deliabarry: (books)
Careless in Red
by Elizabeth George

Thomas Lynley is doing the coastal walk through Cornwall as a way to avoid thinking about the murders of his wife and their unborn son. In a small village by the sea, he finds the dead body of a teenaged boy at the foot of a cliff. This ends up plunging him into the ensuing murder investigation, and when New Scotland Yard sends DS Barbara Havers to aid the local constabulary, he's reunited with his former partner.

This book is the sequel to With No One as Witness that I'd been waiting for, and I was very pleased with it. Despite himself, Lynley can't help but be pulled into a murder investigation, and it's always fun to watch how he puts together the pieces to come up with the correct answer to the problem at hand; in this case the contrast between his style and that of the officer who is actually in charge is most interesting. But since this is the first we've seen of him since Helen's death, there is more here than just the mystery. George does an excellent job of charting his healing process and path back to life among the living. One particularly moving moment is when Tommy is unpleasantly surprised to find himself singing in the shower and realizes that life does go on after a tragedy whether we want it to or not. He's not a hundred percent by the end of the book, but he's on his way, and that's what really matters to fans of the series.

I have only one complaint. Twice in the course of this book, characters question the nature of the relationship between Lynley and Havers; one of them goes so far as to ask Barbara point-blank if she's in love with him. Havers is appropriately surprised and gives a definite no answer, but this makes me nervous. I certainly hope that George isn't planning to take the characters in that direction, because that would be an entire universe of wrong.
deliabarry: (Sherlock)
Busy Bodies
by Joan Hess

Claire Malloy lives in the college town of Farberville. She has a bookstore, a teen-aged daughter with the ability to Speak in Capital Letters, and a luscious boyfriend. She also has a distressing tendency to find herself involved in murder investigations that are more correctly the business of her boyfriend, the homicide detective. This time, she starts out having afternoon tea at the home of an elderly friend and ends up investigating a murder in the home of the avant-garde artist who lives next door.

Although Joan Hess is not my favorite mystery writer, this was a quick and entertaining read. Claire is smart, funny, and just can't help asking questions. The secondary characters in this book are also involving. I enjoyed myself immensely.
deliabarry: (good books)
The Daughter of Time
by Josephine Tey

Detective Alan Grant is in the hospital with multiple injuries. To while away the time, he looks at some pictures of faces that a friend brought for him. When he discovers that the portrait of thoughtful-looking individual he pegged as a judge was actually of the notorious Richard III, he begins to investigate Richard's life and reign. What he learns changes forever his ideas about Richard in particular and history in general.

This is a wonderful book, one which routinely makes mystery readers' Top Ten lists. I first read it when I was in high school, but that copy has long since disappeared, so when I saw it in B&N last week I picked up a copy. I'm very glad to report that it's just as wonderful as I remembered. Tey (the pseudonym of Elizabeth Mac Knight) makes her case point by point. She had convinced the teen-aged me of her thesis the first time I read it, and she also convinced the older, much more cynical me as well. I'd highly recommend this book to anyone who likes history, mystery novels, or both.

On another note, I was astounded this time by the description of Grant's convalescence. Weeks in the hospital for a broken leg, indeed! Things sure have changed since the 1950s.
deliabarry: (summer reading)
The Cape Cod Caper
by Margot Arnold

Doctor Penny Spring, a reader in anthropology at Oxford University, is visiting friends in Boston when she gets an urgent message from an old flame to go investigate a killing on Cape Cod. But by the time she arrives, he's in a coma, and before long, another murder has occurred. Penny and enlists her colleague Toby Glendower to probe into the family’s past in Italy.

I have to confess that I picked this based solely on the title. I'm spending my vacation this year at Cape Cod, and I thought this might help me get in the mood. It didn't quite work out that way, as I didn't get much of the "flavor" of the Cape from it, but it didn't matter after all. The murder in this book was an interesting puzzle and kept me wondering up to the very end. For me, this is a good thing.
deliabarry: (cereal box)
Twice in a Blue Moon
by Patricia Moyes

I've never read anything by Patricia Moyes, but she's a Big Name Author in mystery circles, so I figured I'd give her a try. Perhaps this book, the nineteenth in Moyes' Henry and Emmy Tibbit series, was the wrong book to start with. I must now admit that I read this in about twenty minutes this morning. No, not the whole thing. I read the first chapter, decided I knew whodunit and read the last two chapters to see if I was right. I was. End of story.

It's entirely possible that the chapters in between were funny, charming, and an excellent reading experience. But this is a mystery, and I've always thought the first responsibility of a mystery novel is to be mysterious. One of the reasons I like mysteries so much is that the good ones are like puzzles I get to solve while I'm reading. If I know who the murderer is after one chapter, there's no puzzle. Add to this the fact that this particular plot was a cliche as far back as the thirties, and I'm just glad I didn't lay out the money for the book.

I can't get her popularity out of my mind, though, so perhaps I should try the first book in the series. That's usually the best one anyway.

Rust

Mar. 13th, 2007 10:27 am
deliabarry: (Sherlock)
Rust
by Martha Grimes

Billy Maples is found dead on the balcony of his hotel room and Superintendent Richard Jury of New Scotland Yard is called by the busboy who found him. Of course Jury solves the case (as if that was ever in doubt), but he gets involved with the local police inspector along the way and manages to complicate his life rather thoroughly.

This is the twenty-first Richard Jury novel, and shows no sign of being the last, thank goodness. All the usual suspects are there, including Melrose Plant, formerly the eighth earl of Caverness. I must confess that I've always had a bit of a thing for Melrose, and was delighted to see him in fine fettle, torturing his Aunt (by marriage only) Agatha, getting wrapped up in Henry James, and helping Jury solve the mystery. The identity of the murderer and the reason for the mayhem both came as a complete surprise to me, which is unusual these days, so I enjoyed this immensely.

Grimes always slips in a few memorable quotes. My favorite from this one: "For Wiggins, a trip to the kitchen was as rejuvenating as one to Lourdes."
deliabarry: (position)
Miss Melville Regrets
by Evelyn E. Smith

One of the good things about my current living arrangement is that I'm sleeping in a room lined with bookshelves filled to overflowing with books, predominately mysteries.

Susan Melville is a middle-aged artist whose trust fund is kaput, whose teaching job has ended and whose apartment is going co-op. When she impulsively shoots a less than altruistic banker, she is recruited by an organization of assassins. The pay is good, and they promise that she will only have to kill those who really deserve it, so she accepts.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The author, who I suspect is writing under a pseudonym, clearly knows the ins and outs of NYC and the attitudes of the monied classes who live there. My favorite passage perfectly captures one of the city's most amusing attitudes:

Once there would have been little danger of running into anyone she knew on the West Side, but these days all sorts of people not only went there to visit museums and other cultural institutions (this would be too early in the day for that, at least), some went so far as to live there.

The book is clever, witty, and entertaining; I thoroughly enjoyed it. There are several sequels, and I'm looking forward to reading them.
deliabarry: (Jane)
Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor
by Stephanie Barron

It seemed like a good idea in the bookstore. My favorite author, Jane Austen, plonked down into one of my favorite genres, the murder mystery. Sadly, the execution just wasn't up to it.

The novel takes place almost immediately after Jane's 12-hour engagement; in fact, Jane has come to visit her friend Isobel Payne, Countess of Scargrave, to escape from the whispers and speculations circulating among her usual set. When Isobel's much-older husband dies mysteriously on the night of a grand ball and an anonymous letter-writer points the finger at Isobel and the new Earl, Jane begins investigating to clear her friend's good name.

As a mystery, the book is fine. Barron will never replace Christie in the pantheon of mystery legends, but she can put together a good story. For me, the problem was with the characterization of Jane Austen. I just didn't believe her as the detective. My inability to suspend disbelief was exacerbated by too many almost-quotes from Austen's books. I felt the author was winking at the reader, and it threw me out of the story every time it happened. There are several additional books in the series, but I won't be reading them.
deliabarry: (position)
Murder and the First Lady
By Elliott Roosevelt

Yes, that First Lady. Elliott Roosevelt has had the guts to write a series of murder mysteries with his mother Eleanor as the detective. This first novel in the series takes place in 1939, when Europe was on the brink of war. Mrs. Roosevelt's English secretary is accused of murdering her lover, who just happens to be the son of a congressman from New Jersey. Convinced of the girl's innocence, Mrs. Roosevelt begins to investigate, despite disapproval from J. Edgar Hoover and warnings from the President to keep a low profile.

Eleanor Roosevelt is one of my personal heroes, so I approached this book with some trepidation, fearing another expose by an angry child. I need not have worried. The author treats both his parents gently, and leaves the reader with the impression that she has had a peek behind the scenes of that long-ago White House. My favorite moment was when the Dutch Ambassador teaches Eleanor how to crack a safe after a formal dinner party. This is a series, and I look forward to picking up his other books down the road.
deliabarry: (Sherlock)
The Sunday Philosophy Club
By Alexander McCall Smith

I am a big fan of Smith's The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, so when I saw this in B&N, I decided to give it a try. Independently wealthy Isabel Dalhousie of Edinburgh only works part time as the editor of the Journal of Applied Ethics, and she has plenty of time to investigate anything that catches her fancy. So when a young man falls to his death from the upper balcony ("the gods", which cracked me up) in the hall where she was attending a concert, she looks into it.

Isabel has the requisite group of friends and relatives who complicate her life and sometimes, aid her investigation. The mystery part of the story moves fast, and the solution to the problem came as a surprise to me, probably because it's an unusual one and isn't found in every other book on the shelf. Isabel's training as an ethicist and work as a journal editor are skillfully interwoven into the narrative in a manner that reminded me of Amanda Cross' Kate Fansler mysteries.

There's nothing particularly deep or meaningful in this book, but it was a fun, quick read. I'm looking forward to reading the other books in the series.
deliabarry: (Sherlock)
With No One as Witness
By Elizabeth George

I started reading Elizabeth George's mystery novels back in the 1990s, but drifted away from them several years ago due to series fatigue. Over the past couple of months, however, I caught a couple episodes of The Inspector Lynley Mysteries on PBS' Mystery! and became curious again, so when I saw this latest (in paperback anyway), I picked it up.

There have been changes in the lives of the characters since Missing Joseph, but there have been more changes in the type of case Lynley and Havers are investigating. This book deals with a serial killer.

George is an American who writes about a Scotland Yard detective solving murders in England, and to this American, her books are indistinguishable from those written by British authors. Some critics have called her the successor to Agatha Christie, but George's books are not traditional British cosies. Her work has always been full of psychological content; everyone in her universe has multiple sources of angst; I find myself comparing her to P. D. James. In this one, however, she amps up the stresses big time with our heroes tracking a brutal serial killer. As if that weren't enough, there's a devastating event near the end that throws the reader as well as the characters for a real loop.

As I said, I've read many of the previous books in this series and enjoyed all of them. This one was written to the same high standard as the earlier books, but it wasn't the same pleasurable experience I've always associated with her books. I'm suspect that was a result of the case our heroes were investigating; even though I couldn't put the book down, I was quite relieved when I finally finished it.

I'm anxious to see her next Lynley installment, if there is one. It had better answer the nagging questions left by this one.

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