New Regina Library Blog UpFront


I will be posting regularly on the new RPL blog UpFront

Chose the tag "Sharon's mystery reads" to follow my latest mystery news and reviews.

I will continue to drop my Mystery Memos into this blog as long as possible.

posted by Sharon


Mystery Memo # 117 featuring British Police Procedurals

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.

The following selections from my Mystery Memo # 117 feature the British Police Procedurals which are the backbone of my mystery reading lately.

Click here to download the entire Mystery Memo # 117 and see all 19 mysteries.

S.J. Bolton: Now You See Me (2011) ***
British police procedural.
Book # 1 with Lacey Flint, who lived on the street before she became a London police officer.
The case: a woman dies in Lacey’s arms, murdered in a similar way as the killings by Jack the Ripper.
I’ve also enjoyed Bolton’s stand-alones (e.g. Awakening; Blood Harvest).

Mo Hayder: Skin
(2009) ****
British police procedural.
Book # 5 with detective Jack Caffery and Flea Marley, the head of underwater investigations, West Country, England.
Several apparent suicides have some unusual features that point to murder. Jack can’t let this go, but his boss wants him to focus on the case of the missing football player’s girlfriend. Not all the characters are fully developed, but Jack and Flea are interesting, and the writing is very readable.
First book: Birdman

Peter James: Dead Man’s Grip (2011) ****
British police procedural.
Book # 7 with D.S. Roy Grace, Sussex, England. Roy’s wife disappeared years ago.
A traffic accident that killed a cyclist has murderous consequences – the drivers of two of the three vehicles involved have been assassinated. Roy has to keep the third driver alive and find out who is behind the murders.
First book: Dead Simple

Jim Kelly: Death Toll (2011) *** ½
British police procedural.
Book # 3 with Peter Shaw and George Valentine, police officers in a small English coastal city.
A cemetery re-location finds an extra body in one of the plots – a young black man who people thought disappeared 30 years ago. Besides this case, Shaw and Valentine work on a cold case – the case that destroyed the health of Shaw’s father and demoted Valentine – the murder of a young boy in connection with a fatal hit-and-run.
First two books: Death Wore White; Death Watch

Frank Smith: A Killing Resurrected (2010) *** ½
British police procedural.
Book # 8 with DCI Neil Paget, Shropshire, England.
When a letter turns up from a suicide from 13 years before, it appears the man was involved in a series of robberies, including one that ended in two murders.
First book: Fatal Flaw

Posted by Sharon

Original Skin
by David Mark

British police procedural

Book # 2 with Aector McAvoy, a detective sergeant in Hull, East Yorkshire, England

Booklist review: Mark’s atmospheric debut novel (The Dark Winter, 2012) introduced Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy and the economically depressed city of Hull, England. The massive Scot is a fine copper, yet he sorely lacks self-confidence. His “guv,” smart, earthy Detective Superintendent Trish Pharoah, knows that her job is to marshal the “egos and neuroses” of the Serious and Organized Crime Unit, and Aector is her biggest challenge. The plot of OriginalSkin mixes a spectacular spike in violence by a drug gang, city and police politics, “travelers,” and murder in the world of “swingers and doggers” who connect online and then meet for anonymous, illicit sex. The many-tentacled plot is held together by the large cast of complex, multidimensional characters, including a detective at the end of his psychological rope; the ambitious head of the civilian police commission, who has an eye on a seat in Parliament; and a young, tattooed swinger grieving the loss of her only friend. Mark’s gift for developing characters is matched by his evocative portrait of downtrodden, rain-swept Hull.

Elmore Leonard 1925 - 2013

Elmore Leonard died August 20, 2013 at his home in Bloomfield Village, Michigan, at the age of 87. He was a prolific and well-known author of crime novels and suspense thrillers. The New York Times News Service obituary below calls him "a modern master of American genre writing."

Crime fiction author Elmore Leonard had gifts of ear and eye, timing and phrasing (New York Times News Service obituary carried in the Globe & Mail August 20, 2013)

Check out the Globe & Mail article
Why These Ten Books are the Best Elmore Leonard Wrote
This list starts with The Moonshine War (1976) and ends with Raylan (2012)

For a complete list of his books, go to Elmore Leonard's page on Fantastic Fiction.


Elizabeth Peters 1927 - 2013

Author Barbara Mertz, who wrote mysteries under the names Barbara Michaels and Elizabeth Peters, died August 8 at the age of 85.
Read her obituary in the Globe & Mail.

## Related post: MBTB review of Crocodile on the Sandbank
# 1 with Amelia Peabody, Egyptologist, set mostly in Egypt. First book takes place around the 1880s.

I admit Crocodile on the Sandbank is one of my favourites and I have read it more than once. This series is less mystery, more general adventure in an exotic location.

Go to her page on Stop, You're Killing Me! for the complete list of mysteries she wrote under both pseudonyms.

The Illusion of Murder
by Carol McCleary


Book # 2 with Nellie Bly, an American investigative reporter, in Paris and around the world, starting in 1889

Try this series if you like Elizabeth Peter's Amelia Peabody books. Set in the same time period, but based on real-life journalist Nellie Bly, this book chronicles Nellie's 72 day race around the world, in her challenge to novelist Jules Verne's book Around the World in Eighty Days. In this fictional account of her travels, Nellie witnesses a murder in Egypt and suspects one of her fellow travellers of being involved.

First book: The Alchemy of Murder

For a non-fiction account of this trip, try Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's history-making race around the world by Matthew Goodman

Read Nellie Bly's book Around the World in 72 Days online here.


Oh Canada!

In honour of our country's 146th birthday this past Monday, I'm featuring some Canadian authors who write mysteries that take place right here at home.

Among the Departed (2011)
By Vicki Delaney

The discovery of human bones in the woods during a search for a missing child leads to the reopening of the cold case investigation into the disappearance of Brian Nowak, the father of Constable Molly Smith's childhood best friend, who went for a walk one morning fifteen years ago and was never seen again. As the investigation into the his life and disappearance grows, old secrets are brought to light and new ones struggle to remain hidden.

Tampered (2011)
By Ross Pennie

When a bout of food poisoning strikes a residence for lively seniors blessed with generous pensions and high-ranking political connections, Dr. Zol Szabo, public health doctor turned medical detective, assembles his investigative team. But the epidemic's source proves elusive; the death count rises and when the scourge threatens someone close to Zol, he calls in his friend and colleague Hamish Wakefield, a microbe connoisseur with a nose for exotic diagnoses. Though Hamish uncovers other dangers, he can't crack the puzzle, and neither can the health unit's outbreak-hunting whiz kid. It takes the observant octogenarians to expose the deaths for what they really are: a string of murders. (Description taken from Amazon)

Fall from Grace (2011)
By Wayne Arthurson

Marking the debut of Leo Desroches, one of the most unusual amateur detectives ever to appear in Canada or points south, this fast-paced, enthralling mystery is the story of a man who had everything, lost it all, and is trying to get it back. Leo Desroches doesn’t look like a native, but his mother was Cree, and he understands the problems of indigenous Canadians of the First Nations. Which is probably why the Edmonton newspaper he writes for decides he should be their Aboriginal Issues reporter.

He has his own issues to deal with: his compulsive gambling that he couldn’t stop even after it cost him his wife and children; his alcoholism; the risk-taking that threatens to derail him every time he starts to get his life back together.

When he’s assigned to cover the murder of a young native prostitute, it’s just one more story...until the cop in charge lets him view the corpse, something the Edmonton police never do. When Leo writes his article, it starts a chain of events that leads him to discover a much, much bigger story, one that could bring down the entire police department...if it doesn’t get him killed. (Description taken from Amazon)

The Boys in the Trees (2008)
By Mary Swan

Newly arrived to the countryside, William Heath, his wife, and two daughters appear the picture of a devoted family. But when accusations of embezzlement spur William to commit an unthinkable crime, those who witnessed this affectionate, attentive father go about his routine of work and family must reconcile action with character. A doctor who has cared for one daughter, encouraging her trust, examines the finer details of his brief interactions with William, searching for clues that might penetrate the mystery of his motivation. Meanwhile the other daughter’s teacher grapples with guilt over a moment when fate wove her into a succession of events that will haunt her dreams.

Hope you all had a warm and wonderful Canada Day weekend!!

Posted by Shiela


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.

Happy Reading!

Posted by Shiela


Anthony Bidulka: When the Saints Go Marching In ****

Anthony Bidulka:
When the Saints Go Marching In
# 1 in a new series with Adam Saint, a Canadian Disaster Recovery Agent with a top secret spy agency.

MBTB mini-review: The fast-paced story has Disaster Recovery Agent Adam Saint travel the world as he looks into what really happened to his supervisor - he doesn't believe for a minute that the man was accidentally killed while looking into the cause of a plane crash in Russia.
Dealing with some serious personal issues as well, Adam spends some time back on his family's farm in Saskatchewan - this is my favourite part, as Adam, the international agent, gets to know his family after being "too busy" for many years.
This is a strong first book in a new series. I'll be looking forward to the next one.

Summary: The work of a Disaster Recovery Agent is unforgiving. Brutal. Violent. And rarely glamorous. But Adam Saint quietly travels the world, cleaning up after other people's catastrophes and keeping the mess away from his well-ordered private life. This time, however, the blood is seeping closer and closer to home. When a respected colleague is murdered at a disaster site, Saint is entrusted with the clean up... or is it a cover up? Author Anthony Bidulka introduces a new hero in the mould of Jason Bourne and James Bond: tough, smart, and just a little dangerous. Publisher's description

Fantastic Fiction suggests Mark Pryor's series with former FBI agent Hugo Marston as a read-alike for When the Saints Go Marching In (first book: The Bookseller)
I agree - the books share a fast pace and an appealing main character thrust into events beyond his control.

I would also suggest:
Michael Connelly's 9 Dragons # 15 with Harry Bosch, a homicide detective in Los Angeles

Ian Hamilton's series with Ava Lee, a petite young Chinese-Canadian forensic accountant specializing in tracking large debts, working for “Uncle” based in Hong Kong First book: The Water Rat of Wanchai

and some of the stand-alones by Robert Goddard
Set in Stone
Dying to Tell

* * *

Anthony Bidulka is well-known for his series with Russell Quant, an ex-farmboy, half-Ukrainian, half-Irish, gay private detective, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
First book: Amuse Bouche

## Related post: MBTB mini-review of Tapas on the Ramblas # 3 with Russell Quant

posted by Sharon

The Whisper of Legends
by Barbara Fradkin

Canadian police procedural

Book # 9 with Michael Green, a police inspector in Ottawa, Ontario

Description: When his teenage daughter goes missing on a summer wilderness canoe trip to the Nahanni River, Inspector Michael Green is forced into unfamiliar territory. Unable to mobilize the local RCMP, he enlists the help of his long-time friend, Staff Sergeant Brian Sullivan, to accompany him to the Northwest Territories to look for themselves.

Green is terrified. The park has 30,000 square kilometres of wilderness and 600 grizzlies. Even worse, Green soon discovers his daughter lied to him. The trip was organized not by a reputable tour company but by her new boyfriend, a graduate geology student. When clues about Scott's past begin to drift in, Green, Sullivan, and two guides head into the wilderness. After the body of one of the group turns up at the bottom of a cliff, they begin to realize just what is at stake.


Arthur Ellis Best First Crime Novel nominees

The Crime Writers of Canada held the Arthur Ellis Awards dinner May 30.

Here is the list of nominees for Best First Crime Novel:

* Simone St. James: The Haunting of Maddy Clare WINNER
Sarah Piper's lonely, threadbare existence changes when her temporary agency sends her to assist a ghost hunter. Alistair Gellis - rich, handsome, scarred by World War I, and obsessed with ghosts - has been summoned to investigate the spirit of nineteen-year-old maid Maddy Clare, who is haunting the barn where she committed suicide. Since Maddy hated men in life, it is Sarah's task to confront her in death. Soon Sarah is caught up in a deperate struggle. For Maddy's ghost is real, she's angry, and she has powers that defy all reason. Can Sarah and Alistair's assistant, the rough, unsettling Matthew Ryder, discover who Maddy was, whereshe came from, and what is driving her desire for vengeance - before she destroys them all? Publisher's description

Peggy Blair: The Beggar’s Opera
Decaying but beautiful Havana provides the atmospheric backdrop for Blair's absorbing debut, the first in a series introducing Ricardo Ramirez, "the inspector in charge of the Havana Major Crime Unit of the Cuban National Revolutionary Police." When a boy is brutally raped and murdered, suspicion falls on a visiting Canadian policeman, Det. Mike Ellis. The ailing Fidel Castro wants to send a strong message that Cuba doesn't tolerate sex crimes, and a provision in Cuban criminal law that gives the police just 72 hours to secure an indictment ensures a fast pace. Nothing, however, is quite as simple as it should be: Ellis has a cloud hanging over him from a past shoot-out; he has forgotten much of the crucial evening; and Ramirez himself either has supernatural powers or is rapidly succumbing to dementia. Meanwhile, communism and ancient belief in spirits coexist in a Cuba where tourists are as likely to encounter requests for soap and pencils as requests for money. Publisher's Weekly review

Deryn Collier: Confined Space
When respected ex–Canadian Forces commander Bern Fortin cuts short his military career to take a job as the coroner for a small mountain town in the heart of BC, he’s hoping to leave the past behind. Bern’s looking forward to a quiet life, but the memories of what he witnessed during his stints in Afghanistan and other war-torn countries haunt him still.
When the body of one of the workers is found floating in the huge bottle-washing tank at the local brewery, Bern is called in for a routine investigation. What first appears to be a tragic accident takes a menacing turn when the body of the worker’s girlfriend is discovered in a nearby field. Bern needs the help of brewery safety investigator Evie Chapelle, who, burdened by tragedies she might have prevented, is more determined than ever to keep her workers, and their tight-knit community, safe. Soon, Bern and Evie find themselves risking their jobs—and their lives—to uncover a killer hiding in a place where it is awfully hard to keep a secret. Publisher's description

Peter Kirby: The Dead of Winter
Inspector Luc Vanier is drinking his way through Christmas Eve when he is called out to investigate the murder of five homeless people. His investigation takes him into the back rooms of the Catholic Church, the boardrooms of Montreal's business elite and the soup kitchens and back-alleys of street life in winter. Publisher's description

Chris Laing: A Private Man
In 1947, World War II veteran and former lawman Max Dexter opens his own detective agency in Hamilton, Ontario. Max and his assistant Isabel O'Brien are on the case from murder to money laundering and organized crime. Publisher's description

To see the winner of the Best Crime Novel award go to MBTB post:
Arthur Ellis finalists announced: Best Crime Novel Nominees


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.

Happy Reading!!

Posted by Shiela

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