Archive for category Hardboiled

Review of The Alphabet Mysteries Series by Sue Grafton

Bottom line: A great example of the hard boiled genre, featuring a strong female P.I.

Rating: Recommended

Blurb for First Book: A is for Alibi (1982)

A IS FOR AVENGER
A tough-talking former cop, private investigator Kinsey Millhone has set up a modest detective agency in a quiet corner of Santa Teresa, California. A twice-divorced loner with few personal possessions and fewer personal attachments, she’s got a soft spot for underdogs and lost causes.

A IS FOR ACCUSED
That’s why she draws desperate clients like Nikki Fife. Eight years ago, she was convicted of killing her philandering husband. Now she’s out on parole and needs Kinsey’s help to find the real killer. But after all this time, clearing Nikki’s bad name won’t be easy.

A IS FOR ALIBI
If there’s one thing that makes Kinsey Millhone feel alive, it’s playing on the edge. When her investigation turns up a second corpse, more suspects, and a new reason to kill, Kinsey discovers that the edge is closer–and sharper–than she imagined.

Review:

It’s been a while since I’ve read any of Sue Grafton’s Alphabet Mysteries, so I got A is for Alibi from the library and started over at the beginning (not all of them – I’m dedicated to you, my loyal readers, but not THAT dedicated). I’ve read up through T, though Grafton has published up through V (W is for Wasted comes out this fall). For a series that has 22 published books, plus some short stories (none of which I’ve read), the level of quality is surprisingly consistent – and high. The mysteries and characters are interesting and varied enough so that you don’t feel like you’re reading the same book over and over again. There are, obviously, some books that are better than others, but for the most part they’re very good reads.

One thing to note is that just because this series features a female detective, do not mistake these for cozies. They are definitely hard boiled: gritty and full of the realities of life – sex and bad language and all the rest of it. Kinsey is a tough, prickly, character, one that you come to respect before you necessarily start to like her. In the first book, you get enough details about her earlier life to keep you interested, without there being an info dump of backstory. I find it annoying when within a few strategic conversations in the first chapter you learn everything you need to know about a character. Real life doesn’t work that way. You do learn more about her as the series progresses, in a very natural way.

I’d recommend this series for anyone who likes the hard boiled mystery genre, or even mystery fans in general. Be warned that there is quite a bit of detail involved in tracking down various aspects of the cases; facts don’t seamlessly fall into place on the first try, which I quite like. Another great thing about these books is that any library is almost guaranteed to stock them. So, pick one up and give it a try – if you like it, you’ll eventually have 25 more great books to keep you entertained. Even for someone who reads as fast as I do, that’s at least a hundred hours of happiness.

 

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Three Free Kindle E-Book Mysteries

One of the reasons that I haven’t posted anything in a while is because I’ve been busy chugging though several free mysteries that I had dumped on my Kindle, hoping to find a gem. And of course, by the time I found one I liked, a couple of the ones I was going to mention were no longer free. Fear not, none of them were going to get a recommendation! So, instead of a quick review of five free e-books, here is a quick review of three free e-books.

Frame-Up (Michael Knight #2) (2010) by John Dobbyn

Rating: Recommended

This was the first free e-book mystery that I read in this batch that I couldn’t put down. There are some cheesy moments, but for the most part it is a really fun ride. A lawyer gets pulled into international intrigue involving the Mob, Russian criminals, and a priceless painting. After writing that last sentence, I realize just how ridiculous it sounds, but as you’re in the story, the author makes it all make sense, I promise. There are a couple of other books in this series, and I’m going to have to check them out. If they’re as fun as this, it’ll be worth the read.

 Blood on the Vine (Jay Leicester #1) (2000) by JC Simmons

Rating: Recommended if: you’re looking for a free mystery with an interesting setting, you’re a pilot, or you are a wine person.

I thought this book was ok. I found it a little slow, and felt that the murder solution kind of came out of nowhere. There are a lot of descriptions of food, wine, and the Napa Valley, which was kind of fun, but there are days where you follow the detective around and he does nothing but wake up, shower, talk to a couple of people, drive, eat, almost talk to the beautiful woman around whom much mystery centers, then go back to bed. I would recommend it for an airplane read (something kind of fun, kind of interesting, but won’t keep you reading it all the way through your vacation/meeting when you land) but it does center around a plane crash, so if that makes you squeamish, save it for a car trip.

 A Cold Day For Murder (Kate Shugak #1) (1992) by Dana Stabenow

Rating: Recommended if: you’re looking for a free mystery with an interesting setting.

I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did. It takes place in a tiny town in Alaska, and has a pretty good, if slightly predictable, murder/plot. My main issue was with the main character – she just didn’t ring true to me. There were also a couple of instances where two characters lock eyes and then she knew that he knew and they both understood (or something like that) and the reader is left going “huh?”. I thought it had promise though, and was on the fence about trying the next book in the series, but the first chapter is included and I didn’t like it.  So, bottom line is that it just didn’t do much for me, but it wasn’t bad for a free read. Warning: there are some graphic elements, mostly having to do with a traumatic event in her last job.

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Review of Murder in the Marais: An Aimeé Leduc Investigation, Vol. 1 by Cara Black (1998)

Bottom line:  There were elements that I didn’t think were done as well as they could have been, but still an entertaining ride for the most part.

Rating:  Recommended if: You’re interested in a mystery series set in Paris, are looking for a new series to get behind, or you can get it for free or on sale.

Blurb:

A new mystery series set in Paris introduces intrepid detective Aimeé Leduc.

It is November 1993 and the French prime ministerial candidate is about to sign a treaty with Germany that will severely restrict immigration, reminiscent of the Vichy laws. Aimeé Leduc is approached by a rabbi to decipher a fifty-year-old encrypted photograph and place it in the hands of Lili Stein. When she arrives at Lili’s apartment in the Marais, the old Jewish quarter of Paris, she finds a corpse in whose forehead is carved a swastika. With the help of her partner, a dwarf with extraordinary computer hacking skills, Aimeé is determined to solve this horrendous crime. Then more murders follow. Her search for the killer leads her to a German war veteran involved in the 1940s with a Jewish girl he was supposed to send to her death. It takes Aimeé undercover inside a neo-Nazi group, where she must play a dangerous game of current politics and old war crimes. Many of the older Jews in the Marais are afraid and prefer to leave the past alone, but the horrible legacy of the death camps and the words “never forget” propel Aimeé to find out the true identities of the criminals past and present.

Review:

I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did. It’s set in Paris, goes back and forth from World War II to the present, and has an interesting murder. However, the pieces just didn’t work for me. I found her characters flat and difficult to relate to, and there are a lot of intricate threads to keep track of during the book. The ending seemed overly complicated and implausible – kind of like Romeo and Juliet but with a slightly happier ending.

All that to say, I didn’t hate the book, I just didn’t love it. There are twelve Aimeé Leduc novels out, and I can see that with a little more polishing and finesse, they could be great. The main characters certainly have potential, they just need a little more fleshing out. I haven’t decided yet whether I want to try any more of these, they’re relatively pricy for an initial novel I wasn’t crazy about, but I got the first one free from my library, so maybe I’ll pick up the second one the next time I’m in.

Be warned that there are some graphic and disturbing elements to the story. I’d maybe rate it on the John Grisham level of intensity.

Available: iTunes for $9.99, Barnes & Noble and Amazon e-books at $7-$9, and as a paperback from $5-$10.

More Info: Check out the author’s website here.

What did you think? Did you like the book?

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