Joanne’s Mystery Picks

burningmanBryant & May and the Burning Man by Christopher Fowler

There’s no doubt in my mind that Christopher Fowler is a brilliant wordsmith!  His latest chronicle of the Peculiar Crimes Unit is proof of this. A more clever, witty, smart and “edge of your seat suspenseful” tome I haven’t read in a very long time.

It’s chaos in London, leading up to Guy Fawke’s night. Demonstrators are up-in-arms over the scandal involving a wealthy financier who’s been accused of insider trading. When a homeless man is found dead, burned  after a Molotov cocktail was thrown onto the steps where he was sleeping, the Unit are called in to investigate whether this was an accident or pre-meditated murder. And what’s up with Bryant? He seems more distracted than ever. Meanwhile his many odd contacts (comparable to  Sherlock Holmes’ “Baker Street Irregulars”), help to flesh out the strange tangents that he goes off on.

Filled with history, metaphor, and those odd bits of trivia that Fowler so cleverly adds, “The Burning Man” is most definitely his best to date.

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

detectivesduaghterThe Detective’s Daughter by Lesley Thomson

Stella Darnell is meticulous. As owner of the cleaning company, “Clean Slate”, she has to be. The reader soon realizes that this isn’t the only reason for her obsessive cleanliness. After all she still has the plastic cover on her living room furniture, doesn’t vary her daily schedule one iota, and keeps her watch three minutes fast (something her father, retired CS Terry Darnell, always did). She’s hard on herself – harder than on anyone else. Is it because of having an absent father during her childhood? A father who was so consumed with work that he didn’t first see his new daughter until two days after her birth?

When Stella begins clearing out Terry’s house after his sudden death, she comes across confidential case files relating to the unsolved murder of Kate Rokesmith. It was a case that consumed Terry during Stella’s childhood and continued to do so right up until his death.

Meanwhile, “Clean Slate” is taking on more clients and Stella needs to recruit new cleaners. When Jack Harmon comes on board, she realizes that he’s the best cleaner that she’s ever had even given his odd behaviour. As these two mismatched people begin working together they take on more than they ever bargained for.

I liked the premise of this mystery and it was a fairly compelling read. The switching between past and present during the first part of the book was confusing at times and I found myself re-reading pages just to figure out  where I was in the story. This technique is a common one and usually better managed than it is in this novel.

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

banquetA Banquet of Consequences by Elizabeth George

Hampered by rules and regulations, Barbara Havers hasn’t been working up to her personal potential since returning from her trip to Italy in search of her former neighbors Taymullah Azhar and his daughter Hadiyyah.  In fact, that trip has put her in hot water with DS Isabelle Ardery and she is walking a fine line between keeping her position in London and being transferred to the “boonies”.  Lynley goes to bat for her when Barbara comes across a possible murder after attending a reading by the feminist and author, Clare Abbott.  Havers is given the go-ahead to head the investigation in Cambridge but must toe the line – or else.
Meanwhile in London, Tommy is investigating a disturbing case whose tentacles reach far and wide and with time entangle themselves in the very case that Barbara is investigating.  How these two cases are linked is what begins an investigation into a family of such dysfunction that it beggars belief.
The plotting of this novel is an amazing feat of twists and turns and surprises and at 576 pages, every word is critical to getting us to its conclusion.  There’s no doubt in my mind that Elizabeth George is a master of this genre.


Joanne’s Mystery Picks

mothcatcherThe Moth Catcher by Ann Cleeves

Di Vera Stanhope “loves” a good murder.  However, when two bodies are found, separated by distance, but connected by their fascination for moths, she’s more than puzzled.  What linked these two people that someone would find the need to kill them?  While she sends her detectives, Holly and Joe, off to do the routine background checks and questions, Vera focuses on the people in the quiet community of Valley Farm in Northumberland where the murders took place.

For as much as the residents of Valley Farm portray themselves as friends and good neighbors, Vera sees this disparate group of people as sheltering secrets. And one of these people, because of his or her secret, has committed murder – twice.

Cleeves has given us the smallest of clues along the way in this novel so the “reveal” was quite a surprise.  I enjoy the rapport that Vera has with her detectives – mentoring them but not letting them get away with any guff.

So when one or the other of them takes the initiative and puts themselves in danger, she’s like a mother doling out “tough love”.  They couldn’t be any luckier having her as their DI and are slowly coming to this realization.


deadinthewaterDead in the Water: A Campbell and Carter Mystery by Ann Granger

The unrelenting rain in the Cotswold village of Weston St. Ambrose brings more than floods and destruction as Christmas approaches.  What it does bring is a body – that of a young woman who worked at the local pub.  For Neil Stewart, the discovery of the body under his own mooring is even more disconcerting when he recognizes her as “Courtney”, the barmaid who served him and his fellow writers at their local Club dinner.  Inspector Jess Campbell soon learns that Courtney was the daughter of the town villain, Teddy Higson, currently serving time at her Majesty’s pleasure. As her investigation proceeds, Jess is constantly pulled back to the Fishermans’ Rest, the pub where the Writers’ Club last met.  She’s certain that something that happened at that dinner, with that group of writers, led to Courtney’s death. But the clock is ticking to find the killer before Teddy Higson is released on compassionate grounds and decides to solve his daughter’s murder himself.

Granger takes quite a different tone with this series in comparison to that of Mitchell and Markby, the one I’m most familiar with.  Teddy Higson and the members of the writer’s group are more like “caricatures” and don’t come across as completely believable to me. This was a “cozy” read but I’m not chomping at the bit for the next installment in this series.

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.