Historical settings I want to know more about have turned up in my searches this week.
The Witch Doctor’s Wife by Tamar Myers
From beloved mystery writer Tamar Myers comes an enthralling tale of duty, greed, danger, and miracles in equatorial Africa.
The Congo beckons to young Amanda Brown in 1958, as she follows her missionary calling to the mysterious “dark continent” far from her South Carolina home. But her enthusiasm cannot cushion her from the shock of a very foreign culture—where competing missionaries are as plentiful as flies, and oppressive European overlords are busy stripping the land of its most valuable resource: diamonds.
Little by little, Amanda is drawn into the lives of the villagers in tiny Belle Vue—and she is touched by the plight of the local witch doctor, a man known as Their Death, who has been forced to take a second job as a yardman to support his two wives. But when First Wife stumbles upon an impossibly enormous uncut gem, events are set in motion that threaten to devastate the lives of these people Amanda has come to admire and love—events that could lead to nothing less than murder.
I haven’t read anything about colonist Africa. In my French class, we recently watched Chocolat–not the film version of my current read, but a story of a woman contemplating her upbringing in colonist Cameroon. It’s a piece of history I’d like to learn more about, and a mystery set in colonist Africa seems like the perfect appetizer. Amanda intrigues me as well–a cheerful Southern missionary in the Congo. She certainly sounds plucky enough to solve a mystery. My only concern is that Amanda’s love for the villagers may come off as patronizing.
The only review I can find is the one that brought it to my attention- a starred review in Publishers Weekly, praising Myers for evolving beyond her previous two mystery series in her storytelling. This bodes well–as you might know, I have a problem with formulaic procedurals.
The Witch Doctor’s Wife was released on October 20.
The Kingdom of Ohio by Matthew Flaming
An incredibly original, intelligent novel-a love story set against New York City at the dawn of the mechanical age, featuring Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, and J. P. Morgan.
After discovering an old photograph, an elderly antiques dealer living in present-day Los Angeles is forced to revisit the history he has struggled to deny. The photograph depicts a man and a woman. The man is Peter Force, a young frontier adventurer who comes to New York City in 1901 and quickly lands a job digging the first subway tunnels beneath the metropolis. The woman is Cheri- Anne Toledo, a beautiful mathematical prodigy whose memories appear to come from another world. They meet seemingly by chance, and initially Peter dismisses her as crazy. But as they are drawn into a tangle of overlapping intrigues, Peter must reexamine Cheri-Anne’s fantastic story. Could it be that she is telling the truth and that she has stumbled onto the most dangerous secret imaginable: the key to traveling through time?
Set against the mazelike streets of New York at the dawn of the mechanical age, Peter and Cheri-Anne find themselves wrestling with the nature of history, technology, and the unfolding of time itself.
I also haven’t read a lot of novels set at the turn of the century, but time travel, lady nerds, and cameos by the greats of the era have certainly caught my eye! I love reading about New York and its history, and I hope I’ll like Cheri-Anne. As it’s a love story, it’ll rise and fall on the lovers, Peter and Cheri-Anne. It would be awful if everything else was good but the central love story.
The best review I can wrangle up comes from Lauren Gibaldi at Half Deserted Streets, who loved it, but found it stumbled in a few places–namely, there are some tedious bits. I’m still inclined to give The Kingdom of Ohio a chance, despite a threat of tediousness.
The Kingdom of Ohio will be released December 31.