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

Advertisements

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

Jack Reacher

one shotOne Shot is the ninth book in the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child and was recently made into a movie starring Tom Cruise.  In the books Reacher is 6’5”, 250 lbs, with a 50” chest, blond hair and blue eyes – Tom Cruise?  Not seeing it, but since I haven’t seen the movie I can’t complain too loudly – I’ve heard that it actually works…  I’ll let you know what I think once I’ve actually seen the movie!

Anyway…  Reacher is a former military policeman who now wanders the country freely – no vehicle, no luggage, no home, no credit cards – and manages to get entrenched in one disastrous situation after another.  Not only is he a really large and well-built and apparently good-looking guy, he is smart, resourceful, and does not hesitate when doling out justice according to his own moral code.  Much of his world is black and white with very little room for gray, he always sticks up for the innocent and the downtrodden, he always gets his guy (often brutally) and he always saves the day before he moves on and leaves another love-struck woman behind him.  While the books are mysteries, they are heavy on the action and the suspense, not simple whodunits.  The stories in the series are smart, suspenseful and fast-paced with just enough humor and romance thrown in to keep all that action from getting boring.

In One Shot six shots are fired from a parking garage into a crowded street leaving five people dead.  The police quickly gather a watertight case against James Barr, a former military sniper.  Barr denies his guilt and only asks for one thing – Jack Reacher.  Reacher is already on his way having seen the story on the news, but he and Barr have a history, and he is no friend of Barr’s.  When Barr is severely beaten while in prison, Reacher, Barr’s attorney, his sister, a reporter, and a private investigator will have to find out what actually happened and bring about Reacher’s own brand of justice.  Like all Reacher novels that I’ve read, this one keeps you guessing (who’s the traitor, what part did Barr play, why did any of this happen?) and in suspense until the very end (even though you know – logically – that Reacher isn’t going to die – there ARE more Reacher books!).

If you like action and suspense in your mysteries, this series is definitely worth checking out at your local library (and if you don’t like it they have an excellent return policy!).

Title: One Shot
Author: Lee Child
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 384
Publication: Delacorte Press, June 2005

Ordinary Grace

ordinary graceIn New Bremen, Minnesota, in the year 1961, thirteen year old Frank is about to experience a summer full of tragedy and will become immersed in a story full of anger, betrayal, lies, adultery, and prejudice.

Frank is growing up in this small town the son of a Methodist minister and a frustrated artistic mother.  His older sister is headed for Julliard and his younger brother tags behind him, self-conscious of his stuttering problems.  Many of the men in the town have been greatly affected, spiritually, physically, and emotionally by their participation in recent wars.  It is against this backdrop that a 40-year old Frank looks back at his youth to tell the story of this tragic summer, a summer when faith, families, friendships, and communities will be tested.

I really loved the storytelling style – very simple and straightforward yet engaging.  Although the story is told by the 40-year old Frank, it feels as though it is being told a thirteen year old boy growing up in a small town, the thoughts and behaviors are so perfectly remembered and shared.  Small touches made me smile and captured the setting perfectly – the music, the peanut-butter and jelly and red Kool-Aid, hot rods, swimming holes.

Not so much a mystery (I was not surprised by the ending), this is a coming-of-age story, a story about a simple life that becomes extremely complicated quickly, a story about a boy that grows up too fast, and a story about the ordinary graces that ultimately redeem us.

“In your dark night, I urge you to hold to your faith, to embrace hope, and to bear your love before you like a burning candle, for I promise that it will light your way. And whether you believe in miracles or not, I can guarantee that you will experience one. It may not be the miracle you’ve prayed for. God probably won’t undo what’s been done. The miracle is this: that you will rise in the morning and be able to see again the startling beauty of the day”.

Title: Ordinary Grace
Author: William Kent Krueger
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 320
Publication: Atria Books, March 2013

Sweet Tea Revenge

sweet teaI wasn’t going to write about this book, it was a quick read – one in a series of light cozy mysteries that I like to read.  But it’s almost the end of March, almost Easter, and here in Central New York it’s still snowing, a lot these past couple of weeks.  So what better to read about and think about than a quirky tea shop in Charleston, South Carolina where the days and nights are hot!

This series is just for fun – the stories are light, quick to read, quirky characters and typical cozy mystery storylines.  The series follows Theodesia who owns a tea shop in Charleston and seems to have a knack for stumbling on dead bodies and getting embroiled in solving the mysteries of their deaths.  She is aided by the stodgy and proper Drayton (her tea master), the young and quirky Haley (her chef/baker), while running up against the gruff Detective Tidwell.

The setting is beautifully described, as is the food prepared each day for the tea shop, and both make me want to head to Charleston simply for tea.  I want to put on a fancy dress and a big hat, wander through the quaint shops in Charleston, and have some afternoon tea.  Then I want to change into my jeans and t-shirt and spend the afternoon wandering through the back roads and along the coast, finding a decrepit mansion to explore, sitting on the docks, or wandering through an old cemetery.  The book includes recipes in the back and someday I am actually going to make myself some scones and Devonshire cream and a pot of tea (now if I only had a veranda and a hot day I would be all set!).

This particular book was not my favorite in the series.  It seems that the characters are getting in a bit of a rut and Theodesia’s new love interest seemed to have no real role or personality.  I didn’t predict the ending, but it wasn’t really surprising either.  Hopefully future books will bring some surprises and growth into the series.

Title: Sweet Tea Revenge
Author: Laura Childs
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: 336
Publication: Berkley, March 2013