A look back-Part 2

I  have absolutely adored Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway mystery series and hope that she will continue to write many more book about Ruth, her family, colleagues and friends. Ms. Griffiths has also penned the post-war Max Mephisto series. Now, she has written her first standalone novel. I will start by saying that this atmospheric, character driven story does not disappoint.

Plot: Clare is a teacher at the school where her daughter, Georgia, is a student. Harbinder is a Detective Sergeant whose alma mater is this school. When Clare’s colleagues begin to die, Harbinder is assigned the investigation. The school also has close ties to the author of a very scary story. These threads intertwine to produce a suspenseful, somewhat Gothic tale.

Most interesting to me in the book were the many characters and their interrelationships. There are Clare and her ex-husband, Clare and her daughter, Clare and her colleagues, Clare and Harbinder. Then there are Georgie and her parents, Georgie and her teachers, Georgie and her boyfriend, Georgie and her writing group, etc.

Another feature of the novel is the offering of different points of view. The reader sees events through the eyes of Clare, Georgie and Harbinder.

As in all good mysteries there are some twists. This is a novel that I definitely recommend. My favorite novels by this author are still the Ruth novels but this is worth a read for suspense lovers.

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this read by one of my favorite authors!

This Side of Murder and Treacherous is the Night. The back story of this series is World War I. Readers learn more about Sidney’s experiences during that time and empathize with his difficulty in coping. Readers will also enjoy spending more time with this couple as they get to know one another better.

In this entry, Verity has two cases to solve. In one, a friend has been accused of murdering her husband. In the other, a friend from Verity’s WWI spy work, asks for her help in investigating the murder of her sister. The novel includes many settings including mansions and locations in France and England.

Readers know that the cases will be solved but how? Are they related? Do they relate to the war? Find out as you read this latest adventure .

Also, I want to comment on the cover. I think that it is really gorgeous.

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this book in exchange for an honest review.

Molten Mud Murder is published by the excellent Poisoned Pen Press, a small press that is dedicated to mystery fiction. This is author Johnson’s first novel and the first in a projected series.

American protagonist, Alexa, is a forensics examiner whose specialty is teeth. She has come to New Zealand on a fellowship, falls in love with the country and wants to stay longer. She manages to insert herself into the murder case involving a city counselor.

What I struggled with a little: Alexa took many risks that felt plot driven. Some mysteries, such as what happened to her friend, Mary, were not fully solved. Perhaps that is for another book.

What I liked: The setting on the North Island of New Zealand and the ways in which the landscape is brought vividly to life. The information about tribal Maori customs and rituals. That there was a back story for Alexa. The hint of romance between her and Bruce, the Senior, a term for the chief detective. The details on forensic examination.

This mystery should appeal to armchair travelers, lovers of New Zealand and those who enjoy action packed mysteries. Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for this proof in return for an honest review. I look forward to the author’s next book.

A new novel from this author is always most welcome! What I love about this series is not so much the mysteries, although those are well constructed, but the relationships among the characters and the ways in which the city of Venice is brought to life. Guido and Paola seem so real and affectionate with one another; they have a marriage that many would envy. Watching Guido and Paola with their children is a treat as is reading about their latest family dinner. Guido’s relationships with his extended family and work colleagues are also brought vividly to life.

In this book, a friend of the family who is elderly wants to adopt an adult male to be his heir. Will you as the reader feel empathy for this lonely man? All around wonder if this adoption is a good plan but he is determined and undeterred. Is this what leads to his and one other’s death? What are the reasons for what is happening? How are families constructed? They are not all like Guido’s.

For fans of Donna Leon, the chance to spend time with her will be a delight. New readers will also enjoy the book and will probably then look to read others in the series.

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this good read. The opinions are mine alone.

A Better Man: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel

This entry in the author’s long standing Gamache mystery series is truly outstanding. It is one of the very, very best mysteries that I have read this year.

The plot involves the death of a woman who had been abused by her husband. Does that mean that he was the murderer? If yes, how to convict and, if not, who was it and why are central to the plot.

But…it is the way that Penny writes that makes this book so truly excellent. She is philosophical and thoughtful, all the while enhancing, not taking away from the plot based action. The book is full of references to Moby Dick whose relevance becomes apparent. Many of the characters are chasing their own versions of that great whale and, as in the novel, they are distressed.

Penny has a true talent for making her characters com to life. This is true for the series regulars as well as those who fully inhabit this novel. The people are complex and within contain both much goodness and potential for wrongdoing, even if sometimes for what they feel are the right reasons. In addition, the early chapters of the book about potential flooding made me feel the cold, the rain, the fear and the worry.

Penny herself states:

“These books are about community. About love and belonging. About the great gift of friendship.

How lucky I am to live in Three Pines.”

You, too, will be most lucky to visit Three Pines. I give this one 6 stars out of five. Really.

Death in Focus: An Elena Standish Novel

Kudos to Anne Perry! She is not an author who rests on her laurels. Ms. Perry recently started a series with Daniel Pitt, son of long-term series regulars Thomas and Charlotte and now, she has started a series featuring Elena Standish. This novel takes place as Hitler is rising to power in Germany.

The characters in the family…Elena is an aspiring photographer. Her sister Margot was widowed shortly after marrying during WWI. Grandfather Lucas was in MI6 during WWI and maintains his connections. His wife, also was active in the war. Then there are Elena’s parents Charles and his wife Katherine. He is a diplomat; she is American. There are many characters not in the family, from the Jewish population in Berlin to the Brownshirts to those who are busy plotting and to Cordell at the British Embassy.

The settings in the novel are vividly described. The book opens in the shadow of Vesuvius where tourists are creating their reality, away from their daily concerns. It is here that Elena meets Ian, a man who sets her on a perilous mission. Thanks to Ms. Perry, i felt like I was on the train with them, right there in the compartment as the talked about themselves. There are so many equally vivid scenes. To mention a few, a British diplomat goes to lunch with Hitler and t he reader feels him sweating; a book burning takes place and the crowd watching is alive in the reader’s mind, a train hurtles toward Paris from Berlin and the reader feels the anxiety of the characters who need to escape quickly.

There are murders and conspiracies and Elena is clearly in peril. The plot does center on some coincidences but I was willing to accept that. The ending of the novel is a crescendo of events with a clear sense of unresolved issues for future novels or at least that is my hope.

I loved Death in Focus, a novel with rich and vivid characters who are trying to make their way in a world that was for ever changed by WW I and is now hurtling toward another war. There are some parallels to our world today in terms of the author’s description of how people who feel they have nothing, feel better when they have a group to hate.

I highly recommend this novel. Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this e galley in exchange for my honest review.

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