Author Karen Bergreen was first a lawyer and then a stand-up comedian. What perfect training to write the perfect summer read - and perfect is not oveAuthor Karen Bergreen was first a lawyer and then a stand-up comedian. What perfect training to write the perfect summer read - and perfect is not overrated, despite the book's title. This story is never slow, despite the fact that with my years of reading mysteries and superior skills of analysis I had the killer figured out by about halfway through. (I was wrong.)
Perfect Is Overrated is pure fun, with no deep lessons other than the occasional, uncomfortable glimmer of self-recognition at the heroine's bad judgment. I didn't even resent all the rich upper East Side elites, which is really saying something. Recommended, and thanks to firstreads for the book and the page-turning mystery, liberally sprinkled with humor.
This book initially annoyed me so much I decided I wouldn't read it at all. It was like listening to your grandfather tell some interminable tale, witThis book initially annoyed me so much I decided I wouldn't read it at all. It was like listening to your grandfather tell some interminable tale, with a million asides and danged colorful expressions. Then I remembered what my brother told me about conversations with our mother: you have to let go of expectations of time passing, linear thinking or coherence, and just enjoy.
I did that, and began enjoying Doss's story.
But enough is enough, and too much is too much. By about three-quarters, four-fifths through, I was fed up, skimming pages to try to find places where the thread of the story was actually being followed.
I'd never read him before, and other reviewers say that he went over the top with this book, that others aren't as windy.
I don't care. It's back to Africa and sailing and history for me....more
I vacillated between 3 and 4 stars for this book because 1) it was a slow starter for me, and 2) took some liberties with standard mystery conventionsI vacillated between 3 and 4 stars for this book because 1) it was a slow starter for me, and 2) took some liberties with standard mystery conventions; balancing that, it also 3) was hard to put down once I was 40 or 50 pages in, and 4) ended up offering a story that wasn't as conventional as a standard who-done-it (in which the murderer is the least-likely suspect who was introduced fairly early on).
Although I haven't read any of author Todd's many other books in this series, I wasn't put off by a few references that probably would have been more meaningful if I had read them. He did a great job of writing it in such a way that newbies could enjoy it, and at the same time be lured to read others, AND give added depth to faithful readers.
(Within the last couple years I read an English mystery in which every few pages there was an asterisk with a note at the bottom of the page referencing the reader to an earlier book. It was beyond awful. Todd, in contrast, shows the right way to write and edit a series.)
An Unmarked Grave also does an excellent job of transporting the reader back into the first World War and the life of a brave, honorable, and believable nurse of the day.
Here's my review that appeared in the November 2011 issue of Historical Novel Review:
This mystery is the latest in a series, Bones in the Belfry, A LoHere's my review that appeared in the November 2011 issue of Historical Novel Review:
This mystery is the latest in a series, Bones in the Belfry, A Load of Old Bones, Bone Idle, and Bones in High Places being the earlier installments. The books have a charming premise: some chapters are told from points of view of the protagonist reverend’s dog and cat, Bouncer and Maurice. There’s a dead-on Miss Marple British village setting complete with eccentric characters; and the author’s style is cheeky, chirpy, and witty. She’s also got a nice plot, a tale of a blackmailed bishop amidst treacle tarts, waistcoats, and buggery.
I finished it with some relief, weary of feeling perplexed about what was going on. I have read a fair amount of British fiction, but this was hard work. The glib repartee here is evidently graduate level British English, and it turns out I’m a dull American sophomore. More confounding yet was that instead of a backstory the book has 25 footnotes. “First mentioned in A Load of Old Bones,” “Dumont appears in Bones in High Places,” “See A Load of Old Bones.” I puzzled over the story’s era; my guess is the 1930s. The reverend drives an old Singer. Maybe the ’50s. It was as though the first third—or more—of the book were missing. See Bones in the Belfry indeed. ...more
Between the easy-to-read prose, the clever plot, and the intriguing characters, One Blood feels like a solid new offering in a long line-up of mysteriBetween the easy-to-read prose, the clever plot, and the intriguing characters, One Blood feels like a solid new offering in a long line-up of mysteries featuring Sister Conchita and Sergeant Kella. I was surprised to see it's only the second.
Kella is on the Solomon Islands Police Force in 1960. He's caught between whitey's culture and his own island culture, both a cop and an aofia, that is a hereditary spiritual peacekeeper. While it's true that an exotic location and a cop or detective caught between two cultures is a well-worn set-up in the mystery genre, it's also true that it's often used because it can work really well. Kent makes it work, especially with the addition of the feisty Sister Conchita into the mix. Sister Conchita is the new leader of a mission that's become inward rather than outward looking, and she's got to shake up three elderly nuns who would prefer things stay the same.
Sergeant Kella is investigating sabotage at a logging camp, while Sister Conchita wants to know the truth about the death of an American who died suspiciously at an open house at the mission. He died soon after reaching out to Sister Conchita, and she knows she should have slowed down long enough to talk with him. The two cases are connected, of course. The fact that these were the islands where President John F. Kennedy's PT boat sank, leaving the future president and his crew to hide in the jungle from the Japanese, also plays a role in the story.
Another great book through the Goodreads firstreads program!...more
If you like Agatha Christie you'll like Carola Dunn, who writes with the dame's ease. This mystery has a classic feel to it that invites a reader to lIf you like Agatha Christie you'll like Carola Dunn, who writes with the dame's ease. This mystery has a classic feel to it that invites a reader to light a fire in the study and retreat to that easy chair next to it, cup of tea in hand and the little Jack Russell terrier at your feet. The story is a "who done it" puzzle as easy to enjoy as a drift down one of England's canals.
Writer Dunn is an expat Brit living in Eugene, Oregon. If you're English and land in the United States, it's hard to imagine a more copacetic place than Eugene -- maybe Corvallis, up the road, or Ashland, just south with its Shakespeare Festival, or even Portland... but all of them share a green rolling landscape and cultural sensibility that must have helped Dunn settle in. Even so, her nostalgia for England, rural Dorset in this case, had me wanting to book tickets. Gone West, set in the 1920s, has the requisite yet-to-be-electrified manse; country folk both dour and genial; a clever detective, Daisy Fletcher, a writer whose husband works for Scotland Yard -- a real detective, who is in turns appreciative of Daisy's help and exasperated by her meddling.
Daisy has driven from London out to the wilds of southwest England at the request of an old school acquaintance, a widow Daisy doesn't know well. The woman is secretary to a sickly author of Western pulp fiction -- he puts out three books a year, books that have become much better sellers since his long and worsening illness necessitated Daisy's old friend taking on the writing. Is someone in the household dosing him, keeping him sick so the secretary can keep up the writing?
The writer dies a bit more than halfway through the book, and now it's up to Daisy to make certain the killer doesn't go free.
Gone West has a great cast of characters, memorable insights into human nature scattered throughout, and a spot-on evocation of 1920s England, complete with obscure card games and the best description of how difficult automobile driving used to be that I've ever read. ...more
This book put me off a few months ago - I read the first dozen pages and set it back on my shelf. Then came all those movie trailers of Daniel Craig aThis book put me off a few months ago - I read the first dozen pages and set it back on my shelf. Then came all those movie trailers of Daniel Craig and I was inspired to give it another try.
Thanks Mr. Craig. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a lot of fun - and it's lasting fun. So many good books end all too soon, but Dragon Tattoo is a hefty 590 pages leading a reader on. And on. And on. Just when the main mystery wraps up, around page 490, the other one kicks in.
The characters feel enjoyably real and multi-faceted (including Sweden itself); the plot is well twisted; and the writing is invisible... you're simply there. The book also offers great insights into the best and worst of journalism, and its hero is a journalist - hooray!
I still haven't seen the movie, and a friend tells me that it's the Swedish version that's better. Hollywood prettified the characters, she complained, explaining that Daniel Craig isn't a good fit for the journalist hero.
Mmm. Maybe. I've been picturing him as the hero, however, and it hasn't hurt my enjoyment of the book one whit....more
I'd never read a Spellman mystery and but I expect to go back and read some of the earlier books in this series now that I've at last cracked this oneI'd never read a Spellman mystery and but I expect to go back and read some of the earlier books in this series now that I've at last cracked this one open. Author Lisa Lutz is seriously funny, with a unique style that is immediately appealing. Probably everyone but me has known for years that the Spellmans are an eccentric family of private eyes in San Francisco. It's a great set-up for comedy.
This mystery is more about the Spellmans' antics than the clients, but by the book's end Lutz has circled around with a couple of twists that surprised me regarding Isabel Spellman's investigations.
Trail of the Spellmans is a great beach read, perfect for a flight. I loved it.