Joanne’s Mystery Picks

Joanne's mystery picks - 3 book review

Having read these three mysteries, back-to-back, I thought I’d do a comparison of them.  Robinson’s latest centers on the discovery of the body of a teenage boy, stuffed into a wheelie bin.  A secondary story-line involves Zelda, Annie’s father’s partner, who is a victim of human trafficking.  Banks comes across as arrogant, pompous, and acting as a lone wolf as he interviews suspects and reveals details of the cases to the very suspects that he’s investigating.  His constant references to musical artists and obscure songs has now become tiresome and boring. The rest of his team are seldom present during this overly-long story. Banks and the other characters have no personality, no individuality, and are wooden and cold.

One would never be able to pick them out of a line-up, having no real sense of what they even look like.

Crombie takes her characters out of London and into the country as Duncan, Gemma, and family are guests at the family estate of Melody Talbot, Gemma’s detective sergeant.  But the quiet weekend that they’d all hoped for is not to be when a tragic car accident, followed by a series of mysterious deaths, draws Kincaid and Gemma into the investigation.  The complex relationships between the characters are fully explored, giving the reader a true picture of each participant in the story. I felt that I really knew these people and understood their motivations.

Logan McRae has a particularly gruesome case to tackle, in McBride’s fourth installment of this intense series.  A legal appeal has released a convicted serial killer back into the community 20 years after his crimes. Now people are going missing again and human meat is being found in butchers’ shops.   McRae, along with DI Steele and Insch literally jump off the page as they go about the grisly task of finding the killer, leaving the reader laughing at the gallows-humour and eccentricities of these colorful, well-formed characters.   McBride’s ability to bring his characters to life is second-to-none, and even the dead victims have more life than any of the characters in Peter Robinson’s latest.

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

the woman in cabin 10The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

If you liked The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl then chances are you’ll like Ruth Ware’s latest.  Lo Blacklock is a journalist who writes for a travel magazine and has just been given the best assignment imaginable: a week on board a luxury cruise.  Feeling a bit fragile after being recently burgled, Lo is hoping that both the assignment and the atmosphere will help her regain her equilibrium.  

When Lo witnesses a woman being thrown overboard, yet all passengers and crew are accounted for when she reports the incident, her credibility is quickly questioned.  She’s determined to prove that she’s not mistaken and embarks on a dangerous path to find the truth of the matter.

Be prepared to share the tension, anxiety, paranoia and claustrophobia that Lo experiences as she searches for the answers to the questions: who was thrown overboard? And why?

4 Daggers
Joanne gives this “4 daggers out of 5”

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

Road to Grantchester coverThe Road to Granchester by James Runcie

Though not a mystery in itself, this volume is a prequel to the Grantchester mystery series (books) and gives us a picture of what led Sydney Chambers to his calling as a vicar.  It is 1938 and war is on the horizon. Sydney Chambers spends the next seven years serving his country, gaining a Military Cross, and suffers the loss of friends and companions. Everything that’s happened to him during this time shapes his future as a private citizen and a member of the clergy.  It gives us an understanding of why he thinks the way he does and helps explain the reasons for the actions that he takes in his day to day life. 

This is a must-read for everyone who has enjoyed reading the Grantchester Mysteries.

4 Daggers
Joanne gives this “4 daggers out of 5”

madoc and janet rhys.pngThe Madoc and Janet Rhys Mysteries by Charlotte MacLeod:

  • A Pint of Murder
  • Murder Goes Mumming
  • A Dismal Thing to Do
  • Trouble in the Brasses
  • The Wrong Rite

This cozy mystery series by Canadian author Charlotte MacLeod features Inspector Madoc Rhys of the RCMP and his wife Janet.  For the most part, the stories take place in New Brunswick. I look at them as being a cross between a good Agatha Christie novel, a bit of the Murdoch Mysteries (the TV series) and a touch of the Beverly Hillbillies.

The books are peopled with funny, colorful, and eccentric characters.  The plots are intricate and well-crafted and the mystery of “who dunnit” is not easily solved.  It’s a delightful series, providing many laughs as I paged through each book. How unfortunate that there are only five books to this series.  I would gladly have read an additional five if they existed.

4 Daggers
Joanne gives this “4 daggers out of 5”

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

We All Fall DownWe All Fall Down by Daniel Kalla

The killer in this novel by Canadian author Daniel Kalla is not a person.  The killer is the bubonic plague. Alana Vaughan is an infectious disease specialist with NATO and is called to Genoa, Italy, to attend a patient suffering from the disease.  Could it be bioterrorism or is there another explanation?

Alternating between the modern story with Alana Vaughan and the story contained in an eight-hundred-year-old medieval journal, Kalla pulls no punches when describing the horrible progression of this usually fatal disease and the suffering of its victims.

The clock is ticking as Vaughan and her team hunt for patient zero.  As the disease spreads, it’s a race to stop it from reaching epidemic proportions.

A great thriller that’s hard to put down once you read the first page.

4 Daggers
Joanne gives this “4 daggers out of 5”

A high mortality dovesA High Mortality of Doves by Kate Ellis

The one word that comes to mind when I describe this book is “bland”.  Everything about it is bland – the characters, the atmosphere (or lack thereof), the language, and the story.  It just doesn’t live up to the intriguing title and I found it to be a real disappointment.

It is 1919, just after WWI, though it could be any time as the author does nothing concrete to make the reader aware of when the events are taking place. In the Derbyshire village of Wenfield, young women are being murdered and found with a dead dove stuffed into their mouths.  When the local constabulary is unable to make any headway in finding the killer, Inspector Albert Lincoln of Scotland Yard is called in to handle the case. However, Lincoln’s personal problems and his general inertia leave the reader with little confidence in his abilities to do his job properly.

The story unfolds sluggishly, and even the surprise ending cannot redeem it. 

One Dagger
Joanne gives this “1 dagger out of 5”

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

Mountain Master of Sha-TinThe Mountain Master of Sha Tin by Ian Hamilton

Ava is thrust into a violent and volatile situation when her good friend, Xu, the Mountain Master, asks her to settle a triad war that has broken out in Hong Kong because he is too ill to leave his bed. She is forced to work against her arch enemy Sammy Wing and his nephew Carter – the new Mountain Master of Sha Tin – as they attempt to regain control of Wanchai.

Hamilton provides a comprehensive summary of Ava’s adventures to this point, providing any new reader with enough backstory to make the events in this novel understandable. However, I always recommend that one reads a series from the beginning as there are often subtle references in previous novels that become germane to subsequent stories.

The violence is ramped up in this novel and Ava is forced to do things that she’d rather not have to. Uncle’s presence is felt more than it ever has been since he died, almost as if he is reassuring Ava that she is following the right path. Her years of working as a forensic accountant have trained her well in approaching complex problems and she falls back on the tricks of the trade that she polished to perfection with Uncle by her side.

Offsetting the violence, Hamilton provides a subplot involving Pang Fai, Ava’s friend and lover, which opens the door to some interesting potential plots. I wonder if he’ll incorporate them in his next novel, The Diamond Queen of Singapore, due out in July 2020.

4 Daggers
Joanne gives this “4 daggers out of 5”