Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Guest Blog - Paper Doll by Robert B Parker

Since I have read all of the Jesse Stone novels and a good share of the Sunny Randall ones, I thought it was time I tried a Spenser book. When Spenser for Hire was on television, I caught glimpses of it when my husband watched. I knew that Robert Urich played the lead and that Spenser had a friend named Hawk. That was about it.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this 1993 novel. In Paper Doll Spenser looks into a murder that looks as if it was random street violence. When the police can go no further, the husband of the victim hires Spenser to solve the cold case.

Paper Doll has lots of surprises. Nothing about the victim is as it seems at first glance. When Spenser starts asking questions, someone in a powerful position tries to keep him from asking any more.

I thought this was a good mystery. A little more rough language than I prefer but other than that I felt comfortable trying out a whole new world with lots of books by Parker.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Something Wicked: A Horatio Wilkes Mystery

I can't remember the last time I wrote a review, but now that I'm back in the US and have access to an English-language library, I have no more excuses. I'll start with a short one to ease myself back into the routine:

Something Wicked is the second entry in Alan Gratz’s Horatio Wilkes Mystery series. In this retelling of Shakespeare's play Macbeth, Horatio attends the Scottish Highland Games with his childhood friend, Mac, and Mac’s demanding girlfriend, Beth. When Mac’s grandfather is murdered, Horatio joins forces with the local police to solve the crime.

Horatio is a bright and witty hero, but sometimes he reads much older than a junior in high school—particularly when he casually throws off references to Shakespeare and Freud. Perhaps this maturity is why his parents allow him to go alone to the Highland Games for the weekend, rent a room in a seedy motel, and solve murders. Overall, Something Wicked is a fast and entertaining read, but the light tone does mean the murders can come as a bit of a shock.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Guest Blog - Candle for a Corpse

At the moment, my husband and I are living in a huge apartment/condominium complex in Northern Virginia. One of the minor amenities is a small library in the "commons" area. It is completely borrow and return on your own. No oversight whatsoever. Recently I picked up a few mysteries to read. I started a very promising little one by a Canadian author I did not know. However, I was not stealing time from other responsibilities to read it. That really is my measure of how much I am enjoying a book.

I picked up another book and started reading it and didn't want to put it down after the first few pages. I have heard of English author Ann Granger but don't think I have ever read anything that she has written. This one, Candle for a Corpse, is a cozy mystery. Right up my alley.

When a grave is opened to bury an elderly woman with her long gone parents, the grave diggers discover the bones of a young woman. Superintendent Alan Markby and his friend Meredith Mitchell become involved in trying to find out who the young woman was and how long ago she was killed and buried. It is a satisfying mystery with plenty of interesting characters and complications.

The book had another intriguing feature. Periodically all of the way through the book, words were underlined. Perhaps only one on a page. Some pages had no underlining. At the beginning of the book little notes had been made next to the highlighted words. The notes were in Chinese characters. Of course, I was interested in the mystery of the paperback book itself. I noticed that the underlined words were usually ones that were idioms. Some word that an English as a Second Language reader might be completely unfamiliar with. In fact an American reader might wonder at the usage of a word by the English author. What is chutney or daft? What does "twelve years back" mean? The notes in Chinese ended after about page 95 but underlined words in pink highlighter continued to the end of the book. Did the original reader finish the book? Was it someone else who underlined the occasional word on the remaining pages? I will never know. However, the previous reader added to my enjoyment of reading the mystery. I wonder if I will find another book with marginal notes in Chinese. I hope so.

By the way, I have been wondering if small English villages still have a grave digger who uses a shovel to prepare the ground for a funeral. I am pretty sure that here in the U.S. a grave digger operates a backhoe. According to Granger in the early or mid 1990s, England made it mandatory for people to be buried or cremated in biodegradable material. I don't think I have anything that is all cotton or linen to be buried in. I had better hang on for a few more years.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Guest Blog - Hard Row by Margaret Maron

Hard Row came as a bit of surprise to me. I thought that I did a fairly good job of keeping up with the latest books by some of my favorite mystery writers. I don't know how I missed this one by Margaret Maron. It was actually published in 2007. It is a Judge Deborah Knott mystery. She is recently married to Sheriff's Deputy Dwight Bryant with his son a part of their family. On the domestic side Knott is cautiously feeling her way through her new role as a stepmother but loving being married to Dwight. On the legal side, there are still lots of glimpses into the crazy cases brought before Judge Knott.

I think I liked Hard Row more than any of Maron's other mysteries set in North Carolina. This time we got to see the information not just from Knott's view but also from her partner in life and crime solving, Dwight Bryant. In the past Knott has been a bit of a pain, sticking her nose in where it really didn't belong. Now their partnership makes a logical and complete working relationship. They pool their information and find the killer who cut up a body and distributed the parts along the banks of the river.

You don't have to have read other books about Deborah Knott to enjoy this one, but it does make it a bit easier if you have already been introduced to her extensive family and bootlegging father. Maron does a good job of filling in the gaps though if you are a first time reader of her mysteries.

The first Margaret Maron I read was located in New York City with Sigrid Harald, a police officer. I met her in Corpus Christmas and really liked this heroine. I wasn't sure whether I would like the Knott mysteries but am well hooked. There are two more recent books out there that I have not yet read. I'll be looking for them so that I can catch up the the Knott-Bryant saga and a good mystery.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Guest Blog - Split Image by Robert B Parker

Much to my delight, I discovered that before Robert B Parker died in January, he had finished a book about Jesse Stone and sent it on its way to the publisher. After reading Split Image, I felt that Parker must have known it was the last Jesse Stone mystery that he would ever write. It has a very satisfactory ending in Stone's personal life. The novel left me with a feeling of completeness and appreciation for the author.

Split Image is a bit of a strange premise for the murder mystery but it is a good read. Of course, for every 'yup' that Stone says, I can see and hear Tom Selleck. Which doesn't hurt my perception of Stone one single bit.

If you have never read one of Parker's Sunny Randall books, I highly recommend them. Especially since Randall shows up in this final story about Stone. I found a Randall mystery, Melancholy Baby, at the Goodwill bookstore and read it just after I had finished reading Split Image. I am a Sunny Randall fan and liked this novel. Randall and Stone have a lot in common. Both of them are struggling to get passed their attachment to their ex-spouses. In Melancholy Baby, Randall's ex remarries. That leads her to seek someone new to see for counseling. This is a good look into a therapist/client relationship besides a very good mystery.

I am sorry that there will be no new Jesse Stone or Sunny Randall novels to enjoy. I have read that Tom Selleck is going to do more stories about Jesse Stone despite his new series premiering this fall. I am delighted.