Posts Tagged ‘mystery’

5th January
2014
written by Steph
casehistories

If only ebooks had nice covers...

Given that the site is newly raised from the dead, it somehow seems fitting that my first review is of Case Histories by Kate Atkinson. Not only is the book about a series of decades-old cold cases, it’s also a book I read many moons ago, well before this site ever existed and was one I had long left for dead. As a re-read rearing its zombie head, I probably couldn’t have picked a better book for a reboot if I had been trying. Case Histories is the first in Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie series, which, to date, consists of four books. I am previously on the record as having a big girl crush on Atkinson  and loving her non-mystery fiction, and being far more ambivalent (though that might be putting it nicely) about her forays into whodunit fiction. Because I first read this book before I started writing reviews here, I don’t have any in-depth analysis or record of my thoughts on the book then, but I do remember that I was wildly underwhelmed by it and might even go so far as to say I did not like it very much at all. So why read it again if I found it so dull the first time round? Mostly because although I’ve been living under a literary rock for the past 16 months, I still keep up-to-date with some of the book world’s news and I’ve been reading a lot of buzz about my girl Kate’s latest book, Life After Life. I didn’t have a copy of that on hand, but I was able to get access to this and decided to test the waters to see if it was as disappointing as I remembered. (more…)
19th December
2011
written by Steph

Hot on the heels of my dance with Dame Christie, I decided my lust for murder mysteries hadn’t been slaked, so I decided to take a turn with another queen of crime. Not only is Cover Her Face the first published P.D. James mystery, but it was actually my first dalliance with James’s writing at all. After my disastrous first date with Dorothy L. Sayers stemming from my reading Gaudy Night before picking up any of her other books, I have become a rather staunch adherent to reading serial fiction in chronological order, even when others claim it is not necessary, so for those of you who feel similarly and have yet to become acquainted with Detective Adam Dalgliesh, this is the place to start. The following theory is just based on wild conjecture on my part, but I think that readers may be the most idiosyncratic when it comes to their taste in mystery novels. Little old grannies may suddenly profess a penchant for dark Scandinavian noir, and ostensibly there is even a market for readers who prefer crimes that are cracked by animal sleuths (Wikipedia tells me that Lillian Jackson Braun’s “The Cat Who…” mystery series, numbered 29 titles!). Personally, I’m a “Golden Age” mystery fan, loving my crimes to be relatively bloodless, to take place between 1910 – 1950, and to be situated in England if at all possible. I have no idea why that trifecta is pretty much the holy trinity when it comes to mystery novels, but there you have it. To me, these types of novels are pretty much the ultimate in comfort reading, and rarely do they fail to delight me. And of course there are exceptions to this rule (as my love of Tana French, clearly displays), but this is why it’s a rule and not a law. (more…)
14th December
2011
written by Steph

Guys, I am in the thick of it, dissertation-wise. I have been told on multiple occasions that the homestretch of one’s thesis is not for the faint-hearted, and I must agree one thousand percent. I keep trying to buoy my spirits by telling myself that everyone who gets a doctorate has to go through this fire walk at some point and that if it were easy, everyone would choose this path. I just have to keep getting up in the morning and pushing forward until finally this thing caves because I will not let this dissertation beat me. I don’t proudly proclaim the fact that I’ve actually been a grad student for seven years now, but given that that is the case, I certainly can’t back down now. I’ve invested too much of myself to let another six months of mind-breaking work conquer me, so come hell or high water, I will finish. And when I do, I shall rename this site “Dr. Steph & (Not Dr.) Tony Investigate!” OK, not really… Anyway, this is all to let you loyal readers know that I haven’t forgotten you even though this space has been dormant for quite a while now. I’ve just been so mentally taxed of late that it’s left me little breathing room for fun. I’m still reading, albeit less than I normally do, but the thought of writing about any of the books I’ve finished has seemed impossible. Until now. Rather than mope about and give in to my exhaustion, I’m going to push through the waves of fatigue so that I can share some of the books I’ve been reading, because really, don’t books make everything just a little bit better? (more…)
28th June
2011
written by Steph

Faithful (and perhaps even casual) readers of this blogs know that I have certain fondness for books that revolve around the scholastic world. Half the charm for me in reading the Harry Potter books wasn’t just in entering a magical world, but in getting to go to school with Harry and the gang. The moment when the first book really spoke to me was Harry’s first trip to Diagon Alley and Hagrid takes him through buying school supplies. Heaven! Probably the only place more dangerous to let me loose unsupervised other than a bookstore would be a stationary/office supplies stores. I can’t say I personally miss all that much about my own highschool experience, but when Fall comes round and I have no reason to buy new pens and binders, well, I may just die a bit inside. One of my goals has also been to try to read more international fiction, so when I saw Miss Timmins’ School for Girls on the TLC Tours roster which boasted a murder mystery taking place in an Indian boarding school, you can imagine how excited I was. As it was pitched, Miss Timmins’ revolves around a young Indian woman named Charu, who takes a position at the British-nun-run Miss Timmins’ boarding school teaching English as a means of stretching her wings and gaining some independence from her family. Although Charu is slow to make friends, she eventually forms a magnetic bond with a fellow teacher, Moira Prince, and the two become thick as thieves. Unfortunately, one dark and stormy evening (the very best kind of nights for murder most foul!), Moira’s body is found broken at the base of a cliff and signs suggest her fall was no accident. As suspicion flits around the community, Charu is determined to discover who killed her friend and why, even if it means bringing unwanted attention and questions upon herself. (more…)
20th June
2011
written by Steph

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need a break from “serious” fiction. Literary, prize-winning fiction (or at least books that aspire to that level) tends to make up the bulk of my reading diet, and while I wouldn’t have it any other way, there are times when I really just need to read something fun and frivolous and give my brain a break. Normally in such times, I turn to mysteries or something funny, so what could be better than a funny mystery? Would the melding of the two make for something larger than life (and supremely awesome) or would the two beloved factors wind up at war with one another and produce something lesser than the some of its individual parts? (more…)
28th January
2011
written by Steph

When I read and reviewed Room by Emma Donoghue late last year, I really didn’t like it. Part of me was rather surprised that the book had received such acclaim because I found the majority of its narrative rather superficial and lacking in real depth. Many readers who did enjoy Room thoughtfully responded to my crankiness by saying that my expectations had perhaps not been quite correct going into the book, as they had not necessarily approached it as a literary novel, but one that was a fast-paced page-turner. Perhaps if I too had gone into Room expecting something more straightforward I would have liked it more… When I picked up Child 44, I recalled some of the reviews I had read about it when it was first released, and even though it was short-listed for the Booker Award in 2008, I decided to approach it as a standard thriller and put aside expectations of it having to transcend that genre or having an obvious literary quality to its writing. (more…)
3rd January
2011
written by Steph
It seems like most bloggers (including myself) have vowed to try to read books they already own for at least the first three months of the year. So clearly the best thing I can do is highlight two new releases to tempt y'all to fall off the wagon post-haste! In the newest issue of BookPage, Tony and I both have reviews up of two pretty great books that it would be a shame for you to miss out on.

First up: The Sherlockian by Graham Moore. Tony reviewed this one because he is a huge Sherlock Holmes fan (who isn't, really?), and the premise of two stories - one involving Sherlock's creator Arthur Conan Doyle, and one in modern times involving a society of Sherlock devotees - that interweave was certainly intriguing. At a time of the year when reading time is hard to find, Tony managed to make plenty of time to plow through this book, which offers plenty of twists and is a lovely homage to one of literature's most beloved detectives. To read more of his (far more eloquent and penetrating) thoughts on this read, read his full review here.

Next: The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly, which I was super excited to snag for review. If comparisons to Jane Austen are my number one kryptonite, than comparisons to Tana French come in a close second, so I knew I just had to give this thriller a whirl when such parallels began to be drawn. This is one of those "murder in reverse" type tales, one where we know what crime has been committed and by whom (or so we think), and the bulk of the novel is spent detailing the events that lead up to the crime in question. I'm a big fan of books that are able to maintain suspense after laying down a high card so early on, and this one works really well, especially because Kelly flits back and forth between past and present. This is one of those books that keeps raising the stakes and picking up speed as it goes on, so don't be surprised if you gulp it all down in a single sitting. For more of the nitty grity on plot and whatnot, check out my full review here! Both really good reads and I wouldn't blame you if you broke your TBR resolve to pick up either of them! I'm just thankful we already have our copies! 😉
16th November
2010
written by Steph

While Sweden seems wintry and cold in so many ways, the one way in which it seems to be blazing hot is on the crime fiction front. With the insane popularity of Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy, authors with umlauts (how’s that for the name of a federation?) have never been so well-read. Poor Helene Tursten, may not have any fancy diacritics gussying up her name, but don’t let that dissuade you from checking out her crime novels. I admit that “Detective Inspector Huss” is not necessarily a title that’s going to immediately pique your interest, but just as we’re not supposed to judge books by their covers, we should also probably refrain from judging them based on their titles… If you like novels that involve: drugs, sex, explosions, conspiracies, political agendas, and awkward translations, then this is the book for you!  When financial tycoon, Richard von Knecht plummets from his balcony onto the pavement below, all signs point to suicide. But upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that von Knecht didn't jump to his death, he was pushed. Enter Sweden's Violent Crimes division and detective inspector Irene Huss, who begin to look into von Knecht's increasingly suspicious - and dangerous - death. With an itinerant bomber on the loose, clues and suspects are being erased at a frightening pace... The clock is ticking for Irene and colleagues to crack the case, but to do so, they may have to take a few risks... (more…)
19th October
2010
written by Steph

Are you a seasonal reader? When the weather gets cooler and the leaves begin to drop from the trees, do you find yourself craving spookier reads? If so, Sharp Objects just might be the book for you. Sharp Objects tells the story of down-on-her-luck reporter, Camille Preaker, whose third-tier newspaper reporting job in Chicago has her returning to her hometown in Missouri, a place full of dark secrets and bad memories that she’d rather leave squarely in her past. Alas, there’s a serial killer on the loose who is targeting young girls, relieving them of their teeth along with their lives… All signs suggest a local is the cause behind the crimes, so Camille has no choice but to start poking around in places that might just reveal that her childhood horrors are far from over… and more deadly than she ever suspected. (more…)
27th September
2010
written by Steph

As regular readers of this blog know, I’m not the biggest fan of the short story. I really prefer sustained narratives rather than tiny little bursts of story, and I often find it hard to shift gears from one story to the next. Also, I tend to find that there’s this trend with short stories where the stories just seem to end, often times abruptly, and I’m left wondering what the point of the whole exercise was. When I recently discussed Scarlett Thomas’s Our Tragic Universe, I mused about the notion of the “storyless story” and allowed that it’s something I don’t necessarily mind in my novels. However, I think that I’m anti storyless short stories! With this in mind, the Sherlock Holmes short stories are exactly the kind of story I would like. They’re mini mysteries, each with an obvious beginning, middle, and end, and they’re all sufficiently straightforward that I can just sit back, relax and enjoy. As much as I like giving my mind a workout when I’m reading, sometimes it’s nice to just romp about with a cocaine-addicted, sneering detective and have an adventure or two. (more…)
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