A nice amount of funny moments and engaging twists, but the solution (view spoiler)[was too convoluted without demonstrating that the characters perpeA nice amount of funny moments and engaging twists, but the solution (view spoiler)[was too convoluted without demonstrating that the characters perpetuating the murder had the brains for that kind of convoluted thinking. I don't mind convoluted solutions if I can believe the murderer has that kind of intelligence & foresight & wide-range thinking, which wasn't the case here. (hide spoiler)]...more
Okay, time for me to take another year-long break from Christie. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was marvelous; despite knowing the whodunnit, I was hoodwOkay, time for me to take another year-long break from Christie. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was marvelous; despite knowing the whodunnit, I was hoodwinked pretty good with the howdunnit, and I only spotted one line of anti-Semitism. In this one, the anti-Semitism is egregious and woven into the logic/rationalizing out of the mystery, and being too familiar with how Christie writes/patterns/constructs her mysteries, spotting the culprit was too easy....more
I enjoy Robinson's mysteries--one twist here had me gasping an expletive--and I enjoyed that this book was the aftermath of the book Aftermath (crimeI enjoy Robinson's mysteries--one twist here had me gasping an expletive--and I enjoyed that this book was the aftermath of the book Aftermath (crime spirals and connects, pain claws at you from the inside out and shapes you from that point on, there is no such thing as closure--which the characters touch upon). But omg he seems incapable of writing women outside of the male gaze. This goes beyond the typical women-as-objects-of-violence and pervasive sexism in the crime genre, and it translates to a disappointing failure at the craft level. And I don't get it. He seems to understand people and humanity on the level where he writes interesting and engaging mysteries, but the POVs of his women characters are utterly unconvincing & revolve primarily around men and how men perceive them. This problem has been present from the start of the series, though it's been balanced by some glimmers of insight and complexity (I thought Jenny was a well-rendered effort at the start, for example). As Annie becomes a larger character in the series, however, the failure of Robinson to create and utilize women-outside-the-male-gaze is very grating....more
I need to stop reading contemporary cozy mysteries. I keep trying, though, because I worry that it's internalized sexism that keeps me from liking orI need to stop reading contemporary cozy mysteries. I keep trying, though, because I worry that it's internalized sexism that keeps me from liking or appreciating them. But I'm coming to understand that I bristle at the constructed bubble of safety~ that the crime occurs in but doesn't actually threaten. It's not a fantasy I enjoy or believe in or find worthwhile, either in real life or in the world of the story. I find too much in the narrative that undermines it: the way protagonists undermine law or order in their own investigations; the way crime is not something that leaves a lingering effect on the community; the way victims are frequently people who are not missed, and so that allows the cast of recurring characters to get on with their lives until the next murder. And I get that cozy mysteries aren't meant to deal with any of that, that the crimes featured are specifically constructed to avoid touching cyclic violence or the systematic forces of poverty and racism that dominate the way people deal with the criminal justice system.
But I can't let it go. But I keep going back to cozy mysteries because I want to read less gore and less exploitation and sensationalism in my crime fiction, and because I want to make sure I'm not just being sexist in recoiling from a woman dominated subgenre.
I. Just. But nearly every contemporary cozy I read just whips me up into a hostile frenzy.
Magical, clue-finding cats? Yes, I'm down that. I like these cats and the magical digestive systems that allow them to eat tons of human food. I find that charming. I like them.
What's not charming? The librarian protagonist, when building a case to her detective boyfriend that she suspects someone could be a thief/murderer, includes in her reasoning that the person in question checked out "A Coffin for Dimitrios and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Eric Ambler and Agatha Christie. Mystery classics."
what. the. fuck.
In real life, I'd hope nothing short of the Patriot Act (and even THAT, but I recognize that the Patriot Act is law and whatever) would get a librarian to be that shitty to a) think reading mysteries makes someone suspicious (among other things, but SERIOUSLY), b) voluntarily and proactively violate a patron's privacy by--without court order, without the law enforcement office even requesting it--reveal to a law enforcement officer what a patron checked out.
Nothing. Cozy. About. That.
(Also, I thought the mystery was boring. The characters are all right if bland, the worldbuilding is nice, and I like the cats.)...more
A solid, satisfyingly complicated mystery. I haven't read any other books from this series, and I found this one did stand alone well. There were niceA solid, satisfyingly complicated mystery. I haven't read any other books from this series, and I found this one did stand alone well. There were nice flashes of humor and enjoyable historical engagement. I loved how photography was used, too.
I prefer my crime fiction to have either a stronger voice or a stronger emotional heft, however, and this didn't really stand out on either of those qualities. ...more
I enjoy a whodunnit as much as anybody, but the kind of mental/emotional banquet I crave most from crime fiction--the genreSo, that was a good book.
I enjoy a whodunnit as much as anybody, but the kind of mental/emotional banquet I crave most from crime fiction--the genre of human misery, of the problematic romanticizing of it and the painful dismantling of it and the choreographed game of playing archaeologist & anthropologist & curator of our societal disaster--is less whodunnit and more whatchagonnado. Whatcha gonna do, knowing what you know, walking where you've walked? Make me remember there's no end to our cycles of violence. Make me remember there's no neutral. Make me remember that the justice system is named for an unattainable ideal, not for a product it claims to produce, and that all our human imperfections crush everybody. Build up interesting characters who think and evaluate in interesting, compelling ways, and then make them face impossible choices they--and no one, really--are prepared to make.
And The Whites was exactly what I wanted when I picked it up. Brandt/Price writes densely and vividly, and the story is bursting at the seams with character details--and sometimes that worked for me in kaleidoscopic brilliance and sometimes it didn't with its clutteredness, and sometimes I didn't like how the primary women in the story all seemed too similar on the page. But it was still added up to something compelling, to solid crime fiction. I'm glad to put the book down because I'm worn out from all the overwhelming brokenness, but I also feel like it's not going to let me step away....more
I loved the characters (scientists! all of them--and Sly, I hope she sticks around--too well-rounded and too interesting to be stereotypical even forI loved the characters (scientists! all of them--and Sly, I hope she sticks around--too well-rounded and too interesting to be stereotypical even for a moment!) but had to suspend some disbelief regarding clinical trials and some of the mechanics of the plot, like (view spoiler)[the dead villain having addressed a long letter to the protagonists explaining all the actions he undertook--though I appreciate that the investigative gang also independently confirmed things he said (hide spoiler)]....more
It's been nearly six years since I've read a Dorothy Koomson novel, and I'd forgotten just how fantastic she is at pacing character development. She'sIt's been nearly six years since I've read a Dorothy Koomson novel, and I'd forgotten just how fantastic she is at pacing character development. She's so good at making character changes in her protagonist believable turns, all rooted in personality and a juggling of worst-selves & best-selves and sympathetically rendered struggle.
The previous books by her that I've read fell squarely into what gets called "women's fiction" (or "upscale chick lit" or "commercial fiction," though those terms aren't great, either), and I'd still shelve it there, but this book has a definite thriller aspect: who killed Marcus? Is Poppy right, that she was convicted for a crime that Serena actually committed? Now that Poppy's out of prison, what lengths will she go to force Serena to confess? But Koomson, wisely, also weaves in a more delicate emotional thread: what is it going to take for Serena and Poppy to let go of the past, to forgive themselves?
Koomson excelled at the more emotional parts of the book and less so on the murder plot aspect. I tried to excuse some of my "but what about...?" and "seriously, the investigation didn't...?" questions with "Well, it was the 1980s, things were different then!" but I felt way too forgiving at times. And while Serena and Poppy were always understandable characters to me, I struggled more with some of the supporting characters and their reactions, and sometimes character confrontations got a little too Lifetime movie for me. On the other hand, Koomson treated the topic of domestic violence in a sensitive but straight-forward manner, and the flashbacks to Serena and Poppy being groomed by this sexual predator were often terrifying....more
I'm a sucker for museums, apparently. I really enjoyed all those details about working on the administrative side of a museum/library/historical archiI'm a sucker for museums, apparently. I really enjoyed all those details about working on the administrative side of a museum/library/historical archive. I liked the mystery in this better than the first book, and I liked that (view spoiler)[it ends somewhat ambiguously (hide spoiler)] (I am a terrible reader of cozy mysteries, honestly, but I'm trying--I want to learn how to appreciate them!). I like that Nell is pretty boring and blandly efficient. In both books so far, characters bring their problems to her because She Gets Shit Done, which is a good excuse as any for why she keeps investigating stuff. I didn't like how most of the book is expository filler and there's so much ridiculousness (Nell's whimsical hiring decisions wtf)....more
I'm still trying out cozy mysteries. I wouldn't really recommend this one for the mystery aspect--there's not much to puzzle out or wonder about, theI'm still trying out cozy mysteries. I wouldn't really recommend this one for the mystery aspect--there's not much to puzzle out or wonder about, the answers are all pretty painfully obvious, and omg Nancy Drew wannabes, don't record private conversations and bug people's houses and then take your evidence to an FBI agent even if he's a friend arghhh!!!--but I actually really liked all the bureaucratic details about running a museum (the one in the book is sort of a museum/library/historical society combination). I can see the "exposition about a career/hobby/etc." appeal of cozy mysteries, I think, but I'm struggling to find ones where the mystery aspect keeps me wondering or shines interesting light on being human.
Connolly's writing itself wasn't bad, so I might still try her books again. ...more
A contemporary cozy that I actually kinda liked, even with all the twee. Usually with cozies I'm irritated by the stupid ways the sleuth finds clues aA contemporary cozy that I actually kinda liked, even with all the twee. Usually with cozies I'm irritated by the stupid ways the sleuth finds clues and usually breaks laws in doing so. Aside from one headdesk moment of "Let's follow a bad guy we think has been trying to hurt me and see what he's up to!", I was okay with Kathleen's detecting, mainly because it involved "And then my magical cat walked through a wall and fetched me something that turned out to be an important clue!" (seriously, multiple times seriously), and compared to the normal dumb-ass justifications found in cozies, I was totally, absolutely, and sincerely on board with magical, clue-finding rescue cats. So maybe I might like supernatural cozies? We'll see....more
I think I've hit the point of diminishing returns when it comes to Agatha Christie mysteries, unfortunately. I've caught on too much to how she constrI think I've hit the point of diminishing returns when it comes to Agatha Christie mysteries, unfortunately. I've caught on too much to how she constructs her ambiguities and who is to be immediately eliminated as a potential culprit (view spoiler)[(anyone with a recognized motive, it seems like) (hide spoiler)], I've grown bored with the vintage "I think this is supposed to be romantic for the time, but it's kinda creepy" aspects, and I'm done with trying to ponder how illegitimacy~ factors into characters' worldviews. I wish I could return to the "omg AMAZING how did she do that??" feelings I had when first reading Christie (like with A Murder Is Announced and A Carribean Mystery--I'm still wild about how I was absolutely gobsmacked by how well and how fairly I got played whilst reading the latter, particularly). ...more
A rich, layered mystery, investigated by a protagonist with a deep and interesting history and with a textured, complicated relationship to justice, iA rich, layered mystery, investigated by a protagonist with a deep and interesting history and with a textured, complicated relationship to justice, injustice, and law and order. While I liked the ending, it still felt a little thrown together, like everyone just decided to wrap up their disparate plot lines--to quit the actions they spent the bulk of the book doing--just for the sake of an ending.
When Cynthia finally walks through the door, their eyes lock, and Jay feels a strange, helpless sensation, as if he's been struck dumb in her presence, as if he can't move. He feels a prickly heat on his skin. He doesn't know why she has this power still, to stop him in his tracks. Except that history is a funny thing. Fifty years from now, if they're still walking around on this planet, if they should bump into each other on the street or in a bar somewhere, it'll be just as this moment is now, like a key turning in a lock. They are each other's history, capable, with just a glance, of unlocking hidden truths. She is his witness.
I was expecting more corpses. For the majority of the book, there was only the one. And, like, I'm not saying I'm not bothered by one corpse, but theI was expecting more corpses. For the majority of the book, there was only the one. And, like, I'm not saying I'm not bothered by one corpse, but the title had me assuming that there'd be more, and that we'd be tripping over them much sooner. That disconnect was probably the major influence in my finding the book slow, and the fault was probably all on me.
So, investigating some strangeness surrounding a much-changed childhood friend, Dandy goes undercover as a teacher (!! Dandy!! a teacher!!) at a girls school. St. Columba's is possibly the only place that could rival Hogwarts in the Scottish boarding school league tables for mysterious disappearances, unqualified teachers, and no one learning anything useful ever.
McPherson writes such tangled and interesting plots, and she's great at intriguing scenes where you know there's this huge clue lurking between the lines but you can't quite put your finger on it. She has a ridiculously, jealousy-inducingly witty voice, and I like Dandy and her investigative skills a lot. The other recurring characters I like less, and I wish for a little less sexism or for more of it to get called out, but for the most part, I continue to really enjoy this series....more