Morgan Stang

Books: Fantasy | Queer | Romance

Lamplight Murder Mysteries: Murder at Spindle Manor (2022), Murder on the Lamplight Express (2023)

The Bookshop and the Barbarian (2023) 

Lamplight Murder Mysteries

Murder at Spindle Manor (2022)

Murder at Spindle ManorIsabeau Agarwal is a huntress, and her latest hunt has led her to Spindle Manor, to search out a monster that takes the memory and skins of it victims, replicating them until it finds a new victim.

"Is there any way I may be of any help to your Hunt?"

"No, my Lady," said Isabeau.

"Then you may leave. And may death follow where you go. Rip and rend, Huntress. Leave nothing of the enemies from the darkness."

She brings with herself her training, he guns, her gaslamp, and an overeager coachman.

"You must notice what's not present in addition to what is, Evie. What have we not found in this bedroom so far?"

Evie looked about and shrugged. "Happiness of any kind?"

She meets a group of guests most who are returning to Lamplight from the travels together.

"What is it I do? Why, I do anything and everything. Or dabble in it, at least. But what I'm most proud of, my greatest accomplishment, is that I've provided a goal for the grasping elite in Lamplight. A target to aim for. You see, when I attend a party, that party is a success. When I see a show, that show is a success. When I pay for a séance, that séance is a success. The spirits of generations centuries past push and shove for a chance to rub their ghostly shoulders with my own, only so they can brag to their ghostly peers back home they met Ms Angelica Keystone. I make friends, Ms Agarwal. I collect them, and I play with them, and I pet and feed and categorize them. And I watch them beam with happiness or pout with despair at my affections or disapproval. Who am I, you ask, Ms Agarwal? I am Lamplight's greatest socialite."

Like the The Bookshop and the Barbarian there were Easter eggs–random mention of authors and characters from other books.

The mystery had its week parts (Isabeau leaving the manor was one of them) but it was a fun romp.

Rating: 8/10

Murder on the Lamplight Express (2023)

Murder on the Lamplight ExpressLike the previous book, this story is delightful.

The sequel to Murder at Spindle Manor finds Isabeau Agarwal and her partner racing to catch a train. Literally, as they Isabeau received her orders to "ensure the safety of all passengers and crew until point of destination" on the Lamplight Express too late to board the train at the station.

This story is a combination of tropes and ideas: Ten Little Murder Victims, Frankenstein, creepy dolls, and more.

Discovery: Indonesia and the Philippines have very similar, very disturbing vampires. The penanggalan and the manananggal are almost the same, but with the penanggalan being slightly more creepy and disturbing.

It's also written with multiple comic scenes.

Everyone stood about, waiting for something to happen.

"To berths thirteen and fourteen!" said Isabeau, and the entire group raced back through the train.

"Stop chasing and I'll stop running!" yelled back Mrs Peafowl as she threw random objects into the hall from rooms in desperate attempts to slow her pursuers. What amazed Isabeau is it seemed to be working. People tripped over umbrellas and coat hangers and ran into open doors.

It is ridiculous, but in an over-the-top way that amused me.

One thing that pleased me was bringing up what I found to be a weak point in the previous story.

"Did you lie to me then, when we last met? About the doppelvyrm. About failing to hunt it."

"Yes," said Isabeau, almost gasping the answer. She blinked again, a tear falling down her cheek.

"We figured as much," said Lady Constellation.

It was fun and silly and I very much enjoyed it.

Despite the super creepy vampires and dolls.

Rating: 8.5/10

The Bookshop and the Barbarian (2023)

The Bookshop and the BarbarianThis was a delight.

I kept stopping and reading bits aloud to Michael.

"Well, perhaps you know them better as adventurers? Swords-for-hire? Mercenaries? Sellswords? You see, a murder-hobo is a man or woman who travels all about the land. They have no home. Their primary source of income is doing odd jobs for the people they come across. Now these jobs could be anything, and any number of solutions could be used to address these jobs, but to a murder-hobo, murdering is usually the go-to strategy. They carry large swords and are excellent fighters. So that's why people call them murder-hobos."

I mean, there was even a sly reference to Legends and Lattes.

There's this town several towns over, where these two women recently started up a business selling coffee. It's apparently a huge success, and everyone is raving about it. I forget the name of it. Myths and Mugs? Champions and Cappuccinos?

And it regularly goes through the fourth wall.

It's not good to do one thing for too long, you know. All right, then. Are you all finished going about and seeing how boring the real world without a book is? Continue reading, then.

Rating: 9/10