Joanne’s Mystery Picks

34064625BODY ON BAKER STREET  by Vicki Delaney

There aren’t very many surprises in this heavily formulaic mystery by Canada’s Vicki Delany.  When Gemma Doyle and Jayne Wilson, proprietors of the Sherlock Homes Bookshop and Emporium on Baker Street, are approached about holding a book signing with Renalta Van Markoff, the controversial author of the Hudson and Homes mystery series, it’s glaringly obvious who the victim will be in this second book in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop mystery.  Not only that, but we know what the “murder weapon” will be a good twenty-four hours before the murder is committed (it couldn’t be more obvious if it was lit up with a neon sign!).

There’s the indignant Holmes’ expert who decries Renalta’s interpretation of Conan Doyle’s invention; Renalta’s long-suffering assistant; and finally, the handsome publicist.  All are considered suspects and Gemma and Jayne take it upon themselves to solve this murder before an innocent person is arrested.

9781487002749THE IMAM OF TAWI-TAWI by Ian Hamilton

Ava has just started a new relationship with the actress Pang Fai when she’s contacted by one of Uncle’s oldest friends.  He wants Ava to fly to Manila to look into the rumours of a college in Tawi-Tawi, an island in the Philippines, which is said to be training terrorists.

While the first part of this novel seems to consist of Ava “living” on her phone, the pace soon ramps up and Ava is thrust into an investigation that is anything but simple.  She partners up with a CIA agent and what they find when they finally are able to investigate the college will chill you to the bone.

Hamilton has raised the bar again with this novel as Ava has to rely on all the guile and wisdom that Uncle ever passed onto her while also digging deep into her own personal resources.

 

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

512bzcnpdhtl-_sx334_bo1204203200_SLEEPING IN THE GROUND by Peter Robinson

When DS Alan Banks and his team are called to the scene of a mass murder it’s as if we’re witnessing an event ripped from the headlines of a newspaper.  Someone has targeted a wedding party outside a church and there are many casualties. When their investigations lead them to a suspect, Banks and his team are left with more questions than answers and begin to second-guess their findings.

At the same time he’s working this case, Banks is dealing with the death of a former girlfriend and the return of profiler Jenny Fuller, with whom he almost committed adultery years before.  Rather than providing a leadership role as befitting his rank, Banks seems to spend a lot of his time mooning about – like a love-sick schoolboy.

Even with these three storylines working back and forth, the novel becomes clichéd and predicable.  Conclusions are reached after minimal investigation and his team make decisions without consulting Banks or each other.  The plotting is shoddy and the characters are mere shadows on the page.  Even the regular characters appear lifeless.  What used to be interesting (i.e. Banks’ music choices) becomes boring and repetitive as Robinson launches into an often lengthy description about the songs and artists he’s chosen to play,  every time he’s within range of a sound system.

Needless to say, this novel was a disappointment.  I can only hope that it’s a one-off and that Robinson’s next book will redeem him in the hearts of his readers.

 

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

28007842BY GASLIGHT by Steven Price

This atmospheric tale of loss, obsession and revenge takes us from the diamond mines of South Africa, to the crowded streets of Victorian London and the battlefields of the American Civil War.   It is 1885 and William Pinkerton takes up the search for a man who eluded his famous late father for so many years – the infamous Edward Shade.  But Shade proves to be as shadowy as his name suggests and there are those who maintain that he doesn’t even exist.

Adam Foole, a gentleman con-man and thief, returns to London in search of a lost love who he learns, has a tenuous connection to this same man, Shade.  Slowly their stories begin to converge and both men are thrust together in an unlikely bond.

Price’s brilliant writing allows our senses to smell the decay and stench of the streets and sewers of London, to see and feel the grit under the fingernails of the poor and downtrodden, and to hear the incessant sounds of war on the battlefields of America.  This is a novel of epic proportions and leaves the reader in awe of the ability of this writer to create such a stunning work of fiction.

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Please join me on Saturday, October 14 at 7:00 p.m. at St. Albert Public Library as we welcome Steven Price to STARFest.

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

13009223-_uy200_EXIT STRATEGY by Kelley Armstrong

Nadia Stafford, ex-cop, divides her time between her nature lodge in Northern Ontario and her off-season job as a hitman for a Mafia family.  She needs this job because the money keeps her lodge going.  She’s smart, resilient, self-sufficient, and instantly likeable.

When one of her contacts recruits her to help track down a serial killer whose victims appear to be randomly selected, she teams up with Jack (her mentor) and his team.  Nadia is quick to pick up on the manipulating character of one of the team members and stands her ground against her.

As the team follows the killer around the U.S., he is always just one step ahead of them.  It doesn’t take long for them to clue-in that this killer is one of them.  And so they need to revise their plan to neutralize him and start thinking like they would if the roles were reversed.

Armstrong has created a strong female protagonist, fully-fleshed and believable.  She still has her vulnerabilities but is pretty adept at keeping them hidden.  With Nadia Stafford, she’s created a character who we want to learn more about.

Join me and many others on Saturday, October 28 at 7 pm at SAPL as we sit and listen to this award-winning STARFest author talk about this series and the many others that she’s brought to the page.

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