Saturday, February 28, 2009
TITLE: THE DEAD PLACE
AUTHOR: STEPHEN BOOTH
Details: no. 6 Cooper and Fry Mystery
For the longest time this appeared to be a murderless mystery, which is quite an interesting idea, and worked really well. I can't say I missed the corpse(s) at all. At no point did the lack of a murder make this book less fascinating, rather the opposite really. The question as to whether or not a murder had been or would be committed was as intriguing as the traditional question of "who did it" would have been
D.S. Diane Fry is investigating two anonymous phone calls that talk about death, a dead place and an imminent murder. But since it's not clear if this is a real threat, her resources are limited.
At the same time, Ben Cooper is trying to discover the identity of a fully decomposed body that has been found in what turns out to be a case of body snatching; but by whom and why?
As always, Booth's story has lots of seemingly separate elements, which all come together beautifully in the end.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
TITLE: KEEPING THE DEAD
AUTHOR: TESS GERRITSEN
Details: no. 7 Rizzoli and Isles Thriller
A mummy has been found in the cellar of a museum. Dr. Maura Isles is present when the mummy goes through a CT scan, only to call in detective Jane Rizzoli when the supposedly old mummy has a very modern bullet inside her.
It is soon discovered that the mummified woman must have been killed in recent times, after having been kept prisoner and tortured.
When a second preserved modern body is found it becomes clear that Rizzoli and Isles are dealing with a depraved killer. Someone who is still actively stalking women and is somehow connected to the museum where the mummy was found and the beautiful archaeologist working there. But Dr. Josephine Pulcillo is a mysterious woman with secrets she means to keep, although they do leave her in terrible danger.
I do like the books in this series a lot more than Gerritsen's other novels. I don't know if that is because of familiarity with the characters or for some other reason, but whereas the non-series books tend to leave me somewhat dissatisfied, this series pushes all the right buttons for me.
This book finishes with Tess Gerritsen sharing the real life murder mystery in her community that inspired her to write mysteries. And it is as fascinating as her fiction is, even if the outcome is less polished or satisfying than you'd get in a novel.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
TITLE: BIRD IN THE SNOW
AUTHOR: MICHAEL HARDING
Details: Reading Group Book for February
This book, as the grade shows, just wasn't for me. And that was a shame because I really did want to like it.
Maybe it didn't work for me because the writing was just too sparse. I need more detail to make characters and events come to life. Or maybe it failed because I couldn't feel any connection to or sympathy for any of the characters in the book. I really couldn't care less about any of them, and with the subject matter of this book being what it is, that was regrettable.
This book tells the story of 24 hours in the life of Birdie. She is in her eighties and getting ready to bury her only son. During the, mostly sleepless, night before the funeral, Birdie thinks about the past with the aid of photographs her memories. During moments of semi-sleep she appears to be visited by ghosts from the past.
I really liked the idea of this woman looking back on her life. but whereas it worked for me in Sebastian Barry's "The Secret Scripture", it didn't do anything for me this time around. Maybe because Birdie's memories were a bit like photographs; just showing pictures, but not explaining anything.
Yet, this wasn't a hard book to read. The writing is beautiful, words well chosen and measured. The only thing lacking for me was a story to grip me.
TITLE: THE DEAD
AUTHOR: INGRID BLACK
Details: no. 1 Saxon Mystery
Saxon used to be a FBI agent, but has now been living in Dublin for years where she has a relationship with Chief Superintendent Grace Fitzgerald.
Five years ago they were trying to catch Ed Fagan who had become notorious as the serial killer called the Night Hunter when he just disappeared.
Now a letter to a journalist announces his return, and soon a first victim is discovered. The only problem is that Saxon knows that Fagan is dead and that somebody else must be doing the killing. The police are convinced it must be Fagan though, and are very reluctant to look elsewhere. And how do you stop a killer when you're looking in the wrong places?
With misdirection following misdirection, more people are killed and by the time Saxon does arrive at the right conclusion it may well be too late to safe herself.
This was a fun book because of the differences in law enforcement between America and Ireland, and the understandable frustration that leads to for the Americans involved.
With lots of undercurrents and multi-layered relationships this was a good mystery as well as a gripping read, and I'm looking forward to my next murder investigation on familiar territory.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Wednesday February 18th, 2009 the last event in Cavan's Caomhnu Literary festival took place in Johnston Central Library in Cavan Town, and boy was it a special evening.
Caomhnu is an Irish word meaning to protect and conserve, and this festival seeks to celebrate our literary past, present and look to the future.
On this evening we were fortunate enough to have two quest speakers, Colum McCann and Terry Prone. The original order of proceedings was disrupted when Terry Prone got very delayed in our notorious Irish traffic. So after a delay of just under an hour, Cavan's County Manager, Mr. Jack Keyes took the floor to welcome the very substantial audience and thank them for their patience.
He was followed by Mrs. Josephine Brady, County Librarian, who introduced Colum McCann in the most glowing terms, praising him as a great storyteller, known for his detailed research. He is a writer who loves libraries (his novel Zola was dedicated to librarians everywhere) and who creates pictures through his writing. Up to date Colum has published four novels and two short story collections, with a fifth novel, "Let the Great World Spin" due to be published later this year.
When Colum McCann stepped up to the microphone himself he treated us to two readings. The first one a twenty year old story about the emotions resulting from the wave of emigration that swept Ireland in those days. He mentioned that it was very appropriate to read this story today because our economy is once again in grave danger, although he hoped it wouldn't lead to mass emigration this time around.
The second reading was from his upcoming novel, and we the audience were honoured to be the first group in Ireland to hear a reading from this book. "Let the Great World Spin" is a powerful allegory of 9/11, although the story starts in 1974 and ends with a reference to recently electied President Obama.
McCann proved himself to be a fabulous reader. So good in fact that I'm almost afraid that when I get my hands on his books and start reading them myself I'll be disappointed to find that my internal voice is nowhere near as good. But, after hearing the reading from his forthcoming book I can't wait for the publication in September. The subject as well as the writing have left me fascinated, and impatient to read all of it.
After the two readings there was time for a few questions from the audience before it was time for Mrs. Josephine Brady to introduce Terry Prone who was there to deliver the annual Greer lecture.
Mrs. Prone has so far published 26 books; novels, short stories and non fiction. Her subject for the Greer Lecture was Women in the Workplace, a subject on which she holds strong opinions. She pointed out various reasons why women in general don't go as high up the career ladder as men, such as the fact the in general women's life's are more affect by the arrival of babies than those of men, the unwillingness of women to get into direct conflict, and the dislike women have for women who are ambitious. As she said, you may not like these statements, but that doesn't make them any less true. More home truths like these as well as practical advice can be found in Terry Prone's latest non fiction book," What Every Working Woman Should Know... and Do". And if her writing is anywhere near as captivating and interesting as her speaking, this book should be fascinating, funny and filled with practical advice.
She also spoke of her deep and life long love for books, because she said, as long as you have books you can go anywhere and meet anyone.
Terry Prone proved herself to be a great speaker; knowledgeable, funny, with a good sense of timing and a great ability to keep her audience captivated.
This fantastic evening was finished with an opportunity for the audience to meet both authors for further, more individual talks as well as book signings. Books by both authors were available to buy through the courtesy of Crannog Bookshop, Cavan Town.
I'd like to finish this piece with a quote mentioned by Josephine Brady earlier in the evening. She was quoting Germaine Greer on the subject of libraries, a quote that features on the Johnston Library building in Cavan Town:
"Libraries are reservoirs of strenght, grace and wit, reminders of order, calm and continuity, lakes of mental energy, neither warm nor cold, light nor dark. The pleasure they give is steady, unorgastic, reliable, deep and long-lasting. In any library in the world, I'm at home, unselfconsciously, still and absorbed."
TITLE: BLOOD AT THE BOOKIES
AUTHOR: SIMON BRETT
Details: no. 9 Fethering Mystery
This series just keeps on providing good, solid and cozy mysteries while at the same time touching on the occasional social issue.
In this ninth book in the series, Jude is in the local bookies, placing bets for an ill neighbour when a young man stumbles in, looks around and stumbles out again. Only minutes later Jude finds the young man outside dying from a knife wound.
The young man turns out to be Polish, and Jude and Carole, unable to resist another murder investigation, soon discover that there are very few clues. Even when they're joined by the dead man's sister things remain very unclear. And once they do discover the truth, it puts them in considerable danger.
There are times when a traditional (style) mystery is the best and most rewarding to read, as the author himself suggests in this book.
Monday, February 16, 2009
TITLE: A MOST WANTED MAN
AUTHOR: JOHN LE CARRE
I wish I could remember why I ever stopped reading John Le Carre books. My parents had quite a few of them, and I read those. But it would appear I didn't read another one after I left home. Until now that is, and if my memory is correct, and if this book is any indication, I missed some good books during all those years.
The story in this book is in its essence a very simple one, complicated by a huge cast of players.
A young Russian man, Issa, is smuggled into Hamburg. He claims to be a devout Muslim and has a purpose in Hamburg.
Civil rights lawyer Annabel, takes on Issa's case and in doing so contacts Tommy Brue, a private banker. Annabel and Tommy unite to help Issa, but the secret services of three different countries are also on Issa's case, all of them having different objectives.
Annabel and Tommy are no more than pawns in a game they don't know the rules of; innocents in a world filled with betrayal.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
TITLE: WHERE ARE YOU NOW
AUTHOR: MARY HIGGINS CLARK
Ten years ago, 21 year old Kevin MacKenzie (Mack) walked out of his room in student housing, never to be seen again. The only contact between him and his worried family has been an annual phone call from him on mother's day.
His younger sister Carolyn, now 26 and between jobs, interrupts his latest mother's day call to announce that she's going to find him. A note, ordering to leave him alone, fails to deter her and soon she's going over all the information available.
But, recent events are interfering. A girl has disappeared, and somehow the mystery concerning her gets connected to Mack, as do two previously disappeared girls.
Under suspicion from the police, Carolyn continues her quest to find out what happened to her brother, unaware that danger lurks very close to home.
For a long time I didn't think this was going to be a good story for me. I felt there were too many angles and characters involved, confusing me quite a few times. However, when it all came together in the last few pages, everything fell neatly into place, and every angle and character turned out to have been necessary.
Friday, February 13, 2009
TITLE: THE SUDOKU PUZZLE MURDERS
AUTHOR: PARNELL HALL
Details: no. 9 Puzzle Lady Mystery
I realize that it is possible that the reason I didn't really get into this mystery is because I haven't read any of the previous books in the series. However, I don't really think so. This book was just too silly for me. It seemed to string itself along on misunderstandings, confusing conversations, guesswork and never taking anything (including domestic violence) seriously.
This has been one of several American mystery series that I have been having a hard time getting my hands on. At least now I won't mind so much that this particular one is hard to find.
In this story, Cora Felton, the puzzle lady, is approached by a Japanese publisher to write a sudoku book. She agrees to his proposal, but then her niece Sherry accidentally signs a contract with another Japanese publisher. It turns out that the two men are long time rivals, willing to do anything to undermine each other. But does that include murdering two private detectives? And where does Sherry's unstable ex-husband fit in?
Like I said, I won't be out hunting these books down. But this was a very easy read. I just didn't find it funny, and I'm sure it was meant to be just that.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
TITLE: THE TIN PRINCESS
AUTHOR: PHILLIP PULLMAN
Details: no. 4 Sally Lockhart Mystery / YF
I have this down as the fourth Sally Lockhart Mystery because this is the last book in this series. However, Sally only makes two token appearances in this book, and now that she's married, her name isn't even Lockhart anymore.
The real star of this book is Jack Taylor who is reunited with Adelaide, the girl who disappeared during the events in book one. She has, after some very hard years, married a prince from a tiny middle European country. When the prince suddenly and unexpectedly becomes next in line to the throne, he and Adelaide have to travel to Razkavia, bringing Jack for protection and a young girl named Becky as translator. Soon they find themselves in the middle of plots, treason and invasions.
This was more of a thriller than a mystery and a bit more far fetched than the previous ones, but good fun to read.
It's a shame Pullman never wrote more books in this series, but the way everybody ended up, this does make for a satisfying finale.
TITLE: THE TIGER IN THE WELL
AUTHOR: PHILLIP PULLMAN
Details: no. 3 Sally Lockhart Mystery/YF
Sally appears to have her life in order. Her business is a success, her daughter is healthy and although she still misses Frederick, her daughter's father, she is mostly content.
Then disaster strikes in the form of a man she has never heard of filing to divorce her and gain custody of her daughter.
Although Sally knows she has never been married, a marriage and birth certificate seem to prove differently.
Threatened with losing everything, Sally has the biggest fight of her life on her hands.
Once again Pullman delivers a thrilling and intriguing story and look at Victorian London and the political situation at the time.
I skimmed my way through this book though, because I knew who was behind the plot against Sally and why from very early on.
But, I'm liking this series enough to go straight on to the forth and final instalment.
Monday, February 9, 2009
TITLE: THE INTELLIGENCER
AUTHOR: LESLIE SILBERT
Details: no. 1 Kate Morgan Thriller
This was a fascinating novel, set both in the late 1600's and in the present time.
In the present, Kate Morgan is a private eye working for a firm that doubles as an unofficial U.S secret service agency. She is called in when a mysterious and centuries old manuscript is found and almost stolen. her job is to find out what secrets the manuscript holds and who is so desperate to get their hands on it.
She has another assignment too; to find out what an enigmatic arts dealer bought from an Iranian intelligence officer. She is unaware that the first investigation might kill her while the second could break her heart.
The manuscript of the first investigation concerns the various networks of spies during Elizabeth 1st reign, and in deciphering the documents Kate and the reader get an insight into the final days of Christopher Marlowe, famous playwright and suspected spy, who was killed in 1593.
Both stories in this book are thrilling and intriguing. And the fact that I had the modern day villain pinpointed fairly early on didn't matter at all since there were several other mysteries which reminded just that until the very end.
This book was published in 2004, and although a second Kate Morton book was promised, no publication date has been announced yet. I do hope the sequel will come, and sooner rather than later.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
AUTHOR: NORA ROBERTS
Details: no. 1 The Donovan Legacy
It's hard to know what to write about a novel by Nora Roberts because the books all tend to follow the same basic story line. Which should be putting me off reading them, because I tend to detest predictability in my books, but has for some reason I can't quite put my finger on, the opposite effect when it comes to Roberts. Her books feel like coming home to a warm house on a cold night; familiar and comfortable.
In this series, we meet the Donovans, Morgana, Anastasia and Sebastian, three cousins from a long line of witches, each with their own special powers.
Nate Kirkland, writer of block buster horror movies wants to meet up with Morgana in order to research the subject of his next script: witchcraft.
Not that he believes she actually has any magical powers, but he does find himself attracted to her. When he does eventually come to believe in her powers, it turns out that he and his past are the real obstacle to any future together.
TITLE: FLESH AND BONE
AUTHOR: JEFFERSON BASS
Details: no. 2 Body Farm Mystery
Before I get into the story of this book, I should point out that as a rule I don't really like story lines in which the main character is accused of the crime and the rest of the book is dedicated to proving his innocence and finding the real murderer. It only gets worse when I know from fairly early on who is the guilty party.
This book has both these "faults".
Somebody close to Dr. Bill Broxton is killed and left in a nightmarish set-up on the body farm. And who ever did it went out of their way to implicate Broxton. He never even considers the person who did it, which ends up nearly getting him killed.
And that's another weakness; it didn't make sense for this person to stay under the radar.
However, the book was rescued by some interesting characters and decent underlying story lines.
Maybe it wasn't the greatest mystery, but it was by no means bad enough to put me off reading more.
Monday, February 2, 2009
TITLE: THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO
AUTHOR: STIEG LARSSON
Details: no. 1 Millennium Trilogy
This was a very good book. The story is quite intricate and does require that you pay attention at all times. And while the story is fast paced with a lot (at first apparently unconnected) things going on, the other never rushes the story and does take his time for descriptions that give the reader a good picture of the characters involved and the settings of the story.
As for the story itself, there is too much going on for me to write a comprehensible summary. Suffice to say that the story centers around a disgraced journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, who is hired to look into what happened to a 16 year old girl who disappeared without a trace 40 years ago, and a girl in her twenties with a mysterious past, who has been declared legally incompetent ad is a highly effective researcher, named Lisbeth Salander.
I'm so glad that the second book in this trilogy will be available to me shortly. And it's heartbreaking to think that Larsson died shortly after delivering his trilogy to his Swedish publisher.