Posts Tagged ‘mystery’

8th September
2010
written by Steph

Many moons ago, Jenny over at Shelf Love wrote a review of Jincy Willett’s The Writing Class that really intrigued me. I had heard of Willett before – heck we actually have another one of her novels AND a short story collection by her – but it was Jenny’s review that really got me excited to give Willett a shot. I mean, a novel that is both a satire AND a mystery novel all rolled up in one and focuses on the art (or lack thereof) of writing? What could be better than that? So in case you haven’t clicked over and read Jenny’s review already (which you absolutely should because it is brilliant), the idea behind The Writing Class is this: Amy Gallup is burned out author who peaked when she was young and precocious and who now makes her living by teaching continuing education writing classes at the local community college (as well stringing together mad-lib style author biographies that just barely count as writing). Through Amy, we meet new set of students at the start of her Fall course, and the narrative largely starts off focusing on the class and the various writing exercises (along with their results) that the students are asked to complete as they hone their craft. We also dip into Amy’s life outside of the class, gradually gaining insight into her rather limited and hollow existence, and we see how the class slowly starts to merge into a family unit, enriching not only each other’s writing but also each other’s lives. Unfortunately, a disgruntled and mysterious misfit in the group soon makes his/her presence known, attempting to disrupt and damage the group dynamic and growing bonds. What starts off as poison pen letters eventually spiral into increasingly sinister pranks that place lives at stake… (more…)
3rd September
2010
written by Steph

Well, I might as well just call this review "A Love Letter to Mary", because I continue to simply adore Laurie King’s Mary Russell series! Have you started them yet? If not, you are missing out, my friends. This is now my go-to series when I’m looking for a fun, comfort read that is guaranteed to soothe me of any worries (reading or otherwise), and one that I indulge in without any kind of guilt. These books are simply a pleasure, and I want everyone to know it. A Letter of Mary picks up a few months after the events of the second book in the series (which I talked about here). Life has become somewhat dull and uninspiring on the work front for Mary and Holmes, so it doesn't take much prompting of consideration for her to accept the request of one Dorothy Ruskin, feisty lady archeologist on leave from Jerusalem, to meet and discuss some matters of a rather sensitive nature. During their meeting, Ruskin gives Russell a remarkably well-preserved piece of papyrus in an exceedingly ornate, jeweled box, the content of which would prove rather earth-shattering if the scroll were ever authenticated. Not soon after leaving their company, Ruskin is struck dead in what appears to be an accidental hit and run, but the signs of which soon seem to point unerringly towards murder. It’s up to Mary and Holmes to determine who – and why – Ruskin was murdered, while Mary also struggles with the decision of what to do with the letter she has been entrusted with. (more…)
22nd July
2010
written by Steph

Please do not let the ugly cover put you off... there is a newer, far cuter cover now available!

After finishing the first Mary Russell novel, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, I immediately put a hold on the second book in the series at my local library (though not before heading to the used bookstore to see if I could pick up a copy of my very own… no such luck, though I don’t blame readers for clutching these books closely to their chests and never letting them out of their sight!). I was jonesing pretty badly for Holmes and Russell’s next adventure, so when I finally had the opportunity to lay my own grubby paws on book two in the series, A Monstrous Regiment of Women, careful and measured reading wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. No, I pretty much tore through this book in a single day, and you know what? I don’t regret it one bit! (Also, I’ve now procured the remaining books in the series, so I can read them at my leisure whenever the desire strikes!) In A Monstrous Regiment of Women, Mary is all grown up and on the cusp of finally receiving her rather sizeable family inheritance. Now a woman, no longer a girl, things have become rather strained between herself and Holmes, as neither can deny the sexuality of the other any longer (though certainly they try). Confused and conflicted by this change in their relationship, Mary pulls away from Holmes, throwing herself into her studies as well as a rekindling a relationship with her old school chum, Veronica Beaconsfield, a friendship which opens Mary’s eyes up to an intoxicating new world. Veronica takes Mary along to a meeting of The New Temple of God, led by the charismatic and compelling Margery Childe, a woman who champions women’s issues in all shapes and forms, and who Mary believes may be mystic. As Mary is slowly drawn into Childe’s inner circle, she discovers that something is horribly amiss: Childe’s most wealthy patronesses have the unfortunate habit of dying in rather gruesome ways… conveniently leaving behind the bulk of their fortunes to The New Temple of God. Still needing her space from Holmes, Mary takes on her very first case of her own, determined to discover what shady dealings are underfoot, but little does she realize in so doing, she puts her own life (and fortune) at stake… (more…)
14th July
2010
written by Steph

Even casual readers of this little blog probably know that I have a deep admiration for Tana French. An admiration that perhaps borders on the cusp of obsession. I devour her books when I get my hands on them, and find myself completely absorbed by the world and the characters she so skillfully crafts for her readers. I’ve been to Ireland, and yet reading French’s books, I sometimes feel like her fiction is more vivid and real than my own experiences! It could be that she draws back the veil on a culture and a people the way that only a native Dubliner can, but I also think it’s just a testament to how compelling an author she is. She could probably write about my hometown of Toronto and make me think I’ve never even set foot there! 😉 Last year after reading French’s debut novel, In The Woods, I prowled the apartment restlessly until The Likeness made its way to me from the library. I was so caught up by French’s characters, I pretty much couldn’t read anything else in that time in between. I just wanted more. I tried to pace myself, but I pretty much rampaged through The Likeness, loving every moment of it, only to feel utterly bereft at the end of it. Why? Because I had exhausted all of French’s published works to date. What was an avid fan to do? (more…)
30th June
2010
written by Steph

One of the things I was most excited about when Tony and I embarked into the world of e-readers was discovering the plethora of e-books that were now open to me via our public library. I’ve probably spent at least 3 hours clicking through the catalog of available titles, making a list (and checking it twice), of all the books I can’t wait to get my grubby little jamhands on FOR FREE. So exciting. Finally I’ll get to try stuff like Joshua Ferris’s The Unnamed, and if the desire should ever strike to continue with the Stieg Larsson trilogy, well, I can do that too. Maybe I’ll check out those Sookie Stackhouse books. You just never know. Of course, there’s an awful lot of… well, crap might not be the right word, but let’s just say that for every The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie in the collection, there are at least 15 Harlequin romances, with titles like The Billionaire’s Bride and The Greek Shipping Heir’s Lovechild. I’m sure they have their fans, but they’re not really my speed. All to say that I had to do some digging to find the diamonds. And when I found What The Dead Know, a book I had actually considered reading many times, I snapped and quickly borrowed it. I had heard good things about it, and it seemed like a worthy book to break my e-reader in with (except without any actual breaking). (more…)
24th June
2010
written by Steph

One thing that I love about the book blogging world is that it helps me discover so many books that I never would have stumbled across on my own. Laurie R King’s Mary Russell series is definitely an example of this. Prior to blogging I had never heard of these books, even though: a) I love cozy British mysteries that set during the turn of the 20th century (an extremely specific niche, I realize!); and b) the series has been around since the mid-90s, so I had plenty of time to find it on my own. For those who are unfamiliar with the idea behind the series, the premise is that Sherlock Holmes (yes, I do mean THE Sherlock Holmes) has retired to the English countryside where fifteen-year old Mary stumbles upon him (quite literally) while out for a morning walk (with Virgil on hand). Holmes soon realizes that Mary has a rather uncommon mind, one that is nearly as observant and shrewd as his own, and the two soon strike up a friendship. Holmes takes Mary under his wing, tutoring her in the art of detection and setting small tests for her to solve in order to keep her mind sharp. Together they tackle and solve a few innocuous mysteries at hand, but soon the stakes are raised when Holmes is called to consult on a prominent kidnapping case. Even that, however, is but a rudimentary primer for the next conundrum they face… one where their very lives hinge upon them discovering the culprit who lurks in the shadows and is clearly out for blood. (more…)
10th May
2010
written by Steph

I wanted to post this review yesterday, but I thought it would be rather too wicked of me to post my review of Sophie Hannah’s debut crime novel, Little Face, on Mothers Day. I’ve heard from many women that upon becoming mothers, there were certain books and/or films that they just couldn’t stomach any longer. Generally these books involve terrible things happening to children, or they depict a parental nightmare of some sort.  Little Face certainly falls into the latter camp. Having endured a difficult birth just two weeks earlier, Alice Fancourt finally ventures out of her home for a baby-free afternoon.  When she returns home, she faces a mother’s greatest fear: her newborn daughter has been kidnapped. Even more sinister, Alice claims that Florence has been replaced by an imposter baby. Her husband, David, thinks that she has lost her mind, and his bemusement swiftly turns to disgust and anger.  When DC Simon Waterhouse takes on the case, he finds a family in upheaval.  He’s not sure he believes Alice’s wild claim, but on the other hand, there’s something about David – whose first wife was stabbed to death – that he doesn’t quite trust.  David’s hostility towards Alice is palpable, so Simon fears the worst and races against the clock when both Alice and the baby go missing… (more…)
1st December
2009
written by Steph
Was delighted by the dog and the town!

Was delighted by the dog and the town!

I had never heard of this series by J.F. Englert, featuring a mystery-solving black lab named Randolph until Jill of Rhapsody in Books mentioned it in passing in the comments of one of my posts.  I said the premise sounded fun and like something I would be interested in checking out, and the author himself came to my aid!  He offered to send me the first two books in the series for my perusal, and I am so glad that I took him off on his generous offer.  I found the first book in the series, A Dog About Town, a delightful and diverting read and will happily avail myself of the rest of the series in the future. The basic premise of A Dog About Town is that Randolph, a black lab, and his owner Harry live in downtown Manhattan.  Harry is an artist of sorts, who has had middling success, but has largely given up on his work ever sine the disappearance of the love of his life, Imogen.  Randolph is anything but your run-of-the-mill black lab, instead gifted with uncanny cognitive abilities, being able to reason and read, and is just as likely to quote from Shakespeare as he is to discuss the nuances of the variety of canine compatriots who frequent the Bull Moose Dog Run near the Natural History Museum.  In this first novel, Randolph put his remarkable powers of detection to work when Harry attends an ill-fated séance in which author Lyell Overton Minskoff dies of what appears to be a heart attack.  Despite all appearances, Randolph doesn’t believe that Minskoff’s death is as innocent as it seems, and worries that something more sinister – like murder – may be at play.  He soon narrows the suspects down to three strangers who were linked to the séance, but is saddened to discover that one of Harry’s good friends (and financial benefactors) may also be somehow involved.  It’s up to Randolph to figure out whodunit (and how to get Harry to realize it!) before another victim is claimed! (more…)
27th October
2009
written by Steph
Prepare to be astounded...

Prepare to be astounded...

After reading Nanny Returns in its entirety so that I could review it for the December issue of BookPage, I was in the mood for something a little less fluffy and a lot more substantial.  I guess as I’ve been working on bulking up my brain to deal with Classics and other meaty novels, I’ve kind of lost my tolerance for the chick lit genre.  I used to devour those books when I was a teenager, but now I find them fairly predictable with underwhelming writing.  I guess my recent trend has been to turn towards a new genre – specifically mysteries – when I am in hot pursuit of plot-driven stories, and feel the need to put my brain on cruise control (a plan which Dorothy L. Sayers soundly thwarted!). Well, for those of you who are similarly inclined, I warn you that The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster is anything but a passive read.  This was my first Auster and pretty much my mind was exploding and combusting throughout the entire thing, while I was frantically scrabbling about trying to pick up the pieces and get back on the narrative train.  I have pretty much decided that there’s no way for me to summarize any of the three novellas/short stories that make up this work, as a plot summary would fall so ridiculously short of capturing the heart of any of these pieces of fiction.   Also, it would probably be misleading to talk about the things that happen in these stories, because I kind of got the feeling that the plots (such as they were), were really just excuses for Auster to write about… non-plot things. Ostensibly they are detective stories, only they are driven by internal struggles and contemplations far more than they are by external factors.  Anything that happens in any of them does so merely to act as a catalayst to murky pontification on a myriad of subjects.  These are stories in which the things that happen are often confusing and befuddling, and maybe only important insofar as they illuminate and shed light on other things. Within The New York Trilogy, I would say Auster touches on topics of language, authors and authorship, identity, religion, solitude, and in the process manages to toss everything you thought you knew about fiction and narratives on its ear.  There is tons of metafiction going on here, which can be discombobulating, but also really illuminating.  This is the kind of book that while I read it, I wasn’t convinced that I fully got what was going on, but I still felt like my mind was expanding and that I was certainly gleaning something, however intangible and elusive it might be, from it. (more…)
20th October
2009
written by Steph
Sing it with me: Start at the very beginning...

Sing it with me: Start at the very beginning...

When it comes to selecting our next reads, Tony and I are VERY different.  I suppose you could call me an intuitive reader – I get a strong sense of the type of book I would like to read next, and select a book I feel will best mesh with those feelings and desires.  Sometimes I want a sad book, other times a lighthearted one.  Sometimes I really want to challenge myself and slowly push my way through a tricky read, while other times I need something fun or straightforward.  For me, there is nothing worse than reading the right book at the wrong time.  For Tony, there is no such thing.  The right book is always the right book; he can make a mental list of the books he wants to read, and then steadfastly make his way through it in order with little concern for whether the tone of what he just read might complement or detract from his next read.  Perhaps it’s a function of having so many books, but sometimes the choices overwhelm me and I agonize over what to read next, but Tony can always happily pluck something from a pile and begin to read with a breezy sense of laissez faire.  I hate that! 😉 Anyway, my point is that for me, context is key, and I think Gaudy Night exemplifies this in a lot of interesting ways.  I was in the mood for something fun, and I haven’t read a fullblown mystery novel in a while, so I decided to give my first Sayers novel a whirl.  I can’t remember exactly where I first heard of her, but I do know that this particular novel is recommended in Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust and I also remember reading somewhere at some time that it is not necessary to read these novels in any specific order.  I’ve spoken before at length about how I’m particular about my detective fiction – I like novels from the Golden Age, and I really like my mysteries to be set in England – so really, Gaudy Night (which takes place at Oxford University in the 1930s) should have been just the ticket. (more…)
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