Category: Amateur Sleuth
Mystery Memo # 116 featuring amateur sleuths
The Mystery Memo is a log of all of my mystery reading, with brief comments and a star rating for each book read. It is published every 4 to 6 weeks.
This Mystery Memo has one perfect read: Sara J. Henry's Learning to Swim, described below.
The following selections from my Mystery Memo # 116 features crime solvers who are not paid investigators like private eyes or police officers of any kind. They include journalists (Jan Burke's Irene Kelly, Julie Kramer's Riley Spartz), workers in forensics (Kathryn Fox's pathologist Dr. Anya Crichton, Ellie Griffith's forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway) and just plain amateur sleuths (Charles Todd's new series with World War I nurse, Bess Crawford and Sara Henry's young protagonist Troy Chance who sees a child fall off a ferry)
Click here to download the entire Mystery Memo # 116 and see all 16 mysteries.
Jan Burke: Disturbance (2011) ****
Book # 11 with reporter Irene Kelly in southern California
The serial killer in Bones (# 7 in series) has recovered from a serious injury and escapes from prison, determined to take vengeance against Irene. Half way through the book, he kidnaps her with the help of several of his sons. This was a fine action/adventure mystery, but it would be best to read at least Bones before this one.
First book: Goodnight, Irene
Kathryn Fox: Death Mask (2011) *** ½
Book # 4 with freelance pathologist and forensic physician Dr. Anya Crichton.
Anya has been invited to give workshops to professional football players about sexual behaviour. After several young football players with a connection to the same high school end up dead, she helps investigate. A complex plot but with less forensics than the others in the series.
First book: Malicious Intent
Elly Griffiths: The House at Sea’s End (2011) ****
Amateur detective/British police procedural.
Book # 3 with Ruth Galloway, forensic archaeologist.
Several bodies found in a seaside cave turn out to be German soldiers from WW2. A German researcher comes to town claiming he knows who they are but then he is murdered. Someone is determined to keep the secret of who killed these men, but Ruth and her sometime lover DCI Nelson are on the trail. This series is strongly character-driven with good archaeology content.
First book: The Crossing Places
Sara J. Henry: Learning to Swim (2011) *****
Book # 1 with Troy Chance, a young woman who works in Lake Placid, NY.
While on a ferry trip across the lake, Troy thinks she sees a child fall from a passing ferry. Without thinking, she jumps in and yes, a 6-year-old boy has been tied into a sweatshirt and is underwater. She rescues him and heroically swims to shore. The pace hardly slows down after she traces the boy’s father to Ottawa and accompanies the child back home. Troy is determined to get to the bottom of who threw the child in the water. Enthralling writing style, a good balanced character in Troy and an interesting narrative voice. A great read.
Julie Kramer: Silencing Sam (2010) *** ½
Book # 3 with television journalist Riley Spartz
Riley is the main suspect in the murder of a local gossip columnist. While trying to prove her innocence, she also tackles stories at a wind farm troubled by bombs. I find Riley’s point of view interesting.
First book: Stalking Susan
Charles Todd: An Impartial Witness (2010) *** ½
Book # 2 with war nurse Bess Crawford, set in England during WW1.
After Bess travels to England with a seriously injured pilot who constantly carries a photograph of his beloved wife, she sees the woman from the photo having an emotional scene with another man at the train station. When the woman is soon found murdered, Bess comes forward to the police with her information and gets involved looking into the woman’s life.
First book: A Duty to the Dead
posted by Sharon
WHAT I'M READING NOW:
The Devil's Dust
by C.B. Forrest
Canadian police procedural/investigator
Book # 3 with Charlie McKelvey, a 30-year veteran Toronto police detective, newly retired.
Description: Retired Toronto detective Charlie McKelvey runs from a cancer diagnosis and the violent memories of the big city and retreats to his hometown. A small declining mining centre in northern Ontario, Ste. Bernadette offers McKelvey a chance to resolve old family issues, including his fathers involvement in a deadly wildcat strike in the late 1950s.
When the local police force enlists his help in tracing an upswing in youth violence and vandalism, McKelvey stumbles into the hornets nest of a crystal meth industry....
First book: The Weight of Stones
Sam Thomas: The Midwife's Tale ****
Sam Thomas: The Midwife’s Tale (2012) ****
MBTB mini-review: I love an unusual point of view. Following midwife Bridget Hodgson through the dangerous streets of 1644 York brings that time period alive.
Here's what Booklist had to say: It is 1644, and civil war has erupted in York, England. The Parliament’s armies have revolted against the king and laid siege to the city, but midwife Bridget Hodgson still has babies to deliver. She soon finds an even bigger problem. Her friend Esther Cooper has been convicted of murdering her husband. She will burn at the stake if the real killer is not found. Bridget and her servant, Martha Hawkins, set out to save Esther. Martha has street smarts and excellent knife skills. The two women begin investigating while keeping clear of the rebel artillery and confronting an evil figure from Martha’s past. They find that Esther’s husband, an ostentatious Puritan, had a very sinister secret life. Moving from the dank alleys of the poor neighborhoods to the mansions of the rich, Bridget and Esther capture a brutal killer and find that traitors are often tyrants. The author is a historian, and his period detail creates a vivid atmosphere. The strong female characters and action-packed plot will please historical-mystery readers.
This is suggested for fans of Ariana Franklin's Mistress of the Art of Death series and C.J. Sansom's Matthew Shardlake series
## Related posts:
MBTB profile of Ariana Franklin
MBTB review of C.J. Sansom's Sovereign # 3
posted by Sharon
WHAT I'M READING NOW:
The Sound of Broken Glass
by Deborah Crombie
British police procedural
Book # 15 with Duncan Kincaid, a Scotland Yard superintendent, and Gemma James, a sergeant, in London, England
Summary: While investigating the murder of a well-respected barrister who was found dead at a seedy hotel in Crystal Palace, Detective Inspector Gemma James and her partner, Detective Sergeant Melody Talbot, begin to question everything they think they know about their world and those they trust most.
Jefferson Bass: The Inquisitor’s Key ****
The Inquisitor’s Key
By Jefferson Bass ****
# 7 with Dr. Bill Brockton, a forensic anthropologist in Tennessee, in the Body Farm series
MBTB review: Bill Brockton and Miranda Lovelady are called to Avignon, France to identify a set of mysterious bones found in a hidden chamber in the Palace of the Popes. Although the stone inscription hints that the bones might be those of Jesus, the two anthropologists remain skeptical while they attempt to identify the remains. When an attempt on their own lives is made, the pair realize things are not quite as they seem and the pressure is on to uncover the mystery of the two thousand year old bones.
This installation is completely different from the rest of the series and would fall more comfortably in the “archaeological thriller/mystery” category. Bass flips back and forth between the mystery of today’s discovery of the bones, and a medieval account of what happened. The forensic detail that we are so accustomed to is paired down and the history, archaeology and politics of the time are brought into limelight which was a nice change for me. As usual, Bass’ plot was action packed and we delved into Brockton’s love life a bit more than usual. Overall, a real page turner.
First book: Carved in Bone
## Related posts:
Spotlight on Jefferson Bass and the Body Farm novels posted in November 2009
MBTB full review of The Bone Thief # 5
MBTB full review of The Bone Yard # 6
posted by Shiela
Homicide in Hawaii
Aloha fellow readers, I'm off to sunny Hawaii and I thought I would share some of the titles I will be taking with me on vacation.
Primitive Secrets (2002)
By Deborah Turrell Atkinson
Book # 1 in the Storm Kayama series
An exciting new voice richly and suspensefully evokes modern and ancient Hawaii...
When Storm Kayama walks into her lucrative Honolulu law firm one morning, she's shocked--and grieved--to find her adopted uncle at his desk, stiff and cold. Years before, Miles Hamasaki had fulfilled a promise to Storm's father and brought her to be raised with his own family. But, as questions surround Miles' death and her adopted family begins to close ranks, Storm suspects that he has been murdered.
Heading to the Big Island for a weekend escape from escalating pressures, she narrowly escapes a terrible accident. Storm takes refuge in the home of her Aunt Maile, a traditional Hawaiian healer, and Uncle Keone, a paniolo on the huge Parker Ranch. There she encounters a legend from her youth and a family totem, or 'aumakua, which Aunt Maile promises will protect her. As Storm struggles to heal her own childhood wounds and bring justice to Hamasaki's killer, she also comes to grip with the rifts in her own life and culture. (Book Description)
The Green Room (2005)
by Deborah Turrell Atkinson
Book # 2 in the Strom Kayama series
Storm Kayama needs to build her clientele, so when surf promoter Marty Barstow's wife Stephanie walks into her new law office, Storm agrees to represent her, despite her distaste for a bitter divorce situation.
When Stephanie's son Ben, a promising surfer, invites her to O'ahu's North Shore for a contest, Storm jumps at the chance. Not only will it be a thrill to observe the meet, but Storm will also have the opportunity to watch a distant cousin compete. Nahoa Pi'ilani has grown from a mischievous kid to a surfer of international renown, and he seems to have put the trouble that once brewed between their families behind him.
Then a child delivers a package to Nahoa containing an ancient Hawaiian weapona wooden club encircled with shark's teeth. Storm recognizes the lei o mano. It's a threat, a call to battle.
Events soon suck her into a vortex of escalating peril. As if she were in the green roomthe underwater space where tons of churning water can imprison a surferStorm is buffeted and disoriented by local legend, greed, and cutthroat competition and must confront not only a vicious killer but a haunting incident from her past. (Book Description)
Hula Done It? (2005)
By Maddy Hunter
Book # 4 in the Passport to Peril series
For travel escort Emily Andrew and her fellow Iowans, aloha means "hello" to all the sun, surf, and scrumptious cuisine their Hawaiian cruise has to offer. But for Professor Dorian Smoker, a renowned expert on the legendary Captain Cook, aloha also means "good-bye" -- as in "man overboard."
Sure, it could have been an accident. But Emily wonders if some guest with a grudge might have knocked off the opinionated professor. Or maybe it had something to do with that missing journal Nana's friend lent him -- the one with the mysterious treasure map. Emily figures the map is probably a fake. But when another copy turns up, she and her friends take off, rafting down rivers and plunging through jungles to find the treasure themselves. Unfortunately, Professor Smoker's killer just might have the same idea. And this tropical heat wave could quickly turn into a crime wave... (Book Description)
The Flaming Luau of Death (2005)
By Jerrilyn Farmer
Book # 7 in the Madeline Bean Culinary Mystery series
When Holly Nichols sets her wedding date, trendy L.A. party-planner Madeline Bean decides to throw her top assistant the hippest and most lavish bridal shower on the planet. The guests embark on a “destination” party to a fabulous and exclusive spa/resort in Hawaii. The salt-rubs! The paraffin pedicures! The dead body in the mud bath! Ew. It doesn’t help matters when Holly confesses to Maddie that she can’t really go through with the upcoming wedding after all. In her effort to smooth the matrimonial path for her dear friend, Madeline must track down the mystery man Holly may have married ten years earlier and never actually got around to divorcing. How hard can that be? Well, with the elusive gentleman in question running from a gang of rare vegetable smugglers, the bridal shower guests imbibing in one “Bridesmaid Mojito” too many, the current fiancé developing an allergy to scandal, and a murderer on the loose, it looks like anything but clear sailing down the aisle for one of Mad Bean’s best employees. (Book Description)
Right from the Gecko (2007)
By Cynthia Baxter
Book # 5 in the Reigning Cats and Dogs series
Surf’s up . . . and so are the stakes when veterinarian and amateur sleuth Jessica Popper escapes to the land of hula, hibiscus, and geckos for a professional conference. The last time she and boyfriend Nick Burby touched down on the island of Hawaii, Nick caused a volcanic eruption when he unexpectedly popped The Question to commitment-phobic Jess. But this trip proves just as dangerous when Jess befriends an ambitious young reporter whose body later washes up on the sand . . . and someone thinks Jess holds the clue to the killer’s motive.
There’s no end of suspects among the exotic flora and fauna, from the victim’s journalistic rivals and a mystery boyfriend to an eccentric beachcomber and a governor’s aide with ties to a controversial biotech firm bringing progress to paradise. One of them is a killer with the chameleon-like ability to stay hidden?and if Jessica doesn’t uncover hula-dunnit in time, she’ll be saying aloha . . . permanently. (Book Description)
## Related post: Hawaii Mysteries (posted in 2010 - includes MBTB mini-reviews)
The Cozy Corner
With winter settling in, it's nice to pick up a good cozy and cuddle up by a roaring fireplace. Here are some that have caught my eye:
The Probability of Murder (2012)
By Ada Madison
Book #2 in the Sophie Knowles math series
Dr. Sophie Knowles is a professor with a way of making even the most complex math problems fun for her students. But when the school's beloved librarian is found shot to death in the stacks, Sophie learns that her friend was more complex than she ever knew. Now, Sophie must take on some rigorous deduction homework before the chances for another murder on campus increase exponentially... (Book Description)
By Ann Littlewood
#3 in the Zoo Mystery series
Zoo keeper Iris Oakley is sent to a remote farm in Washington State to rescue exotic animals after a drug bust. Instead of pets, she finds smuggled parrots and tortoises destined for sale to unscrupulous or unsuspecting collectors. The zoo’s facilities are full, and she ends up with two macaws shrieking in her basement. The marijuana grow operation and the meth lab are the cops’ problem. The smuggling side-line is hers. Then she discovers a woman who escaped the bust—dead. Iris has stumbled onto a violent crime, something far too dangerous for a widow with a young son. But it’s too late to untangle herself. (Modified Book Description)
Cast on, Kill Off (2012)
By Maggie Sefton
Knitting Mystery Book #10
Kelly Flynn’s knitting pal, Megan, is about to get hitched, and all the planning is falling into place. Megan has found the perfect seamstress, Zoe Yeager, to create the dresses for Kelly and the other bridesmaids. And each bridesmaid is knitting her own loose-knit shawl to drape over the lovely dresses. But Zoe has more than bolts of fabric and seam-cutters stashed away in her shop—she’s harboring a secret. Bruises on her face show a troubling side of her marriage, and just after she finds the courage to leave her husband, Zoe’s found dead from a single bullet shot.
Though her husband is a key suspect, it turns out there are others who might have had designs on Zoe’s death. One is fellow seamstress Leann O’Hara, who recently discovered Zoe won a bridal gown design contest with one of Leann’s own designs. Now it’s up to Kelly and her knitting pals to use their sleuthing savvy to solve the case, while helping Megan stay cool and collected as the big day approaches. They’ll have to stitch up all the loose ends before they can don their dresses and shawls and escort Megan into the land of happily ever after… (Book Description)
Foul Play at the PTA (2011)
By Laura Alden
#2 in the Beth Kennedy PTA series
PTA meetings at Tarver Elementary School can get pretty heated. But after parent Sam Helmstetter is strangled in his car following a meeting, mom and PTA secretary Beth Kennedy and her best friend Marina fear there may be a cold-blooded killer in the group... (Book Description)
Keep warm and Happy Reading!
Posted by Shiela
Paul Lawrence: The Sweet Smell of Decay (2009) ***½
The Sweet Smell of Decay
By Paul Lawrence
MBTB review: Harry Lytle is charged with investigating the brutal murder of his cousin Anne Giles. Assisted by his friend, a butcher named David Dowling, the two embark on a journey that takes them across the English countryside, through the dirty and smelly streets of the capital, and into the dreaded Tower of London in an attempt to seek justice. Dirty politics, seedy characters and miscommunication plague them at every step of the investigation and Lytle finds himself on the wrong side of the law and in a terrible, no-win situation.
Mixed feelings regarding this one. I really wanted to like the book and I did enjoy it overall but there were so many parts where the story just dragged on (albeit it REALLY picked up at the end). Set in 1664 London, Lawrence does a fantastic job describing the period details and setting--so much so that the reader can almost smell the “decay” and see the sights of England through Harry’s eyes. I'm going to give the second book in this series a try before adding this author to my "love it" or "leave it" category.
Posted by Shiela
Here's best link I've found for Hallowe'en mysteries:
Janet Rudolf's Mystery Fanfare Blog
Check out her post for October 25 for an extensive list of Hallowe'en Crime Fiction.
Here are a few spooky mysteries on the cozy side:
Night of the Living Deed by E.J. Copperman
# 1 with Alison Kerby, a guesthouse owner with two unexpected guests (ghosts) in her newly acquired Jersey Shore Victorian, in the Haunted Guesthouse mysteries
What's a Ghoul to Do by Victoria Laurie
# 1 with M.J. Holliday, a medium and ghostbuster, and her partner Gilley, in the Ghost Hunter mysteries
Half Way to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost
# 1 with the Night Huntress
Half-vampire Catherine Crawfield is going after the undead with a vengeance, hoping that one of these deadbeats is her father—the one responsible for ruining her mother's life. Fantastic Fiction
Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris
# 1 with Harper Connelly, a lightning survivor who can find bodies, and her stepbrother Tolliver, in Sarne, Arkansas
For a harder edged Hallowe'en read, see a previous MBTB post:
Something Creepy for Halloween
Want more? See this list using the key words "Halloween mystery fiction" in the online SILS catalogue.
posted by Sharon
Janice Hamrick: Death Makes the Cut (2012) ***½
Death makes the Cut
By Janice Hamrick
The first bell of the new school year hasn’t even rung, and Texas high school teacher Jocelyn Shore is already at the scene of a murder. Friend and fellow teacher Fred Argus has been found dead on campus, and it isn’t long before the annoying, albeit attractive, Austin police detective Colin Gallagher uncovers evidence that Fred might have been selling drugs to students. Shocked by her loss as well as the insinuation that Fred was a dealer who got what he deserved, Jocelyn starts asking the kinds of questions guaranteed to set fellow teachers, administrators, and parents on edge.
With the school serving as the setting for a big-time director’s latest film, her investigation could hardly have come at a worse time. Jocelyn, however, finds clearing her friend’s name far more important than the needs of a pesky movie crew and doesn’t care who knows it. But it’s only when she’s attacked while on set that she realizes someone is determined to make sure the secrets hidden by Fred’s death remain hidden no matter what the cost (abridged book description).
MBTB Review: There is more meat to this mystery than her previous attempt and Jocelyn’s (and Kyla’s) sassy attitude keeps the momentum going in Hamrick’s second book Death on Tour. I loved the back to school setting which is so appropriate for this time of the year and it made me nostalgic for when I was teaching (minus the body count of course!) Suspects and suspense were aplenty, sarcasm and hunky men abound, this cozy quick read will have you wanting more of Jocelyn Shore.
Don't forget to pick up Hamrick's first mystery Death on Tour.
Click here to read a full review of
Death on Tour
Posted by Shiela
Looking for a Beach Read? Try Beach Strip by John Lawrence Reynolds
Beach Strip by John Lawrence Reynolds
Here's some of what the Quill & Quire review had to say:
. . . The novel opens with the discovery of the body of police detective Gabe Marshall, the victim of an apparent suicide. This dramatic beginning immediately engages the reader’s sympathy for the protagonist, newly widowed Josie Marshall.
Unlike most amateur detectives, Josie is not inquisitive by nature. However, she refuses to believe her husband killed himself, even though she knows he had reason to: she was having an affair with his partner, which she ended shortly before Gabe’s death.. . .
Josie’s palpable grief and confusion carry the reader swiftly forward while her matter-of-fact narration and gallows humour prevent Beach Strip from becoming too morose. Reynolds handles this admixture deftly, and presents Josie as flawed, at times unlikeable, but entirely believable. Each new plot wrinkle propels the novel toward the surprising truth about exactly how Gabe died, but Reynolds’ complex heroine is the real star.
Read the entire Quill & Quire review here.
MBTB mini-review: The character of Josie and descriptions of the beach neighbourhood are very well written. Josie's actions looking into her husband's death are believable. An enjoyable read for a sunny day in a shady spot.
John Lawrence Reynolds is also the author of the series with Joe McGuire, a detective lieutenant in Boston, Massachusetts, who drops out to the Bahamas from time to time
First book: The Man Who Murdered God
## Related posts: Other MBTB posts about Beach Reads
posted by Sharon
WHAT I'M READING NOW:
Dead and Buried by Stephen Booth
Book # 13 with Ben Cooper, newly promoted to Detective Sergeant, and former partner, Diane Fry, now with the area's Major Crimes unit, in the Peak District in England
First book: Black Dog
Janice Hamrick: Death on Tour (2011) ****
Death on Tour
By Janice Hamrick
Texas high school teacher Jocelyn Shore and her cousin Kyla are on a “dream” tour of Egypt when things take a nightmarish turn: One of their fellow travelers, Millie Owens, takes a fatal fall off one of the Pyramids. And that’s only the first leg of the trip…
From the jovial doctor haggling for trinkets he doesn’t want to the mysterious imposter wearing someone else’s clothing to the attractive stranger traveling alone, this group of tourists is carrying more than one kind of baggage. Add a mistaken identity, a priceless necklace, and another unexpected death, and Jocelyn finds herself reluctantly trying to unravel an intrigue that threatens to end not only her vacation, but her life. (Book Description taken from Amazon)
MBTB Review: Apart from the actual mystery (which was so simplistic that I kept thinking my predictions couldn't possibly be right--but they were), there were so many other things going on in the novel that I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved the touring aspect of the story, the fact that one of them in the group is partaking in foul play and everybody's a suspect. The locale was also a real treat, it took me right back to our little stint in Egypt. The descriptions of the sightseeing was fleshed out enough to take me back, but no so much that I was bored. My favorite aspect of the novel was the relationship between the two cousins. Hamrick does a wonderfully accurate job at depicting typical female relationships especially when the two females are spending a little too much time with each other in close quarters--we do get a little snippy with each other but ultimately are there when it counts!!
This was a great little cozy and I'm looking forward to the next one in the series "Death Makes the Cut."
Posted by Shiela
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