Detective and mystery stories
Josie Moraine was named after one of the most famous madams in New Orleans. Her mother, Louise, earns her living working as a prostitute for another notorious Big Easy madam—Willie Woodley. Josie supplements her own income from her beloved book store employment by cleaning Willie’s brothel. But, in Out of the Easy, by Ruta Sepetys, Josie Moraine would gladly leave her past behind in a heartbeat. She harbors dreams of attending Smith College. Although she’s applied, she has no idea how she would ever pay the exorbitant tuition…or, more importantly, fit into such a different scenario.
In Steven Saylor’s debut hard-boiled historical mystery, Roman Blood, Gordianus the Finder is an intrepid soul, living in a seedy section of long-ago Rome. All roads lead here and all the up-and-coming politicians--along with displaced, often enslaved people from war-torn lands--make for a sea of trouble in an atmosphere that is by turns torrid, glittering, and dangerous.
The English Monster, by Lloyd Shepherd, blends two stories of horror—one short, sharp, and bloody while the other is a slow unraveling of a man’s conscience.
October, 1564: A handsome young man, just married and very much in love, travels a dangerous path to the port of Plymouth, England, where he hopes to find a berth on a ship bound for adventure, but more importantly, riches to make their new life together secure. It is try and succeed or fail and never return for William Ablass. His letter of introduction earns him a place on board Captain Hawkins’ vessel where he becomes shipmates and friends with Francis Drake, later “El Draco,” the terror of the Spanish fleet. Their adventures succeed in turning a golden profit but at a very dark cost.
Arnaldur Indridason's Jar City: A Reykjavik Thriller, the first of a series starring Inspector Erlendur, is a gripping crime novel set in the insular world of Reykjavik, Iceland, where the climate is unforgiving and murder is a relatively rare phenomenon.
An elderly man, Holberg, is found murdered in his city flat, and, unlike most murders in Iceland that are crimes of passion, Erlendur and his colleagues Sigrinudur Oli and Elinborg quickly realize that this is not going to be a typical murder investigation, especially since the only clues are a cryptic note stating, “I am HIM” and the photograph of a young girl’s grave.
White Heat, an intriguing and well-researched book about life on an island near the cold, cold, cold Arctic Circle, has been a real treat this summer for this reader who doesn’t like enduring 100-degree temperatures. Thank you, M. J. McGrath! I appreciated the icy coolness and the great story.
The star of this excellently-plotted mystery is Edie Kiglaluk, a divorced, recovering alcoholic who hires out as a hunting guide to those from the “south” who want the experience of roughing it in a tough terrain. Edie is a tenacious young Inuit woman who just can’t seem to be a go-along sort of person in her community. Her closest friend is her stepson, Joe.
My son and I were discussing books the other day, and he asked me, “Would you recommend a book in a blog that you didn’t completely love?” I thought for a minute and said, “No”. He asked why not, and I replied, “What if someone noticed the blog who didn’t love books? What if they just wanted to try reading a book for the first time in a long while? I couldn’t recommend a book that I thought maybe they would like or maybe not. I have to feel strongly about the book. I want people to love books as much as I do.”
Nocturnal, by Scott Sigler, is a detective novel that involves the supernatural. So if you love both genres as I do, this is a glorious combination. The characters are so well-developed that several reviewers described this novel as Sigler’s attempt to write like Stephen King. I don't know if that is true, but I just think that Sigler has always been known as a fast-paced horror writer. In Nocturnal he adds more character and depth to the plot.
Carlos Ruiz Zafón completely understands what it means to be seduced by a book--to get lost in a plot and feel overwhelmed by perfectly-formed words and phrases. Perhaps that is what allows him to describe--and replicate--that experience in his own novel, The Shadow of the Wind.
The Shadow of the Wind opens in Barcelona in 1945. Daniel Sempere’s father is about to introduce him to a mysterious and labyrinthine place called the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. In the Cemetery, the young boy is taught some very important things about the lives of books: “Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.”
Set in the first decade of the 20th century, In the Shadow of Gotham, by Stefanie Pintoff, combines the atmosphere of a gothic novel with the more invigorating pace of a police procedural. Simon Ziele has buried himself in a quiet town in Westchester County to escape the memory of his lost love. He was an up-and-coming detective in the New York City police force when tragedy drove him to seek a quieter position, far away from the violence of Manhattan’s darker quarters.
And yet, when the call came to investigate a murder at the home of one of Westchester’s finest families, Detective Ziele is drawn in by duty to find out who killed the lovely, young mathematics genius in such a shocking and brutal way before it happens again.
It’s 1900, and lovely, smart Hilda Johansson is one of many immigrants working as live-in servants to rich households in Southbend, Indiana. In Jeanne M. Dams’ Death in Lacquer Red, Hilda has a pleasant if strenuous life, working hard to save money to bring her other family members over from Sweden. She is being courted by a handsome Irish fireman who won’t let the fact that their families wouldn’t approve--he’s Catholic and she’s Lutheran--get in the way of the romance. Even so, a dead body in the lilac bushes does put a damper on their day out together.
Harley Day was a mean, shiftless, good-for-nothing drunk. He regularly beat up on his wife and kids. So when he was found frozen to death in a snowbank outside his house, no one seemed to mourn. After all, The Old Buzzard Had It Coming--which is the title of the first Alafair Tucker mystery by Donis Casey.
Set in 1912, this book introduces Alafair Tucker, who lives with her husband and nine children on the Oklahoma frontier. It's an interesting look at frontier life at the beginning of the 20th century. Some of the details seem so modern, but much of the day-to-day life for a frontier ranching family seems like unbelievable deprivation and hardship 100 years on.