As a group, this is one genre we pretty much all enjoy –and read voluntarily. So there weren’t as many surprises as usual. (The titles chosen or the level of unexpected enjoyment are part of the surprisingly good times at the book discussions!) And on top of that? Everyone read a book that featured a crime, not always a murder, and the means, motive, or perpetrator is in doubt. Some of us had amateur detectives, some had professional crime fighters, but we all had plenty of fun reading along until the those clever sleuths found their man -or woman, or whatever needed to be found really… And these are the books we shared:
Evelyn: Big Boned: A Heather Wells Mystery by Meg Cabot. Former teen pop star Heather Wells is now in college and paying her tuition by working as an assistant residence director in Fisher Hall, also known as “Death Dorm,” from previous killings. After going jogging with her new, secret boyfriend, her remedial math professor Tad Tocco, Heather comes to work to find her boss Dr. Veath has been shot in the head through his office window. Soon her sexy landlord, police detective Cooper Cartwright is warning Heather not to get involved in trying to solve the case. As usual, Heather can’t help herself, so, of course, she tracks down the killer. This is the 3rd book in the series, but can stand alone. It’s a funny but also smart and sassy read, with lots of pop culture references. I listened to the downloadable audio version and was laughing out loud.
Megan: Clarity, by Kim Harrington is a page-turning paranormal mystery. In the tourist town of Cape Cod, Clare (Clarity) Fern and her family make a living doing psychic readings. Clare’s psychic gifts are put to the test when a murder rocks the bustling town at the height of the summer season. Even more shocking is the fact that Clare’s brother is the prime suspect. In order to clear her brother’s name, Clare has to work with the ex-boyfriend who broke her heart and the new police chief’s son, a tall, dark, and handsome young man with a mysterious past. The closer they get to solving the crime, the more dangerous things become for Clare.
Donna: I read the latest Aunt Dimity mystery by Nancy Atherton, Aunt Dimity and the Family Tree. In this sixteenth cozy, paranormal mystery series, Lori Shepherd must ask for help from her ghostly Aunt Dimity to help explain all of the strange things that are happening at her father-in-law’s new home that he is renovating near where they live in Finch. Could everything be connected to the mysterious painting of a family tree that was found in the attic? Although the mystery is always fairly simple, the antics of Lori, Aunt Dimity and the delightful townspeople of Finch always make any new addition to the series a treat to read!
Carol: The Priest by Irish author Gerard O’Donovan is a debut mystery that stars Inspector Mike Mulcahy who is forced to leave Spain when his drug squad is disassembled and return home to Dublin where he is awaiting a suitable assignment within the Guard. Mike is temporarily put to work alongside a sex crimes team for his Spanish translation skills but the job becomes more permanent after an attack leaves a young girl brutalized. Soon, the number of victims pile up and the newspapers begin sensationalizing the story of “The Priest,” a maniac who brands his victims with metal crosses. Dubliners pray that this “priest” will soon be brought to justice in this hardboiled, gritty and thrilling mystery—a first in a planned series.
Emma: Miss Julia Rocks the Cradle by Ann B. Ross brings back all the familiar characters in the “Miss Julia” series. Stepson Lloyd comes home from school with shocking news that a body was found in his teacher’s tool shed. The victim who died of natural causes is identified as ex-con Richard Stroud. He had a history of shady financial dealings with various individuals including Miss Julia. What was he doing in Miss Petty’s tool shed? In the midst of the mystery Julia and her extended family are preoccupied with the birth of Hazel Marie’s twins born at home during a blizzard.
Janet: Cripple Creek by James Sallis. Former policeman, therapist, and convict Turner resides in a small town close to Memphis, Tennessee. He serves as the town’s deputy sheriff. A routine traffic stop sets off a series of events that end violently for the town sheriff. Turner goes to Memphis to settle the score, which sets up a back and forth routine of revenge that continues with no end in sight. Turner’s personal life is the other focus of the author. Both facets of this mystery are equally interesting. James Sallis is an author worth reading.
Julie: Murder in the Marais is the first in a series by Cara Black that got rave reviews when it came out in 1999. Aimee Leduc is a corporate security expert in Paris who ends up embroiled in a murder investigation. Aimee is a strong, engaging character, the complex plot moves quickly, and there is a strong sense of place in both modern and WWII era Paris. Fans of Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankel, and Arnaldur Indridason might want to try.
Rosemary: Baker Street Letters by Michael Robertson. A decades old plea for help sends Nigel Heath on an ill-conceived trip to LA, where he winds up in jail charged with murder. The Heath brothers, Reggie and Nigel, rent the former London offices of Sherlock Holmes, 221b Baker Street. With the lease comes the duty of answering any letters addressed to Sherlock Holmes. The letter that sent Nigel to LA was addressed to Holmes. It was from a little girl whose father disappeared after surveying for a proposed subway route. She needs Sherlock’s help but gets Nigel twenty years later.
Chris: Now & Then by Robert B. Parker is another solid Spenser novel with the Boston PI putting his skills to work to uncover the truth behind an antigovernment organization. His long-time friends: Hawk, Vinnie, Chollo and, of course, Susan are there to assist. Liked the pace and snappy dialogue.
Ann: Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson is the fourth mystery featuring Jackson Brodie, ex-cop and sometimes private investigator. In Atkinson’s typical style she weaves and interweaves story lines about a decades old case surrounding the death of a prostitute, a woman in Australia seeking her identity, and a recently retired policewoman who rescues a young girl she perceives as being in danger. Atkinson is a British writer, and this novel is set in Leeds, an industrial northern city in England. It also is Jackson’s hometown. Jackson Brodie is definitely a flawed but “good guy” character and Atkinson is a witty, irreverent, and intelligent writer. I can’t wait for the next book.
Dori: I read Bury Your Dead: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel. A great mystery to read in the winter, Louise Penny’s latest mystery enthralls as it journeys from the present, with the Chief Inspector on a leave of absence, to the past, as the horrible incident that led to his leave unfolds. While on leave he visits an old friend in icy Quebec and begins to investigate the murder of a Champlain enthusiast. As he learns more about the clashes between the French and English in Quebec and delves into the history of the area, he suffers flashbacks that burden his conscience and cause him to reexamine his life’s work.
Stacey: Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward makes for speedy reading. The pages fly by partly because readers will want to know what happens next and partly because the humorous exchanges, between both characters and the co-authors, are so engaging it’s easy to lose track of time. Siblings Lacey and Paul are making a living growing pot in their basement, but that might be a minor issue with law enforcement if the pair decide to report the headless body in the back yard. Is this some sort of message for Lacey and Paul, or is it just an unhappy accident? For complete enjoyment of this unusual mystery, read every page from the Editor’s Letter onward.
Next time? We’re going to embrace our darker side with thrillers and suspense novels! Suspense books put a lot of action in a short time frame, emphasizing the mental and physical danger the protagonist faces. Thrillers have a more complex plot contained in a specific setting, like the courtroom, medical laboratory, or government agency, and are all about finding a way to defeat the evil villain. All right my friends, go forth and read!