Category: Mystery Review (Page 1 of 7)

#BookBeginnings #mystery The Man Who Died Twice

 

I found the first novel delightful, so I can’t wait to read The Man Who Died Twice: A Thursday Murder Club Mystery by Richard Osman for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

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Summary:  Amateur sleuths Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron and Ibrahim return in this sequel to the hugely popular novel, The Thursday Murder Club. This time Elizabeth’s ex-husband arrives on the scene with a wild tale about being accused to stealing diamonds from some ruthless criminals.  Before long people are found murdered. It is up to the retired foursome to put things right.

First Sentence:

Sylvia Finch wonders how much longer she can do this. One foot in front of the other, her suede shoes darkening in the autumn puddles.

Death hangs about her like a fine mist.

Discussion:

It’s hard to define this first page. It is set apart with only a few lines. It feels like a prologue, but isn’t labeled as a prologue. None of the main characters are in it. I guess we’ll have to see how it fits.

56

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The premise is simple. Turn to page 56 in the book and pick a quote.

 

“So you need us to look out for him?” asks Joyce. “Like bodyguards?”

“Hardly bodyguards, Joyce,” says Elizabeth.

“We’re guarding his body,” says Ron.

“All right, bodyguards then, Ron, as you wish.”

I love how you can see differences between the characters even in this short piece of dialogue, complete with banter.

Also, it is written in present tense. Present tense gives a sense of immediacy, but keeping the verb tenses consistent can be tricky indeed.

The Man Who Died Twice: A Thursday Murder Club Mystery*by Richard Osman

(*Amazon Affiliate link- As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

The previous novel:
The Thursday Murder Club: A Novel by Richard Osman

 

 

Have you read any of the Thursday Murder Club mysteries? What do you think?

#BookBeginnings One Step Too Far #Mystery

Let’s take a look at the brand new mystery One Step Too Far by Lisa Gardner for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

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One Step Too Far* by Lisa Gardner

(*Amazon Affiliate link- As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

 

Summary:  Frankie Elkin is a regular woman with one superpower:  she can find people who are missing. In this case, she joins a party looking for a young man who disappeared in the wilderness five years before. They are going to hike deep into the forest to one spot that has never been searched because it so remote. A novice to hiking and camping, Frankie has to be careful or she might just be the one who ends up missing .

Note:  Before She Disappeared is the first in this series (previous post).

First Sentence:

The first three men came stumbling into town shortly after ten A.M., babbling of dark shapes and eerie screams and their missing buddy Scott and their other buddy Tim, who set out from their campsite before dawn to get help.

56

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The premise is simple. Turn to page 56 in the book and pick a quote.

 

“Your idea of self-defense in an urban environment is a whistle? Are you trying to die?”

 

The first part, which happened five years prior, was in past tense. This part, with Frankie as the narrator, is in present tense.

I follow Lisa Gardner on Instagram and she spends a lot of time hiking. Her first hand experience gives a strong sense of reality to the story.

What do you think? Do you like books written in the present tense? Are you a fan of Lisa Gardner?

True Crime Story by Joseph Knox

 

With the huge popularity of true crime — particularly true crime podcasts– it isn’t surprising that authors would want to explore the genre in their fiction.  For example, I already wrote about how a true crime podcast drives the action in the novel Conviction by Denise Mina (previous post). Today let’s take a look at a novel that takes things a step further, True Crime Story:  What Happens to All the Girls Who Go Missing? by Joseph Knox. The paperback is coming out on December 7, 2021.

The first chapter starts with a black and white photograph of a young woman and the words:

In the early hours of Saturday, December 17, 2011, Zoe Nolan, a nineteen-year-old University of Manchester student, walked out of a party taking place in the shared accommodation where she had been living for three months.

She was never seen again.

Seven years later writer Evelyn Mitchell becomes interested in “What Happens to All the Girls Who Go Missing?” and starts investigating Zoe’s disappearance.  What she discovers unfolds through a series of interviews with the Zoe’s friends and relatives, plus emails, police reports, letters, etc.

Although the central question of what happened to Zoe is a compelling one, readers might find other questions on their minds, such as, “What is the author up to?”

Fiction or Nonfiction?

For a reader who picks up the novel cold, whether this is really true crime (nonfiction) is unclear.  Part of the confusion occurs because the author, Joseph Knox, inserts himself as a character, an author who helps Evelyn with her investigation and her writing. But all may not be as it seems. On the first page is a note from the publisher for the “amended second edition.” It implies Knox is not reliable and there has been a scandal, although the details are muddy.

It isn’t a spoiler to reveal that this novel is entirely fiction impersonating nonfiction. Even the note from the publisher is fiction.

Why did the author choose to create a fictional true crime novel? Perhaps Knox gives the answer on page 377 in the paperback version:

At such times, I remember why fiction is so often preferable to fact.

Homage to True Crime or Satire?

Joseph Knox put an incredible amount of work into this novel. He created interviews with multiple characters plus emails, plus a subplot of the interaction between the character Joseph Knox and Evelyn, the writer.  With the details and amount of time he put into it, one might guess the novel is a homage to the genre. However, an homage should lift up the genre, to show it at its finest, and that’s not the case. He sticks to the dry style of straightforward nonfiction.

If you look up “mimic” in the thesaurus, you will also find the words lampoon, parody, spoof. By mimicking true crime, Knox is likely poking fun at it. But again, it isn’t entirely clear. If that is the case, you’d expect more tongue-in-cheek, more tearing down of the genre, more over-the-top bits. If the intention is pure satire, then it is subtle enough that at least some readers missed it, a fact that becomes obvious when reading reviews.

Perhaps The Times has come the closest with the suggestion Knox both celebrates and satirizes the genre.

Conclusions

What the novel does really well is explore how authors investigating a crime — getting caught up in it — can color not only what they write, but also what happens. In this case Evelyn actually causes the ending. She is an active part of the story. On the other hand, the Joseph Knox character uses his position to conceal his own involvement in a death. All in all it becomes metafiction at its weirdest and best.

How you respond to this novel will depend on you and your expectations. If you are looking for something entirely new and different, if you really like fiction, then this is the book for you. You will be one of those many readers who give it 4 and 5 star reviews.

On the other hand, if you are a diehard fan of true crime and like your nonfiction unadulterated, then you might wonder why Joseph Knox didn’t put all his time and considerable talent into writing a novel that suspends disbelief, rather one than causes it.

Overall, I recommend giving True Crime Story a chance because if nothing else, it raises questions that will likely stick with you long after you read it. Isn’t that the best kind of novel?

True Crime Story:  What Happens to All the Girls Who Go Missing? by Joseph Knox


Disclosure: Book reviewed was an Advance Reader’s Edition. 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 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.

 

#BookBeginnings Girl Gone Missing by Marcie R Rendon

 

Looking forward to reading Girl Gone Missing by Marcie R. Rendon for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

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Girl Gone Missing* by Marcie R. Rendon

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Nineteen-year-old Cash Blackbear goes to Moorhead State college during the day and drives trucks delivering crops at night. She has little time to connect with classmates. That is, until she begins dreaming that the blonde girls who have recently gone missing from campus. Her dreams show they are trapped and trying to escape. What is going on? Can she help them?

First Sentence:

Cash pulled herself up and out of her bedroom window. Her heart beat in her ears and she shivered uncontrollably. She took off running barefoot, zig-zagging across the damp ground.

 

56

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The premise is simple. Turn to page 56 in the book and pick a quote.

 

The truckload of beets weighed a lot more than corn or wheat, probably because the beetroots were water dense. They also tended to have field dirt clinging to them even though the newer machines were better at cleaning the large clumps off the root before they were ever loaded on the trucks.

It was hard to find a place to start and stop the quotes. In the sections I have read so far, the words flow like water. They keep going, moving forward, tumbling to the next and to the next and to the next, pulling you right along like you are being swept along. It is hard to put down.

Neither of the quotes show you Cash, an Anishinabe woman who is smart and mature beyond her years. This is the second in a series. The first was Murder on the Red River, which I have not read.

What do you think?  Are you in the mood for an amateur sleuth mystery?

Conviction and The Less Dead by Denise Mina

Time to return two recent Denise Mina novels to the library, but let’s take a few minutes to discuss them first.

Conviction* by Denise Mina (2019)

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Brief Summary:   Anna McDonald listens to true crime podcasts to distract herself from her personal problems. When she realizes she has a connection to one of the crimes and that she might be able to solve it, the stars align to send her in search of the truth.

 

Review — With Spoilers:

Anna McDonald’s life is in crisis. One morning her best friend Estelle shows up at the door and announces that she (Estelle) has been sleeping with Anna’s husband, he’s leaving Anna, and even worse, they are taking Anna’s two daughters away on a long trip. Dumbfounded and suicidal, Anna turns to a true crime podcast for distraction only to realize she knows the victim, Leon. Although someone else has been convicted of the crime in the courts, the podcaster says that person is innocent and accuses Leon of carrying out a murder/suicide. However, Anna is sure the podcaster is wrong. With Estelle’s husband as a sidekick, they begin to investigate Leon’s death.

The book is written in the first person, from Anna’s point of view. Right off the bat, Anna seems like an unreliable narrator. There are hints of violence in the scene where her husband and Estelle confront her and take off with her girls. There are also strong hints of secrets to be revealed. Even though I’m not fond of unreliable narrators, given that the horrible events of the first morning would knock anyone for a loop, I was willing to keep reading.

Mina is brilliant at delivering an astonishing bit of information right when the story is seeming to slow down. For example, readers learn that Anna’s husband has done the same thing before. One morning he asked his lover at the time to show up at his previous wife’s door in a similar scenario. The only difference was the first wife did not have children. The big surprise:  the lover in that case was Anna! This wrinkle/twist gives explains Anna’s complex, dark emotions — of being a gravely-wronged victim, but also the guilt of previously having been the perpetrator. What a position to be in!

The surprising twists continue right up to the end, including the revelation that Anna’s name is really Sophie and that even though she was the victim of a rape, she had be vilified by public opinion and changed her identity.  No wonder she was being secretive.

A compelling story.

 

The Less Dead* by Denise Mina

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

 

Brief Summary:  Margo Dunlap’s adoptive mother has recently passed away and Margo is responsible for clearing out the house to get it ready for sale.  Instead, needing some sort of closure, she decides to search for her biological mother.  She meets with her biological aunt — a recovering addict — and learns her mother was murdered years before. Margo’s aunt says she knows who did the murder, but he’s gotten away with it. Can Margo trust her aunt enough to help bring the man to justice?

Review — With Spoilers:

The story is told mostly in the close third person from Dr. Margo Dunlap’s point of view, with a few short scenes from the point of view of an unnamed watcher — creepy.

At the outset, Margo is stressed out. The only mother she’s ever known has passed away and her brother is far away, which leaves her with the task of clearing out the house. At the same time, she’s worried about her best friend’s abusive relationship. Her own relationship is unsteady. She’s left her partner, Joe, even though she is pregnant with Joe’s baby and hasn’t told him.

Things don’t improve as she finds out about her mother’s murder. Before long she is getting threatening letters, but she continues to investigate, uncovering many heartbreaking aspects of her mother’s life.

Although the ending felt a bit more forced than Conviction‘s ending, I like the protagonist better. She is more stable, and up to the end, the instability in her life comes mostly from outside events and influences.

Overall, I liked both of these novels. I will be looking for more titles by Denise Mina.

Author Post: Kathy Reichs

After seeing this incredible ZOOM video, I knew I had to get started reading Kathy Reichs novels again.

Wow, she had the manuscript for her first novel accepted after her very first submission to a publisher. That never happens!

Years ago I read several of the series from the library, but I didn’t keep a record of which ones. It is time to start over.

The Temperance Brennan series

1. Déjà Dead (1997)
2. Death du Jour (1999) -shelf
3. Deadly Decisions (2000)
4. Fatal Voyage (2001)
5. Grave Secrets (2002) -shelf
6. Bare Bones (2003)
7. Monday Mourning (2004) -shelf
8. Cross Bones (2005)
9. Break No Bones (2006)
10. Bones to Ashes (2007)
11. Devil Bones (2008) -shelf
12. 206 Bones (2009)
13. Spider Bones (2010) (Also published as Mortal Remains)
14. Flash and Bones (2011)
15. Bones are Forever (2012)
16. Bones of the Lost (2013)
17. Bones Never Lie (2014) -shelf
18. Speaking in Bones (2015)
19. The Bone Collection (2016) – A short story collection including First Bones (a prequel to Déjà Dead), Bones in her Pocket, Swamp Bones and Bones on Ice.
20. A Conspiracy of Bones (2020)
21. The Bone Code (2021)

 

Note:  Kathy Reichs also co-wrote a MG series with her son Brendan Reichs, which you can see on his website.

 

 

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About Author Posts:

Because I read a lot of mysteries, I’ve been trying to come up with a better system to keep track of which novels I’ve finished. I thought blogging would help, which it does, but I don’t always review everything I read. To get more organized, I’ve decided to create a series of author posts with lists of novels and links to my reviews. I plan to edit these pages as needed.

#BookBeginnings The Deep, Deep Snow by Brian Freeman

 

This week let’s listen to The Deep, Deep Snow by Brian Freeman for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-Gershkowitz

The Deep, Deep Snow* by Brian Freeman

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

The Deep, Deep Snow is a standalone novel. Because I received a free audiobook, I listened to it rather than read it.

Summary:  When Deputy Shelby Lake was abandoned as a baby, she was saved by a stranger who found her on his doorstep in the freezing cold.

Now, years later, a young boy is missing. The only evidence of what happened to ten-year-old Jeremiah Sloan is a bicycle left behind on a lonely road. Can Shelby find the boy as her adopted father once did for her?

First Sentence Prologue:

The first thing you should know about me is that I believe in signs. Omens. Premonitions. I grew up believing that things happen for a reason.

First Sentence Chapter One:

On the day that Jeremiah Sloan disappeared, I was teasing Monica Constant about her dead dog.

Discussion:

Listening to a book is such a different experience than reading it, but both these first lines made me want to continue.

It turns out Monica’s dog is a running joke.

56

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The premise is simple. Turn to page 56 in the book and pick a quote.

 

His booming voice scared a few birds, but that was all. There was no answer. That didn’t stop him from hollering again. He was a handsome park ranger with the strong physique of a lumberjack, and strong men always labored under the illusion that they could solve any problem if they swung a little harder, talked a little louder, or ran a little faster. Life didn’t work that way.

 

I really enjoyed this book. At one point it skips ten years ahead in time, which allows the reader the see who changed substantially and who didn’t change much. There’s also a subplot that explores memory loss that I found poignant.

Aside:  Do you regularly listen to audiobooks? I don’t and some things surprised me. For example, I usually skip or skim long descriptions when I read  — as a matter of habit. Having to listen to every word made me realize  am missing a lot of setting and mood by skimming. In the same vein, I also tend to skim or skip sections that are too emotional or too frightening, which allows me to control how I react to it. Again, by listening, I felt the impact of every word.

Although I said I hear every word, there were a few times when environmental noise made me miss something and it isn’t easy to go back a few lines, at least not on the phone.  Has anyone figured out a solution for this?

What do you think? Have you ever read a book by Brian Freeman? Would you continue reading this one?

#BookBeginnings Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Let’s take a look at Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-Gershkowitz

Magpie Murders* by Anthony Horowitz

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

 

A few weeks ago  I dipped my toe into metafiction with The Eighth Detective.  It is an interesting take on a mystery novel, so I dug up another example. Anthony Horowitz has been dabbling in metafiction mystery novels lately, mixing fictional reality and fictional fiction in interesting ways.

Summary:  Alan  Conway writes wildly successful British mysteries featuring detective Atticus Pünd. When his editor, Susan Ryeland, begins to read his newest manuscript, she becomes suspicious there’s more to the story than has been found in the earlier books, one that might involve a real murder.

First Sentence of Magpie Murders by Anthony Horwitz

A bottle of wine. A family-sized packet of Nacho Cheese Flavoured Tortilla Chips and a jar of hot salsa dip. A packet of cigarettes on the side (I know, I know). The rain hammering against the windows. And a book.

The book starts with a chapter from editor Susan Ryeland’s point of view as she sits down to read the manuscript. Except for the cigarettes, it sounds like a good day to me.

First Sentence of Magpie Murders by Alan Conway:

23 July 1955

There was going to be a funeral.

Okay, this is a bit mind boggling. After the first chapter comes a title page (with the same title but a different author, no less), about the author page, book blurbs, everything that you’d expect in a real book. In fact, it took me a few minutes to figure out where things actually started. I had to page back and forth a few times.

What’s really freaky is that the page numbering starts again for the manuscript, except the numbers are found at the bottom rather than the top of the page. The 56 is going to be inside the manuscript text.

56

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The premise is simple. Turn to page 56 in the book and pick a quote.

 

‘He’d kill me,’ she replied. She smiled curiously. ‘Actually, he did try to kill me in a way — after our last row. ‘

It is weird to be looking for clues to more than one mystery within the text. There are the clues to the inside the manuscript mystery — as typically presented in a novel — and the clues to the outside of the manuscript mystery.  Which are which?

I’m beginning to think metafiction is going to require a whole new set of vocabulary words to describe the different layers.

What do you think? Would you give this a try? Have you read anything by Anthony Horowitz?

#BookBeginnings The Eighth Detective by Alex Pavesi

 

In a real visit to the library, I picked up The Eighth Detective by Alex Pavesi to read for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings

The Eighth Detective by Alex Pavesi

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:   When editor Julia Hart contacts retired mathematics professor Grant McAllister about republishing the book of seven mystery stories he had written 30 years ago, he agrees. As they read through the old stories, Julia notices inconsistencies. Are the problems mistakes or are they clues to a real life mystery?

First Sentence:

Spain, 1930

The two suspects sat on mismatched furniture in the white and almost featureless lounge, waiting for something to happen.

Discussion:

Based on the date, this is the first story of main character McAllister’s book, therefore a fictional book within a book of fiction.  I love the layer upon layer aspects of metafiction, so I’m excited to get started with this one. I’m already seeing possibilities for deeper meaning.

56

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The premise is simple. Turn to page 56 in the book and pick a quote.

 

“Morning, Maggie,” she said to her sister. “What are you two doing?”

Rose stood up. “It’s afternoon, silly.”

Discussion:

Based on the names of the characters, this is likely another of McAllister’s stories . I haven’t read this far, so I’m not sure what is going on. I do wonder about the mistake with the time of day.

What do you think? Do you enjoy metafiction? Have you read this book?

Murder in Pigalle by Cara Black Review

A few weeks ago I read Murder in Pigalle by Cara Black for an online book discussion at my local library. It’s time to write my review.

Murder in Pigalle by Cara Black

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Although she wants to slow down her hectic life because of her pregnancy, private investigator Aimée Leduc still rushes to find the missing thirteen-year-old daughter of a friend. She’s afraid the girl’s disappearance may be related to a serial rapist terrorizing the Parisian neighborhood of Pigalle.

Positives:

Setting:

The Paris setting met and exceeded expectations. I was not surprised to learn that  author Cara Black actually tests the routes she writes about in the book. The details about places felt very real.

Protagonist:

Aimée Leduc is half French and half American. In this novel she is expecting her first child and her relationship with its father is complicated, to say the least. I had never read a book with a pregnant protagonist before, especially a private detective. It adds an interesting dimension to the story.

Premise:

The crime is heart wrenching and I really wanted Aimée to find the criminal.

Negatives:

Almost everyone in the discussion group commented on how difficult it was to remember the cast of characters. I finally had to write down a list of names and their roles to keep them straight. Part of the problem might have been that this is book #14 in the series and the author may have assumed we had read the earlier books and didn’t need to be introduced to recurring characters.  All I can say is that other authors have pulled this off much more successfully.

Big Spoiler Alert:

Don’t read any further if you want to read the book. 

Although this book looks like a traditional mystery, it is set up more like a suspense novel. It was disappointing to find out that the perpetrator was briefly introduced on page 193, about two thirds the way through the book. He was not a major character and most of the members of the discussion group admitted that after he was revealed, they had to look back through the text to figure out who he even was.

Conclusions:

Although I liked the Paris setting and the vivacious main character, the flaws in the novel make it unlikely that I will seek out any more of this series.

 

Public Domain Image by Michelle Diagle

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