I love Monument Valley. I've stayed at Goulding's Lodge where the stars and film crews stayed while filming so many classic Westerns back in the 1940sI love Monument Valley. I've stayed at Goulding's Lodge where the stars and film crews stayed while filming so many classic Westerns back in the 1940s and 50s. I've had a Navajo guide take me through not only Monument Valley, but the lesser known (and equally impressive) Mystery Canyon. I was thrilled to see that a new mystery series was set here during its Hollywood period.
The Blevins use this glorious setting to excellent effect and manage to blend in some Navajo traditions as well. The distances involved in bringing in supplies and My Darling Clementine's stars show how remote the area is. In fact, Yazzie gets to travel on the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe's Super Chief and stay at the fabulous Fred Harvey hotel La Posada in Winslow in order to pick up actress Linda Darnell and take her to where the filming is being done.
But it's with Linda Darnell that the book frayed around the edges a bit for me. I've read many historical mysteries, and quite a few of them have historical characters. I normally don't have a problem with that, but I did with the role Darnell plays in this book. I won't go into detail here, and I'm sure the Blevins did their research, but Darnell's characterization just plain made me uncomfortable.
The best secondary character by far is Moses Goldman, and it's easy to see why Yazzie loves him so much. I cheered Moses on in several of his scenes.
Unfortunately other than as a foil for the other characters, Zipilote doesn't really work as a killer for me-- much too one-dimensional. But then... I suppose most homicidal maniacs are.
I like Yazzie, a young man who's half Navajo, half Jew. He wants a "big life" but he still remains level-headed. His time as shore patrol for the Navy has given him a good background in investigating, and he needs it here because when things go wrong-- since he's the Indian in the middle of a bunch of famous white people-- he's the person who gets all the blame. He's also the man who gets all the women in this book, and his second relationship moved so quickly that I'm wondering how well it's going to fit in with the series.
For yes, this is going to be a series, and even though I'm not thrilled with some of the characterizations, I like the main character, and I'm still in love with the setting. I'm looking forward to the next installment. ...more
Having read and enjoyed all of Thornton's Chloe Newcombe mysteries which are also set in Dudley (a thinly disguised Bisbee), I was excited to see thisHaving read and enjoyed all of Thornton's Chloe Newcombe mysteries which are also set in Dudley (a thinly disguised Bisbee), I was excited to see this first book in a new series. As I've come to expect from Thornton, the setting is vivid and adds so much texture to the story. In addition, the mystery kept me guessing from beginning to end. However, all the various parts of the book never really gelled into an enjoyable read for me.
Thornton inserts derogatory comments about Arizona SB1070 (the highly inflammatory immigration law) and the state's (lack of) gun control. I happen to agree with her on both counts, but if she feels that way about guns, why does one come in so handy in one particular scene? It certainly could have been written differently.
Although the book is listed as a "Kate Waters" mystery, Kate does very little investigating in the book. Instead it's MacGregor's expertise that is put to good use. I liked MacGregor even though he seems to be one of those men who are drawn to damsels in distress. He's a good investigator and a nice guy.
Kate Waters is certainly a damsel in distress. A very annoying one. I have to admit that she is the main drawback in this book. The woman has just escaped from an abusive relationship. She lives in fear that her ex will find her. She is extremely paranoid. All that being said, then why on earth did she go do something and leave her house unlocked for the entire day because she knows a friend will be stopping by? That almost beggars belief. And-- once again-- if Kate is so paranoid, why can she never remember to charge her cell phone? A bit difficult to call for help if her phone's dead, isn't it?
I did enjoy the mystery in Empty Houses, and as always, I can't get enough of the setting, but with Kate Waters as the main character, I doubt very much that I'll continue with this series. What a shame. ...more
Bannalec has written a mystery with a marvelous sense of place, complete with some of its fascinating historical background. His descriptions are so vBannalec has written a mystery with a marvelous sense of place, complete with some of its fascinating historical background. His descriptions are so vivid it was easy for me to picture the beautiful setting. The mystery is also a good one, with tie-ins to local history and to Paul Gauguin.
What is lacking in Death in Brittany is characterization. It's all about the investigation here. None of the characters come to life. Dupin's two inspectors become mere minions after very brief introductions. Dupin is constantly saying, "We need to talk," but readers are never allowed to hear what they talk about. Part of the fun of reading mysteries is being allowed to be the proverbial fly on the wall. There's none of that here, and it's missed-- as are more fully fleshed characters. ...more
The Handless Maiden is a fascinating read that illuminates a period of time most whites know very little about. I was in high school during the siegeThe Handless Maiden is a fascinating read that illuminates a period of time most whites know very little about. I was in high school during the siege at Wounded Knee, and I remember the news coverage making it sound as though AIM was completely in the wrong. Even at that age, I knew that there was a lot more to the story than we were being told. Author Dorothy Black Crow tells some of that story here.
This story is compelling and strengthened by the fact that Black Crow splits up her two main characters. Alex Turning Hawk has never lived off the reservation, yet he goes to Rapid City to learn what he can. It's not easy, and he has to learn how to fly beneath local law enforcement's radar to avoid problems. Alex's wife Tate was raised in a city as a white person. She stays behind on the reservation, and her task isn't easy either. Many of her fellow Lakota do not trust her and go out of their way to make her life more difficult. Despite any and all roadblocks put in their paths, Alex and Tate do learn the truth about Joanna's death.
As a white, I found reading The Handless Maiden often made me feel like an outsider. I had no problem with that. Some of the Lakota spiritual happenings were difficult for me to accept, and sometimes the language seemed a bit jerky and had abrupt transitions, undoubtedly to show that English was a second language to many of the Lakota in the book. Black Crow pulls no punches in telling us what law enforcement and government officials were doing on the reservation, but this is not a story in which all whites are evil and all Lakota are saints. This is a powerful tale that shows this woman is a writer. I look forward to her next book and recommend this one to any fellow readers who enjoy Native American-themed crime fiction. ...more
I fell in love with the first book in this series, Murder at Honeychurch Hall, and the love affair continues with this, book number two. Author HannahI fell in love with the first book in this series, Murder at Honeychurch Hall, and the love affair continues with this, book number two. Author Hannah Dennison must enjoy writing these because a sense of fun shines through on each page. As she stated in a recent tour, every Honeychurch Hall book will feature a real threat to Britain's stately homes, so if you're a reader-- like me-- who enjoys those wonderful, beautiful, old houses, I encourage you to give this series a try.
I also recommend them for the characters Dennison has created. Kat is an extremely likeable, smart, and caring woman who, as a former popular television personality, is still being stalked by the media. She also has a rather batty mother to deal with. Iris has always been a bit of a distant figure in Kat's life, tortured by headaches that would send her to her bedroom for hours at a time. However, Kat has recently learned that Iris was actually in her bedroom writing romance novels all those years, and she's the very popular author Krystalle Storm. Iris is a strange mix of wisdom and innocence. (Too many years hidden away writing bodice rippers?)
In this book Dennison livens up the action with Kat's Uncle Alfred. Between Iris and her brother, Kat may wind up talking to herself... and arguing with her answers. Newcomers Angela Parks and Patty Gully are in the thick of it, too, and they both kept me trying to figure out what they were up to.
The mystery in Deadly Desires at Honeychurch Hall is a good one that kept my mental gears whirring. I did manage to deduce part of the nefarious doings but had to wait until the reveal to find out whodunnit.
Hannah Dennison's Honeychurch Hall series is an irresistible blend of wit, stately homes, mystery, and wonderful characters. I'm hopelessly hooked, and now I'm reduced to waiting for book number three. ...more
Insightful introductions by Martin Edwards guide readers through this collection of fourteen short stories written by some of the most popular crime fInsightful introductions by Martin Edwards guide readers through this collection of fourteen short stories written by some of the most popular crime fiction writers in England's golden age of mysteries (1910-1953). The theme of detectives on holiday provides the framework of the collection, and the stories take place in many vacation spots throughout the United Kingdom, France and Switzerland.
Of the fourteen authors, I was familiar with only three: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Arnold Bennett, and G.K. Chesterton.
One thing I remembered as I read each story was that, during this time, crime fiction was in its purest form. If something did not advance the story, the writer did not include it. If you're a fan of more contemporary crime fiction in which in-depth characterization and the story's setting usually take on very important roles, this collection may not be for you. But if you're interested in reading the work of other crime fiction authors besides Agatha Christie who were popular and have fallen into (sometimes undeserved) obscurity, Resorting to Murder is right up your alley.
Of all the stories in this book, I enjoyed the ones by the two women most: "A Posteriori" by Helen Simpson, and "Where Is Mr. Manetot?" by Phyllis Bentley, due to their plots and for Helen Simpson's sense of humor. I also enjoyed the feeling of slipping back into the past to read the popular fiction of the day.
I applaud the British Library Crime Classics series and its US publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, for bringing these writers and their works back to the reading public....more
Any day with a new Murder Squad novel from Alex Grecian is a good day, and The Harvest Man is no exception. Scotland Yard is moving to a new building,Any day with a new Murder Squad novel from Alex Grecian is a good day, and The Harvest Man is no exception. Scotland Yard is moving to a new building, and as the old one empties, there's a real sense of one era ending and a new one beginning. We're introduced to new characters, like Claire Day's parents, and we're able to observe how all of them are dealing with the brutal events of the previous book. Many things happened that are not easy to come to terms with.
As usual, Grecian shows his skill in telling a well-paced, engrossing story. Jack the Ripper seems to have spawned a new breed of killer, and it's interesting to watch the characters speculate about the reasons why this is so. For anyone new to the series, I have three caveats. One, Grecian immediately immerses you in the story. There is little background given at first, so it may take you a bit of time to get your bearings. Two, if you are the slightest bit squeamish, the gore level in his books may be too much for you. Three, if you're looking for a perfect rendition of Victorian London, you may be disappointed. Grecian's London of the 1890s isn't necessarily a visual one; it's an emotional, a visceral, one. There are many other writers who can depict this London in all its grimy glory. From them you'll know by sight and feel and smell the second you step in horse dung as you cross the street. When you read Alex Grecian, you won't care about the horse dung because you're too busy mentally running for your life.
There are many times when I was mentally running for my life-- or wishing that one of the characters would. Grecian knows how to tell that kind of story, and he's filled it with characters-- Day and his wife Claire, Hammersmith, Dr. Kingsley and his daughter Fiona-- that you care about. He raises the bar on suspense because, in his books, bad things can happen to good people. I'm not always in the mood for something like this, but when I am, I definitely know which author to read.
But in the midst of all the running and lives being in danger, there are flashes of humor and of grace. These characters are people who know how precious life is. When Dr. Kingsley jokingly introduces his rudimentary crime scene kit to Inspector Tiffany, we laugh, but we also know how much these men care about stopping killers. When Hammersmith asks the names of women city fathers would cross the street to avoid, we're shown true humanity.
When The Harvest Man ended, I found myself wanting to know what's going to happen to Walter Day. I look forward to Grecian's next Murder Squad book with a great deal of anticipation. ...more
In High Country Nocturne, Jon Talton's elegiac descriptions of the old Phoenix almost gives the book a hard-boiled feel, and that sad, cynical, resignIn High Country Nocturne, Jon Talton's elegiac descriptions of the old Phoenix almost gives the book a hard-boiled feel, and that sad, cynical, resigned tone is perfect for this story. It's good to see Talton get out of Phoenix for a bit and take readers to places like Flagstaff and Ash Fork up in Northern Arizona. Even sections of Route 66 get a mention or two. In a tale of betrayal, murder, and a desperate search for the truth, the occasional sparks of humor he adds are as welcome as they are unexpected.
Mapstone has been tested before in the course of this series, but not to this degree. Mike Peralta has not only been his boss and his partner, he's also been his closest friend, and to have him be the prime suspect in a diamond heist and murder is beyond belief. At this point, all he's going to want to do is prove Peralta innocent. However, everyone seems determined to stop him. FBI agents are crawling all over the place, making demands, asking questions, keeping an eye on him. The new sheriff insists that Mapstone comes back to work for him. Matters are made even worse by the deadly killer who's stalking him. What scares Mapstone the most is that the killer may not only target him, his wife Lindsey may also be in danger.
When he does start piecing a few things together, he begins to doubt his friendship with Peralta. Just how much can he trust his partner? This is a fast-paced story that does make occasional references to previous books in the series, but it does stand alone very well.
There are two authors who have series set in the Phoenix metropolitan area whom I always recommend. Jon Talton is one of them. High Country Nocturne is another strong entry in an excellent series. ...more
If you're looking for something new in the English village mystery line, I can recommend Marty Wingate's The Rhyme of the Magpie. This book has good pIf you're looking for something new in the English village mystery line, I can recommend Marty Wingate's The Rhyme of the Magpie. This book has good pacing, a great "voice," a setting that invites you to come on in and sit a spell, and an engaging main character...
...although I do have to admit that I wasn't impressed with Julia Lanchester at first. Her extremely childish reaction to her father's remarriage made me want to tell her to stop acting like a brat and start acting like a caring adult. Since I'm letting you know my opinion changed quite a bit, that tells you something. Marty Wingate's main character is definitely not static or two-dimensional.
One of the things I enjoyed most was watching Julia's creative mind work on developing ideas to boost tourism in her village. It not only gave me perspective on what these places have to do in order to survive, Julia's plans made me want to participate and made me admire the way her mind works.
The mystery in The Rhyme of the Magpie is a good one. Although I did deduce someone's identity quickly, I couldn't do the same for the killer. With all of Julia's plans to boost tourism in Smeaton-under-Lyme, I'm looking forward to a brand-new crop of suspects. One observation though-- Julia had better keep her assistant very happy indeed. She would be completely lost without Vesta taking all her shifts so she can play detective!
This is a book that I'd managed to ignore for almost a year. When I keep seeing the same title over and over again on the book websites and blogs thatThis is a book that I'd managed to ignore for almost a year. When I keep seeing the same title over and over again on the book websites and blogs that I frequent, I tend to go into avoidance mode. Hype makes me suspicious. It wasn't until recently when someone whose opinion I trust recommended this book that I decided to give it another look. Am I ever glad that I did.
A Man Called Ove runs the gamut of emotions: laughter, exasperation, anger, compassion, fear, love, loss. Those new neighbors of his force him to get involved in something other than his own tunnel-vision plans, and as Ove constantly gets yanked into the lives of others, his backstory is slowly revealed. That backstory makes all the difference in the world because we get to see Ove as a child, as a teenager, as a young man-- and we see why Ove became so mean-spirited.
Some may dismiss A Man Called Ove as a simple "feel good" story. Yes, it does make the reader feel good, but that assessment sells this book short. It is a wonderful characterization and examination of a man's life. It just may get some of us to re-evaluate the curmudgeons in our own lives.
I was stunned to learn that this is a debut novel because it certainly doesn't read like one. I could ramble enthusiastically for several more paragraphs, but I won't. If you've been avoiding Fredrik Backman's book because of the hype, stop. Pick it up and read it. My only warning? Have a family-size box of tissues close at hand when you near the end. You will be crying. Crying for sad... and crying for happy. ...more