Joanne’s Mystery Picks

ZARA’S DEAD91b2phikril by Sharon Butala

Sharon Butala’s novel is based on a murder that happened in Saskatoon.  She has fictionalized the case with her own interpretation of the events in this novel, which left me confused and unsatisfied.  Fiona, a former journalist and author of a book about the murder of Zara Stanley, is compelled to take up the case once again when someone shoves an envelope with some cryptic numbers written on a page, along with a name that is unfamiliar to her, under her door.  Fiona immediately begins to make suppositions and draw conclusions based on few, if any, facts, and only her personal feelings about the case.  She jumps in her car and begins a random journey to discover the truth.  As random as her journey is, her thought processes are even more so.  One would think that they were those of a delusional person.

Fiona is off on so many different tangents, none of which are backed-up by any facts.  She seemingly pulls them out the air as if they were arrows pointing to the truth.  However, nothing could be further from that!  This was a disappointing and confusing book, and I’d surely recommend giving it a miss.

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

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

1521690EXCEPT THE DYING by Maureen Jennings

If you’re a fan of Murdoch Mysteries on CBC television and haven’t read any of the books that the series is based on, then do!  I was delightfully surprised when I read this first book in the series.  Of course there are differences between the book and the television series, but it’s easy to treat each as a separate entity.

In both the book and the series, Murdoch is a man of integrity and treats the people that he encounters in his investigations with dignity and kindness.  It is 1895 and the unclothed body of a young servant girl is found in a laneway.  She is found to have been greatly liked by the wealthy family that she worked for and its mistress mourns her deeply.

Murdoch’s investigation takes him from the wealthiest families to the downtrodden and poor, who sell their bodies for the few pennies that will buy them a crust of bread.  He must sort through the many lies that he’s told in order to come to the truth of who killed this young woman.

Jennings paints a vivid picture of Toronto in the late 1800s with characters that come to life on the page.

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

51y-gybdrol-_sx331_bo1204203200_IN THE SHADOW OF AGATHA CHRISTIE: Classic Crime Fiction by Forgotten Female Writers, 1850-1917 edited by Leslie S. Klinger

Without the writers profiled in this extensive anthology, we would not have the pleasure of reading Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Patricia Wentworth, and so many others who learned the art of writing mysteries through their example.

This anthology includes Pulitzer Prize winners, writers who were even more famous than Conan Doyle, and others whose stories made it to the silent screen as well as radio and television.

Each story is a clever mystery, peopled with colorful characters and ingenious plots.  We’re even treated to a Sherlock Holmes’ story and it’s easily as satisfying as anything Conan Doyle himself ever wrote.

41pc7ssupyl-_sx331_bo1204203200_CRIME in a COLD CLIMATE: An Anthology of Classic Canadian Crime edited by David Skene-Melvin

David Skene-Melvin  brings together fourteen stories and four poems in this collection by early Canadian mystery writers.  Included are the first Sherlockian parody, railroad fiction set in the Rockies during the building of the CPR, and the earliest fictional appearance of a Mountie, to name just a few.

These stories are clever, colorful and provide a template for many of the mystery and crime stories that are published today.  They show that Canadians have stories to tell and can do so just as well as any other nationality.

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

33602101GLASS HOUSES by Louise Penny

The residents of Three Pines have had their share of grief in the past and have recovered.  But how will they ever recover after the events that take place in this novel?

It all starts with a mysterious figure, hooded and clothed in black, who takes up a position in the village center of Three Pines.   The figure neither gestures nor moves yet conveys a sense of evil that is almost palpable.

Armand is asked to intervene, but what can he do when no crime is being committed?  And then someone is murdered –  and the flood-gates open!

The novel covers a six-month span between the events of the murder and the trial of the accused.  During this time, Armand Gamache struggles with his conscience as he knows that he was the catalyst for many of the events that unfolded during this time.

Penny has woven an intricate plot that supersedes anything that she has written before.  Her characters are as real to us as if they lived right next door and we readers are sitting next to them in that courtroom as the trial unfolds.

An amazing mystery from this incredible writer!

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.


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