Joanne’s Mystery Picks

35743047THE PUNISHMENT SHE DESERVES by Elizabeth George

“More” is not always better.  I say this in reference to the length of this latest Inspector Lynley novel which clocks in at 690 pages.  I found it often tedious and repetitive, bogged down with the ongoing “bedroom olympics” amongst a group of teens.

DS Barbara Havers is paired up with DCS Isabelle Ardery as they are sent to the small, quiet town of Ludlow to investigate a death-in custody.  Their “pairing” isn’t simply to look at the events leading up to this death, but a deliberate attempt to sabotage Barbara into using her “creative initiative” once again, which will inevitably lead to her transfer to another jurisdiction – something that Ardery has been working towards for a very long time.  Meanwhile, Ardery is fighting her own demons and they get in the way of a proper investigation.

Call it what you will, but Barbara’s “creative initiative” discovers a web of mis-direction, lies, and obfuscation.  With Lynley by her side, they are able to slowly create a timeline of events which paints a clear picture of what actually happened.

This novel is all about power and the abuse of power.  My one question is: who in the story is the “she” in the title?  For I don’t believe that any of the female characters “deserve” punishment.

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

41gmkewczal-_sx344_bo1204203200_THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP by Joanna Cannon

“Mrs. Creasey disappeared on a Monday.”  And so begins this delightfully funny, colorful story of a group of neighbors on the avenue and the secrets and lies that both bind and separate them.  Grace and Tilly, two ten year olds, decide that if they can find God, then Mrs. Creasey will come home.  So they go door to door, “looking for God”, but what they find is a conspiracy of silence which is slowly unravelling with the disappearance of their neighbour.

Oblique references are made to events that happened nine years ago – the kidnapping of a child, and an arson and he residents of the avenue believe that Mrs. Creasey’s disappearance is linked to these events and that she’s about to reveal the truth.

Grace and Tilly, unlike each other as chalk and cheese, are spunky and thoughtful and will make you laugh as they go door-to-door on their mission.  Slowly and without realizing it, these amateur detectives are helping bring the lies and secrets of the avenue to the surface.

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

the-uncommon-appeal-of-cloudsTHE UNCOMMON APPEAL OF CLOUDS by Alexander McCall Smith

Isabel Dalhousie is a philosopher and an amateur sleuth.  She doesn’t seek out the cases that come to her.  Being the kind, thoughtful person that she is, she never hesitates to help when help is asked of her.  Such is the case that she tackles in this, the ninth book in her series.  A friend asks her to help Duncan Munrowe recover an expensive painting that has been stolen from his home.  The thieves have been in touch with Munrowe and he banks on Isabel’s reputation to reunite him with his painting.

Meanwhile, Isabel and her husband, Jamie, are dealing with the possibility that their son, Charlie, at three and three-quarters years old, is a mathematical child prodigy.  How shall they deal with this?  Should they consult someone?  Should they gently encourage Charlie along this path?  This is all new territory for these parents.

Then there’s Eddie who approaches Isabel and asks her to intercede on his behalf.  He and his girlfriend want to move in together but her parents are against it.

It all comes down to family dynamics in each of these cases and with common sense, intuitive thinking, and compassion, Isabel is able to make the right decisions.  Against the background of Edinburgh, McCall Smith has given us a delightful, warm, and thoughtful story.

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

29758015THE HOUSE OF FOUR by Barbara Nadel

The old Mansion in Istanbul, known as the Devil’s House, would appear to be living up to its name.  Inspector Ikmen has been called to the scene because a body has been found.  When further examination of the premises finds three more bodies, all murdered in the same manner, Ikmen begins the lengthy investigation into the Hanim family and all of its secrets.  For it’s always the secrets that will eventually lead to the murderer.

Meanwhile, Mehmet Suleyman is investigating a series of apparent random killings throughout Istanbul.  The victims themselves appear to be random, but the perpetrators seem to be the same in each case.  As he investigates, his tumultuous personal life begins to get in the way of the job and he becomes distracted and a little careless.

Nadel’s descriptive style easily makes her readers feel that they are right there – walking the dusty streets of Istanbul, perusing the stalls in the Grand Bazaar – as the heat beats down relentlessly.  It’s armchair travelling at its best and includes a cracking good mystery to boot!

34953093A DANGEROUS CROSSING by Ausma Zehanat Khan

Khan brings the Syrian refugee crisis to the page with this powerful story featuring Inspector Esa Khattak and Sergeant Rachel Getty.  Khattak’s childhood friend Nathan Clare asks for his help in locating his sister, Audrey, who has disappeared in Greece.  She’s been working to fast-track Syrian refugees to Canada through an NGO, but has vanished, leaving behind two murdered people.

Esa and Rachel are shocked at the conditions in the refugee camps and fear that Audrey may have been in possession of information that has put her life in danger.  Their search for Nathan’s sister takes them from Greece all the way to the Netherlands, and throughout their journey the question always comes back to them: who can they really trust?

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

1521690EXCEPT THE DYING by Maureen Jennings

If you’re a fan of Murdoch Mysteries on CBC television and haven’t read any of the books that the series is based on, then do!  I was delightfully surprised when I read this first book in the series.  Of course there are differences between the book and the television series, but it’s easy to treat each as a separate entity.

In both the book and the series, Murdoch is a man of integrity and treats the people that he encounters in his investigations with dignity and kindness.  It is 1895 and the unclothed body of a young servant girl is found in a laneway.  She is found to have been greatly liked by the wealthy family that she worked for and its mistress mourns her deeply.

Murdoch’s investigation takes him from the wealthiest families to the downtrodden and poor, who sell their bodies for the few pennies that will buy them a crust of bread.  He must sort through the many lies that he’s told in order to come to the truth of who killed this young woman.

Jennings paints a vivid picture of Toronto in the late 1800s with characters that come to life on the page.