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”

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

7 1.2 deaths of Evelyn HardcastleTHE SEVEN DEATHS OF EVELYN HARDCASTLE by Stuart Turton

Aiden Bishop has been invited to a Masquerade by the Hardcastle Family, taking place at their estate – Blackheath House.  But Aiden isn’t himself.  No – really! He isn’t himself.  At any given time, he’s one of eight other people – hosts whose bodies he will inhabit for twenty-four hours each, until he solves the mystery of who killed Evelyn Hardcastle, the daughter of the family.

Each morning Aiden awakes in a new body, struggling to remember the events of the previous day, trying to put together the puzzle that will lead him to Evelyn’s murderer and his eventual release from his torment.  His life is on a loop as he struggles to “keep down” the person whose body he inhabits while trying to remember who he really is.

Author A. J. Finn describes this novel as “Agatha Christie meets Groundhog Day” and I can’t think of a better description for it.  It’s edge-of-your-seat fiction and completely unpredictable, with characters who run the gamut from odious to demure.  Truly a page-turner if I’ve ever read one.

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

md22450752995DREADFULWATER SHOWS UP by Hartley GoodWeather

You might know the author of this hilarious mystery by his real name: Thomas King.  King brings the same kind of humour to this novel as he did to his radio show The Dead Dog Café Comedy Hour, which aired on CBC Radio from 1997-2000.

The characters in this novel are as colorful as the names they’ve been given.  Thumps DreadfulWater is a Cherokee ex-cop who has settled in the little town of Chinook, somewhere in the northwestern U.S.  He’s given up his badge for a camera and bit by bit we begin to learn why.  When he’s asked to take pictures of a dead body found in a condo, he defaults to police-mode and is soon investigating the death, against the advice of the local sheriff.  The prime-suspect is the son of Thumps’ sometimes lover, and Thumps is positive that he’s innocent.  But you cannot prove someone innocent if you cannot find them.  So in addition to trying to find the murderer, he must also find the person who didn’t do it.

There’s a chuckle on every page and I found myself laughing out loud consistently throughout the book.  Thumps DreadfulWater is such a great character – I look forward to reading more of his adventures in The Red Power Murders and Cold Skies: A DreadfulWater Mystery, released in May of this year.

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

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

91oJX5lboILLET DARKNESS BURY THE DEAD by Maureen Jennings

It’s 1917 and twenty years since we last encountered Murdoch.  Much has happened in that twenty years: Murdoch’s wife, Amy, has died in childbirth with their second child, and his son, Jack, now twenty-one, has just returned home from France after being wounded and gassed in the war.  Murdoch is now a senior detective but finds his work of tracking down those who abuse the temperance laws unsatisfying.

There is a growing resentment against the war and the pro and con factions soon begin to clash.  However, Murdoch soon has more important things to concern himself with as a young man is found murdered and shortly after he is called to attend the suicide of another young man.  Quickly on the heels of these two deaths, two more young men are murdered and the only common denominator with their deaths is that they were all exempt from conscription.

Jennings shows the hardships of war and the toll that it takes on the soldiers and their families.  Her depiction of “shell shock” (what we refer to as PTSD, today) and its effect on its victims is chilling.  As Murdoch struggles to give Jack time to re-adjust to civilian life, he is filled with apprehension at the thought that Jack might be involved in these recent crimes.

9781635570571A SHOT IN THE DARK by Lynne Truss

A.S. Crystal, the famous theatre critic, has come to Brighton with his production of  A Shilling in the Meter.  As he and Constable Twitten wait for the performance to begin in the Theatre Royal, he begins to tell the Constable what he knows of the Aldersgate Stick-up case of 1950, which remains an unsolved case.  He was an Assistant Bank Manager at the time, and had first-hand knowledge of the crime.

But before he could utter even two words, he’s shot dead in his seat.

This murder unleashes an investigation like no other!  We are led on a merry chase, reminiscent of a British farce, a panto, and an episode from a “Carry-On” movie.  We have to contend with a bumble-headed policeman (actually two -Constable Twitten not being one of them, no matter what his name suggests); a femme fatale, and a kindly charlady.  As Twitten takes the reins to investigate, he uncovers a criminal conspiracy that goes back years.  It takes a very clever man to uncover the criminal mastermind behind these old and new crimes and Twitten is just such a man.

A deliciously funny mystery and hopefully the first in a series!

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

1473661943AUNTIE POLDI AND THE FRUITS OF THE LORD by Mario Giordano

Still basking in the glory of solving a murder in her first adventure (Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions), Poldi doesn’t hesitate to investigate when her neighbor’s dog turns up dead at the same time as the water to Poldi’s house has suddenly been cut off.  In Poldi’s mind, there’s no doubt that the Mafia are involved.  And that’s only the first conclusion that she jumps to in this hilarious second installment.

Poldi is brash, irreverent, and wickedly funny.  She’s unapologetic about her pursuit of Commissario Vito Montana or when her sleuthing disrupts his investigations.  Poldi is a breath of fresh air and a force to be reckoned with.  A more unusual heroine, you won’t find.

4 Daggers
Joanne gives this “4 daggers out of 5”