Avery & Blake: Series Review

The Strangler VineThe Strangler Vine
by M.J. Carter
369 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Release date:  January 30th 2014

Synopsis:

Calcutta 1837. The East India Company rules India – or most of it; and its most notorious and celebrated son, Xavier Mountstuart, has gone missing.

William Avery, a down-at-heel junior officer in the Company’s army, is sent to find him, in the unlikely company of the enigmatic and uncouth Jeremiah Blake. A more mismatched duo couldn’t be imagined, but they must bury their differences as they are caught up in a search that turns up too many unanswered questions and seems bound to end in failure.

What was it that so captivated Mountstuart about the Thugs, the murderous sect of Kali-worshippers who strangle innocent travellers by the roadside? Who is Jeremiah Blake and can he be trusted? And why is the whole enterprise shrouded in such secrecy?

In the dark heart of Company India, Avery will have to fight for his very life, and in defence of a truth he will wish he had never learned.

Review:

I read a preview of this book on First to Read and then immediately put the book on hold at the library.

The Strangler Vine is a very good action-adventure story set in colonial British India. I basically sank into this book and lived with the characters for a couple of weeks. (Although glad I wasn’t in the heat and humidity of the jungle with them.)

You get a real feel for “Company India” and the politics that were at play, but not in a boring kind of way. It’s an adventure filled with mystery. As Avery looses his idealism and naivety, I really felt for him, for India, for the ideals and nationalism that thrust so many people into situations they were unprepared to handle. The corruption that was so obvious was also so expertly hidden, there were so many layers to peal back, the answers come late and come hard. I really enjoyed this book.

Goodreads / Amazon

The Infidel StainThe Infidel Stain
by M.J. Carter
357 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Release date: April 30th 2015

Synopsis:

It’s 1841, and three years after we left them at the close of The Strangler Vine, Blake and Avery are reunited in very different circumstances in London. There has been a series of dreadful murders in the slums of the printing district, which the police mysteriously refuse to investigate, and Blake and Avery must find the culprit before he kills again.

Review:

An atmospheric thriller. Once I finished The Strangler Vine and learned there was a second book I checked it out from the library right away.

Although, at first, I wasn’t sure I would like the change of settings from the wilds of India to the grimy back alley’s of London. However, having read the first book, the unease of Blake and Avery at returning to London mirrored my own. Somehow that just worked perfectly within the journey of the story.

You really do sink into these books and travel with the characters. While mystery is not my favorite genre, I’d pick up another Blake and Avery novel any day.

Goodreads / Amazon

The Devils FeastThe Devil’s Feast
by M.J. Carter
432 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Release date: March 28th 2017

Synopsis:

Investigative team Blake and Avery find themselves entangled in a case involving political conflicts, personal vendettas, and England s first celebrity chef.

London, 1842. Captain William Avery is persuaded to investigate a mysterious and horrible death at the Reform, London s newest and grandest gentleman s club a death the club is desperate to hush up. What he soon discovers is a web of rivalries and hatreds, both personal and political, simmering behind the club s handsome facade. At the center is its resident genius, Alexis Soyer, the Napoleon of food, a chef whose culinary brilliance is matched only by his talent for self-publicity.

But Avery is distracted, for where is his mentor and partner in crime Jeremiah Blake? And what if this first death is only a dress rehearsal for something far more sinister?”

Review:

Can the third book in a series be the one to have a sophomore slump?

Most of the disappoint is in the fact that this book spend an awful lot of time with Captain Avery stumbling along trying to solve the mystery without Blake. He’s not a bad character, but the point of have a pair like this is the interaction between the two of them. It’s like trying to enjoy Watson equally by himself when you just know that he is so much more interesting when paired with Sherlock. Avery without Blake just isn’t up to par.

The historical parts of the book are fantastic though! I found myself wondering if the author had also read “Sorting the Beef from the Bull: The Science of Food Fraud Forensics.” So much of what was going on with the science in the book related to the themes in Sorting the Beef from the Bull. Of course I’m always interested in historic fiction that focuses on emerging science.

Also this is one mystery book that had me guessing for a really long time. There were simply too many scoundrels to choose from. Too many who had motive and lacked morals.

I also wish we got to see more of London in this book. The setting is pretty narrow and the books spends the majority of it’s time at the reform. And maybe that’s just nit-picky.

I’m not normally a fan of serial mysteries, and maybe this is why. Maybe after a couple of books I’m just not as interested any more, maybe the shine wears off, maybe I get nit-picky. Maybe.

Goodreads / Amazon

Bottom Line:

I really loved the first Avery and Blake novel The Strangler Vine (esp the setting in India.) The second book, The Infidel Stain, was also pretty good, pretty atmospheric. While still being enjoyable the third book didn’t live up to what I had come to expect after reading the first two.