Oldies But Goodies…

I read a great deal of Agatha Christie when I was young, but I missed these two classic mystery authors.  Ngaio Marsh’s A Man Lay Dead was first published in 1934.  This is the first book in the series that introduces Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn, who is the sleuth.  I actually found this book very timely.  In current crime fiction and tv shows there is a plethora of references to the Russian Mob and that theme features heavily in this story.  It is a classic British “country house” mystery, the group of people gather in an isolated country estate and then a murder occurs.  The red herrings are very well done and this is delightful read!

The characters engage in witty banter and the manners and customs of the times feature prominently in the story.  Even though  I have read many of these type of mysteries this one certainly holds it own.  I did find it interesting that the focus seemed to be mainly on Nigel, one of the guests and not necessarily on the sleuth, but I suppose that is because this was the first in the series.  I understand that the plots in this series become more complicated in later books.

Dorothy L. Sayers was the focus of a current mystery book I read, The Sayers Swindle.  That peaked my interest in this classic mystery series.  Whose Body? is the first book introducing the Lord Peter Wimsey. First published in 1923, the series continued on for several years with Lord Peter Wimsey becoming a beloved character for many readers.

I found the book to have more of a humorous bent (whether intentional or not) than the Ngaio Marsh books.  I was not as enamored of the writing style, extremely dialogue heavy and correspondence with very little description or narration.  Still the mystery was well crafted and the sleuthing was certainly masterful.  This just didn’t work for me as well as Christie’s works or Ngaio Marsh’s.  The books certainly have a legion of fans so it is probably just me.

 

 

 

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Mind’s Eye by Hakan Nesser

I picked this up from the library in my foray for some new authors to read.  This is the first in a translated to English from Swedish series.

Anyway, I really liked Inspector Van Veeteren or maybe I just identified with him.  He is kept on the job simply because he is really good at what he does.  He is not there out of any particular passion for it or a drive to succeed.  He is like a dog with bone, when things don’t seem to jive with the case, he just keeps working at it.  Uncovering clue after clue and following them up.

I love atmospheric mysteries like this one.  The dark mood really immerses me in the story.  The husband accused of the crime and seemingly unwilling or unable to help himself is a very different character than one usually encounters and his lawyer seems almost a touch humorous with his obvious frustration with his client.

The book was a very quick and easy read and was not really that graphic.  We get descriptions of the crime scene(s) and the beginning of an attack, but no excessive gore or violence.  The plot ties together a series of tragedies in the end very neatly.

My only issue with the book was that I knew very early on who the killer was and what had happened. I don’t want to give a spoiler here so I can’t really discuss how, other than to say I spent my middle school years reading a very trashy series of novels (which are once again popular now for some reason) that sort of ran along these lines.

Overall, I will read more of Inspector Van Veeteren’s investigations as they come available.

The Cold Light of Mourning by Elizabeth J. Duncan

This is one of the Cozy Mystery Corner groups from Goodreads choices for this month.  It is a fun, quick read with a very engaging protagonist.  The mystery is well crafted and the village of Llanelen sounds beautiful, a place I would love to visit.  I started to read this and soon realized I had read it already.  I don’t know why I didn’t continue with the series, I must have just forgotten about it or maybe the library didn’t have the others.  In any case, I will definitely put them on my TBR list now!

If you like British village mysteries with an amateur sleuth, this would be a great read.

Just What Kind of Mother Are You? by Paula Daly

 

This book was a Goodreads recommendation.  It is very Gone Girl-esque.  The characters are well drawn and the interactions between the not posh, not perfect Lisa Kallisto and the other mother, Kate, and her family, are well crafted.  The dynamic between Lisa and Joe and the other, much more well off, members of their community was particularly well done.  Lisa is a character that I could definitely relate to and I could  imagine the horror of having someone else’s child disappear on your watch.

Two things made the resolution very obvious to me, the fact that it was recommended for fans of Gone Girl and a revelation made about one of the characters a little over the half way mark.  Even with that I still found it a compelling page turner, I really wanted to get to the ending and see how it all turned out.

My main issue with the book is that the ending is only solved by “accident”, neither the police nor the protagonist really solve it.  It is more like the reveal is “stumbled upon” by Lisa.  There are also some strange side storylines that don’t really add to the main plot and don’t seem to serve a purpose.  Overall, there is enough good here that I would read more by this author.

 

 

The Sayers Swindle by Victoria Abbott

This is the second book in the A Book Collector Mystery series.  The premise of this series is that a young woman, Jordan Bingham, is hired by a reclusive bibliophile, Vera Van Alst, to attempt to track down books that were stolen from her collection.  This book in the series focus is a collection of first edition Dorothy Sayers books.  Jordan comes from a dubious background and her to two Uncles are comic relief characters recurring from the first book.

The characters in these books have been great, particularly the recurring characters. Jordan is a well written character with depth and humor.  She is resourceful and intelligent, but doesn’t take herself too seriously.  The setting and the theme is very engaging to me.  My dad was from upstate New York and I visited there frequently so I am familiar with it.  Books? As a theme, can never have too many books. 🙂

The focus of this book is Dorothy Sayers and as a reader you may miss some of the references, if you have not read those books. I have not read them and it didn’t seem to impact my enjoyment of The Sayers Swindle.  What I appreciated about this book was that the authors did not spend a lot of time rehashing the first book.  Many times authors spend time explaining events from previous books in case a reader is reading out of order, but for people who aren’t that can get tiresome.  If you didn’t read The Christie Curseyou might want to do so before reading this one.

The mystery plot had lots of twists and turns.  I do think the ending was a little fast, but on the other hand I like that better than when an ending just seems dragged out for no apparent reason.

Excellent continuation in this series!

Cambridge Blue by Alison Bruce

  I saw this recommended on Goodreads and was able to pick it up from my local library.  I  enjoyed it and really liked the sleuth DC Gary Goodhew.  He is not a “normal” character…not really a plodder playing by the rules. In fact, the driving force of the story is that he operates outside the rules to solve cases. The cast of possible suspects is well drawn and full of secrets and hidden agendas.  I did guess the resolution, but not all the details relatively early on, however it was not with complete certainty.

The story centers around a family with a tragic history, siblings and lovers and a deceased parent’s’ rambling journal.  I found it very interesting, especially the long term impact of secrets and lies.  There is more than one murder involved and I did have to pay attention to keep the character’s straight.

I would read more by this author, but I will say that fans of police procedurals may not care for it.  The whole premise of this is that DC Goodhew uses his intellect, cunning and willingness to break the law to solve cases, sometimes putting convictions in jeopardy.  I am not a huge reader of police procedurals, so I appreciated the “thinking out of the box” sleuth, others might argue that he is a loose cannon and should be shut down.

Voices by Arnaldur Indridason

I have read the first two translated books in this series and enjoyed them immensely.  This one did not disappoint me. Again the protagonist Erlendur is called to investigate a murder of “Santa” at a tourist hotel.  Santa was the hotel’s doorman dressed up for a Christmas party for the hotel guests.  Due to his feelings about the Christmas season, the situation with his recovering drug addict daughter, and the murder, Erlendur checks himself into the hotel for the investigation.

The investigation leads into the world of rabid collectors, the kind that will go to any length to get the perfect next piece for their collection.  It also winds its way through the world of choir boy singers and child stardom. It is a fascinating mix, especially delving into how an ex-child  star ends up as the character in the book does.  The story comes across as dark and intense without the intensely graphic violence prevalent in some thrillers/mysteries.

The setting of the book, including the Christmas holiday season, enhances the melancholy feeling of the book, which has been building through this series.  I would suggest that you read the first two translated books in this series before this one, if only to get more of an understanding for the characters and their motivations.  There is enough retelling of pertinent details that you could get away with reading this as a one off, but I think it would flow better after reading the others.

Nordic Noir fans will find a lot to like in this dark, moody mystery.  I will certainly read more in the series.