Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How Aunt Agatha Spent Her Summer Vacation

You know what they say about the "best laid plans..." 

After a week spent nursing a knee injury, the best thing about my vacation is that I made a significant dent in my "to read" pile, both hard copy and eBooks. Let me share a few with you.

A word about eBooks in general.  Having spent a majority of my life working in a library, I must admit that I love the sensory experience of physical books--their feel, their smell, the experience of turning the pages as the story within develops.  That being said, I'm not adverse to new technology and so I eagerly jumped aboard the e-reader bandwagon and bought myself a Kindle Fire.  The selection of titles available is so wide-ranging, I became exposed to books I might otherwise have missed.

Such was In the Blood: a Genealogical Crime Mystery by Brit author Steve Robinson.  It was one of Amazon UK's Best Books of 2011. 

Anyone bitten by the family history bug knows you truly have to be a detective when it comes to searching out long-lost relatives (it should be a family "mystery" search, perhaps).  I've done my share of genealogical sleuthing on the Internet, so I was already intrigued by the title. Mild-mannered American genealogist Jefferson Tayte travels to Cornwell for his latest assignment.  His research leads him to the tragic life of a young Cornish girl, a writing box, and a family secret that may lead him to the answers he seeks.  But someone else is on the same trail and will stop at nothing, including murder, to get there first. 

I really enjoyed this book that alternates the contemporary Jefferson Tayte story with the past mystery.  Just when you think you have the solution figured out, Robinson takes a sharp turn in the plot.  It was hard to put this book down.  Fortunately the second book in the series,  To the Grave, was ready to be downloaded!   Britain during World War II is the time span Jefferson Tayte is researching. 

Another book I enjoyed over vacation also takes place during the Second World War.  Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal is a daring debut that introduces Maggie Hope, a brilliant mathematician and codebreaker.  Unfortunately, her gender precludes her from doing more than flex her secretarial skills at No. 10 Downing Street.  But spies, intrigue, murder, and a family secret threaten Maggie's very life.  Only her quick wits will help her uncover the assassination plan against the Prime Minister. 

Maggie's further adventures will be revealed come November when the second in the series, Princess Elizabeth's Spy, is released.  I'm looking forward to that!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Murder Served Up Cold

As many of us bake in summer's triple digit temperatures, I recall the words of Emily Dickinson..."There's no frigate like a book."  So I searched out some mysteries that can carry you away to cooler climes, maybe even frozen ones. Climb aboard and immerse yourself in a chilly mystery.

The Dead of Winter by Rennie Airth -- On a freezing night in 1944 London, a young Polish girl is found brutally murdered during a blackout.  Is it a random act of violence?  Ex-Scotland Yard Inspector John Madden is not so sure.

Winter Study by Nevada Barr -- Ranger Anna Pigeon joins a scientific group to study wolf behavior. She discovers unusual DNA evidence that suggests someone had introduced a giant and dangerous wolf hybrid into the wild.

Into the Storm by Suzanne Brockmann -- During a winter training exercise in the mountains of New Hampshire with Navy SEAL Team Sixteen and the security experts from Troubleshooters Inc., Tracy Shapiro, playing the role of the hostage, disappears. As the weather closes in, it is feared she's become the latest victim of a serial killer.

Negative Image by Vicki Delany -- As the mountain town of Trafalgar, British Columbia, shakes off a long hard winter, famous photographer Rudolph Steiner arrives to do a feature on mountain tourism. He has his own agenda, however, and it involves the wife of Trafalgar Police Sergeant John Winters.

Ice Cold: a Rizzoli & Isles novel by Tess Gerritsen -- When Boston homicide detective Jane Rizzoli receives the grim news that Maura's charred body has been found in a mountain ravine, she travels to Kingdom Come, Wyoming, where a gruesome discovery lies buried beneath the snow.

Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley -- In the dead of a Michigan winter, pieces of a snowmobile wash up near the crumbling, small town of Starvation Lake; the same snowmobile that went down with Starvation's legendary hockey coach years earlier.  What dark and disturbing secrets had lead to the coach's murder?

What Never Happens by Anne Holt -- In the cold of an Oslo winter, celebrities have been turning up dead in the most macabre of positions. Their killer may be seeking retribution, but for what?

Death Wore White by Jim Kelly -- For DI Peter Shaw and DS George Valentine, the blizzard hid an impossible crime.  Stranded on Norfolk coast road, a man is found stabbed to death at the wheel of his truck.  The killer was neither seen nor left footprints in the snow.

A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny -- Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Quebec, is called to the idyllic (but deadly) village of Three Pines to investigate a bizarre murder.  CC de Poitiers was electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, as she watched the annual curling tournament.

Snow Blind by P.J. Tracy --  January can be a bleak month in Minneapolis. So what better way to bring a little cheer to the good people of the city than by sponsoring an old-fashioned snowman-building contest?  But things turn ugly when the dead bodies of police officers are discovered inside two of the snowmen.

Deep Cover by Peter Turnbull -- When the snow thaws on London's Hampstead Heath, a ghastly discovery brings in Detective Inspector Harry Vicary and his team to investigate. the frozen body of a man is found on top of a shallow grave containing the battered remains of a young woman. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Return of Philip Marlow

It was just announced that Henry Holt & Co. plan the publication of a new Philip Marlowe novel featuring Raymond Chandler's iconic hero-detective.  Man Booker Prize-winning Irish novelist, John Banville, will be penning the book.

This new Philip Marlow novel has been authorized by the estate of Chandler, who died in 1959.  It will have an original plot and a 1940s Bay City setting -- the fictional town that stands-in for Santa Monica, California.  Chandler's trademark noir ambience will also be very much in evidence.  Publication is planned for 2013.

John Banville currently writes a series of crime novels for Holt under the pseudonym of Benjamin Black.  The series features Quirke, a hard-drinking Dublin pathologist.  Vengeance, the fifth in the series, is just being released.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Ned Kelly Awards Nominees

The shortlist for the Ned Kelly Awards was announced by the Crime Writers’ Association of Australia.
Best Fiction:

  • The Life by Malcolm Knox
  • Chelsea Mansions by Barry Maitland
  • Pig Boy by J.C. Burke
Best First Fiction:

  • The Courier’s New Bicycle by Kim Westwood
  • The Cartographer by Peter Twohig
  • When We Have Wings by Claire Corbett
Best True Crime:

  • Cold Case Files by Liz Porter
  • Call Me Cruel by Michael Duffy
  • Sins of the Father by Eamonn Duff