Posts Tagged Mystery
Bottom line: A murder mystery TV series with great characters, acting, and storylines.
Rating: Strongly Recommended
Castle is my favorite TV show. Maybe of all time, but definitely my favorite currently running show. It’s a murder mystery that features Detective Kate Beckett and her crew, who have been told to bring a writer, Richard Castle, along with them in the course of their investigations, so that he can gather information to write a series of books.
I only tried it because it stars Nathan Fillion, who was the male lead in the tragically short lived TV series Firefly. Castle is fantastically good. It’s one of those rare shows where everything comes together: the writing, characters, casting, acting, plots, etc. are all just incredibly well done. They even managed to handle the sexual tension (it’s TV, therefore there must be sexual tension) well. I stopped watching Bones because at the end of every season, there would be this huge “will they/won’t they” cliffhanger, and then when they started the next season they just pretended the last episode hadn’t happened. After 5-6 seasons like that, I just got fed up. I’m not a huge TV watcher in general, but any time the writers start to obviously manipulate the audience, I lose interest instantly (this annoys my husband – we’ll be invested maybe a couple of seasons deep and all of a sudden, I’m done.). I want to be thinking about the story and the characters, not be wondering about how the writers are going to yank my chain next. Anyways, in Castle the relationship between the male and female lead feels natural, and progresses and regresses (for the vast majority) according to believable events within the context of the show. As the characters are the main draw for me, this is even more important than usual. And ALL the characters are great, even the supporting cast – they feel realistic and interact well and are basically the kinds of people that you wish you could go hang out with.
The only downside for me is that sometimes you get an incredibly intense, edge-of-your-seat, gruesome show, and sometimes you get a fun, lighthearted show, and you never know which you’re going to get. Although I think in general that’s a good thing (keeps it fresh), it is the reason I stopped watching about a year ago when I was pregnant and tired and stressed out and couldn’t handle anything even remotely intense. I haven’t managed to get caught up yet, but I will.
Side Note: As an interesting promotional tactic, the powers that be have created the Nikki Heat books that are supposedly written by the character Richard Castle (the Amazon author page even shows Nathan Fillion). They’re actually not bad mysteries. The writing style is a little more sensationalized and occasionally cheesy than I would typically go for, but it’s a fun extension of the Castle world. This is one of the incredibly rare times when I’ll tell you to watch the TV show first, but there it is. I’ve read the first two Nikki Heat books and enjoyed them. I don’t know yet if I’ll read the others – my “to be read” list has become quite enormously high again – but not because I don’t think I wouldn’t like them. Do be aware, especially if you typically read cozies, that these are fairly intense and PG-13-y.
Bottom line: A great example of the hard boiled genre, featuring a strong female P.I.
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.
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.
Bottom line: Meh.
Rating: Recommended if
Even “death do us part” couldn’t spoil her wedding day plans… Wedding planner Pali Moon is thrilled when a would-be bride shows up at “Let’s Get Maui’d” inquiring about a lavish beach wedding. That is, until she learns it must be on Valentine’s Day–just nine days away. Oh yeah, and one other little hitch–the groom disappeared at sea a week earlier. But the bride’s convinced he’ll be found safe and sound, so she’s got a plan–and a man–to do a proxy ceremony if necessary. The day before the big nuptials a man’s body washes ashore on a South Maui beach. Has the groom finally shown up? If so, what’s it going to be–a wedding…or a funeral? This is the FIRST book in the “Islands of Aloha” Mystery series.
I was really excited about this book. I’m always looking for a new mystery series, and if it’s set somewhere fun I’m even happier. I got it for free, and it is very highly rated on Amazon. However, I just never got into it. The mystery itself was decent, but I had a hard time getting behind the characters. They felt clichéd to me, and interacted in odd ways. For example, the cast of good guys included: male gay best friend, quirky/hippie female best friend, and a new potential love interest with secrets. I kept skimming through the dialogue and character development pieces to get to the end, so I could figure out whodunit, why, and then move on with my life. Even then, when I got there, the ending felt rushed, and I had to skip back and read it a couple of times to see if it made sense.
So, it wasn’t my cup of tea, but I know that a lot of my impressions as a reader are subjective. Maybe I was just not in the right place when I read it, I don’t know. It was well edited (thank goodness), and the writing wasn’t bad. So if you’re hankering after life in the islands, or you’re depressed because you still have to grab your winter coat when you head out the door, check it out. I probably won’t be reading any more of the series, unless I can grab another one on a free promotion. Hey, my reading habits don’t come cheap.
More Information: The author’s website is here.
What did you think? Did you like the book?
Bottom line: An enjoyable book, as much for the ambience as the mystery itself.
High seas adventure turns to high stakes sleuthing when a beautiful but troubled homicide detective and a New England sea captain join forces in this award-winning mystery set on the coast of Maine.
On leave from the Minneapolis Police Department after being shot, homicide detective Brie Beaumont has gone to Maine where she has family roots. She ships out on the Maine Wind for an early season cruise with Captain John DuLac and eight others. Caught in a gale, they anchor off remote and windswept Granite Island. But when someone aboard is murdered, Brie must single-handedly stage an investigation that moves from the ship to a small fishing village on the island. Plagued by flashbacks, and fighting a growing attraction to Captain DuLac, she works to unravel a mystery that will place her directly in the path of a psychopathic killer.
Two of my favorite things in life are reading and travelling. If I can find a book that is a great story and has enough local flavor to provide a mental journey, I’m an extremely happy camper. Rigged For Murder delivers on both counts. It’s a solid mystery, and there were enough descriptions of both the sailing and the island to give me a good feel for the setting. It’s well written, and the pace flows along nicely. I got it for free, but will be buying the next book in the series, Danger Sector.
There were a couple of things I didn’t love about it. First, there was a lot of nautical jargon, and the meanings weren’t always readily discernible from context. To be fair, I think authors generally tend to overexplain instead of the other way around, so it was nice to be treated as an intelligent creature (even if that might have been an overestimation on the author’s part!). Second, cynic that I am, it annoys me when people fall in love in a couple of days. Lastly, there are a couple of abrupt shifts in perspective, often a couple within the same paragraph. I found these a little disorienting.
Barring these minor issues (none of which are very distracting from the storyline), it’s a really fun read. I thought Brie was a great character – she was more complex than you sometimes find in these types of mysteries. Although you don’t get a lot of insight into the secondary characters, they felt realistic – characters, not caricatures.
Rigged for Murder is what I think of as a “Modern Cozy” – meaning it has several elements of a traditional cozy mystery, but there are aspects that are a little more PG-13 than you would tend to find in a traditional cozy.
What did you think of the book? Ever been sailing?
Bottom line: An interesting premise for a detective, and with a well thought out story to back it up.
Buying a gun to kill your wife: $3,000
Hiring Trauma Care to clean afterward: $1,500
Having that same cleaner uncover evidence that frames you: priceless
On her way to completing a degree in forensic science, Gabby St. Claire drops out of school and starts her own crime scene cleaning business. “Yeah, that’s me,” she says, “a crime scene cleaner. People waiting in line behind me who strike up conversations always regret it.”
When a routine cleaning job uncovers a murder weapon the police overlooked, she realizes that the wrong person is in jail. But the owner of the weapon is a powerful foe . . . and willing to do anything to keep Gabby quiet.
With the help of her new neighbor, Riley Thomas, a man whose life and faith fascinate her, Gabby plays the detective to make sure the right person is put behind bars. Can Riley help her before another murder occurs?
I knew I wanted to read a mystery today, and I started several before landing on this one. From the opening line of “Whistling a tune from Fiddler on the Roof, I used my tweezers to work a piece of Gloria Cunningham’s skull out of the sky blue wall.” I was intrigued. There were many things I enjoyed : the main character was three dimensional and interesting, it had a good murder/detecting plot, and the ending leaves you satisfied but with some unanswered questions about Gabby’s past and future. I thought having the amateur detective own a crime scene cleaning business and have gone to school for forensic science was a clever way to solve the age-old mystery writers’ dilemma: how and why would ordinary people investigate a crime?
A couple of quibbles I had with the book are as follows. For one, the supporting characters felt a little flat to me. For example, the supposed best friend is militantly vegan and she’s often described that way: “the animal lover did such and such”, or we see her forcing vegan brownies down her neighbours’ throats while ranting about animal cruelty. All of which is fine, but EVERY time she appears in the story it’s while doing some animal rights activism (not “animal right’s activism.” I shouldn’t have read “Eats, Shoots and Leaves”. It just made me more obsessive about punctuation – other people’s, not mine, of course!) or something like that. The father is a drunk and a sponge, therefore he’s only a drunk and a sponge.
The other issue I had was with the effort to introduce matters of faith into the book. I respect writers who try to imbue their works with topics that are close to their hearts, like faith and doubt (or environmentalism or healthy living or whatever it is they hold dear), and as a Christian myself, the content certainly doesn’t offend me. However, it felt forced. Several characters brought up God seemingly out of nowhere, and Gabby sure spends a lot of time thinking about how she doesn’t believe in God.
These two issues aside, it was an enjoyable read. I had gotten the book for free quite a while ago and just today got around to reading it, but I was glad I had it on my Kindle. I haven’t decided yet whether or not to pursue the series – it looks like there are several books already out.
Available: As an e-book for $2.99 and a print book, around $10.
More Info: http://www.christybarritt.com/
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Bottom line: A very fun read with a good mystery, an interesting main character (despite describing every single hat she puts on), and a clever roasting of the indie scene.
A writer’s retreat seemed the perfect chance for Dee Whittaker to take her mind off her marital difficulties.
However, she meets five of the most hideous writers ever to have mastered a qwerty keyboard, and her problems quickly multiply. Things escalate further when the handyman winds up dead.
After fleeing from the island, Dee attempts to get her life back on track but begins to notice that something strange is going on. The stories written on the island are coming true and hers is next – complete with a murder.
Her estranged husband makes an unlikely sidekick as the two of them try to stop the literary copycat killing an innocent woman.
Packed with topical references, Pompomberry House provides a satirical look at the emerging world of indie publishing.
As an avid reader, I’ve been watching the changing dynamics of writing and publishing – both through the introduction of e-books and greater prevalence of independently published authors. You could have one without the other, but e-books have made it possible for anyone to take ANY piece of written work, hit “publish”, and it’s available to the masses. Pompomberry House takes a look at a group of characters who probably should have thought twice before hitting the publish button on their books.
It takes a look at some of the challenges of being an indie author, as well as some behind the scenes action of what authors have to do to get their books noticed. (There’s a huge difference between being able to e-publish a book, and being able to e-sell it.) Most of the characters felt a little TOO over the top for me, but it is satire, so that might have been a stylistic decision. Although the murder/mystery/discovery aspects of the book were handled quite cleverly, I felt that the author was at her best when portraying the complicated relationship and emotions between the main character and her soon-to-be ex-husband.
As it says in the blurb, this is a book “packed with topical references…” I don’t know how well Pompomberry House will stand the test of time with all the contemporary mentions, but in the here and now, it’s definitely worth checking out – especially if you have any interest in indie authors.
Side note: This book is firmly in the PG-13 camp, so be warned.
Available: As an e-book ($2.99) or paperback ($14.95)
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Bottom line: A fun, fast paced story that is well worth reading, especially if you can get it for free.
Michael Collins burned his suits and ties in a beautiful bonfire before leaving New York and taking up residence at Hut No. 7 in a run-down Mexican resort. He dropped-out, giving up a future of billable hours and big law firm paychecks. But, there are millions of dollars missing from a client’s account and a lot of people who want Michael Collins to come back. When his girlfriend is accused of murder, he knows that there really isn’t much choice.
This was one of my “go through Amazon’s free bestsellers and dump a bunch onto my Kindle” finds. I’ve recently read a string of very disappointing murder mysteries that I had found the same way, so my expectations were pretty low. To my surprise, I found myself drawn in from the first couple of pages.
This is the same genre and style as a John Grisham novel, and well executed. There were a few typos, but not so many that it distracted me from the story. The plot was interesting and complex (but not overly so), the characters were well drawn, and the action keeps moving. It is definitely escapism reading, and will take you out of your world for a couple of hours. I enjoyed the depictions of both New York and Mexico, I thought he did a good job of portraying the ambience of each location.
Side Note: There is a second book in the series, which I will probably read at some point. I found this book to be more action/plot driven than anything else, and I don’t feel so invested in the characters that I need to rush to find out what happens to them next.
Available: Seems to be only available as an Amazon Kindle Book, but it is free!
More Info: http://jdtrafford.blogspot.com/
What did you think? Did you like the book?