mystery


A stand-alone mystery book with some science fiction elements. This was part of a Storybundle which I bought in 2015.

Publication year: 2012
Format: ebook

This is a mystery book with some thriller elements. It starts with a group of mysterious people spying on special forces captain Hawkins when he and his wife are in a car accident. We don’t see an explanation for that until the end.

The book starts with a couple of disparate things, such as Vredefort Dome in South Africa. It’s the largest gold mine in the world but abuses the workers. Some of them have chosen to fight back and one man brings a nuclear bomb into the mine. It detonates, destroying the mine.

In Australia, a deep space communications center observes strange transmissions seemingly coming from Ayers Rock.

Hawkins, who a major now, leads a group of US soldiers in a secret mission to take out a drug lord in Colombia. He’s looking for a nuclear bomb but the drug lord doesn’t know anything about it. Then he’s ordered to Australia.

US government gathers together a group of different individuals: major Hawkins, geologist Don Batson, physicist Debra Levy, and Francine Volkers who uses statistical projection to, essentially, predict the future. They’re all brought to Australia where the US government has started drilling into Ayers Rock which is a holy place to the ingenious people there. A transmission from the rock named the four people. Unfortunately, nobody knows why.

The story weaves together some of the mysterious places on Earth, such as Tunguska in Siberia, Ayers Rock, and Arizona Meteor Crater. The characters have so wild theories about them, apparently from real-life conspiracy theories. It’s part military action/adventure, part supernatural conspiracy mystery story. X-Files seems to have been a large inspiration, along with real-life conspiracy theories.

Batson is a middle-aged man with a drinking problem. He’s considered very good at his job, so good that he’s part of the US government group of experts. Levy is only 23; she’s child prodigy who has difficulty relating to other people. Volkers’ predictions produce quite bleak results for humanity, so she’s gone through a depression and a nervous breakdown. Hawkins is a career military officer whose wife is a coma. However, they manage to work together, most of the time at least. Hawkins in the major POV character and he’s the only one we really get to know.

A decent read.

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The first book in a contemporary mystery series.

Publication year: 1997
Format: print
Publisher: Bantam Crime line
Page count: 275

Connor Westphal moved recently to a small town called Flat Skunk. Her grandparents had a diner there and she decided to change her life and move there, after their deaths. Connor became deaf when she was four years old and while the world around her, especially the school for hearing which she attended, tried to box her in, she made her own way and became a journalist. Now, she runs the town’s weekly newspaper Eureka! She employs the sheriff’s young son Miah part-time. Miah learned sign language so he sometimes interpreters for her and also answers the phone and does other errands.

The former mayor’s widow Lacy wants Connor to run an ad on the paper about her missing sister. Lacy doesn’t want the ad to be traced back to her and acts pretty mysterious otherwise, too. However, the next morning Lacy is found dead on her husband’s grave. Also, the local private investigator Boone has gone missing and his supposed half-brother Dan has suddenly appeared. Connor loves mysteries (she writes a murder mystery puzzle for her paper every week) and she starts to investigate.

This is a fast-paced mystery with quite a large, small town cast of characters. It has plenty of turns and twists and kept me guessing almost to the end.

Connor is a very interesting main character. She’s learned to lipread but has to, of course, see the lips clearly to do that. For the most part, she reads lips so accurately that the dialog isn’t any different from any other book. No doubt this is a stylistic issue because otherwise readers would have quickly become frustrated with dialog where Connor is guessing half the words and often asking “what did you say”. Of course, she can’t hear other noises, like the phone ringing. She’s very determined and uses underhanded tactics to interview people. She even has printed out fake business cards and easily clams to be an insurance agent, for example. She used to be a journalist in San Francisco. She’s on very good terms with the local sheriff and almost-dating the deputy and she isn’t shy to pump every bit of info she can from them.

The cast of characters, and therefore the pool of suspects, is quite large so we don’t get to know most of them. Dan, the missing investigator’s half-brother, is probably the most significant of them. He’s handsome and immediately likes Connor. He appears mysteriously right when his brother goes missing and Boone has never mentioned him, so Dan is a suspect, but he also investigates along with Connor.

The only thing which really bothered me was the way Connor treated her dog. She has a husky whom she’s taught to answer to signs, but she never takes it with her: it’s alone all day and Conner just feeds it. In fact, she treats it like a cat, even though she claims not to like cats. Since she’s her own boss, she could have easily taken the dog to work with her.

I enjoyed learning a little about the deaf. Connor has a touchtype phone which she uses to type calls but the other person needs to have one, too, otherwise it doesn’t work. People also throw things near her or at her to get her attention which I think is rather rude but she herself confesses that she hasn’t thought of a better way.

A quick read and a nice mystery with a lot of twists.

The first book in a (then) modern-day mystery series set in Las Vegas.

Publication year: 1992
Format: print
Publisher: Tor
Page count: 241

Midnight Louie is a large, black tomcat. He’s a former stray and even though he’s a house cat in the Crystal Palace hotel, he can come and go at his leisure. He fancies himself an amateur detective and his chapters are written in noir style in first person. When he stumbles upon a body (of a human), he realizes that he must help solve the murder mystery.

Temple Barr is a 29-year old freelance PR woman and this time she works for the American Booksellers Convention set in the huge convention center in Las Vegas. She’s just heard that two very famous library cats, Baker and Taylor, who were supposed to have been on display, have vanished. She thinks that Louie is one of them and chases him. Louie leads her to the murder victim and they start to investigate the murder and the case of the missing cats, both in their own ways.

The victim is Chester Royal, the founder and editor of Pennyroyal Press, an imprint of Reynolds/Chapter/Deuce publishing house. The Pennyroyal Press focuses on medical thriller. The more we find out about the victim, the clearer it becomes that almost anyone who had any dealings with him could have killed him. The three best-sellers from his imprint are the first suspects, along with his ex-wife. Royal was a quite a bastard, keeping the writers firmly under his thumb and he was apparently quite an unpleasant person to be around.

Temple escorts the detective around and tells her about the book business. C. R. Molina is very much focused on her job and doesn’t endear herself to Temple at all. Temple is also a hard-working woman but needs to be charming and personable in her job. She talks with the suspects and other people near Royal while doing her job.

The story is told mostly from Temple’s third POV and a little from Louie’s first POV. Of course, Louie doesn’t talk to any of the people, but he does talk to the other cats. He has nothing but disdain for dogs.

This was a nice and fast read. Because it’s set in book convention it no doubt has a lot of inside jokes which went right over my head. Also, I’ve never been to Las Vegas, so I don’t know how authentic the places are. Louie’s chapters are quite distinct because of his sizable ego. The story has a lot of characters for such a small book, but I had little trouble keeping them distinct.

A stand-alone mystery book in the popular YA series.

Publication year: 1989
Format: print
Publisher: Pocket Books
Page count: 150

This was a nostalgic read. When I was quite young, I read a lot of mysteries aimed at young readers, such as Nancy Drew and Hardy boys along with some series translated from Swedish such as the Detective Twins. But I always read them in translation. So, this is actually the first Nancy Drew book I read in English. This turned out to be part of the Nancy Drew files series aimed at slightly older readers. It’s supposed have romance, as well, but (happily) not in this book. I think the Finnish translations are from the other series.

Jesse Slade is a rock star who vanished three years ago. Paula’s best friend Bess is still a huge fan and when his final concert is shown on tv, she invites Nancy and George to watch it, too. Nancy see something startling: a body falling off a cliff on the background. Bess manages to get them invited to Los Angeles with the cable music TV station, TVR, which aired that last concert. Nancy persuades the manager to let her investigate Slade’s disappearance. The manager only agrees if Nancy goes undercover. She agrees. However, when she starts work, the people at the station are mysteriously hostile towards her.

This is a rather convoluted mystery for such a short book. Nancy and her friends get to know a little bit of the rock TV station’s life.

Nancy is a good role model for girls: eager for adventure and to see justice and goodness to win, happy to help people but she and her adventures don’t question the the American culture they’re set in. Her father is also clearly quite wealthy. Bess and George are her loyal friends who are always with her. George is a tomboy while Bess loves make-up and clothes. We don’t get to know the side characters much.

No doubt this is an exciting adventure to the intended audience, especially those who are interested in (US) rock TV stations.

The last page of the book has a synopsis for Nancy’s next adventure.

The first book in an alternate reality noir mystery series.

Publication year: 2015
Format: ebook
Publisher: Red Dog Press
Page count: 243 at GoodReads

In an alternate USA, four big families rule the city of Bridges. The city has been divided into four quadrants, each ruled by one family, and it’s very difficult to move from one quadrant to the other. The families are Spadros, Clubb, Hart, and Diamond.

Jacqueline was born in a whore house to the madam. She was also a member of a kid gang. When she was twelve her best friend, Air, was shot and she still has nightmares about it. She grew up not knowing who her father was, until one day he appeared. He had made a deal with the Spadros. Jacq was to be the bride of the Spadros heir. Despite being a “Pot rag”, as the very poorest are called, she was trained to be a lady and married Tony Spadros. Except that Jacq loved someone else and never saw him again after she was promised to Spadros. Roy Spadros, the head of the family, is a ruthless, cruel man who delights in torture and beating his wife. But Tony is different. He’s still a man who has spent his whole life in luxury, wanting for nothing. But he’s usually not cruel, only when it serves a purpose. He orders men killed when that’s required but not tortured. And he loves Jacq. Jacq has learned to pretend love but has never forgotten her only love, Joe. She also knows that if something would happen to Tony, she would be thrown back to the streets. So, in secret from Tony she has her own business as an investigator. It doesn’t make much money but she saves what she can.

The story starts when a woman calls Jacq for help. The woman is Air’s mother. Her youngest son is missing and nearby is the mark of the Red Dog Gang. Jacq refuses to help at first but the case won’t leave her alone: she can’t allow the little boy to just vanish. When the little boy’s older brother is found strangled in another quadrant, Jacq knows that she must investigate. But she has troubles of her own: she must support Tony or someone could murder him. She must keep her investigations a secret from him because it would ruin their delicate relationship. She must also keep her investigations a secret from everyone else who could ruin her life.

Jacq has a lot of contacts around the Spadros area, some of whom know who she is and others don’t. She uses a lot of disguises and lies. The story has a lot of characters, as well. Jacq herself is a tough and determined woman but she’s in a very vulnerable position and she also has hard time letting of the past, her childhood friend’s death and her first love. So, she’s also a vulnerable character.

The story is told from Jacq’s first person POV. Since she was born poor and then rose to the elite (although unwillingly) she has a different perspective than many of the other wealthy people. The story touches on the disenfranchisement of the poor, class struggles, and women’s rights, which are, sadly, still ongoing issues today.

The start of the story dropped us readers right in the middle of the story. Explanations came later mostly through Jacq’s thoughts. For the most part, this worked well and I enjoyed the story. Jacq is a very interesting character and her dilemma drew me in. The book is labeled as steampunk but there are very few steampunk elements in the story.

At the end, the current case is resolved (kind of) but the larger mysteries remain. We also get a timeline of this alternate history and a list of characters at the end.

The 17th book in the Amelia Peabody historical mystery series.

Publication year: 2005
Format: print
Publisher: HarperCollins
Page count: 350

I’ve been reading the Peabody mysteries for a long time. Even though it’s been a few years since I read the previous book (Children of the Storm), reading this book was still like coming back to old friends. The cast is huge and so a new reader might be a bit lost among them. I recommend starting the series with the first book, Crocodile on the Sandbank.

Amelia and her family are archeologists and amateur sleuths. While they work on excavations around Egypt, mysteries abound. “Another year, another dead body”, and “Another pair of trousers ruined” come true in this book as well. 😉 The first books are written in Amelia’s first person point-of-view. However, this book is again written in a style which started a few books ago: divided between Amelia’s very personal first-person memoirs and document H which Ramses has written in third person POV and very impersonal style.

The wonderful thing about following this long series is to see the characters grow and change. For example, Amelia’s son Ramses has grown up and is now dealing with his own precocious twins. But at the same time, Amelia and Emerson are growing old. Reading about Amelia dying the grey out of her hair in secret was a surprisingly moving touch.

It’s 1922 and Amelia, her husband Emerson, their child Ramses, his wife Nefret and the various other people in the Emerson clan are excavating in Deir el Media. However, Emerson isn’t happy about that.

Mrs. Pentheric arrives to their house and claims that an Egyptian object is cursed and is responsible for her husband’s death. The object in question is an exquisite solid gold statuette in a very good condition. Emerson is convinced that it’s a great historical find which has been robbed from a tomb. Mrs. Pentheric wants Emerson to keep it and to get rid of the curse. Emerson agrees, but only so that he can find out where it came from and then return it to its rightful owner.

Mrs. Pentheric turns out to be quite a famous author of lurid romances and she milks the story all it’s worth. Thanks to her, reporters and tourists start to hound the Emerson residence. But then Mrs. Pentheric’s adult stepchildren try to take the statuette by force. Later, Mrs. Pentheric’s body is discovered and detective fever grips Amelia and her family.

In addition to the huge regular cast, the story has some new characters as well. Most of them aren’t really suspicious people, of course. However, Peters cheats by withholding pertinent info from the readers.

A solid entry to the series for us old fans.

A fantasy novella set in Bujold’s Five Gods universe. While it’s the newest in publication order, according to internal chorology, it’s the third. I recommend starting with the first novella “Penric’s Demon” to get the most out of the novella series.

Publication year: 2017
Format: Audio
Running time: 4 hours and 29 minutes
Narrators: Grover Gardner

This story takes place about eight months after the events in “Penric and the Shaman” where Penric met some of the characters appearing in this story.

Learned Penric of the Bastard’s order is fishing with his friend who is a shaman when Locator Oswyl, this world’s equivalent to a detective, comes to get them. Someone has murdered a temple sorceress and he needs help from Penric to locate the demon which was living inside the sorceress. Much to his dismay, Penric can’t locate the demon and they come to the conclusion that someone, most likely the murderer, has stolen the demon.

This is essentially a murder mystery with some intrigue and sorcery added to it. While the temple sorceress is very much dead, her demon (an elemental spirit) which was inside her has mostly likely jumped to another person or animal. Wild demons are very dangerous so Penric must find the missing spirit. The story touches on life and death of humans and the spiritual beings who can be part of the them.

It’s a nice little story. I enjoyed the story and characters, as usual for Bujold. I’m particularly fond of Penric’s demon Desdemona and her interaction with Penric has, so far, always been delight.

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