The first book in the Miss Marple amateur detective series. Interestingly, this book was narrated not by Miss Marple but by the town vicar, who also wThe first book in the Miss Marple amateur detective series. Interestingly, this book was narrated not by Miss Marple but by the town vicar, who also was involved in solving the murder case. Miss Marple seemed to be a minor presence and was absent from the narrative for several good size sections. The novel begins with Lem Clement, the local vicar, enjoying lunch with this wife and teenage nephew and complaining about Lucius Protheroe, one of his parishoners and a wealthy bigwig in the village. Apparently Protheroe is disliked by many in the village. A few chapters later, Protheroe is shot in the back of the head while waiting to speak to the vicar in his study. The local police sergeant seems incompetent, and the vicar is soon investigating the case, since the murder occured in his home. Miss Marple, a spinster and the eyes and ears of the village, pops into the narrative from time to time with many good insights. Most of the investigation that the readers are privy to occurs through Clement's talks with potential suspects and witnesses. Protheroe was killed within a small window of time and a lot of the investigation is involved with who had the motive and was close enough to the vicarage to commit the murder.
I listened to the audiobook and didn't find the narrator to be very compelling. My attention wandered at times. This is a puzzle mystery; it was concerned with working with time frames and trying to fit the clues together. There was little forensic detail or action. This novel was written in 1930 and has aged well. Other than a few random mentions of 1920s phrases ("Mother Love") it could easily fit in any 20th century decade. The concerns of village life have a timeless quality and Christie creates well known types (the busybody spinster, the flustered vicar) with ease. My main complain was that Miss Marple was absent for stretches of time. It would be interesting to compare other books in the series to see if Christie writes her as a larger presence....more
3.5 Stars. Strong police procedural set in contemporary Glasgow. Alex Morrow, pregnant with twins, investigates the brutal murder of a young woman in3.5 Stars. Strong police procedural set in contemporary Glasgow. Alex Morrow, pregnant with twins, investigates the brutal murder of a young woman in a wealthy suburb. The criminals are known from the first chapter and Mina's narrative moves back and forth between Morrow's investigation, the life of Thomas Anderson, a teenage boy at an exclusive Scottish boarding school, whose disgraced financier father has just hanged himself, and the life of Kay, a working class cleaner who cared for the victim's mother and whose teenage sons briefly become suspects. Mina writes with style and assurance; moving between the criminal investigation and character development with ease. The atmosphere is excellent and the lives of the characters feel real and authentic. This is a great look at the differences of social class, and the complexities of family life. The crime is solved rather easily and conveniently but this mystery is memorable for the psychological insight into the characters and the gritty no holds barred look at society's problems. This will appeal to readers who enjoy suspense novels and mysteries with plenty of character development....more
Contemporary fiction set in the world of ballet. The novel opens in 1970s NYC; Joan Joyce is a dancer in the corps of a famous ballet company but sheContemporary fiction set in the world of ballet. The novel opens in 1970s NYC; Joan Joyce is a dancer in the corps of a famous ballet company but she does not have the talent to become a principal dancer. She is in love with Arsalan Rusakov, the star of the company and a Russian defector. Joan has become pregnant with Arsalan's child and leaves NYC without telling him. She marries Jacob, a childhood friend who has always been in love with her, and leads him to believe the child is his. The rest of the novel traces the lives of Joan, Jacob and their son Harry, in California with excursions into the past showing the relationship between Joan and Arsalan. Harry is a talented dancer and eventually moves to NYC and establishes a relationship with Arsalan before he learns that Arsalan is his biological father.
This is a strong novel about the world of dance and the people who inhabit it. Apart from Joan, Arsalan, and Harry there are Elaine, Joan's friend and a more talented dancer, Chloe, Harry's childhood friend and dancer, and Mr. K., the Russian creative director. All of the characters are finely drawn and the settings -- NYC in the 70s, California in the 1980s and 1990s -- are vivid and real. Readers who enjoy contemporary fiction and dance will like this book....more
Another strong Sean Duffy mystery. This time out, Duffy is brought back by MI5 to find a childhood friend who escaped from the Maze prison. In order tAnother strong Sean Duffy mystery. This time out, Duffy is brought back by MI5 to find a childhood friend who escaped from the Maze prison. In order to get a tip on the man's whereabouts, he must solve a locked room murder mystery.
As in previous books in the series, the atmosphere is excellent and the intertwining of real life political events from the time period is well done. There is more death of people close to Duffy in this installment and hope for a romantic life and a family seems to have disappeared. I hope McKinty continues to write more books in this series. ...more
A strong second entry in this noir mystery series. Set a year after the events of the previous novel, DI Sean Duffy is tasked with a new bizarre crimeA strong second entry in this noir mystery series. Set a year after the events of the previous novel, DI Sean Duffy is tasked with a new bizarre crime--a headless torso is discovered in a suitcase. It appears the victim was a retired American tourist. Why would someone kill him and dump the body. The clues lead Duffy to the recent murder of a member of the UDR (Ulster Defense Regiment) seemingly by the IRA and his beautiful widow as well as the new DeLorean car factory built just outside Belfast.
There is a lot of period detail in the book -- the Falklands crisis, the DeLorean factory (a lot of the information surrounding this part of the plot is true), pop music of the time, etc. Throughout the case, Duffy remains a smart ass who doesn't listen to his superiors when they tell him to back off, this time with negative consequences for his career. This atmospheric book features plenty of action and violence and readers who enjoy dark crime novels will find much to enjoy....more
Excellent police procedural set in Northern Ireland in 1981. Detective Sean Duffy is an outsider in the Royal Ulster Constabulary--he is both a CatholExcellent police procedural set in Northern Ireland in 1981. Detective Sean Duffy is an outsider in the Royal Ulster Constabulary--he is both a Catholic and a college graduate. He is also a bit of a smart ass and has an affinity for rock and punk music. The novel opens with Duffy investigating what appears to be a homosexual serial killer--a man has been found dead with his hand cut off and a classical sheet music in his anus. Duffy initially believes that he finally has a crime that is unrelated to the Troubles, but does he?
McKinty does a great job integrating the political and social situation of the time into the narrative. In May of 1981, the Maze Hunger strikes were receiving international attention and Ulster was an armed camp between the various factions. The atmosphere is appropriately bleak and realistic. I learned a lot I didn't previously know about the Troubles. Duffy is also a great criminal investigator--intelligent, funny, and not afraid to mix it up. There was a noirish edge to this book and graphic descriptions of violence and sex, so this book is not for readers who prefer cozy mysteries. I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading other books in the series.
I listened to the audiobook and the narrator had an authentic Irish accent. He was not difficult to understand but readers who dislike strong accents should be forewarned....more
Average amateur detective mystery. This novel tells the origin story of Anna Pigeon, a NPS park ranger and solver of crimes. Set in 1995, Anna PigeonAverage amateur detective mystery. This novel tells the origin story of Anna Pigeon, a NPS park ranger and solver of crimes. Set in 1995, Anna Pigeon is not the fully formed crime fighter she will later become (or so I assume since I have not read other books in the series). She is newly arrived at Glen Canyon Recreation area on Lake Powell and working as a seasonal interpretive ranger. Anna was previously a stage manager in the New York theater world and is grieving the death of her husband. She came to Glen Canyon to escape her grief.
The book opens with great hook; Anna wakes up naked and disorientated in a deserted "jar" (a smooth hole in the ground). Anna has no memory of the events that put her in the hole and no way out. As the first chapters progress, Anna's colleagues think she has left for New York and are not looking for her. Anna begins to remember what led to her being trapped in the jar and she discovers that someone is keeping her alive with drugged food and water. Anna is rescued/escapes from the jar about a third of the way through the story. The rest of the book is concerned with the search for the criminals.
Anna is a tough, self-reliant character. Barr's use of suspense and the women in jeopardy motif make the book lean more heavily towards a thriller than a mystery for me. There is lots of physical action and attempts on Anna's life. The opening scenes of Anna in the jar made me think of Silence of the Lambs. A lot of the resolution lay in the fact that the villain revealed herself to Anna by attempting to kill her again rather than Anna putting the pieces of a puzzle together. In fact, Anna seemed rather dense about certain things--she is a character of action rather than intellect. The setting is important and detailed. Part of the hook of the books is reading about Anna's adventures in various exotic wilderness settings. This book will appeal to readers who like lots of physical action, suspense, and peril. I personally prefer mysteries that are more intellectual but I can understand why Barr's books are so popular. ...more
YA biography appropriate for middle school and early high school. This is a comprehensive look at the career of The Beatles. The book opens with the fYA biography appropriate for middle school and early high school. This is a comprehensive look at the career of The Beatles. The book opens with the first appearance of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964 (or as the chapter title deems it "The Night That Changed America." Sandler's second chapter chronicles the impact the group had on popular music before returning to the early days of the band in chapter 3 and then moving forward more or less chronologically with chapters devoted to their movies, fashion influence, and impact on teens in the USSR (a interesting chapter with a take on Beatlemania that usually isn't covered). While hardcore Beatles fans won't find anything new in this book, it is a strong introduction to young readers unfamiliar with the group. Sandler explains the innovative nature of the Beatles and the time period of the 1960s along with interesting anecdotes. Numerous black and white and color illustrations are included as well as a discography, further reading and internet suggestions, and a comprehensive index.
My only problem with the text is that sometimes, Sandler can be too laudatory. According to him, the Beatles were the best at everything and drastically changed every arts field they touched. For example, in the chapter on Beatles and fashion, he writes, "For the first time, men began to display a flair for fashion, which had for so long been the exclusive domain of women." (p. 102) While the Beatles certainly influenced men's fashions and popular fashions of the 1960s, they didn't not introduce the concept of fashionable men. Men's fashions have been important for centuries and historical figures such as Beau Brummell (in addition to numerous others) prove this statement to be an exaggeration. A young reader with a lack of historical knowledge might come away with the impression that the Beatles were more historically profound than they actually are. This is a minor quibble and overall this is an information, entertaining non fiction book that will appeal to teens interested in music, celebrity, and the 1960s....more
**spoiler alert** Realistic YA. I find reality TV fascinating even though I rarely watch it; why do people want their private lives filmed and shown t**spoiler alert** Realistic YA. I find reality TV fascinating even though I rarely watch it; why do people want their private lives filmed and shown to millions?
Bonnie Baker was born on TV; she and her brothers and sisters are the stars of a former reality TV show, The Baker's Dozen. When Bonnie was 13, everything fell apart; her parents divorced after her mom caught her dad cheating and Bonnie tried to commit suicide by taking too many pills. When the book opens, it is four years later and life is finally beginning to seem normal(ish). Bonnie now goes by Chloe. The family has moved to California where no one knows about Chloe's former fame. Chloe's mom is remarried and Chloe and her brother, Benton attend public high school. Chloe is even interested in the hot guy at school and he seems to like her back. Then Chloe's mom drops a bombshell--the reality show is coming back on the air and Chloe is forced to be a part of it despite her protests.
This is a fun read, that also tackles some weightier issues such as fame, privacy, growing up, and free will. There was a strong multicultural element. Many of Chloe's siblings are adopted from different countries and are of different races. Her brother, Benton, is gay and has a loving boyfriend. The Mom was villainous in a way teens will relate to and the dad was a screw up and disappointment. Chloe is an appealing character and the romance was well handled. There is a lot to enjoy, including the behind the scenes look at reality tv.
There were a few flaws. Other than two of the siblings, Benton and Lexie, the closest in age to Chloe, the other siblings are not distinguishable from each other. Benton seemed more like a sassy gay best friend to Chloe than her brother. The happy ending (Chloe and her boyfriend spending a year traveling the world before moving to NYC for college) was sweet but not very realistic. (From an adult perspective practically getting married at 18 doesn't sound appealing.)
Overall, this is a good YA novel with a great premise that delivers.
Highly enjoyable historical fiction about the impact of WWI. The novel traces the lives of three different women over a period of 5 days in 1920 surroHighly enjoyable historical fiction about the impact of WWI. The novel traces the lives of three different women over a period of 5 days in 1920 surrounding the burial of the unknown soldier on Armistice Day. Hettie is a 19 year old working class dancer at the Hammersmith Palais, Evelyn is slightly older (and more upper class) and works at the Pension bureau dealing with wounded veterans every day. Ada, has lost her only child to the war and has not recovered from her loss. Interspersed with the lives of the three women are scenes of the journey of the unknown soldier from a field in France to burial in London.
This is a truly moving book about the horrific cost of war. Society does not talk about the what occurred at the front and many men have returned psychologically (and physically) scarred by the experience to women who can't comprehend their pain. The story of Evelyn (who worked in a munitions factory during the war), Ada, and Hettie illuminates different aspects of the war experience for women. Hope's prose was harshly beautiful and wonderfully descriptive. At certain parts, I even cried due to the power of the story and the characters' pain. Highly recommended....more
Realistic, contemporary teen fiction about the problem of homelessness in modern America. Dan is a senior in high school and has a promising future ahRealistic, contemporary teen fiction about the problem of homelessness in modern America. Dan is a senior in high school and has a promising future ahead of him playing baseball (Rice University has offered him a scholarship). However, his parents have been on a downward slide since losing their jobs in the Great Recession. At the start of the book, the house is foreclosed and the family moves in with Dan's uncle. That situation is tense and problematic so Dan's parents next move the family to Dignityville, the town's tent city in a city park. Dan struggles with his new position (his friends' don't know how to act around him, he often goes hungry). Meanwhile, an outside agitator is trying shut the camp down and has Aubrey, the unofficial spokesman of Dignityville, beaten up.
This was a fast-paced easy read. While at times too didactic, it shows the human situation behind the current economic situation in a way that teens will relate to. I can reading wanting to find out how bad things will get for Dan. Characters in the book discuss The Grapes of Wrath and this would be a good book to pair in the classroom with Steinbeck's novel on a unit about the Great Depression. I wonder if teens will pick the book up themselves since the premise (popular high school sports star becomes homeless) is not as exciting as other high concept teen reads. ...more
Lovely illustrations highlight this simple picture book about children's adventures in dreamland with animals friends. The lack of much of a story makLovely illustrations highlight this simple picture book about children's adventures in dreamland with animals friends. The lack of much of a story makes this best suited to young children....more
Light memoir about romance. Patience Bloom is a single woman who loves romances (novels, movies, tv shows). She has the perfect job for her -- editingLight memoir about romance. Patience Bloom is a single woman who loves romances (novels, movies, tv shows). She has the perfect job for her -- editing romances for Harlequin, the premier romance publisher. She has yet to find a partner and this memoir traces her romantic adventures from an elite boarding school, to years of bad boyfriends in her 20s and 30s, to reconnecting with a high school classmate which led to love and marriage. Bloom has her struggles (from a traumatizing rape in her early 20s to a distant relationship with her remote father) but she she remains optimistic and imbues her memoir with a sense of her pop culture loving personality. Light and fun but not very memorable. Good for fans of romance novels and readers who like breezy memoirs. ...more