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.

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”.