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
Thomas Perry: Strip (2010) ****
Thomas Perry: Strip (2010) ****
This is a stand-alone, more a caper than a mystery.
MBTB review: When strip club owner Manco is robbed at the night deposit, he asks around and deduces that a new man in LA, Joe Carver, is likely the robber. Carver tries to tell Manco that he has the wrong man, but Manco won’t change his mind. In the meantime, the reader also sees the story from the point-of-view of the actual robber, a man who has no idea of the trouble he’s causing. Nicely written.
It reminded me of Donald Westlake’s books (e.g. the Dortmunder series - see Related Post below).
## Related post: Donald Westlake 1933 - 2008
This is a mini-review from Mystery Memo # 108
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Here's what Library Journal had to say:
/* Starred Review */ Former bar owner Joe Carver has come to L.A. with a new identity and lots of cash only to find that thugs hired by low-level mobster Manco Kapak are out to get him. Carver has been mistakenly fingered as the person behind the armed robbery of Kapak's night deposit, a hefty sum used in part to launder drug profits, only the first of many hits the gangster will absorb from a masked gunman. Failing to clear his name, Carver counterattacks. Along the way, readers meet bigamist detective Nick Slosser, who is juggling the demands of two families and trying to capture the increasingly brazen robber while investigating Kapak for a drug lord's murder. As these and other colorful characters spiral around each other with gripping intensity and one startling twist after the other, the question is: Who's going down, and who's getting away?
VERDICT Featuring rich, complex characters, Perry's 18th novel (after Runner ) is pure, unadulterated fun, sure to please not only the many fans of this master craftsman but also lovers of imaginative, character-driven thrillers a la Elmore Leonard.
posted by Sharon
WHAT I'M READING NOW:
by Deon Meyer
Book # 1 with Benny Griessel, an aging, alcoholic police inspector in Capetown, South Africa
Summary: In the aftermath of a gruesome child abuse case that has caught the attention of the media, Inspector Benny Griessel struggles to maintain his sobriety in order to bring down a vigilante killer who has won the sympathy of the public. NoveList
Next book: Thirteen Hours
series information from Stop, You're Killing Me!
Spencer Quinn: Thereby Hangs a Tail (2010) ****
Spencer Quinn: Thereby Hangs a Tail (2010)
Book # 2 with Bernie, a divorced ex-cop private investigator and his dog Chet. The book is from Chet’s point-of-view.
Bernie is hired to investigate a threat made against a dog show contestant. When the dog and the dog’s owner are snatched at gunpoint, Bernie and Chet are on the trail. I love the dog's point-of-view. Can't wait for the next book To Fetch a Thief, coming in September 2010.
First book: Dog On It (2009)
## Related post: MBTB review of Dog On It # 1
This is a mini-review from Mystery Memo # 104
* * * * * * * * * *
Here's what the BookList review had to say:
Quinn brings back the PI duo of Chet and Bernie (Dog On It ) for their second adventure. Their latest job seems too good to be true: provide bodyguard service for a prize-winning show dog and get paid $2,000 a day, that is until the mistress and dog are kidnapped a few hours after arriving in town. Missing persons are Bernie and his dog Chet’s specialty, and they investigate with vigor. As in Dog on It, Chet narrates the entire book, and his doggy point of view is refreshing and consistent. Despite not always being able to focus on long conversations and getting distracted by snacks and smells, Chet is clearly the better investigator of the two, and his narration pulls the reader along as if on a leash.
This fast-moving and fun series entry will certainly please Chet and Bernie fans as well as gain new readers with its all-ages appeal. Expect this series to become the hot new thing in animal mysteries.
posted by Sharon
Dave Diotalevi: Miracle Myx (2008) ****½
Miracle Myx is a fabulous read! The mystery is intriguing and takes some good twists and turns along the way, the writing is superb and the viewpoint of the detective, the way he perceives the world, is so unique that it makes for quite an original reading experience.
The book takes place in the small town of Miracle, Massachusetts and the detective is a 14-year-old boy named Myx Amens.
Myx has some unusual qualities, owing to the fact that he has come back from the dead twice. After the first time (when he was struck by lightning), he developed synesthesia, a condition in which a person's sensory pathways cross, so that they taste colours, see the shapes of sounds, etc.; after the second time (when he was drowned in a barrel by the town bully), he no longer sleeps, which allows him to put all those normally idle night-time hours to good use creeping through the houses of sleeping people, on the search for clues in his various investigations. (He also has a photographic memory so detailed that after holding a key in his hand for a few seconds, he can reproduce it from memory in the shop of his locksmith foster father, so he has gradually accumulated keys to most of the doors in town.)
When three grisly murders horrify the town, Myx seems to be the one person who sees the underlying pattern behind the deaths and the significance of the body parts which are mysteriously missing from each corpse. The Chief of Police has used Myx's unique gifts in the past, but will he trust a 14-year-old to help solve a murder?
Mike Resnick: Stalking the Vampire (2008) ***½
After a couple of gritty, gory very hard-boiled mysteries, Stalking the Vampire was just what I needed --- a fast, funny, light-hearted romp through the classic mystery form.
Admittedly, if you loathe science fiction, you won't like this book even though it follows all the rules for a great mystery plot: it's full of vampires, zombies, trolls and ingenious electronic gadgets not yet invented. Author Resnick is a much-decorated science fiction author who only occasionally dabbles in mysteries, but he certainly knows how to spin a yarn and entertain the readers.
Manhattan private investigator John Justin Mallory is horrified to find out that Rupert, the visiting nephew of his tough-girl partner Winnifred Carruthers, is halfway to becoming an unwilling vampire. In the wild street party that is New York City on Halloween night, can John Justin and his little band of helpers (including office cat-woman Felina and would-be mystery author/dragon Scaly Jim Chandler) find Rupert in time to save him from ruin? Well, actually NO they can't, but it turns out that someone got to Rupert in time at least to prevent his transformation --- by killing him first (hmmm -- is it still murder if the person you kill is already the next-best thing to undead?). One way or the other, John Justin owes it to Winnifred to track down the guilty party...
posted by Pat
Lisa Lutz: Curse of the Spellmans (2008) ***½
Curse of the Spellmans is the second book in Lutz' series about a family of private detectives, in particular about the oldest daughter Isabel, who is a tad ambivalent about the family business...
Aside from a bit of a stagnant stretch in the middle of the book which makes you feel like 2 a.m. on a 24-hour stakeout when the doughnuts and coffee ran out hours ago, I quite enjoyed Curse of the Spellmans. In this one, Isabel (Izzy)has her suspicions roused by the strange behavior of her parents' next door neighbour and becomes obsessed with discovering his secret identity (despite being arrested several times and slapped with a temporary restraining order for her troubles).
She also acquires a new ex-boyfriend, finally apologizes to Mrs. Chandler for vandalizing her 4th of July lawn display fifteen years before, considers dating Inspector Henry Stone and helps convince her workaholic parents to go on a disappearance (Spellman parlance for a vacation).
While not absolutely necessary, you'll probably get a lot more out of Isabel's "helpful" footnotes in this one if you've already met the Spellmans in the first title of the series The Spellman Files
Related post: MBTB review of The Spellman Files
A. Lee Martinez: The Automatic Detective (2008) ****
While I realize that I may not be completely alone in my passion for science fiction murder mysteries, it has to be said that I am at least travelling in pretty select company. If more mystery fans were open to trying a book like A Lee Martinez' The Automatic Detective, though, they might get a glimpse into why I like this crossover genre so much.
Mack Megaton is a 700-lb robotic killing machine who has been reprogrammed and rehabilitated; he's taken to his new life as a mild-mannered cab driver so well that he's now a candidate for full citizenship in Empire City --- a situation he's very reluctant to endanger by getting on the wrong side of the cops. But when his next door neighbour Julie Bleaker and her family are spirited away by mutant goons, Mack finds he can't just stand by and do nothing while the police pussyfoot around the criminal mastermind responsible...
Martinez always provides great entertainment and this is no exception: he has the feel of the hard-boiled detective story down cold (with half a twist of sardonic humor thrown in for fun), and the leap from a deadpan cool-customer detective like Sam Spade to one who really has no human emotions at all is not such a large one. (Of course, Mack ends up transcending his programming and gets in touch with his inner human, but he also discovers that his robot skills and superhuman strength come in darn handy in the detective game...)
posted by Pat
Victoria Laurie: What's a Ghoul to do? *** ½
What's a Ghoul to do? by Victoria Laurie
(The first book in the Ghost Hunter Mystery series) ***1/2
M.J. Holliday is a medium whose business is to help lost souls cross over to the other side. However, more often then not they are reluctant to go (especially those headed to a hotter location) or they have unfinished business that needs solving. Such is the case when the very steamy Dr. Steve Sable comes to hire her to discover what happened to his grandfather, who threw himself off the roof of the family lodge in an apparent suicide. Dr. Sable isn’t buying it and knows something more sinister is involved. Its up to M.J. and her partner Gilley to find out what.
This mystery falls into the fun/cozy area. It’s a quick read good for those times you need a little mind candy rather then something dense and absorbing. It has enough wit and banter to keep it amusing but not so much that it becomes annoying. Some of the ghosts encountered are gruesome enough to add a spooky element to these books, though certainly not over the top gory. This is the first book in the series, with a second one already published (sitting on my desk as I write waiting to be read) and a third one due out next year. This series makes for a great summer beach read, lots of fun and easy to read. If you enjoy this series you might also like Victoria Laurie’s Psychic Eye series, Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye being the first in the series.
-The Library Dragon
Derek Landy: Skulduggery Pleasant (2008)****
Skulduggery Pleasant (2008)
Okay, I know what you're thinking --- "Hey, that doesn't look like a murder mystery to me!" --- but it has a murder and a detective and it's basically about the solution of the murder (which happens to result in the salvation of the world). So I say that makes it a murder mystery!
I'm prepared to admit that the detective is actually a skeleton (rather than a complete human being with the usual complement of skin, hair, organs, etc.), and that his sidekick is a twelve-year-old girl named Stephanie (though I could make a very convincing case that even at twelve, Stephanie is at least as mature and competent a detective as Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum, for instance). On the other hand, it's one of the most entertaining and action-packed mysteries I've read in a long time, and Skulduggery and Stephanie make a very appealing team, as they battle the forces of darkness to bring the killer of Stephanie's uncle to justice.
For a brief synopsis of the plot, I will defer to the "executive summary" provided by the library cartoon Unshelved...
posted by Pat
Steve Hockensmith: The Black Dove (2008) **½
The Black Dove is the third installment in Hockensmith's series about cowboy brothers Old Red and Big Red Amlingmeyer, who fancy themselves disciples of Sherlock Holmes and --- despite a growing body of evidence to the contrary --- continue to believe that a lucrative career for them as famous private detectives is just over the horizon.
This book finds the brothers at loose ends after being summarily ejected from their latest job as railway detectives (which lasted only three days during which they were beaten, shot at, hurled from moving trains and "unintentionally party to the fiery destruction of a Southern Pacific engine" by causing it to plunge off a cliff), profiled in the second book of the series, On the Wrong Track. They travel to San Francisco where they meet up with several fellow casualties from their railroad escapade; within days one of them, a Chinese herbalist, is murdered, leading the brothers to apply their principles of "detectifying" in the interests of bringing their friend's killer to justice.
I may be getting too serious-minded about my murder mysteries, but I wouldn't mind if Hockensmith toned down the slapstick quality to Big Red's narration a little bit; it seems to me as if the whole thing is being played for laughs a little too self-consciously. I do enjoy the characters a lot and once you get past the hokey similies and Old West slang, there's an very entertaining story underneath (also, in Hockensmith's defence, the first title in the series Holmes on the Range was nominated for an Edgar, so people with more critical sway than myself obviously liked it a lot!).
posted by Pat
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