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i read so many good mysteries this summer

August 12, 2007

Wow!  I read so many good books this summer – it felt so decadent, which made the books that much better.  I chose all new work to list here (published in 2006-2007). Though I gave one a three star, and five received four stars, they are all very good reading. I combined my opinion with a little blurb (usually) taken from Publisher’s Weekly or my local library’s review page. (I know – lazy.  I wanted to share with you, but I wanted to get back to reading.)  Summer is almost over and reality is looming.

I will probably be more inclined to write a review when I am reading one or two books a month, instead of four or five a week! I hope you find something to enjoy here.  They are obviously all mystery-bent.

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Lion Eyes by Claire Berlinski.
Publisher New York : Ballantine Books, 2007.
***** (This is good, Loose Lips was great.)

Blurring fact and fiction, the author makes herself the main character in her follow-up to Loose Lips. Claire Berlinski is living in Paris and working on her second novel when she starts an email flirtation with Arsalan (a.k.a. the Lion), a fan of her writing who lives in Iran.

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Hide by Lisa Gardner.
Publisher New York : Bantam Books, 2007.
***** (Excellent)

Boston Police Sgt. D.D. Warren hooks up with Massachusetts State Police Det. Robert Dodge to investigate a long-abandoned underground cavern found on the grounds of the former Boston State Mental Hospital. The hospital had been shut down decades earlier, but the mummified bodies of six young girls are found belowground, recalling a previous case.

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The Right Attitude to Rain by Alexander McCall Smith.
****(Cheerful, drags a little bit here and there)

In this third installment, Isabel, fortysomething and well to do (her mother left her a sizable inheritance, much of which she donates anonymously to charity), once again finds herself in several ethical dilemmas. Part mystery and lots of philosophy.

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The Keep by Jennifer Egan.
Publisher New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2006.
**** (A bit convoluted, but interestingly odd. No protagonist to love.)

Two cousins, irreversibly damaged by a childhood prank whose devastating consequences changed both their lives, reunite twenty years later to renovate a medieval castle in Eastern Europe, a castle steeped in blood lore and family pride. Built over a secret system of caves and tunnels, the castle and its violent history invoke and subvert all the elements of a gothic past: twins, a pool, an old baroness, a fearsome tower. In an environment of extreme paranoia, cut off from the outside world, the men reenact the signal event of their youth, with even more catastrophic results.

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The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay.
Publisher New York : 2006 Doubleday

**** (Great concept, gets a little far fetched, but still a good read.)

Arriving in New York from Tasmania with $300, her mother’s ashes and a love of reading, 18-year-old Rosemary Savage finds work in the Arcade Bookshop, a huge, labyrinthine place that features everything from overstock to rare books. In its physicality, the store greatly resembles New York’s Strand (where Hay worked), and its requisite assortment of intriguing bookish oddballs includes autocratic owner George Pike and his albino assistant, Walter Geist. Rosemary is suspicious and worried when Walter enlists Rosemary’s help to respond to an anonymous request to sell a hand-written version of Herman Melville’s lost Isle of the Cross.

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Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich.
Publisher New York : Random House Large Print, c2007.
***(I think the series is starting to be washed out – 12 and 13 were not as good as earlier books, which I loved.)

Plucky, bumbling New Jersey bounty hunter Plum is reunited with her two-timing lawyer ex-husband, Dickie Orr, while doing a favor for the mysterious, sexy Ranger. But when Dickie disappears from his house leaving behind only bloodstains and bullet holes, Plum becomes the prime suspect in his alleged murder.

anarchy-and-old-dogs.jpgAnarchy and Old Dogs by Colin Cotterill.
Publisher New York : Soho, c2007.
***** (This is a fabulous and very unique series.)
Set in 1970s Communist Laos, Cotterill’s delightful fourth novel to feature Dr. Siri Paiboun, the Laotian national coroner and one of the more eccentric characters in crime fiction, and Paiboun’s clever assistant, Nurse Dtui (after 2006’s Disco for the Departed), nicely blends the supernatural, humor and intrigue.

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Silence by Thomas Perry.
Publisher Orlando, Fla. : Harcourt, c2007.
**** (Good stuff!)

Edgar-winner Perry delivers another intelligent, literate thriller. Jack Till, a retired LAPD detective turned PI, has settled into a somewhat monastic existence, at the center of which is his 21-year-old daughter, Holly, who has Down syndrome. Six years earlier, Till helped restaurateur Wendy Harper escape from would-be assailants. Showing her the techniques the police use to track down fugitives, Till taught the woman to assume a new identity and begin a new life. Now, years later, someone is trying to frame Harper’s business partner and sometime boyfriend, for her murder. The only way for Till to prove his innocence is to produce Harper in the flesh, but first he has to find her and persuade her to come back while evading assassins Paul and Sylvie Turner, who have been hired to kill Harper when she resurfaces. As always, Perry excels at the procedural details, keeps up the pace throughout and will have readers guessing until the end.

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Bangkok Haunts by John Burdett.
Publisher New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2007.
**** (I thought the first two in the series were much easier to follow.)
At the start of Burdett’s superb third mystery-thriller to feature Thai police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep (after Bangkok 8 and Bangkok Tattoo), Jitpleecheep shows old friend Kimberley Jones, an American FBI agent, a vicious snuff film he’s received depicting the murder of an ex-lover of his named Damrong. Jitpleecheep and Jones maintain their complex platonic relationship as, helped by Jitpleecheep’s assistant Lek, they pursue Damrong’s killers. The trail leads them to an important banker, an American teacher, a Buddhist and an exclusive men’s club called the Parthenon. Jitpleecheep, who now lives with Chanya, a former prostitute pregnant with his child, is visited in an erotic way by Damrong’s ghost, while his corrupt superior, police colonel Vikorn, orders Jitpleecheep to help start a porn film business. Expertly juggling elements that in lesser hands would become confused or hackneyed, Burdett has created a haunting, powerful story that transcends genre.

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The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by Alexander McCall Smith.
Publisher New York : Pantheon Books, c2007.
***** (An old friend.)

Smith once again combines a loving depiction of ordinary life in modern Botswana with memorable characters and an engaging mystery in the eighth installment in his beloved No. 1 Ladies Detective author’s subtlety of touch and humane portrayal of figures at all levels of society will continue to win him new readers even as his deepening of the ties binding the main figures will satisfy those who have followed the lady detectives from their first recorded case.

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The Devil’s Feather by Minette Walters.
Publisher New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2006.
***** (Very intense. She is great at keeping you hanging in suspense.)

British author Walters’s harrowing 12th psychological chiller spotlights violent suffering and hard-won triumph for Connie Burns, a 36-year-old Reuters war correspondent who crosses a sadistic mercenary alternately identified as John Harwood, Kenneth McConnell and Keith MacKenzie. When she finds MacKenzie training Iraqi policemen in Baghdad in 2004, she links him to serial killings in Sierra Leone two years earlier. Walters delivers an intense, engrossingly structured tour de force about survival and “the secret of freedom, courage.

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Death of a Maid : a Hamish Macbeth Mystery by M.C. Beaton.
Publisher New York : Mysterious Press, 2007.
***** (Another charming old friend.)

At the start of Beaton’s enjoyable 22nd Hamish Macbeth mystery the lovable Scottish constable stumbles over the body of a gossipy housecleaner, Mrs. Mavis Gillespie. She’s been bludgeoned to death with her own pail, and there are plenty of suspects to go around in the Highlands village of Lochdubh. None of her clients liked her, but they insist she was a superb maid. Macbeth, noticing thick layers of dust in their homes, digs a little deeper and learns that Mrs. Gillespie was a more skilled blackmailer than housecleaner. His jealous senior colleagues try to thwart his investigation, but he’s determined to get to the bottom of things. Meanwhile, the arrival of an erstwhile ladyfriend in town with a new beau makes lifelong bachelorhood appear not so appealing to Macbeth, who remains as charming a hero as ever in this funny, unpredictable read.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. September 6, 2007 8:45 am

    Cool…

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