Joanne’s Mystery Picks

hpcHercule Poirot’s Christmas
By Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie published this book in 1938.  But the story is timeless. Other than a brief mention of events in another part of the world, one could easily assume that this was a contemporary novel.

Simeon Lee, the patriarch of a family of four, insists that each of his children come home for Christmas.  But don’t think that he plans on playing “happy families”. His intentions are the complete opposite. He does everything to goad each of his children by insulting them and denying their petty grievances and long-held grudges.  Before the first Christmas cracker is even pulled, he’s found bludgeoned to death in his locked bedroom.

When the Chief Constable of Middleshire receives a call about the murder, he asks Poirot, who is spending Christmas with him, to come along while he investigates.  Poirot’s ability to stand back, observe and listen is his forte. It’s not his “little grey cells” (who aren’t even mentioned), that allow him to understand the “human condition”, but his powers of observation.  And it’s always that one word, or gesture, or look that, when observed by Poirot, seals the fate of the murderer.

A more clever mystery you won’t find.  There’s a reason that Agatha Christie is known as “The Queen of Crime” and this novel says it all.

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

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

Screen Shot 2019-11-12 at 1.19.10 PM.pngFierce Kingdom
By Gin Phillips

What starts out as a routine visit to the zoo for Joan and her precocious four year old son Lincoln, soon turns into a run for their lives as someone is stalking and killing the animals and humans alike. This is the ultimate story of Mother-love and how the instinct to protect one’s young wins out over everything else.

I read this mesmerizing thriller in one sitting and I defy anyone to be able to put it down before you’ve reached the last page.

5 daggers and then some!

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

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

The third sinThe Third Sin by Aline Templeton

When the body of a man is found in a car wreck on the Solway mud flats, it’s initially treated as an unfortunate accident.  That is until he’s identified as a man who was declared dead two years previously. DI Marjory (Big Marge) Fleming is called in to assist in the investigation, much to the chagrin of DI Len Harris who is relegated to following her lead.  

Her investigation finds that the dead man was part of a group called the Cyrenaics who believed that pleasure was the ultimate – until one of them died from an overdose.  The group disbanded, with some moving away, others disappearing, and one supposedly committing suicide. It is this last person who is now the center of their investigation.

Fleming and her team are tasked with investigating the recent death while having to review the case of the overdose death two years previously.  Their job is complicated enough without the constant hostility of Harris and his team who go as far as with-holding evidence with the aim of sabotaging the investigation.

A complicated case with complex characters leads to a whopping good mystery. Templeton is at the top of her game with this one.

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

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

Cold GraniteCold Granite by Stuart MacBride

Any account of child murder, whether it’s ripped from the headlines or found between the covers of a mystery novel, is disturbing .  MacBride’s debut novel, set in Aberdeen, Scotland, and featuring DS Logan McRae is certainly not for the faint of heart. A child murderer is at large and his indignities to the bodies of these little souls is truly gruesome.

If DS McRae thought that he’d be able to ease back into work after a year on sick leave, he had another thing coming.  The strangled and mutilated body of a four-year-old boy has been found in a ditch and they’ve pulled out all the stops to find his killer.  But David Reid’s body won’t be the last one they find.

It’s hard to imagine that anyone could find anything to laugh at in a novel such as this, given its subject matter, but MacBride is able to slide in bits and pieces that do make the reader laugh out loud.  DS Logan himself can be a load of laughs, as he slogs his way through the bitterly cold December in Aberdeen, cursing at Angus Robertson and his six-inch hunting knife which were responsible for his year of sick leave.  Meanwhile, it seems that his superior’s major preoccupation is with his role in the upcoming Christmas panto, which inspires some very creative insults from DS Logan.

Colourful, complex characters, an atmosphere of cold, dark and death, and a plot that will keep you on the edge of your seat.  It doesn’t get better than this when it comes to a mystery!

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

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

Lost manThe Lost Man by Jane Harper

The Australian Outback is a punishing environment even for those who know it well and respect it.  So how did Cameron Bright come to be where his body was found – at the legendary stockman’s grave – without any provisions or even a vehicle to get him safely back home?  This is the major question that is posed by this standalone novel by Jane Harper, author of The Dry and Force of Nature.  And this is the question that Nathan, the oldest of the three Bright brothers, tries to find the answer to. 

Harper’s ability to create such tangible atmosphere in her novels is critical to how the reader reacts to the whole story.  Here we suffer the heat and dryness of the Outback to the point of thirst; feel the grit of the sand between our teeth; and feel the sweat as it soaks into our clothes.  We can only imagine, in horror, what Cameron felt while slowing dying in the heat and relentless sun.

In The Roar of the Crowd by Janice MacDonald, one or her characters says: “literature teaches us that subtext and back story is where everything really happens”.  This couldn’t be more true than it is in this novel. Despite being estranged from his family for ten years, Nathan is determined to solve the tragic mystery surrounding his brother, Cameron.  But there are so many secrets and so much pain to get through…

Make sure you add this book to your list of “must reads” along with Harper’s first two, if you haven’t read them already.

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