Joanne’s Mystery Picks

Inspector McLean Mystery series by James Oswald: Part One!

Inspector-McLean-books-in-a-series

NATURAL CAUSES
THE BOOK OF SOULS
HANGMAN’S SONG
Reading Oswald’s Inspector Tony McLean series is like eating peanuts – you can’t stop at just one. I read the first three back-to-back, like a chain smoker lighting the cigarette in her hand with the one between her lips. He’s a likeable guy is Tony McLean. He’s intuitive, doesn’t cut corners, and goes the extra mile, much to the chagrin of his boss, DS Duguid (a.k.a. “Dagwood” by his officers). But McLean is no “yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir” kind of guy. He gives as good as he gets and meets Duguid’s scorn with pragmatism and common sense – certain to irritate the DS even more.

We are aware that McLean has suffered a loss as he makes oblique references to his girlfriend, Kirsty, while investigating the apparent ritual killing of a young woman in Natural Causes. However it’s only while he’s investigating this death that we truly understand the magnitude of his loss. This young woman appears to have been murdered many years before and as Edinburgh is bathed in blood with a new series of killings of young women, McLean believes that they are all connected. When McLean meets Madame Rose (I like to think of her/him as a rather large Medium), she poses the possibility that a supernatural force could be at work in these killings. This hint of the occult, spiritualism and the supernatural plays a role in all of Oswald’s novels.

In The Book of Souls, we finally find out what happened to McLean’s girlfriend, Kirsty, (no spoilers here). The body of a young woman, brutally murdered is found in Edinburgh, echoing ten similar murders of young women twelve years previously. The murderer, known as the Christmas killer (for the time of year that he committed these heinous acts), was convicted and sent to prison. But the Christmas killer has been murdered by a fellow prisoner.
So did they get the wrong man or is someone out there replicating the murders?

When McLean attends the suicide of a young man by hanging, the whole scene seems “off” to him. When two other men are found hanged, supposedly having committed suicide, McLean begins to investigate the three deaths as anything but suicide. As in The Book of Souls, Madame Rose plays a significant role in Oswald’s The Hangman’s Song. And like the other two novels, McLean isn’t just saddled with one case at a time. He’s also investigating a prostitution and human trafficking ring, leaving the poor guy little time for sleep or even a cup of tea. And all around this case is the whiff of something sinister and unexplained, leaving everyone involved, vulnerable and in danger.

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

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

91rqgzfswjlA Deadly Divide by Ausma Zehanat Khan

Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty, Community Policing detectives, are sent to the scene of a mass shooting at a mosque in Quebec. Acting as liaisons with the community, they are there to help temper the fear of the residents while dealing with a vicious campaign of racism which has been launched on social media and exploited by a right-wing radio host. So many fingers are pointing in so many different directions. Who are the perpetrators of this horrific crime? And who is shadowing Khattack, watching and knowing his every move? Does it have anything to do with the shooting, or is it something personal?

Khan has brought to the page a story that we have seen played out in far too many communities around the world (most recently in Christchurch, New Zealand). Her depiction of the events in this novel are every bit as gripping, heart-wrenching, and horrifying as those we’ve seen on TV on the evening news.

Such violence can only create greater rifts between the different factions in this community, and while Esa and Rachel work to prevent further escalation of these rifts, their relationship as partners is put to the test.

This is by far, Khan’s best book yet in this series.

5 Daggers
Joanne gives this “5 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!

 

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

61imrcdfuol._sx307_bo1204203200_MONEY IN THE MORGUE by Ngaio Marsh and Stella Duffy

Ngaio Marsh was one of the four golden age crime queens along with Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and Margery Allingham. All four were very different in their approach to their novels. Marsh was exceptional in her depiction of setting and with her interest in the theatre, her stories often took on the feel of a stage play. When she died in 1982, she left behind the first few chapters and title of Money in the Morgue, which Duffy has completed seamlessly. At no place is it evident where Marsh’s story ended and Duffy’s begins.

It’s World War II and DCI Roderick Alleyn is undercover as a patient at Mount Seager Hospital in New Zealand. The hospital is filled with convalescing soldiers and his job is to determine whether or not there are spies amongst them. When Mr. Glossop arrives with the military payroll and it goes missing from the matron’s safe, a search is launched. Instead of finding the money, a corpse is found and Alleyn is forced to shed his disguise and take over the investigation.

Alleyn is at his best here as he unravels a complicated attempt at obfuscation, complete with the requisite red herrings, which are meant to send him off in the wrong direction.

A “cracking” good mystery that has me heading to the library for more of Marsh’s Detective Inspector Roderick Alleyn stories!

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

1101887095BRYANT & MAY: HALL OF MIRRORS by Christopher Fowler

In Fowler’s latest Peculiar Crimes Unit mystery he takes us back to swinging London in 1969 and a younger Bryant and May.  Here we get the back-story to many of the iconic things that we associate with these two detectives.  There’s still a chuckle on every page along with many belly-laughs in this very clever telling of a “country house murder”.

Bryant and May have been tasked with keeping Monty Hatton-Jones safe until his testimony at the trial of a developer of shoddy flats.  What they hadn’t counted on was leaving London for a party at the estate of Tavistock Hall, which Hatton-Jones insists on attending.

When the owner of the Hall goes missing and a dismembered corpse is later found, Bryant and May use the cunning and ingenuity that they are later known for to solve the case.

A first-rate read for followers of this series.

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

*Read Joanne’s other Bryant & May reviews!

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

916wb7vjlhlKINGDOM OF THE BLIND by Louise Penny

The repercussions of the events that took place in the previous novel in this series (Glass Houses) are still being felt as we return to Three Pines, six months later.  Armand Gamache remains suspended from his job as head of the Sûreté du Québec while the investigation continues.

Like the other novels in this series, Kingdom of the Blind is a multi-layered story.  While Armand awaits his fate concerning his actions involving the drug cartels, he is presented with a new and puzzling situation.  He’s been chosen as one of three executors of the will of an elderly woman whom he has never met.  The provisions of the will are so bizarre that the woman’s competence at the time it was written is called into question.  Before much progress can be made, a body is found which throws a more ominous light on the whole situation.

While Gamache investigates the background of this woman he is informed that a major influx of opioids is about to hit the streets of the inner city of Montreal – those same drugs that were involved in the case that got him suspended.

Armand must use all of his guile to thwart the drug dealers from saturating the city with deadly narcotics while putting his life, and those of other officers, on the line.

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

51qbfmncfolCARELESS LOVE by Peter Robinson

The body of a young woman is found in a car recently involved in an accident.  The car had been tagged with a POLICE AWARE sign indicating that the accident had been investigated and that the car was waiting to be towed.  There was no body in the vehicle at the time of the investigation so the presence of this young woman’s body is a mystery.  Not far away from this incident, the body of a well-dressed man is found in a gully.  Are the two incidents connected?

Banks and his team are tasked with finding everything they can about each of these people and determining whether or not they were victims of foul play.

I’m usually chomping at the bit to read a new Inspector Banks novel and began this one with great anticipation.  However, it quickly became stale and flat.  It seems that Banks has undergone a personality change – he’s become flippant, at times vulgar, and easily distracted from the task at hand.   His occasional references to this or that musician has segued into paragraphs about the artist and his/her music, becoming tedious and irritating.  Even Annie Cabbot seems to treat her job as a lark.

With a weak plot and characters who don’t live up to their reputation, Robinson’s latest mystery left me completely unsatisfied.

3 Daggers
Joanne gives this “3 daggers out of 5”