Joanne’s Mystery Picks

drowned livesDrowned Lives
By Stephen Booth

As a fan of Booth’s Cooper and Fry series, I was looking forward to reading this standalone mystery .  However, disappointment lay between the pages of this much-too-long tome. I can only wonder how lengthy this book was before the editor whittled it down because there was so much more that could have been deleted without losing the tone of the story, which was poor, at best.

Chris Buckley, a not too likeable character, has recently lost his parents, is facing redundancy and has entered into a business partnership in a rather dubious endeavor.  He is approached by an elderly man, Samuel Longden, who states that 

he is a distant relative of Chris’ and is writing a book about their family history and could use Chris’ help.  Chris is not at all interested in any collaboration with Longden and decides to forego a pre-arranged meeting with him only to later learn that Longden has been killed in a hit and run accident.  

Longden has left Chris a legacy in his will but only if Chris completes the book.  With his finances being severely strained, Chris decides to take on this task. With the introduction of Chris’ extensive family, I found it very confusing as to where to place each person on the family tree and how they were related to one another.  In some cases a character would appear briefly, interacting with Chris, and then drop out of the story for another hundred pages, leaving the reader to wonder what their importance was and how they fit into the mystery.

Reading the last page of this book was more of a “thank goodness that’s over” than “what a good story”.   I expected more of this author.  

2 Daggers
Joanne gives this “2 daggers out of 5”

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

challinorChristmas is Murder
By C.S. Challinor

Rex Graves, Q.C., is invited to spend Christmas at Swanmere Manor, a Victorian hotel in the English countryside, by his mother’s friend, the eccentric Dahlia Smithings.  The other hotel guests reads like cast of characters from a stage play – the tipsy handyman, the newlywed couple, the gay antiques dealer and his partner, the secretive writer, and the femme fatale.

When old Mr. Lawdry is found dead in the drawing room and Rex determines the death to be a murder, the tension amongst the guests increases.  The situation is further complicated when a snowstorm takes out the phone lines and makes it impossible to go for help. When two more people, with no apparent connection to one another are murdered, Rex takes it upon himself to suss out the killer.  

Filled with clichés, risqué innuendos, and a few funny moments, this book can help you bide the time if you, too, are snowed in and the phone lines are down!

Don’t take it too seriously – it’s meant to be a bit of a laugh.

2 Daggers
Joanne gives this “2 daggers out of 5”

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

long callThe Long Call
By Ann Cleeves

Saying good-bye to Cleeves’ great character, Jimmy Perez, in Wild Fire, the last book in that series, was difficult so I welcomed the thought that there was a new detective in town with this first book in the Two Rivers series.  My excitement was short-lived as I began reading, puzzled at the underdeveloped, wooden characters and a plot that consisted of threads of a story that just didn’t tie together.  I felt like I was reading an outline, or at best, a first draft.

Detective Matthew Venn returns to North Devon to attend the funeral of his father.  His falling-out with his family is referenced but no substance is given to this estrangement.  When a body is found on the beach, and it’s determined to be a murder, Venn is called in to take the case.  

Peopled with some of the most distasteful characters that I’ve come across in a long time, the motivation and actions of some of them just doesn’t ring true.   Many of the story lines and characters needed extensive fleshing-out in order to come together to create a credibly good mystery. Too bad this wasn’t done before the book went to publication.

2 Daggers
Joanne gives this “2 daggers out of 5”

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

71uqj1cdaflThe Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald

It’s every parent’s nightmare – that call in the middle of the night to say that your child has been in an accident. Abi answers the phone one night to be told that very thing about her seventeen-year old daughter, Olivia. Only it’s far worse: Olivia is brain-dead and on life support in order to keep her unborn baby alive, a baby that Abi knew nothing about. I was hooked at this point, but slowly I started to look at this novel more carefully.

The author utilizes “weather” in almost every chapter – but it goes nowhere to creating atmosphere. They are just words on the page. I found myself saying “fast forward” after the fifth or sixth passage talking about rain, sunshine, fog, or wind and it got very tiresome. And I just couldn’t believe these characters, expecially Abi, the martyred single-mom who could be called a “helicopter parent” except for the fact that she didn’t actually hover over her daughter, but had her locked in the helicopter with her! There just wasn’t anything genuine about any of the players in this story or the fact that an investigation into Olivia’s fall was deemed as unnecessary.

So, definitely not the top pick of the bookshelf for me, but some might enjoy it.

2 Daggers
Joanne gives this “2 daggers out of 5”

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

91couijfr5lMYCROFT HOLMES by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse

Mycroft Holmes is making a name for himself as the Secretary to the Secretary of State for War in the British government. When his best friend, Cyrus Douglas, receives disturbing reports of child murders in his birthplace of Trinidad, Holmes shares his friend’s distress. When Holmes’ fiancée, Georgiana, learns of these murders she abruptly departs for the island, where her family still holds property. Of course Holmes must follow and he and Cyrus team up to find her.

The pair is thrust into a web of superstition, violence, and murder from the moment they board the ship that is to take them to the Port of Spain. And as they search for Georgiana, they both come to realize that those whom they thought they knew turn out to be completely different people.

The story has moments of excitement but then gets bogged down with chapters that do nothing to move the main story forward. The disjointed plot lines leave one to shake one’s head as the reader tries to follow the trail that the authors have set down.

One wonders how the authors collaborated on this novel. First you have Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. Then there’s Anna Waterhouse, a screenwriter and script consultant. Who wrote what? Would knowing explain its deficiencies or really make any difference? I wonder…

The pair have penned a second novel – Mycroft and Sherlock. It will be interesting to see if this one fares better.

2 Daggers
Joanne gives this “2 daggers out of 5”

 

71z42bzjdewlThe GOLDEN TRESSES of the DEAD by Alan Bradley

Rumour has it that this will not be the last book in the Flavia de Luce Mystery series (if we’re to believe the author, himself, who claims that “Flavia still wakes me up in the middle of the night with strange snippets and intriguing insights”.)   However, if another book is not to be, then The Golden Tresses of the Dead certainly leaves this Flavia fan satiated.

It’s autumn in Bishop’s Lacey and Flavia’s sister, Ophelia, is getting married to Dieter.  Other than a few minor cat-calls from someone in the pews, the wedding goes off without a hitch.  That is, until Feely and Dieter come across something quite unexpected when cutting the cake: a human finger!

And there you have it – the first case for Arthur W. Dogger & Associates, Discreet Investigations.  Flavia and Dogger are quickly on the case when they’re approached by Mrs. Prill to find some missing letters. Two cases in a matter of minutes!   And then things just spiral from there: a dead body, a trip on the London Necropolis Railway, missionaries, and poison!

Flavia is as delightful in this tenth book in the series as she was when first we met her in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.  She’s older in her attitudes and understanding of the workings of the human heart, but still the plucky young girl whose knowledge of chemistry has helped solve so many crimes in her small English town.

Flavia is original, funny, and adorable.  Hopefully Bradley will continue to delight us with this brilliant little sleuth for years to come.

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

Check out Joanne’s other “Flavia” reviews!