mystery


The first book in the Bibliophile mystery series.

Publication year: 2009
Format: print
Publisher: Obsidian
Page count: 289

Brooklyn Wainwright is a bookbinder: she restores old books. She’s participating in a party celebrating an upcoming book exhibit in the Covington museum. She’s a bit nervous because she’s going to meet her former mentor and friend Abraham Karastovsky and they haven’t even spoken to each other in six months. However, Abraham is in a very good mood and they patch things between them quickly. Unfortunately, later Brooklyn finds Abraham’s murdered body. With his final breath, Abraham gives Brooklyn a very valuable old book (Goethe’s Faust) and a mysterious message. Moments later a handsome but gruff British security man Derek Stone finds Brooklyn kneeling beside the body and thinks that she killed him.

I loved the world of bookbinding and Brooklyn’s strange family and friends. Her family lives in a hippy commune making wine. She has five adult siblings who all grew up there, following Guru Bob. She also has a nemesis, a crazy woman who hates her and tries to put her down verbally and even attacks her. Brooklyn has a female best friend who is much more into fashion than she is, and she’s also friends with a lesbian couple lives next door. This was very refreshing because often in mystery books if the MC is female, she doesn’t have female friends.

But Brooklyn is a bit strange protagonist. On the one hand, she’s clearly smart and very good in her profession but as an amateur sleuth, she’s not too bright. She lies to the police, takes items from crime scenes without telling anyone, and makes rather thoughtless decisions, especially near the end. She also faints at the sight of blood which I find rather strange in a woman who has to, you know, deal with blood on monthly basis. But I liked that she likes to eat. She’s also quite funny.

Unfortunately, the plot is based on keeping information from the reader (and to be fair also from the main character) so I don’t think there was any chance of finding clues. The suspect pool is also very small. Also, Brooklyn doesn’t actually do much investigating. She only questions a few people and none of those she meets near the first murder. She does have a knack of showing up at the wrong time, though.

As you might guess, Derek is the romantic interest and I think there’s more romance in the book that mystery solving. At least there’s no romance triangle or too toxic troupes, although Derek (and other men) do save Brooklyn several times.

So, overall I did enjoy the book but not as much I thought I would. I can’t recommend it to people who read mystery books in order to solve the whodunnit.

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The first book in a contemporary mystery series.

Publication year: 2012
Format: Audio
Running time: 13 hours, 40 minutes
Narrator: Karen Commins

Caroline Slade is a county manager for the Departement of Agriculture in South Caroline. She’s a by-the book civil servant who is strongly considering a divorce from her verbally abusive husband Allen. The only reason they’re still married are their school-age children, Ivy and Zack. Also, her immediate boss had killed himself just a couple of days later and Slade (don’t call her Caroline) takes over for him.

But then a local hog farmer, Jesse Rawlings, offers her a bribe about abandoned ranch. Slade rejects it, of course, wonders if she should report it like the law says. In the end she does report it – which leads her into a world of trouble. She’s known Jesse her whole life, but he turns out to be quite an unpleasant man, threatening her and her family. He even sexually assaults her pretty early in the book and Slade doesn’t report him, thinking of her own reputation.

When FBI Agent Wayne Largo and his younger partner Eddie comes to investigate the case, Slade’s life becomes even more complicated when they want to keep the investigation secret from her co-workers. And the complication just mount up when she becomes attracted to Largo.

This was a good mystery with interesting characters. Almost every character has secrets of their own. The plot isn’t too fast but the tension keeps growing steadily.

Slade is a determined woman and dedicated to her work and family. She always wants what’s the best for her kids and protects them with a gun if necessary. She’s smart and independent at work but stayed married to an abuser for many years (which, sadly, isn’t unrealistic) and didn’t realize some things about people close to her. Her best friend is in the same line of work but lives in a different city. She’s the first person narrator.

However, the book wasn’t perfect. Many of the minor characters are depicted as corrupt or simply malicious under a (somewhat) nice exterior. A bit too cynical view for my tastes. I also didn’t care for the sexual threats Slade is almost constantly subjected to. Otherwise, this was a good read.

A couple of plot threads are left open. I suspect they’ll be followed up in the next book.

A new Phryne Fisher mystery.

Publication year: 2013
Format: Audio
Running time: 11 hours and 22 minutes
Narrator: Stephanie Daniel

Orchestral director Hugh Tregennis has been murdered, with a stack of musical notes stuffed down his throat. Inspector Jack Robinson is looking for Phryne’s help because the policeman knows nothing about singers. Phryne agrees to help. Unfortunately, it turns out that the Tregennis was universally hated and nearly anyone in the choir could have killed him. Phryne promptly joins the choir and goes undercover.

Phryne has also some more personal troubles. Mathematician Rupert Sheffield is giving a lecture about the art of deduction and out of sheer curiosity Phryne attends. Rupert turns out to be very handsome but very rude and downright insufferably arrogant. But Phryne’s dear friend John Wilson is Rupert’s aide and head over heels in love with him. Rupert doesn’t seem to even notice poor John’s devotion and Phryne decides to educate Rupert.

This one somewhat rewrites Phyrne’s experiences as an ambulance driver in WWI. In a previous book (Murder in Montparnasse), we’re told about Phryne’s first love, after WWI. But apparently, Phryne had a fling with John Wilson just before her first love who was a famous Parisian painter. John was a young doctor who did his best to keep his patients alive. While he’s mostly gay, during the war both he and Phryne hook up, just to feel alive in the middle of death. They parted on good terms and quickly fall into bed together.

This was another somewhat unlikely story, but very entertaining. The familiar cast is back and the new characters are good, too. Most of Phryne’s time is spent in the choir, practicing along with the others. Some of the choir members are large personalities and very entertaining.

The sixth book in the historical mystery Smokey Dalton series set in Chicago 1969.


Publication year: 2006
Format: Audio
Running time: 12 hours and 20 minutes
Narrator: Mirron Willis

It’s autumn in Chicago in 1969 and Smokey is investigating houses which are owned by his girlfriend Laura Hathaway. One of the houses became empty recently because the manager died inside the building and Smokey is investigating the house’s condition. He’s somewhat prepared for the smell of death which seems to be everyone in the house but then he finds a secret door in the basement and behind it skeletons. Human skeletons. He talks is over with Laura and they decide to keep quiet about them because the building previous owner was Laura’s father so the discovery could be used against her. As a woman who leads a large company, her position is precarious.

So, they decide to document everything in case they can bring the matter to police. Smokey interviews and chooses to men to help him: a nationally known forensics specialist and a local mortician. However, they don’t know Smokey or his fugitive past, so he must be careful around. Also, they must be care while working in the building so that the neighbors don’t suspect anything.

Meanwhile, the trial of so-called Chicago 8 (later 7) has started. They’ve been charged with conspiracy and starting a riot. Seven of them are white men and one black. Racial tensions are heating up, again. There are more police and FBI agents in the city and Smokey must be more careful than ever.

Smokey and his team find more bodies so he has to investigate the past and finds a horrifying history of police brutality against black people.

The story tries to handle both 1969 and 1916. For me, both histories were fascinating, if horrifying at the same time because much of it is true. 1916 was at the beginning of prohibition and the various crimes surrounding it. However, they don’t have much relevance to Smokey’s case so some people might dislike that portion of the story.

The book has several grisly scenes and the tone is very grim. Smokey’s adopted son Jimmy feels almost like a distraction from his work and relationship with Laura. We don’t have much time to revisit other old friends.

Personally, I liked the book a lot but it’s not the best of the series.

The third book in the Vicky Bliss mystery series. This time John Smythe lures Vicky to Stockholm looking for Nordic treasure.

Publication year: 1983
Format: print
Page count: 296
Publisher: Avon Books

Three years after the end of the previous book Vicky gets an anonymous note which can only be from John. It contains one rose, a one-way ticket to Stockholm, a reservation for a night in a cheap hotel, and a cryptic note: Wielandia Fabrica. Vicky wants to get away from the miserable rain in Munich, so she travels to Sweden. Her boss grumbles, mainly because he wants her to continue the erotica book she’s writing, but lets her go. There, she feels right at home: she’s always felt out of place everywhere because she’s tall, blond, and beautiful. In Sweden, she’s surrounded by other tall and blond people.

However, one tall and blond man, Leif, acts very suspiciously even though Vicky enjoys his company. John is quite elusive, using several amusing disguises and just tries to get Vicky to return home. Instead she accepts an invitation from a distant cousin Gus Johnson. He’s an elderly gentleman and appears to be in danger so Vicky wants to warn him. However, she’s not the only one who travels to Gus’s small island home.

This was a very entertaining book. I’m not sure if the plot made any sense but it moved fast and was a lot of fun. Most the characters are new and they were entertaining, too. We also got to know stuff about Sweden’s history and art, which was great.

The second book in the Vicky Bliss mystery series.

Publication year: 1978
Format: print
Page count: 357+ an excerpt of He Shall Thunder in the Sky
Publisher: Avon Books

Vicky Bliss works for Professor Schmidt at the Munich National Museum. He also adores her. Schmidt comes across a forgery which even he can’t prove isn’t the real deal, except that the original Charlemagne talisman is part of the Museum’s collection. Vicky realizes she can do two things at once: she convinces her boss easily that she can look into a possible forgery ring and get a paid vacation while doing it. The replica was found in a dead man’s pocket and the police can’t find any information about him. However, the corpse had also a small strange slip of paper which Vicky thinks means the Street of Five Moons, in Rome.

So she heads to Rome. She thinks she’ll do a little investigating and just enjoy her new expense account the rest of the time. However, her hunch turns out to be correct and soon she’s trying to figure out who is the master criminal behind everything.

This was a fun and fast read. Vicky is a delightful first person narrator, even though she isn’t as clever as she likes to think. She has a doctorate in medieval art and the book is filled with references to art. I really enjoyed that. Rome was also a great setting!

The secondary characters are all new. Fairly quickly Vicky wraps the eccentric Count Caravaggio around her little finger and gets invited to his palace, so we get to know his plump and pretty mistress, aged mother, and gorgeous son who likes to paint but don’t have the talent. Vicky suspects them all at one point or another. Also, the count has a secretary, the charming and frustrating Sir John Smythe whom Vicky suspects most of all. The whole cast is fun and I quite enjoyed Smythe’s and Vicky’s snarky exchanges.

The plot is fast-paced. Vicky is clearly narrating this at some point later because a few times she points out “if only I’d known then what I know now”. They didn’t bother me, though. I’m a fan of Peters’ Amelia Peabody series and I think she uses a similar style there.

Collects CSI: Crime Investigation – Serial issues 1-5.


Writer: Max Allan Collins
Artist: Gabriel Rodriquez, Ashely Wood
Forensic Research, Plot Assist: Matthew V. Clemens
Publisher: Titan Books
Publishing year: 2004

This is a comics miniseries based on the original CSI TV-show. It uses most of the same techniques as the show and has the same characters: Gil Grissom, Catherine Willows, Nick Stoakes, Sara Sidle, Warrick Brown, and Captain Brass. Set in Las Vegas, the comic starts with philosophical musing about Vegas. Like in the show, the comic has two plots.

In the primary plot, someone is killing prostitutes and on the second grisly crime scene Gil realizes that the killer is imitating Jack the Ripper. Unfortunately, there’s a Ripper convention going on, so there’s no shortage of suspects. In the second plot, a young woman’s body is found in a dumpster behind the Majestic casino. Sara and Warren investigate that.

The comic focuses on the cases and the characters get no real chance to shine. The most humor is found on the scenes where Warrick and Sara have to go through garbage and compare the killers to human garbage. The Ripper con could have given a chance to interview several suspects but that’s not used. The con is mostly an excuse to show cleavage shots.

The art is ok. The murder flashbacks are painted in a different and startling style from the rest. The collection has also interviews from three actors on the show.

An ok read aimed, of course, for the fans.

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