Archives for: May 2012
Old Favourites: Sharon's pick
Have you read the Globe & Mail article Clued in : 12 mystery masters name their favourites ? The subtitle "Michael Connelly, Harlen Coben and 10 more unearth buried treasure just for you."
Here's my buried treasure: John D. Macdonald's Travis McGee series.
Published from 1964 to 1984, they follow the life and investigations of Travis McGee, an adventurer, philosopher, and “salvage consultant” who does unofficial favors for friends, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (series description from Stop, You're Killing Me!)
The stories often start on McGee's beloved houseboat "The Busted Flush" as clients and friends bring problems to him.
The writing has everything I look for in a mystery: first-person narration, beautiful original descriptions, unusual (yet believable) characters and unlikely (yet believable) plots.
They're all good. I've collected a full set, plus spares to give away or take on trips.
Here's one of my favourites:
A Tan and Sandy Silence
Booklist /* Starred Review */ MacDonald’s Travis McGee (“a refugee from a plastic-structured culture, uninsured, unadjusted, and unconvinced”) remains, long after the 21-volume series ended in 1985, one of the crime genre’s most appealing nonconformists. He lives the life every individualist craves: independent, adventurous, and unpredictable. Sequestered on his houseboat sanctuary, The Busted Flush (won in a poker game), moored in slip F-18, Bahia Mar Marina, Fort Lauderdale, he ventures out into the wider world whenever someone he cares about loses something — a loved one, money, or even self-respect — getting back whatever has been lost and keeping 50 percent of the profits. This novel, the thirteenth in the series and quite possibly the best, represents an important turning point for McGee. On the surface, it looks like a typical McGee adventure: our hero discovers that one of his “wounded ducklings” (emotionally scarred women he has nursed back to psychic and sexual health) has disappeared, leaving a distraught husband. McGee smells foul play and is soon locked in mortal combat with a Ted Bundy–like psycho who enjoys torturing his victims. Although McGee eventually dispatches his antagonist, it is not before much damage has been done, both to the people he was trying to protect and to his own sense of self. For the first time in the series, McGee is truly vulnerable: “In all my approximately seventy-six inches of torn and mended flesh and hide, in all my approximately fifteen-stone weight of meat, bone, and dismay, I sat on that damned bed and felt degraded.” McGee’s “wounding” forces MacDonald to deal with an inevitable problem for series authors: how to let the heroes grow and change without sacrificing their mythic stature. By immersing Travis a little further into the everyday world of slowed reflexes and failing nerves, MacDonald heightens the tension between myth and reality, and we receive a stronger jolt of mythic energy when that tension is released. “I know what counts,” Travis tells us, “is the feeling I get when I make my own luck.” After A Tan and Sandy Silence, that feeling is harder to come by, but it’s all the more satisfying when it finally arrives.
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If you are hunting through the library catalogue for this series, all of the Travis McGee series have a colour in their title.
posted by Sharon
WHAT I'M READING NOW:
Elegy for Eddie
by Jacqueline Winspear
Book # 9 with Maisie Dobbs, a psychologist and investigator based in 1920s and 1930s London, England
Here's what Booklist had to say: London in the 1930s serves as backdrop for Winspear’s engaging, best-selling series featuring psychologist, investigator, and former war nurse Maisie Dobbs. A woman of humble beginnings who received a sizable inheritance from her mentor, Maurice, Dobbs harbors great compassion for the working-class woman and man. When local fruit peddler Eddie Pettit is killed in a violent accident, Dobbs suspects foul play, for Eddie was a simple soul with a kind heart and a knack for communicating with horses. Those who knew Eddie say he seemed uncharacteristically agitated in the last days of his life. Had he fallen in with the wrong crowd, or fallen prey to power brokers who took unfair advantage of his naïveté? Dobbs’ investigation takes her from the gritty streets of Lambeth to glamorous London dinner parties, where guests include press magnates and politicians with money and ambition to burn. Winspear’s books are stronger on atmosphere than plot, and here she vividly evokes early-twentieth-century London and the glaring disparity between the haves and have-nots.
MBTB review of Maisie Dobbs # 1
MBTB mini-review of The Mapping of Love and Death # 7
Update: Agatha Award Winners
Here are the Agatha Award Winners. They were announced at Malice Domestic on April 28, 2012 (The awards are for books published in 2011).
This organization salutes the traditional mystery — books best typified by the works of Agatha Christie. The genre is loosely defined as mysteries which contain no explicit sex or excessive gore or violence. (description from malicedomestic.org About Malice)
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Three-Day Town by Margaret Maron
# 17 with Deborah Knott, district judge in North Carolina
While in New York, Judge Deborah Knott has been asked to deliver a package to Lt. Sigrid Harald of the NYPD. Sigrid offers to swing by the apartment with her husband to pick up the box, but when they reach the apartment, they discover that the box is missing and the doorman has been murdered.
## Related post: MBTB review of Rituals of the Season # 11
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Best First Novel:
Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry
# 1 with Troy Chance, a freelance writer in Lake Placid, New York
When Troy Chance rescues a boy who falls off a ferry she discovers he can only speak French and that no one seems to be looking for him. Thus begins a dangerous journey across the eastern United States and Canada as Troy attempts to uncover the mysteries surrounding the special little boy she comes to care for deeply.
## Related post: MBTB mini-review of Learning to Swim
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Best Historical Novel:
Naughty in Nice by Rhys Bowen
# 5 with Lady Georgiana, minor royalty in 1930s England
In the French town of Nice to recover the Queen's stolen snuff box, Lady Georgiana Rannoch participates in a Coco Chanel fashion show where a necklace also belonging to the Queen goes missing, forcing her to search for both priceless items and solve a murder.
## Related posts:
MBTB review of Her Royal Spyness # 1
MBTB review of Royal Flush # 3
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Check out the MBTB post Agatha Award Nominees 2012 for the full list of nominees with series descriptions.
posted by Sharon
WHAT I'M READING NOW:
Beastly Things by Donna Leon
Book # 21 with Guido Brunetti, a police commissario in Venice, Italy
Summary: Commissario Brunetti investigates the death of an animal lover whose murdered body was found in a Venice canal.
First book: Death at La Fenice
Globe & Mail Saturday Books Section: The Mystery Issue
I noticed that the May 19 Globe & Mail Books Section was a special Mystery Issue.
Here are the links:
Clued in: 12 mystery masters name their favourites
Mystery Masters include Michael Connelly, Gail Bowen and Peter Robinson.
Mark Kingwell's essay The Mystery of Mysteries: What Keeps Us Reading (title in the paper edition: Life. Death. Guilt. Innocence. It's all intellectual baseball)
New in crime fiction: The latest thrillers and mysteries - Reviews by Margaret Cannon
One of Margaret Cannon's picks:
Walking into the Ocean by David Whellams
What’s summer without a solid British thriller? Ottawa author David Whellams’s debut features retired Scotland Yard Chief Inspector Peter Cammon, in a story that starts on the cliffs of Dorset and then travels to the hills of Malta. On the way, a simple domestic murder-suicide morphs into a chase for a relentless serial killer. This is the first of a series: Peter Cammon could become another Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks. (Margaret Cannon's review)
posted by Sharon
Update: Edgar Award Winners 2012
The Edgar Awards were presented by the Mystery Writers of America on April 26, 2012.
Check out the website TheEdgars.com for the complete list of nominees in all categories (e.g. best nonfiction crime, best young adult) and the MBTB blog post 2012 Edgar Nominees for series descriptions and library holdings of the nominees.
Gone by Mo Hayder
# 5 with Jack Caffery, a troubled police detective, and police diver Sergeant Flea Marley in the West Country, England
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Best First Novel
Bent Road by Lori Roy
Celia Scott and her family move back to her husband's hometown in Kansas, where his sister died under mysterious circumstances twenty years before, and where Celia and two of her children struggle to adjust--especially when a local girl disappears.
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Best Paperback Original
The Company Man by Robert Jackson Bennett
After eleven union men are found dead in a trolley car in 1919, a man named Hayes must discover the truth behind the murders--and behind the McNaughton Corporation and the Evesden, the company town it built--before he meets a grim end.
posted by Sharon
WHAT I'M READING NOW:
The Strange Return of Sherlock Holmes
by Barry Grant
Here's what Booklist had to say:
After an embedded tour in Afghanistan, journalist James Wilson returns to England, intending to settle into a quiet life in a small town. Looking to share the rental on a cottage, he is introduced to Cedric Coombes, a tall, thin man in his 60s. Coombes, who instantly reminds Wilson of someone, turns out to be a curious fellow: a cocaine user and amateur violin player possessed of the most astonishing deductive powers. No, this isn’t a spoof of the Holmes stories; it’s played straight. Coombes really is who you think he is, and there’s a perfectly logical (although inherently fantastical) explanation as to how he comes to be living here in the twenty-first century. Grant devises an engaging mystery for our returning hero to solve .....
Not the Cozy Kind: Amateur Sleuths with a Darker Edge
Learning to Swim (2011)
By Sara J. Henry
Troy Chance rescues a six year old boy named Paul who was thrown into the frigid waters of Lake Champlain only to discover that his arms were bound when he was thrown in. After the initial shock is over, the boy tells Troy his experiences of witnessing his mother's murder, and being kidnapped and held prisoner for months. As Troy actively looks for the boy's father and the bizarre mystery unfolds, Troy discovers things about herself that she never knew existed.
MBTB mini-review of Learning to Swim
Eyes of the Innocent (2012)
By Brad Parks
A house burns. Two children die. A newspaper reporter finds the house documents have disappeared from the courthouse. The investigation begins, and Parks and his hero, Newark newsman Carter Ross, show us that police and newshound procedures have much in common: knocking on doors, working the phones, staring at dusty paper until the eyes burn. Ross must rout the villains without a badge to flash or the power of officialdom. The revelations involve the subprime mortgage swindle, a city councilman and his cookie, and a moneyman who knows which politicians are for sale. The novel reads like a bit of investigative journalism: told in reporter’s prose, with dollops of humor, suspense, and violence. (Modified review taken from Booklist)
Losing Nicola (2011)
By Susan Moody
A compelling tale of childhood trauma and sinister discoveries - Alice and her brother Orlando lived a quiet life growing up in post WWII Britain; that is until the arrival of the precocious, manipulative and sexually aware Nicola. But on Alice’s 12th birthday, Nicola disappears, only to be found days later, battered, bruised and dead. Twenty years go by until Alice becomes determined to dig up the past and solve the mystery of Nicola’s death. But will the truth be too much to handle when she starts to suspect her own quiet and bookish brother Orlando? (Book Description)
The October Killings (2011)
By Wessel Ebersohn
***Publisher Weekly's Starred Review***
South African author Ebersohn kicks off a promising new series pairing psychologist Yudel Gordon, last seen in 1992's Closed Circle, with Abigail Bukula, chief director of South Africa's justice department, who can more than hold her own with the brilliantly eccentric Gordon. As a 15-year-old girl, Bukula survived a raid on an African National Congress house in Lesotho on October 21, 1985, thanks to the intervention of a white soldier, Leon Lourens. In 2005, Lourens seeks Bukula's help after learning that almost all his colleagues on the raid have been murdered on the exact anniversary of the assault. To catch the killer, Bukula hooks up with Gordon, who lost his government position with apartheid's end, to get access to the imprisoned commander of the attack, Marinus van Jaarsveld. The complexities of South Africa a decade after the end of white rule help fuel a compelling plot that builds to several dramatic climaxes. (Taken from Publisher's Weekly)
Posted by Shiela
Rhys Bowen: Royal Flush (2009) ****
By Rhys Bowen
Book # 3 with Lady Georgiana, minor royalty in 1930s England, in the Royal Spyness series
MBTB review: With the heat of the summer forcing the upper class to dash to their summer homes in the countryside, Georgie’s secret housekeeping business fizzles to naught. As her financial situation steadily declines, she decides to start up an “escort” service not realizing her definition of the word (accompanying people to dinner parties so that they don’t have to eat alone) and her “client’s” definition of the service greatly varies. In an attempt to avoid another royal scandal, Georgie is whisked away to her family home in Scotland only to find that someone is targeting members of the royal family to pursue their own ends.
This one is my favorite by far. The situations Georgie seems to find herself in never ceases to amuse me and once again, the cast of colorful secondary characters propel the plot to its climax. In hindsight, I realize there were enough clues along the way to figure out the perpetrator had I not been enjoying the romp through the Scottish countryside. This was another fun, lighthearted mystery with a bit of romance and dollop of humor.
Here is a list of the series in order of publication date:
Her Royal Spyness (2007)
A Royal Pain (2008)
Royal Flush (2009)
Royal Blood (2010)
Naughty in Nice (2011)
# Related post: MBTB review of Her Royal Spyness # 1
Posted by Shiela