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Pick-a-Shelf: Monthly > 2008-10 - Mystery - Post October Reviews Here

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Tien (tiensblurb) | 2530 comments Mod
Here we go...

Please post below the title of book you have read for our mystery month of October. Also include author, rating, and a short review (just a few sentences).

Each reviews below gives you an entry for the draw for December shelf picking :)


Liz (busy91) | 43 comments Size 12 is Not Fat by Meg Cabot

The first 299 pages of this book were pretty ordinary. The writing wasn't that great and I thought the story line was pretty lame. Being familiar with Tiffany and Debbie Gibson, I could relate to Ms. Wells past life, but after a while all the pop star references were getting pretty old. Toward the end of the book it got interesting. One thing I have to say is that I did not figure out who the killer was, and the action really picked up, at that point I had to finish. I did like the 'resolution' as well. This is why I upped my original grade of 2 stars which I was fully planning to give it, to three stars. The ending saved the book.



Andrew (sir_reads_a_lot) The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

I was bored by the first 100 pages or so of this book. I just couldn't get into it. But, after the action picked up, I couldn't put it down. It got so intense that I read it through two classes. It was really good, and what could have been a really cheesy ending, wasn't. So for that, I gave it 4 stars.


Jennie | 12 comments Ooh, glad to hear good things about Ripley. As I said in a previous forum, I wasn't crazy about the movie but felt it had a lot of potential so I might try the book.


Mita (MitaB) | 104 comments The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

The Body in the Library tells the story of a mysterious body of a murdered young woman found in an old couple's library. It features the adorable Miss Marple, an old village lady whose understanding of human nature proved her much sharper than people expected her to be. Interestingly, though it is a Miss Marple mystery, much of the book does not feature her until at good halfway into the story, assisting the police's investigation in her own distinct grandmotherly way.

I guess it's a feeling you can't help but to notice after reading several (or in my case, nearly all) of Agatha Christie's books that they are very similar. Indeed, Agatha Christie's books are very dependable. They are mostly simple, easy, and very formulaic. However, no matter how many of her books you've read, still they manage to intrigue and tickle your curiosity, enveloping you in a charming post-Victorian English mannerism.

So if you're looking for good, easy mystery reads, you can never go wrong with an Agatha Christie book.

Three star simply for being another delightful Agatha Christie book.


Mita (MitaB) | 104 comments The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

The Murder at the Vicarage is the first Agatha Christie where we're introduced to the frail, gentle elderly spinster, Miss Jane Marple. Different from most other Christie books written using third person POV, this one utilises a first person POV from the Vicar's perspective, which helps introduce us better to the characters in St Mary's Mead, in particular Miss Marple.

The story itself is pretty common, but doesn't make it any less interesting. A Colonel was found murdered in the vicarage study and it seems that almost everyone has a motive to kill him. The plot may not be the best thing of the story, but Miss Marple's sharp observation of human nature more than made up for it.

Another three star for being an Agatha Christie book, though if we had halves, I'd give it an extra half because of the different pov from the usual Christie books.


Tien (tiensblurb) | 2530 comments Mod
smashing review, Seth


Tien (tiensblurb) | 2530 comments Mod
As long as the book falls within the mystery shelf, please do :)


Mita (MitaB) | 104 comments Passenger to Frankfurt by Agatha Christie

I love Agatha Christie books, but this is probably one book of hers that I couldn't get into and cannot like, ever. It's a political spy/mystery thriller, I suppose, but even after three quarters of the book I still couldn't clearly grasp what the real issue is. The characters are very stale, and the dialogues long and winding. I've tried to plough through to the end, but it doesn't get any better. Not a good one, Miss Christie! One star.


Melissa (Melitious) Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz

This book is a sequel to The Spellman Files, which I read in August, after I had my son. The Files was a great book to read -- it was fun and interesting. While I was a little disappointed in how it ended, I realize that's just how life is. Now, onto The Curse . . . I absolutely loved this one! You've already gotten to know the characters, a quirky family who runs a private investigating business in San Francisco. It's easier to follow the zany adventures of Isabel Spellman, who just can't seem to keep herself out of trouble. I read this in just a few short days, and am kind of sad that it was over. The only thing about these books that gets me, which I find fun but also distracting -- the narrator uses a lot of footnotes (they're not always overly informational) and sometimes I just hate to break away from the actual story to read this. I gave this five stars as it was a great break from the other books that I've been read. Well done, Lisa Lutz!


Sharron What the Dead Knows by Laura Lippman

The story revolves around the disappearance of two sisters from a Baltimore mall. Their bodies are never found and no clues emerge even after one detective works on the case for years. Then a woman turns up claiming to be the younger of the two sisters and it is now thirty years later. But the woman refuses to give many details. She plays a game with the detectives. The chapters switch between past and present timelines. I found this book to be very engrossing and I was honestly suprised at the ending. Perhaps it is because I haven't read a mystery for so long but I failed to see some of the clues. I gave this book a four star rating since it held my attention so well and I was very satisfied at the ending.


message 12: by Lanica (last edited Oct 06, 2008 08:55AM) (new)

Lanica | 14 comments The Devil You Know by Mike Carey



Here's what I posted in the book review field on the site...

Genre: Supernatural Mystery
Audience: Adult
Setting: London
Notes: First in a series

Review:
Felix Castor, known as Fix to his friends, is an exorcist in and alternate modern day London. He is hired to remove a ghosts in an archive, but in the course of this relatively simple job he uncovers a mystery.

Each character is fully developed and intriguing, but often seem disconnected from the other characters. It isn't until near the very end that it comes clear that two or three plot lines are actually tied together. Fix feels that they are connected somehow from early on but readers are as clueless to the connections as he is until the mystery is solved.

* * * * *

Here's what I didn't put in the review:

I liked this book, especially the characters and the setting. Castor creates a world that's new, but not too extreme. He explains why there are ghosts and zombies and such, but doesn't make anything seem too fantastic to be 'real'. I think this is a good book for people who are leary of trying a 'paranormal' book, but enjoy dark mysteries. I'm a fan of Patricia Cornwell, John Sandford and the like. This is a dark world, there's a light touch of sex and a relatively good mystery.

What I didn't like about it was my own ignorance of London and British-English. There were a lot of terms that caught me off guard (Restaurant order: "A pint of heavy and a packet of crisps." is one example) and the decriptions of Fix's travels were all foreign to me. He talked about Kings Cross and the tube stations as though I should know which neighborhoods were good and which were bad. If the neighborhood was really bad he did a good job discribing it, but most of the locals were glossed over after a couple sentances. Likely Brits reading about LA might have the same issues.


message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Book 1 by Alexander McCall Smith

Although I read lots of mystery books I had previously avoided this one due to all the hype however it was the first one on the top shelf page that I hadn't read and had easy access to a copy of.

I have a full review on the book's page but here's an extract

I'm not quite sure how a white, male Scottish law lecturer speaks so authoritatively in the voice of a black woman from Botswana but it certainly feels authentic. Everything from the design of the cover to the language of the opening passages transported me immediately to Africa and that sense of place was never lost. My favourite thing about the story is that it is full of good, hardworking, fun-loving people because it's not a picture often painted about Africa...It would be easy to dismiss this book as a light read but it does tackle important issues such as domestic violence, poverty, loneliness and the differences between what is legal and what is moral or just. It just does it gently rather than with copious amounts of blood and gore. While I like those books too I found this one an unexpectedly delightful read: one of those books I feel grateful to have found.


message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

LOL Lanica...you'd think with us all speaking the same language we'd never have these translation issues but I have them all the time too (we use more British terms than American ones in our version of English here in Australia). In case no one has yet translated that sentence for you...A pint is the largest glass of beer you can order at a pub or bar, heavy is a generic style of beer on tap (i.e. not a brand) and crisps are what we call potato chips


Tien (tiensblurb) | 2530 comments Mod
Bones to Ashes by Kathy Reichs (3 stars)

It was overall an easy read and quite intriguing. The main character, Temperance Brennan, is a forencis anthropologist and there are many many scientific references throughout the book. As I'm mainly not a science person, most of these details just sort of go over my head so whilst I appreciate the spin, I didn't really think it's necessary to go to that depth.

The book begins with a nostalgic rememberance of her childhood friend who suddenly left and would not reply to her letters. Certain circumstances triggered her to search for this missing friend whilst still working her cases. The end just seems a little bit convenient.

What I really like from this book in the series is her relationship with her sister, Harry. Which I don't think was prominent in the other books. Or at least Harry was merely passing by in the other books but here she's featured quite a bit. It made a welcome change.


Christina (incandescence) | 14 comments I also did Size 12 Is Not Fat by Meg Cabot.

This is what I wrote for my review (3 stars):
I thought this book started off ridiculously boring. Not to mention the author clearly loved her em dashes and used them in just about every second sentence. I love my side thoughts as much as the next person, but to be interrupted that many times as she trails off on yet another tangent? Offputting.

Eventually, the book settles and the em dashes disappear. Right around the time of the first murder. Which is when the book really picks up, actually becoming really fast paced and humourous and witty. There are some seriously laugh-out-loud moments that just had me rolling on the floor, and I think they make up for the slow pace and overused em dashes in the first 100 pages or so.

I'm also not that much a fan of the whodunnit, but this one completely caught me by surprise and I really enjoyed the mystery aspect. Over all, really entertaining.


message 17: by Julianne (last edited Oct 09, 2008 05:03AM) (new)

Julianne | 42 comments The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz (5 stars)

FYI-this book is the first in a series. Book 2 is reviewed in Message 12 of this thread! I let my sister borrow this book from me before I read it, so she's made it to #2 in the series before me.


This book is the first in a new series about a family of PIs. It's told from the perspective of Izzy Spellman, an (almost) 30 year old who's been working for her parents since she was 12 years old. She's a bit of a "loose cannon", who tries to be "normal" in a family that is unabashadely abnormal.

Here is my review:

Yeah! I'm so glad I read this one. It came at a perfect time for me--I just read House of Leaves, and needed something humorous and action packed. I laughed out loud at least a dozen times with this one.

Lutz has really committed to her characters. Though the Spellmans are not deep characters, they are well designed. Each fills their own role, and the dialogue is both hilarious and realistic for those characters. I was able to appreciate and "love" them all.

Lots of truths to this book, too. The whole idea that it's better to be a guy on a stake out cause you can pee in a bottle--yeah, my DH shared that with me, too--how glamorous.

Not sure where Lutz got her inspiration, but the actions and interactions of her family of PIs seems accurate, funny, and endearing.

I look forward to more in this series. It's a lighthearted "mystery" series that will keep you turning the pages, if only to see what this funny family does next


Lindsay | 3 comments I read the The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig
and I gave it three stars. Here is my review:

Eloise Kelly is a modern day scholar investigating the romantic spies in France in the 1800s. Through a lucky break she obtains access to some diaries which slowly unravel the mystery of the Pink Carnation, one of the most mysterious secret agents of the time.

The story jumps between the present and the challenges in Eloise's life as she is reading the diary, and historical France. One of the issues I had was that while parts about Eloise were written in the first person, when jumping back in time it wasn't done in a diary format but was written in the third person. However, this was probably excusable as it did deal with different characters.
The mystery slowly developed and although I did think I had it pegged at the start I wasn't actually right. That said, the ending did fit well with the rest of the story.

The characters were all strong and interesting and easy to like and the story flowed well, building up intrigue and excitement as it went.

This may be a bit chic-lit for some mystery readers but overall I enjoyed it.


Tien (tiensblurb) | 2530 comments Mod
Lindsay, sounds intriguing - I'm going to have a read for myself! Thanks! :)


Mita (MitaB) | 104 comments The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

It is quite a feat how a Scottish professor could capture the feel of Africa to make you forget that the writer isn't African himself, but that's what Alexander McCall Smith did with The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency.

My initial expectation of this book is to go into some sort of Miss Marple-ish mystery, but I was proven wrong. Ladies' Detective Agency does have a little bit of sleuthing, but it's not what drives it. It is a collection of loosely-tied light detective work and backstories that builds the life of Precious Ramotswe, Botswana's only lady detective! It actually deals more with human nature and culture, some very definitely African on the surface but have very universal parallels to people everywhere. For that, I think this book will appeal more to general readers than mystery fans looking for a thrilling detective story - two stars!


Ann from S.C. | 25 comments I read SAY GOODBYE by Lisa Gardner. It was very good, and remminded me why my husband and I are such freaks about letting our boys out of our sites. This book is in a series, but you don't have to read them in order. It was a quick read and I would recommend it!


Tien (tiensblurb) | 2530 comments Mod
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
2.5 stars

This book is a spin off of Bram Stoker's Dracula set in a new era with new spins to the vampire lores. It begins with a young girl who found a strange book along with an even stranger letter which prompted her to ask her father for the story behind these items. The stories told spans 3 generations (her grandparents, her parents, and her own).

The book is written almost in the same format as Dracula; that is in the form of letters & journal entries. However it has some narratives also.

The first half of the book was very hard to get into. The way it was written was almost like a formula; a chapter is made up of 1-1.5 pages of narrative then 5-10 pages of journal entry then 0.5-1 page of narrative. It was very hard to follow as the focus shifted to often and I feel that everytime the story was getting good, the focus shifted and I lost a bit of my interest along the way.

In saying the above, it was much improved in the second half of the book. It doesn't follow the above formula anymore and I could actually get into the stories (past & present) and was able to enjoy it. But it was a tough first 500 pages.


message 23: by Julianne (last edited Oct 14, 2008 04:53PM) (new)

Julianne | 42 comments Curse of the Spellmans: A Novel by Lisa Lutz--5 stars

Second in the series. Once I finished the first one I ran (okay, not ran. Drove. It's not that close) to the library and picked up the sequel.

Melissa already gave a review of this one, too. I enjoyed it, and would recommend this one for all those who like to laugh out loud and love clever dialogue in their books.


Julianne | 42 comments Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie--3 stars

This was an audiobook, and I was not a fan. The first Hercule Poirot book I've "read". The audio was in radio format (where, instead of a reader, the dialogue and setting was acted out audially). I didn't like that format.

However, I thought it was a good story. I'll be reading my next Poirot.


Tien (tiensblurb) | 2530 comments Mod
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

5 stars

Margaret Lea, an amateur biographer, received a letter from a well known novelist to hear her story. The novelist, Vida Winter, is known to always tell a glamorous and different stories of herself when asked. Intrigued, Margaret decides to at least visit and at least speak to this mysterious persona. From then on, she was drawn to the story like a moth to a light.

I was really looking forward to reading this book that I was scared of being let down. BUT from the top of page 2, I was completely sucked in - the specific line was "I was so seduced by the descriptions of...". THat's it, I was gone, I was seduced, trapped yet not willing to let go.

The language employed was amazing. I love the words used to described locations, the weather, the sky, the feelings, etc. It's one of the best mystery novels I've read in a long time.

Note: I love the doctor's diagnose of her 'ilness', it tickled me to no end. I'd buy the book for keeps just for that. lol


Lisa THE DAUGHTER OF TIME by Josehine Tey
5 stars

This book was not your typical mystery novel. It begins with a police inspector injured by all things, by falling through a trapdoor. Inspector Grant in intested in faces. One of his friends brought him several portraits of individuals involved in mystery. In the stack was a portrait of Richard III. To end his boredom while bedbound, he looks into the history surrounding Edward IV, Richard III, the Princes in the Tower, and Henry VII. With the help of a young American working at the British Museum, they build a case against the true villian in the story and what really happened to the sons of Edward IV, known as the Princes in the Tower.

I found this book engrossing. It is a quick read with just over 200 pages. I will be reading more of the books by Josephine Tey


message 27: by Lynlee4 (last edited Oct 16, 2008 06:34PM) (new)

Lynlee4 | 129 comments
Hold Tight by Harlan Coben~4 stars
This was my first read by this author but it won't be my last. It was a quick read, good characters, timely issues...what's not to love?



message 28: by Jennie (last edited Oct 18, 2008 08:38AM) (new)

Jennie | 12 comments THE GLASS OF TIME, by Michael Cox -- 2.5 stars

This summer I read "The Meaning of Night", the book that comes before "The Glass of Time". (Not sure if this will turn into a longer series, or if it will just be these two of the author's books that are related.) While, I enjoyed "The Glass of Time" for the most part, it was a bit of a letdown after "The Meaning of Night". TGOT sucked me in and I really enjoyed the first 300 or so pages, but I had some issues with how the author dramatically presented a lot of the material as the book wore on. First of all, if you read TMON, most of the "revelations" in TGOT are not new to you. It almost makes you wonder if you should read the books in reverse order, thinking of TMON as a prequel. Also, one of the central relationships is not fleshed out well enough, in my opinion, and takes away a lot of the impact that the last 1/3 of the book could have carried. I think this book is worth reading if you've read TMON and really enjoyed it. It is interesting to get a different take on the events of that book. However, I'm not sure I can recommend TGOT on its own.

Angel, I agree about "One for the Money". I thought it was fun, and will keep the Steph Plum books in mind for when I'm in the mood for a "beach read" or something enjoyable and quick. However, I'm not sure that I will end up feeling the mania for the series that others do. We'll see.




Stephanie (Stephanie-SoManyBooks) The Cold Dish By Craig Johnson - 4 stars

This was good mystery and is the first of the Sheriff Walt Longmire series. I liked the characters in this book. They were engaging and humorous in spite of the subject matter which, as the title suggests, is a story of revenge.

I liked the dialogue and the descriptions of the Wyoming landscape. The foul-mouthed deputy, the steadfast Cherokee friend, the beautiful but somewhat enigmatic lady friend all wound together to make a decent mystery and fun read.


Melissa (Melitious) What's a Ghoul to Do? by Victoria Laurie
Somewhere between 3.5-4 stars

This was a pretty quick read. Very fun. You definitely have to suspend reality to believe in the whole ghost hunter thing, but I was able to. I will say, compared to the stuff I've been reading lately, the writing quality is subpar. At certain points, I felt like I was reading something I could have written in high school (the same jokes were used throughout). It was a fun read, though, and Laurie was able to keep me interested in what was happening next with ghost hunter M.J. Holliday and her sidekick Gilley Gillespie as they try to help Dr. Steven Sable solve the mystery behind the death of his grandfather and rid his lodge of ghosts who refuse to move on.


Luann (AZbookgal) | 988 comments Mod
Aunt Dimity's Death by Nancy Atherton

Aunt Dimity’s Death is the first book in a cozy mystery series by Nancy Atherton. Maybe I enjoyed this so much because I’m a sucker for cozy mysteries, but I also loved Lori and Bill’s budding romance and the friendly paranormal visits by Aunt Dimity. Immediately after finishing Aunt Dimity’s Death, I rated it five stars and added every other book in the series to my “to-read” list. The library copy I read was signed by the author and stamped with a large, pink bunny stamp – which is significant if you know the story.


Julianne | 42 comments Luann,

I read Aunt Dimity's Death a few months ago and I LOVED it! I love the term "cozy mystery"--I think that fits it perfectly. I am adding the books in the series one by one, but haven't read another yet.

Enjoy!


Vicki I am finally finished. I was almost worried I wouldn't make it in October, but I did and I am glad. I really did love this book.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield.


The Thirteenth Tale is a story of a biographer and an author who has never told her life story. She writes Margaret to offer her the chance, but Margaret is slightly put off by all the stories she has told in liu of her biography. However, she visits her out of curiousity and Vida Winter sparks her interest.

I thoroughly enjoyed the two story lines and compelling ways the lives of Vida Winter and Margaret Lea interweave. The characters is Miss Winter's story are intriguing and leave the reader wanting more. In addition, the whole novel was written with such case of the language that I loved every sentence.


Marsha I JUST picked up Case Histories from the library yesterday, so I will be running a little behind. I have to finish American Gods first.


Melissa (Melitious) Just finished Demons Are a Ghoul's Best Friend. Man, this one was much better in my opinion than What's a Ghoul to Do?. We joined Ghost Hunters M.J. Holliday and Gilley Gillespie and their new partner Dr. Steven Sable as they head up to Lake Placid to help rid a boarding school of a hatchet-wielding poltergiest. This one creeped me out a lot more than the other. I felt the mystery was a little more developed than the first book in the series. Laurie redeemed herself by not really repeating a lot of the situations that occurred in the first book. That's one thing I can't stand about series books -- when they tell you what's happened in the last book or in the first books of the series. She also chilled out a bit with the language barrier jokes.

I give this one 4.5 stars! Looking forward to March of 2009, when the next book comes out.


Tien (tiensblurb) | 2530 comments Mod
oh, Mel, I read What's a Ghoul to Do a while ago... it was ok but I wasn't interested enough to pick up the next one but since you think the second book is better I might look into it :)


Melissa (Melitious) Karen, I was almost insulted reading the first one at some points. If you learn to look past some of her writing shortcomings, the story are much better. I do like how I'm DYING to get through the last 60 pages or so, when things start to fall together. Give it a try, I'm glad I did.


Jamie The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins - This book was pretty good (I gave it 4 stars). I enjoyed how the book changed perspectives and methods of storytelling throughout, and it was pretty engaging. I did think, however, that some of the characters were quite dense at times (it was a bit frustrating that they couldn't see the obvious). Additionally, I found the major events and the conclusion to be not at all surprising. Check out the book's page for a summary.



Melissa (Melitious) I finished 4th of July by James Patterson this morning. I had stopped reading the Women's Murder Club series after 3rd Degree, where at the very end of the book, there is a HUGE factual error. I'm glad I picked them back up, though. They are a quick, fun read. But, let me tell you, I never knew San Francisco had such a serial killer problem! :-P But, anyway, this was a nice change of pace, in a way. I agree with what Julie had told me when I started that this book was a nice look at the other side of being a cop. Anyway, I gave it 4 stars and am actually looking forward to reading 5th Degree at some point.


message 40: by Jamie (last edited Nov 01, 2008 01:09PM) (new)

Jamie Guess I got here a bit too late with my last mystery book for October, but I thought I'd mention it anyway. I just finished The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith and will be giving it 2 stars. At first, I thought it was going to be a charming little mystery. As it rambled on in many, many philosophical tangents, though, it just got tedious. This was not a quick read, as I'd imagined. Really, it felt like all of the philosophical stuff was just filler for a not-so-exciting mystery. In the end, the mystery was solved abruptly with a bunch of loose ends remaining. Throughout the book, the language and tone got on my nerves a bit, as well. Like this: "Perhaps one became accustomed to doing things well and then felt frustrated when one did other things less well" - using the word "one" all the time may sound proper, but (to me) it doesn't make for very fun reading! I doubt I'll go any further with this series.


message 41: by Laura (last edited Nov 07, 2008 01:03AM) (new)

Laura Lisa, I also loved this book - The Daugther of Time, after have read The Sunne in Splendor by Sharon kay Penman and We Speak no Treason.


Laura http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24...

Apparently, this is a mystery book which setting is the discovering of a crime occurred several years ago with a Swedish ambiance. However, with the story development, we truly are engulfing in very actual plots containing internet hacker, financial crimes and behind the scene of magazine publishers.

What a book!!


Mita (MitaB) | 104 comments I know this review is overdue for an entire month. This book is on my October list but it was borrowed by a friend until recently so I can only finish it now!

Hallowe'en Party by Agatha Christie

Ariadne Oliver attended a Halloween Party for eleven pluses when a young girl boasted of having seen a murder. At the end of the night, the girl was found dead her head drowned in the apple-bobbing tub. When Hercule Poirot came to investigate, he discovered that there is more to it than just the murder of the young girl.

The story itself is typical of an Agatha Christie book. Not much actually happened in the bulk of the book except Poirot's going around interviewing people and gathering information. And also typical Christie, the ending is unexpected, though it did feel a little out of the blue.

This is not a bad Christie book, but nothing uniquely interesting to make it a stand-out either. The lack of action sort of makes it dull, but at least Christie always leave everything explained in the end! For that I'll give it two (and a half) stars!


Sonja (crvena_sonja) Here's another overdue review but I couldn't help throwing my hat in the ring...

Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder and Strawberry Shortcake Murder 3.5 *'s each

These are the two first books in Joanne Fluke's Hanna Swensen mysteries series. I picked them up because I needed something happy with a little substance to it. The books are very cute and light, and where they aren't light, the seem cartoony or implausible enough to make distancing from the story easy. This allows them to be an enjoyable read without a whole lot of tense drama.

Hannah Swensen has many of the usual problems of a young woman on her own: she owns her own business, her mother is constantly on her case to get married, and she is completely addicted to chocolate. On the other hand Hannah's business is called The Cookie Jar, she has two very different men vying for her attentions, and she keeps finding dead people all over her small Minnesota home town.

I think the motives are a little farfetched in these murders but Hannah is a completely lovable character with plenty of voice and a level approach to almost every situation. On top of this, the books are riddled with RECIPES for the desserts she makes in the story. I have yet to try any of them but a couple sound really excellent. (As an added benefit, the recipes come with tips on HOW to make them just perfect instead of making the reader go through trial and error.)

So overall, these are not fabulous literature by any stretch but are great for some light reading and, potentially, some cold weather baking as well.




Clarice  (ClariceAsquith) | 1 comments Better late than never:

It is obviously quite difficult to review a book that has been commented upon so many times, and it is therefore challenging to come up with anything new that hasn't already been said or written by others before. Nevertheless, here is my opinion on "Death on the Nile": If you like murder mysteries and the quintessentially English "whodunnit", then this should certainly be a candidate on your "must-read" list. Christie's story is unputdownable and a perfectly crafted example of the genre. The author introduces a myriad of characters, which is quite often a guarantee for confusing your readers. This is not the case with "Death on the Nile" and due to the author's skill you will remain on top of the story and its various sub-plots at all times. As with all murder mysteries, it pays to have your attention on details revealed throughout the story, but in "Death on the Nile" it is difficult to guess in advance, who really was the perpetrator of the three murders. In the end I had to rely on the guidance of the ingenious Hercule Poirot.

In this context I have to admit, how glad I am only to have watched snippets of the Hercule Poirot film adaptations, which enabled me to imagine a Poirot that was rather different from the character in the films. Above all, by reading the Poirot books you are not constantly bothered by Poirot's stylised French (sorry, Beligian-French)accent. Instead, you get a chance of improving your rudimentary language skills when Poirot throws in a few remarks in French here in there. The same applies to the Teutonic character, Dr Bessner. The different nationalities of the characters lend themselves very well to stereotyping and Christie seems to thrive on this throughout the book.
Another interesting aspect permeating the whole story was Christie's rather subtle mockery of the upperclass protagonists.

Reading the book in 2008, I was quite shocked by the extremely racist references about "wretched Negro children" and various other derogatory remarks about the natives. Perhaps, this should not come as a surprise, bearing in mind that another of Christie's stories was originally published under the title "Ten Little Indians", only to be renamed "Ten Little Niggers", which was scrapped again. The story is now titled "And Then There Were None", which obviously fits better with a post-colonial audience. Nonetheless, the book is so interesting, especially because we have to see it in its historical context.

Another downside for me was the superficial characterisation of the protagonists. This is naturally not Christie's fault (and as stated above, I think she has done a good job) but a generic problem of murder mysteries, especially when these often only span around 250 pages. I personally prefer the somewhat deeper psychological analysis of authors such as a Barbara Vine (aka Ruth Rendell). This criticism, however, only derives from personal preference and does not touch upon the author's skill. Without mentioning any details, I also think that the ending lets the book down a bit.

All in all, "Death on the Nile" was a page-turner and an enjoyable weekend-read, even though the denoument is a trifle disappointing. I will refrain from going into detail about this, but it felt a little rushed and unsatisfying to my mind. Despite this, the story is worth a read, and I guarantee you will get sucked into it, provided murder mysteries are your preferred genre.


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