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The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (2013)

When the news broke the J. K. Rowling had released a mystery under a pseudonym, I (like millions of others) rushed to see what The Cuckoo’s Calling was about. The premise sounded interesting: a disabled veteran turned PI investigates the alleged suicide of a supermodel in contemporary London.

This was the only book I read on my weeklong vacation. It was engrossing with sympathetic characters, a fascinating mystery with twists and turns, and those fabulous descriptions that Harry Potter fans will recognize. Robert Galbraith garnered great reviews even before the Rowling connection was revealed. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series (due in 2014) featuring PI Cormoran Strike and his very capable assistant Robin.

Mandarin Gate by Eliot Pattison (2012)

In this seventh of the Inspector Shan series, we have culture, politics, and a compelling mystery to keep one reading another page when it is time to turn off the light and go to sleep. In Mandarin Gate, neither the reader nor Inspector Shan (now demoted to irrigation ditch inspector) can see a reason for the terrible triple murder but can only speculate as to a possible cause. Beijing wants the crime solved without international ripples and Inspector Shan is very concerned that the recent suicide of his friend, an unregistered Tibetan monk, may have implications in the case. Readers concerned about China’s dismantlement of Tibet’s culture and religion will find much to think about while reading Eliot Pattison’s compelling novel.

 

Defending Jacob by William Landay (2012)

The book shows family relationships, teenager’s lives, teen violence, law procedure, and a “killer’s gene.” Author William Landay is a former district attorney.  The dialogue in Defending Jacob is excellent (I may compare it to Ernest Hemingway’s dialogue, as he is famous for that).

Other staff enjoyed this novel as well – last summer, Elizabeth and Denise reviewed the book.

Devil's Food Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke (2012)

Had enough of summer heat and humidity? Why not escape to Lake Eden, Minnesota, in February and help Hannah Swensen solve another murder! Hannah’s adventures are intriguing, yet light. That's why the cliff hanger ending at the end of Devil's Food Cake Murder surprised me. Is it finally time for Hannah to choose between her two suitors?

I enjoyed the mystery and my family enjoyed Hannah's delicious Chocolate Euphoria Cookie Bars and Chocolate-Covered Raisin Cookies. Fluke's character uses chocolate to soothe murder induced stress and pry information out of potential suspects.

Check out Joanne Fluke’s Lake Eden Cookbook for all of Hannah’s recipes.

A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear (2011)

Maisie Dobbs is a fearless, independent woman in the 1930s who runs her own detective agency and has taken on an undercover assignment for the British government. Maisie calmly solves mysteries and helps people along the way. A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear is the eighth book in the Maisie Dobbs series.

Monkeewrench by P. J. Tracy (2003)

This thriller mystery jumps right through cyberspace. A killer begins murdering victims on a computer game. By duplicating each murder exactly, the police department of Minneapolis must try to outwit and out think a psychopathic genius. The story is easy to follow and sure fun to read. Get started with Monkeewrench then read the rest of the series by P. J. Tracy.

Death is a Cabaret by Deborah Morgan (2001)

This is the first book in the Antique Lover's Mystery series. Both the premise and the characters have potential, but the plot drags in parts. Jeff Talbot is a retired FBI agent who has turned his passion for antiques into a business. He retired early from the FBI for a little peace and quiet with his wife who suffers from agoraphobia and cannot leave their home. His antique buying trip to Mackinac Island is anything but peaceful and quiet. Jeff finds himself using his FBI skills once again when dead bodies turn up at the Grand Hotel. Morgan adds authenticity to the story with her extensive knowledge of antiques. Download the audiobook of Death is a Cabaret today.

 

Archie Meets Nero Wolfe by Robert Goldsborough (2012)

In the early thirties, Rex Stout created the eccentric private detective Nero Wolfe who lived in a New York brownstone, raised orchids, ate gourmet dinners, drank beer, and solved crimes from the comfort of his chair, aided by the leg work of Archie Goodwin. In this prequel by Goldsborough, we see how this famous partnership started.

Fresh in Depression-era New York from Ohio, Archie is willing and ready. He gets a job with another private eye, solves some cases, and then when the son of a wealthy Long Island millionaire goes missing gets his chance to work with the great man. Archie has all the ironic humor and wry eye we know from the classic series. Check out Archie Meets Nero Wolfe by Robert Goldsborough today.

The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro (2012)

A thriller without a trail of blood and gore and an author with expertise in the art world, B.A. Shapiro takes us underground to the history and methods of art forgery. When a struggling artist commits to do a reproduction of a famous painting by Degas, the action begins. The plot twists and turns between the past and the present, but I was never confused; rather, I was fascinated by Shapiro’s knowledge in the art world. The Art Forger races to an ending that left me hoping this author will write another book.

Grandad, There’s a Head on the Beach by Colin Cotterill (2012)

Like all of Colin Cotterill’s mystery novels, Grandad, There’s a Head on the Beach is laugh-out-loud funny with an underlying seriousness. It is a tightly plotted mystery involving corrupt cops, slavery, and some self-serving charities!

This is the second in the series with Jimm Juree, an unemployed crime reporter, and her eccentric Thai family. In a rural village on the coast of Southern Thailand (where her family has purchased a run-down resort), Jimm finds a severed human head washed up on the beach. Of course, she must follow her crime reporter instincts and solve the mystery! The plot, as it turns out, centers on a topic which has gotten some attention in America of late: the exploitation of Burmese refugees in Thailand.

A Cold Day in Paradise by Steve Hamilton (1998)

I love a good mystery series and this book entranced me with the awkward characters who are flawed in loveable ways. Set in the upper peninsula of Michigan, usually in winter, the twisted plot vibrates with suspense. I was so taken with the first book, I immediately checked out Winter of the Wolf Moon (2000). What really impressed me is the subtle changes in relationships from book one to book two. Read A Cold Day in Paradise by Steve Hamilton today.

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton (2012)

In England, sixteen-year-old Laurel witnesses a shocking crime during a summer house party. Fifty years later, Laurel is a successful actress living in London. As the family gathers at the ancestral house for her mother’s 90th birthday, Laurel tries to discover what really happened so many years ago.

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton goes back and forth from the present to WWII London following the life of her mother and two other people. A VERY satisfying ending. I cannot stop thinking about it.

For other books where the past impacts the present, check out our bibliography.
 
 

A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd (2011)

Bess Crawford is a nursing sister in France during World War I, but she finds time during leave in England to become immersed with the secretive Ellis family and to take it upon herself to help solve a murder or two when she isn't tracking down a child who looks suspiciously like the long-deceased Ellis daughter.

Read A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd today.

Creole Belle by James Lee Burke (2012)

Gritty and graphic, James Lee Burke again deftly perpetuates his Dave Robicheaux series. Creole Belle explores the darkest corners of crime in Louisiana. Burke's true gift lies in his lyrical style. You can see the Spanish moss and smell the rotting bodies. His main characters are flawed creatures but, oh so interesting. Once I started reading, I savored the excitement and the over the top plot, which is Burke's signature style.

 

Size 12 and Ready to Rock by Meg Cabot (2012

After a five year wait, Heather Wells finally returns in Size 12 and Ready to Rock, the latest installment of this chick lit mystery series by Meg Cabot. Don’t worry if you haven’t read the previous three books – or, like me, you don’t remember the specifics – it’s easy to jump back into Heather’s zany life.

At 15, Heather Wells was a famous pop star who traveled the globe. At 30, she’s the assistant residence hall director at Fischer Hall (aka “Death Dorm”) in NYC. There’s another dead body and another mystery to solve, but more importantly, plenty of humor. I think I had a smile on my face for much of the novel. Escape for a few hours with this entertaining and engaging story.

To see how it all began, check out my review of Size 12 is Not Fat. And for more chick lit, check out our book list.