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

9780727886958COVER UP by Patricia Hall

It’s been years since I’ve read a mystery by this author so I was pleased to see this new publication. I was a faithful reader of Hall’s Laura Ackroyd/DCI Michael Thackery series so it was interesting to read Cover Up, the sixth mystery in her Kate O’Donnell series.

It’s 1964 and Kate has been given a magazine assignment in Liverpool to showcase the many changes that the city has undergone since the war. Her feature is to coincide with the release of the Beatles’ movie “A Hard Day’s Night”. The city is teeming with reporters and fans, anxious to get a glimpse of this musical foursome.

Meanwhile, Kate’s partner, DS Harry Barnard, has been investigating the murder of a woman whose body was found in Soho days earlier. Finding her identity is proving very difficult and Harry is determined to investigate the death in spite of his DCI’s request that he drop it.

As Harry carries out his investigations in London and Kate digs deeper into the regeneration of Liverpool, they both find evidence of cover-ups and corruption, leading them into dangerous situations.

51wo9pwuvwl-_sx308_bo1204203200_BRYANT & MAY: WILD CHAMBER by Christopher Fowler

The Peculiar Crimes Unit is called in to investigate the murder of a woman whose body was found in a private garden.  She’s been strangled but her body is lovingly positioned.  Before the body is even cold, another murder takes place – another woman, in a park, with her body positioned.

With these two murders, the Unit pulls out all the stops to find the killer.  Fowler takes us on a wild ride around London, with Arthur Bryant in the driver’s seat as we are treated to a delicious history of its green spaces.  Little by little, Arthur puts together the pieces of the puzzle, relying on his great wealth of the arcane and the help of his retinue of strange acquaintances.

This is such a clever, brilliant novel, ripe with British humour that you can’t help but laugh as you turn page after page.  Fowler is a master of wordplay and this novel doesn’t disappoint.  The characters are funny and colorful and as he builds up the suspense, we are almost holding our breath.  Once you start reading this book, you won’t want to put it down until you’ve reached the last page.  That’s what  happened to me!

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

25886638Bryant & May: London’s Glory by Christopher Fowler

If you’ve never read a Bryant and May Peculiar Crimes story then this is the perfect place to begin.  In this volume of 11 short stories, Fowler presents some of the most puzzling and delicious crimes that this unit has yet to solve.

His introduction includes a brief examination of why crime/mystery stories have such a fascination for readers; what Bryant and May have gotten up to in past books; and a run-down of the members of the Peculiar Crimes Unit.  This information is very helpful in giving the new (and “old”) reader background to the work of the unit and the personalities of those who work there.

Each story is prefaced by Fowler’s words explaining what inspired him to write it. Often his inspiration came from personal events and experiences and it’s so interesting to see how he was able to take these events and create such wonderfully clever crimes.

Fowler gives us two final chapters in this volume: one briefly discusses each of Bryant and May’s cases to date; the other is a list of the odd, quirky, and unusual books that make up Arthur Bryant’s library and upon which he relies to solve his cases.  This library includes such titles as: Colonic Exercises for Asthmatics, Codebreaking in Braille, and The Pictorial Guide to Chairman Mao Alarm Clocks!  And he tells us that not all of these titles are imaginary!

Brilliantly written, clever plots, and the oddest of characters!  Fowler’s Bryant & May series is at the top of my list of favorite mysteries.

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

25790847Bryant & May: Strange Tide by Christopher Fowler

The mighty River Thames; Houdini; New Age healing; hallucinations; and Alzheimer’s: they are all topics in this latest installment of the cases of Bryant & May and the Peculiar Crimes Unit.  Again Fowler takes what seem to be disparate themes, and weaves together a brilliant tale.

The body of a young woman is found chained to a post at low-tide, with only one set of footsteps indicating her journey to that spot.  Reminiscent of a locked-room mystery, the team scramble to work out how she came to be there.  In the meantime, Arthur’s periods of forgetfulness are becoming more frequent and are now including delusions, and he’s eventually confined to his home.  There, he’s able to ruminate on the case and consult with the many odd and eccentric characters that periodically help him.  It always comes back to the “River” for him.

May makes a poor judgement call and is suspended from duties, further complicating matters for his co-workers.

Meanwhile, the rest of the team is quickly learning that without Bryant’s presence in the Unit, they just don’t function.  He’s the cog in the wheel that keeps everything rolling along, regardless of his forgetfulness. When a suspect becomes clear to the Unit, there is no immediate evidence to actually tie them to the crimes.  And the River keeps calling them…perhaps Bryant is right…and it is the clue to the solution.

A great read!

51hy2bgbenkl-_sx328_bo1204203200_Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

This third book in the Cormoran Strike series hits a very gruesome note.  When a package is addressed and delivered to Robin at Strike’s office, it is revealed to be the severed leg of a young woman.  Strike is certain that one of three persons is responsible for this possible murder, the least being his former stepfather, Jeff Whittaker.  Foreshadowing of the disturbing events to come is done chapter by chapter with quotations from the many songs by the heavy-metal rock band, Blue Oyster Cult.

As Strike pursues the suspects on his list, Robin takes the initiative to explore related avenues, which expose her to great danger.

I could do without the gory details of the many and various body parts that are hacked off and the methods that the killer uses to bring down his victims, often recited to us in the first person.  To me it’s a bit too “over the top” – almost to the point of being gratuitous violence.

What I do like is how Galbraith (J.K. Rowling) fleshes out the characters of Strike and Robin, describing their respective back stories.  There’s no doubt that Robin is the star in this novel.  She’s become more confident and assertive in both her private and professional life, and we are now able to understand why these things have been so difficult for her, given what we now know of her history.

I’m anxious to see where the story goes from here as the surprises at the end of this novel have the potential to push it forward in many directions.  Cormoran and Robin are quite the team and I look forward to reading more of them, but with less gore to their cases!


Joanne’s Mystery Picks

burningmanBryant & May and the Burning Man by Christopher Fowler

There’s no doubt in my mind that Christopher Fowler is a brilliant wordsmith!  His latest chronicle of the Peculiar Crimes Unit is proof of this. A more clever, witty, smart and “edge of your seat suspenseful” tome I haven’t read in a very long time.

It’s chaos in London, leading up to Guy Fawke’s night. Demonstrators are up-in-arms over the scandal involving a wealthy financier who’s been accused of insider trading. When a homeless man is found dead, burned  after a Molotov cocktail was thrown onto the steps where he was sleeping, the Unit are called in to investigate whether this was an accident or pre-meditated murder. And what’s up with Bryant? He seems more distracted than ever. Meanwhile his many odd contacts (comparable to  Sherlock Holmes’ “Baker Street Irregulars”), help to flesh out the strange tangents that he goes off on.

Filled with history, metaphor, and those odd bits of trivia that Fowler so cleverly adds, “The Burning Man” is most definitely his best to date.