Joanne’s Mystery Picks

Inspector McLean Mystery series by James Oswald: Part One!

Inspector-McLean-books-in-a-series

NATURAL CAUSES
THE BOOK OF SOULS
HANGMAN’S SONG
Reading Oswald’s Inspector Tony McLean series is like eating peanuts – you can’t stop at just one. I read the first three back-to-back, like a chain smoker lighting the cigarette in her hand with the one between her lips. He’s a likeable guy is Tony McLean. He’s intuitive, doesn’t cut corners, and goes the extra mile, much to the chagrin of his boss, DS Duguid (a.k.a. “Dagwood” by his officers). But McLean is no “yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir” kind of guy. He gives as good as he gets and meets Duguid’s scorn with pragmatism and common sense – certain to irritate the DS even more.

We are aware that McLean has suffered a loss as he makes oblique references to his girlfriend, Kirsty, while investigating the apparent ritual killing of a young woman in Natural Causes. However it’s only while he’s investigating this death that we truly understand the magnitude of his loss. This young woman appears to have been murdered many years before and as Edinburgh is bathed in blood with a new series of killings of young women, McLean believes that they are all connected. When McLean meets Madame Rose (I like to think of her/him as a rather large Medium), she poses the possibility that a supernatural force could be at work in these killings. This hint of the occult, spiritualism and the supernatural plays a role in all of Oswald’s novels.

In The Book of Souls, we finally find out what happened to McLean’s girlfriend, Kirsty, (no spoilers here). The body of a young woman, brutally murdered is found in Edinburgh, echoing ten similar murders of young women twelve years previously. The murderer, known as the Christmas killer (for the time of year that he committed these heinous acts), was convicted and sent to prison. But the Christmas killer has been murdered by a fellow prisoner.
So did they get the wrong man or is someone out there replicating the murders?

When McLean attends the suicide of a young man by hanging, the whole scene seems “off” to him. When two other men are found hanged, supposedly having committed suicide, McLean begins to investigate the three deaths as anything but suicide. As in The Book of Souls, Madame Rose plays a significant role in Oswald’s The Hangman’s Song. And like the other two novels, McLean isn’t just saddled with one case at a time. He’s also investigating a prostitution and human trafficking ring, leaving the poor guy little time for sleep or even a cup of tea. And all around this case is the whiff of something sinister and unexplained, leaving everyone involved, vulnerable and in danger.

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

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

91rqgzfswjlA Deadly Divide by Ausma Zehanat Khan

Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty, Community Policing detectives, are sent to the scene of a mass shooting at a mosque in Quebec. Acting as liaisons with the community, they are there to help temper the fear of the residents while dealing with a vicious campaign of racism which has been launched on social media and exploited by a right-wing radio host. So many fingers are pointing in so many different directions. Who are the perpetrators of this horrific crime? And who is shadowing Khattack, watching and knowing his every move? Does it have anything to do with the shooting, or is it something personal?

Khan has brought to the page a story that we have seen played out in far too many communities around the world (most recently in Christchurch, New Zealand). Her depiction of the events in this novel are every bit as gripping, heart-wrenching, and horrifying as those we’ve seen on TV on the evening news.

Such violence can only create greater rifts between the different factions in this community, and while Esa and Rachel work to prevent further escalation of these rifts, their relationship as partners is put to the test.

This is by far, Khan’s best book yet in this series.

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

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

y450-274A MATTER OF MALICE by Thomas King

Things haven’t been going well for Thumps lately. You could call it a bad case of the three Cs: Claire, car, and his cat, Freeway. Of course it only gets worse when the crew of a true crime reality TV show, Malice Aforethought arrives in town to reopen an old case and they want Thumps to help. Trudy Samuels was from a wealthy family and everyone called her death a suicide. Nina Maslow, one of the producers of the show, wants to prove that Samuels’ death was murder. It’s all about ratings, of course.

When Maslow is found dead at the exact spot that Trudy died, and in circumstances eerily similar, Thumps has to determine if there are two killers at large or if Maslow’s death is just a coincidence. While going through Maslow’s files on the show, hoping to shed some light on her murder, Thumps finds that the producer was preparing a future show on the Obsidian Murders – the case that made Thumps throw in his badge. Has Maslow found the final clue to the puzzle that has haunted Thumps for years?

Thumps is a great character and King gives him lots of scope, leading us to believe that we might, some day, see Thumps at peace with his past.

3 Daggers
Joanne gives this “3 daggers out of 5”

Read Joanne’s review for Dreadfulwater Shows Up.

 

MYCROFT and SHERLOCK by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse

This sequel to Mycroft Holmes sees the Holmes’ brothers teaming up, though at times reluctantly. Mycroft’s good friend, Cyrus Douglas, runs an orphanage as a charity. When one of h91wq5evr1ulis cargo ships runs aground, he is forced to attend to the situation, while requiring someone to act as a tutor to the children in the orphanage. This is where Sherlock comes in. Sherlock’s attentions are often focused on the series of grisly murders that have recently been taking place in London and we see the beginnings of the inquisitive nature of the detective.

Nothing goes smoothly with Sherlock in charge and when one of the boys in his charge dies of a suspected drug overdose, Sherlock’s subsequent investigation takes him to the opium dens that litter the docks. It’s here we also see the beginnings of Sherlock’s addictive behavior.

I caught myself often saying “Sherlock wouldn’t say/do that; this is out of character for Mycroft…” Then I’d stop short, remembering that these are fictional characters based on the fictional characters of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and that these authors can take whatever literary license they wish to in their portrayal of the Holmes’ brothers. How easy it is to forget that Sherlock and Mycroft never existed other than on the written page! Of course, I’d much rather read Doyle’s accounts of their adventures.

3 Daggers
Joanne gives this “3 daggers out of 5”

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

91couijfr5lMYCROFT HOLMES by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse

Mycroft Holmes is making a name for himself as the Secretary to the Secretary of State for War in the British government. When his best friend, Cyrus Douglas, receives disturbing reports of child murders in his birthplace of Trinidad, Holmes shares his friend’s distress. When Holmes’ fiancée, Georgiana, learns of these murders she abruptly departs for the island, where her family still holds property. Of course Holmes must follow and he and Cyrus team up to find her.

The pair is thrust into a web of superstition, violence, and murder from the moment they board the ship that is to take them to the Port of Spain. And as they search for Georgiana, they both come to realize that those whom they thought they knew turn out to be completely different people.

The story has moments of excitement but then gets bogged down with chapters that do nothing to move the main story forward. The disjointed plot lines leave one to shake one’s head as the reader tries to follow the trail that the authors have set down.

One wonders how the authors collaborated on this novel. First you have Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. Then there’s Anna Waterhouse, a screenwriter and script consultant. Who wrote what? Would knowing explain its deficiencies or really make any difference? I wonder…

The pair have penned a second novel – Mycroft and Sherlock. It will be interesting to see if this one fares better.

2 Daggers
Joanne gives this “2 daggers out of 5”

 

71z42bzjdewlThe GOLDEN TRESSES of the DEAD by Alan Bradley

Rumour has it that this will not be the last book in the Flavia de Luce Mystery series (if we’re to believe the author, himself, who claims that “Flavia still wakes me up in the middle of the night with strange snippets and intriguing insights”.)   However, if another book is not to be, then The Golden Tresses of the Dead certainly leaves this Flavia fan satiated.

It’s autumn in Bishop’s Lacey and Flavia’s sister, Ophelia, is getting married to Dieter.  Other than a few minor cat-calls from someone in the pews, the wedding goes off without a hitch.  That is, until Feely and Dieter come across something quite unexpected when cutting the cake: a human finger!

And there you have it – the first case for Arthur W. Dogger & Associates, Discreet Investigations.  Flavia and Dogger are quickly on the case when they’re approached by Mrs. Prill to find some missing letters. Two cases in a matter of minutes!   And then things just spiral from there: a dead body, a trip on the London Necropolis Railway, missionaries, and poison!

Flavia is as delightful in this tenth book in the series as she was when first we met her in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.  She’s older in her attitudes and understanding of the workings of the human heart, but still the plucky young girl whose knowledge of chemistry has helped solve so many crimes in her small English town.

Flavia is original, funny, and adorable.  Hopefully Bradley will continue to delight us with this brilliant little sleuth for years to come.

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

Check out Joanne’s other “Flavia” reviews!

 

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

911ocyq2szlTHE DARKNESS (HIDDEN ICELAND #1) by Ragnar Jonasson

DI Hulda Hermannsdottir of the Reykajavik Police is months away from retirement when her boss approaches her to say that a replacement has been hired for her position and it would be best if she packed up her belongings and left as soon as possible. Blindsided by this announcement, Hulda begs to remain for a few weeks while she works a cold case.

Hulda does not come across as a particularly nice person and we learn more about her character as the story progresses, reinforcing this feeling about her. Magnus, her boss, is an odious man, and is ambivalent towards Hulda: at the same time that he is praising her for her years of service he’s berating her for her actions in the case she’s currently working.

It’s never certain with a translation whether or not the problems with a story are a result of the translation or if they exist in the original. This novel “reads” well, but the story is so flawed that it’s inconceivable. It’s hard to fathom that a DI would act as Hulda does in this tale, leading up to an ending that is anything but satisfying.

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