Joanne’s Mystery Picks

Road to Grantchester coverThe Road to Granchester by James Runcie

Though not a mystery in itself, this volume is a prequel to the Grantchester mystery series (books) and gives us a picture of what led Sydney Chambers to his calling as a vicar.  It is 1938 and war is on the horizon. Sydney Chambers spends the next seven years serving his country, gaining a Military Cross, and suffers the loss of friends and companions. Everything that’s happened to him during this time shapes his future as a private citizen and a member of the clergy.  It gives us an understanding of why he thinks the way he does and helps explain the reasons for the actions that he takes in his day to day life. 

This is a must-read for everyone who has enjoyed reading the Grantchester Mysteries.

4 Daggers
Joanne gives this “4 daggers out of 5”

madoc and janet rhys.pngThe Madoc and Janet Rhys Mysteries by Charlotte MacLeod:

  • A Pint of Murder
  • Murder Goes Mumming
  • A Dismal Thing to Do
  • Trouble in the Brasses
  • The Wrong Rite

This cozy mystery series by Canadian author Charlotte MacLeod features Inspector Madoc Rhys of the RCMP and his wife Janet.  For the most part, the stories take place in New Brunswick. I look at them as being a cross between a good Agatha Christie novel, a bit of the Murdoch Mysteries (the TV series) and a touch of the Beverly Hillbillies.

The books are peopled with funny, colorful, and eccentric characters.  The plots are intricate and well-crafted and the mystery of “who dunnit” is not easily solved.  It’s a delightful series, providing many laughs as I paged through each book. How unfortunate that there are only five books to this series.  I would gladly have read an additional five if they existed.

4 Daggers
Joanne gives this “4 daggers out of 5”

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

51rpbhltysl-_sx339_bo1204203200_SIDNEY CHAMBERS and the PERSISTENCE OF LOVE by James Runcie

Archdeacon Sidney Chambers doesn’t look for murders.  They just happen to find him.  This is what happens on a tranquil day when he and daughter Anna are walking in the woods.  They almost trip over the body of a man.  He’s obviously dead and the circumstances of his death lead Sidney to believe that he’s been murdered.

With his good friend DI Geordie Keating, Sidney finds himself involved in solving this murder and subsequent mysteries which include the theft of a valuable religious text; a case of unethical dealings in the art world (involving his friend Amanda); and the disappearance of his nephew.

These cases all have to do with love in one way or another and love plays a part in the problems that Sidney has to deal with in his parish.  Whether it be forbidden love, or love of self, or love of possessions, ultimately Sidney has to approach each instance with compassion and understanding.  When he is met with a personal loss, Sidney struggles with his faith to understand the “why” of what has happened.  He knows that somehow, the love that he holds in his heart will see him through this ordeal.

vertigo-42-9781476724058_lgVERTIGO 42 by Martha Grimes

When Jury’s friend, Sir Oswald Maples, asks him to meet with Maples’ friend, Tom Williamson, Jury finds himself investigating a death that took place seventeen years previously.  The death of Williamson’s wife, Tess, was ruled as an accidental fall, due to her chronic vertigo.  However, Williamson has never really believed that Tess fell to her death, yet has never been able to explain exactly how she did fall.

Meanwhile in Long Piddleton, police are in full force in the area of Tower Cottage where the body of a young woman has been found at the base of the tower.  Did she fall?  Was this suicide?  Or was something more sinister at work here?

Grimes peppers this novel with classic film references: Lawrence of Arabia, Casablanca, and Hitchcock’s Vertigo (a wonderful film about doppelgangers), all seemingly innocuous until the two deaths (and two others – one in the past, and one in the present), start to merge.

Slowly, Jury is able to put the pieces together with help from Plant and through a suggestion from the infamous Harry Johnson (he of The Old Wine Shades).  Alas, Johnson’s story is still unfinished, and so I await the next installment in Jury’s cases, hoping that finally he’ll be able to bring Johnson to justice.


Joanne’s Mystery Picks

51gycwloiml-_sx323_bo1204203200_COLD EARTH by Ann Cleeves

How many secrets does it take to have a reason to commit murder?

The answer: just one.  At least that’s what the murderer in this story believes.

And in the tiny Shetland community of Ravenswick, how many people have secrets?  Pretty much everyone –  even DI Jimmy Perez.  His is about longing and obligation – not necessarily fodder for murder.

The body of a woman is found in the wreckage of a croft house, assumed to be uninhabited, after a torrent of mud and water sweeps it towards the sea. It’s Jimmy’s job to find out who the woman is, and who is harbouring a secret, seemingly so dangerous, that it would lead to her murder.  He is forced to delve into the private lives of some of his closest neighbours, often causing hard feelings and anger and revealing things about them that he wished he didn’t know.

Ann Cleeves is at the top of her game with this Shetland mystery, the seventh in the series.  She gives us a fast-moving story with many twists and turns, believable characters (however flawed they might be), and lots of food for thought.  Sit down with this book and enjoy a really good read.  And by the way – what’s YOUR secret?

51imfzf4wvl-_sx309_bo1204203200_SIDNEY CHAMBERS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH: The Grantchester Mysteries by James Runcie

This first volume of interconnected stories in this series introduces us to Canon Sidney Chambers.  He’s not your everyday vicar.  He prefers a pint of beer over a glass of sherry; jazz is his preferred choice of music; and he’s very fond of a good game of cricket.  He’s a good listener (certainly a pre-requisite for a vicar) which makes it easy for him to ferret out bits of information that people would not normally reveal.  His foray into crime detection comes completely by chance but since he’s proved to be good at it, he’s called on by all and sundry to help solve a variety of crimes, much to the displeasure of his house-keeper, Mrs. Maguire.

Along with his friend Inspector Geordie Keating, Sidney investigates a suspicious suicide, a jewelry theft, the murder of a jazz-promoter’s daughter, and an art forgery that puts a good friend in serious danger.

This series comprises five books to date, with a sixth in the works.  The books are best read in order as the stories follow Sidney chronologically.  I found them highly enjoyable, with each subsequent story showing us a new aspect of Sidney’s character.  The books stand very well on their own next to the current Grantchester Mystery Series on television.