Mystery Mayhem

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

w is for wasted

The Kinsey Millhone series is a set of mystery novels set in Santa Teresa, California during the 1980s.  Kinsey is a former police-woman turned private investigator who lives in a converted garage owned by Henry, her elderly but vibrant friend and neighbor.

In this latest installment, W is for Wasted, there are two mysterious deaths to be solved.  Pete Wolinsky, a shady private investigator, is found dead of a gunshot in a nearby park.  They a homeless alcoholic, R.T. Dace, is found dead with Kinsey’s name and address in his pocket.  Surprisingly, he turns out to be a distant relative of Kinsey’s, has made her the executor of his will, and has left her half a million dollars.  As she tries to investigate his past and learn more about this man she finds herself in a complicated maze of connections that will eventually tie the two men and their fates together.

Title: W is for Wasted
Author: Sue Grafton
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 496
Publication: Putnam, September 2013

storm front

The Virgil Flowers novels are a spin-off of the Lucas Davenport series by John Sandford.  Virgil is a detective in Minnesota, a member of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) which is led by Davenport.  Virgil is thrice-divorced, in his cowboy boots and rock band t-shirts, spending his extra time fishing and attracting women, he is much more laid-back than Lucas, but no less effective.

In this latest installment, Storm Front, Virgil gets a phone call telling him to meet an Israeli artifact expert who needs his help in recovering an important artifact stolen from Israel.  It seems that a local minister/professor was in Israel on an archaeological dig when he absconded with the ancient stele that may reveal secrets about King Solomon.  The thief is dying of cancer and seems to want to sell the artifact to the highest bidder, and there are a lot of interested parties – a TV star, Hezbollah, a Mossad agent, an archaeology professor…  Throw in a Middle Eastern college student, a “loose” single mother of five, and the CIA and there is bound to be more than a little chaos.  There was more humor in this book that others in the series, but the whole story seemed a little out-of-control at times, dependent on luck for resolution.  Not as much of a page-turner as some of the other Virgil Flowers novels, but still a fun read.

Title: Storm Front
Author: John Sandford
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 384
Publication: Putnam, October 2013

davidson

The Goldy Schulz novels follow the caterer as she manages to blunder over one dead body after another in Aspen Meadow, Colorado.  And no matter how much the police detective (who also happens to be her husband) wants her out of harm’s way, she seems to stumble into that as well as she tries to get justice for the recently deceased.

In this latest installment, The Whole Enchilada, her friend Holly drops dead after leaving a birthday party catered by Goldy.   Even as the police try to figure out whether she was actually murdered, and if so, how, it becomes apparent that Holly had plenty of secrets and there are plenty of available suspects.  Why was she broke?  Who were all those boyfriends she kept talking about?  Why did someone also try to hurt Holly’s son and their priest?  And who’s after Goldy and why?  She doesn’t think she knows anything, but someone is convinced that she does.  Joined by her friend Marla, some friends from the police department, her catering partner Julian, and her husband Goldy unravels yet another mystery.

Title: The Whole Enchilada
Author: Diane Mott Davidson
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 384
Publication: William Morrow, August 2013

Identical

identical

The latest mystery from Scott Turow follows two identical twin brothers.  Paul is a rising political superstar, running for mayor, and Cass is finally leaving prison after being convicted of killing his girlfriend Athena twenty-five years ago.  The victim’s brother, Hal, is convinced that Paul was somehow involved in the murder and enlists the head of security at his company, ex-FBI agent Evon, and an ex-cop turned PI he has on retainer, Tim, to prove it.  They follow a twisted and complicated web of DNA samples, blood samples, and fingerprints in their quest to find the truth.  But will they?  Are the brothers covering up something?  And if so, what?  Who really killed Athena?  And why?

It was fun trying to figure out who was who and who was doing what and to trace the trail of DNA, blood, and fingerprint evidence.  But…  The trips back into everyone’s past were a little tiresome, and some of them unnecessary for the story arc.  And…  I didn’t love the ending.  I was OK with the resolution of Athena’s killer, but the story of the twins just went too far for me, exceeding all common sense or reality.  So, fun, but not great.  A little disappointing from an author whose previous works I have really enjoyed.

Title:  Identical
Author:  Scott Turow
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 384
Publication: Grand Central Publishing, October 2013

How the Light Gets In

light gets in

Fantastic!  Amazing!  Wonderful!  I gasped, I held my breath, I hoped, and I despaired.  I have been waiting for this book for a year, ever since I cried and gasped at the end of A Beautiful Mystery and it did not disappoint for a moment.  If you are a fan of wonderful literature, in-depth amazing characters that you want to know (and feel that you DO know), and well-developed mysteries, I encourage you to start the Chief Inspector Gamache series as soon as possible!  I read a lot of mysteries, some better than others, but few fall into this category of excellence.  Even if you don’t typically read mysteries, give this series a chance.  The mysteries are secondary to the wonderful characters and their relationships.

There is little that I can, or will, say about the plot.  Gamache is back in Three Pines, investigating the murder of one of the famous Ouellett quintuplets.  But more importantly, he is once again pitted against Chief Superintendent Francoeur, his malignant boss who has gutted his department and stolen his protégé, Jean-Guy, leading him back into a world of drug-dependence.    Ultimately, things will come to a head, putting Gamache, his friends, Jean-Guy, and Three Pines itself in danger of decimation.  Heartbreaking and inspiring, Penny artfully balances good and evil, despair and hope.

Title:  How the Light Gets In
Author:  Louise Penny
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 416
Publication: Minotaur Books, August 2013

Mystery Mayhem

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a fan of a good (and even some not-so-good) mysteries.  I thought I’d share some more quick thoughts on what’s new in some of my favorite series.

last word

The Spellman Novels follow the antics of Izzy Spellman as she fumbles her way along as a private investigator working for the family business, Spellman Investigations.  Izzy is a disaster, professionally and personally, but she knows it, and that’s what makes these books so much fun.  Most of the mysteries are pretty low key, not a lot of death or blood or high-stakes crime, but it’s not really about the mystery anyway – you know that is going to work itself out.   The real joy comes from reading about this amazingly dysfunctional family and their interactions.  Hilarious and touching at the same time.

In this latest installment, The Last Word, Izzy has arranged a hostile takeover of the family business and has discovered that being the boss isn’t that much fun.  Her parents are boycotting work and if they do show up at the office it may be in their underwear.  And are they having marital difficulties?  Dad didn’t come home last night…  Her sister is off starting her own questionable side business with the help of another wayward employee.  Her brother keeps trying to make her babysit his completely obnoxious toddler.  Her benefactor is literally losing his mind, but someone seems to be trying to rush it along, and he wants Izzy to have a conversation with his assistant about personal hygiene.  Like real life, not everything has a happy ending, but getting there is worth it.

Title: The Last Word
Author: Lisa Lutz
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 352
Publication: Simon & Schuster, July 2013

bombshell

The FBI Thriller novels follow Savich and Sherlock as they solve crimes as part of the FBI.  The crimes ten to be pretty gruesome, but the bad guys never win for long with this married couple on the case.  Their relationship is warming as they balance doing their job with raising a family and their urge to protect one another.

In this latest installment, Bombshell, they are joined by Griffin Hammersmith, last seen in Backfire, who has been recruited by Savich to join their unit of the FBI.  On his way to D.C. Hammersmith decides to stop in Maestro, Virginia to visit his sister Delsey, a music student.  Before he gets there he receives a phone call telling him that his sister has been found naked and unconscious in a pool of blood that is not her own.  As Hammersmith tries to protect his sister and solve the mystery of what is going on in Maestro, Savich and Sherlock are dealing with the dead body of a young man that was found displayed in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

The book jumps back and forth between the stories of what is happening in Maestro and D.C., but it isn’t distracting, instead keeping to book moving along at the quick pace I’ve come to expect from Coulter’s FBI novels.  Hammersmith is a nice addition to the team, his seeming ability to “see” what is going to happen is not overplayed, but an interesting twist.  A fun, fast ride through two completely different worlds of crime.

Title: Bombshell
Author: Catherine Coulter
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 400
Publication: Putnam, July 2013

never go back

The Jack Reacher series follows the former MP as he wanders the country aimlessly, with no possessions to weight him down, and becomes entrenched in one disastrous situation after another, usually to help out a beautiful woman.  These books are mysteries, but are heavy on the action and suspense, with healthy doses of romance and humor.

In this latest installment, Never Go Back, Reacher has finally made it to Virginia to look up Susan – the woman currently running his old MP unit – who he felt a connection with during a series of phone calls made several books previously.  When he gets there a number of surprises are waiting for him – Susan is in jail, he’s being accused of murder, and he may be the father of a teenager.  Forcefully re-enlisted into the military Reacher will need to unravel this latest mystery and find out what’s really going on.  Overall, what we’ve come to expect from a Jack Reacher book, fast-paced and fun.

Title: Never Go Back
Author: Lee Child
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 416
Publication: Delacorte Press, September 2013

davidson

The Goldy Schulz novels follow the caterer as she manages to blunder over one dead body after another in Aspen Meadow, Colorado.  And no matter how much the police chief (who also happens to be her husband) wants her out of harm’s way, she seems to stumble into that as well as she tries to get justice for the recently deceased.

In this latest installment, The Whole Enchilada, her friend Holly drops dead after leaving a birthday party catered by Goldy.   Even as the police try to figure out whether she was actually murdered, and if so, how, it becomes apparent that Holly had plenty of secrets and there are plenty of available suspects.  Why was she broke?  Who were all those boyfriends she kept talking about?  Why did someone also try to hurt Holly’s son and their priest?  And who’s after Goldy and why?  She doesn’t think she knows anything, but someone is convinced that she does.  Joined by her friend Marla, some friends from the police department, her catering partner Julian, and her husband Goldy unravels yet another mystery.

Title: The Whole Enchilada
Author: Diane Mott Davidson
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 384
Publication: William Morrow, August 2013

Cuckoo’s Calling

cuckoo

Cormoran Strike is a one-legged Afghanistan war hero, the illegitimate son of an aging rock star, and a PI in London.  Strike is completely broke and living in his office due to a rather nasty breakup with his insane fiancé when in walks John Bristow, the brother of a supermodel (known as Cuckoo) who plummeted to her death from her balcony.  The cops have ruled it a suicide, but her brother doesn’t believe it and wants Strike to find the truth.  Finally, a paying job!  With the help of Robin, his latest temp secretary (that he didn’t mean to hire, because of course, he has no money), Strike enters the world of the rich, famous, and powerful to try to unravel the secrets of this beautiful woman’s tragic life and death.  Did she kill herself or was she pushed?  Was she using drugs again?  Who would have pushed her?  The strung-out boyfriend, the controlling fashion designer, her rude uncle, her friend from rehab, or someone else?

I’m a fan of mysteries, good and so-so, and this one definitely fell into the good category.  I was relieved, having read it after knowing the true identity of the author.  I am a huge fan of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series (who isn’t?) but was unimpressed with Casual Vacancy and was tentative when I began reading her latest work.  It is no Harry Potter, but it is engrossing.  It’s a classic gritty detective novel, but one of the better of its kind – the characters are well-developed and the descriptions of the scenes and interactions are vivid without being overly wordy.  I didn’t see the ending coming, but neither did I keep notes as meticulously as Strike!  I’m definitely looking forward to more books in this series, regardless of whose name is on the cover.

Title:  The Cuckoo’s Calling
Author:  Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 464
Publication: Mulholland Books, April 2013