Mystery

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

Sherlock has finally returned to television, so what better time to read a new interpretation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic sleuth? A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro, posits that Holmes and Watson each had families and children who followed in their famous ancestors footsteps all the way to modern times. Cavallaro creates a history for the families of Holmes and Watson, transforming them into semi-dynastic clans that often pursue the ideals set forth by the family founder. Against this backdrop, the reader is introduced to James Watson, the great-great-great grandson of the famous chronicler John Watson, as he moves, unhappily, from England to Connecticut to start his semester on a rugby scholarship at an expensive and elite private school near his estranged father. There he meets the great-great-great granddaughter of Sherlock Holmes, Charlotte, who takes after her famous ancestor to a troubling degree, including his substance abuse issues.

Monstress Vol. 1: Awakening

A dark fantasy that heralds the start of a thrilling new series, Monstress Vol. 1: Awakening by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda is a stunningly beautiful graphic novel that tells a heartrending and epic story. The story utilizes a mix of Asian mythologies and ancient Egyptian motifs to create a rich and layered world that Takeda’s art brings to beautiful life. The world is matriarchal and the bulk of the characters, heroes, villians, and those in between, are powerful and deadly women, often with rich and layered backstories. Monstress imagines a world that is at once completely different from our own, yet still hauntingly familiar. The power of this graphic novel is difficult to convey as both the story and artwork contain multitudes of layers that enrich the story and add complexity. Monstress is a tale of vengeance, redemption, horror, tragedy, friendship, shattered gods, magic, myth, and monsters all braided together into an exquisite graphic novel.

Eddie and the Cruisers

Eddie and the Cruisers is the story of a fictional band from the early ‘60s, their rise to fame and the death of their leader and chief wordsmith, Eddie Wilson.  The story itself seems to be inspired by two real life events; the death of Doors lead singer Jim Morrison and the sudden decision by Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys to shelve the band’s album Smile.  Like singer Jim Morrison, Eddie Wilson is a master in putting words and music together in ways that convey feeling while still containing the drive and energy to make a great song.  Like Brian Wilson, Eddie is forward thinking in his writing style and wants to produce a piece that is not simply rock and roll, but something that will be remembered for all time even if it is vastly different than anything he has done before. 

The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon

In the bustle and tensions of the holiday season, it was great to take a couple of nights off and travel to Botswana in Alexander McCall Smith’s latest book in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Series. As usual the mysteries--there are two of them here--are interwoven with descriptions and a philosophy of living a moral life in Africa.  Grace Makutsi, who scored an amazing 97% on her secretarial school final exam, is married now and expecting a baby yet she has not yet talked to Precious Ramotswe about taking any leave. Before she does, her little son arrives along with a pesky aunt, the matriarch of the family who swoops in to take charge of Grace’s household.

While Grace is gone, giving birth and settling into motherhood, Mma Ramotswe faces two problems: an acquaintance has opened a new beauty salon, the one of the title, but she is receiving daily threats from an anonymous source. Whoever is doing it is scaring away all her customers and this threatens the business. Also, a female lawyer has contacted the “traditionally built” detective about an inheritance issue: a nephew is supposed to inherit a farm from a famous politician, but is Liso the actual nephew or someone posing as him? Precious discovers that if Liso is not who he claims to be, the lawyer will inherit the bulk of the estate.  Coincidentally--or maybe not--this lawyer was having an affair with the politician Mma Ramotswe discovers.

Big Library Read features Nancy Clancy eBook

It’s always hard to say goodbye at a story’s end to characters you’ve grown fond of and enjoyed spending time with. That’s one of the great joys of series books and why they appeal to readers of all ages: you don’t have to say goodbye; you can look forward to meeting up with familiar characters in the next book.

Superman Found Dead

Superman found Dead!  I missed the headline blazing across newspapers all over the country.  I'm not surprised, I was less than four years old in June of 1959 when George Reeves, the actor who starred as both Superman and reporter Clark Kent, was found in his bedroom, dead, apparently of a self inflicted gunshot wound.  At four I wasn't interested in such things as Superman.  At six and seven that changed and I was hooked on the television series "The Adventures of Superman."   At some point after that age I found out that George Reeves,  Superman,  was dead.  What I didn't know until much later in my life was that there were in fact many questions about the death of actor George Reeves.  Enough questions to make one wonder did the actor really kill himself or was he killed?  

2013 Edgar Awards

Live by NightThe Edgar Awards were announced last week and because I am not normally a mystery reader, I usually only give a cursory glance at the winners. But this year, not only are there several winners and nominees that are pretty high on my to-read list, but I've even read one of the winners. 

The Mystery Writers of America present the Edgar Award to the best mystery books every year in a few different categories. This year there looks like many good choices. Who knows, maybe I'll be a mystery reader yet! Check out the entire list of winners and nominees at the Edgar Award website.

Best Novel: Live by Night by Dennis Lehane

Best First Novel: The Expats by Chris Pavone

Best Paperback Original: The Last Policeman: A Novel by Ben H. Winters

Best Fact Crime: Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China by Paul French

Best Juvenile: The Quick Fix by Jack D. Ferraiolo

Best Young Adult: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Acid, Projects, and Pit Bulls: Fiction by Paul Griffin

ImageThere are plenty of Young Adult books that portray the difficulties of being a teenager. Some are funny, some serious, and some are pretty dark. There's even a name for ones that focus on a specific issue -- the problem novel (you've got your teen pregnancy, drug abuse, suicide -- you name it). Some are great, but often times the more one topic takes center stage, the less realistic these books seem. It's never just one problem in real life, is it? For pretty much anyone at this age, times are hard all around. Paul Griffin writes about hard times.

The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection

If you've been following the lovely No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency mysteries set in Botswana, you'll be familiar with the detective guidebook that Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi have used for years as their guidebook.  Whenever they are flummoxed in an investigation or when a particularly conniving criminal seems to be getting away with breaking the law and harming innocent people, they have always searched The Principles of Private Detection for advice on how to crack a trying case. 

And now in the latest of the series, The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection, guess who has just arrived in town? None other than Clovis Andersen himself, the esteemed American author of this detective manual.  When Mma Ramotswe, the head of the No. 1 Detective Agency, asks her husband garage mechanic, J.L.B. Matekoni, to guess what famous person has come to town, he immediately (to Mma's great disappointment) guesses Clorox Andersen.  Despite the misnaming, how did he know?

Clovis, recently widowed, has been invited to Africa by a librarian who probably has a romantic interest in him. And when he drops by the detective agency both women sleuths are quite star struck.

A Deeper Sleep

Recently, I had to do some long-distance driving so I did something I rarely do, listen to a book.  I chose A Deeper Sleep, a mystery by Dana Stabenow.  I wanted something both absorbing and light while I was negotiating the long interstates of Illinois.

This book was spot-on. It's set in and around Denali National Park. If you like your sleuths both tough and appealing, Kate Shugak is the detective for you. She's part Aleut, has lived on the outskirts of the great national park all her life and has a good deal of street (or should I say trail cred) with the natives, most of whom are her relatives.

Near the small community of Niniltna, an evil guy, Louis Deem, has killed his wife and attacked several girlfriends--one way to get rid of your exes. Kate and Trooper Jim Chopin work together to locate the evidence that will seal his fate. But though they manage to arrest him several times--he's a sly, cagey murderer, and a jury (swayed by an excellent Anchorage defensive attorney) releases him.

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