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Mystery Mayhem

Here’s a quick look what’s new in some of my favorite mystery series!

minor adjustment beauty salonThe No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency novels take place in Botswana, where the traditionally-built Mme Precious Ramotswe, with the help of her assistant Mma Grace Makutsi, uses her common sense to solve the mysteries of those around her.

In this latest installment, The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon, Mme Ramotswe has two cases to worry about.  A lawyer has asked her to confirm the identity of the beneficiary of a deceased farmer’s estate and the owner of the Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon has been subjected to nasty rumors that are ruining her business.  Is someone trying to get an inheritance that isn’t theirs?  Why is someone trying to destroy the new salon’s reputation?  And, although she has yet to mention it, it has become obvious that Mme Makutsi is pregnant.  Will she mention it before the baby’s born?  And who will keep the office running smoothly while she’s out?

Reading a book in this series is always relaxing for me.  No matter the mystery, no one ever feels the need to rush; there is always time for a cup of tea and polite conversation.  Mme Ramotswe is as lovable as ever – kind, thoughtful, respectful, and insightful.  Mme Makutsi, while always quirky, becomes more likable in this installment of the series – motherhood seems to soften her, make her more aware of the importance of her relationships and those who support her.  Another fun and restful trip to Botswana – perfect with a cup of tea!

Title: The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon
Author:Alexander McCall Smith
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 256
Publication: Pantheon, November 2013

critical massThe V.I. Warshawski novels follow Chicago private investigator V.I. Warshawski as she takes on cases that take her from the social echelons of Chicago to its seediest sides.  There were times, in the middle of this series, where I was beginning to tire of the characters and the storylines, but I am thrilled that I stuck with her; Critical Mass may be the best yet in the series.

In this latest installment, Critical Mass, V.I. is asked by her friend Dr. Lotty Herschel for help.  Lotty grew up in Vienna and lost her family during the Holocaust.  One of the children she escaped with is now living in Chicago and her daughter, a drug-addict, is in trouble.  When V.I. starts digging she uncovers a mystery that goes back to Vienna and WWII, the atomic bomb, and the Holocaust, involving drug addicts, physicists, computer scientists, and corporate giants.

The history and the science could’ve made the story overly detailed and boring, but it didn’t.  Instead, it added depth and interest to an already fascinating story.  This page-turner has me eagerly awaiting the next book in the series.

Title: Critical Mass
Author:Sara Paretsky
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 480
Publication: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, October 2013

dustThe Kay Scarpetta novels follow medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta and the rest of her team – her husband, FBI profiler Benton Wesley, her niece, computer genius Lucy, and detective Pete Marino.  The series starts with Kay as the medical examiner in Virginia, but at this point in the series she is in Boston.  The crimes she is involved in solving are always brutal, the violence always graphic, but at one point, the stories were always page-turners.  Unfortunately, that is not the case anymore…

I was very disappointed with her last book in this series, The Bone Bed, and was hoping for a return to better writing, character development, and storytelling in this latest installment.  But it was even worse.  The book starts off with Kay sick in bed, having just returned from working the scenes of the killings at Sandy Hook.  Why this was incorporated into the story at all is a mystery to me – it added nothing to the storyline and just seemed like a blatant attempt to incorporate current events.  Personally, I found it disturbing and insulting that it was included at all.  But even putting that aside, the rest of the story was painfully slow – there is a serial killer on the loose and the FBI seems to be working against the good guys – but I just couldn’t care for long.  Marino has left working for Kay to become a cop again – too much of the story is just nonsense about Marino and Benton and Kay and their personal issues and some love triangle that was played out a long time ago.  Again, I couldn’t care less.  Lucy never changes and grows as a character.  Honestly – all of the main characters seem to be stuck in destructive and annoying cycles of their lives.  Unfortunately, this will be the last second-chance I am giving to the series…

Title: Dust
Author:Patricia Cornwell
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 523
Publication: Putnam Adult, November 2013

silent nightThe Spenser novels follow Boston private investigator Spenser with the most common recurring characters being his love interest Dr. Susan Silverman and his best friend Hawk.

A scared kid shows up at Spenser’s office door, looking for help.  The home for homeless boys where he has been living is being threatened.  Without it there will be a bunch of kids on the streets.  Spenser, with help and back-up from Hawk, follows the trail to drug kingpins and ultimately saves the boys and their home.

What I have loved most about this series is the interactions between Spenser and Hawk, hilarious dialog with a core trust and friendship that both men share with few others.  With the death of Robert B. Parker the series has been turned over to Ace Atkins who has done a wonderful job catching Parker’s voice.  However this Christmas novel, started by Parker, was completed by his agent Helen Brann who seemed to give the characters, and the actual detecting, little attention.  It was unfortunate, but it was also a quick read over the holidays so I’ll let it go and hope for more from Ace Atkins soon!

Title: Silent Night: A Spenser Holiday Novel
Author:Robert B. Parker, Helen Brann
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 240
Publication: Putnam Adult, October 2013

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