Relative Fortunes ePUB ↠ Kindle Edition

Relative Fortunes I gave this three stars because for about the first half of the book I thought this book would never get going and almost stopped reading it But eventually I got caught up in the story I’ll probably read future books of the series now that the probable recurring characters have been established “Sometimes death is the loudest voice you have”Right so how to offer up my best review of this book – without giving away any too many spoilersI am already a dedicated fan of traditional classic mystery stories however many of these are by their very definition English centric so I was interested to see how well the genre would transfer across the Atlantic to the USA I need not have worried as in author Marlowe Benn’s expert hands the transition was seamlessly elegant with a new and vibrant cast of characters a textbook storyline beautifully executed together with a satisfying conclusion which would have done Dame Agatha Christie the great lady of the genre proud whilst leaving the door firmly open for the expanded series to become the undoubted success I predictIn fact at one point during the story my favourite new amateur sleuth Julia Kydd is actually likened to someone hoping to emulate one of the protagonists from the books of the great progressive new author Mrs Christie This set me thinking about the great lady’s characters of ‘Tommy and Tuppence Beresford’ with Julia’s “brother” Philip unwittingly turning out to be a perfect Tommy as a foil for Julia’s TuppenceA delicious mix of fiction blended with a little fact well researched and presented there is a strong opening chapter to the book which really helps to set the scene in a no nonsense way The storyline in which Julia then finds herself embroiled moves along at a good pace with a full cast of clearly defined characters great easy to follow clipped dialogue and some excellent descriptive narrative The ending whilst not perhaps as definitive as I would usually like is definitely all left to the imagination of the reader but is certainly going to have me looking out for the next time Julia Kydd crosses my pathSet in a post WWI New York with women having recently attained the right to vote and prohibition in full swing it is all too apparent that for many families it is still very much a man’s world and the women of the household are perceived both personally and financially to be the chattels of their male counterparts and not to be trusted with even the smallest modicum of independence freedom of speech or almost indeed freedom of thoughtJulia educated in the US then leaving for London as soon as she was able has now returned to New York at the behest of her step brother Philip and his lawyers to try and unravel the nonsense of their late father’s will It wouldn’t be giving too much away to reveal that Julia is something of a bibliophile who dreams with the help of her portion of the inheritance of running her own small bespoke publishing and book binding house Well given what the times dictate and no matter how much progressive the US is in some matters than their UK counterparts at least by Julia’s reckoning you can imagine what happens next – Or can you? I certainly didn’t as the final pieces of the jigsaw puzzle which is Philip and Julia’s life are only revealed right near the end of the story Totally unexpected although it really shouldn’t have been as once again some excellent research has thrown up a scenario which was completely plausible for the times I was left a little breathless but somewhere in the back of my mind a whole new plan was forming Is Philip really the dark horse that I would like him to be?Julia’s wealthy friend Glennis Rankin contrives to involve Julia in her intense family traumas where she uickly works out that to a person a noxiously complex group of pretentious individuals you would be hard pushed to find with the exception of the lovely Glennis herself At first she cannot wait to make her excuses and get away from the company of so many people it is almost impossible to connect with in any sensible fashion But when a double disaster strikes which involves both Glennis and herself personally Julia is set a challenge by the ever erudite Philip which she neither wants to or cannot afford to refuse and Glennis is certain that there is villainy afoot in the Rankin household Thus setting off a chain of events which through the astute written power of characterisation showcases the entire Rankin family in all their disturbingly true colours and provides an excellent study of human behaviour and social commentary completely in tune with the thinking of the timesTypical of the tried and tested Agatha Christie case solving formula Julia contrives to gather all the suspects around her in a place of her choosing to finally ‘out’ the suspect However hand on heart she only really actually knows half the story for certain as every single one of them played some small part in bringing poor Naomi’s life to an end So she throws down some timely seeds of doubt and stands back as her cast of suspects begin to argue and bicker amongst themselves unwittingly divulging a little at a time pieces of the puzzle which Julia hadn’t really known for certain Eventually Julia can see the wood for the trees confidently names her suspect and once again steps aside a viewer to the most unseemly behaviour which then followsDefinitely a case of ‘The female of the species is deadly than the male’ – although only justA multi aspect well constructed storyline which offered a lovely blend of plot and character driven storytelling Completely believable observationally astute and descriptively very visual and tenseI would have loved to read Passing Fancies book #2 in the Julia Kydd series back to back however previous commitments don’t make that possible I shall definitely be boosting the book up my TBR at every possible opportunity and please keep the stories coming Marlowe With Relative Fortunes the first book in Marlowe Benn’s Julia Kydd series I think it’s safe to say ‘it’s me not the book’ Although I love a good historical crime I am extremely picky about such reads and in this case this one wasn’t uite for meRelative Fortunes is a book that takes a long time to start much longer than I would have liked With my mysteries I like it when things start to come together much sooner than they did in this one and there were plenty of points where I did consider putting this one down It’s certainly an interesting book to continue reading but it does reuire uite the commitment to get that payoff For the first book in a series this one sets up things for later books I’m sure the later books will be interesting engrossing but this one didn’t uite grab me in the way I had anticipated For some however I’m sure this book will be perfect for them My opinions about Relative Fortunes by Marlowe Benn went back and forth uite a bit I downloaded the sample and enjoyed that enough to buy the ebook I liked the book or less but wouldn’t read another one as this is apparently the first in what will be known as the Julia Kydd series Julia Kydd is an heiress living abroad in London She is about to turn 25 and come into her full inheritance Her brother Philip the trustee of the will has summoned her to New York City He is contesting the validity of the will Julia returns to New York after a long absence not knowing what to expect as she does not know her brother ten years or so her senior very well While in NYC she runs into an old friend from school Glennis Rankin Glennis is also a member of an old wealthy respectable family Julia attends a family party at the Rankin residence a party that ends in disaster when Glennis learns that her older sister Naomi has been found dead Glennis automatically assumes that Chester the older brother had something to do with her death He hated Naomi because of her political activities Julia agrees with Glennis that the family is hushing up her death to avoid a scandal and agrees to ask uestions mostly to calm Glennis However Julia is soon convinced that someone is hiding the full truth about Naomi’s death and she and Glennis embark on a dangerous investigation that ends up uncovering unsavory family secrets This isn’t a bad novel but it’s not great either I think the editor should have sent it back to the author who according to her bio has also worked as an editor so I find that troubling to cut some of the unnecessary details and tighten the pacing and plot The supposed main plot is Naomi’s mysterious death but it’s often mired in Julia’s fight with her brother over the will Before the lawyers announce their decision she and Philip enter into a wager he says Naomi died by suicide she says it’s murder If she proves him wrong then he will drop his claim on her inheritance If she loses then she has to give up her inheritance no matter what the lawyers decide It’s a stupid wager for her to make as her legal claims have never been uestioned until now and she has a good chance of winning But she agrees to it because she’s an idiot and because she’s goaded into it by Philip She wants to prove him wrong—at the possible expense of giving up her inheritance her only income The amateur sleuthing by Glennis and Julia into Naomi’s murder is very slow to start The drama about Julia’s inheritance comes first but even that is slowed down by lots of descriptions of the fine art of book printing While I find this subject potentially interesting it takes up way too much space in the novel Julia goes on and on and on about it I eventually began skimming those sections because the extra details don’t add anything to the story The mystery itself isn’t too complicated There’s something of a twist at the end but nothing too earth shattering I pretty much had it figured out before Julia had even decided to start investigating—not because I’m a genius but because it wasn’t all that difficult The characters in the book are a problem for me I didn’t care for any of them Julia and her brother Philip are the only somewhat intriguing people but when view spoilerit’s revealed that Philip is not related to her I could already see the prickly sibling rivalry turning into a romance of the “we hate each other but also passionately love each other and will show it via a war of wits” kind I actually like those kinds of romances but it’s so predictable already I see no reason to read the next book to see it actually happen hide spoiler What a great debut novel An accomplished letterpress printer Marlowe Benn holds a master’s degree in the book arts from the University of Alabama and a doctorate in the history of books from the University of California Berkeley Her protagonist Julia Kydd's desire is launch her own private press in New York City But first she has to secure funds from her impending inheritance The only things in the way are a feud with her older half brother an insistent suitor imploring her to sail back to Europe marry him and a murder mystery to solveThe setting is the 1920's after the 19th ammendment granted women the right to vote in the US but most laws still treated women as their husband's possession even allowing another male relative to control her personal finances Julia strikes up a wager with her brother to get her fair share of the inheritance if she can solve the mysterious death of a wealthy friend's sister who was an active suffergistThe story is taken partly from actual events and people in the news at the time and feels accurateJulia and her half brother Phillip are both sharp witted and their dialogue is entertaining as well as the many other well thought out charactersI am so glad to see that this engaging story may be a series looking forward to the next installment I’m giving it a 3 because it frustrated me so much I wanted to hear of the beginnings of the Eual Rights Amendment and all the other social injustices that were brought up I had no picture in my mind of what the main characters looked like I will read the next in the series as it ended how I thought it should This was a slow slow slow burn of a novel I liked Julia she was a fun independent modern 192o's woman Yet for being 'modern' she was woefully ignorant to the women's rights movement that was happening all around her in England and America This was slightly unbelievable to me If your character is championing her own free will her disinterest in getting married and her enthusiasm for starting her own company you would think she would know how the political climate was changing because of women like her fighting for women to have that free agency I don't know it just didn't fit the rest of the character's persona for her to be ignorant of such a large issue that effects her so prominently It honestly felt like it took FOREVER to get to the juice of this novel The description says something like 'Julia places a bet with her brother that she can prove her friend's sister a Suffragette death was murder in order to win back her inheritance' Cool Except you are 36% of the way through the novel before the bet is even mentioned Then there is a moment when you're supposed to think it won't even be necessary Then Julia needs to win the bet to win her inheritance to live this modern life she wants to lead and becomes obsessed with solving the murderdeathsuicide I get that we need a reason for Julia to become interested and invested in solving this crime but it feels like it's for very selfish reasons Her 'friend' believes her sister was murdered because her family is awful so she is eagerly helping Julia But Julia never tells her friends she's ONLY helping her because she wants to win her inheritance back Then she tells her brother with whom the bet is placed and his best friend all the private details of this family and the murderdeathsuicide after explicitly telling the family she wouldn't tell anyone what she's discovered But she has to in order to win the bet The mystery was okay I thought it was fairly easy to figure out who the ultimate culprit was but there were a lot of characters that played a very large and crucial role to the mystery and some of those twists and turns were interesting The one thing I hated was how cliche the reveal was They were all sat in a room after being tricked there and Julia started 'interrogating' people and then they just all spilled their guts C'mon It's such a boring murder mystery trope that was tiring to find in this novel There are interesting ways to reveal the player's parts in the game then them simply standing around talking about it There's even the part where Julia guesses it wrong and has to think uickly on her feet to figure out who it is right in that moment UGHIn the end I'd probably read the second novel in this new Julia Kydd series because I genuinely liked Julia's character However I hope next go around we get to the meat and potatoes of the story a little uicker and the big reveal is a little entertaining to read then just pages of dialogue This started slow but ended strong Full RTC 35 stars In 1920s New York the price of a woman’s independence can be exorbitant—even fatal In 1924 Manhattan women’s suffrage is old news For sophisticated booklover Julia Kydd life’s too short for politics With her cropped hair and penchant for independent living Julia wants only to launch her own new private press But as a woman Julia must fight for what’s hers—including the inheritance her estranged half brother Philip has challenged putting her aspirations in jeopardyWhen her friend’s sister Naomi Rankin dies suddenly of an apparent suicide Julia is shocked at the wealthy family’s indifference toward the ardent suffragist’s death Naomi chose poverty and hardship over a submissive marriage and a husband’s control of her money Now her death suggests the struggle was than she could bearJulia however is skeptical Doubtful of her suspicions Philip proposes a glib wager if Julia can prove Naomi was in fact murdered he’ll drop his claims to her wealth Julia soon discovers Naomi’s life was as turbulent and enigmatic as her death And as she gets closer to the truth Julia sees there’s much at stake than her inheritance Set in Manhattan in a time of suffragists and prohibition bootleggers and soap box orators Julia Kydd a bibliophile and modern woman finds herself in a situation that reuires her to solve the mystery concerning the suspicious death of her friend's sister As she delves into Naomi's life and death she sees parallels between her situation in which her estranged brother controls her fortune and Naomi's whose brother forced her into dire circumstances by controlling her inheritance I loved that the author never preached about the issues and lets the readers draw their own conclusions while providing a clear view of the issues of the time Women have been tortured and suffered in order to get the vote A new type of modern woman is envisioned a woman with independence and free will in all areas of her life This type of woman is still held back by the norms of the day a brother or father or uncle is reuired for them to set up a bank account and it's the norm for the males to control the purse strings Sexual independence is almost unfathomable It's still the case that a woman must marry to secure her fortune The reader is dropped into this tumultuous time of great social change There is a lot of food for thought At the end I realized that although so much was done to secure our right to vote women's rights still have a long way to go to be considered eual We still do not have eual rights enshrined in the Constitution we still earn less than men for the same work In the end this novel reinforced my own commitment to securing those rights for allBeyond that the novel moves along at a good pace with a good puzzle to be solved I loved it and didn't want it to end


About the Author: Marlowe Benn

Born near Boston Marlowe Benn grew up in an Illinois college town along the Mississippi River Her debut novel Relative Fortunes was featured in the First Reads program and CrimeReads named it one of 2019's best traditional mysteries Her second novel Passing Fancies comes out in June 2020 A former editor college teacher and letterpress printer Benn holds a doctorate from Berkeley


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