Category: Shiela's reading
Oliver Potzsch: The Hangman's Daughter (2010) ****
The Hangman’s Daughter
By Oliver Potzsch
I didn’t even realize “The Hangman’s Daughter” was one of 2010’s “buzz” books until I started reading the reviews (after I finished reading the novel myself) and I must say, it was a really good read. The thing that drew me in the most is that the author is actually a descendent of the Kuisl family and he does such a wonderful job of bringing a fictional account of his family’s business to light.
I loved Jakob Kuisl’s multidimensional character, he was an executioner with integrity and heart. And although the business of torturing and executing was a necessity, the prejudice and trials he and his family faced were really interesting to read about. My other favorite character was Simon, the son of the quack doctor who was ridiculed for using science in his practice of medicine instead of bloodletting. The hangman’s daughter eventually comes to light, but she’s not as prominent of a character as the title suggests.
As for the mystery part of the novel, I was hooked. It is a long book and it felt a little wordy sometimes (probably because it is a translation) but the author was able to hold my interest throughout. It seems like there are several unrelated storylines happening but Potzsch does eventually weave them together in an intricate plot of murder, greed, political ambitions and witchcraft all rolled into a wonderful read.
I will definitely be looking out for the next book in the series, "The Dark Monk."
Posted by Shiela
Susanne Alleyn: The Cavalier of the Apocalypse (2009) ****
The Cavalier of the Apocalypse
By Susanne Alleyn
Publisher's Weekly Starred Review
While visiting the site of a Paris church fire, Ravel, a poor aspiring writer who bears the emotional scars of a long-ago family trauma, encounters Inspector Brasseur, whom he recognizes as a former neighbor. Brasseur later seeks Ravel's help when an unidentified man turns up dead in a churchyard, his throat slit and a Masonic symbol carved into his chest, and hires Ravel as a subinspector. As the inquiry continues, Ravel begins to suspect that the Masons may be connected with a plot to replace Louis XVI with the Duc d'Orléans as well as a scandal involving the disappearance of the queen's necklace. Alleyn expertly captures the politics and atmosphere of the period, seamlessly integrating them into a traditional whodunit plot. (From Publisher's Weekly)
Don’t be fooled, although this novel looks like it should be the third in the series, it’s actually a prequel to Game of Patience and Treasury of Regrets. READ THIS FIRST!!
I think this book has been my favorite in the series by far. Alleyn transports us to pre-revolutionary France where expressing one’s opinion about the government is illegal, the mysticism regarding secret societies is prevalent and the pursuit of science is frowned upon.
We are introduced to the main characters and their backgrounds and the mystery itself is easy to get lost in. Once again, Alleyn proves she knows her history and weaves a good tale. Overall, a great read.
Posted by Shiela
Fact...Creepier than Fiction
I came across a list of books the other day highlighting historical crimes that shaped the way we investigate crime and look at forensics today. Although we are a mystery fiction blog, I've been finding these titles fascinating as they almost read like the latest mystery thriller novel. So I've decided to share some of the more interesting ones with you. Remember, these books are based on actual crimes and the methods of investigation were cutting edge during that particular time.
Murder in the First-Class Carriage: the first Victorian railway killing
By Kate Coquhoun
Who murdered Englishman Thomas Briggs in 1864 as he traveled home on the North London railway? In a story that predates the one found in Erik Larson’s Thunderstruck, police would chase the man they believed to be the killer all the way to America. But did they get the right man? (Library Journal)
The Anatomy Murders: being the true and spectacular history of Edinburgh’s notorious Burke and Hare, and of the man of science who abetted them in the commission of their most heinous crime
By Lisa Rosner
William Burke and William Hare murdered 16 people in early 19th century Edinburgh and sold the corpses to local medical schools. Rosner placed the sordid story in its historical and social context. (Library Journal)
The Killer of Little Shepherds: a true crime story and the birth of forensic science
By Douglas Starr
Serial killer Joseph Vacher roamed the French countryside in the late 19th century, raping and killing at least 11 young women and men until he was apprehended by investigator Emile Fourquet and pioneering criminologist Alexandre Lacassagne. A 2011 Gold Dagger Award winner.
The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Roger, Edgar Allan Poe, and the Invention of Murder
By Daniel Stashower
Part murder story, part literary history, part portrait of New York City in the 1840s, Stashower’s account of the murder of cigar salesgirl Mary Rogers also focuses on Edgar Allen Poe’s unorthodox attempt to revive his reputation by writing a detective story about the crime.
The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: a shocking murder and the undoing of a great Victorian detective
By Kate Summerscale
Summerscale masterfully reveals the details of the murder of three-year-old Saville Kent and his family’s and community’s secrets, along with their distrust of famed London detective James Whicher. Great Britain at its most Victorian. (Library Journal)
The Big Policeman: the rise and fall of America’s first, most ruthless, and greatest detective
By J. North Conway
Legendary cop Thomas Byrnes rose through the ranks of the NYPD from 1854 to 1895, pioneering new methods of crime scene investigation, interrogation, and press manipulation. Never found guilty of misdeeds himself, his reputation would be tarnished by widespread police corruption.
Posted by Shiela
Jason Webster: Or the Bull Kills You (2011) ***
Or the Bull Kills You
By Jason Webster
"Either you kill the bull, or the bull kills you." Chief Inspector Max Cámara thinks in proverbs,and he hates one thing above all: bullfighting. One hot afternoon in Valencia, however, he has to stand in for his boss, judging a festival corrida starring Spain’s most famous young matador. That night, he is back in the bullring, and what he finds on the blood-stained sand shocks the city of Valencia to its core. Cámara is roped into investigating a grisly murder while dealing with violent shadows from his own past, as well as confronting the suspiciousness of the bullfighting community and the stonewalling of local politicians in full electoral campaign. To top it all, Fallas, the loudest fiesta in the country, has just got underway. For Cámara, it seems his problems have only just begun... (Book Description)
I really enjoy reading mysteries set abroad because the author tends to bring so much of the local flair and culture, both the good and the bad. I have never been to Spain and all I knew about bullfighting was what I learned from cartoons as a child (i.e.: angry snorting bull, red flag), so Mr. Webster had a big task ahead of him when I picked up this book. He did a fantastic job at explaining the history of bullfighting and the significance it has to the local culture. But the thing I really appreciated was that Webster showed both sides of the issue, the benefits bullfighting for the local economy and spirit (the aficionados), the political aspects of the historical event (both the corrupt and the not-so corrupt), and the environmentalists who are staunchly against the killing of innocent animals. I learned a lot.
That being said, the actual mystery aspect of the book was just so-so, the strength of this novel really was in the rich history and culture of bullfighting. The second book in the series A Death in Valencia is coming out soon.
Posted by Shiela
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)
Jonathan Nasaw: The Girls he Adored (2001) ****
The Girls he Adored
By Jonathan Nasaw
Book 1 with FBI Agent E.L Pender
This book appealed to my psychology background and was a real treat. Nasaw does a great job at creating a character who suffers from both the controversial Dissociative Identity Disorder phenomena and all of the implications that go with the disorder, and meshed it so brilliantly with Antisocial Personality Disorder in such a believable way. Max actually reminded me of a new and more twisted Hannibal Lector.
What I loved about this book is the amount of time and detail the author spends developing the antagonist. We go way back into Max’s childhood and learn of the repeated atrocities and abuse that played such a large role in shaping him into the monster he eventually became. You actually felt sorry for the little boy who lost so much at such a young age (which, albeit, doesn’t excuse him from becoming a serial killer when he grew up). So many criminal/forensic/thrillers spend so much time developing the protagonist and focusing on the mere chase of the “bad guy(s)” that they often neglect to fully divulge motives of the killer. Kudos to Nasaw for depicting such a fleshed out antagonist.
Note: Not for the faint of heart
Posted by Shiela
As January rolls around, there's nothing like curling up in front of the fireplace with a good dead body or two. This time of the year I like to reach for my favorite type of mystery...the historicals!! Here is a list of historical mysteries that is sure to warm those cold nights.
Dark Entry (2011)
By M. J. Trow
First in the thrilling new Kit Marlowe historical mystery series - Cambridge, 1583. About to graduate from Corpus Christi, the young Christopher Marlowe spends his days studying and his nights carousing with old friends. But when one of them is discovered lying dead in his King’s College room, mouth open in a silent scream, Marlowe refuses to accept the official verdict of suicide. Calling on the help of his mentor, Sir Roger Manwood, Justice of the Peace, and the queen’s magus, Dr John Dee, a poison expert, Marlowe sets out to prove that his friend was murdered.
The Illusion of Murder (2011)
By Carol McCleary
Book # 2 with Nellie Bly, an American investigative reporter, in Paris and around the world, starting in 1889
This is a Library Journal starred review:
Attempting to beat Jules Verne's round-the-world record, Victorian Age reporter Nellie Bly hides from official records the secret details about a mysterious death in the bustling harbor city of Port Said where she is targeted by a killer and embroiled in an international plot.
Book # 1 The Alchemy of Murder
A Mortal Terror (2012)
By James R. Benn
Book # 6 with Billy Boyle, World War II
This is a Publisher's Weekly Starred Review
1943: Billy Boyle is sent to Caserta, Italy, to investigate the murders of two American officers stationed there. The methods of murder are completely different, and it seems like the officers had no connection to each other, but one frightening fact links the murders: each body was discovered with a single playing card: the Lieutenant, the ten of hearts; the Captain, the jack of hearts. The message seems to be clear — if the murderer isn't apprehended, the higher ranks will be next. As the invasion at Anzio begins, Billy needs to keep a cool head amidst fear and terror as the killer calculates his next moves.
Book # 1 Billy Boyle
A Double Death on the Black Isle (2011)
By A. D. Scott
Book # 2 with journalists in the offices of the Highland Gazette, in the mid-1950s in the highlands of Scotland
Struggling over how to report a double murder in which a close friend has been implicated, Joanne Ross, a Scottish newspaper employee who is longing for her big break, helps to uncover dark secrets with origins in bitter cultural rivalries.
Book # 1 A Small Death in the Great Glen
Happy New Year!!
posted by Shiela
Y. S Lee: The Traitor in the Tunnel (2012) ****½
The Agency: the Traitor in the Tunnel
By Y. S Lee
MBTB review: Although this series is marketed as a Young Adult Mystery series, I have thoroughly enjoyed each and every book and look forward to the new release from this Canadian author every summer. “The Traitor in the Tunnel” was no exception.
We find our heroine Mary Quinn inside the walls of Buckingham Palace on an undercover mission to identify a petty thief pilfering items from the Queen’s collection. This simple case soon becomes complicated when the Prince of Wales witnesses the murder of his friend and Mary’s long lost father is the accused.
I love everything about this series. The characters are wonderful, fully developed and intriguing. The relationship between Mary and her paramour James Easton is so sweet and I love how Lee somehow gets James involved in the thick of each mystery. The series takes place in the rich and atmospheric setting of Victorian England (one of my favorite time periods) and the mysteries are always more involved than they first seem.
Don’t let the “Young Adult” designation fool you, this series is worth the read.
Here is the series listed in order on Fantastic Fiction
Posted by Shiela
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
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