and Evelyn made a perfect team.

Overall, the character development was excellent. The author did a good job at creating them. I give a rating of 5 out of 5.

Romance

Yay, no romance! 😀

Not really. There is some romance in this novel, but it is a sub-plot, and not an important one. The romance is subtle, and you can see it blossom between Daniel and Evelyn. They don’t kiss, hung, or drool over each other, but they do have some nice moments together. They talk about themselves, their past, their opinions; they also team up to find out Casper’s killer. In other words, they get to know each other as persons. There is no “OMG, he’s so hut! I love him!”, which was awesome.

There is another side of romance in this book. As I mentioned above, the book talks a little bit about adultery, and unhappy marriages. Couples trying to move on after infidelity; Briony trying to work on her marriage with Jeffery; a selfish man who stays with his wife because of money.

In other words, the romance is real. It shows all sides, not just the pink ones. I loved it.

I give a rating of 5 out of 5.

Reader’s Experience

There is a difference between quality and experience. You can enjoy a book that is poorly written, and/or with bad character development. Sometimes you need to read something easy, relaxing, and fluffy. But just because you enjoy it, that does not mean you will turn a blind eye to the problems, especially when you review it. I’m saying this in general.

entertainment =/= quality

This does not apply to Malia’s book. Her novel is well written.

I enjoyed reading this book. I wouldn’t say it was a fun read, since it deals with serious subjects, which is exactly what I wanted to read.

As I mentioned above, sometimes it was a little bit slow and some scenes, like the food descriptions, were a bit boring.

I liked the fact that it tackled several subjects, such as family, marriage, adultery, crime, Crete, friendship, orphans and so on. It does make you questions life, and its purpose, death, your own choices, and what you want in life. Some moments were sad, but I loved them. In a way, the novel is like life; you have good moments, so-so ones, terrible days; you have good friends, and bad friends; love and death.

For the reading experience, I give a rating of 4 out of 5.

General Thoughts

I think this novel is underrated. It deserves more attention. I also think that the author has a lot of potential, and I will read other novels written by her. I am not sure if this book is a stand alone, or part of a series. It would be nice to read about Evelyn’s next adventures. Or maybe a small novel about Briony and her life before and after Jeffery.

I recommend this novel to everyone. It has a little bit of everything. However, those of you who like mystery, crime, history will definitely enjoy this book.

My Rating

Rating 4

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