Tag Archives: mystery

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (2009)

As the first in a new series by Alan Bradley, this mystery has promise. Flavia is delightful, charming, intelligent, and an almost too clever eleven-year-old chemist who deftly solves a murder in her English village in the early 1950s. The reader wants to scream at her older sisters, her silent father, and the authorities to get out of the way and let Flavia solve the crime in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.

The Crossing by Michael Connelly (2015)

crossingMichael Connelly lets his two popular characters – Detective Harry Bosch and his half-brother Mickey Haller (The Lincoln Lawyer) – cross paths and work together in The Crossing. Thus the reader is treated to the tactics and viewpoints of both defense and police as the investigation proceeds. But Harry is not at all comfortable working with the defense even though he has been forced into retirement by the police. He can’t help feeling like a traitor crossing over to the enemy and can only justify helping a defense lawyer by saying he is searching for the true killer. Other baffling crossings occur among the killers, victims, and the police who cross to the dark side.

The Drifter by Nicholas Petrie (2015)

drifterHighly recommend this debut novel to fans of mysteries, thrillers, suspense, and especially fans of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series. The main protagonist, Peter Ash, is an ex-Marine Lieutenant who served for eight years in Iraq and Afghanistan. Upon returning to the U.S. a year earlier, he decides to live in the mountains, as PTSD causes him to have extreme claustrophobia and panic attacks when indoors for any time. When he finds out that his best friend from the military committed suicide, he goes to Milwaukee to help out this friend’s widow and two sons. The mystery begins when he finds a suitcase with lots of cash and explosives under the porch of their house.

In The Drifter, the cast of characters are vividly-drawn and complex, even the dog, Mingus. A central theme in this book is the effects of war on returning vets. I’m looking forward to Nicholas Petrie’s next book with Peter Ash (Burning Bright, which was released earlier this month).

The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds by Alexander McCall Smith (2012)

cloudsA short novel with a good ending but one that makes the reader wonder who actually stole the valuable painting from the wall of the Scottish country gentleman. Isabel is a philosopher and maybe an amateur detective with almost a compulsion to help others with their ethical and love life problems. She has lots of ideas and is always ready to listen attentively but with great care not to offend those seeking her help. At home she has little Charley, husband Jamie, and a sometimes troublesome housekeeper. With all this, it’s hard to see how she has time to edit the philosophy journal she owns or to help out at her niece’s restaurant. Isabel is a good friend to have as she seems to relish clouds passing by. If you enjoy The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds, there is a series of books by Alexander McCall Smith featuring Isabel Dalhousie.

The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly (2016)

wrongsideAs a private investigator, Harry Bosch has been secretly hired by wealthy Whitney Vance to find out before he dies if he has an heir. While in college in 1950, Vance was told by his girlfriend that she was pregnant, but after telling his father about the situation, the girlfriend disappeared and Vance never saw her again. Vance would like his vast fortune to go to his descendants rather than have it in the hands of his company’s board of directors. Bosch is also part of the San Fernando Police Department reserve unit and is partnered with Bella Lourdes to try and discover a serial rapist in the area that they have nicknamed “Screen Cutter.” With these two cases, the reader accompanies Bosch as he uses his investigative techniques to find the answers he needs. The Wrong Side of Goodbye is a very satisfying entry in Michael Connelly’s long-running series.

Cold Wind by C. J. Box (2011)

coldwindC. J. Box does allegories as well as any author; in Cold Wind, we have consistent characters portraying Vengeance, justice, evil conniving, integrity, family loyalty, weakness, and corruption. See if you can tell who they are as you read this gripping tale of game warden Joe Pickett’s family living through troubling times of murder, accusation, and the temptations of wealth. His mother-in-law is accused and often appears pitiful in the proceedings, but Joe is not misled as he tries to do the right thing. Also, you’ll get a view of how government support may make wind energy a principal source in our environmentally focused economy and whether this is the right path.

The Muse by Jessie Burton (2016)

museAlternating between 1930s Spain and 1960s London, The Muse is a compelling story with its threads tied together by a painting and its artist. In the months leading up to the Spanish Civil War, teenager Olive Schloss struggles with identity, relationships, and artistry. In 1967 England, Trinidadian writer Odelle faces similar challenges. Early on in Jessie Burton‘s sophomore novel (after The Miniaturist), it’s obvious that a mystery in the plots of the parallel narratives will be resolved; the surprise (and joy) is in how Burton accomplishes it.

This novel is for fans of historical fiction and art-related novels such as The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes, The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro, and That Summer by Lauren Willig. Plus, check out our book list featuring Art & Artists.

Spotlight on Horror Novels to Read This October: Part 2

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

headfullofghostsReality TV is perhaps one of the most simultaneously loved and hated forms of entertainment to ever exist. Many of us feel a sense of intrigue and fascination in having a fly on the wall perspective of lives that we ourselves will never experience, yet many of us find the idea of peering into the lives of other people to be disturbing. A Head Full of Ghosts takes the idea of reality television and crosses it with one of the most exploited genres in all of horror: demonic possession.

Set in New England, the Barret family’s happy life is torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins showing signs of schizophrenia. Her outbursts and bizarre behavior are nothing short of terrifying, causing her parents to scramble her from doctor to doctor, until they meet a priest named Father Wanderly, who believes that Marjorie is in dire need of an exorcism–but not before he contacts a couple of television producers and tells them of the Barret family’s plight. A Head Full of Ghosts takes place fifteen years after the reality TV show The Possession first aired, and the then eight-year-old Merry is the novel’s narrator as she recounts her memories of the filming process to a present day writer that is attempting to find the truth beyond what the cameras on the TV show portrayed.

A Head Full of Ghosts evolves into a whirlwind of horror, satire, and mystery  with an unreliable narrator that grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go. By the end, I was left with a pit in my stomach as I reflected on the true horror of what I had read.

Revival by Stephen King

revivalWidely considered to be the greatest horror author of all time, Stephen King continues to write stories just as chilling and traumatizing as when he first started his career.

Young Jamie Morton is enamored with Charles Jacobs, the new minister that has just moved to his small Maine town with his beautiful wife. Almost as soon as their friendship begins to blossom, tragedy strikes the Jacobs family and Charles loses his faith in God, leading to his banishment from the small town. Several years later, Jamie and Charles cross paths again. With Charles claiming to now be a traveling faith healing minister, he recruits Jamie to travel with him and heal the believers across America. While Charles’ abilities seem to be legitimate, it’s clear to Jamie that what he does to cure those who are sick ends up leaving them a lot worse after Charles is done with them. Jamie takes it upon himself to discover how it is that Charles is “healing” people and whether or not it should continue.

Revival spans over five decades of Jamie’s life and his run-ins with Charles Jacobs. Over this length of time, King is truly able to develop his characters and show how they grow and change over time, for better or worse. Revival may be Stephen King’s clearest attempt at writing a story in the genre that is commonly referred to as “Lovecraftian Horror,” and marks one of his greatest achievements.

Want more horror recommendations? Check out Part 1 of this spotlight for 3 more titles.

The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny (2015)

naturebeastAlthough Louise Penny again returns to Three Pines, Quebec, for her latest mystery, she introduces new characters to interact with Inspector Gamache (now retired), his son-in-law Guy, the poet Ruth, and other regulars. This story gives insight into how Ruth becomes the unusual character and poet she is. To start the story, a nine-year-old boy tells such outlandish tales that no one believes anything he says, but then he actually finds something extraordinary in the woods, and then goes missing to the great distress of his parents. Some of the residents plan to perform a play but most of the actors back out when they learn of the terrible nature of the writer.

Could there be some connection among the missing boy, the rejected play, and the extraordinary evil in the forest? In the author’s note, we learn The Nature of the Beast is based on an actual occurrence at the Canadian-U.S. border and thus fits nicely with the location of Three Pines and its fictional characters.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (2006)

13thtaleDiane Setterfield masterfully weaves together a gothic tale of suspense, mystery, and loss. The novel follows the story of two women, one a reclusive author, Vida Winter, who has weaved together so many stories about her life no one knows the truth and the other a young biographer, Margaret Lea, who has been chosen by Winter to take down her true story before Winter succumbs to old age and various ailments plaguing her.

Winter’s tale unfolds mainly in flashback, recounting her eccentric upbringing and the tragedy that tore her family apart. The reader is left to figure out which character Winter is in her tale. Meanwhile, Lea is forced to look to her own past, the loss of her twin and the resulting withdrawal from day-to-day life of her mother. She tries to examine how it has shaped who she is and how she can move forward with her own life. Themes explored include identity, loss, reconciliation, death, and twins.

The Thirteenth Tale was originally released in Australia as an adult novel, but subsequently was released in the United States as a novel targeted to young adults. In 2007, it won an Alex Award, which is annually given to ten books written for adults that have a special appeal to young adults.