Quote of the Week

"The key is to commit crimes so confusing that police feel too stupid to even write a crime report about them."
Randy K. Milholland, Something Positive Comic
10-30-03. Web Comic Pioneer

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cooking Up Trouble

"Cooking Up Trouble" by Joanne Pence features Angie Amalfie, cook and part-time journalist hired, in this book, to develop a menu for an inn slated to open in northern California. The menu is heavy on soy and light to non-existent on flavor but the protagonist is not discouraged mainly since her gorgeous, police officer boyfriend, Paavo, has agreed to spend the week with her at the inn.
From day one, people start dying or disappearing, weather strands the chef, her boyfriend, and an assorted assemblage of prospective owners on top of a mountain. Add to that secret passages, mysterious people, ghosts, unbelievable love interests, occasional menus, and of course, hostile neighbors and romance mystery emerges.
The resemblance to "And Then There Were Non" a movie based on Agatha Christie's novel, "10 Little Indians" becomes obvious at the beginning with even Angie mentioning it by the middle of the book. Some characters were very well drawn, interestingly not the main ones. There was more than one mystery happening and all were resolved by the end. Some situations portrayed were pretty unbelievable (not just the ghosts).
This was an easy read. This is the third book in this series so although the series did not grab my interest it has undoubtedly been possible with other readers. The series itself has received the independent Booksellers Golden Scroll Award while individual books have received a variety of awards. All these accolades make me think that I will try another of these books. Joanne Pence, according to her website, is NOT a gourmet cook, but she is a former journalist and employee of the federal government. The series continues to grow every year. I found my copy in paperback at the Thompson Public Library so it is available through bibliomation as well as from Amazon.com.

Reduced Circumstances

Meeting Frank Cole, a bankrupt techie, trying to evade his creditors while working as a fact checker and taxi dispatcher, was like meeting a neighbor. Cole is so absolutely real in his doubts, fears, and life issues that I couldn't help but route (no pun intended)for him from the opening sentence.
Equally real were his fellow taxi drivers. I kept expecting the description of the owner to match that of Danny DaVito , but it didn't. The remaining characters were as diverse and interesting as could possibly be brought together.
The Florida Panhandle comes to life in O'Neil's descriptions of not only the weather but the attitudes of various characters. Cole lives in Exile, Fla. which is an effective double meaning if there ever was one.
And then there is the plot!! Never before have I seen the the idea of using a number of matrices to line up clues and figure out what is happening. But, it made perfect sense - it wasn't perfectly foolproof but certainly helped. Using both insightful and less than motivated police officers kept the book evenly paced.
O'Neil has three books in this series about Frank Cole. "Reduced Circumstances" is the second. As soon as I finished I was off to the Thompson Public Library to take our "Murder in Exile" which should indicate how much I enjoyed this book. "Murder in Exile" was an excellent mechanism to use to get thoroughly educated about Cole's background and issues as well as meet some of the ongoing characters. I plan to move on to the third book as soon as time allows.
O'Neil is a Massachusetts native, a graduate of West Point with a masters in international affairs from the Fletcher School of Diplomacy. He won the St. Martin's Press "Malice Domestic" Writing Competition in 2005. In addition to the Frank Cole series he has published two anthologies.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"Island of Exiles" by I. J. Parker

If you are a fan of historical novels, set your sights on this series. Sugawara Akitada is an 11th century Japanese sleuth set in a period of rustic adventures, political intrigue of the Heian Period , as well as a time of brutality. Don't let these descriptors throw you. This is a brilliant series with a surprisingly likeable main character. This is the fourth in the Akitada series and the character poses as a prisoner to find out who killed the son of a governor. So as you can imagine in a time of primitive technology, that the sleuth must use brain as well as brawn, and a sharp cunning to solve the crime. This is an exotic world and Parker is a brilliant writer. You feel the waves in the prison ship, you image the unbearable taste of the daily gruel and imagery of a period in Japanese history that is well researched. The author I. J. Parker has a great web site that let's you into the world of that period of history. Originally a short story writer Parker turned Akitada into a profitable and likeable series that now spans several books. I highly recommend this series. I tend to read contemporary novels but found this author by 'accident' a couple years ago and I am a complete devotee. For an unusual sleuth, setting, and crime solver, try Sugawara Akitada. He and his author Ms. Parker will not dissappoint you.

Monday, October 11, 2010

"The Lover's knot" by Clare O'Donohue

What's not to like about this book...quilter's...a group of caring women...a bad guy...and a murder. This book was the perfect vacation book for a quilter. Nell Fitzgerald is jilted close to her wedding day and returns to the comfort of family to lick her wounded spirit. The quilt group lead by her grandmother rally to her side until the death of bad guy and smooth talker Marc. This is a cute series and I look forward to reading more. The plot was a little predictible but not necessarily in a bad way. This series will feed into the soul of a quilter and that nagging wish for all of us to own our own shop. I could "see" the personalities of my own quilt buddies in the stories and the writer's passion and knowledge for the art behind quilters and quilting. I hope the author goes more into the history of quilting and what drives people in this art form. I also look forward to learning more about Nell and see if 'good guy" Jesse is the man of her dreams. If you are seeking a new series and this is a lovely and entertaining series. It has a lot of potential.I look forward to reading the next. This book can be found at most libraries and book stores.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"The Man who stole the Mona Lisa" by Robert Noah

Who would want to own a stolen painting, knowing that no one could ever know you own it? Or that you alone would be the only person who ever get to see it? This is the perpetual quandry in the theft of fine and famous art pieces and the background of this mystery. Based upon the famous thief of the "Mona Lisa" in 1911, Noah develops a personal story around the characters of the time and the ingenious way that the art was stolen. It is a fascinating story of Paris and also Italy during that period and how many artists made a living copying master works. Marquis Eduardo de Valfierno was a charismatic con man. As you read, you will see the mastery of the plot develop and you realize how easily an underworld can be tapped with the right connections and a little bit of money. This book while fiction is one of many written about this masterful crime. Ironically, it took 20 years before the painting was restored. You can Google for many articles on the real theft. The link about will take you to a Time Magazine article about it. I got this book out of the Thompson Public Library and it can be found in most larger library system catalogs. I highly recommend this book for the combination of great writing on a real life mystery that was ultimately solved and documented.
PS: Check the comment below for an outstanding blog and documentary on the theft. I was thrilled to have Mr. Medeiros comment and contribute. Check his blog. There are copies of original pictures and news articles from that time. The link needs to include the 'blogspot' part of the link or it will not work. Again thanks to Mr. Medeiros for adding richness to my humble effort.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Killer Instincts by Martina Navratilova and Liz Nickles

Finally, I found a sports related mystery that was also intriguing right from the cover. Truthfully, I didn't expect much and was pleasantly surprised. This book is the third in a series featuring former tennis great Jordan Myles. Myles is a former champion tennis player and current part owner of a sports spa type place and host of a women's sport tv show. Lots of opportunities for dastardly deeds on this one.
Details about tennis injuries, competition, and various tournaments were very realistic. The competition of tennis players and endorsements is interwoven with marketing of sports related products. In this case, a new sports drink is in the spotlight. A new topic comes forward in the possibility of toxic vitamin levels and unknown conditions even in the obviously healthy athletes.
Jordan's secretary, very likeable friends, rather unpleasant (controlling) boyfriend/partner all combine to create an enjoyable read. Even more important, the mystery of the deaths taking place ended up not having much in common with the ultimate downfall of the villain.
I found this at the Thompson Public Library at the suggestion of the research librarian, therefore it is available at any Connecticut library.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"The Oxford Murders" by Guillermo Martinez

Took me a while to post this book. To our faithful readers, I've been on a binge to read all summer and not necesarily reading books in order. This book is one of the most cerebral and scholarly mystery stories I have read in a while and another from a country other than the US. The main character is an Argentine mathematical scholar attending Oxford University. The plot begins with the murder of his elderly landlady who helped decipher the 'Enigma Code.' You meet a cast of intellectual characters from the world of mathematics and learn the background of many theories and suppositions. Don't let this keep you from reading this book. It is truly different and the author manages to weave an interesting who-dun-it with some amazing back stories of the mysteries of math. You will find as the story unwinds that the word 'calculated' has both literal and figurative meanings. I have a terrible habit of reading the ending and I didn't with this one and enjoyed the plot twists which kept me guessing who committed the crime to the end. I enjoy reading the works of authors from different countries and this did not disappoint. Are you a fan of the CBS series NUMB3RS? You will appreciate this book.
I recommend this book very much and it is available from most area libraries.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Organize your Corpses by Mary Jane Maffini

This was an absolutely perfect beach or curl up in a lounge chair book. It was fun and without a terribly difficult plot. The heroine has real life problems and two adorable yet loyal little dogs. I was drawn to the idea of an organizer solving crimes since organization would seem to be a prime quality for a sleuth. In theory, I understand the importance of being organized but it is certainly not my most dominant quality. The setting is the upper Hudson River Valley which was also a draw for me since I am familiar with the area. Charlotte Adams, just starting a business of professional organizing in her home town, runs into all kinds of situations trying to solve the murder of a former and quite unpopular teacher. Suspects and helpers for Charlotte are certainly not lacking and, in fact, some overlap. Red herrings are numerous but even when it seems obvious who the culprit is, more surprises await. "Organize Your Corpses" was an enjoyable read. I would definitely try another. Perfect for stashing in a suitcase, the book is available in easy travel paperback. Maffini is a Canadian native with three crime series with heroines including Charlotte Adams, as well as Camilla McPhee, a detective, and Fiona Silk, a failed romance writer.Both sound lie fun. Maffini is a former president of Crime Fighters of Canada. Her books have been nominated for a number of mystery awards.

Monday, July 12, 2010

"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson

It's been a while since I have reached for a book and read continuously until I finished. This book is one of them. I purchased last summer when it came out in paperback and it sat on the TBR pile until a bookgroup decided to tackle it. The character of Blomkvist as the disgraced journalist and Salander as the edgy troubled genius was just a dynamic combination for an explosive story. The underground story with international finance, a trip back in time with White Supremacy and Nazism was riveting. It's a fast-paced story that I found easy to follow and could imagine as a movie. What I liked the most was the character development of Salander. She was so hard edged and reflected the terrible experiences such as her guardians who always took physical, emotional, and financial advantage of her. But while you wanted to feel sorry for her lot in life, you saw that those experiences made her who she had become and you found yourself wanting to cheer for her successes when she has them. When I saw that a movie had been made of the book, I was fortunate with timing that I was able to see at an art cinema. Filmed by a Swedish film company and shown in America with subtitles, I was unsure if I would enjoy the film, but I wholeheartedly did. The film was extraordinary and because of the pace of the film, the subtitles were not a problem. The casting of Salander was genius and now I cannot imagine an American version of this story. While the movie couldn;t possible include everything in the book, most was told in impecible detail. I have saved reading the other two books in the series for a treat for later in the summer. This book is still in high demand at area libraries so either get yourself on a waiting list or go to an area bookseller and buy a copy. This is a book worth your time.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

"Wed and Buried" by Toni L. P. Kelner

This book is the 8th in the Laura Fleming mystery series. I have not read any in the series and picked this one up at a library "friends" sale earlier this year. I am sure there is a back story that I did not know jumping into the middle of the series, but it didn't hinder me from enjoying the novel. This is a cozy type mystery and one of many that portray a super mommy with not only amazing mothering skills, an attentive and supportive husband, and the ability to be super sleuth all rolled into one. This isn't exactly great literature compared to some that I have read so far. Laura arrives with hubbie and baby in tow to visit an older relative who has recently gotten married. The new groom claims someone is trying to kill him. Laura sets out to find out what is happening and of course finds out that the man had a past that would make many people in the town likely to want him dead. Predictable of course not long after arriving in town for the visit a body is found. Laura is able to solve the crime with pretty much one arm tied behind her back and with the help of many neighbors and aunties that help with the baby just at the most important times. This is a cute series and I would probably read more. I wanted something light to read and this book delivered. So if you are a fan of the cozy, mommy super sleuth this is your book.
*Note the post from the author.
I wanted to clarify a point that Toni Kelner graciously made to my posting. I jumped into a series and made a sweeping generality about the series that was incorrect. I am thrilled Toni posted and I hope now to go back to my 'roots' and read the beginning of the series to see how the characters are developed and see where the plots twists take the character.
Thanks for setting us straight and please read Toni's series!!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Under Suspicion by Rachel Lee

In this quest to read 26 novels in a year, in alpha order by author, I am also trying to include a number of different types of mysteries. "Under Suspicion" by Rachel Lee falls in the romantic fiction category. In spite of the "romantic" description it is far from the stereotypical bodice burner one usually associates with that category. The setting is a university museum, the antagonist an anonymous and difficult to locate person, the police involved have lives and characteristics that are quite human. The protagonist is also well drawn. I did not figure out who the villain was before the chase was on. The technical details were realistic and up to date. Of course, there was a "curse". Who really knows if the curse came true? Rachel Lee has written an unbelievable total of over 50 books in various themes. I did enjoy this one being something of a sap for museum stories. I got the book in paperback at the Thompson Public Library and it is available at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble online.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Land of a Hundred Wonders by Lesley Kagen

This inspiring story of a young woman with a traumatic brain injury may very well turn out to be my favorite book of 2010. Yes, it is a mystery. In fact, although the main mystery involves a murdered man, there are many other mysteries such as how old the main character is, what happened to her parents and many more. The biggest question is asked by Gibby, herself, will she ever change from NQR (Not Quite Right) to QR? The process she goes through is quite amazing and frequently humorous. Her misuse of words both aloud and in print would put Mrs. Malaprop to shame. Every single character inspired an emotional response, some positive - I was really routing for Gibby and her friend, Billy but disgusted by the sheriff and others and could certainly empathize with Grandpa who was caring for his injured granddaughter. The struggle with racism in the1970s also plays a big part in the events. Perhaps the overriding theme of the story is "change" in many ways while good vs. evil is also a major player. I was drawn to the book as it was advertised as being about a young girl with intellectual disabilities who has her own weekly newspaper. And, it is that, but it is so much more, I find myself practically begging my friends to read it - just so we can share ideas. I got my copy from paperbackbookswap.com. Amazon has it. Since Kagen is a best selling author I am sure most libraries can obtain copies. Try it!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

"The Cold Dish" by Craig Johnson

If you read enough mystery novels you are well acquainted with the phrase "Revenge is a dish best served cold," from "Les Liaisons Dangereuses." Many novels use this ploy in some facet of their mystery novel. This is the starting point for Craig Johnson's first mystery novel featuring Walt Longmire. The character has been sheriff in Absaroka County in Wyoming on the outskirts of a Cheyenne Reservation. When you read the plot on the back of the book you find what might be taken as a predictable story. Native American girl is raped by a group of white young men and the justice is not seemingly meted out fairly. As the story begins, one of the young men has been shot dead and there the story begins. The cast of characters are humorous but also tragic. The setting truly incredible and Johnson has the writing ability to make you smell the campfires and see the beautiful mountain vistas and feel the cold of an early season snow storm. I was thinking throughout the book that maybe this was a 'guy' story and while it was good, I wasn't sure I'd want to read another. But then the story hit a twist. (no I won't give it away). I am now a believer. This is a series worth checking and I really got lucky just choosing a "J" book from a book store shelf. Johnson has won awards for his writing and you can readily see why. After finishing the book I plan to look for more and also recommend for a mystery book group choice. The paperback version comes with reading questions in the back. Examination of Native American culture and American West culture as it interacts in the American Justice system would be food for much discussion. Fans of Tony Hillerman, James Doss and others that write for similar audiences would love this book.

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Handful of KIngs by Mark Jacobs

As spy mysteries go, this one was rather imaginative with a female protagonist. Vicki who has had enough of the foreign service tries to leave her job and her lover, fellow agent, Wyatt. She is drawn into the mystery of a writer who contacts her before she leaves Madrid and from there the twists and turns the story takes are frequent and sometimes confusing. Author Mark Jacobs has penned other mysteries and takes the reader through a maze of possibilities. This type of story is not my favorite but I stuck it out as I felt that the spy mystery had to be part of this blog adventure. Truthfully, I did not care much about the characters but the setting and activities in the book rang true. The question, of course, is does she live, does she get out of her job, does her lover survive, do they get back together and so on. It was an okay book but not particularly thought provoking.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Murder on the Eiffel Tower by Claude Izner

Picture Paris in 1889 and the opening of the Eiffel Tower as part of the Universal Exposition that happened there that year. That is the setting of "Murder on the Eiffel Tower" by Claude Izner. A vistor to the tower on opeing day falls ill and dies of an apparent bee sting, but others around aren't so sure. As more random people seem to be stung by killer bees, the news media of the day begin to look into what is happening and why . This is a first book from two second-hand bookstore owners from Paris who collaborated to create this emerging mystery series with the lead character Victor Legris. Victor himself is a bookseller and mingles with people who are investigating what happened to all these people and feels that the media aren't doing a very good job. Books with historical setting don't tend to be a favorite, but I enjoyed this one. The authors who are considered to be experts on the period of Paris in the late 1880's created an atmosphere that made me feel like I was strolling the various streets and could almost smell the food on the street carts. You find interesting facts along the way such as the cost to go on the Tower was 4 francs which would have been a whole weeks pay for most people of that time. So even in the era of the fair, going up the Tower would have been a luxury. The twists among characters include Kenji who is a part owner of the bookstore and also a surrogate father, and Tanya a Russian illustrator who develops as a love interest but also a suspect. The twists and turns are well written and the attention to detail of the times impeccable. The next book is "Disappearance at PereLachaise"which incorporates the artist community of Paris in this time period. I highly recommend this book. It wasn't bad for a random pick from a bookstore.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

"Third Degree" by Greg Iles

Finding mysteries by authors whose names started with "I" was a little difficult so I ventured off to the Library Book sale in Thompson in search of a book by Greg Iles. I knew Iles to be popular and I was successful. This story was more a thriller than a mystery and followed a fairly common plot line of romantic triangle, thwarted husband, noble lover, and endangered children, not to mention nosy neighbor. Even so, it was engaging and used modern technology to heighten the atmosphere. Who would have thought of using a second cellphone for secret call? I read right through it in prompt time and would certainly read another. This was a stand alone book and not part of series.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

"Ghostland" by Jean Hager

I really have no specific reason for choosing this book. I headed into the stacks at the Thompson Public Library and took the first mystery with an author whose name started with "H". I have always been interested in American Indian stories and this one did not disappoint. Once I got past the fact that the Police Chief's name was Mitch Bushyhead, I was off and running trying to figure out who killed the 8-year-old girl who was reported missing. There were plenty of red herrings and suspects to think about. A subplot about Mitch's love life really didn't interfere with the story. Character development was not significant however this was not the first book in the series. Set in Cherokee country in Oklahome, the story was realistic in its portrayal of life on a reservation and also of the reactions of various parents to murder, loss, and even some interesting plot twists that I will not reveal here. I would define this as an easy read mystery and definitely recommend it.

Friday, May 7, 2010

"Jelly's Gold" by David Housewright

Jelly's Gold is the 6th book in the series about PI Rushmore (Mac) McKenzie by David Housewright. When a graduate student (Ivy) comes to Mac and tells a story about lost gold from a bank robbery from 1933, Mac finds the story plausible and sets off to investigate and quickly finds out that the loot now worth $8 million is also being sought by others. Ivy's boyfriend is murdered outside her apartment just after making the decision to search for the money. Based loosely on a real crime of Frank "Jelly" Nash who robbed a bank in Huron, South Dakota in 1933, the money really was never found. This story is a mixture of real life stories and exploits with a fictional gold chase. The character does a lot of research and finds out a rich and colorful history of the city's infamous past, including that the nickname Jelly came from Nash's use of nytroglycerin to blow up safes. I had no idea that St. Paul Minnesota had been a haven of gangsters in the day. The only downside for me in this book which was a great story and a fairly easy read was the history behind the characters which came from previous novels on this main character. Many authors fill you in on the connections and this one left out a few details. I would love to read more in this series. I enjoyed the blend of history and fact with fiction. Everyone loves a treasure hunt and this one will not dissappoint. I chose this book because it was the Thompson Public Library Mystery Club choice for May. These books are available at many libraries in the area.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"The Dirty Secrets Club" by Meg Gardiner

For the mystery purists out there I think this is considered a suspense novel. I found this book/novelist on one of the book trading services I use and decided the premise sounded good and appropriate for the G author. This is the first in a series of books with forensic anthropologist Jo Beckett. Jo's job is to complete a psychological autopsy on a recent death. She soon discovers that the victim was wrapped up in what would be called "the dirty secrets club" and one by one the members are being stalked and killed. The thread of dark and dirty secrets lead Jo down some literal and figurative dirty paths. The suspense part is some chases scenes by a creepy club master that give you chills as you can imagine would make a great thriller movie. I had been acquainted with forensic anthropology in other series, but never through a psychological perspective. Without giving away the plot twists, Jo is brought into the underworld of sexual secrets and the clash of conscience and what people will do to protect loved ones. Jo is a smart character and likeable and a bit of a superwoman in more ways that one. I find myself wanting to read more in this series. The mystery part was interesting and a significant plot twist at the end was a total surprise. This would be a great beach read and also available as an audio. Check this author out and be prepared for a suspenseful ride.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Five Bells and Bladebone confusing choice

"The Five Bells and Bladestone" by Martha Grimes made it as my "G" book simply because it was on my bookshelf. Originally, I had picked it up at a book sale because I had heard of the author vaguely and there it was when I needed it. This book published in 1987 is ninth in the prolific series featuring protagonist Richard Jury and his friend, wealthy Melrose Plant. In spite of that it was fairly easy to follow the story and realize who the characters were from other books. It was an engaging but confusing read. To tell the truth, I really still don't know who exactly either the victim or the killer was and I thought I knew half way through the book. I found the characters to be fairly stereotypical: gay antique dealer, ornery aunt, lovely but not quite available female interest, crotchety bar tenders, etc. All of the novels in the series are named for English pubs, a fact which initially intrigued me. In this one, the chapters are all named for lines in a poem. Twenty-three years later, Grimes is still publishing mysteries so I feel at some point I will try another one.
An interesting side note is, that although my blog partner and I usually surprise each other with our choice of alphabetical authors, this time we both chose Grimes. Can't wait to see what she has to say.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"A Child's garden of death" by Richard Forrest

This book by author Richard Forrest caught my eye on many levels. The main character is Lyon Wentworth a children’s book author who lives near the eastern Connecticut shore and his wife Bea Wentworth who is a CT state senator. These two features alone were enough for me to give the well-worn book another glance. The story begins with the excavation of some farmland that is due to become condos. Three bodies are unearthed, including the body of a child holding a Sonya Henie doll. The investigation begins from there. The characters look back in time to a crime that took place in the 1940’s. This book was written in 1975 and has none of the crime solving bells and whistles that you see in a mystery or crime novel set today. The other main character is Rocco a police officer and friend of Wentworth who work together to solve this mystery. I thoroughly enjoyed the old-fashioned crime solving style which included Wentworth’s use of his hot air balloon to survey the crime scene. Wentworth and Rocco investigate the 'old days' of union activities and explore how Jewish immigrants were exploited during war years. The characters travel throughout areas of CT that I know well and that enhanced the story for me. Of the books I have read so far, this is the first book that I read in almost one sitting. This is the first in a series by this author that ran from the mid 1970’s through 2006 just after his death. I can’t wait to read the remaining books of this series and feel that I have truly found a gem. I took this book out of the Worcester Public Library and the care worn condition of this book lead me to believe at one time this was a popular novel and series. Check out Richard Forrest’s mysteries and you may find a new favorite.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Full Dark House introduces Bryant and May

"Full Dark House" by Christopher Fowler introduced me to Arthur Bryant and John

May, 80ish detectives and members of the Peculiar Crimes Unit in London. The detectives move back and forth between their first crime investigation during the London Blitz to present day when as elderly men, they revisit that crime. It can be somewhat confusing as many of the characters are present in both time frames. Sometimes the clues to past or present are a simple as a backpack in use or the mention of Sony. In any case, both men are interesting although to me Bryant is the more intriguing with his use of witches, psychics and other paranormal resources. May, while dubious of Bryant's methods, is loyal and more of a by-the-book guy. The setting is blitz torn London and a palatial theater, with hints some quite broad of a "phantom," all kinds of references to Greek gods, and the various whimsies of the artistic world. This book was a 2003 Barry Award Nominee and CWA Dagger Nominee,and a 2004 BFS August Derleth Novel of the Year Award Winner. There are six more Bryant and May novels available to readers and I plan to check them all out. I particularly loved the descriptions of the inside of the theater and the workings of the props and sets. One of the characters actually suffered from agoraphobia which I wouldn't have thought was well known in the 1940s. I was drawn to this book by the age of the detectives and the recommendation of the Pomfret, CT librarian who is never wrong on mysteries. It is available in libraries in both Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Fellowship of Fear by Aaron Elkins

My choice of this book is a recurring theme of reading a 'first' by an author. I was browsing at a book store and found Aaron Elkins' Gideon Oliver series. This is his first published in 1982. Gideon Oliver is a forensic anthropologist who finds himself in Europe as a visiting scholar. Who knew before the CSI and other forensics shows and books that are popular today, that Elkins would be a trendsetter. Gideon while traveling around Europe becomes embroiled in the murders of other visiting scholars and himself a perpelxing case of mistaken identity and for a while only you the reader know. Gideon has a special talent for linguistics and has an uncany ability to tell where some is from not just by accent or dialect but by the sequence of their sentence structure. It was a fascinating glimpse into that world. This is a mystery that is a bit of an international thriller and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Gideon is a widower and the author has him begin to thaw in the romance department with an intelligent love interest and the promise of more with later novels. His characters all well crafted and if this had been a stand-alone novel it still would have satisfied the reader. Elkins has a personal website and writes also in colaboration with his wife Charlotte. I look forward to continuing with this series and see where the author takes Gideon to his next case. This series is available at area libraries and bookstores.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Speak Daggers to Her Contains Vivid Detail

"Speak Daggers to Her" A Bast Mystery, by Rosemary Edghill has title straight from Shakespeare "I will speak daggers to her, but use none." (Hamlet). And, like Shakespeare many of her terms were similar to reading a different language and more importantly the characters often had secret personalities.
On the surface, the question is: who killed Miriam? And more importantly, why? But other questions quickly arise just some of which include: what exactly is Wiccan, can you belong to more than one coven, trust and loyalty, and more.
Set in modern day New York City, in the hot summer, with characters holding a variety of jobs including a number of independent bookstores, the terms sometimes interfered with the story for me. I got so involved with the New Age Wiccan philosophy and the ethical questions involved in it that I lost track of trying to figure out the murder. However, the characters were all interesting, different and impossible not to have feelings about. There are several more stories in this series and more to learn about the protagonist, graphic artist and sleuth, Karen Hightower aka Bast.
Rosemary Edghill, pen name for eluki bas shakar, has written in many genres including mystery, urban fantasy, Regency Romance, X-Men tie-in and short stories. Her research is copious and detailed. The books are available in local libraries and on-line.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

"Yellow Room Conspiracy" by Peter Dickenson

"The Yellow Room Conspiracy" by Peter Dickenson, is my choice for a "D" mystery and it turned out to be a great choice. Not only was I searching for an author whose last name started with "D" but I was hoping to find a British author. You might wonder why the quest for a specific nationality of author. It is quite simple. I have a good friend and reading buddy who is a huge fan of that genre. PD James, Agatha Christie, she loves them all so I set off on a quest to find another author for her to try. Set in time between 1930 and 1960, the narrators tell the tale from a 1990s perspective. The Verekers, a well-to-do family and their various mates, lovers, and friends make up the cast who naturally reside in the English countryside. We follow their exploits before, during, and after World War II. One of those friends, husbands, and lovers, one gentleman with all those roles is murdered and the perpetrator turns out to be quite a surprise. The two lead characters who are at the end of their lives take turns telling the story. I'm not a huge fan of this style but it worked in this book. The characters were all interesting and some quite interesting, especially Lucy. References to the game of cricket, types of plays and general jargon were rampant and, I am sure, metaphors for many things but since I do not know anything about the game, it was all lost on me. The book was different and a definite page turner. Dickenson is the author of over 20 mystery and suspense books, as well as at least a dozen children's books. This book is available through Connecticut libraries as well others. Numerous of Dickenson's books are currently available through Amazon as well.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

James D. Doss - The Shaman Sings

This is the first book in the Charlie Moon mystery series which was published in 1994. I admit I randomly picked this author from "Stop you're killing me" for my "D" pick and thought this sounded like an engaging series. I tend to be a mystery purist and like to read the first novel of a series to see how the author sets the stage for future novels. What is interesting is that in this novel Charlie Moon is really a minor character. The mystery is set in Colorado and at the site of a fictional Polytechnical University where a female physics student who is studying the theories behind superconductors is killed. The plot twists nicely with the characters of Police Chief Scott Parris and the local shaman Daisy Perika whose visions clearly stir the plot. The Ute Indian culture and traditions create a fertile environment for future stories. The author James D. Doss has been likened to Tony Hillerman. The author has an obvious red herring the in the character of Julio, the Mexican handy man who is set up to be the main suspect. I enjoyed the story line with the interweaving of a Native American spirit life. I look forward to reading the next book in the series The Shaman Laughs to see how Charlie becomes a main character. Check out this series at the CWMARS libraries and I plan to donate my copy to the Thompson Library because they do not own this series.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Max Allan Collins - "The Hindenburg Murders

I became aquainted with the work of Max Allan Collins when the popular spin off book series of the CBS CSI series came out. I was addicted to CSI and liked that there were books based on the series. Then at book sales and other places I began to see other mystery works with his name on them and I began to gather them in my stash. I found out he has a large body of work including a series of mysteries based on historical events. I chose to read The Hindenburg Murders because of a clever twist. The person who is key to solving the murders is the famous mystery author Leslie Charteris who wrote "The Saint" books. Often a mystery author will put famous or infamous people in ficticious historical situations, but Charteris really was at one point a guest on the Hindenburg. I found myself feeling a little Christie-esque in the closed ship murders and who was the killer. Plot sound a little familiar? However, I found Collins an effective writer. After looking online for information about the Hindenburg, I found the plot was engaging, thoughtful and far from predictible. I love a historical twist in which you want to explore the places and circumstances to learn more. I have The Titanic Murders to read next and look forward to reading more of Collins work!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Coroner's Lunch quite appetizing

"The Coroner's Lunch" by Colin Cotterill serves up a combination of quirky characters, recent Southeast Asian history, intriquing deaths in a manner that only serves to build an appetite for more stories about Dr. Siri, his assistants and friends (or are they enemies). Set in 1975 as Laos begins its struggles with independence, poverty and the need to mix Buddhism, Communism, and its largely poor and untrained population into a viable country. Dr. Siri is the appointed coroner who faces discovering the murderers of three men dumped in a river and one woman, dead of mysterious causes. It all sounds very heavy and dark but it isn't. The story is full of hope and optimism. Is Auntie Lah who sells sandwiches a love interest for 71-year-old Siri or a criminal in the making? That is the cliffhanger we are left with at the end. Lab assistant, newly promoted from secretary in this book, Dtui, represents the younger women in the country striving for better lives. Mr. Geung, who copes quite, makes a livelihood in the morgue that is suited to his Downs Syndrome issues. Cotterill has traveled widely in Southeast Asia and lived in Laos. His knowledge of the people and issues is obvious. He currently works for UNICEF and others to prevent child tracking. This book is one in a series and I can't wait for the next book. My fellow knitter and friend, Sue, from the Pomfret, CT Library suggested this and I thank her.

Friday, January 22, 2010

"The Body in the Record Room" by Joe Barone

It's interesting when an author takes his or her past and incorporates it into a riveting story. New mystery writer Joe Barone does just this in "The Body in the Record Room," his first book. The child of a medical doctor, Barone grew up on the grounds of the Nevada, Missouri State Hospital and lived among people that are very similar to characters and the setting of the book which is the early 1950's. The mystery surrounds the finding of a body in the record room by a resident of the mental hospital who calls himself 'Roy Rogers.' Roy is a bright man with a fascination for the record room of the institution. He suspects that the body he finds is connected to a murder that happened in the mid 1920's and he sets out to find the answer. What Barone does is change your image of the mentally ill. There are people who surprise you with their intellect but also their frailties. The intertwining of characters and motivation will surprise you as you see how often the mentally ill are taken advantage of by people seemingly in a position to help them including Catholic clergy. I found I chose this book because it was a first for Barone and I had a personal fondness for the memory of Roy Rogers and the thread that carries throughout the book. I think Barone has potential in his cast of characters and hope he will continue to write more books. Check out the publisher website for more information about Barone and also his blog which is full of great mystery suggestions. This book is available for loan through CWMARS system.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"B" Book satisfying, easy read and intelligent

"Verdict in Blood" by Gail Bowen is the sixth in a popular series featuring Joanne Kilbourne along with assorted family members and friends. Kilbourne, a political science professor at a Canadian University, also dabbles successfully in crime solving. The setting near Saskatchewan is unusual in that the weather is blistering hot and humid. The victim has changed her way of life in the last year from hard nosed judge to making amends to some of those she tried. This change leads to questions of senility and of course, control of money. Aside from the usual mayhem and murder, issues such as treatment of the elderly people and indigenous peoples are addressed in a realistic fashion. Author Gail Bowen uses vocabulary very well to round out her characters, describe scenes and set up some interesting red herrings. I was able to read the book in less than 8 hours and enjoyed every minute. I plan to read more of these books to learn more about the people of Canada and Joanne's life. The characters were realistic and most were quite likable. I found this book along with many others in the series in the Thompson Library so they are available through bibliomation in Connecticut and they are also listed with CW Mars for Massachusetts readers.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Some other "A" authors

Before moving on to my "B book, I wanted to comment on two other "A" authors that I really like. One is Rosemary Aubert who has a five book series featuring Ellis Portal. The protagonist is disgraced Canadian judge living literally in a cardboard box in the Don River Valley in Toronto. The series is very different and stories are not particularly violent. With Canada in the news, they would make an interesting read. Check out http://www.stopyourekillingme.com/ for proper sequence of books. My other favorite is Susan Wittig Albert and her China Bayles mysteries involving the owner of an herbal business. They are easy reading, good stories and also seldom particularly violent. Great recipes as well. Happy reading. Wendy

Friday, January 15, 2010

Book give away @ Stop You're Killing Me

The "Stop you're killing me" website has more than just lists of authors, titles, & characters. They also run a bi-monthly give away for free titles that are usually the newest in a series. Please check out this http://www.stopyourekillingme.com/Giveaway.html for a chance on a free book. This month's offerings are: "Mixed Blood" by Roger Smith & "Veil of Lies" by Jeri Westerson.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Old movies for mystery fans

Over the Christmas vacation I watched an old Erol Flynn movie from 1941 called

"Footsteps in the dark." It's about an investment broker who moonlights as a mystery writer. Of course his wife and mother-in-law are convinced his mysterious actions mean he is cheating on his wife, so also set out on a plot of their own. I find that often early on Saturday mornings the cable channels that run old movies especially Turner Classic movies will run great old mystery theme flicks from the 40's and 50's. I have seen some gems. Also check out the Internet Movie database for background on old mystery genre movies.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

"A" Book

"They call us the spring people." So opens, Dive Deep and Deadly by Glynn Marsh Alam. Set in the swamp country south of Tallahassee, Florida near the Palmetto River, this mystery in the first in a series of seven with an eighth due out in 2010. The protagonist, Luanne Fogarty, is an adjunct diver for her local police department. Having grown up in that area, she is very familiar with the springs and underwater caves where bodies and other things can be effectively hiden or even stored on a short-term basis. Having lived briefly in Florida, I found the descriptions of the unrelenting heat, humidity and bugs quite realistic. I have never read any mysteries set in this area so the habits and issues facing the natives were a new lesson. There were red herrings although I did figure out "whodunit" before the end. Fogarty, was well developed through the bookas were other characters who are sure to show up in future novels. I was entranced with a middle aged heroine and her love interests (yes, more than one) also in the 50ish age group. Alam is from this area and, like Fogarty, a former linguistics teacher and diver. Also, she had a career in the National Security Agency and is probably familiar with mysteries overall. I plan to read more of this series although it appears I may have to find some on Amazon, or at local book sales, as they don't seem readily available in the Massachusetts and Connecticut library systems.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Painted Lady by Peter Abresch

I began my A to Z mystery journey by reading "Painted Lady" by Peter Abresch which is self titled "an elderhostel mystery." This is a series with lead character James P. Dandy who takes elderhostel trips and solves murders along the way. Ironically, the story begins in a hotel that is hosting an annual Bouchercon which is the largest convention of mystery readers and authors in the world. So it seemed fitting to begin here. Jim Dandy and his lady love Dodie Swisher are preparing to attend an elderhostel trip that will take them to the Santa Fe Trail. They almost immediately witness the death of a local shaman or medicine woman who falls from a hotel roof. Ths story continues from there with many twists and turns. The author puts in a whole host of characters that they meet on the trip for many red herrings. Abresch also gives a flavor of what one might experience in taking an elderhostel program. If you want to know more about elderhostel programs nationally and world wide, it is now called Exploritas. This is a light enjoyable series. I like an author who writes a good story but also gives you things to learn about and experience. I would definitely read more of these books. The character names are a little cornball, but the story is strong enough to get over that part. The author seems to have researched his background well and the book held my interest throughout. As I will share in the future, I am terrible at figuring out 'whodunit.'
I hope you all will check out Peter Abresch as a mystery series author. I found that CWMARS.ORG in MA and Bibliomation in CT both carry these books, so go to your local library and check one out or order through interlibrary loan. Thanks for reading!