Category: Mystery Review (page 2 of 2)

Logical #Mystery The Nine Mile Walk: The Nicky Welt Stories of Harry Kemelman

Author Harry Kemelman is best known for his mystery series featuring Rabbi David Small, but he also wrote short stories featuring a college professor named Nicky Welt. The Nine Mile Walk: The Nicky Welt Stories of Harry Kemelman is a collection of these short stories.

 

(Amazon Affiliate link)

In all his stories, Kemelman’s protagonists use logic to solve crimes, but nothing beats the pure logic of “The Nine Mile Walk”  (text available online).

 

Modified slightly, the short story is also available as in a two-part video.

First part:

2nd part:

 

It is a short, but highly-entertaining mystery.

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(Public domain)

Have you read Harry Kemelman’s books? What do you think of them?

#amreading #mystery: Camelback Falls by Jon Talton

A friend who lives in Arizona recently recommended the David Mapstone series by Jon Talton. Because I am reading mysteries as a way to study the craft of writing, this will be more of a discussion of writing techniques than a general review.

This post contains affiliate links to Amazon.

Let’s start with Camelback Falls, although it is the second in the David Mapstone Mystery series.

Summary:

Main character David Mapstone began his career working in the sheriff’s department of Maricopa County, Arizona. After a detour to train as a historian, he found himself back in the sheriff’s department. When the newly elected sheriff who has been his mentor is shot, Mapstone must find out who did it and hopefully clear his mentor’s name.

Discussion:

The first thing I noticed when reading was the rhythm of Talton’s words. Even though he sets his stories in the Sonoran desert, the cadence reminds me of the uneven staccato of the rain on pavement. I have to admit it took me a couple of pages to adjust to his voice after having just read the slowly ambling prose of Elizabeth George. Once familiar with it, however, the driving beat was compelling.

Many mystery authors write using a third person point of view, but Talton writes in the first person. The distinct advantage of first person is that there are no confusing shifts in voice or perspective. It can be limiting, however, because it only tells one person’s story. It also can be difficult to show action because the main character must always be involved. Talton adroitly overcomes the limitations by adding certain characters with a wider perspective of events and by moving Mapstone around to follow the action (even though as acting sheriff realistically he might have been trapped in his office). Kudos to Talton, because that is hard to pull off in a mystery.

One intriguing pattern in this novel was that most of the male characters tended to be either mentors or adversaries. Few men were neutral or friends. As Mapstone interviews the women characters, on the other hand, they impart many of the clues to that help wrap up the mystery. I wonder whether the choice of helpful females was a conscious decision as a way to define Mapstone’s character or an unconscious choice by Talton. Because he is an experienced journalist, I suspect the former.

In any case, Camelback Falls is a enjoyable mystery to read, and delving more deeply, an informative case study of the writing process.

Have you read any of the David Mapstone mysteries? What did you think?

 

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#amreading #mystery: Revealing the Strengths of Lisa Gardner’s Hide

Have you read any Lisa Gardner mysteries? I have been reading through her D.D. Warren series, and I have to say my new favorite is Hide (A Detective D.D. Warren Novel).

This title really stands out for a couple of reasons. First of all Annabelle, even though she is at the brunt of some of the villain’s wrongdoing (victim/potential victim), gets as strong a role as some of the law enforcement characters. Including the victims’ viewpoints gives Gardner’s books an interesting emotional core because their reactions are more intense and direct.

Second, I love that Bobby Dodge, who got pretty beat up in the last book (Alone), has a better time of it in this one. To say anything more would be a spoiler.

The main reason Hide works so well, however, has to to do with Annabelle’s motivations. Having recently read a Writer Unboxed blog post about The Duplicity of A Character’s Desire, it seemed like a good time to evaluate how desire worked in this novel. Annabelle’s desire to find out who her father was, why he kept her family on the run throughout her childhood, and ultimately her desire to discover whether or not she can have a more normal adulthood align to make her a clear and compelling character. Many of Lisa Gardner’s characters wander off into the realm of unreliable narrator, which is fine. Keeping Annabelle confined to a clear path, however, made this particular book more satisfying.

The bottom line is that although the Annabelle character spent her childhood in hiding, the act of revealing her desires to others ultimately makes Hide a highly enjoyable read.

 

What do you think?

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Mystery Review: The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz

Let’s start out with a mystery that you could feel comfortable recommending to a young adult or even your mother because it is completely devoid of violent murders. The Spellman Files  by Lisa Lutz is about a unconventional family (read dysfunctional) of private investigators who often spend more time investigating each other than criminals. It is the first of a six book series (list on authors website.)

Although the books are touted as humorous, be aware that Lutz’s humor runs towards the deadpan. You have to pay attention to catch all the improbably funny situations.

You can get a feel for her wacky humor in this video about another in the series, Trail of the Spellmans.

If you have trouble getting the jokes, you should think about what it might be like to be an author at a book signing.

Speaking of book signings, I met Lisa Lutz at the Tucson Festival of Books last weekend. There she revealed she wrote The Spellman Files as a screenplay first and revised it to be a stand alone novel. She also said that if she had known the Spellmans would become a series, she wouldn’t have killed off one of the characters.

If you are tired of the standard meaty fare, give the The Spellman Files a try. It is a light fruit salad of a mystery, perfect for a warm summer night.

Have you read The Spellman Files? What did you think of it?

 

Disclosure: This book was purchased and signed at a book signing. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title or image link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website

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