Found a brand new Simon Brett, Fethering mystery, at the library and just finished it this weekend. Guns in the Gallery puts Fethering residents Carole and Jude right in the thick of family jealousy, ex-lovers, artistic temperments, and psychological problems.
Simon Brett is a master of the mystery plot. His stories keep you guessing right up to the end. I had a completely different person picked out as the murderer of young fragile Fennel Whittaker. Carole and Jude play off their opposite personalities as they investigate the various suspects.
The Cornelian Art Gallery kicks off a Private View, that starts more in motion than controversial art. The art show reveals a canvas of characters, boyfriends, ex-lovers, jealous siblings, parents needing parenting, and the townspeople of Fethering. Simon Brett mysteries are packed with plot twists and turns, leading you on with an Agatha Christie flair.
One of the best things about Simon Brett is his prolific writing. Choose from the Charles Paris, Mrs. Pageter, Fethering series, or the new series with Blotto and Twinks. Looks like it’s turning into a very British summer for me.
Nothing makes me happier than finding a new Bryant & May, by Christopher Fowler. The Memory of Blood brings back the whole cast of characters from the Peculiar Crimes Unit. We are cleverly informed of their personalities and peccadillos from a “Wikileaks document”. Arthur St. John Bryant and John May are the senior detectives and solver of the most difficult crimes. This time Fowler uses London theatrical history to capture his audience.
Our host for the New Strand Theatre production, The Two Murderers, is the less than scrupulous entrepeneur, Robert Kramer. Combine him with an unhappy wife, unfaithful lovers, a set designer with an interest in torture chambers, a plagiarizing playwright, murderous puppets, and you’ve got a perfect Peculiar Crimes Unit story.
Nathan, baby of Robert and Judith Kramer is mysteriously strangled by Punch (of Punch & Judy fame) and tossed from the window. There we begin a string of deaths, with ties to The Two Murderers and the Punch and Judy characters. Twists and turns, as Bryant & May, and their team look to solve a hanging, death by Scold’s Bridle, and pitchfork. Even amid murder and mayhem, there are plenty of laugh out loud moments between characters.
A side story involves Arthur Bryant writing his memoirs and the mysterious demise of his editor, Anna Marquand, with national security implications, of course. Never a dull moment in a Christopher Fowler mystery.
I love summer, and since Oklahoma can’t seem to decide what season we’re in, I’m declaring it summer. So I’ve put aside my chores, and my computer how-to manuals and I’m reading for fun. Started with David Handler’s The Boy Who Never Grew Up, which despite the fact the book was written in 1992, Hollywood looks much the same as it does now. Stewart Hoag, ghost writer extrodinaire, has been sent to help Matthew Wax, movie mogul, get over the imminent collapse of his marriage by writing his memoirs. His wife is writing her own, and we’ve got the “he said, she said” war emerging. Wax is quite literally pulling his hair out over his lady love, Pennyroyal. Hoag has plenty to deal with, adolescent grown-ups, crazy ambitious actresses, and toss in some arson and racy photos and you’ve got the idea. I almost forgot Lulu, a charmer for all dog lovers. The mystery parts are well developed, the ending is a suprise and you meet one Hollywood character after another.
Then of course, I found a Charlaine Harris’ Aurora Teagarden I hadn’t read. How is that even possible. Poppy Done to Death. Poppy, Aurora’s sister-in-law, is about to be accepted into the prestigious “Uppity Women Book Club.” Before she can accept this honor, she’s murdered in her own kitchen and Aurora discovers the body. There’s lots of infidelity going on, with desperate housewives and husbands on the prowl. It’s hard to find anyone still faithful to their partner. In little Lawrenceton, Georgia, the saying “no one really knows anyone”, couldn’t be truer.
Aurora has a new love interest since the death of her husband, Martin. And the relationship is moving along in surprising ways. Her half brother Phillip, provides an unexpected visit, and adds to her personal narrative. Charlaine Harris is always a good cozy read. Interesting characters, strong Southern charm, and a mystery to keep you reading until the end. Grab your sweet tea and put your feet up for this one.
Document of Expectations by Devon Abbott Mihesuah is a difficult review for me. Laying my cards on the table, I’m not Native American and this is definitely a book dealing with Native American issues. While the first part of the story is a straight forward mystery, with a strong Native American female character, academic politics, a dead professor and missing artifacts, the continued dwelling on Native American separatism, discrimination, and stereotypes makes the novel appear heavy handed with social messaging.
I liked Monique Blue Hawk as detective. Her handling of everyday work pressures was refreshing and tackled several gender and racial issues. The Department of Anthropology where anthropologist Tony Smoke Rise was murdered was certainly rife with overly ambitious, racist and professionally bankrupt individuals. Mihesuah handled issues of repatriation and cultural significance of ritual objects very well.
For me the novel went off the rails at Tony’s funeral. I’m all for justice dosed with a little revenge, but the finale just seemed way over the edge. It was almost comedic and did not serve to reinforce the issues Mihesuah had carefully brought to light earlier in the book. Sorry I can’t give this one two thumbs up, because I do think she is a very good writer.
If you’ve read Document of Expectations, do you agree with my review or do you have a different opinion?
Sara Sue Hoklotubbe’s second Sadie Walela mystery takes us to eastern Oklahoma for small town murder and mayhem. Sadie has decided to follow her dream of owning a restaurant and has purchased the Liberty Cafe from owner Goldie Ray. She’s going to rename the cafe after her great aunt’s place, The American Cafe.
First day of ownership sees Sadie threatened with a shotgun by the town’s crazy woman and saved by the local coffee regulars. She also learns Goldie Ray has been murdered. Not a very auspicious beginning to a new career.
The book is reminiscent of a Billie Letts novel, where seemingly diverse characters become family. And like all families they display both good and self-destructive behaviors. The novel is thick with family secrets and Sadie is challenged to find out the truth.
Oklahomans will appreciate the setting, and insights into Native American culture. This novel will hold your interest until the very end. It made me want to go back and re-read the first Sadie Walela mystery, Deception on All Accounts.
The American Cafe was published by the University of Arizona Press in 2011. Enjoy!
No respite from the searing heat, so I’m staying parked inside flipping pages. Here are my latest reads…
The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
The Gist: Oslo police detective Harry Hole investigates the disappearances of several women that have occurred over a number of years. All of the cases have a few things in common: the missing women are all mothers; each disappearance occurs during Norway’s first snowfall of the winter season; and a freshly built snowman is left in the wake of each disappearance. Meanwhile, Harry mulls over an anonymous letter he received earlier about the impending return of The Snowman. Could these disappearances be the work of Norway’s first serial killer?
Status: Read cover to cover.
Summer Escapism: A (The best! In addition to an addictive mystery, you’re treated to a chilly Nordic winter. That’s one way to beat the heat.)
Strength of Writing: A (Nesbo pulls you in and doesn’t let go until you finish. He’s a master at this kind of writing.)
Stimulation of the Little Grey Cells: B. (A crime thriller that doesn’t make you think isn’t really worth much. Nesbo keeps you guessing.)
Social Relevance: C (Good novels always have something to say about the nature of human existence. Readers are treated to some interesting stats about a couple of human diseases, as well as the promiscuous behaviors of the naked ape.)
General Reaction: A corker of a good read! Nesbo is being promoted as the “next Stieg Larsson,” and it’s easy to get on board this description. Harry Hole is a likable protagonist; flawed, obsessed, and a master sleuth. He struggles with alcohol. His relationships with the beautiful Rakel and her son Oleg are achingly relevant to the main plot line. There are red herrings galore in this book, but Nesbo makes them work. And there are some gruesome scenes; but if you like your crime thrillers served up bloody, then here’s your ticket!
Watch the book trailer for The Snowman.
Check out other Nordic Crime Thrillers.
Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit, Volumes One through Four, story and art by Motoro Mase
The Gist: My friend Sadie wrote a review of Volume One on her now defunct Extremely Graphic blog. I’ll let her give you the gist: “In Ikigami: the Ultimate Limit, the government has developed a vaccine that can protect the population from every single known disease. However, to keep the citizens’ appreciation for life, a small percentage of vaccines kill the child before he or she turns 25. A day before their death, a man delivers an ikigami or death card to the victim. Fujimoto delivers these cards.” Yep, that sums it up rather well. Each volume contains two stories about a character who receives an Ikigami, and shows us what happens during their last day on Earth. An overarching storyline concerns Fujimoto’s discomfort over his job as messenger of death.
Status: I’ve read the first four volumes of this series
Strength of Writing: Volumes One and Three get a B; Volumes Two and Four get a C (Volume One is rated highly because of the originality of the idea and the explanation of how the Ikigami program works. Volume Three has the two best stories so far in the collection.)
Strength of Art: A (If you like Manga art, which I do.)
Stimulation of the Little Grey Cells: C (What would you do if you were told you had 24 hours to live? Would you do what the characters do? Yeah, there’s a bit of stimulation and neural activity.)
Social Relevance: ummm… OK, I’ll give it a C-
General Reaction: While reading about the reaction of people who receive their death notices is interesting (the stories in Volume Three really are very good), I am more interested in Fujimoto’s growing distrust of the Ikigami program. The introduction of psychoanalyst Dr. Kobo, Mr. Fujimoto’s attraction to her, and my suspicion that she may be working against the Ikigami program despite appearances, are intriguing. But this overarching plot needs to develop faster. If it never does, or if it’s ultimately disappointing, I could end up rating the series a fail. Will I keep reading? Yeah, probably.
Read Ikigami online for free!
Wonder if we’ll get to see the Ikigami movie here in the USA?
OK, folks, now it’s your turn. What are you reading this summer?
It’s 110 in the shade! You need something to cool your body and your head! The ungodly hot weather is the inspiration for this week’s Literary Site. Literary Kitty has been panting the last few times he’s brought in the weekly selection. (You know it’s really hot when a cat looks like a smiling dog. Pant, pant!) So, obviously, something refreshing was called for.
Nordic Noir Book Club is just the ticket. I just finished reading Jo Nesbo’s The Snowman (review to come later this week), and I have to tell you that one of the things I enjoyed most about the book was its cold, icy setting. Summer really is the perfect time to pick up a mystery from the Nordic countries. Brrrr! Happy reading!
I’ve been off to New Orleans, for the American Library Association meeting. I think we were about 17,000 strong this year. Hot, hot New Orleans, but great hospitality, wonderful food and of course meetings, meetings, meetings. You would think librarians would go to a conference resplendent with booktalks, author teas, and piles of books. Some of that happens but mostly I spend my time getting updates from library Software vendors on the latest version releases. Sigh.
Major publishers do give out ARC (advanced reader copy) galleys. And we hop on them like ants on honey. I have a whole suitcase full and had to take my clothes back in a carryon. Unlike those conferences where employees are wined and dined by big vendors, with megastars singing their latest album we’re lucky to get a bagel, or tiny egg rollup with coffee and occasionally fruit. And when meetings start as early as 7:00 I dare say we deserve every morsel.
Travel was the usual pain, nothing notably nightmarish. I read Tamar Myers’ Nightmare in Shining Armor on the way down. One of her Den of Antiquity mysteries, starring Abby Timberlake. It’s Southern cozy fiction and good airfare.
A Halloween pary gone awry, a dead body in a suit of armor, knowledgeable antique dealers, and Southern dialogue and charm provide a fun read. Picked this one up at the Metropolitan Library System book sale for $0.50.
Looks like Tamar has some new ones out, set in Africa, starting with The Witch Doctor’s Wife (2009) and a 2011, Headhunter’s Daughter. Fans of McCall Smith should enjoy these. She also has a slew of Pennsylvania-Dutch with Recipes mysteries. I know I’ve tasted a few of those.
Picked up an ARC of G. M. Malliet’s Wicked Autumn for the ride home. Have 100 pages left, but finding it quite good. Features Max Tudor, local Anglican priest and former MI5 agent solving the mysterious demise of the town’s tyrannical leader of the local Women’s Institute. (Think U.S. Junior League wives)
So I’m home and ready to read, and with the temperature rising daily, it sounds like a good plan.
Let me start by saying Larsson gives up any pretense of presenting a mystery in Hornet’s Nest. The first book, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, had a strong mystery plot, which also served to introduce us to the oddity that is protagonist Lisbeth Salander. The second work, The Girl Who Played With Fire, had a mystery that opened more doors to help the reader understand why Lisbeth is the way she is. With Hornet’s Nest, Larsson kicks those doors down.
While the book lacks a mystery, it’s still a thriller. Like the previous books, it takes a while for Larsson to set the pieces in motion; but once he does, you’re off on a wild ride. Larsson introduces the other players who have conspired to make Lisbeth’s life hell on earth. The thrill comes from seeing how Lisbeth and the advocates around her apply their ingenuity, determination, and bravery to see justice win over corruption. Those advocates also include, of course, star journalist Mikael Blomkvist (or as an angry Lisbeth refers to him, Mikael F***ing Blomkvist).
It’s a pleasure to see Lisbeth prevail, and a pleasure to see our strange girl patch up her relationship with Blomkvist. The stage seemed to be set for the next seven books in Larsson’s planned 10-part series: Lisbeth and Mikael forming an odd couple that would solve mysteries and bring down misogynist thugs and corrupt politicians and businessmen. Two misfits against the evil in the world.
Alas, we may never get to see another book, just when the doors have been kicked open. Swedish law may prevent anyone putting pen to paper to try to see Larsson’s grand work completed. We will also never meet Lisbeth’s twin. Nor will we delve more into the problem of violence against women, perhaps the true theme of these works. But we still have these three books which make a very satisfying package. (Or am I wrong about this being the end?)
What is it about Lisbeth? These books are monsters, breaking sales records all over the world. Yes, they start slow but they soon become can’t-put-’em-down books. Our heroine lacks any sense of social graces. She’s rude, vindictive and unable to relate to most of the world. Does she have Asperger’s Syndrome? Perhaps. Yet, we understand why Lisbeth could be the way she is, because she has lost all trust in the world due to the extraordinary abuse she suffered.
Tiny in stature, she is an intellectual giant with a photographic memory and superhuman computer skills. Readers are amazed at her ability to snatch victory from overwhelming defeat. We root for Lisbeth, because we believe every human being has the right to be in control of her life and to live free. Perhaps that’s the simple reason I love the Girl.
• And here’s what I had to say about the first book a year ago. (Has it really been that long ago?)
Have your read Larssen? What did you think of the books?
Why do you love the Girl?
Then I was browsing around and found this interesting website from the National Book Foundation, 60 Years of the National Book Awards- 79 Fiction Winners. Click on the book jackets and it leads you to all kinds of information about each title. Very nicely done.
All this talk about book awards should whet your appetite for Young Bill’s next entry. (teaser)
From the looks of the cover, you might think it ‘s a “cozy” but not so. The main character detective is dead, but plays it very straight as he works his dead person tricks to get his partner a step up in crime solving. Detective Kevin Fahey wasn’t such a great guy before he found himself in this afterlife limbo. He’s trying to make up for his failings by helping out his parter Maggie Gunn, since she’s now stuck with a bummer of a new partner.
They’re both trying to find out who killed the nurse and who stole the little boy from across the street from her house. Are the crimes connected? Did the kidnapper just use the homicide drama as a diversion for childnapping? Chaz McGee has invented a very interesting crime fighter.
This book was on my library new bookshelf, and I think now I’m going to have to find the first book in the series, Desolate Angel.
Also, just found out Chaz is really Katy Munger. Now I’ll have to try some of her other books, the Casey Jones series looks really promising.