Posts Tagged ‘Angela Misri’

"No Matter How Improbable" by Angela Misri

“No Matter How Improbable” by Angela Misri

I’m of the opinion that the third book in a series can be really hard to pull off, especially when the first two books were just that awesome. I’m glad to say that while the third book in the Portia Adams Adventure series by friend and fellow writer Angela Misri is a bit darker than the previous two books, it’s still a great read and I enjoyed reading it from start to finish.

So if you’re unfamiliar with the book series, it follows Portia Constance Adams, a young woman who finds out she’s the granddaughter of John Watson (as in Holmes and Watson), and moves into 221B Baker Street and begins solving mysteries in 1930s London. The third book starts with Portia now known to the great wide world as the new consulting detective at 221B, and, in addition to a bit of annoying notoriety, she’s dealing with some rather upsetting aspects of being human. Namely, you sometimes argue with, and sometimes you even lose some friends.

These themes of struggle with your friends and loss are present throughout the book, and they can be either a plus or a minus, depending on the reader. In my case, I think I’ll go with a plus. Seeing Portia’s struggles with her friends, which often are somehow wrapped up with the cases she’s taking on, makes for great character development, and makes you want to read more to see how she resolves these problems. You also feel a lot of what Portia’s feeling as you read on, which shows how good Angela is at making you feel what the character feels.

I also found the cases in the story very compelling. Again, I struggled trying to figure out who the culprit or culprits were in each case, and each time I was pleasantly surprised (I’m better at figuring out culprits on crime shows than I am in the books, it seems). My favorite was the mystery “Principessa”, which follows the actual Princess Francesca Maria of the Italian royal family. It was pretty cool, seeing an actual figure from history in a historical mystery novel.

If there were things I thought could’ve been improved upon, I did think that the final casebook was a little crowded. So much was going on in that book–a strange death, a couple of odd men following a friend of Portia’s, and a suspicious psychologist–that it’s hard to keep track of what is part of which case when. That, and in the beginning of the last chapter, there’s a scene where Portia shows some really deep emotion, but it’s only glanced over. I really would’ve enjoyed seeing more attention paid to that scene, as I think it would’ve been a very memorable scene if that had been the case.

Other than that, I really enjoyed No Matter How Improbable. It was a great read, and I really can’t wait for the fourth book. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 4.3 out of 5. Definitely check it out (and the first two books, too) if you have the chance.

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Angela Misri

Angela Misri

Twice already I’ve had the great fortune to talk to my friend Angela Misri about her detective character Portia Adams, and the books she’s written with her. I’ve also had the pleasure of reading and reviewing both books, and I have to say, Angela knows how to tell a compelling mystery story in the tradition of Sherlock Holmes.

Which is why I’m glad to welcome her back and talk to her about the third Portia Adams book, No Matter How Improbable, which I’m sure will be as excellent as the first two books.

RU: Welcome back, Angela. It’s good to see you here again. Now, in the first book, Jewel of the Thames, Portia comes to London, starts a new life, and realizes her heritage. In the second book, Thrice Burned, Portia makes a big decision about her life and her career, as well as facing new challenges in her life. What can we expect for her in the third book, No Matter How Improbable?

AM: Where the first and second books were very much about discovery and building confidence, book three has a central theme of loss. Loss of friends, loss of family, loss of the comfort of anonymity. This book will force Portia to develop as a person amongst all the other humans around her. She no longer doubts herself as a detective, but she finds herself doubting her relationships, which for a highly intelligent introvert can be debilitating.

RU: I bet. And speaking of Portia, characters often change between books. How has Portia changed between Books 2 and 3?

AM: I would say that she has grown to have more confidence in her abilities, she’s more grounded and she knows what she wants to do with her life. She is also starting to see the value of friendship and relationships, something she never had as a child.

RU: Moving onto the mystery bits of the book, can you give us a hint of what sort of cases Portia will be handling?

AM: Ha! I can indeed! One of the casebooks will involve an Italian Princess (hence the beautifully designed book cover by Emma Dolan), one will harken back to a story from the original Sherlock Holmes canon and the last casebook will cause Portia to lose not one, but two of her close friends. How’s that for a hint?

RU: It seems that Portia’s growing more popular every day. Can you tell us about some memorable fan experiences and the growing fan base around the character?

AM: I have been very lucky in my fans who show up again and again for each book event, and bring their friends, and take my books to their classes and do book reports, and so many other things. It’s hard to pick one interaction, but I recently got an email from a woman in Texas asking for a signed copy of Jewel of the Thames for her daughter’s birthday. She said her daughter read it cover-to-cover and it’s her favourite book. I wrote back suggesting I instead send her a birthday card containing a signed bookplate sticker that she could just put in her daughter’s book (to save them a bit of money). She wrote back to say she needed a new copy of Jewel because her daughter had ‘worn out’ her copy. That is such an incredible compliment to an author.

RU: Will there be a fourth book, and when can we expect it?

AM: There will indeed be a fourth book, but I’m currently negotiating the contract, so I am not sure when it will be out. I can tell you that the first casebook in the fourth book comes back to Portia’s roots – it’s set in 1932 Toronto, Canada.

"No Matter How Improbable" by Angela Misri

“No Matter How Improbable” by Angela Misri

RU: Ooh, I love those sorts of stories. They tend to dredge up so many memories! So with Portia’s growing popularity, can we expect a Portia Adams TV or movie adaptation? Anything like that coming out anytime soon?

AM: My agent continues to look for those opportunities, but nothing yet – keep your fingers crossed!

RU: What are you working on besides Portia Adams these days?

AM: I have a zombie book and a contemporary detective novel (not YA) too that I am working on. I also have a chapter in an upcoming Sherlockian anthology that I just sent in to the editors.

RU: Are there any subjects or characters you hesitate or refuse to write about in your stories?

AM: I’m not big on sex scenes in books (either that I am reading or writing) and I will never write a rape scene because I think it’s too disturbing. I also will probably never write about the death of a child because as a mother, I can’t imagine putting those words on a page.

RU: What do you do when you’re not writing?

AM: I’m a digital journalist, so I freelance articles, build websites and digital strategies for clients and I teach at various universities in Toronto.

RU: Is it difficult balancing time between being a full-time writer and a full-time human being these days?

AM: No more so than any other kind of balancing – no stage of my life has had just ONE thing in it. From student to mother to writer, I’ve always balanced my main focus with other things I needed to do. I will say that it took me nearly 6 months to establish a routine as a writer that worked for me.

RU: Finally, let’s assume you got the chance to collaborate with any writer of your choosing on a story or a series. Who would you pick? (And if you say me, I will squeal like a teenage girl at a One Direction concert.)

AM: You, of course Rami, if I had the ability to write horror like you do, I would pitch you an idea so fast your head would spin. Or if we could collaborate on a story where I write the basic mystery and you write the horror… I don’t know, I think it could be neat.

I’d probably pick the same person you’d pick – Stephen King. Or Mark Gatiss in my case, but I’d probably be way too intimidated to string a sentence together. Thanks for asking!

RU: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! *cough* Excuse me. Well, thank you for joining me Angela, and I hope to see you back here soon.

No Matter How Improbable will be available for purchase in Canada on March 22. For all those outside of Canada, please email the author herself for a copy. Also check out my interviews for Jewel of the Thames and Thrice Burned to get links for those books. If you’d like more from Angela, you can visit her website, A Portia Adams Adventure. Trust me, it’s well worth checking out.

And if you’re an author wanting to do an interview, check out my Interviews page and leave a comment. We can discuss it there.

Have a good one, my Followers of Fear!

Let me just say, it’s always a pleasure reading books by friends, especially because they’re usually really good. And this is no exception. Thrice Burned, the second book in Angela Misri’s Portia Adams Adventures series, has the young detective now living at 221B Baker Street taking on some twisty new cases, while at the same time adjusting to her growing social circle and trying to find the answers to her own deep and complex personal dilemmas.

As expected, the mysteries in this volume are hard to decipher and make you want to read late into the night just to find out the answers (I was able to make some guesses on one of the mysteries that turned out to be true, but that was about it). The resolutions are also fun to watch, and sometimes can be a little touching, usually coinciding with Portia finding something new about herself or making an important decision in her life. Praise should also go to the new characters of Annie Coleson, an energetic and free-spirited journalist, and Gavin Whitaker, an ambitious forensic pathologist with a mind to match Portia’s, who challenge our protagonist in so many fun ways.

And of course, there’s Portia. Honestly, I can see why so many readers identify with her. Her struggles feel more real than many YA heroines, most of whom have to deal with nothing bigger than which boy they like more. Portia Adams has to contend with so much in her life, including where she wants to go with her career, having to adjust to the presence of new people in her life who take her out of her comfort zone in so many ways, earning the respect of her peers in law enforcement, how to be an introvert when society doesn’t always allow for that, the travails of having a mind unlike anyone else’s, and so much more. It’s good to see such a well-rounded character, and I think the character of Portia is going to grow in popularity as more people find her and feel like they they’ve gone through what she’s going through at some point in their lives.

My one complaint would be that at times it feels like the story emphasizes Portia’s personal problems more than the mysteries she’s supposed to be solving, but then again this is technically a YA novel, and they’re supposed to be big on character development, so I can see why.

In any case, this is a great second installment to a series I can see going on for several books, and I can’t wait for March 2016, when the third book in the series comes out (okay, I can wait, but it’ll be agonizing). For great storytelling, characters you feel can come off the pages, and for mysteries that will leave you on the edge of your seat, I rate Thrice Burned a 4.3 out of 5. If you can, definitely check this series out, especially if you like yourself a good mystery.

For more on Portia Adams and her adventures, read my interview with the author, as well as my review of the first book Jewel of the Thames and the interview I had with Angela prior to that one’s release.

Last year Angela released her first book, Jewel of the Thames, about a young woman named Portia Adams who moves into 221B Baker Street and begins solving mysteries happening in London (see our first interview and my review of JotT). Now she’s back, and she’s here to discuss her new book, the sequel to JotT, Thrice Burned and the growing fanbase around her character Portia.

RU: Welcome back to the program, Angela. Now, in Jewel of the Thames, Portia moves into 221 Baker Street, establishes a reputation for herself, and learns some very interesting things about her family history. What can we expect in Thrice Burned?

AM: Portia spends most of Thrice Burned struggling with the idea of becoming a real detective. Up until now, her cases have been small potatoes, brought to her by Brian, or friends or in the case of the missing child on a train, just the luck of being in the right place at the right time. With the full knowledge of her heritage just weeks old in her mind, Portia is truly at a juncture in her young life. Should she follow the easy route and take her law degree, fading into relative obscurity as one of the many barristers walking the streets of London? Or should she step up and take the road-less-travelled and take up the shingle to Baker Street, becoming the latest consulting detective in London? At the same time, other choices are being thrown her way when she meets Gavin Whitaker, a man who stimulates her brain in a way no one else ever has. Annie Coleson inserts herself into Portia’s life and suddenly, she has a persistent new friend (whether she wants one or not). So, in addition to the usual mysteries to solve, Thrice Burned focuses on decisions that need to be made for your young heroine to become the detective we all know she will be.

RU: Has Portia’s character changed at all between the books?

AM: Wow. Yes, it has, dramatically so. Where in Toronto she was essentially an introverted shut-in who did her best to fade into the background, since arriving in London Portia has made friends and developed a rather dramatic habit of getting into trouble. She’s still a very focused girl with introverted tendencies, but she’s starting to recognize when those tendencies move her towards depression and is trying to get a handle on it. She’s started documenting her moods, trying to avoid the extremes that her grandfather Sherlock Holmes experienced and while she doesn’t exactly embrace the lifestyle Mrs. Jones is determined to introduce her to, she does start to see its value and the value of the new friends in her life.

“Thrice Burned” by Angela Misri. Available March 24th

 

RU:  How do you come up with the cases for your books?

AM: This hasn’t changed through three books of writing about Portia. For me, it always starts with the crime – I have an idea for a crime and work outwards from there. In the case of Thrice Burned, I had a cool idea about some unexplained fires in London that could be linked back to a firefighter. In the case of my latest casebook that I’m working on for book four, I had an idea about unexploded mines from the first world war being set off at London train stations. I have a video from my series that explains my methodology (such as it is).

[Editor’s note: Angela has a series of web videos on YouTube called One Fictitious Moment about writing fiction. You can watch the particular video she’s referring to here.]

RU: Portia’s been gaining quite a fan base. She’s gotten some fan art and even appeared in a Wikipedia entry. How does that make you feel?

AM: Incredibly blessed. I still find it surreal to meet fans who know all about my characters and talk about them like they’re real people (which in my head, they are of course!).

RU: How many more volumes of Portia’s adventures can we expect? And what’s next for you personally?

AM: Well, I have at least one more book with Fierce Ink Press (coming out March 2016) but I am well into writing book 4 in the series. I don’t know to be honest. I think as long as I enjoy writing them, I will continue to do that and hopefully find someone who will publish them! In my head I really want to make it to the Second World War in the books, because Brian is going to go off to fight, and Portia is going to have to get involved with the war as well (though I’m not positive as to how yet). What do you think? Keep going or wrap it up at three books?

RU:  I’d like to see some more of Portia. And speaking of which, you were in London recently. Was that mostly research or pleasure?

A little of both to be honest! I haven’t been in London since I started writing this series, so I really wanted to put my eyes on some of the locations I describe in Jewel and Thrice Burned. I visited Trafalgar Square, Old Scotland Yard, Regents Park, Kings Cross station and of course Baker Street. It was kind of a dream come true to take a picture of my first book at 221B Baker Street!

RU: Jealous! Finally, what are you reading right now that you’d recommend to others?

AM: I just started Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz and on the recommendation of a friend I’m also reading The Grammar Devotional by Mignon Fogarty.

Thrice-Burned comes out March 24th, and will be available from Amazon and Indigo.com. Angela will also be attending 221B Con in Atlanta this April as a special guest speaker. And make sure to check out her blog, A Portia Adams Adventure.

And if you’re an author interested in getting interviewed for an upcoming release, head over to my interview page and leave me a comment. We’ll arrange for something to happen soon.