Those We Left Behind (Stuart Neville, 2015)

those we left behind

Why did you choose this book?

I lived in Ireland for a few months while in college, and had the opportunity to travel to the northern counties (still a part of the UK).  I’ve been drawn to any and all Irish fiction since those travels, and this novel is set in Belfast.

What’s it about?

Ciaran Devine confessed to murdering his foster parent at the age of 12.  Now in his early twenties, he has been released from prison.  Ciaran is overjoyed to see his older brother, Thomas, but unsure of what to make of the world into which he has been released.  His parole officer (Paula Cunningham) and the officer who took his original confession (Serena Flanagan) suspect there is more to the story, and as strange things again surround the pair of boys, both women are determined to get to the bottom of the case once and for all.

Categories

I think it’s supposed to be suspense, but to me it just read like a mystery.  I didn’t really feel that the main characters were in danger from the “villain.”

Other recommended reads?

The overall tough detective feel reminded me of Arnaldur Indridason’s Reykjavik Nights.  A more enjoyable Irish police procedural/mystery novel is Conor Brady’s A June of Ordinary Murders.

Review

I kept this novel on my to-read pile for months, waiting until just the right moment to crack it open.  I finally decided to do so, and found myself underwhelmed.  The novel is a fast read.  I felt that it could have been set anywhere, and the only real Irish touches were the names.  I also felt that the characterization could have been stronger, with many characters (like Thomas, Ciaran, and Serena) feeling one dimensional.  I probably won’t read the rest of the series, but I don’t regret reading this entry.

Up next?

The Legend of the Rift by Peter Lerangis

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A Murder is Announced (Agatha Christie, 1950)

murder is announced

Why did you choose this book?

This was the next pick for my personal book club, courtesy of my boss’s wife.  It is my 2nd Christie mystery.

What’s it about?

This is a Miss Marple, and is considered the best of Christie’s novels focusing on Marple.  The town newspaper announces a murder and the villagers show up to be entertained, not realizing an actual murder is afoot.  A masked burglar is the victim and Miss Marple is called in to solve the case.

Categories

Cozy mystery

Other recommended reads?

Other Christie novels and Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries.

Review

I liked this significantly better than the first Christie I read (The Secret Adversary, which was Christie’s 2nd book and the 1st Tommy & Tuppence).  I thought it was strange that Miss Marple didn’t play a very large role in the book overall.  I figured out part of the secret, but didn’t solve the entire mystery.

Up next?

July’s People by Nadine Gordimer

A Curious Beginning (Deanna Raybourn, 2015)

curious beginning

Why did you choose this book?

A historical mystery with a spunky female protagonist!

What’s it about?

Veronica Speedwell is a professional butterfly-hunter interested in all areas of natural history.  She is also an orphan, taken in by a pair of elderly sisters.  After the second sister’s funeral, she returns home to find a burglar.  He threatens her but she is rescued by a German baron, who whisks her away to London, promises to tell her about her family, and deposits her in the warehouse home of a tattooed taxidermist named Stoker.  When the baron is murdered, the two are on the run before either is arrested in connection with the crime.

Categories

Historical mystery, set in London, late 1800s

Other recommended reads?

This is the best historical mystery I’ve read in a while.  Another series set in historic London is the Lucy Campion series by Susanna Calkins, though that series is set much earlier.  If it’s the writing style you like, try Wendy Sand Eckel’s Murder at Barclay Meadow.

Review

I loved this book!  Veronica is a feisty heroine who never takes no for an answer and isn’t afraid to get her Victorian hands dirty.  Stoker is the gruff but intelligent male counterpart along for her adventures.  I love the hint of romantic tension between the pair without being smacked in the face by romance.  I really enjoyed the author’s writing style.  The language was stilted enough to keep the reader in the 1800s, but it was witty and made me chuckle.  It was also easy enough to understand that I didn’t have to think about it, like I do with older authors like Agatha Christie.  I enjoyed this one enough that I will be going back and reading her other series – Lady Julia Gray.  Have you read those?  I don’t know anything about them – so please share your thoughts but no spoilers!

Up next?

The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife, and the Missing Corpse by Piu Marie Eatwell

 

Murder at Barclay Meadow (Wendy Sand Eckel, 2015)

barclay meadow

First, a bit of a disclaimer.  I apologize for the super-long delay in posts.  I’m back on blogging after a break over the holidays and some much-needed family time.

Why did you choose this book?

It sounded like an intriguing semi-cozy mystery.  Which it was.  More on that later.

What’s it about?

Rosalie Hart is living in her aunt’s historic home in Eastern Maryland after discovering that her husband cheated on her.  She’s finding it hard to fit into the community, so she joins a memoir-writing class at the local college.  When she finds the body of a teenage girl on her property, she decides to investigate.  With the help of her writing class colleagues, she begins to look into the situation…

Categories

Cozy mystery, mystery

Similar reads?

I’m a lover of most cozy mysteries.  This one doesn’t quite fit that genre for a couple of reasons.  First, the sleuth manages to investigate without the aid of any law enforcement officers (though she does get a couple of clues from the sheriff’s secretary).  Second, there is a little more detail of the gore involved (for example, that the body was bloated and starting to decompose).  That type of information isn’t usually part of a cozy.  That being said, some of my favorite cozies are Virginia Lowell’s Cookie Cutter Shop mysteries and Lucy Arlington’s Novel Idea mysteries.

Review

Overall, a well-structured cozy.  One of my favorite things about cozies is the richness of their language.  I just love the way the authors describe the characters and scenery.  I also really liked the supporting cast of characters and the fact that it was a group of amateur sleuths rather than a solo endeavor.  I wish we’d spent a little more time around the culprit, but I had trouble solving the crime (which is a good sign!).  I’ll definitely be reading the next book in this series!

Next up?

Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten.  I know I said last time I’d be doing Mission: Hindenburg but it’s been so long since I read it that I’ll wait and review the next 39 Clues book I do instead.  It’s coming out this spring.

Whose Body? (Dorothy Sayers, 1923)

whose body

First, a quick apology.  I realize it’s been quite a while since my last post.  But I promise, you haven’t missed much.  I just got bogged down on this book (despite its short length), and distracted by the purchase of a certain game called Animal Crossing: New Leaf.

Why did you choose this book?

My boss (the director of our library) LOVES Dorothy Sayers.  So I figured I’d give one of his favorite authors a try.

What’s it about?

This is the 1st book in a series.

A body is found in a bathtub, wearing nothing other than a pair of golden pince-nez.  The same night, a prominent man goes missing.  Is there a connection?  Only intrepid detective Lord Peter Wimsey can find out!

Categories

Mystery, classic mystery (not classic like To Kill a Mockingbird but classic in the sense that it was a foundational mystery and one often referred to when talking about the genre.  Agatha Christie is another classic mystery author.  I’m not sure that this is an official term, but it makes sense to me so I use it!).

Other recommended reads?

Agatha Christie for oh so many reasons. First, both authors wrote in the 1920s and use the same type of language in their writing.  Second, they are both relatively cozy in the traditional sense, which mostly just means that their books don’t include a lot of gore or sex.  Cozy in the more modern sense refers to a genre of mysteries fitting that metric but also with amateur sleuths with various connections to law enforcement, and often with cheesily punny titles.

Review

For some reason, I read the first 70 pages of this book and then was completely stuck.  I picked it up again a week later and read the remainder in one night.  I’m not sure why it took me so long to get into it.  The resolution seemed similar to some Agatha Christie novels I’ve read and I also started to get frustrated with the fact that Lord Peter is amazing at many more things than most people.  He’s almost too good to be real…I also both loved and hated the amount of detail Sayers included in her villain’s confession.  I loved knowing all of the intricate details and the points along the path of the story that mattered, but I hated taking forever to come to the end.  I also felt that such a long confession was unrealistic.  All told though, I would read another Wimsey mystery!

Next up?

Balm by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

 

A June of Ordinary Murders (Conor Brady, 2015)

a june of ordinary murders

Why did you choose this book?

This mystery is set in Dublin, Ireland.  I lived in that town in 2010 and thought it would be fun to revisit in literature.

What’s it about?

 In June 1887, Detective Sergeant Joe Swallow is tasked with investigating “ordinary” crimes (non-political).  The bodies of an adult and a child are found in Phoenix Park (where the zoo is today), with their faces mutilated beyond recognition.  Later in the week, Swallow is on the case of a woman’s body found in the canal with head trauma.  Are the two cases related?  And can Swallow dodge police department and society politics to get to the bottom of the crimes?

Categories

Police procedural, mystery, Irish culture, historical fiction

Other recommended reads?

This is the first book I’ve read that I would qualify as a police procedural.  If you enjoyed this, you’ll probably want to try some others.  Good authors include Karen Slaughter, JD Robb, and Michael Connelly.  Having not read any of these, please keep in mind that I’m just making a librarian’s educated guess.

Review

I didn’t recognize as much of Dublin in the book as I wanted to.  I loved the map at the beginning, but the narrative doesn’t focus on the locations much outside Dublin Castle, Phoenix Park, and Merrion Square (which was exciting because I worked there while I was in Ireland!).  I loved getting a glimpse into life in the 1880s.  I struggled to solve the crime, which I tend to think makes for a good mystery.  The prose was captivating and extremely well-written.  I’m hoping to read another novel by Brady soon!  I did think the pacing could have been slightly faster, but I also took nearly a month to read this book (on lunches at work, while dog-sitting, etc) so that could just be due to the time it took me to finish it.

Up next?

The Jesus Cow by Michael Perry

In Bitter Chill (Sarah Ward, 2015)

in bitter chill

Why did you choose this book?

I read a synopsis and was intrigued.  I’ve been in the mood to read a lot of thrillers and mysteries lately, though I’ve tried to temper that in order to be a more well-rounded librarian.

What’s it about?

There are a couple of stories here.  In 1978, Sophie and Rachel were abducted on their way to school.  Later in the day, Rachel was found wandering with no memory of where she had been.  Sophie was never found.  Parts of the story are told from Rachel’s perspective during this time.  Flash forward to the present.  Sophie’s mother has committed suicide and one of the teachers from the girls’ school is found in the woods and has been strangled twice (once with hands, once with a garrote).  This brings Sophie’s case back to the fore.  This part of the story is told from either Rachel’s perspective, or that of the inspector in charge of the investigation.

Categories?

Suspense or mystery – it’s kind of a fine line here.

Other recommended reads?

Anything by Mary Higgins Clark

Review?

Sometimes I found the pace a bit slow, but I thought the story was compelling, the cover art was beautiful, and I didn’t figure out what happened to Sophie before the characters did (which to me is always a sign of a mystery or suspense novel well-plotted).

Up next?

The Sculptor by Scott McCloud