Extraordinary People by Peter May

I read the entire Lewis Trilogy by Peter May and loved it, but I was hesitant to start this series because I had heard it was a completely different style to the Lewis Trilogy.  Picked it up from the library and once I started it, I could not put it down.  Yes, it is completely different from the Lewis Trilogy, no flash backs, no dark intense moodiness.  However, it is excellent in its own way.  The mystery revolves around a bet.  Enzo, our sleuth, an ex-pat Scotsman living and  teaching in France, has wagered that he could solve a cold case crime.  Enzo was a forensic expert before remarrying and relocating to France.  The case involves a renowned French scholar, Jacques Gaillard, who just completely disappeared.

The mystery involves clues planted by the devious killer(s) at the time of Jacques’ disappearance.  With the help of an assistant, his daughter and her boyfriend, a girlfriend/psychologist, and a reporter, Enzo travels the width and breadth of France uncovering clues, following false leads and backtracking.  Until he comes to a thrilling conclusion.

This was really a page turner for me, I loved Enzo and the complicated relationships he had with his daughter(s) and everyone else in his life.  The mystery and clues were very well done and indeed as remarked near the end without the internet would have been difficult if not impossible to solve.  The white board approach to solving the crime was fun and interesting, it gave insight as to how connections were being made between the clues.

I will certainly read more in this series!  Fans of the Da Vinci Code style of mystery will surely enjoy it.

 

 

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Insomniac Reading

Could not sleep tonight, probably due to meds from ankle surgery that I had today. I put my insomnia to good use by finishing the books pictured above.

The Outsmarting of Criminals was a great read when I needed cheering up so much.  Funny satirical take on the typical “village” mystery.  The character, Miss Prim, is anachronistic for her time, the book is set currently..but she is a perfect old time cozy mystery sleuth eschewing computers and CSI-type testing or forensics.  The author has set up the characters to fulfill all the standard mystery tropes.  Miss Prim even has a checklist to fulfill her requirements as an “outsmarter of criminals”.  The book might be a smidge too long but it was nevertheless a quick read and a page turner.

I always enjoy Jill Mansell’s books.  The characters are always easy for me to relate to and I love the way the relationships among them develop and show growth along the way. In Take a Chance on Me, Cleo is the protagonist.  A single woman in her thirties, she lives in the village she grew up in with her married sister close by.  She works as a chauffer and quite enjoys it.  In the beginning, she has a “perfect” boyfriend, who turns out to be not quite so perfect.  Rounding out the cast is her sister and her sister’s husband, her best friend and neighbor, Ash, and her childhood nemesis, Johnny La Venture.  There are other character’s as well and lot’s of “action” to keep the pace clipping along.  Death, divorce, almost affairs, car accidents, and minor celebrities make for an entertaining fast read. Anyone who likes women fiction or romance would enjoy this (or any of the other Jill Mansell books).

The Spinster Sisters was my third read and definitely my least favorite.  The story idea was interesting, what happens to sisters who have an entire self-help business devoted to spinsterhood, and one of them decides to get married.  The aunt characters were more interesting than the spinster sisters themselves.  I found the dialogue awkward and unnatural and the main characters, Jodi and Jill, were just really not all that likable.  They seemed shallow and always seemed to be looking down on others.  This one just didn’t work for me.  Also, they excerpts from their self help manuals were …irritating and overly long.

 

Sink Trap by Christy Evans

 

Sink Trap has been on my TBR list for a while and it was actually available from my local library so I picked it up this week.

There is a lot to like in this first of a plumbing themed cozy mystery series.  The main character, Georgiana Neverall, her mother, Sandra, her “not my boyfriend”, Wade, and boss, Barry are all good characters.  They are interesting and behave as they are drawn. The relationships between them flow naturally in conversation and are believable, (who doesn’t have moments that their mother drives them nuts?)  The plumbing theme is not overwhelming but the pieces included are interesting, at least to me.  The book is well written as far as voice and tone for a cozy mystery.

The issue is that it is patently obvious almost from the beginning of the mystery, when Georgiana finds the brooch of Ms. Tepper in the sink trap, who the villains are and basically why they did it.  The rest of the book is spent with the sleuth leading the readers around as she chases red herrings and tires to convince others that a crime has actually been committed.  She lets her feelings of animosity towards certain characters drive her investigation rather than looking at what is actually happening. In fact, she doesn’t really solve the mystery, the reveal is more that the killer(s) come out.

There is enough enjoyable here with the characters and the setting that I will probably give another in the series a try.

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

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.

Library Loot

wpid-IMAG0484.jpg Picked up some mysteries today, not everything was in but these were.

Mind’s Eye by Hakan Nesser now translated into English #1 in An Inspector Van Vetteren Mystery series.

Cambridge Blue by Alison Bruce F#1 in the A DC Gary Goodhew Mystery Series.

Voices by Arnaldur Indridason.  This is the third in the Reykjavik Murder Series translated into English, however it is the 5th in the series…another victim if TOOS (Translated Out of Order Syndrome).  I read the first two that were translated and they were great!

Haunted Ground by Erin Hart.  Say this one advertised on Goodreads and it really intrigued me. Sounds reminiscent of Elly Griffiths or Ann Cleeves, both of whom I really like.

A Share in Death by Deborah Crombie is the first in a series featuring Det. Supt Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James.  Another recommendation from Goodreads that sounds promising.