Joanne’s Mystery Picks

zigzaggirlThe Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths

Griffiths, best known for her Ruth Galloway series about a forensic archaeologist, presents us with the first book in a new series with The Zig Zag Girl.  It’s 1950 in Brighton and Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens is called to the scene of a gruesome murder.  At once Stephens is certain that this isn’t just some twisted individual who has done this, but someone who’s familiar with the magic tricks of Max Mephisto with whom Stephens served with in the war.  They were a part of the Magic Men, a camouflage unit designed to trick the enemy.  When another murder is committed, echoing another magic trick, Max and Edgar are sure that the answer lies somewhere in their past during their Magic Men days and when Stephens receives a letter outlining the next trick, he’s certain that the Magic Men themselves are in danger.

Missing from this novel is the humour and warmth that is so present in Galloway’s other series.  Edgar and Max are relative loners and when family and other relationships are brought into the picture, it feels awkward.  Perhaps Galloway’s intention is to completely distance herself from her first series and I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.  Let’s see what the next book in this series brings to the reader.

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

nature of the beastThe Nature of the Beast: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel by Louise Penny

Every time I pick up a new Louise Penny novel, I feel like I’ve come home: home to familiar characters; home to Olivier’s bistro with apple and parsnip soup; home to the B&B with luscious, deep eiderdowns on the beds. And now Three Pines is home to someone else, too: Armand Gamache and his wife Reine-Marie. When tragedy strikes and their tranquil peace is disrupted, they discover that “Evil” has also taken up residence in their community.

There follows a tale of misguided loyalties, secrets kept for too long, and people who are not whom they appear to be. In the capacity as an advisor to Jean-Guy and Chief Inspector Isabelle Lacoste, Gamache begins to unwind this tangled tale and wonders, if he had acted sooner, if he could have prevented the events that then followed.

In this novel, Penny shows us how the past can affect every day of one’s present, and she does it admirably.

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

The_Murder_Road_copyThe Murder Road by Stephen Booth

This isn’t the gripping story that we’re used to reading from Stephen Booth. Maybe it’s because of the loss of familiar characters and the introduction of new ones as E Division goes through some major staff changes: Ben Cooper is now a DI and is still dealing with his grief over losing his fiancé; Diane Fry is a DS with Major Crime in Nottingham; Gavin Murfin has retired from the force and is looking for work in the public sector; and DS Sharma is new to E Division and Ben isn’t quite sure where his loyalties lie. When Mac Kelsey’s transport truck gets stuck under a bridge in the small community of Shawhead and the cab of his truck is covered in blood but he’s nowhere to be found, E Division is set the task of solving his disappearance. Meanwhile, other officers are attending the scene of an apparent suicide. When a link between Kelsey and the suicide, Scott Brooks, is found Ben starts looking back 8 years to the tragic death of Ashley Flynn, Brooks’ fiancé.

Though there isn’t the same frisson of excitement in this book as in previous ones, the very clever conclusion makes up for it.

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

New monthly reviews from Joanne, our mistress of mysteries!

ghost fieldsThe Ghost Fields by Elly Griffiths

The sixth book in the Ruth Galloway Mystery series sees Ruth, a forensic archaeologist, called to a construction site whose crew has unearthed a downed WWII plane with the pilot still inside.  Of course, nothing is as it seems and when two people are attacked during separate incidents, the simple explanation concerning the discovery of the plane becomes much more sinister.  Readers who aren’t familiar with this series need not worry about catching up with the characters – the author fills us in on their background without being too repetitive for her seasoned readers.  I particularly like the humour that she brings to her characters and found myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion.  If you enjoy this book, do go back and read the series from the beginning.  You won’t regret your decision.

 

 

checkedoutvietsChecked Out by Elaine Viets

What attracted me to this book was that it takes place in a library and involves the group who fundraise for it – The Friends of the Library.  Since I work in a library and belong to our Friends of the Library, I wanted to see how the fictional institutions matched up to the real thing.  Helen and Phil, husband and wife PIs, are hired by the Flora Park Library and the ultra-rich Coakley family, respectively.  Helen, under the guise of a library volunteer, searches for a missing John Singer Sargent painting, supposedly slipped into a book that later was part of a large donation of books to the library.  Phil, working as a gardener on their estate, has been hired to find the expensive necklace that the Coakley’s gave to their daughter on her birthday and which went missing the very evening of.  When someone connected with the library is the victim of a hit-and-run, Helen realizes that shelving books can be a very dangerous pastime!   Viets introduces a cast of characters both likeable and detestable and does a good job of throwing in the occasional red herring.  On a personal basis, I would say that my library is heavy on the likeable “characters”.

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

Welcome to the inaugural post of Joanne’s Mystery Picks.  Our crime and mystery afficiando will provide monthly clues to great reads!

burn_cover_optimA Lovely Way to Burn by Louise Welsh

Stevie Flint, former journalist, and now employed selling products on Shop TV, fights her way through a London in the grips of a plague that is felling residents faster than she can count. Her boyfriend, Dr. Simon Sharkey, appears to be one of the unlucky until Stevie realizes that things just aren’t adding up.  In pursuing the truth about Simon’s death, Stevie puts her life in danger again and again.  Join her for a ride through a London that is barely recognizable.

 steve burrows booksA Siege of Bitterns by  Steve Burrows

Morse is an opera aficionado (primarily Wagner); Dalgleish is a poet; and Chief Inspector Domenic Jejeune is a birder.  In this first of a new series (Birder Murders), Jejeune, newly posted to Saltmarsh in Norfolk, investigates the murder of Cameron Brae, an ecological activist.  He is found hanged in the marsh area near his home.  Jejeune thinks that a feud over bird watching lists has led to Brae’s death.  The very clever solution to this murder has me a fan of Burrows, without question.

 A Pitying of Doves by Steve Burrows

When Jejuene is called to a bird sanctuary to investigate the murders of two seemingly unrelated people found murdered in a bird cage, it’s all about the birds to him.  His DCS sees it differently and insists that Jejeune follow her lead.  With both their jobs in jeopardy, Jejuene hopes that his decision to follow his own path is not a flight of fancy.  Some great wordplay here again with collective nouns!

ross pennie booksTainted/Tampered/ Up in Smoke by Ross Pennie

How about a summer mystery binge read?  Then start turning the pages of Ross Pennie’s novels featuring Dr. Zol Szabo, an epidemic investigator working for the Public Health Dept. in Ontario.  In Tainted, Zol investigates an epidemic of deaths due to a new form of mad cow disease.  In Tampered, Zol’s own Grandfather is at risk when the senior’s home that he is a resident of becomes an incubator for a deathly food poisoning.  In Up in Smoke, Zol is called in to investigate the deaths of high school students in Ontario’s tobacco country.  They have all died from liver failure and he suspects contaminated cigarettes that they are buying at cut-rate prices from a near-by Indian Reserve.  Zol doesn’t just rely on his expertise as a scientist to work out the answers to these epidemics.  He has a good back-up team consisting of his young son, Max, infection specialist Hamish Wakefield, and Natasha, his lab technician.  Pennie gives us a nice change from the regular “police procedurals” with his character of Dr. Zol Szabo and borrows from his personal background as an infectious disease specialist.