Tag Archives: mystery novel

“The Bodies in the Library” and “Murder is a Must” by Marty Wingate, First Edition Library Mysteries #1 and #2

The Bodies in the Library (A First Edition Library Mystery Book 1)
Murder Is a Must (A First Edition Library Mystery)
Note cat on both covers!

This new mystery series by Marty Wingate is great fun! I’ve already read two of them. I regret that my Library hasn’t got her other mystery series. Time to turn to Kindle. 

So what is the fictional First Edition Library? A very wealthy widow in the coastal English city of Bath specializes in collecting first editions from the “Golden Age” of mystery writing, mostly by women. Authors like Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers. Protagonist Hayley Burke becomes curator of this fabulous collection. She even gets to LIVE in the Library!

Aside with the usual problem with mysteries (real life rarely produces interesting crimes or clever murderers), what do we learn? That British women drink a tremendous amount of tea, and almost as much wine. They talk to cats and to portraits. 

Now I want to go back and read piles of classic mysteries.


“The Falconer’s Knot” by Mary Hoffman and other books with FALCONER in the title

The Falconer's Knot by Mary Hoffman (2007-04-02)

HOW did I end up looking at THREE books with “falconer” in the title?! I was chatting with my sister-in-law…  She mentioned a book she enjoyed and all I could remember later was that one word. So I went on line with my local library and reserved recent fiction that sounded promising. 

I’ve been hungry for “fun fiction”, but only one book interested me enough to finish. 

The Falconer’s Knot by Mary Horrman was by far the best of these three books. Young Adult fiction with a sunny take on life, set in Italy, which the author plainly loves. Teenagers Silvano and Chiara are sent to a monastery and convent respectively, by families with problems to solve. Neither has a scrap of religious vocation. Murders take place and the two must solve them to avoid unfair accusations. The ending of the book is like a Shakespeare comedy. Love overcomes all! This is the kind of book that makes me want to call my travel agent. I’ve never visited Italy!

The other two books didn’t catch my fancy. One was YA steampunk, the other adult historical fiction (usually a good category for me) . 

Just to make this even sillier, my sister-in-law now denies offering me any such advice! So, who WAS I talking to? SiL went through her recent reading and found only ONE related title, a “cozy mystery” called The Falcon Always Wings Twice by Donna Andrews. Sorry, I have my standards. I simply won’t read a book based on that bad a word play. Unless I’m REALLY desperate. 

“The Blood Card – A Magic Man Mystery” by Elly Griffiths

The Blood Card (Brighton Mysteries Book 3)

I read Elly Griffiths’ other mystery series (about forensic anthropologist Ruth Galloway) in it’s entirety, but had dropped the Magic Man series because I didn’t like the first book that much. 

I picked up The Blood Card (aka Brighton Mysteries Book 3) by mistake, but totally enjoyed it. 

It takes place in 1952, during the days leading up to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. Griffiths makes much of the emerging role of TV in this event. Post war England was embroiled in controversy. Should a woman ascend to the throne? Who needed monarchy, anyway? Why were the rich SO rich, while the commoners who had fought and won World War II struggled with rationing? Who was a communist? WHAT was an anarchist? And how was the entertainment world going to cope with “home entertainment”, aka television?

Having constructed a pleasingly eccentric cast of characters (including a gypsy fortune teller) and drawn them all to a big, old London theatre, Griffiths lets us know that the threat of an anarchist bombing is serious and immediate. Ultimately, the bomb itself is on stage in front of the audience. 

At this point, I had absolutely NO IDEA how the plot would be resolved and the book would end! Who was the bad guy? I was engaged and delighted. Reading The Blood Card was so much fun!

Rather than stay up and rush through it (very tempting), I went to bed and saved the end for the following day. It was highly satisfying. 

“A Desperate Silence (Dr. Sylvia Strange Book 3)” by Sarah Lovett

Why start on Book 3 of a series? The regrettable limitations of my (usually sufficient) county library! I was curious about Lovett, but not curious enough for a purchase. I’m trying not to buy books. 

I didn’t completely read this book, checking the beginning and the end and a bit here and there. Conclusion? I’m not going to read it now. (Not what I need, in my jangled, vaguely fragile, Covid transitional state of mind.) But if I was waiting around in a train station, I’d grab Book 1 of this series (Dangerous Attachments) for sure. Female author, interesting and brainy female protagonist, and set in New Mexico! What more could I ask for!?

“Earthly Delights” by Kerry Greenwood

Earthly Delights (Corinna Chapman Mysteries Book 1) by [Greenwood, Kerry]

Corinna Chapman Mysteries Book 1 – 2004 (First US Edition 2007)

This entertaining mystery takes place in Melbourne, Australia. Kerry Greenwood is like Janet Evanovich (author of the wacky Stephanie Plum novels, set in Trenton, NJ) but on uppers. Crazier, and lots of fun. The title “Earthly Delights” refers to Corinna’s business, a successful bakery. In place of Stephanie Plum’s idiosyncratic extended Italian family, Corinna lives in an apartment building full of (mostly) loveable eccentrics. She takes up stray teenagers and seemingly lost causes with gusto, and in the end, the good guys win. There are seven Corinna Chapman mysteries, the most recent published in 2018. I probably doesn’t matter what order I read them in.

Greenwood has published dozens of books. I’ve heard her Phryne Fisher historical mysteries series highly praised, so maybe I’ll try them next.

“The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: a Flavia DeLuce Novel” by Alan Bradley

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Mystery

I’m glad that I chanced upon Book 1 of this series, which now includes ten novels. Flavia de Luce is a delightful young heroine. Her absent minded and distracted family ignore the fact that Flavia has a passion for chemistry and, particularly, for chemical poisons. Their house is big enough that her laboratory is delightfully private. When a stranger is murdered in the garden, Flavia’s curiosity and scientific knowledge lead her to investigate.

Unexpectedly, she learns that her widowed father carries a burden of guilt and regret that almost shatters his life.

I appreciate the fact that Bradley writes about someone who loves chemistry and ISN’T a hopeless weirdo! I studied chemistry, and understand the appeal of things that sizzle and change color. I wish I’d had more chances to fool around in a laboratory like Flavia’s!

I plan to download the next novel in the series for my upcoming train trip. Just right!

“Arsenic with Austen” by Katherine Bolger Hyde

I finally found fiction to relax with! Wait, I shouldn’t say it that way… The heroine is a Professor of English (at Reed College in Oregon, no less) and she would disapprove of a preposition at the end of a sentence.

Emily Cavanaugh is an appealing protagonist, and the frequent literary references (ranging from the Old Testament to JK Rowling) in this mystery amused me. When stressed, Emily retreats into the worlds of Jane Austen and Anthony Trollope. When confronted with murder, she relies on Dorothy Sayers. Emily is a bibliophile who suffers from a level of technophobia even worse than my own. She would never condescend to blog. Horrors! Such an ugly neologism!

Two of the themes of this book are old grudges and land development. It works. There’s romance, too.

This is Ms. Bolger’s first novel and I look forward to more. She is calling her series “Crime with the Classics”. I don’t think she can go wrong.

The Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte Mysteries by Arthur Upfield

I’ve been on a re-reading jag, and this series, published between 1930 and 1963, was a pleasure to revisit. If you are a mystery fan, check out Arthur Upfield. His novels will also appeal to those who love

  • Anthropology
  • Geography/geology/ecology
  • Travel (Australia)

The books I re-read were

  • The Mountains Have a Secret
  • Sinister Stones
  • The Bushman Who Came Back

What is a man named Napoleon Bonaparte doing in Australia? Upfield’s detective hero is (in the words of his time), a half breed, son of an aboriginal woman and a European father, raised and educated to take full advantage of the wisdom of two highly divergent cultures. The capstone of his education was a three year period when he “went bush”, living off the land and becoming an initiated member of his mother’s tribe.

The interactions between these two cultures sets the framework for Upfield’s plots. The stunning, strange Australian landscape provides the background. And Upfield creates wonderful, eccentric characters.

Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte always gets his man. (If he created a female criminal, I’ve missed her.) Along the way, he breaks rules, takes chances and uses mysterious aboriginal wisdom.

If you want to get happily and completely lost in a book, try Upfield. But I’m warning you, the urge to max out your credit card and travel to Australia RIGHT NOW may be overwhelming!

“Still Life: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel” by Louise Penny

This mystery, part of a series (I don’t know how many books), takes place in Canada, and is highly atmospheric. The plot was overly complex for my taste, but I enjoyed the characters. One assumption was that a painting can convey a complex (accusatory) message. I wonder how many investigators would consider that? My impression is that, here in New Jersey land, most murders are stupid acts by stupid people, and investigators don’t get to exercise their critical intelligence very often.

When I describe a novel as “atmospheric”, I’m referring to culture, and this book explores an interesting aspect of Canadian culture, or rather bi-culture. Both French and English are official languages. I believe the educational system is directed towards bilingualism. The book occasionally explores the questions of relative status and power between the two cultural groups.. which he refers to as Francophone and Anglophone. Certainly the author believes that French speaking women are sharper dressers!

Last summer I met a woman from Massachusetts who grew up in Canada and, I believe, spoke French before she learned English. I’d love to run this book past her for critical commentary! When I need something to read at the beach, I’ll return to Louise Penny.