Posts Tagged ‘mystery’

27th September
2009
written by Steph
Book club pick for Sept/Oct

Book club pick for Sept/Oct

This book was selected for the upcoming meeting of my real-life book club.  I first read it back in 2004 or 2005 and enjoyed it so much that when I found a cheap copy at McKay’s during one of our initial visits, I bought it so that Tony could experience it.  If not for my bookclub, I’m not sure that I would have re-read it again any time soon, but I have to say the experience was not at all unwelcome. This seems to be one of those books that pretty much everyone has read, so I’m tempted not to give a synopsis.  Then again, judging from the way my bookclub voted (we are a bit different in the way we operate compared to most other clubs, I think: rather than a single person picking a book for us to read, the person in charge of organizing the meeting for that month picks 3 potential books and sends us the information.  We then all vote for which one we want, so that no single person can be held responsible should we not like the book! 😉 ), apparently there may be a hidden faction of individuals who are not familiar with this one.  So: the basic premise is that this novel revolves around a young, autistic narrator named Christopher.  Christopher has been tasked with writing a book for school, and we, the readers, are looking at the final result.  The story is told through Christopher’s eyes, which makes for an interesting and pretty unique reading experience given Christopher’s unusual way of looking at the world.  The novel’s main catalyst is Christopher’s discovery that his neighbor’s dog has been murdered, and he decides that he will discover who committed the crime.  Through his investigations he winds up uncovering a much larger secret that has been kept hidden for far too long, one that causes him to stretch and grow in ways he never thought possible. (more…)
3rd September
2009
written by Steph
My September selection for BookPage

My September selection for BookPage

My third review for BookPage can now be read online (at this page, to be precise)!  For September, I reviewed R.J. Ellory's A Quiet Belief in Angels.  Ellory is a Brit by birth, though he has a penchant for setting his books in the good old U.S. of A.  He's a well established crime thriller powerhouse overseas, but this marks his American publishing debut.  Y'all know I love a good mystery, but A Quiet Belief in Angels was an unexpected delight as it really strove to surpass the traditional conventions and boundaries of its dreaded "genre" fiction label.  The writing was pretty magnificent, doubly so because you keep remembering the pitch-perfect dialogue is written by someone who didn't grow up in the South.  I found this novel to be more a piece of literature than I did a mystery, and I enjoyed it very much indeed.  I ripped through it in about 3 days, my heart breaking nearly continuously the entire time... but I couldn't help but keep flipping those pages to let Ellory expertly crush my heart a little more.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes mysteries but LOVES literature.  I'll be sure to check out more stuff by Ellory in the future (even if I have to plan a trip back to Canada to do so!).  Please check out my review and let me know what you think! Rating: 4 out of 5 P.S.  Ellory's personal story is almost as interesting as the one in the novel itself: he was orphaned at a young age and then was arrested and convicted for poaching at the age of 17 and sentenced to a few years in prison.  While in jail, he began reading and writing obsessively, which is how his writing career was born.  With a story like that, how can he not write amazing novels?  Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction!
4th August
2009
written by Steph
My August read for BookPage

My August read for BookPage

Since it's a new month, it also means I have a new review up in the current issue of BookPage.  For the August issue I read Victor LaValle's second novel, Big Machine.  What can I say?  I loved this book, and I hope you will too.  If you enjoy mysteries, fantasy, sci-fi, or just a rolicking adventure story with a pretty biting sense of humor, there's a good chance you will!  When this one hits the shelves, I'll probably buy a hard-cover copy because I liked it that much.  In my own personal reading loI gave this book a 4.5 out of 5 rating, which says a lot.  Also, I made Tony read it after I finished it and now both of us are interested in reading LaValle's back catalog.  He's likely an author you haven't heard of before, but now all of that's changed so you have no excuse not to give Big Machine a shot! I'm pretty proud of this review, and was extra excited to see that it got "Feature" billing (and also kicks off the Fiction reviews in the print edition of the magazine).  Please check it out and let me know what you think!
19th June
2009
written by Steph
Indubitable!

Indubitable!

The Sign of Four is the second novella penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle featuring the illustrious and magnetic Sherlock Holmes.  Miss Mary Morstan seeks the council of Sherlock Holmes when she receives a mysterious note informing her that a grievous wrong has been conducted against her, and moreover, the letter writer can shed some light on the fate of her father who has been missing for over a decade.  The duo agree to accompany her to meet the mysterious author writer, but soon find themselves investigating a murder all the while trying to track down some missing treasure. In this novella, Conan Doyle reveals the darker side of Holmes’s character her, specifically his dabbling with his infamous “seven per cent solution”.   Other than that delightful little bit of character development (I know drugs are bad, but it’s such an integral part of the Holmes character it was cool to see it introduced), however, for me it did not have quite the same charms as A Study in Scarlet.  I found the mystery (yet another “locked door” mystery) less compelling and more obviously depending on background information that no reader has any chance of knowing until it is revealed.  Also, I didn’t feel the backstory was as artfully communicated as was done in A Study in Scarlet.  Holmes’s deductive skills are swift and keen, but I felt quite helpless while reading The Sign of Four, and it was all perhaps a little zany for my tastes.  Of course A Study in Scarlet was a bit out in left-field at times, but I suppose there were elements apart from the core mystery (such as the humor and wit in the writing) that I was able to enjoy independently.  Here I felt much of the spark and vim was missing to the storytelling, which is disappointing since three years elapsed between the publication of Scarlet and this.  Perhaps because of this I was more aware of certain unsavory mentalities that weren't so obvious (in my opinion) in the first book - at times Holmes/Watson can be quite racist and sexist.  A product of its time, I know, but still quite jarring to me.   It wasn’t a flop, just a bit of a letdown following such a vibrant debut.  Sophomore slump, I suppose. But I’m still carrying on in my attempt to read through the series, so next in line is the collection of stories The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.  I know I read some of these when I was younger, but I’ll be damned if I can remember how any of them turn out (or what any of them were about!)! Rating: 3.5 out of 5
9th June
2009
written by Steph
AKA "The Not-Very-Well-Kept Secret Adversary"

AKA "The Not-Very-Well-Kept Secret Adversary"

Since 2009 is the year that I’m rediscovering my love affair with the mystery novel, I decided that I would like to reacquaint myself with the Queen of Mystery – Agatha Christie.  I read a bunch of her books when I was in middle school/highschool, but my memory for the titles I did read is absolute rubbish, so I figured it might be fun to start reading the books in the order they were published.  I haven’t made much headway in this personal challenge (challenge is perhaps the wrong word – long-term goal, is probably more apt), as The Secret Adversary is just Christie’s second book.  And as much as I love Dame Christie, it shows! Christie wrote  about several detectives, and The Secret Adversary is the novel in which she introduces her sleuthing duo, Tommy & Tuppence.  The basic premise is that the two longtime pals meet up in London following WWI, both down on their luck and swiftly running out of money.  Tuppence announces over tea (bizzarely and hilariously, in my opinion) that the only cure for it all is for them to become adventurers (?).  Following the meal, Tuppence is approached by a man who overheard her and says he might have just the ticket for her.  He wants her to go to Paris and pretend to be someone, but when he asks her her name, Tuppence throws out the name “Jane Finn” on a whim, which enrages the man, who asks how much of the scheme she already knows, and ultimately dismisses Tuppence from the office, telling her to come back the next day… only for him to have vanished upon her return!  And so Tuppence and Tommy wind up embroiled in a scheme to overthrow the British government – one that will succeed unless they can track down the real Jane Finn, who was given some national documents prior to the war that would be most damaging if they fell into the wrong hands.  Will these green sleuths be able to outwit one of the most elusive criminal masterminds to challenge the Empire, the sinister Mr. Brown?  And how is it that he always seems to be a step ahead of them? (more…)
2nd June
2009
written by Steph
AKA: Read & Return

AKA: Read & Return

Almost at the halfway point through the year, when I look back at my reading log for 2009 thus far, I can see that I’ve definitely been delving more into the mystery genre than I have in years past.  Sometimes I worry that my reading is becoming too firmly ensconced in the detective fiction realm, but then again, I think we all have our own little reading jags that we go on, and sometimes you just need to binge for a while to get it out of your system.  Another side effect of said binging is that you start to get a tad more discerning, with certain writers rising to the top and others not so much.  It’s kind of like when I first started to drink wine – to my unrefined palate, all wines tasted alike (namely, like “wine”), but after 7 years of drinking the stuff (in moderation, mind you!  Most of the time…), I finally have some definite preferences.  Similarly, every book I read helps me hone my concept of who I am as a reader, and each mystery novel I read also gives me a more specific knowledge regarding that genre. On the surface, Publish & Perish is a mystery novel I should have liked.  Dr. Ben Reese is on sabbatical at Oxford when he is awoken by a call at 2 in the morning from his good friend and colleague Richard West.  He says he has uncovered an injustice that has long been hidden, and only the two of them can bring the culprit to justice.  However, before Richard can go into further detail, the call is cut short and when Ben next hears from Richard, it is actually in the form of a telegram telling him that Richard died of a heart attack that night.  Ben flies home to attend the funeral, and whilst there begins to poke around… although there’s no direct evidence that a crime was committed, something doesn’t sit right with Ben and he soon finds himself investigating the murder of his friend. (more…)
25th May
2009
written by Steph
Forget the scarlet, I give this one a green light!

Forget the scarlet, I give this one a green light!

Coming off of Michael Chabon’s underwhelming Sherlock Holmes homage, I had a yen to experience the real deal.  Back during my girlhood, I recall reading my way through an assortment of Sherlock Holmes stories, though for the life of me, the only one I can definitively recall reading is “The Five Orange Pips” (and of course, I have no idea what the story centers around other than the obvious, nor can I recall how it all sorts itself out).  My memory for plot is notoriously poor, so when I found the first of two volumes of the complete works of Sherlock Holmes at McKay’s I decided to pick it up so I could work my way through the Holmes back catalogue.  Having now read the first story (actually a novella) in the collection, I’m really glad I did! A Study in Scarlet was the first work published Conan Doyle, and it is the novel in which the inimitable Sherlock Holmes is first introduced.  The mystery is typical Holmesian fare – a body has been found in an abandoned house, the room splattered with blood, only there are no visible wounds to be found.  Baffled, the London police are getting nowhere so Holmes is turned loose on the case!  The novel is actually divided into two parts: in Part One, we become privy to the crime and follow Holmes (through Watson’s eyes) as he sniffs out his murderer ending with the arrest of the perp; in Part Two, there is a dramatic shift in perspective as we learn more about the murderer’s motivation and the events that lead to him carrying out his dastardly deed, as well as a final section in which Holmes reveals for the somewhat dimwitted Watson how we deduced all the relevant facts. (more…)
23rd May
2009
written by Steph
Here's a solution: skip this one!

Here's a solution: skip this one!

The hardest books (or novellas, as the case may be) to write about are the ones that I feel completely apathetic towards.  There’s nothing ostensibly wrong about them that I can nitpick to high heaven, but there’s also nothing glimmering and wonderful to get me all worked up about, so I wind up simply feeling like all I want to write about them is one word: Meh.  That’s how I feel about The Final Solution by Michael Chabon.  Unfortunately, “meh” doesn’t really make for an interesting entry, so I will try my darndest to say something about this wholly unremarkable slip of a book. The story revolves around a mute Jewish boy who flees to England to escape persecution in Germany.  His only companion is an African parrot named Bruno, who trills out a mysterious stream of numbers every so often.  Many people are pretty interested in Bruno and what these enigmatic numbers might be the key to, so to make a short story even shorter, one day a guest staying with the family harboring the mute Jewish boy is found clubbed to death and Bruno is nowhere to be found.  Although the murder holds little enticement for him, an aged detective with a penchant for tweed and beekeeping decides he will take up the case of locating Bruno and returning him to his young master. (more…)
29th April
2009
written by Steph
Well, I certainly did like it!

Well, I certainly did like it!

Remember a while back when I read In The Woods and really enjoyed it… and then fell into a deep reading funk?  I blame Tana French.  Only in the best possible way of course, but it’s still her fault I haven’t really been able to pick up a book since then.  Certain books are just so engaging and engrossing that when they’re done, you feel bereft and have a hard time switching gears and starting something new.  Plus, when they’re as good as In The Woods, finding another book that will stand up to what you’ve just read is pretty tough. I think part of the reason why I’d been dragging my feet to read a new book is because immediately upon finishing In The Woods, I wanted to start French’s follow-up novel, The Likeness.  And you should all have your ears prick up at this, because you know I tend not to go on author-related reading benders, no matter how much I like said author's body of work.  In this case, I didn’t own The Likeness so I couldn't just dive right back in.  And my local library branch’s copy was out, meaning that after I put a hold on it, I had to wait for it to get transferred in from some other branch.  And then when it showed up, I had already started reading another book that wasn’t working for me at the time (I think because I was mentally holding out for this book), and then I had my top secret reading project that had to have top priority, so The Likeness sat on the floor in our front hallway for almost two weeks before I could give it the time of day.  Let me tell you, the wait may have been long and tortuous, but it was totally worth it because The Likeness absolutely delivers. (more…)
5th April
2009
written by Steph
Not to be confused with the Sondheim musical "Into the Woods"...

Not to be confused with the Sondheim musical "Into the Woods"...

Tony picked this one out for me when we visited Chicago back in May, 2008.  At that time, we had not yet discovered the wonders of McKay’s here in good old Nashville, so I was thrilled to be in a used bookstore that had a great selection of used books, and ones in good condition no less (one of my peeves regarding one of Nashville’s more popular used bookstores is that they price all copies of a given book the same, regardless of the condition said books are in… suffice it to say the price is often much higher than what I think is fair play on used books, but then again, perhaps I’m spoiled as I remember being able to buy used books for like, 25 cents and a dollar when I was a kid).  Anyway, I had heard about In The Woods when Tony handed it to me, and even though it was a hardcover copy, the price was quite reasonable (I think it was $12), so I decided to go ahead and give it a shot.  After all, it sounded like exactly the kind of book I would like. The basic premise is that Detective Rob Ryan spent the first 12 years of his life growing up in Knocknaree, Ireland (a small, idyllic town on the outskirts of Dublin) when tragedy struck.  On a quiet summer day in 1984, he and his two best friends enter the woods that skirt the town, only for two of the trio to never be seen ever again.  When Rob (then known as Adam) is found in the woods later that night, he is covered in blood (it is even inside of his shoes) and the back of his shirt has been slashed several times, and he has no memory of what has happened to either himself or his friends.  Flash forward to present day. Rob is now an adult and working on Ireland’s Murder Squad, when he and his partner Cassie Maddox are called to investigate the murder of a young girl found on an archeological dig site in Knocknaree.  As they investigate the case, Rob is forced to face his past, as signs begin to emerge that the present day murder may be linked to the disappearance of his two friends all those years ago. (more…)
Previous
Next