Joanne’s Mystery Picks

162499Closed Casket: The New Hercule Poirot Mystery by Sophie Hannah

Who wouldn’t be excited to read a new Hercule Poirot mystery?  Well, don’t hold your breath with this one.  I’m still trying to decide if it was written as a joke as it was so appallingly awful.  It read like an old English farce (a comedy that aims at entertaining the audience through situations that are highly exaggerated, extravagant, and thus improbable)*, and a bad one at that.  Even the names of some of the characters are reminiscent of this art form, e.g.: “Lady Playford”, “Catchpool”, “Shrimp Seddon”.

It all begins with Poirot’s invitation to the Irish estate of Lady Athelinda Playford, the famous children’s author.  Along with Poirot, Lady Playford has invited Inspector Edward Catchpool of Scotland Yard.  Neither of these men knows why they have been invited and Lady Playford is not at all forthcoming in explaining her reasons to either of them.  Yes, a murder does take place but it is so preposterous as to be almost laughable.  The plot is convoluted (Lady Playford, herself, uses this term to describe the plots of her children’s novels!), confusing, and at times makes no sense at all and the characters have no reasonable motivation for what they do or say in many instances.

Poirot is held in such high esteem in Agatha Christie’s novels.  Here – not at all.

In fact, his reputation as a brilliant detective isn’t even acknowledged, nor is he even given a chance to show what he can do.  But then, the occasional “mon ami”, and a reference to “grey cells” do NOT a Poirot make!

Give this one a miss.  Otherwise it’s a couple of hours that you’ll never get back!


Joanne’s Mystery Picks

no-cure-for-love1NO CURE FOR LOVE by Peter Robinson

The setting in this novel is Los Angeles and the reader could easily believe that Robinson had grown up in the City of Angels because he has every nuance, every aspect of life there, down pat.

No, Banks hasn’t been transplanted from his beloved Britain, though the main character is British born.  This novel is a “stand-alone” but it’s still about crime and detectives and criminals.

Sarah Broughton, a British actress with a tainted past, plays homicide detective Anita O’Rourke in the hit TV show Good Cop, Bad Cop.  When she begins to receive anonymous fan letters of an obsessive nature, she dismisses them as something that’s just “part of the job”.   When the tone of the letters escalates to something more threatening, Stuart Kleigman, head of the casting studio and Sarah’s friend, calls in Arvo Hughes and Maria Hernandez from the LAPD Threat Management Unit to investigate.

Finding the culprit proves much more difficult than they imagined.  It’s apparent from his knowledge of Sarah that he is someone from her past.  But asking Sarah to remember details from a foggy past of drugs and sex was like looking through a film-coated mirror.  When “M” (as he signs his letters) “turns it up a notch” and commits murder, Hughes and Hernandez pull out all the stops to save Sarah before he completes his obsession.

when-the-musics-overWhen the Music’s Over by Peter Robinson

Banks’ first case as a new Detective Superintendent is the alleged assault by the beloved celebrity, Danny Caxton, on a then fourteen year old girl, fifty years before.  He knows the difficulty in investigating such a case with the lack of forensic evidence and the unreliability of memories after so many years.  And there’s always the question of the motive of the alleged victim – why did she wait so long to come forward?  He’s more than well aware that he’ll have to proceed carefully as the media will have a heyday with this, just waiting for him to put a step wrong.

While Banks is dealing with the media storm that has arisen from the investigation into Caxton, Annie Cabbot is looking into the particularly disturbing murder of a young woman, found in a ditch, along a quiet country road.  As she reconstructs the victim’s last few days, the case begins to take on racial overtones and Annie is well aware of the powder keg it could become if she isn’t careful.

Both Annie and Banks must step gingerly as they investigate their respective cases and this only adds to the tension and suspense that this novel generates so well.

Robinson has created a top-notch story which should satisfy the most loyal of his fans.

Robinson, Peter_cr_Pal HansenPeter Robinson will be joining the Library as part of STARFest 2016. He will be in conversation with Writer in Residence Wayne Arthurson on Friday, Oct. 21 at the Arden Theatre.

Tickets are $10, and available from the St. Albert Public Library or through Eventbrite.

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

missing, presumed coverMissing, Presumed by Susie Steiner

“You can choose your friends but you sure can’t choose your family”.  What is that saying about families?  This phrase certainly resonates with Manon Bradshaw, an officer with the Cambridgeshire police force.  She’s estranged from her immediate family and complete bollocks at relationships, yet has a fast and true friendship with Bryony, another member of the force.

When she attends the scene of a suspected missing person case after hearing the call-out on her police radio, she knows that this case will need every bit of her attention.  Edith Hind, a Cambridge graduate student and daughter of the surgeon to the Royal Family, has disappeared and as the team begins the tedious investigation into her personal life, secrets are revealed that will reverberate through her entire family.

Steiner takes us on a roller-coaster ride with quick stops, frequent accelerations, and many twists and turns. Laced with humour and many “yes!” moments, the end comes as a complete surprise and leaves the reader contemplating “families” in all their forms

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

25886638Bryant & May: London’s Glory by Christopher Fowler

If you’ve never read a Bryant and May Peculiar Crimes story then this is the perfect place to begin.  In this volume of 11 short stories, Fowler presents some of the most puzzling and delicious crimes that this unit has yet to solve.

His introduction includes a brief examination of why crime/mystery stories have such a fascination for readers; what Bryant and May have gotten up to in past books; and a run-down of the members of the Peculiar Crimes Unit.  This information is very helpful in giving the new (and “old”) reader background to the work of the unit and the personalities of those who work there.

Each story is prefaced by Fowler’s words explaining what inspired him to write it. Often his inspiration came from personal events and experiences and it’s so interesting to see how he was able to take these events and create such wonderfully clever crimes.

Fowler gives us two final chapters in this volume: one briefly discusses each of Bryant and May’s cases to date; the other is a list of the odd, quirky, and unusual books that make up Arthur Bryant’s library and upon which he relies to solve his cases.  This library includes such titles as: Colonic Exercises for Asthmatics, Codebreaking in Braille, and The Pictorial Guide to Chairman Mao Alarm Clocks!  And he tells us that not all of these titles are imaginary!

Brilliantly written, clever plots, and the oddest of characters!  Fowler’s Bryant & May series is at the top of my list of favorite mysteries.

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

A couple Canadian authors for you this week.

488814The Last Good Day by Gail Bowen

A  lawyer-friend of Joanne’s loans her his cottage, one of a number of homes owned by the lawyers of the same prestigious firm, for a couple of weeks during the summer.  When one of the lawyers seeks her out one night for advice and the following day commits suicide, Joanne is forced to look at this group of people in a new light.  Something unpleasant is percolating just under the surface and it’s affecting everyone.  People are on edge, tempers flare, arguments break out.  When Taylor wonders what her legacy would be if she were to die right now, at the age of eleven years, Joanne is seriously troubled at how the stress is affecting everyone and realizes the need to get to the bottom of whatever is going on.

As the events unfold, Bowen draws to a close, a story-line that has woven its way through the past few novels and I felt a profound sadness at having to say good-bye to a character that was equally loved and disliked.

This is Bowen’s 9th novel in the series and I found it to be the best one to date.  Its overwhelming sadness marks it as being just that much different from the ones that came before it.  It’s one that I’ll remember for a very long time.

18169832Come Barbarians by Todd Babiak

Christopher Kruse could have had no idea that his decision to move his family to the south of France would change their lives forever.  He thought that by moving, he could start afresh, put his life as a high-risk security agent and the evils that came with that position, behind him.  But what he encounters here is far worse than anything he was escaping from and the loss that he suffers weighs him down like a too-heavy cloak upon his shoulders.  Kruse becomes tangled in a web of the powerful and corrupt as he tries to make sense of the horror that has unravelled his life.

Babiak has created an intense, face-paced story where the games that politicians play lead to murder and where his protagonist has to dig deep within himself, beyond all loss and pain, to maintain his humanity.