Joanne’s Mystery Picks

y450-274A MATTER OF MALICE by Thomas King

Things haven’t been going well for Thumps lately. You could call it a bad case of the three Cs: Claire, car, and his cat, Freeway. Of course it only gets worse when the crew of a true crime reality TV show, Malice Aforethought arrives in town to reopen an old case and they want Thumps to help. Trudy Samuels was from a wealthy family and everyone called her death a suicide. Nina Maslow, one of the producers of the show, wants to prove that Samuels’ death was murder. It’s all about ratings, of course.

When Maslow is found dead at the exact spot that Trudy died, and in circumstances eerily similar, Thumps has to determine if there are two killers at large or if Maslow’s death is just a coincidence. While going through Maslow’s files on the show, hoping to shed some light on her murder, Thumps finds that the producer was preparing a future show on the Obsidian Murders – the case that made Thumps throw in his badge. Has Maslow found the final clue to the puzzle that has haunted Thumps for years?

Thumps is a great character and King gives him lots of scope, leading us to believe that we might, some day, see Thumps at peace with his past.

3 Daggers
Joanne gives this “3 daggers out of 5”

Read Joanne’s review for Dreadfulwater Shows Up.

 

MYCROFT and SHERLOCK by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse

This sequel to Mycroft Holmes sees the Holmes’ brothers teaming up, though at times reluctantly. Mycroft’s good friend, Cyrus Douglas, runs an orphanage as a charity. When one of h91wq5evr1ulis cargo ships runs aground, he is forced to attend to the situation, while requiring someone to act as a tutor to the children in the orphanage. This is where Sherlock comes in. Sherlock’s attentions are often focused on the series of grisly murders that have recently been taking place in London and we see the beginnings of the inquisitive nature of the detective.

Nothing goes smoothly with Sherlock in charge and when one of the boys in his charge dies of a suspected drug overdose, Sherlock’s subsequent investigation takes him to the opium dens that litter the docks. It’s here we also see the beginnings of Sherlock’s addictive behavior.

I caught myself often saying “Sherlock wouldn’t say/do that; this is out of character for Mycroft…” Then I’d stop short, remembering that these are fictional characters based on the fictional characters of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and that these authors can take whatever literary license they wish to in their portrayal of the Holmes’ brothers. How easy it is to forget that Sherlock and Mycroft never existed other than on the written page! Of course, I’d much rather read Doyle’s accounts of their adventures.

3 Daggers
Joanne gives this “3 daggers out of 5”

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

91couijfr5lMYCROFT HOLMES by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse

Mycroft Holmes is making a name for himself as the Secretary to the Secretary of State for War in the British government. When his best friend, Cyrus Douglas, receives disturbing reports of child murders in his birthplace of Trinidad, Holmes shares his friend’s distress. When Holmes’ fiancée, Georgiana, learns of these murders she abruptly departs for the island, where her family still holds property. Of course Holmes must follow and he and Cyrus team up to find her.

The pair is thrust into a web of superstition, violence, and murder from the moment they board the ship that is to take them to the Port of Spain. And as they search for Georgiana, they both come to realize that those whom they thought they knew turn out to be completely different people.

The story has moments of excitement but then gets bogged down with chapters that do nothing to move the main story forward. The disjointed plot lines leave one to shake one’s head as the reader tries to follow the trail that the authors have set down.

One wonders how the authors collaborated on this novel. First you have Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. Then there’s Anna Waterhouse, a screenwriter and script consultant. Who wrote what? Would knowing explain its deficiencies or really make any difference? I wonder…

The pair have penned a second novel – Mycroft and Sherlock. It will be interesting to see if this one fares better.

2 Daggers
Joanne gives this “2 daggers out of 5”

 

71z42bzjdewlThe GOLDEN TRESSES of the DEAD by Alan Bradley

Rumour has it that this will not be the last book in the Flavia de Luce Mystery series (if we’re to believe the author, himself, who claims that “Flavia still wakes me up in the middle of the night with strange snippets and intriguing insights”.)   However, if another book is not to be, then The Golden Tresses of the Dead certainly leaves this Flavia fan satiated.

It’s autumn in Bishop’s Lacey and Flavia’s sister, Ophelia, is getting married to Dieter.  Other than a few minor cat-calls from someone in the pews, the wedding goes off without a hitch.  That is, until Feely and Dieter come across something quite unexpected when cutting the cake: a human finger!

And there you have it – the first case for Arthur W. Dogger & Associates, Discreet Investigations.  Flavia and Dogger are quickly on the case when they’re approached by Mrs. Prill to find some missing letters. Two cases in a matter of minutes!   And then things just spiral from there: a dead body, a trip on the London Necropolis Railway, missionaries, and poison!

Flavia is as delightful in this tenth book in the series as she was when first we met her in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.  She’s older in her attitudes and understanding of the workings of the human heart, but still the plucky young girl whose knowledge of chemistry has helped solve so many crimes in her small English town.

Flavia is original, funny, and adorable.  Hopefully Bradley will continue to delight us with this brilliant little sleuth for years to come.

5 Daggers
Joanne gives this “5 daggers out of 5”.

Check out Joanne’s other “Flavia” reviews!

 

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

911ocyq2szlTHE DARKNESS (HIDDEN ICELAND #1) by Ragnar Jonasson

DI Hulda Hermannsdottir of the Reykajavik Police is months away from retirement when her boss approaches her to say that a replacement has been hired for her position and it would be best if she packed up her belongings and left as soon as possible. Blindsided by this announcement, Hulda begs to remain for a few weeks while she works a cold case.

Hulda does not come across as a particularly nice person and we learn more about her character as the story progresses, reinforcing this feeling about her. Magnus, her boss, is an odious man, and is ambivalent towards Hulda: at the same time that he is praising her for her years of service he’s berating her for her actions in the case she’s currently working.

It’s never certain with a translation whether or not the problems with a story are a result of the translation or if they exist in the original. This novel “reads” well, but the story is so flawed that it’s inconceivable. It’s hard to fathom that a DI would act as Hulda does in this tale, leading up to an ending that is anything but satisfying.

One Dagger
Joanne gives this “1 dagger out of 5”

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

61imrcdfuol._sx307_bo1204203200_MONEY IN THE MORGUE by Ngaio Marsh and Stella Duffy

Ngaio Marsh was one of the four golden age crime queens along with Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and Margery Allingham. All four were very different in their approach to their novels. Marsh was exceptional in her depiction of setting and with her interest in the theatre, her stories often took on the feel of a stage play. When she died in 1982, she left behind the first few chapters and title of Money in the Morgue, which Duffy has completed seamlessly. At no place is it evident where Marsh’s story ended and Duffy’s begins.

It’s World War II and DCI Roderick Alleyn is undercover as a patient at Mount Seager Hospital in New Zealand. The hospital is filled with convalescing soldiers and his job is to determine whether or not there are spies amongst them. When Mr. Glossop arrives with the military payroll and it goes missing from the matron’s safe, a search is launched. Instead of finding the money, a corpse is found and Alleyn is forced to shed his disguise and take over the investigation.

Alleyn is at his best here as he unravels a complicated attempt at obfuscation, complete with the requisite red herrings, which are meant to send him off in the wrong direction.

A “cracking” good mystery that has me heading to the library for more of Marsh’s Detective Inspector Roderick Alleyn stories!

5 Daggers
Joanne gives this “5 daggers out of 5”.

1101887095BRYANT & MAY: HALL OF MIRRORS by Christopher Fowler

In Fowler’s latest Peculiar Crimes Unit mystery he takes us back to swinging London in 1969 and a younger Bryant and May.  Here we get the back-story to many of the iconic things that we associate with these two detectives.  There’s still a chuckle on every page along with many belly-laughs in this very clever telling of a “country house murder”.

Bryant and May have been tasked with keeping Monty Hatton-Jones safe until his testimony at the trial of a developer of shoddy flats.  What they hadn’t counted on was leaving London for a party at the estate of Tavistock Hall, which Hatton-Jones insists on attending.

When the owner of the Hall goes missing and a dismembered corpse is later found, Bryant and May use the cunning and ingenuity that they are later known for to solve the case.

A first-rate read for followers of this series.

5 Daggers
Joanne gives this “5 daggers out of 5”.

*Read Joanne’s other Bryant & May reviews!

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

916wb7vjlhlKINGDOM OF THE BLIND by Louise Penny

The repercussions of the events that took place in the previous novel in this series (Glass Houses) are still being felt as we return to Three Pines, six months later.  Armand Gamache remains suspended from his job as head of the Sûreté du Québec while the investigation continues.

Like the other novels in this series, Kingdom of the Blind is a multi-layered story.  While Armand awaits his fate concerning his actions involving the drug cartels, he is presented with a new and puzzling situation.  He’s been chosen as one of three executors of the will of an elderly woman whom he has never met.  The provisions of the will are so bizarre that the woman’s competence at the time it was written is called into question.  Before much progress can be made, a body is found which throws a more ominous light on the whole situation.

While Gamache investigates the background of this woman he is informed that a major influx of opioids is about to hit the streets of the inner city of Montreal – those same drugs that were involved in the case that got him suspended.

Armand must use all of his guile to thwart the drug dealers from saturating the city with deadly narcotics while putting his life, and those of other officers, on the line.

5 Daggers
Joanne gives this “5 daggers out of 5”.

51qbfmncfolCARELESS LOVE by Peter Robinson

The body of a young woman is found in a car recently involved in an accident.  The car had been tagged with a POLICE AWARE sign indicating that the accident had been investigated and that the car was waiting to be towed.  There was no body in the vehicle at the time of the investigation so the presence of this young woman’s body is a mystery.  Not far away from this incident, the body of a well-dressed man is found in a gully.  Are the two incidents connected?

Banks and his team are tasked with finding everything they can about each of these people and determining whether or not they were victims of foul play.

I’m usually chomping at the bit to read a new Inspector Banks novel and began this one with great anticipation.  However, it quickly became stale and flat.  It seems that Banks has undergone a personality change – he’s become flippant, at times vulgar, and easily distracted from the task at hand.   His occasional references to this or that musician has segued into paragraphs about the artist and his/her music, becoming tedious and irritating.  Even Annie Cabbot seems to treat her job as a lark.

With a weak plot and characters who don’t live up to their reputation, Robinson’s latest mystery left me completely unsatisfied.

3 Daggers
Joanne gives this “3 daggers out of 5”