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Customer Discussions > Mystery forum

READER-to-READER MYSTERY REVIEWS: Share the customer reviews you've written

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Showing 1-25 of 116 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 6, 2012 10:49:28 AM PST
R. E. Conary says:
Have your written a customer review of a Mystery novel that you particularly liked (or hated)? Share it with other readers here. Reviews only, please.

Insert the book's product link and post a copy of the review you wrote. That's all.

Customer reviews help me discover authors I haven't read before and often influence whether or not I buy a book. I, for one, look forward to reading as many reviews as possible.

Thank you and enjoy.


NOTE 1: If you write a lot of reviews, please post no more than one review a week here so that as many readers as possible can share what they've written. Thank you.

NOTE 2: If you wish to comment on a particular review, please "click" on the book's product link, go to that review, and leave your comment in the section provided there rather than posting here. Thank you.

NOTE 3: Authors -- Please don't post reviews of your books here. There are other discussion threads for that. Thank you.

Posted on Jan 6, 2012 10:53:03 AM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Jul 9, 2012 7:24:46 AM PDT]

Posted on Jan 6, 2012 2:24:22 PM PST
Hi REC. What an interesting idea! Here's a recent one:

Before the Poison: A Novel

Peter Robinson: Before the Poison

Haunted by the past --- 4 stars

Chris Lowndes is a Yorkshireman who has made a successful Oscar-winning career in Hollywood writing music for the movies. But he's always dreamed of returning to his home and his beloved wife, Laura, was happy to agree. When cancer takes Laura, the devastated Chris decides to continue with the plan, spending the next year making arrangements, including buying a house, Kilnsgate, in the countryside.

Soon after moving in, Chris learns that his realtor, Heather, somehow neglected to tell him that in 1953, Grace Fox, the nurse wife of the house's owner, Doctor Ernest Fox, was hanged for murdering Dr. Fox with poison after they hosted a Christmas dinner party. At first just curious to find out more about the murder, Chris soon becomes nearly obsessed, almost literally haunted by Grace and wanting to find out what really happened that fateful night.

While Chris's investigation occupies much of his time, even taking him on trips to France and South Africa to talk to people who knew Grace, it's not his only occupation. He settles into his home and town, making new friends and even beginning a tentative relationship with Heather. When he is alone, he devotes much of his time to composing a sonata to honor Laura's memory and working to come to terms with her death.

Chris's preoccupation with Grace and Laura brought to mind Vera Caspary's book, Laura (and the movie adaptation starring Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney), in which a private detective becomes obsessed with the dead Laura, whose death he is investigating. Chris is tormented by his own dead Laura and, in his dreams, Grace and Laura become confused.

Peter Robinson is best known for his long-running police procedural series featuring Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks. If you are familiar with that series (as I am), you'll find this book to be a very much a departure from its style. This is not a police procedural. It's a first-person narrative in two senses: Chris's story and the interspersed excerpts from Grace's diary of her harrowing experiences serving as a nurse in World War II's Pacific Theater of Operations and in France. This narrative style gives the book a feeling of immediacy and intimacy.

The contemporary story is set in late autumn and winter and Robinson paints a vivid picture of Chris's new home in the Yorkshire Dales: the beauty of the countryside, the quiet of falling snow, the warmth and conviviality of an evening in the local pub or at home making good food for visiting family and friends. He brings Grace poignantly to life through her diary and the stories her old acquaintances tell Chris, and his descriptions of Grace's wartime experiences and of Yorkshire in the 1950s will make you feel you are there.

The book has some weaknesses. Its ending was abrupt, and Robinson's characterization of Heather didn't convey anything that would explain her attractiveness to Chris----even aside from the obvious issue of her clearly intentional omission to tell him about the house's past. But these problems knocked off just one star for me. I'm glad Peter Robinson took a break from the Alan Banks series to bring us this moving and involving story.

Posted on Jan 7, 2012 10:00:55 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 7, 2012 10:01:35 AM PST
L. M. Keefer says:
If you like a cosy mystery with a bit of camp, you might like this new addition. It made me laugh. It seems like cosy mysteries work well when they are written by smart writers with a sense of humor.

Wicked Autumn: A Max Tudor Novel

In an English hamlet beguilingly named Nether Monkslip, a mystery reader might expect a quirky brew of eccentric characters, tangled relationships and piquant charm. The reader won't be disappointed in this debut novel of a new and rather sophisticated cozy mystery series that is reminiscent of the Golden Age mysteries. It even gives a tip of the hat to Dame Agatha Christie.

WICKED AUTUMN is peopled with colorful characters you would expect to find in a modern version of a quintessential English village: a former MI5 agent turned Vicar, a New Age shop owner and earth goddess, a blonde femme fatale bombshell who intoxicates the village women at a "how-to-mix-cocktails" charity fundraiser, a boorish retired Major and his battle-axe wife, a couple of bad writers, a sexy bad-boy chef, a village baker--everyone but a candlestick maker. One of these villagers is murdered at the annual Autumn Fayre and the Vicar's MI5 training is gratefully pressed into service by the local investigator.

The virtuous Vicar discovers his hamlet isn't quite the twinkling Thomas Kinkade scene that it appears to be on the surface. A simmering cauldron of passion and wickedness boils just below. Female readers' hearts may flutter as the masculine and sensitive bachelor Vicar makes his village rounds talking to potential witnesses. Some male readers may enjoy considering the femme fatale's serious curves. Anglophiles will relish the bucolic English village setting as described by the author whose storytelling is liberally laced with humor. The author, an Oxford and Cambridge educated writer, has received several writing awards. Her intelligence seeps through the prose.

If you're a fan of Louise Penny's Canadian Inspector Gamache series, or Martin Walker's French Bruno the Detective series, you'll find a similar winsomeness and wit invigorating this first novel of this English Vicar Max Tudor series. I can't wait to see which villager gets knocked off next in the sequel to this delectable debut.

Posted on Jan 7, 2012 11:12:20 AM PST
[Deleted by the author on Jan 7, 2012 11:13:14 AM PST]

Posted on Jan 13, 2012 8:21:00 AM PST
Luv2CUSmile says:
Hi- Wow, you guys leave these seriously summarized type reviews... nice- But I wrote a review in a more simple manner- just letting people know if it is a good book or not... I guess I need to rethink what I write in a review...

Deal Breaker: The First Myron Bolitar Novel (A Myron Bolitar Novel)

Deal Breaker: The First Myron Bolitar Novel (A Myron Bolitar Novel)
Price: $7.99
Availability: Auto-delivered wirelessly
135 used & new from $5.24

Great Intro to a New Series!, January 10, 2012

This review is from: Deal Breaker: The First Myron Bolitar Novel (A Myron Bolitar Novel) (Kindle Edition)
I read this 1st book in the series after I found the series through one further along in the story that was given to me. Once I read that one I had to find the books before it to get caught up, in order.
This first book of Myron Bolitar is great and introduces the characters in to the fold in just the right set up. This is a series that I am glad to have found this series and after so many people have recommended Coben books to me, I see why. I love police procedural, FBI, detective type mysteries as well as cozy mysteries. Coben's writing style and ability to pull you into the life of his character is captivating. I can't wait to read through the rest of the series and get caught up to current!

(please excuse the typo's within my review, my keyboard is small and I often hit the "home" key while typing causing my words or phrases to jump. My fault for not proofreading before I post)

Posted on Jan 13, 2012 10:59:47 AM PST
I'm going to try to post this review again, but I'm sorry that I still can't figure out how to put the book title in blue, even though I follow the prompts.

THE ALPINE VENGEANCE (2011) by Mary Daheim is the 23rd book in the Emma Lord mystery series, also one of my favorites so far. Not only did I feel in the company of old friends (especially Emma Lord, the owner and publisher of the Alpine Advocate and Milo Dodge, the esteemed sheriff of Alpine and Emma's main squeeze. It is always amazing to me how the author can continue to think up yet another mystery involving the residents of the small mountain town in Washington State. It does help that the first families of the town represent many generations.

In THE ALPINE VENGEANCE, a member of one of the old Scandanavian families called Petersen, owners of the local bank, has died in prison while serving a sentence for killing his sister Linda. Larry Petersen's motive for killing his sister was presumed to be because she had been chosen to be the bank President when their father retired instead of him. The brother and sister were supposed to have had a violent argument that resulted in her death.

Before Larry Petersen's death, Sheriff Dodge received three anonymous letters claiming that Larry's conviction had been a mistake and that he hadn't killed his sister. After his death, Emma received one more of the letters at the Alpine Advocate newspaper, where she worked as the publisher and editor. This fourth letter threatened another death if Linda's real killer failed to be exposed and Larry's name cleared.

While Milo and Emma are trying to sort out this mystery, there are other crimes to find culprits for. Who is cutting down so many of the town's maple trees and poaching their wood? Who shot Alpine's reclusive artist, Craig Laurentis? Besides trying to answer those questions, Emma is also trying to guarantee herself a happier holiday over Christmas than she experienced at Thanksgiving.

Posted on Jan 13, 2012 2:21:21 PM PST
R. E. Conary says:
Linda M.,

Thanks for posting your review. I haven't read an Emma Lord mystery in quite some time and this reminds me that I should. A lovely and enjoyable series as I recall.

Re: "I'm sorry that I still can't figure out how to put the book title in blue"

"Click" on the "Insert a product link" above the Add your own message box. Leave the Search as "All Products" or scroll through the menu for "Books" or "Kindle Store", whichever you prefer. In the Blank space provided enter the Title or Author's name and press the "Go" button. A pop-up window will show you editions to choose from. Press "Select" for the one you want and the Amazon formatted link will appear in your message. It will turn blue when you post your message.

The Alpine Vengeance: An Emma Lord Mystery


In reply to an earlier post on Jan 14, 2012 7:05:24 AM PST

Would you believe that I followed those exact directions TWICE? Both times I ended up with the title still in black and with brackets, etc. around it (before I posted the review). This does not bode well, I thought, but the first time I clicked on Post anyway.

The first time I was hopeful that when I clicked on Post, the title would turn blue, but the second time around I didn't want to take a chance. One deletion was enough, so I confessed my inadequacy up front. I don't know why the procedure didn't work for me.

Thanks for posting Mary Daheim's title THE ALPINE VENGEANCE in blue. I have also read her latest, THE ALPINE WINTER, but have not reviewed it yet.


In reply to an earlier post on Jan 14, 2012 5:53:10 PM PST
CJ-MO says:
No Mark upon Her: A Novel

I was able to read an advance copy of this book, but it is coming out 2/7/12. I rated it 5 stars.

Friends and co-workers are stunned when they learn of Becca Meredith's decision to take a leave of absence from the London Metropolitan Police to pursue her dream of winning an Olympic gold medal in rowing. However, they are even more shocked when they find out Becca didn't make it back from her most recent row on the Thames - her body was found near the shore by canine search and rescue volunteers. Gemma James and Duncan Kincaid are supposed to be on family leave to help their new foster child adjust to her new home, but both get pulled into this difficult and politically explosive case.

Becca, the victim, remains an enigma to those who knew her and to the reader. She was a rower and a cop and that's about all we know, but it turns out that's all we need to know since her whole life and the case boil down to those two things. Just as other characters in the book noted, while she wasn't overly popular, she was a good person and a good cop and she deserved better than her life to have ended so tragically. For someone with few close friends, there are plenty of suspects in her murder from her ex-husband to her current lover, to someone very high up in the Met who definitely has a motive for silencing Becca.

Gemma and Duncan are recently married, having begun as professional partners in Scotland Yard. They put their personal lives on hold for the case and are determined to get justice for Becca, even if it puts their careers at risk. Gemma and Duncan are both such wonderful characters. They are great investigators, well-respected and liked by co-workers and subordinates. They stick by their principles and stand up for what they believe, in this case standing up for Becca's reputation and making sure the person responsible for her death is identified and punished.

Duncan and Gemma are also devoted to each other and to their children. While the book focuses on the husband and wife juggling home and work responsibilities, the author has found the perfect balance in this book between Duncan and Gemma's family lives and the murder investigation. Other sub-plots in the book dealing with officers Melody Talbot and Doug Cullen's growing friendship and also details about the rescue dog program are entertaining and add to the overall story. In addition, rowing plays a major role in the case. I know very little about this subject, but it is interesting to get a glimpse of this world and see how it's not just a hobby but a core part of many people's lives.

The plot of this book is delightfully complex and there is depth to each character, no matter how large or small their role in the story. It is wonderfully written, with beautiful, descriptive language. While this is a continuing series, new readers will be able to get the same enjoyment from the book as long-time followers of the series. While this series is set in England, the closest comparison I can find it Faye Kellerman's Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus series in terms of its rich characters and superb writing. While Deborah Crombie's series had been running for a while, the characters and storylines are still just as exciting and fresh as in earlier books. In fact, I think Crombie has outdone herself in "No Mark Upon Her" and I'm already looking forward to the next installment!

Posted on Jan 15, 2012 6:58:29 PM PST
Eight Million Ways to Die (Matthew Scudder Mysteries)

Private investigator, Matt Scudder, is hired by a call girl named Kim to give her pimp a message. Kim wants out of the business, but is afraid to tell him face-to-face. Her pimp, known as Chance, isn't a violent man, but she's not sure how he'll handle the news. Since Kim is paying Matt much-needed cash, he reluctantly agrees. After spending a few days tracking down the elusive Chance, the message is delivered and all is well, until Kim ends up butchered in a hotel room. Everyone assumes Chance is behind this, but when he wants to hire Matt to find the real killer, Matt wonders if there's more to the story than a simple act of revenge.

Eight Million Ways to Die is great storytelling from Lawrence Block. I'm probably one of the last people in the world to read this book, and it's been a long time since I read a Block novel, so I forgot how good he is. Chance is fascinating--not your average pimp--and the portrayal of Matt as an alcoholic struggling to come to terms with his addition is superb. I usually don't relate to alcoholic male P.I.'s, but Matt's pain was so beautifully described that it made me care about whether he could truly face his problems. My only quibble was with the killer, but to say why would give too much away. All I'll say is that I wanted more.

Posted on Jan 16, 2012 5:59:28 AM PST
Michael Gilbert: Smallbone Deceased

5 stars: A classic British mystery that's a slyly humorous delight

Henry Bohun, WW2 veteran, former statistician, insomniac and newly licensed lawyer has joined the small, prestigious firm of Horniman, Birley and Craine. His first firm event is a memorial lunch for founding partner Abel Horniman, recently deceased from a heart condition. Not a very lively way to begin, but that is soon cured when the weeks-dead body of firm client Mr. Smallbone is discovered in a sealed deed box.

Enter Inspector Hazlerigg and his colleagues, who request Bohun's assistance with inside intelligence. It is apparent that the murder was an inside job, leaving as suspects six lawyers, five secretaries and three staff members.

Like many traditional mysteries of its time, SMALLBONE DECEASED is a "fair play" story. All the clues are provided and the painstaking reader can have a good notion of whodunnit and how. Gilbert provides a drawing of the offices, details about schedules, alibis, habits and clue-laden conversations. Hazlerigg's investigation and Bohun's intelligence gleaned from his work and contacts with his colleagues each provide pieces of the puzzle.

Unlike most modern mysteries, this is a short book without a great deal of detailed character development. This is not to say that the characters are cardboard cutouts. Gilbert provides a few details that, together with conversations, allow the reader to use his or her own imagination to picture the individuals easily.

Gilbert's writing style is dryly humorous. Take this passage, in which Bohun is attempting to learn the meaning of the Horniman Case Index Card method, a system that reduces each action in every case to a series of cryptic codes on an index card:

"Henry Bohun, having dismissed Miss Porter, was once more staring thoughtfully at the little stack of cards on the desk in front of him, trying to relate them in some comprehensible manner to his allotted share of that morning's post. The more he read them the less they seemed to mean, but finding that there were fifty-two of them he dealt our four bridge hands and came to the conclusion that he could make three no trumps without difficulty on his holding, which included such obvious winners as "The Duchess of Ashby de la Zouche---(questions relating to her claims for Dower)," "Lieutenant-General Fireside's Marriage Settlement No. 3," (his third marriage or his third settlement, Henry wondered), and most promising, "The Reverend the Metropolitan of Albania---Private Affairs.""

This is probably the kind of thing you either love or hate. I love it and I thoroughly enjoyed this small gem of a book.

Posted on Jan 16, 2012 9:22:49 AM PST
L. M. Keefer says:
Black Diamond by Martin Walker

It's ironic that one of the best French mystery series today is being penned by an Englishman who lives part-time in Washington D.C. as well as the Perigord region of France. By embracing opposites--a cozy French hamlet and the grit of contemporary crime--author Martin Walker is creating a hybrid niche mystery for intelligent readers.

Walker's background as a prize-winning journalist for THE GUARDIAN, editor-in-chief of UPI, senior scholar of the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars in D.C., and currently senior director of a global business think-tank on international economics infuses his storytelling with a complexity and richness not found in many detective novels. You are educated while entertained. His sophisticated plot lines are steeped in the intertwining of the history and politics of France while served up with a dollop of whimsy. The series offers brilliance and novelty. It has the uncanny ability, as really good books do, to convince the reader you are witnessing the events unfold in real time, and not reading a book. Characters are multi-dimensional and believable. I love their droll comments on life and love from the French perspective.

BLACK DIAMOND is a brothy stew of mushrooms, murder and malevolence. I enjoyed the flirtation with the possible new love interest, the chemistry teacher and single mother in this book. I'm smitten with Bruno myself (he cooks!), so hope he stays a bachelor for awhile being mystified by the mystery and gloriousness of his several women. BLACK DIAMOND, the third book in the series, equals the quality of its predecessors in the series and is becoming one of my favorite international mystery series. You may wish to read the first book in the series first: Bruno, Chief of Police: A Novel of the French Countryside (Vintage).

Posted on Jan 16, 2012 3:54:19 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 17, 2012 4:07:52 AM PST
janebbooks says:
The Killing Kind by John Connolly


"In April, 1963, a group of four families left their homes on the eastern seaboard and journeyed north...for two hundred miles... to an area of land close by the town of Eagle Lake, twenty miles south of the border between New Brunswick and Maine. ...The Aroostock Baptists arrived in Eagle Lake on April 15, 1963. By January 1964, the settlement had been abandoned. No trace of the founding families...was ever found again."

So writes Grace Peltier in her postgraduate thesis some 37 years later. The thesis is never published: Grace Peltier is found dead in her car. Her father's ex-business partner, a former U. S. Senator ("who came from money so old that some of it jangled on the Mayflower"}, hires local private investigator Charlie "Bird" Parker to investigate the death.

A few days later Charlie Parker watches on television a crime scene developing at St Froid Lake, a cold body of water in Northern Maine. A river bank has collapsed uncovering multiple human remains. A wooden identifying board is found around the neck of each victim.

Charlie Parker is the creation of one John Connolly, Irish storyteller who lives in Dublin most of the year. At the time of this tale, the third of the series, Parker resides in his late grandfather's house south of Portland in Scarborough, Maine, where he grew up as a boy. He's an ex-NYPD detective turned disgraced P. I. haunted by the death of his wife and daughter by a serial killer. He drives a 1969 Boss 302 Mustang with spoilers and wings.

You are going to love the world of Charlie Parker. His friends will become your friends. Angel and Louis, a duo of gay semi-retired criminals who share a delight in mayhem and occasional violence. Rachel Wolfe, criminal psychologist and profiler, who lives in Boston doing research and tutorial work at Harvard.

Parker, in this novel, has a few shady friends, too. A New York mobster who is slain while attending the opening night of the Boston Ballet's "Cleopatra." An illegal gun dealer found impaled on the main branch of an espaliered pear tree at the Cloisters. And a slim red-haired arachnidologist dressed in brown called Mr. Pudd who is no friend.

You'll visit with Parker his favorite haunts in the northeastern part of America. The Orensanz Center in the Lower East Side of New York City. The Wang Center in Boston. The Strand Book Store on Broadway. The Portland Public Market. Chumley's Bar in the Village.

THE KILLING KIND is my first Connolly read. It won't be my last!


Posted on Jan 16, 2012 3:56:49 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Jan 17, 2012 4:07:08 AM PST]

Posted on Jan 17, 2012 8:39:07 AM PST
[Deleted by the author on Feb 9, 2012 7:39:28 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 17, 2012 10:48:18 AM PST
Luv2CUSmile says:
Linda- That is what you will see when you add a product link, then, when you submit your post the "bracket and title" will be blue with just the name of the book, product description, whatever... You were doing it right if that is what you saw... Just submit next time.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 17, 2012 11:28:51 AM PST
Let me get this straight. You spent many sleepless nights unable to stop reading A BOOK YOU WROTE????? Sheesh.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 17, 2012 12:31:23 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 17, 2012 12:32:36 PM PST

When I posted that first time, what appeared in my post on this page was the same black title and brackets that appeared in the blue box. The title didn't change to blue and that's why I deleted it.

I have to admit that these glitches seem to happen more often to me for some reason--no one else here has had any difficulty. The strange thing is that I have posted a title in blue before on another Amazon thread with no problem.


Posted on Jan 18, 2012 2:39:49 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Feb 9, 2012 7:32:06 AM PST]

Posted on Jan 19, 2012 12:06:56 PM PST
The Widow's Revenge by Shirley Blane

An impressive debut novel by Shirley Blane. It is a mixture of genres -- mystery and suspense with romance and some humorous touches. There is some rich characterization, with great dialogue and descriptions of southern England which brought back memories of trips to Portsmouth, Salisbury and Henry VIII's Hampden Palace during a visit some years ago. I got lost in the famous maze there.

Daffodil Portly, the mother from hell, is a real psycho and I particularly like the growth in the character of Bobby who was a not very likeable Mama's Boy in the beginning but turns into a real man and decent human being.

Blane has created a very impressive novel with a real bang-up ending. Highly recommended for only 99 cents.
I look forward to her next one.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 19, 2012 12:09:32 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Jan 19, 2012 12:11:55 PM PST]

Posted on Jan 20, 2012 9:58:35 AM PST
R. E. Conary says:
A real "oldie" but a "goodie."

A Coffin for Dimitrios

"A sordid tale with no detections--but interesting, nevertheless" 4-Stars

Englishman Charles Latimer, ex-university lecturer and writer of detective stories, is on a continued-vacation in Turkey where he meets Colonel Haki of the Turkish secret police. Over a discussion of detective fiction, Haki says, "I wonder if you are interested in 'real' murderers, Mr. Latimer. I find the murderer in 'romans policier' much more sympathetic...artistic.

"The real murderer is not artistic," Haki continues pointing to a dossier before him. "Here is a real murderer. We have known of his existence for nearly twenty years. This man is typical. A dirty type, common, cowardly, scum. Murder, espionage, drugs...two affairs of assassination. Dimitrios. No government has ever caught him and there is no photograph... But we knew did Sofia and Belgrade and Paris and Athens... A fisherman pulled his body out of the Bosphorus last night... There is your story. Incomplete. Inartistic. No detection, no suspects, no hidden motives, merely sordid."

"But interesting, nevertheless," objected Latimer.

As he views the body of Dimitrios Makropoulos and the neat pile of crumpled clothing at the mortuary, Latimer begins to wonder who is this man? This putty-coloured bulk at the end of an odyssey. Could someone follow his path? Answer unanswered and uncared about questions? It would "surely be the strangest of biographies."

Latimer curiosity has been bitten and though he thinks it "Unthinkably foolish...a wild goose chase," he sets out to discover that biography.

There is nearly no action or violence; a far cry from modern mysteries and thrillers. Latimer follows Dimitrios' life from city to city, country to country, studying official records and news accounts, interviewing those who knew the man. He is often despondent; again, questioning his reasons for this worthless task until he finds another fascinating tidbit to keep him searching.

There are no really likable characters to care about--not even Latimer--to keep the reader going. Yet the trek itself is interesting. There is an especially haunting passage by a former drug dealer on addiction:

"It begins as an experiment. Half a gramme, perhaps... It may make you feel sick the first time, but you try again...and next time... A delicious sensation, warm, brilliant...afterwards is not so bad; not nearly as bad as...too much champagne... Soon you are yourself again... Nothing has happened...except that you have enjoyed yourself amazingly. If you do not wish to take the drug again, need not do are superior to the stuff. But this time...(y)our half a gramme is not enough... A trifle more; nearly a gramme, perhaps...the moment you detect any bad effects 'you' will stop. Only fools become addicts. One and a half grammes... Two grammes. It's four months now. You must stop soon. Two and a half grammes. Other people seem to get on your nerves... They talk so loudly. What are they saying?...about you. Vicious lies. Three grammes... You must pull yourself together. Three and a half grammes..." Worth an extra star for this scene alone.

And there is that niggling, lingering question at the back of the reader's mind (at least this one's) from the beginning: is Dimitrios really dead? No photo of him existed in any government file; there is only the French carte d'identité found on the body.

That question brought to mind immediately one of my favorite films and books, THE THIRD MAN (1949) by Graham Greene: pulp writer Holly Martin travels to Vienna to visit his old friend Harry Lime, only to find that Harry is dead and buried and considered a despicable underworld criminal. Holly sets out on the backtrail to learn the truth of his old friend and discovers the death is more convenience than reality. How much did THE THIRD MAN owe to Eric Ambler's DIMITRIOS? One convincing argument can be found at a review of THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS (the film version of COFFIN) at the following website: [...]

In the end, Colonel Haki was right--and wrong. Yes, COFFIN is a merely sordid tale with no detections, no suspects, no hidden motives; but it is totally artistic, totally complete--totally captivating and interesting, nevertheless. And not to be missed.

Posted on Jan 23, 2012 10:41:38 AM PST
L. M. Keefer says:
If you like Golden Age mystery writers, there's always Dorothy Sayers. The three mysteries I've read by her, you usually know who the villain is, so the mystery becomes how will Lord Peter catch him and prove him/her guilty?

Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers (Halcyon Classics)

This book opens with a dead man's body appearing in someone else's bathtub, and another well-known financier is missing across town. Are the crimes connected?

Mystery aficionados speak of Dorothy Sayers with reverence. She's considered one of the "four queens of the Golden Age of mystery writing". This is a delicious sample of her writing, and the first book I read by her. After finishing this one, I quickly ordered another Sayers mystery.

Sayers' brilliance (Oxford education) and lively wit infuses this book with charm. What I enjoyed was the social commentary by the characters--you can really get a sense of the esprit of the 1920's and inter-war years through reading a mystery like this by a writer who is from this period. There's no more witty and entertaining observer of contemporary society than Lord Peter Wimsey, the protagonist, (or his Mother who is so unpolitically correct and amusing) who helps Scotland Yard solve this unusual crime. This book has a riveting crime, well-paced plot, charming and eccentric characters, delightful dialog and a London setting. What more can a devoted mystery reader want?

All that's needed is a comfortable armchair and a roaring fire to read by. I enjoyed WHOSE BODY so much I'm recommending to our Library monthly mystery book club that we read it as a selection.

Posted on Jan 23, 2012 5:44:43 PM PST
Louise Penny: A Trick of the Light: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel (Chief Inspector Gamache Novels)

5 stars: A murder about contrasts; the play of light and dark

Clara Morrow, at age 50, is far beyond the age when most artists are discovered. Yet, on the evening this novel opens, she is about to enter the prestigious Musée d'Art Contemporain in Montreal for a gala solo show of her work. Clara's nerves nearly get the best of her, but she gets through the experience and is soon able to return to her idyllic Eastern Townships home of Three Pines for a celebratory party with her Three Pines friends, and artists, gallery owners and artists' agents from Montreal.

In the "friends" category are Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Québec Sureté and his second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir. Gamache and Beavoir have become acquainted with Three Pines and its quirky residents during their investigations of several prior murders. (Penny amusingly acknowledges the incongruity of Three Pines being simultaneously a place of art, friendship and warm hospitality, and a locale with a frighteningly high murder rate, by having bookseller Myrna describe Three Pines as "a shelter[, t]hough, clearly, not a no-kill shelter.")

The celebratory mood of Clara's Three Pines party doesn't last. Early the next morning, it is brought to an abrupt end by the discovery of the murdered corpse of a woman in Clara's garden. The woman is identified as Lillian Dyson, Clara's childhood friend who cruelly betrayed her while they were in art college. Clara claims she hadn't seen or heard from Lillian in over 20 years.

Looking at means and opportunity leaves Gamache and Beauvoir with a wide field of suspects. They must focus on motive, which reveals a huge gap between the type of person Lillian is widely reported to have been 20 years earlier and how she is seen contemporarily by her new circle of acquaintance. Gamache asks, over and over: "can people change?"

The search for Lillian's true identity is the key to the mystery, because only through understanding her nature can the investigators learn how she inspired murderous hatred and in whom. In the course of the investigation, Gamache and Beauvoir also confront the horrors they still live with as survivors of a deadly attack on their team the year before. The experience has affected Gamache profoundly, but it has not shaken his fundamental belief in people. By contrast, Beauvoir thinks: "The Chief believed if you sift through evil, at the very bottom you'll find good. He believed that evil has its limits. Beauvoir didn't. He believed that if you sift through good, you'll find evil. Without borders, without brakes, without limit." Though Beauvoir's name can be translated, literally, to mean "beautiful view," his actual view of people has become increasingly dark and embittered.

Clara's new-found success and Lillian's murder also bring to a boil the problems of envy and lack of understanding that have plagued her marriage for several years. In fact, envy is one of the deadly sins that is a persistent theme in this book, as greed was a theme in Penny's prior book, A Brutal Telling. This is what Penny does best. Her mysteries are not about forensics, timetables, alibis or violent action. They are about the human heart and spirit; about envy, resentment and fear eating away at people, threatening friendships, marriages, partnerships and even lives. But they are also about love, forgiveness and redemption offering hope for change and a forging of new, stronger bonds.

In A Trick of the Light, we see Louise Penny at the height of her powers. She is a master of characterization; a genius at creating a world that we enter into and fully live in, and want to return to. This is the finest book I've read this year [2011] and I have no doubt it will deservedly win many awards. Highly recommended.
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