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.



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.



The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey & Evan Help Us by Rhys Bowen

This is the second book in the wonderful Constable Evans Mystery series by Rhys Bowen.  I picked this book up from the library having read and enjoyed the first one.  Constable Evans is a happy village policeman surrounded by an interesting array of characters, among them Evans the Meat, Evans the Post, tourists, competing love interests, and of course a murderer.  The mystery begins when an amateur archaeologist stumbles upon what might be the tomb of King Arthur and then has his head bashed in on his way home from the pub.  The mystery leads the reader all through the little Welsh village and then some leads go all the way to London.

The book invokes a well established sense of place.  I love the Welsh mountain village setting.  The characters are well developed and engaging.  I will definitely read more in this series.

I have never read any Josephine Tey books, but having recently heard of her I decided to read The Daughter of Time, which is supposed to be one of her best or most well known books.  The Daughter of Time opens with Inspector Alan Grant being injured and laid up in the hospital.  He is not a happy patient and Marta, who knows of the Inspector’s fascination with faces, provides him with stacks of images to entertain himself.  One of them was the image of RIchard III.  The changeable nature of the portrait captures Grant’s imagination.

Inspector Grant takes up an investigation to discover whether or not Richard III was really guilty of murdering the young princes.  From his hospital bed, Grant conducts his entire investigation.  A fascinating look at history and how it is recorded, particularly when the victor is doing the recording.

This book is number 5 in the series and I have not read any of the others, but it is very able to be a stand alone book. I liked Inspector Grant as a character, even though I suppose in this book he was not entirely himself, since he spent the whole time in his hospital bed and I loved the historical mystery.

The Irish Cottage Murder by Dicey Deere

Picked this up from the library and read it last night.  I recently read another Irish based mystery, Buried in a Bog, and really liked that book, so this appealed to me.  First the good, the book has a, strong female protagonist and interesting writing style, such as using chapters of varying lengths and different points of view (some are only a page long).  The bad is ..well, bad.  The protagonist is 27 or is that 30? Depends upon which section of the book you are reading (not really a bad error over all), the combination of languages the translator speaks is almost completely impossible to believe, especially coming from a relatively small American town where she would not have had the opportunity to be be immersed in them, we are talking about Scandinavian languages, Greek, Hungarian, some Russian, French, Portuguese, Gaelic and so on.    I could understand a large group of Romance languages, but not this combination.  And if by chance she is some unique human language savant, why would she be working hit or miss contract work and struggling for money?

Next, up some of the geography in Ireland, as in the distances is off.  The pay for Maureen Devlin is off for the time period  and some other little anachronisms as well.  The biggest problem with the plot is the back story for the protagonist, Torrey Tunet.  I don’t want to tell the whole thing, but it drives much of the plot in the current story, so the fact that it is far fetched is an issue.

As many problems as there are, the main character is strong and charming, very individualistic, it does leave me wondering if things improve in later books.

Insomnia Mystery Reading Fest

I  Really couldn’t sleep last night and so I finished a stack of mysteries due back at the library anyway.  The first was Murder in House by Veronica Heley.  I am reading this out of order, having read the rest of the series a while ago, my library just didn’t have this one and now they do. 🙂 I love the character of Ellie Quick; she is complex, likable, intelligent and brave, all packaged in the body of a middle aged woman.  Initially, when I began this series I thought of it as a cozy but I would say that it definitely progressed to more of a soft-boiled and this book in particular certainly has dark themes and events.  The plot was complex but what really drives Veronica Heley’s books are the characters. They have complicated, messy relationships, just like real life. The prime example is Ellie and her daughter Diana, which was prominent in this book.  Because the series is so character driven, I would strongly recommend reading it in order (even though I didn’t), as relationships change and develop over time.  If you enjoy cozies with a darker feel or soft boiled mysteries, this is a great series, driven by a great protagonist.

Moving on to the next book, The Burglar in the Rye.  from the wonderful mystery writer,Lawrence Block.  This is another series I read as I came across the books in the library, not necessarily in order.   I have really enjoyed this series and when I came across this one in the library, I didn’t remember the title so I picked it up, but after reading a couple pages I realized that I had indeed read it before.  Disappointing, I thought I had a new Bernie Rhodenbarr Mystery to enjoy.  Anyone who has not tried this series definitely should, Bernie is a funny, irreverent protagonist and the cast of recurring characters only adds to the fun.  A quote from the book illustrates Bernie’s thought patterns:  “But old habits die hard, and I’ve never been able to look at something of great value without trying to  figure a way to rescue it from its rightful owner.”

Bernie is a burglar, but with a good sense of right and wrong and loyalty to friends, that makes him a lovable rascal type of character.  He also happens to own a bookshop, so people who like to read books about other bibliophiles have that to look forward to in this series.  His best friend and drinking companion is a lesbian, who owns a pet grooming business.  All in all eclectic, well drawn characters and excellent mysteries with humor drive this wonderful series.

Moving on to M.C. Beaton’s, Agatha Raisin and the Day the Floods Came.  Agatha finds herself bereft when James  and Charles both abandon her,but she acquires a new “partner in crime” in the form of a new neighbor to help with the sleuthing.  This book focused on Agatha working with her new neighbor to solve a murder.  There are red herrings to follow and Agatha gets chastised by…just about everyone for her antics in crime solving.  The mystery  is well done and solved very satisfactorily.  Agatha’s personal life is still a shambles, very much in Agatha Raisin fashion.  I’ve begun to give up hope that she will ever find stability with a partner she loves, but I will keep reading to see if she does.  Charming, cozy mystery series that includes elements of comfortable village life and a more worldly view.  Agatha is really an incomparable character.  She brings much of her grief upon herself, at the same time you can’t help but feel for her as she fumbles through life.  Anyone who has offended someone unintentionally or had their life upset repeatedly can certainly relate to her.  In the end, she is intelligent and well meaning and certainly a capable sleuth.