Historical fiction, Mystery

Master Mercurius Mysteries #2, #3 & #4

I have read and reviewed the first of the series earlier last year. I hoped to be done with these as well before 2020 ended but I did not make it in time. The first is reviewed here

Untrue till Death

Master Mercurius continues with the narration of his memoirs. This time we go back to the time where he gained fame. The head of the country has summoned him. What begins as a local economic issue ends up with a more sensitive matter. With this backdrop, we are given a mildly humorous look at all the ongoing political skirmishes of the time and delicate balance of those who run things.
There are more than a single plot that this story unravels. Each story takes its own time to get to the point, there are many asides that form the highlight in the entertainment as Mercurius grapples with his life and the directions his mind takes him. Even with his previous victory in sleuthing, he does not see the obvious a couple of times this time around. He does get better with time and effort, but the thought process in this is laboured because he continues to fear for his life either at the hands of the villain or the men above him to whom he is supposed to respond. The ending tied up a few ends, but the journey to it was entertaining. This was a quick and satisfying read.
I do not mention any of the plots because I was in the dark as Mercurius was until people spelt out the issues. He was a simple man till he got entangled in the politics of the country. I quickly moved on to the next book.

Dishonour and Obey

The third installment begins two years after the last adventure with the Stadhouder asking for Mercurius’ presence. There is a delicate matter of a marriage that requires multiple people making a voyage to another country. I must admit at this time that I know next to nothing of the machinations of the royal families of the time in Europe and all the marriages that have taken place. Even during the reading, I did not necessarily look them up because I did not think I could retain much given the repetitions of names and other such small issues. I took the facts as I saw them in the narrative and believed them and kept going. Understanding some of the balances of power was required to understand the goings-on, which effectively meant this was the slowest going for me of the three I read back-to-back.
When on a semi-spying visit in England, there is a death of one of their Dutch team. The suspicions run high as Master Mercurius is handed the lead investigator’s mantle with the King’s full support. I would have rated this lower (because of personal disinterest in the dynastical tangles) if not for the highly amusing narrative in the last quarter. It was good enough to make me like everything that came before it.

The Noose’s Shadow

This book was the one I liked most of all of Master Mercurius’ exploits. I think the averageness of the situation was a lure and the fact that I identified the culprit quite early on. Usually, the latter bit is a drawback but in this case, I could relax and let the investigation wind its way through strange and interesting characters before the sudden understanding dawns on our Master (who actually has higher qualifications now).
A woman in need comes to him one night for help and moved by her plea (as well as her, in general), Master Mercurius sets out to investigate. I was mildly familiar with the concept of coerced confessions to be a deciding factor in declaring one guilt from another series. He chooses the right people at the university to give him a leg up with appropriate help as required. Although older than when we first meet him, his mind is more challenging to control now than before. There is a better pattern of events here, the investigation is thorough and streamlined, which means even more mental monologue. This last bit is what I think I am reading this series for. I would definitely pick up the next book if and when it becomes available to me.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I received the books as ARCs thanks to the publishers and NetGalley, but the review is entirely based on my own reading experience.

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