Joanne’s Mystery Picks

peters-11excellentmystery-ebooksAN EXCELLENT MYSTERY by Ellis Peters

If you’re someone who doesn’t want to start at the beginning of a series and read each book in order, then this is the perfect book for you.  It’s XI in The Cadfael Chronicles and stands very well on its own.  There’s little in the past books that affects this story so you’re able to enjoy seeing how Brother Cadfael unravels this “excellent mystery” without feeling that pieces to the puzzle are missing.

In just a few short paragraphs Peters is able to transport us to a time long ago – to the summer of 1141.   The tranquility of the Abbey at Shrewsbury has not yet been affected by the civil unrest between King Stephen and the Empress Maud. When the Abbey of Hyde Meade is totally destroyed by the warring forces, Brother Humilis, badly injured in the Crusades, and his attendant, the mute Fidelis, seek refuge in Shrewsbury. This pair is soon joined by Nicholas, once squire to Humilis, who seeks the Brother’s blessing to woo the lady who was once Humilis’ intended bride.  And there begins the mystery – for the lady has vanished.

Brother Cadfael begins to slowly unravel the truth from the fiction but not before tragedy strikes.  With the compassion that seems to come so naturally to him, Cadfael assuages the grief of the victims and shows them a way forward, while still maintaining their deepest secrets.

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

51pmq1opo0l-_sx331_bo1204203200_THE USUAL SANTAS, foreword by Peter Lovesy

This “collection of Soho crime Christmas capers” runs the gamut from a tale of nine mall Santas to that of a Korean War POW camp.  Not all the stories are “sugar-plum laden” and some contain familiar personages such as Jane Austen, Machiavelli, and Sherlock Holmes’ nemesis Irene Adler.  Many are by authors totally unfamiliar to me and I’ve quickly added them to my “must read” list.

Each story is just the right length to read when you need to take a break in your day.  They’ll certainly keep you thinking long after you’ve turned the last page.

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

HEART OF THE CITYheart-of-the-city-9781476740577_hr  by Robert Rotenberg

After the events in Stranglehold Ari Greene distances himself from his life as a cop and takes a job on a construction site for a new condo development in Toronto.  His life has been changed dramatically with the discovery of a 21 year old daughter of whom he had no prior knowledge.  When he stumbles across the body of Livingston Fox, condo developer, he is reluctantly thrust back into his former life, in pursuit of a vicious murderer who does not stop at killing only Fox.

After an awkward reconciliation with Daniel Kennicott, his protégé, Greene and he join forces once again as they follow the money in the high-stakes world of downtown development in pursuit of Fox’s murderer.  Like any case, once you crack the secrets you’ve pretty much cracked the case.  In this case, some of those secrets strike very close to home for Greene.

Rotenberg provides us with a first-class mystery as the suspects start adding up.

It’s Greene who works it all out in the end – to a startling and unexpected conclusion.

THE SEAGULL by Ann Cleeves35963210

When Vera is asked to visit her local prison to give a talk on the repercussions of crime on its victims, she’s confronted by former DS John Brace, now an inmate for corruption and his role in a death.  He wants to strike a deal with Vera. He’s prepared to provide her with information about the disappearance of Robbie Marshall, a notorious figure at the time he disappeared almost twenty years ago.  In return, he wants Vera to look out for his daughter and grandchildren.

Vera’s investigation into this cold case plunges her back in time to her years living with her father, Hector, and brings up disturbing memories of his illegal activities.

Marshall was someone she remembers as having visited their house along with Brace and two others, all friends of Hector.

The more Vera digs into this case, the closer it gets to home. With Hector being one of the last people to see Marshall alive, Vera is forced to consider the possibility that Hector was involved in Marshall’s death.  As Vera reflects on this time in her life we’re given a better understanding of how her past and her years of living with Hector in such a dysfunctional household have formed the person she is today.

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.