Joanne’s Mystery Picks

33245502INTO THE WATER by Paula Hawkins

I’m not sure what those people who’ve put Hawkins’ latest book to the top of the bestsellers list for upwards of 7 weeks see in it.  I found it to be confusing, convoluted, and at times even misleading.  The story revolves around the drowning deaths of a number of women in a British town.  It’s believed by the people of the town that the river has some power that draws women to it – magic, or witchcraft – but this point is never fully discussed or explained.

The novel is peopled with so many characters that it’s difficult to keep them straight and I found that I was constantly flipping back and forth in the book to figure out “whose sister was whose” and where “so and so” fit in the family.  Sometimes a character is mentioned briefly and then never appears in the novel again, leaving the reader to wonder what purpose they even had in the telling of the story.

Hawkins sends us off on tangents that leave us shaking our heads and red herrings that take us nowhere.  I’m still trying to figure out what her reference to “Adam and Eve and dinosaurs” is all about!

This novel left me disappointed and unsatisfied, which are the opposite feelings that I had after reading her first novel, “The Girl on the Train”. Give “Into the Water” a miss – there are many well-written stories out there that will be much more rewarding to read than this one.

29910780THE CHALK PIT by Elly Griffiths

Ruth is in a good place in her life right now.  Work is going well; her daughter, Kate, is four years old and in school; and Nelson has been able to take a small roll (picking Kate up from school on occasion) in both their lives.  Nelson, on the other hand, is dealing with a new Superintendent – Jo Archer – whose main ambition, it would appear, is to put Nelson out to pasture.

When Ruth is called to investigate some bones found in one of the many chalk-mining tunnels in King’s Lynn, both she and Nelson are thrust into a murder investigation.  Meanwhile DS Judy Johnson is investigating the disappearance of a number of “rough sleepers” (homeless people).

When one of them is found murdered and a woman in the community goes missing under circumstances similar to those of the rough sleepers, the investigation is ramped up.

Then, as so often happens, Ruth’s good luck runs out, leaving her bereft.  Her family has been rocked by sadness and Nelson has given her some upsetting news.  Griffiths provides us with an unexpected twist to the story and I can only wonder where the next book in this series will take us.

If you’re new to this series (Ruth Galloway Mysteries), DO read them in order.  You need the background of each of the characters in order to truly appreciate their relationship to one another.  Between the archeological discussions and the great character development, Griffiths provides us with a cracker-jack read!

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

elly-g-smokeandmirrors_hres-us-wpcf_275x415SMOKE AND MIRRORS by Elly Griffiths

DI Edgar Stephens and his team are called to investigate the disappearance and subsequent deaths of two children.  One of the leads that Stephens follows is to the theatre in Brighton, where a holiday panto, Aladdin, is currently playing and starring  Stephens’ friend Max Mephisto, who was a great help to Edgar in the case of the Zig Zag Girl.  Here, Max is simply “filler” (and at 336 pages, there’s lots of filler), and is almost superfluous to the plot.

If jumping to conclusions was an Olympic event, then DI Edgar Stephens and his team would surely win the gold medal!  With a plot fraught with inconsistencies and a cast of characters without any depth, jumping to conclusions is as exciting as it gets.

After reading the first book in this series (Zig Zag Girl) and not being enamoured of it, I agreed to try the second, hoping that it would be better and more up to Griffiths’ standard as in her Ruth Galloway series.  The writing here is simplistic and seems more geared to a younger audience – perhaps the 13-14 year old range.  There’s nothing here for the true mystery aficionado.  Give this series a miss.

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

25897794The Woman in Blue by Elly Griffiths

Little Walsingham, a medieval town in England, is known to be very spiritual.

While Ruth’s friend, Cathbad, is cat-sitting for a friend there, he sees what  he believes to be an apparition of a woman standing at a graveside in the cemetery.  When the body of a woman matching her description is found in a ditch the following day, it’s apparent that what Cathbad saw was real flesh and blood.

Meanwhile, Ruth is contacted by Hilary, a former classmate, and now an Anglican priest.  She’s been receiving threatening, misogynistic letters and asks for Ruth’s advice.  Is there a connection between the woman that Cathbad saw and the letters that Hilary has received or is it simply a coincidence that the two things have presented themselves at the same time?

Meanwhile, Nelson is having problems on the homefront and one of his team has requested a transfer.

When another murder is committed everyone bands together to find the guilty party before more people are harmed.

Griffiths always adds a bit of humour in the midst of the corpses in her novels.  I love her Ruth character because she’s so real – down to earth and ordinary and someone that the reader can easily identify with.  She’s just so human and she makes me laugh!

9781510009806London Rain by Nicola Upson

It’s 1937 and the coronation day of King George VI.  BBC Radio will be broadcasting an adaptation of Josephine Tey’s play, Queen of Scots, and Josephine is sitting in on rehearsals.  In the course of the rehearsal a real-life love triangle is revealed when it’s learned that the play’s leading actress is sleeping with Anthony Beresford, THE newsman of the day while his wife, Vivienne, shocked and humiliated, works at the BBC.  Later, at the height of the festivities of the day, Beresford is shot dead in the broadcasting booth.

DCI Archie Penrose, Josephine’s friend, heads the case but it proves to be much more complicated than he originally thinks.  Two more people are murdered and it takes Josephine’s wit to unravel a history of lies and secrets going back years, to get to the truth of the deaths.

Upson captures the atmosphere and excitement of the time with such accuracy that one can almost imagine being there.

The real Josephine Tey is one of my favorite authors and from my perspective, her book The Daughter of Time is one of the best mysteries of its day and a must-read for all mystery lovers.  So it’s very interesting to see how Upson takes this real person and re-creates her as a character in her series of novels.  Since I jumped into this series with this book, there’s lots of back-story that I’m not aware of so I’ll be going back to read her series from the beginning, starting with An Expert in Murder.

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

zigzaggirlThe Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths

Griffiths, best known for her Ruth Galloway series about a forensic archaeologist, presents us with the first book in a new series with The Zig Zag Girl.  It’s 1950 in Brighton and Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens is called to the scene of a gruesome murder.  At once Stephens is certain that this isn’t just some twisted individual who has done this, but someone who’s familiar with the magic tricks of Max Mephisto with whom Stephens served with in the war.  They were a part of the Magic Men, a camouflage unit designed to trick the enemy.  When another murder is committed, echoing another magic trick, Max and Edgar are sure that the answer lies somewhere in their past during their Magic Men days and when Stephens receives a letter outlining the next trick, he’s certain that the Magic Men themselves are in danger.

Missing from this novel is the humour and warmth that is so present in Galloway’s other series.  Edgar and Max are relative loners and when family and other relationships are brought into the picture, it feels awkward.  Perhaps Galloway’s intention is to completely distance herself from her first series and I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.  Let’s see what the next book in this series brings to the reader.

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

New monthly reviews from Joanne, our mistress of mysteries!

ghost fieldsThe Ghost Fields by Elly Griffiths

The sixth book in the Ruth Galloway Mystery series sees Ruth, a forensic archaeologist, called to a construction site whose crew has unearthed a downed WWII plane with the pilot still inside.  Of course, nothing is as it seems and when two people are attacked during separate incidents, the simple explanation concerning the discovery of the plane becomes much more sinister.  Readers who aren’t familiar with this series need not worry about catching up with the characters – the author fills us in on their background without being too repetitive for her seasoned readers.  I particularly like the humour that she brings to her characters and found myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion.  If you enjoy this book, do go back and read the series from the beginning.  You won’t regret your decision.



checkedoutvietsChecked Out by Elaine Viets

What attracted me to this book was that it takes place in a library and involves the group who fundraise for it – The Friends of the Library.  Since I work in a library and belong to our Friends of the Library, I wanted to see how the fictional institutions matched up to the real thing.  Helen and Phil, husband and wife PIs, are hired by the Flora Park Library and the ultra-rich Coakley family, respectively.  Helen, under the guise of a library volunteer, searches for a missing John Singer Sargent painting, supposedly slipped into a book that later was part of a large donation of books to the library.  Phil, working as a gardener on their estate, has been hired to find the expensive necklace that the Coakley’s gave to their daughter on her birthday and which went missing the very evening of.  When someone connected with the library is the victim of a hit-and-run, Helen realizes that shelving books can be a very dangerous pastime!   Viets introduces a cast of characters both likeable and detestable and does a good job of throwing in the occasional red herring.  On a personal basis, I would say that my library is heavy on the likeable “characters”.