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

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Sinister Pig by Tony Hillerman

Sinister Pigs, Navajo customs, drug dealing, exotic hunting and a stalled love affair made this book by prolific author Tony Hillerman a real education as well as entertainment.
Although the characters and some parts of the plot (Navajo customs and love affair) are part of a continuing saga, the book is perfectly understandable as a stand alone. Set in New Mexico on the Mexico border, everything about the setting adds to the interest of the story. Drug running in Mexico is a big story in the news as is the violence associated with it. The Navajo customs and personality traits, make the characters believable.
Hunting for fun and profit is not an American Indian trait and secrecy about a ranch specializing in the sport draws the attention of at least one border patrol officer, to the detriment of her personal safety. While her former boss becomes more and more convinced of the danger faced by his almost love and former fellow officer, scoundrels abound from as far away as Washington, D.C. Add to this a variety of corpses, unlikely retirees returning to work and it sums up to a great adventure and the mystery of who exactly the villain is remains a secret to the end.
But it was the pigs that amazed me the most. These are not the type of pigs that grace many a dinner table, but rather those that in mechanical form are threaded through pipelines to ensure the line is clear. Enough said. More details in this high adventure tale, will explain how this is critical.
Author, Tony Hillerman, has won every possible award in the mystery genre. The shear number make it impossible to list them all but a visit to Harper-Collins website will tell the story. Hillerman has published 29 books, 17 featuring Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn. To read the series in order, visit http://www.stopyourekillingme.com/ click on “H” on the author tab and the books will be listed by year. These books are readily available in most libraries and at locations such as Amazon.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Death Roe" by Joseph Heywood

Dear blog readers, if you can indulge me a short story...at a book show 2-3 years ago I was getting signed books from this guy called Charlie Moore who wrote about fishing.   I had no clue who this guy was and just helping out my bookstore owner friend to get signed books.   After talking to people and viewing an entourage worthy of a Hollywood celebrity I met fisherman and tv personality Charlie Moore, who could not figure me out.   I basically told him "I don't fish."  After some smiling brightly and putting me on camera with the book, I got a couple books and one signed to my brother-in-law who does fish and was thrilled with the gift.  In choosing Death Roe by Joseph Heywood, I wasn't sure I really wanted to read about fish. This series dubbed the "Woods Cop Mystery" series, you find yourself in the upper peninsula of Michigan wedged between Lake Superior and Lake Michigan.  Grady Service is a detective for Michigan Upper Peninsula's Department of Natural Resources.  The story begins on the Carp River in Mackinac County, Michigan. He gets a tip that valued salmon roe is being mixed with poorer quality bait roe in order to be sold high on the dollar in markets around the world.  Adding to the subterfuge, the roe is supposedly contaminated with a chemical that can cause cancer.  Service is paired with a younger female detective named Denniger who is scrappy, capable, and attractive.  She creates some sexual tension with Service throughout the book, but is never realized.  Back to the notion that I don't fish, this is a well written mystery adventure that is as much about the beauty and natural resources of the upper Michigan peninsula. While the characters occasionally went out of the region to work the crime, it still remained true to the place and returned to it like a homing beacon.  Author Heywood, takes you on an interesting journey that includes the real world of fish poaching and how serious the government takes this crime.  This is the 6th in this series and I feel comfortable reading another and seeking the earlier books.   It is advertised for fans of Nevada Barr and Dana Stabenow.   As, I read the book, those authors immediately jumped into my head without the publisher's prodding.  I highly suggest you check out Heywood's webpage and blog.  The webpage http://www.josephheywood.com/ is a comprehensive and well written page with a lot of backup materials that support the stories.   Also Heywood writes a blog called joeroads.com.  That is more of a travelog and  I even found fish recipes.   I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.  I found it fast paced and even though I still don't fish or want to, I would enjoy the exploits of Brady Service and will to find out what happens next.  This version was published by Lyons Press in Guilford, CT ear. Like many authors the paperback of the latest book comes out ahead of the newest hardcover. Check out yout local library and independent book stores for this great series that will take you to northern Michigan and a rich and beautful landscape with a great set of stories and characters.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Please Omit Funeral by Hildegarde Dolson

Please Omit Funeral by Hildegarde Dolson was initially appealing and chosen because it takes place in Connecticut in the mid-seventies and because I spotted it at a library book sale. Reading a mystery set in the seventies presented a chance to look back at habits and cultural mores of the time but also of the type of suspense popular at the time.
The victim and all around nasty guy was not a sympathetic character, the most obvious suspect almost as bad. The remaining cast of characters were interesting and well developed with two lead characters particularly well done. Clues to the case were numerous and sometimes contradictory but led to continuing interest in the story. Here we are 35 or so years later and still classic novels are being removed from libraries and extensive acrimony exists between the would-be censors and First Amendment defenders. The sense of shock at the existence and talent of a young and attractive librarian reinforced the usual stereotypical picture of a librarian. The local thrift shop was as popular for clothing as for gossip, not too different from today. The most amazing thing was the description of smoking in a hospital – unheard of today. This was an interesting mystery with a heroine who was a widow with very human thoughts and deeds. I quite liked her and would read another in this series.
Hildegarde Dolson, 1908-1981 was a prolific and writer and self declared spinster who was often quoted as being in favor of the single life (a characteristic shared by the heroine of the story). Dolson left Pennsylvania and arrived in New York City on Black Friday. That fact did not stop her from becoming a writer and she was published in numerous magazines. 1935 saw the publication of the first of 15 novels and non-fiction. In 1965, she married another suspense writer, Richard Lockridge , giving up spinsterhood.
This book and others by Dolson are available through Amazon both hardcover and paperback versions.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"The Blood Red Indian Summer" by David Handler

Choosing a book to read with the place being my home state of Connecticut was a fun experience.  This is book two in my reading adventure with my friend Wendy as we read mysteries where the place is as significant as the characters or plot. Surfing around through library pages and mystery resources, I came across the Mitry & Berger series by David Handler.  The book is called "The Blood Red Indian Summer" and is the 8th in the series with these characters.  They live in the fictional place called Dorset, CT on the CT shoreline. Sometimes it is a challenge to jump into the middle of a series with no back knowledge of characters, plot, & chemistry but this was an easy read in which this could have been a stand alone book.  I know there is background with the characters. Mitry has been demoted so to speak from a higher police position to become a resident state trooper. I wonder about that. Having known a few CT resident troopers in my day, the job does not have the stature say as a homicide detective, while still an important part of a community.  Berger is a film critic to has relocated to the area from NY. I wonder about that. He is a nice Jewish boy who lives a simple albeit quirky lifestyle.  Ask him film trivia questions such as "Who is the producer of such & such film?" He magically pulls the answer out of the air.   Mitry & Berger become embroiled with a disgraced NFL player who takes up residence in a very tony area of CT fondly called "The Gold Coast."  They begin solving a potential crime in which the NFL player's sister-in-law is found nearly drowned on Berger's beach after which might have been a suicide attempt and a heavy night of partying.  Handler does a great job intertwining a group of interesting and sometimes seedy characters.  Everyone from the dementia patient with no sexual inhibitions to a used car salesman with a string of ex-wives and "Bond girl" type advertising bimbos.  Don't let the cast of characters derail you from a well written mystery.  If you are not familiar with the CT shore, you will find his descriptions accurate and appropriate for the plot and timing.  I found myself guessing to the end.  I now know I need to go back to my hometown library and get the series from the beginning and get to know Mitry & Berger just a little better. I highly recommend this series not only for it's CT roots, but it's just plain worth your time if you need a new series.

Monday, November 14, 2011

All the Way Home by Wendy Corsi Staub

When my co-blogger and I decided to embark on our cross country trip to read a mystery in every state, I thought it would be hard to pick some of the authors. I was absolutely correct. I finally decided to start in New York because I was born there. Several years ago I met author Wendy Corsi Staub at a New England Book Show and have wanted to read pone of her books ever since. Hence the choice of “All the Way Home” for my first book.
Set in present day, New York, at the tip of the Adirondack Mountains, the story is based on every parent’s nightmare: a child disappearing with no trace. This was a riveting story right from the first sentence. One sister devastated and gone for ten years returns to her home to cope with her mentally ill mother and rebellious teenage sister and a healthy helping of guilt. She no sooner arrives on the scene then disappearances begin again.
There are numerous red herrings and mysterious unanswered questions: mysterious men on the street, missing food, strange smells of food cooking, and sightings by mother, a mysterious nun or two. Just amazing clues or non-clues make this a real page turner even though I missed the missed one of the most obvious.
Character development of the women in the Connolly family made sense. All three grew as the story continued. The dilemma of the new neighbors next door was also believable and their reactions to events made sense. Once it became obvious that something creepy was happening in their house, it was impossible to stop reading either when there was a babysitter or the baby was sleeping in his room.
Some reviews compared this author to Mary Higgins Clark in style. Although I can understand the thought, I have read both an find Staub to have more plot lines going on and better developed characters.
Staub who is a veteran author with more than 70 published novels. She also writes women’s fiction under the name, Wendy Markham. She is a nominee for the Mary Higgins Clark award for “Live to Tell”. She won the 2008 RT Award for Career Achievement in Suspense and numerous other awards. For additional details, visit wendycorsistaub.com.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"The Silent Girl" by Tess Gerritsen

I will start a bit backwards and tell you that I found  Gerritsen through TNT’s  Rizzoli & Isles series about a year ago.  The lead character Jane Rizzoli is played by Angie Harmon who is one of my all time TV favorites.  (She’s still my favorite lawyer on “Law & Order”).  Add the kick-ass music of Drop Kick Murphy’s and an edgy opening, I was hooked. I loved the series and read the credits surprised to find they were based on the book series by Tess Gerritsen.  I went to the library and the journey began into the lives of Rizzoli and Isles.   “The Silent Girl” is the 9th in the series about these two very different best friends.  Jane is a seasoned cop with almost super hero qualities and Maura Isles is the quirky medical examiner with a brilliance that often seems freakishly scary.  I adore them both.   Already a fan of the detective type mystery, this is no pulp fiction.  The true friendship between Jane & Maura is a cool part of the series.  They go from being totally girlie best friends to ‘just the facts.” In this book you take a trip through Chinatown in Boston which threads Asian legend, history, and underground crime.  Jane again is a target as she investigates the brutal murder of a woman found on a rooftop.  What she doesn’t know is that this is a link to the past and a 19 year old murder that was never solved. This book finds Maura estranged to Jane and the police department after incidents in a previous book.  Clearly, Maura has broken the blue line code in the commission of her duties and she is now shunned.  What is challenging is how Jane also walks that new line in her friendship with Maura.  After loving the deep and abiding friendship as part of why I love the series, I want to have them make up. Hopefully, this will happen in the next book. Gerritsen writes a compelling and gritty series. The characters have depth and spunk. The other characters which include well defined family members enrich the series.  A huge difference from the book & TV is that Jane is married in the books but not on TV.  As a fan of the books and that part of her life and a well defined sexy husband, I miss that part protrayed on the TV version. Check our your local library or favorite bookseller to get these great books. I still have 3 books to read in the series and I will savor every one.  So my Mystery reading journey begins in Boston, the home of my birth and I hope you all who read our reviews will enjoy the journey with us.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Reflections A to Z

It’s been a journey reading mystery authors A to Z. Before Wendy and I start with a new set of mysteries, I wanted to say a few words to wrap up my part of the effort.  We began the A-Z author trip as a lark that wound up with about a year and a half of reading books that might never have come under our reading radar.  With a deliberate purpose of choosing an author purely by the letter of their name was usually easy, but the more difficult letters like X, the  website “Stop You’re Killing me” bailed these humble bloggers more than once. I have to admit I read a few crazy stories and what I called orphan titles that likely never had wide circulation in their day.  I went to libraries, book stores big and small, and second-hand bookstores galore. I was fortunate to get some cool feedback, including two of the authors responding to my posts on their books.  Other cool things that happened were contact from a videographer and also from a man that maintains a website about one of my authors.  At one point I was humbled when I dared to be a bit harsh and really critique a book.  I held back a bit at the risk of being pompous and being rude to the author.  The author contacted me directly and I really was glad I had modified my post.  It turns out that jumping into a series without really knowing a back story and then judging the series based on one book can be a problem.  Again it was part of the growing pains of being a blogger that writes about books.  I loved every minute of it and look soon for the next part of the journey of two friends who blog about mysteries with very different points of view.  To those of you who read our posts, thank you for playing along.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A to Z Rewind

Authors A to Z, in order, in a year proved to be more difficult than I originally imagined but also quite a bit of fun. As we prepare for our next challenge, it seems like a good opportunity to review the good parts and the not-so-successful. For good parts, I have to include reading and becoming a fan of several new authors, and protagonists. Colin Cotterill immediately comes to mind along with Gail Bowen, Vincent O'Neill and more. Since we (Sue Wargo & I) had agreed to only read authors we had never read before, I became familiar with new characters and styles.
Now we are off on a new venture: mysteries from every state. Follow us as we travel around our country, meeting some new authors and revisiting some old favorites. See how long it takes us to complete our countrywide adventure.
We have to thank our local librarian, Alison Boutagh, Thompson Public Library, for the idea and always, the website, Stopyourekillingme.com for valuable resources.
Stay tuned!!!

Friday, August 12, 2011

"One Dead Drag Queen" by Mark Richard Zubro

This is the book that I found to conclude our A to Z mystery author quest.  I found One Dead Drag Queen by Mark Richard Zubro in a second hand book store in NH.  The story begins with a massive city explosion in a city in Illinois that involves the partner(lover) of gay baseball player Scott Carpenter.  Now this is copyrighted in 2000 and written after Oklahoma City bombing but before New York City & 9/11.  This is part of a series that Zubro started in 1989 and concluded in 2006.  Scott's partner Tom is gravely hurt in the explosion and you find that Scott as a major league baseball player had "come out" as a gay man in a major sports field at a time that it was still a pretty shocking thing to do.  There is under tones of homophobia that would have been rampant at that time and that played a lot in the red herrings that Zubro placed around the plot.  There was an abortion clinic that was bombed also and you find yourself wondering along with Scott if that is the true reason for the bombing.  One of the characters is a man with a trademark "drag queen' persona and is found dead later in the story.  The intertwining of politics, religious undertones relating to abortion rights and a gay couple in the mix was interesting and compelling.  I found that some references made about Tom & Scott are now dated.  But I was able to enjoy the story and transcend.  Zubro writes a tight story. I checked his blog which has not had a post in a very long time.  But he now writes in collaborations with others and I think I would seek out his work to see where life has taken him now. Zubro won a Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Men's Mystery.  Check out the 'Stop you're killing me' mystery web page fora list of his books.  I was unable to find these books in the cwmars library system so this series may have passed it's day but are available second hand through re-sellers.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink

I mined this book from my stack of "going to read" books piled on my bookshelf. Since I desperately needed a "Z" author to complete this challenge, I didn't both checking reviews or even the inside cover.
The "Prophesy of the Sisters" by Michelle Zink is certainly NOT one of the currently popular feel-good sister stories. In fact, these two 16-year-old twins are adversaries in a battle even they do not fully appreciate. One is good and one is evil; both have allies. A recently discovered and very scary book, tattoo-like markings, and becoming orphans and all clues to the mystery regarding not only the girls' fates but also their past. Even though set in the 1800s, it was easy to relate the story to present day problems. Teenage rivalry, angst, drama and outright hysteria not to mention jealousy and quest for power are all part of the plot. Even the end of this book is not the end of the story as the sisters' struggles have now turned into a trilogy. All books are available through Amazon and other booksellers.

Speak for the Dead by Margaret Yorke

Although published in 1988, this suspenseful and disturbing mystery has characters and issues that are just as believable today. I hadn't read any of Yorke's books for quite awhile but knew I would when I finally reached the letter "Y" in our blog challenge. "Speak for the Dead" lived up to my expectation completely. Carrie, the protagonist, is a hostile and belligerent criminal from the time she hits 16. Stealing and prostitution are justified by her somewhat convoluted mental processes. She is not a likable character yet many men fall under her spell. While the story of Carrie is woven on one hand, it is the machinations of fate being woven by Yorke on the other direction in which Carrie, herself, becomes a victim.
I am encouraged to continue to read some of Yorke's many other mysteries. The Yorke style is crisp and uncluttered with unnecessary adjectives. Her descriptions of British lifestyles and clothing are never-the-less right on. Although this book is several decades old, it could just as easily have been written today. The motivations and deceptions could happen anywhere as the theme of man versus society plays out to a surprisingly gratifying ending.
Margaret Yorke was born in 1924, had her first of more than 20 books published in 1957. Yorke served as chairman of the Crimefighters Writers Association in 1979-80. She was awarded the Crime Writers Association Cartier Diamond award IN 1999; Golden Handcuffs Award, in recognition of her popularity within the UK library service and its borrowers in 1993 and the Martin Beck Award from the Swedish Academy of Detection in 1982. I found my copy at the Thompson (CT) Public Library which has an extensive collection of both books and audiotapes which means that both are available throughout the Connecticut Library System as well as on Amazon and other sources.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"A Nice Murder for Mom" by James Yaffe

This cozy little mystery was a random choice to fill my "Y" requirement for the blog.  I found this orphan gem in a used book store in central New Hampshire and it was a charming mystery that lead Yaffe to write a short series that began in the late 80's.  So when NYC cop Dave decides to start life over after the death of his wife, he takes a job as a chief investigator in Mesa Grande, Colorado.  Dave becomes entwined in solving the murder of a college professor.  (There are interesting cultural and racial overtones that written today might be a little cliche, but were easy to overlook for the sake of the plot.)  Dave's Mom decides to come  for an extended visit and immediately becomes involved as a sort of Jessica Fletcher-type and CSI combo that becomes embroiled in the solving of the crime..  Mom always seems to be one step ahead of cop son Dave and is constantly pitching the latest theory with much credibility.  This has a little dated material as it is set the the 80's but it's still a good story and worthy of your time if you want a quick mystery.  So check out that random orphan book that comes your way in a used book store, or library stack, or from a friend.  You may find your next enjoyable read.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xiaolong

First in a series of four novels, this book is so much more than just a mystery. It is an introduction to life in modern day China, more specifically Shanghai. Det.Chen Cao is not your typical crime fighter. Instead, he is an intellectual with degree in literature who has been chosen by the party hierarchy to serve with the police. Discovery in a lonely canal of the body of a “model citizen” set Chen off on a case which brings him into conflict with some of the highest party members. How he manages to pursue his case in spite of numerous setbacks, threats, and bureaucracy at its worst makes for a wonderful and engaging story. Red Heroine is liberally sprinkled with quotes from poets both ancient and modern, insights into real Chinese cuisine, lifestyle, architecture and perhaps most important politics. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and educational book. For more about Det. Chen read my co-blogger's description of the second book in the series.
Qiu Xiaolong came to the United States in 1988 to do research for a book on T. S. Eliot. In the aftermath of the Tienanmen Square riots, it was discovered that he had donated money to the Chinese students and he was forced to stay in this country.
Death of a Red Heroine won the Anthony Award for best first novel in 2001.

'Til Death Do Us Part by Kate White

Second in a series, by White, Bailey Weggins is the heroine of this fast paced and intriguing mystery dealing with the suspicious deaths of three out of four bridesmaids for a distinctly overbearing and unpleasant bride. Bailey is the fourth bridesmaid and spends most of the book trying to discover not only the killer (there turns out to be two) but also the motive while avoiding becoming the fourth victim. The twists and turns should not be given away here but suffice it to say, there are plenty of red herrings to lead the reader astray. One thing I loved about Bailey was that she had the good sense to be afraid more that once and thereby avoid her killer. All the women in the story were strong characters, some good, some bad but all well drawn with believable motivation for their behavior. Peyton, the grasping and greedy bride, was completely despicable – a success story that people love to hate while fearing her at the same time.

Kate White is the editor of Cosmopolitan Magazine. She began her career at Glamour after being named one of the top 10 coeds in America. She went to Union College where she was a member of the first co-ed class. She has written three non-fiction books on the topic of women succeeding in business. She has received the Matrix Award for Outstanding Achievement in Communication and the Woodhall Institute Award for Ethical Leadership.

I intend to read the next book in the Bailey Weggins series as soon as I can get to the library.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"Vermilion" by Phyllis Whitney

Phyllis Whitney  is one of those Gothic type novelists who write what is called 'Romantic suspense.'  This book has been on my shelf forever (circa 1981). This was one of those novelists that was one of my first adult reads back in the day.   This was actually a very good story with a plot that moved rapidly.  The Gothic feel of strange voices from an imaginary friend that made you wonder if the main character was truly mad.  When Lindsay travels to Sedona because of a suspicious note from her father's past, that made her want to get to the bottom of his murder.  Surrounded by the beautiful red rocks and the mysticism of the Hopi Indians, Lindsay is drawn into family dramas that she never knew existed but slowly become revealed. The romantic interest was a little predictable but still believeable and an important part of the story.  The only part that I thought was contrived was a red herring ill placed near the end of the book which all but screamed "I DID IT."  While talking to my mystery reading friends about revisiting Phyllis Whitney, we talked about dated content and plots.  While there are no cell phones, computers, or CSI gadgetry, this is old fashioned mystery at it's best and I would highly recommend the trip down memory lane and read a Whitney novel for the fun of it.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Kill Fee by Laura Van Wormer

Sally Harrington, part-time sleuth and full-time news broadcaster is the protagonist in this ongoing series. She has the ususal broadcast anchor jealousy, boyfriend, elderly relative and even stalker issues going on. Far into the book, it also comes to light that some rather horrifying characters are in pursuit of land owned by her great-uncle. Sadly, I was disappointed in this book. I did not care at all about the any of the characters, most were incredibly selfish. The sprinkling of implict and apparently obligatory sex scenes throughout did not do a thing to liven the action. Van Wormer has had many books published, this is the fifth in a series about Harrington. I might try another just to double check my reactions, but then again maybe not.

Die For You by Lisa Unger

Altered identities seem to be a theme in my latest mystery reads. "Die for You" by Lisa Unger lets the reader know before the book is even opened that one character is not who he says he is. The mystery is: Who is he? and Why did he hide? The protagonist, the unknowing wife, quickly finds clues to the deception in retrospect. Unger neatly ties together financial deception with ethical deception and wraps everything up in a bow called "love is blind" (often on purpose). Following deception, as a theme is abandonment as both the wife, Isobel, and her sister, cope in very different ways with the suicide of their father when they were very young. Suicde is, of course, the ultimate abandonment. Not asking questions in a relationship, not being financially independent or even aware are just some of the issues Unger covers while portraying Isolbel's quest to solve the mystery of just who her husband was. Isobel was a well drawn and evolving character, her husband despicable, her niece and nephew amazing. Most of the characters were well drawn to depict them is specific ways. Jealousy raised its ugly head more than once.
This book was a definite page turner and left me with the urge to read more of Unger's work. "Die for You" was featured in 2009 as a Today Show Top Summer Pick, and Parade Magazine, Good Morning America, Good Housekeeping and USA Today all picked it as a top summer read.

Monday, March 28, 2011

High Heels are Murder by Elaine Viets

This is the second in the Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper series by the popular mystery writer ELaine Viets. This is a cute series which is light and fast reading. I've always wondered if someone really makes a living as a mystery shopper when you see ads in the newspaper. But this sleuth gets to shop and check out department store policies and service, spend money(not her own) and then write a report on how it goes. As an idea for a series, this is a cute one. Certainly Josie will come across her share of murders with this formula. In this book, Josie shops at a high-end shoe store to find the saleman a little too charming and lingering a little too long on her feet. When the saleman is found dead and part of a foot fetish group, you can only image the trails that Josie is sent looking for a murderer. This is a charming series with a lot of potential. I jumped into the series in the seco9nd book and found that the author provided enough back story to help you along with the characters. If you need a quick read, this is your series and author. Viets is one of my current favorites and I look forward to reading the rest of these books which are perfect for vacation.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Carreta de la Muerte (cart of Death) by Mari Ulmer

This is the second novel in the mystery series featuring Christina Garcia y Grant as a retired lawyer and sleuth set in the Taos Mexico area. The theft of a priceless piece of church funeral art is the event that sets Christina on the beginning of the mystery. Finding bodies including an acquaintance of her friend Ignacio turns the friends to seek not only the historical crimes of precious church icons, but to solve the murder. This was an interesting choice as I had the opportunity to learn about the importance and reverance of death within the church of native cultures. The iconology of the different pieces that represent the past but are honored for their artistic value as well as important to a family whose loved one has passed away. This was a good book published by Poison Pen Press as part of Ulmer's Taos Festival Series and are available through area public libraries.

Final Witness by Simon Tolkien

In this British mystery by the grandson of the great J.R.R. Tolkien of the famed "Lord of the Rings" series, the surname alone means tall shoes to fill. I found this book online and decided to try this novel and see if Simon Tolkien also had some writing chops. Set in England, Thomas is the teenage son of a prominent politician and a socialite. Right in the beginning Thomas witnesses his mother being murdered but not exactly by seeing it. Thomas is thrust into a hidden cabinet by his mother in the middle of a break-in in the home. Thomas hears and sees bits of the crime and begins to put all together in order to catch the killer of his beloved Mom. Thomas's father previously had taken up with a social climbing woman who became his personal assistant. Thomas half falls in love with her as her charm to insinuate herself into the family falls on the teen as well. His father begins an affair with her and Thomas's mother only tolerates her and tends to see her as the conniving person that she is. Thomas then sets out to prove that Greta the love interest and soon to become step mom is the killer. Greta is arrested for the murder but his father is in complete denial and forsakes his son's attempts to solve the crime which later destroys their relationship. This reminded me a little bit of "Curious incident of the dog" in tone but ultimately, it is a great story that stands on it's own and left me guessing to the end. Not only is this a great mystery, but a well written character study. I can picture this as a PBS or BBC mystery. I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading more by this brilliant and clever author.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Monkeewrench by p.j. tracy

Monkeewrench, a first novel, by the writing team known as p.j. tracy, had my interest from the first gruesome murder. Monkeewrench is a computer design firm with five owners who are not who they appear to be or named what they say, and even though in their 30s, they have no history beyond 10 years.

The authors, a mother-daughter team, have one of the most amusing bios ever on their website pjtracy.net. I smiled as I read.Lower case letter in their nom-de-plume must be part of their routine.Read their newsletter on the same site. It is educational and entertaining. Monkeewrench won the 2004 Anthony Award for Best First Novel, the Barry Award for Best First Novel, and was a finalist for the 2004 Dilys Award.

The murders are exact duplicates of ones in a new game the company is designing which has been hacked into. Who is committing the crimes? Is it an inside job? What ties these crimes terrorizing Minneapolis to others being committed hundreds of miles away in rural Wisconsin. And then, I was intrigued by Charlie, a mutt, rescued by the story's heroine, Grace McBridge. Their mutal love was apparent, causing me to worry nervously through almost to the last page that something would happen to Charlie as often serial murderers like to hurt animals. Every character in this book was well-drawn and evoked emotional responses.

The technological aspects of the plot made me a believer, in part because I am in awe of technology and those who really know how to use it. I have no doubt that something like this really could happen.

This book was a real page turner. I literally could not put it down. There are four more books in the series which I plan to read as soon as possible. To read the series in order, check out www.stopyourekillingme.com and click on letter T under authors and you can see the listing.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Summer and August

"Summer and August" A Cape Cod Mystery is part of the LaRosa Chronicles by K Spirito. The fact that the owner of my local and favorite bookstore had her comments on this book printed on the back cover inspired me to read it for my "S" author. Also, I am somewhat addicted to mysteries set on the Cape and islands in New England. Any story that begins in a morgue is sure to intrigue, this one has hints of aancestrial mystery, but nasty characters and some surprising ones.
The ending reminded me of other historical novels in which babies are stolen only to almost inevitably reconnect later in life and develop romantic entanglements with dire consequences. The only character I really warmed up to was Summer and she really wasn't either strong or endearing. One villain in the story became pretty obvious through her obnoxious behavior and other clues, the other was more difficult to pin down. Imagination was used in the slaying of the victims but the narrow escape of Summer and August seemed more appropriate for soap opera fare. The was an easily read story - "a perfect beach read". Spirito has had many books published some are non-fiction historical works. The LaRosa Chronicles are a work in progress. The books are available in local book stores and in a variety of locations online. For a complete listing of her mysteries, visit www.stopyourekillingme.com

"The Case of the Missing Books" by Ian Sansom

This book is a quirky mystery surprise. No dead bodys, no bloody crime scenes, no forensics...just a simple mystery. Where are the library books of Tumdrum? This is the first book in what is called "a mobile library' mystery series by Ian Sansom. Israel Armstrong is hired by the town of Tumdrum in Ireland to be the town librarian. What he does not know until he arrives is that the 'library' is a decrepit mobile library that is hidden in a barn. The mobile van has been kept from destruction by crafty citizens that want to keep the town library from being dismantled by the town. Israel meets a host of interesting characters and takes more than his share of knocks as he tries to find out where all the books went. This has a feel of Nancy Drew about it. Although a very simple plot, it was charming and not predictable. It is comical at times and ultimately you realize the lengths that people with a passion for reading and books will go to save them. This is an ongoing series with the enxt book called "Mr. Dixon Disappears." These are available at area libraries and book sellers.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"A Judgement in Stone" by Ruth Rendell

This story begins with the murder. You get a graphic narrative of the crime and who is murdered and by who. Then the author takes you back in time and begins the story of the Coverdale family and how Eunice Parchman come to be their family servant. The back of the novel calls this crime fiction and I think that is a better descriptor than a real mystery. Rendell is known for mysteries and I chose this book for the "R" author because this was a stand-alone in her writing career. I am a fan of crime stories and crime on tv and found this more of a criminal morality tale. The story of Joan and Eunice, the two main characters could be set in any time and place in the world, their story is so universal. If you are a fan of a true character study, this is for you. This is the spoiler part. The notion that someone can be illiterate and still function in society is compelling. But ultimately, the misplaced religious fervor of Joan derails Eunice and her chance to better herself. In the end, the family who did not deserve what happened to them, wound up dead. This is a sad but riveting look at what can happen to someone who has problems reading and writing and becomes sucked into hopelessness and a reluctant vulnerability that lead to a mortal crime.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Cranefly Orchid Murder by Cynthia Riggs

Meeting Victoria Trumbull, 92-year-old part time sleuth and full time resident of Martha's Vineyard, was a treat that had me longing for more stories about this delightful heroine who did not let aching bones or stereotypes about age keep her from an exciting life. Even though this book was not the first in Cynthia Riggs' prolific series, it was easy to pick up who the various characters were. I loved the inclusion of small town politics and using endangered plants and animals to protect parcels of land. It seems only yesterday that a small town neighboring mine used these very tools over a 10 year period to stop a huge landfill from being built on a hill overlooking a lake. Excitement rose and fell over the course of the book. Heroes turned into villains and vice-versa leaving clues strewn around like petals from an orchid. Best line in the book: how does Victoria get around now that she has no license-she hitch hikes and gets a ride from the first car going by. The author is a 13th-generation Islander and brings her knowledge of the geography and local idiosyncracies to the book creating a real flavor of island life. On her website, cynthia@cynthiariggs.com, she welcomes notes from readers. Why not send her one? I did.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Dog On It by Spencer Quinn

Wendy: First in a series, this book is a definite first and absolutely delightful. Chet, the hero, is of undetermined breed, loyally and lovingly at the side of Bernie, his master. Unlike many other mysteries, this one is solved largely by the sense of smell with a huge dose of love for master. Chet admits seeing things more accurately in black and white then color and he applies that to various characters with either positive or negative results.

Chet is the narrator of the story which is told totally from his perspective with sometimes sad and sometimes hilarious results. His descriptions of riding shotgun in a Porsche and checking out various smells were enough to make the most somber reader chuckle. Chet's joy at leaping through the air and rousting the criminals is wonderful. Chet has no idea of the concept of time, lots of trouble with memory of events but a heart as big as gold. He also has one black ear and one white ear and is sensitive to comments about them.

Dog On It is the first in a series with two more already on book shelves. I can't wait. I found myself reading dog quotes out loud to other people just as if a person were talking. This book was at the Thompson Public Library, is available in hardcover, trade paper and E-Book form. I am off to get the second one as soon as the library opens.

Sue: This is the first time in our journey that Wendy & I both picked the same book to read for the alphabet author. I immediately became infatuated with Chet the Dog and the unique vantage point of a story told by a dog. Now this is no silly story with talking animals. Yes Chet talks to you as narrator, but it's a unique perspective and Chet speaks to no one else but you. The story begins as a search for a missing teen which leads Chet and his detective friend Bernie on a wild chase among a host of unsavory characters. At one point Chet is dog napped and then later rescued by a motorcycle gang who take him to a local animal shelter. The image of a wild and wooly shepherd type dog strapped to the back of a Harley is a chuckle that will stay with you throughout the book and is totally befitting Chet and his animal persona. This is a great series with humor, a view of the world from the ground up, and the sights and smells of a crime by a dog named Chet. You will not be disappointed and ready to grab onto the next one in the series.