Official Review: The Missing Baronet by Ken Methold

Please use this forum to discuss historical fiction books. Common definitions define historical fiction as novels written at least 25-50 years after the book's setting.
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Official Review: The Missing Baronet by Ken Methold

Post by NadineTimes10 » 30 Jan 2018, 07:08

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "The Missing Baronet" by Ken Methold.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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Sarah Kedron is a single, independent woman and a respected playwright in Regency England. James Brewster, an aspiring barrister, lands a job as the editor of The Weekly Police News, an upcoming publication under the charge of Sarah’s father. When a young, married aristocrat, Sir Charles Browning, mysteriously vanishes, Sarah and James team up to find out what happened to Charles in The Missing Baronet: A Sarah Kedron Mystery by author Ken Methold.

In the novel, Charles’s disappearance has crucial implications, including the hardship it places on his wife, Celia. Without knowledge of the whereabouts or current welfare of her husband, Celia is unable to see to his financial affairs. This essentially leaves her destitute. Her curious marriage to Charles reflects only one aspect of the social climate this novel touches on.

At first glance, a reader may not get the best sense of the story’s historical period, particularly due to the style of the woman’s dress on the book cover. However, the story itself effectively immerses the reader in the Regency era. While it can be easy for a novel to romanticize the period by focusing mostly on its more glamorous and noble aspects, the author does not take that route here. The characters are faced with the components, causes, and effects of the Regency underworld, especially where it concerns wealthy and titled Englishmen. The social, economic, and political issues of the time, as well as efforts for social reform, add layers and intrigue throughout the story.

Now, aside from the number of technical errors in the book (including punctuation errors), the novel’s style may be a bit problematic in some areas for different readers. The story has an omniscient narrator who often conveys the thoughts of more than one character during a scene. The narration does not carelessly “head hop” between characters in an unclear way, but the scenes do not split between different characters’ points of view. Hence, it could simply take some readers a little while to get used to the flow, if they are unaccustomed to omniscient narration in a single scene.

On a similar note, many readers may prefer a writing style that sticks to the common “show, don’t tell” guideline. The narration in this novel sometimes leans more toward “telling” than “showing.” It tends to spell out what the reader could likely pick up with less literal explanation and more subtlety and verbal illustration. Also, for readers who care deeply about the investigative roles that detectives or sleuths play in mystery novels, it is possible that the resolution of this novel’s plot may be somewhat of a letdown.

Nevertheless, aside from its errors and other potential weaknesses, this is a layered and carefully woven tale. It has distinct characters, and it takes a sharp look into an intriguing period. Therefore, I give The Missing Baronet a rating of 3 out of 4 stars. I’d recommend it to fans of historical fiction, especially those with an interest in mystery or suspense.

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The Missing Baronet
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Post by Sahani Nimandra » 07 Feb 2018, 04:59

The picture that I got at the beginning of this review was damn-it's-one-standard book, but later on at the end with the advice given I kept wondering what would I be left with. The plot is amazing as you mentioned a mystery, investigation novel an I wanted it to give its best because it seem to be a book of great entertainment! Thank you for the details!
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Post by inaramid » 07 Feb 2018, 07:24

Thanks for the information on this book. I'm not liking the POV issues as well as the telling not showing style. I'd be drawn if the issues are addressed in a later edition of the book.

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Post by RebeccasReading » 07 Feb 2018, 07:35

I love a good female detective book. I don't think I'd be too bothered by the issues you mentioned. Thanks for the review!

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Post by kandscreeley » 07 Feb 2018, 08:17

Thanks for all the information. I don't think this would be one I would enjoy due to several of the things that you mentioned, but it sounds somewhat intriguing.
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Post by NadineTimes10 » 07 Feb 2018, 08:46

:) Some of the issues I try to tread carefully with, since I think they have much to do with reader/writer preference.

For instance, while I don't see it as much in new books, I've seen more omniscient narration in classic literature, so I'm not unaccustomed to a narrator who can be "in everybody's heads," so to speak. On the other hand, omniscient narrators in classic literature can also be rather clear/blatant about establishing their omniscience as they set up the story, sometimes even referring to themselves as "I" or speaking directly to the reader about "this story that I, the narrator, am narrating to you, the reader." :D And it's still third person because the narrator isn't a part of the story or talking about his life--he's just relaying a story about other people. But since he clearly establishes his omniscience, you're not surprised or jarred when he can move from one character's POV to another's.

Also, while I've heard it said that there should only be one character's thoughts per scene, or that there should be a section break before moving to another character's thoughts (and a lot of authors do use that style), I think it's maybe a newer "rule" that's also a matter of preference. I've read books where authors clearly and smoothly move from one character's thoughts to another's just fine, without breaking the scene and without confusing "head hopping" that jumps around without signaling POV changes better. So I think it's all in how an author sets things up or makes those transitions.

I believe the "show, don't tell" rule (while it's a good guideline to follow!) is pretty preference-driven too, as it seems a lot of excellently-written older works can do a whole lot of "telling." :lol2: At the same time, audiences were different back when those books were written, before TVs and movies and whatnot were around to constantly give people a lot of "showing."

Anyway, while I don't think the POV changes and such ruin this book or anything, I did think they were worth a heads-up. :techie-studyingbrown:

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Post by Maggie G » 08 Feb 2018, 21:10

I have mixed feelings about historical fiction, but this one looks good.

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Post by Hephzi Lolami » 13 Feb 2018, 03:31

Historical fiction, I'm not sure about them but that's just because of the wordings but since the author used the 'tell, don't show' method, I think it's a book I'll go for. Also, the adoption of mysteries and switching persons point of views doesnt spoil it too because I've read countless books where the POV'S were shifted. Great review!

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Post by Lincolnshirelass » 13 Feb 2018, 03:53

This sounds very promising - and an excellent review! I've always had a weakness for the Regency period - read my way through a charity sale box of Georgette Heyer novels in my teens!
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Post by NadineTimes10 » 13 Feb 2018, 05:28

Lincolnshirelass wrote: ↑
13 Feb 2018, 03:53
This sounds very promising - and an excellent review! I've always had a weakness for the Regency period - read my way through a charity sale box of Georgette Heyer novels in my teens!
Thanks! I'm quite a fan of Regency reads myself, especially when they include some element of suspense or danger. :)

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Post by EWatson02 » 16 Feb 2018, 17:44

I really liked your analysis here. The premise sounds excellent, and I'm a huge sucker for historical mysteries, but I am disappointed with the fact that the book relies on "telling." I think the "show, don't tell" factor is hugely important in mysteries, so the fact that it's missing doesn't really say good things about the book as a whole. I may still check it out, but cautiously.

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Post by Libs_Books » 01 Mar 2018, 10:58

I like what you say about the historical background and the detail of the Regency underworld, but then I wonder about the realism of a woman being a respected playwright. Aphra Behn famously managed that in the Restoration era, but that was an exceptional time. I appreciated your detailed analysis of narrative style; I think it is possible to get away with giving different character's perspectives in one scene, but to do it well is very rare. I'll look out for this book, but won't go out of my way.

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Post by NadineTimes10 » 01 Mar 2018, 15:53

Libs_Books wrote: ↑
01 Mar 2018, 10:58
I like what you say about the historical background and the detail of the Regency underworld, but then I wonder about the realism of a woman being a respected playwright. Aphra Behn famously managed that in the Restoration era, but that was an exceptional time. I appreciated your detailed analysis of narrative style; I think it is possible to get away with giving different character's perspectives in one scene, but to do it well is very rare. I'll look out for this book, but won't go out of my way.
Thanks for checking out the review!

Concerning woman playwrights, I suspect the author was inspired by a part of history that's become obscure. While Behn is a rather recognizable name, I think there may be a number of other female playwrights who knew some success but whose names have since fallen out of remembrance--something I've seen happen in other areas of history.

It'd be interesting to do a little more research on it sometime, as I also suspect that the growing popularity of novels/novelists might have contributed to obscuring playwrights. :)

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Post by Libs_Books » 01 Mar 2018, 16:12

Yes, that sounds like fruitful ground to explore. I believe that theatre was harder hit by censorship than novels, and I suppose theatre could only reach a very limited audience. I guess it would be much harder for women to work in the theatre and stay 'respectable', but maybe there would be some who could afford not to care about appearing respectable. There's some very interesting recent research uncovering how much prostitution contributed to the economic development of London.

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Post by prettysmart » 02 Mar 2018, 17:27

I agree... authors shouldn't spell out everything..it kills the excitement of the plot

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