mystery


The first book in a series of murder mysteries set in 15th century Tallinn.

25204954

Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2019

Format: print
Page count: 320

Finnish publisher: Into

Finnish translator: Jouko Vanhanen

Melchior Wakenstede is the Apothecary in Tallinn, Estonia. His father was an apothecary before him. Melchior knows the people and the places of Tallinn. In the 15th century, the town is right on the edge of Christian lands. Indeed, the town and the time period take the center stage. The Dominican monastery, the guilds, and the alehouses are described lovingly, and for me, the mystery came second. The characters are fairly typical for the time and for a detective story, but entertaining enough.

When a Teutonic knight, who was the governor of Gotland, is visiting Tallinn, he gets really drunk and is murdered: his head is cut off with a sword and an old coin is shoved into his mouth. Of course, the town’s notable people are in an uproar. The town’s chief of police is used to petty robberies and so he calls on Melchior to help him. The curious and perceptive Melchior is happy to talk to people and deduce what happened and find the killer.

The book starts with the murder. It has quite a few POV characters and a large cast of characters. The female characters are pretty bland, though, especially Melchior’s wife Keterlyn, who seems to be there just so he can explain things to the reader. The ending is very Agatha Christie -style of gathering people together while Melchior explains what happened.

While Melchior is an educated man, he’s also a product of his times. For example, he thinks that only bloodletting can cure diseases, and he’s also quite religious. Also, he has a mysterious curse that will apparently drive him insane in time. Only his wife can ease the symptoms.

The Finnish translation uses older style words, probably for the atmosphere.

A stand-alone murder mystery set in Oxford.

497723

Publication year: 2007
Finnish publisher: Gummerus
Format: print
Finnish translator: Raimo Salminen

Page count: 373 (including about ten pages of the historical facts behind the book)

Someone is killing young women, taking an organ, and leaving a strange coin in the place where the organ used to be. The murderer doesn’t leave behind clues except that he or she seems to be very skilled. The police are desperate to catch them but don’t have anything to go on.

Laura Niven is a former New York crime journalist and now a writer who has come to Oxford to research her next book. She’s staying with Philip Bainbridge, her former lover and current friend. About twenty years ago, Laura became pregnant but chose to return to the USA rather than stay in London and marry Philip. Philip maintains contact with Laura and their daughter Jo. In fact, Jo is now in Oxford as a student.

Philip is a police photographer. He has just met Laura when he’s called to a crime scene. Laura is too curious and sees not only the body but the strange coin. Her curiosity is piqued and she researches it. The coin leads her to a historical trail. The murders seem to be related to alchemy and astrology and the famous Sir Isaac Newton who was as much an alchemist as a scientist.

This is an entertaining serial killer story inspired by history. It has multiple POV characters, including Newton himself and a couple of other men during his time. The killer is also a POV character, although they’re not identified in those passages, and the murders are quite gruesome. The ties to the occult were the most interesting part of the book. I also really enjoyed the short chapters set in the 17th century.

Philip and Laura are both pretty successful in their lives. Still, they have regrets about the choices they’ve made. They’re curious and pretty intelligent people. They’re both still attracted to each other but are content to just stay friends. Detective John Monroe is another significant POV character. He’s an experienced detective who has reasons to scoff at anything smelling of supernatural.

Apparently, White has written more than a few non-fiction books and knows the history of the occult pretty well. It shows.

The fifth story in the Argolicus historical cozy mystery series but can be read as a stand-alone. The others are short stories.

Publication year: 2021
Format: ebook

Publisher: Fervent Crux Press

Page count at GoodReads: 320

This historical book is set during the times when the Ostrogoths ruled Rome, specifically during king Theodoric’s rule.

Gaius Vitellus Argolicus was a Roman praefect for seventeen years, but now he has returned to the small town of Squillace and his father’s old house. He’s from a patrician family so he’s automatically one of the town’s leaders. When he first comes to town, he’s invited to join the town council’s meeting. He agrees and finds out that despite a good harvest, the town is starting to suffer from a grain shortage. This has caused unrest and forced the council members to talk about it. Nobody else wants to look into it so Argolicus volunteers. Argolicus thinks that he can just visit the biggest grain merchant, Quintinus, and ask what happened to the grain. Also, Argolicus’ mother is trying to arrange a marriage between him and Quintinus’ daughter.

However, Quintinus is away. Argolicus and the merchant’s daughter Proba get along well and agree to be friends, only. The next day Proba tells Argolicus that her father has been murdered. Argolicus agrees to find the killer.

Now, the scholarly former praefect who dislikes politics has two problems in his hands. If he can’t find out where the grain has gone, the poor townspeople will riot. Finding Quintinus’ killer is a more personal task.

This was a very good mystery. Argolicus doesn’t know the local people and he must talk to them to find out more about Quintinus so he could solve both the murder and the mystery of the missing grain. The setting is very well researched and comes alive in the story. The people are believable. While Argolicus has investigated crimes before in Rome, this is a new town with politics he doesn’t yet understand. The book has many short vignettes which show the life of ordinary people and add wonderful depth to the setting.

Argolicus loves his books. While he owns slaves, as is usual for the time, he’s a gentle master. He even rescues a young girl who has run away from her parents who were going to sell her to slavery. He gives the girl a home – but even that becomes a political gesture. Argolicus’ friendship with Proba also causes people to wonder about their relationship.

The two other significant characters are Nikolaos, Argolicus’ Greek tutor, mentor, and slave. Nikolaos is still gently teaching Argolicus to observe and make deductions. Quintinus’ daughter Proba lives with her parents, but it quite an independent-minded young woman. She is her father’s accountant which was unusual for women at that time. Her father’s death pulls the rug under her life, but she’s determined to help clear her father’s name.

This was a very enjoyable cozy mystery that brought to life the people and the setting of the times.

A historical murder mystery set in 80 BC in the Roman Republic. Can be read as a stand-alone but it’s the first book in the Roma Sub Rosa mystery series.

102720

Publisher: Minotaur books

Publication year: 1991
Format: print

Page count: 380

Gordianus is called the Finder because he’s an investigator. He’s a Roman citizen but hasn’t inherited wealth, so must work for his living. A young slave comes to him early in the morning, asking him to go and meet with the slave’s master, Marcus Tullius Cicero.

Gordianus has never heard of the young man who is just starting his career as an orator and a lawyer. So after dallying in his house for a while, curing his hangover, Gordianus and the slave, Tiro, head to Cicero’s house. Cicero has just accepted his first law case, involving a suspected patricide. Gordianus isn’t too keen to get mixed in such a case but he needs the money so he takes the case.

He inspects the place where the father was killed, interviews different kinds of people, walks up and down Rome itself, and even makes a short trip to the countryside. The case turns out to be quite a bit more complex than he thought at first.

The book has excellent descriptions of Rome and the culture at the time. Slaves are more numerous than free men. While the wealthy take shelter from the hot sun, the slaves toil away, doing all the real work. Saylor doesn’t sweep away the slavery but has ”good” owners and also the ones who berate and beat their slaves whenever they want. We also get to know that slaves can testify at court, but only under torture. Gordianus himself owns a half-Egyptian female slave, Bethesda, and he sleeps with her several times. She’s depicted as pretty headstrong woman so I guess Saylor implies that the sex is consensual on her part, too. But since she’s a slave, she can’t choose.

The mystery itself is pretty complicated and forces Gordianus to go around and meet all sorts of people, showcasing Rome and its people, both poor and rich. Gordianus lives near the Subura, the slums, and he goes through it several times.

I mostly enjoyed this one and enjoyed the historical detail, although the writing style is pretty dry. Interestingly enough, the mystery is based on Cicero’s first real case.

The boxed set which has the first three Whispering Pines cozy mysteries is free on Amazon for a couple of days.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed the former police officer Jayne O’Shea, her service dog Westie Meeka, and the quirky characters in the small town. The set includes Family Secrets, Kept Secrets, and Original Secrets.

The first book in the League of Pensioners cozy heist books. Can be read as a stand-alone.

19135360

Publication year: 2015
Finnish publisher: Schildts&Söderströms
Format: print
Finnish translator: Outi Menna

Page count: 389

Martha Andersson lives in the Diamond retirement home. Recently, the home has become more and bleak as the administrators try to save from everything they can think of. When Martha and her friends see a documentary about jails, they realize that the inmates live in much better conditions. So, they decide to do a robbery, get caught, and be sent to jail. There are problems, of course. The home’s nurse, Barbo, has locked up the gym and the elderly are allowed to go outside only rarely.

But Martha and her five friends don’t let that stop them. They plan and do a heist which leaves the police scratching their heads.

None of the pensioners are former criminals. In fact, they’re quite upstanding people. A former teacher, a former high society wife, a former sailor turned to a gardner. The only things they know about crime come from TV and detective novels. Some of them are archetypes. One of the pensioners is a gadget man, another is an elderly ladies’ man, and Martha is the brains of the operation. There’s also a subplot about Barbro the head nurse who is sleeping with the director of the home in the hopes of getting him to divorce his wife and get a better station for herself. I felt that it and a couple of other subplots were left hanging at the end.

This is a light-hearted romp, set in Sweden. The pace is meandering, taking all the scenic routes it can. Still, it highlights a serious matter: how poorly the elderly are treated not just in Sweden but in many Western countries. I enjoyed the characters and the rather unbelievable plot twists.

The third book in the Whispering Pines cozy mystery series.

38919444._sy475_

Publication year: 2018
Format: ebook
Page count at GoodReads: 490

After returning to the small village of Whispering Pines for the first time in over a decade, Janye O’Shaye has finally started to feel like she fits in. She’s the Sheriff and she and her friend Tripp are busily renovating her grandmother’s huge house to start a B&B. She knows that Tripp wants to be more than friends. Even though she wants it, too another part is afraid that she’ll be hurt again. Her little West Highland White Terrier Meeka is happy, though.

Jayne decides to kayak to work and good thing that she does: a tourist is near drowning and she rescues him. She tries to make him go to the local healing center but he refuses. Feeling a bit frustrated, she continues to work. But by afternoon, that tourist is dead. It looks like an accident but Jayne wants to be sure. She also finds her Grandmother’s old diaries. Officially, her Gran drowned in her own bathtub but Jayne feels that something more sinister happened. She thinks that the diaries could give her a clue.

She’s tired because she still hasn’t got a deputy and she needs to run the station by herself at the height of the tourist season. Also, the renovation isn’t going as quickly as she thought.

This was a good continuation to the series. It’s as much quirky fun as the previous ones.

Most of the characters are familiar but we don’t see much of the carnival folks from the second book. Although we do get a couple of new eccentric characters. When Jayne finds the diaries their story about the founding of the town and the lives of the original inhabitants draw her. She ends up reading the diaries during her working hours, too. I enjoyed finding out more about her Gran and the town.

This book ties up the continuing mystery of her Gran’s death.

The third book in the Casino Witch humorous fantasy cozy mysteries.


Publication year: 2018
Format: ebook
Page count at Goodreads: 189

About a year ago, Ella’s dad was murdered and she found out that she’s a mage. Her father’s death is still a mystery but she doesn’t have any clues about who did it. She doesn’t have any memories of her mom. She also doesn’t know why her dad kept her a secret from everyone in the magical community or why he didn’t tell her that she’s a mage. Her dad’s old friends Badger and Bear agreed to train her. About six months ago, Ella declared herself a Monza, a follower of “old way” who must stay celibate. She did it to get out of the clutches of mage law. She had, and still has, feelings for handsome, if aloof and unfriendly, security consultant Vin.

For six months, Ella has been training or rather burying all her feelings in training. She’s also pushed her best friend Vanessa to train with her. But now Vanessa is putting her foot down. Her mother who is Ella’s teacher, is away for a week. Ella has pushed them to go through all the exercises in just couple of days and Vanessa wants to stop doing them.

Their friend Natasha comes to Ella’s loft. Natasha has her own comedy show in on the casinos. Two of the women working in her show have left and she needs help. Vanessa jumps at the chance but Ella hesitates. She wants to keep practicing.

After Vanessa and Natasha leave, Ella’s tutor Bear stops by. Apparently, the girls from Natasha’s show haven’t left: they’re dead from drug overdose. Bear wants Ella to investigate. Ella agrees and a job at the comedy show is a great way to go undercover. However, she decides to keep the investigation secret even from Vanessa.

This is a more serious entry in the series. While we still get wild antics from Patagonia, Ella’s huge black familiar cat, there aren’t many other jokes or humor, especially compared to the previous book which was set in a hilarious cheese convention. Ella investigates the overdose with a drug which seems to affect only mages. Also, a handsome new love interest appears. The mystery around Ella’s dad and childhood deepens, though.

While I didn’t enjoy the plot as much as in the previous book, I did enjoy the characters and quite a lot of other things, like the descriptions of Ella performing on the comedy show. She thought it would be just a small thing but it’s really not and panicked at first. Vin doesn’t appear much which is good because I can barely stand him. Natasha is a great character and I’d like to see more of her.

The second short story in the cozy mystery series Mom and Christy’s Mysteries.

Publication year: 2016
Format: ebook
Page count at Goodreads: 95

After her husband left her, Christy decided to move back to her mother’s house and help her in the catering business. Also, they solve crimes together!

Barbara Turing runs a computer firm and she knows that someone in her company is selling their secrets to competitors. To find out who, Barbara wants to hire Christy and her mom, Jo. But they’re not licensed private eyes, so they’ll just cater a lunch and ask a lot of questions.

Before long, Jo and Christy narrow down the suspects to three and one of them is the most obvious choice. Jo tells Barbara who they suspect and Barbara confronts the man in his office. Christy heads back to their catering van. While she’s on the yard, the office building’s fire alarm goes off… and a body falls out the window. He’s the man suspected of selling secrets and he was in the office alone with Barbara just moments before. So, now Jo and Christy’s client is a suspected murderer.

This was another humorous, fast-paced short mystery story. It’s similar to the first one in tone, a quick and fun read. The office party has an apple theme.

Jo and Christy are just as much fun as in the first book. Christy has, again, trouble driving the large van and Jo is just as personable and chatty as ever. They have a warm relationship but Christy realizes (briefly) that her mom has other sides to her. Sometimes Jo can still embarrass her daughter, especially when a certain handsome detective is concerned.

The first short story in the cozy mystery series Mom and Christy’s Mysteries.

Publication year: 2016
Format: ebook
Page count at GoodReads: 86

Christy is 35 and on the brink of a divorce. Her job was as the manager of her soon-to-be ex-husband, so she’s in a lousy waitressing job. However, Christy’s mom, Jo, has recently started a catering business. So, Jo invites Christy to return home and help her mom with the job. Christy agrees and moves back to Fletcher Canyon, and together with her mom. Their first catering job together is a birthday party for an 85-year old man. Christy’s cousin is his nurse. The party isn’t a success and ends with a whimper when Christy finds the man of the hour dead.

The local detective is very handsome but unfortunately his suspicions all turn to Christy’s cousin. Clearly, Christy and her mom must solve the case themselves.

This is a delightful, short mystery. Christy’s mom Jo is Filipino and Christy’s father was white. Christy is a fun character: she’s a bit overweight, she can’t cook but she can drive the catering van, just barely. There’s also a cat. Christy and her mom are on good terms and I loved their relationship. They both have a past and Jo’s best friend Weiling helps them a lot.

Christy is the first person narrator and she’s a lot of fun.

The mystery was just the right length for the story. I have the next story in the series already.

Next Page »