This is my final Christmas read for the year, a collection of short stories that is part of the British Library Crime classics Collection. I read Crimson Snow, another collection edited by Martin Edwards, earlier this Christmas season as part of the Kindle English Mystery Club and while I enjoyed that book, I really liked selections in this one. There were stories from Margery Allingham, Edmund Crispin, Arthur Conan Doyle, among others. One of my favorites in this collection was probably Waxworks, a creepy mystery by the author Ethel Lina White, who also wrote The Wheel Spins which was translated to film by Hitchcock himself as The Lady Vanishes. I also enjoyed Stuffing, a cute,short, very Christmassy story by Edgar Wallace. If you haven’t had a chance to pick up any of the books in this series, the short story collections would be a great place to start!
This was my Boxing Day read, Wolf to the Slaughter from Ruth Rendell’s Inspector Wexford series. This is an engaging mystery with a plot liberally sprinkled with suspects and clues. It begins with a missing woman, who based on an unsigned note is assumed to be dead. Wexford and his team investigate pursuing leads that take them all over the area. One of his team has a personal story line that is tied into the mystery case but that is the closest the reader really gets to knowing anything personal about the detectives here.
This is one of the earliest Ruth Rendell books and perhaps her style changes over time, but for this book there is not much character development. Wexford comes across to me as a bit of a cold fish, but I am assuming that changes as the reader gets to know him through the development of the series. The focus in this particular book is more on the police procedural elements. I will probably come back to this series in the future but I’m not in a particular hurry to do so.
This is my latest read from the library, book 9 in the Inspector Morse series by Colin Dexter. This is textbook Morse, as he sits and drinks his way to a conclusion for the case. There are lots of false starts, red herrings, and conflicting stories from all the possible suspects. The jewel of the title is a famous artifact that was bequeathed to the Ashmolean Museum by its owner. The woman carrying the jewel dies and her purse containing it disappears. Morse and Lewis work through a list of suspects displaying varying motives, alibis, and lies.
This was a good mystery with quite a bit to puzzle through, but I would say this was not my favorite Morse in the series. There is a different feel, as in author’s voice, to this book than the other Morse novels I have read so far. I think this has to do with the development of this particular book. Apparently, the TV episode for this particular story came first and then the novel was written. This is different from the other books in the series in which the novels were written first.
I was recommended Slow Horses by a member of the RMT Bookchat group on Facebook and I will admit to having initial reservations since at first glance it seems to be a spy book, which is not something I usually read.
Slow Horses refers to the group of failed spies who are put out to pasture at Slough House. Jackson Lamb is their “fearless leader”, a man who knows where the bodies are buried and rules over his kingdom of failures in a somewhat benevolent manner. River is the newest inductee and is chomping at the bit to be released from his “punishment” to get back to the “real” action. The slow horses find themselves being used to run errands and do clerical work until they get a little too close to some shady dealings. Then, they find themselves in some real trouble.
Great characters and pacing, lots of tension built up to the conclusion, and an intriguing storyline in general, I really enjoyed this one and will read more in the series.
The Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid is this month’s read at the Kindle English Mystery Club on Goodreads. I have hardly read any Val McDermid, which is surprising being that she has tons of #1 bestsellers, has won international awards and is in general considered a great crime writer. I have to say that I almost put this one down over an animal scene (writers can kill all the people they want but when they hurt animals I’m generally done). I did continue and while the writing is well done, I just didn’t get pulled into this as much as other mysteries that I have read. I thought that the serial killer’s connection to Tony was pretty obvious from the outset and the sexual torture scenes were a little too graphic for me. I am curious about Tony Hill and the budding relationship with Carol Jordan but I don’t think that is enough for me to continue with the series.
Crimson Snow is one of this month’s read at the Kindle English Mystery Club. Rather than a novel, it is a collection of classic short mysteries, all with a Christmas theme. My hands down favorite was a Christmas “ghost” story, The Ghost’s Touch. I always enjoy a Christmas ghost story and this one had fun twists and characters. There is also a selection from Margery Allingham featuring her sleuth Mr. Campion, The Man with the Sack, which was also quite good. Some of the other selections fell short, but overall it was a good Christmas mystery read.
Missing Joseph is book 6 in Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley series. The book begins with a chance meeting with a vicar, who ends up “accidentally” poisoned. The mystery here is well plotted and has quite a few twists and turns before the final reveal. The side plots are equally important as the main mystery here with emotional upheaval in Lynley’s personal life and in St. James’ marriage. The characters in this series are really well drawn and fully fleshed out and they are what really keep me coming back for more. Great book in an excellent series.
These are my latest two reads.
Shadow over the Fens is the second in the Detective Nikki Galena series. The mystery surrounds what at first seems like a data gathering assignment, during the lull the team investigates a spike in suicides in their area. The case becomes personal when the latest suicide is a neighbor of Nikki’s. The first case becomes entwined with Joseph’s past and some brutal new crimes which are being committed. Lots of tension and twists and turns. In this book, we see more exploration of Joseph as a character and his past and how he connects to Nikki, as a boss and now as a friend. Very well paced, the story moves quickly and smoothly to a good, if slightly predictable conclusion. I really enjoyed this and will be reading the next in the series.
Still Missing by Denise Mina is a very current feeling police procedural. You have a family, who seems to be targeted for some “unknown” reason. They receive some poor treatment initially from the police due to concerns of radicalization. Threads of religion, family, and culture intertwine with the plot of this mystery. The most interesting parts of the story to me are Aahmir’s reactions to his kidnapping and thoughts during the events.
The police are battling without and within. This is a high media attention case due to political/community tension and on top of that DI Morrow has difficulty getting along with anyone. She resents her superiors and at the same time keeps secrets from them so they are not making informed decisions. I read this through to the end because I wanted to see the conclusion, but it didn’t really grab me. I didn’t care for DI Morrow and I thought it was pretty obvious what had happened from quite early on.