Category Archives: Mystery

Mysteries by Kathryn Lasky

I wrote in a much earlier post about how much I enjoy Kathryn Lasky’s books for young people. The other day, I came across one of my many notebooks where I jot down items to remember. On one page I scrawled the mysteries Lasky wrote before deciding that her niche was juvenile fiction. Some of these may be hard to find by now, but here they are–for another time:

Night Gardening (under the name E.L. Swann)

Dark Swan

Trace Elements (under the name Kathryn Lasky Knight)

Mumbo Jumbo

Mortal Words

The Widow of Oz

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A Spooky Halloween Read

I guess my motto should be “Better late than never.” I read the young adult novel In the Shadow of Blackbirds, by Cat Winters, last Halloween. I stayed up until the wee hours to finish it, and it was worth the effort. It had been a Big Library Read selection, and appropriately eerie for the holiday. It takes place during the time of World War I, in 1918. This was also the time of the influenza epidemic in the U.S. Also around this time, many people were into spiritualism–communicating with those who had gone before. Mary Shelley Black is the main character. She is mourning her friend Stephen, who had enlisted and was killed.

We see the events of the story through Mary’s experiences, thoughts, and memories, and there are many twists and turns.

The photo below was taken a couple of years ago. There’s a Halloween tradition around here that businesses paint their windows for the holiday. Some of the local school kids participate.  This one was a favorite–appearing in Mad Fox Brewery’s window.

 

Great Mad Pumpkin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Fiction, historical fiction, Mystery, Uncategorized, World War I

The Lake House–An Edge-of-your-seat Tale of a Cold Case

First of all, don’t mix up Kate Morton’s  2015 novel The Lake House with the Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves movie drama of some years ago. They’re not the same at all. But let me tell you–I couldn’t put the book down! At just over 400 pages, it was well worth the late nights I spent enjoying the ups and downs of the book. And the chapters move fast.

If it’s possible to love a place that you’ve never been to in person, that place, for me at least, is Cornwall, England. The setting alone was enough to attract me. I only learned the story as I began reading. For once, I skipped the complete synopsis.

I don’t want to give too much away, but the plot centers on DC Sophie Sparrow, who is on enforced “holiday” in Cornwall, visiting her grandfather. She has gotten too close to a case she is investigating. At the suggestion of Donald, her partner on the force, she is advised to “take her time.”

At loose ends, she runs every morning with her grandfather’s dogs. On one jaunt, she discovers Loeanneth, a secluded, abandoned estate of the Edevane family. Without knowing exactly why, Sophie believes something horrible happened there. As always, she asks questions, and they lead her to a tragic cold case. Just before a Midsummer party in 1933, eighteen-month-old Theodore Edevane disappears, and is never seen again. Was he murdered? Kidnapped? There’s only been speculation for years.

As she uncovers the facts of the case, Sophie’s search brings her to famous mystery writer A. C. Edevane. Theo is her youngest brother. But she has no desire to dredge up the past. Has Sophie hit another dead end?

As the story unfolds. time shifts between the years of the two world wars and the early twenty-first century. The characters are richly drawn and real, with many sides, There are many surprises. Don’t assume this is an easy one to figure out. Whatever you, do, don’t read ahead!

And if you like this story, you will enjoy her other books.

Visit the author’s website for gorgeous pictures of Cornwall.  Here are some of my favorite free clip art images of the place:

 

Image result for Cornwall England free clip art

 

Image result for Cornwall England free clip art

 

 

Image result for Cornwall England free clip art

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Filed under Fiction, Mystery, Uncategorized, World War I, World War II

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My Recent Book Discussion….

This was in early May. I almost forgot to attend–even after finishing the book. And I even mentioned something the day before about the meeting!  But we were all worried about other things. Fortunately, I remembered. I got there at 11:15 a.m., but by then the discussion was over. Apparently, I was one of only two people who liked the book. Everybody hung around afterward, though, chatting, which was also cool. Some people suggested several other mystery writers that I could read later.

The book was The Merlot Murders, by Ellen Crosby. I was so excited that we would eventually get around to this one. It is the first in a series, and sounded interesting. I read it aloud to my aunt, who enjoyed the rhythm of the writing and my attempts to differentiate the voices of the characters. And I behaved well–not once did I look at the end to find out who committed the murder. I was–and am–so proud of myself for that. It wasn’t easy.

The group really liked the Middleburg, Va., setting and the winemaking industry. They also really liked the grit and determination of the main character, Lucie Montgomery, who has quite a few issues. But they really thought that more character development was in order throughout. Also, nobody cared who ultimately committed the murder. That must be a bad sign to a mystery writer. People often read mysteries to solve the puzzles. For myself, I went far away from where the authors ‘s ideas of plot and solution.

Many people were irritated that Lucie deliberately put herself in harm’s way a lot. I was, too. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to shout at her and others: For God’s sake, stay away from the barrel room!! or whatever situation they found themselves in. But I think it was just part of Lucie’s nature that she would go off by herself and mull things over. There is one scene where Lucie’s cane is broken, and her manager (I forget the technical term in the industry) supplies her with a sturdy golf club as a temporary replacement. Sooner or later, she’s going to have to bash someone in the head, I thought. Sure enough….

All criticism aside, this is a series worth reading–and I don’t care a thing about wine or other forms of alcohol. Crosby recently launched a book in her Sophie Medina series at One More Page Books. Although I couldn’t attend the signing, I hope to be a customer at the store in the near future. Other group members seemed excited about the Sophie Medina series.

Back to reading my latest–a ghost story.

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Filed under Fiction, Mystery, Series

First Impressions–A Must for Austen Fans!

The moment I saw Charlie Lovett’s latest title, First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen, I had to read it. I know this author through his first novel, The Bookman’s Tale, which I will begin soon. That one’s about Shakespeare. Learn more about his background–including being a bookseller and collector of rare titles–at his website.

First Impressions was the original title Jane Austen gave to Pride and Prejudice. Just as Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy have to get past their original negative impressions of each other, the heroine of First Impressions is torn between two men. Sophie Collingwood can’t decide whom she likes better–Eric, an irritating American grad student, or an urbane bookseller. Sophie is also at loose ends about what to do, now that she’s graduated from college. She’s’s earned a degree in English, Even though she’s worked for four years in the library of St. John’s College, Oxford, she doesn’t know what her calling should be or the direction she should take in life. Her beloved Uncle Betram, has always helped to guide her. Through him she adopted a love for literature and rare books. Along with him, she has always been a familiar figure in the London bookshops.

Alas, her uncle dies suddenly. For some reason, Sophie can’t accept what happened to him, and she decides to do some sleuthing on her own. Along the way, she gets a job with a bookshop, and pleases the customers and the owner with her tenacious ability to track books down. One day, two requests come in for the same book–an original edition of Pride and Prejudice. Time for Sophie to do more detective work.

The novel grabs readers immediately. The plot alternates between Sophie’s time in the modern day and Jane Austen’s time. Here, we find Jane and her family on holiday. One day, while out on a walk, she meets an older gentleman–Rev. Mansfield. They quickly bond over literature and writing. Fortunately for readers, the story moves fast and equal time is spent in each century.

The novel is also a love song to books, literature, and favorite works. I found these passages on page 191 very moving:

On the lower corner of the first page of the first edition of Pride and Prejudice housed at St. John’s College, Oxford, is a small circular water stain. It does not affect the text, nor is it significant enough to reduce the value of the book. But, like every mark in a book, it tells a story, and like so many marks in so many books, it is a story known only to one person and doomed to be lost forever when that person is no more. It is the mark of a single tear that dropped from the cheek of Sophie Collingwood as she stared at those words, and is a testament to the power of literature.

Sophie wiped her cheek, but could not put the book down. Lost in the words, she read on, embracing both the familiar story and the unfamiliar way it appeared on the page. She felt herself somehow at one with the first men and women who read the novel; she felt especially connected to the person–she imagined her a lady of some wealth living in Bath–who first read this very copy.

This is a lovely. imaginative, and engaging read. Not to be missed.

 

Image result for jane austen clip art free

 

 

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Filed under Classics, Fiction, Jane Austen, Mystery, New Titles

Sharing About Books When You Least Expect It….

Yesterday, my aunt and I had finished our meeting. We were waiting in the front part of the office near the receptionist’s desk. I brought out my Nook from my purse to continue with my latest thick tome. Reading is also a great way to ease the stress of waiting on MetroAccess.

A few minutes later, an older gentleman finished with his appointment and happened to notice me reading. He and his wife were considering getting eReaders, and he had a lot of questions. I demonstrated what the screen looked like and how you could enlarge the type to your own comfort level. He really liked this because it was something his wife really needed. I talked a bit about other features, and that online bookstores offered free and low-cost titles.

About this time, the receptionist joined our conversation. She was a recent and enthusiastic convert to e-reading once she discovered her local library’s free eBook collection, and we told the man how many choices are available. He seemed really interested so I hope the new technology purchase works out.

Later the receptionist mentioned that it took her only two days  to read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.We talked about how much we liked it. She was also a James Patterson fan. She wants to start reading The Women’s Murder Club. We told her about Sue Grafton’s books and mentioned other mystery authors. I seem to be reading a lot of mysteries lately, which has me a bit worried. I guess everything goes in cycles.

Anyway, it was fun having a mini book discussion for a few minutes. We were also pleased when our ride came on time.

Happy reading, in whatever format works for you!

 

e reader : e-book with a pink cover Stock Photo

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e reader : Ebook reader on a light background window

 

 

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Filed under Everyday Goings-On, Libraries, Mystery, Nonfiction

What the Cat Saw

People often ask how I find books to read. Eighty percent or so come from recommendations from other people. For the other twenty percent, I browse, which gets me into trouble every time. I’ll often go into an unfamiliar library sections to see what’s there.

This latest selection came about because I wanted to read a story about cats. I’ve been missing our cat, and having a pet in general. So, I searched Overdrive, putting in the term “cat.” The mystery What the Cat Saw came up. I had never heard of the author, Carolyn Hart. But I decided to give the audiobook a try.

But did I really want to know what the cat saw? All sorts of pictures came to mind. It made me rather nervous. But I dove in anyway.

Nela Farley has been hit with a double whammy. Her fiancé, Bill, has been killed serving in Afghanistan, and she has been grieving for a while. She has also been laid off from her job as an investigative reporter at a California newspaper. When her sister Chloe calls and asks Nela to fill in for her at the Haklo Foundation while she is on vacation, Nela accepts. Maybe the change of scene to Craddock, Okla., will do her good. Besides, how difficult would it be to serve as an administrative assistant? Besides, she would be housesitting and taking care of Jugs, the cat who lives there.

From Chloe’s letters and calls, Nela learns of a recent tragedy in Craddock. The vice president of the foundation, Marian Webster, Jugs’ owner and the owner of the house where Nela will stay, has died in a fall.

But here’s where things get more than a little weird. Almost as soon as she arrives, Nela realizes that she can actually hear and understand cats’ thoughts–and they think in English! This phenomenon is never truly explained. One assumes it is from her trauma, but fortunately the author doesn’t dwell on this too long or too much, though there is the particularly sticky problem of explaining just why she thinks that Marian has been murdered. She can’t very well blurt out that it was something Jugs told her.

Those of us who have been around cats know that cats do talk through their meows. And it does seem that they really do understand English. But come on. Also, the Haklo Foundation might as well post signs saying, “Don’t work here!” Or “Go Away If You Know What’s Good For You!” Wait until you meet the staff. Office politics is definitely not typical here.

Happily, the rest of the story returns to traditional mystery conventions as Marian’s death is investigated. And yes, Nela meets a man who intrigues her. To me, a worthwhile mystery is one where you don’t guess the murderer in the first chapter. The author kept me guessing, so the story satisfied in spite of its weaknesses. It was also a pleasure hearing the reader–I don’t remember her name–performs the voices of all the characters.

I will read Carolyn Hart again. From her website, I understand that she has written multiple series, so next time I’ll try something different.

 

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Filed under Animals, Cats, Fiction, Mystery

“Gone Girl” Is Outta Here! (Finally!)

I looked at the clock. I finished Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl at 2:36 a.m. today. After three intense days, 425 pages, and a hell of a roller coaster ride. Not to mention extremely tired eyes. That’s why this post is short. It’s a testament to Flynn’s skill as a writer that she made me keep reading. I may read one of her other titles far in the future.

I also had more practical reasons for getting to the end: I wanted to finish before it disappeared from my eReader. I knew that if I didn’t finish I would never go back to it. It’s a popular title, and I didn’t want to wait months a second time. I normally don’t read these types of books, but it’s always good to get out of your comfort zone once in a while. I also didn’t like any of the characters. I guess you’re not supposed to. But if I can’t identify at all with the characters, it ruins my enjoyment of a novel.

But Gillian, what on earth were you thinking with that stupid ending? I feel so cheated! I went through all the ups and downs for this?   

I’m purposely not addressing much of the plot, just in case someone comes across this entry who hasn’t yet finished the book or seen the movie. In fact, the book comes with a reading group guide. Readers are strongly encouraged to finish the story before looking at the guide. Even so, I’m glad neither of my book groups chose it. I’m not sure how far we’d get with the discussion.

So, expect the unexpected with this one. Do NOT read ahead! But if it’s not your cup of tea, don’t plow through it. Now I can move on to other titles.

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Filed under Fiction, Marriage and family, Mystery, psychology, Thrillers

Gone to the Dogs

I recently finished reading Hounded, David Rosenfelt’s latest mystery with defense attorney Andy Carpenter and the gang he works with. My aunt also enjoyed it. I think she really liked the author’s deadpan humor. He also kept us guessing about how the story would turn out. As with most mysteries, the villain is not the person arrested for the crime. Friends in my book group would be proud. For once, I didn’t sneak a peek at the back of the book to see how everything would turn out.

This is not our first acquaintance with Rosenfelt’s work. We also loved Dogtripping, his hilarious and moving account of how he and his wife, with the help of a small army of friends, fans, and animal-loving total strangers, relocated the couple’s 27 rescue dogs from California to Maine. They called the caravan of vehicles “Woof-abago.” It’s definitely worth coming along for the ride.

Dedicated dog lovers and animal rescuers, the Rosenfelts set up the Tara Foundation, a nonprofit Golden Retriever rescue organization. They named it after their beloved Golden. While it’s no longer operational, the group and Tara live on in the mysteries. Although I haven’t gotten to it yet, I bet Unleashed is also fun.

For more information, visit Rosenfelt’s website.

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Filed under Animals, Fiction, Marriage and family, Mystery