Category Archives: Mysteries

Crooked House

Last week I finished reading Crooked House, by Agatha Christie, but it’s been such a busy week and weekend, that I’m just now getting around to posting about it.  I’ve read many of Agatha Christie’s mysteries over the years, starting with And Then There Were None when I was in the 5th grade many, many years ago! I’ve read quite a few since then with Miss Marple as the detective, a number with Poirot,  and one or two with Tommy and Tuppence. And, happily, there are still a lot of them I can look forward to reading!  Crooked House is a stand alone novel, not part of one of her series, but is a very enjoyable mystery to read!

From the Agatha Christie web site, here is a synopsis of the story:

A wealthy Greek businessman is found dead at his London home… The Leonides were one big happy family living in a sprawling, ramshackle mansion. That was until the head of the household, Aristide, was murdered with a fatal barbiturate injection. Suspicion naturally falls on the old man’s young widow, fifty years his junior. But the murderer has reckoned without the tenacity of Charles Hayward, fiance of the late millionaire’s granddaughter…

In this book, I was particularly struck by Christie’s chilling description of the mindset of a murderer:

“What are murderers like? Some of them,” a faint rather melancholy smile showed on his face, “have been thoroughly nice chaps.”

… “Murder, you see, is an amateur crime. I’m speaking of course of the kind of murder you have in mind–not gangster stuff. One feels, very often, as though these nice ordinary chaps, had been overtaken, as it were, by murder, almost accidentally. They’ve been in a tight place, or they’ve wanted something very badly, money or a woman–and they’ve killed to get it…

…”But some people, I suspect, remain morally immature. They continue to be aware that murder is wrong, but they do not feel it. I don’t think, in my experience, that any murderer has really felt remorse…And that, perhaps, is the mark of Cain. Murderers are set apart, they are ‘different’ — murder is wrong– but not for them — for them it is necessary — the victim has ‘asked for it,’ it was ‘the only way.'”

Crooked House was one of Christie’s own favorites of the books she wrote:  “Writing Crooked House was pure pleasure and I feel justified in my belief that it is one of my best.”

I chose to read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

 

Death Without Company

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This afternoon I finished listening to the audiobook version of the 2nd book in the Walt Longmire series.  Death Without Company, by Craig Johnson, was another story that keeps you reading/listening without wanting to take breaks. Walt Longmire, sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming, is just a decent human being and a fine investigator. There’s a great cast of characters that help him solve the mysteries that come his way — his daughter, Cady; his lifelong friend, Henry Standing Bear; his deputies, Vic (Victoria) and Ferg; and his ever patient secretary, Ruby. They are all devoted to their boss.

I love it when I have an entire series to look forward to reading!  And if you haven’t seen the Longmire TV series, you should treat yourself and watch it. Hubby and I enjoyed it very much, and felt they did a great job of casting the characters and staying true to the books. Oh yes, I must admit that I’ve got a big crush on the character of Walt Longmire in both the books and the TV series!

Actor Robert Taylor as Walt Longmire...

Actor Robert Taylor as Walt Longmire…

 

Silent Voices

Silent Voices

Silent Voices is such a good mystery! This was the first book I could get hold of in the Vera Stanhope series, by Ann Cleeves, although it’s actually the 4th book. Looks like the series will be republished and the earlier books available next February? I will definitely read the earlier books when they come out. And, in the meantime, I do love the TV series starring Brenda Blethyn! She does a great job as Vera!

The Lake District Murder

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I hadn’t heard of the “British Library Crime Classics” until I found John Bude‘s book, The Cornish Coast Murder, last year. I liked it a lot and just read another fun one by him, The Lake District Murder, which I also enjoyed very much. Now I’m excited to read as many of these fun classic mysteries, by John Bude and a number of other authors. The books in this series are considered the  “forgotten gems of the Golden Age of British crime writing,” according to the Globe and Mail.

Superintendent Meredith is the persistent and creative problem-solver of the Lake District Murder. He is a hard-working and very thorough detective who follows up on every clue.

It was all very well to expound suppositions, but the cleverest supposition in the world was quite worthless in the eyes of the law, unless backed by proof. To reconstruct a crime was fairly simple but to prove the truth of that reconstruction was a task that called for tremendous patience, acute observation and the devil’s own amount of hard work!

By the time I finished the book, I felt as if I had solved the crime myself, detail by minute detail! And being the armchair detective that I am, (trained by Nancy Drew herself, and with skills honed by many hours of reading the books of Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh!) I can’t wait to “solve” my next mystery by John Bude, and then move on to read all the other authors in this series. Lots of mystery and fun ahead for me!

The Cornish Coast Murder

Bude

The Cornish Coast Murder, by John Bude, was a very enjoyable read.

In the coastal town of Boscawen, in Cornwall, the vicar and the town doctor have a pleasant Monday evening ritual. They meet at the vicar’s house, have dinner followed by the lighting of cigar and pipe and the opening of the weekly crate of 6 books ordered from the lending library in the neighboring town — 6 mysteries, of course. They each take three to read, and then will switch and read the other three before the week is up. They are two old bachelors and armchair detectives honing their powers of observation and insight through the works of their favorite mystery writers.

When a murder happens in their own town, and a young woman and her boyfriend are implicated, they are able to put their deductive reasoning to good use helping Inspector Bigswell solve the mystery. The vicar, especially, has a talent for problem-solving, using his intuition and a wonderful way of processing all the information he comes across:

My idea was to sit in this arm-chair for a couple of hours with a cigar–a policy of splendid inaction.

The vicar’s “splendid inaction” way of processing all the clues, coupled with the Inspector’s facts-only approach made a great combination for solving the mystery, and was fun for the reader.

I liked the way this book was written and the way you get to know each of the characters. And I liked all the characters (except for the murdered despicable uncle), and even felt sympathy for the murderer. It wasn’t a story of evil, but of very human failings and suffering. In the end, the vicar sums up his part in the mystery and the whole idea of murder:

By a lucky series of circumstances he has been guided to the solution of the mystery–but he felt no elation, no triumph, no satisfaction. Murder was all right in books and plays, but in real life it was a sorrowful, suffering business.

I look forward to reading more of Mr. Bude’s very enjoyable mysteries.

Messenger of Truth

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Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series has become a favorite of mine. I’ve been listening to them in audiobook format, read by a wonderful narrator, Orlagh Cassidy, and have just finished the fourth volume, Messenger of Truth.  As I read through the series, I’m becoming more and more fascinated with the history of the time period after World War I and into the 1930s. And according to Jacqueline Winspear, that fascination is exactly what she hoped would happen with her readers.

“If, IF, they take something in that book and it makes them think and wonder and consider what has gone before–maybe a curiosity about a certain part of history–maybe just wondering about something that’s going on today and looking at it in a different way… If that happens, well, that’s a job well done as far as  I’m concerned.”

My respect for this author is growing deeper with each book in this series. Definitely a job well done!

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Pardonable Lies

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Pardonable Lies, by Jacqueline Winspear, is the 3rd book in the Maisie Dobbs series. I am enjoying listening to this series on audiobook and have become a devoted Jacqueline Winspear fan. Maisie Dobbs is a private detective and a psychologist, and the stories are historical mysteries that take place after The Great War.

As were millions of women during that time period, Maisie was deeply impacted by the ‘war-to-end-all-wars.’ She was a nurse during the war and is haunted by the tragedies and horrors she witnessed. Her deeply sensitive and empathetic nature made her a wonderful war-time nurse, and an extraordinary investigator in the post-war world. And as she struggles with her own losses and post-traumatic stress, she is particularly helpful to others who were damaged physically and emotionally by the war.

Pardonable Lies is a story very much about healing. Maisie is a healer, having the ability and training to help others suffering from emotional trauma, but she, herself, is also in need of healing. The story of her journey through many of her own post-war demons is at the center of this volume in the series.

I have become very attached to Maisie and her friends. They continue to grow and develop, and are very real to me. It’s so nice to have many more books in this series to look forward to…this is a series that seems to get better and better with each book.

Click here to read a beautiful essay by Jacqueline Winspear, about her visit to the battlefields of World War I in France.

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Spider Woman’s Daughter

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Tony Hillerman was a wonderful writer and I’ve long been a fan of his mysteries set in the Navajo culture of the Southwest. I used to look forward every year to the publication of a new mystery, usually buying his new book on the first day it came out in paperback (those were lean years at our house). I would read the book in practically one sitting, and then wait another year or two for the next one to be published. What a pleasure to realize there was a new Tony Hillerman on the way!

4488So, when he passed away in 2008, I felt the loss quite personally. I had loved his writing, and I had loved his characters — Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee, and later on, Bernie (Bernadette) Manuelito. It was sad to think that those stories would not continue.

So imagine my delight when I discovered that there was a new ‘Tony Hillerman book’ soon to be released! His daughter, Anne, has written a new Leaphorn/Chee mystery, Spider Woman’s Daughter, and brought to life again those beloved characters. Of course I pre-ordered the book, and when it arrived on my Kindle, I read it in practically one sitting.

It is no easy feat to continue the work of a master writer, but Anne Hillerman did a careful job of honoring her father’s characters and settings, and she obviously shares his passion for the Navajo culture. I think it must have been difficult to balance her father’s voice and her own, but I felt that she found her way with honesty and love. She focused more in this story on the character of Bernie Manuelito, Jim Chee’s wife, and that worked well. There were times while reading the book when I was very aware that Tony Hillerman was not the writer, but there were also many times when I was simply caught up in the story in that very familiar way.

I hope that Anne will continue with this series, not just as a devotion to her father, but as someone who shares his passion both for writing and for the landscape and culture of the Southwest.

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Reading Mysteries

It took me a little while after finishing The Boys in the Boat to decide what to read next. I was so immersed in the world of rowing in the 1930s that it was hard to shift gears and decide on something else to read. So…back to a favorite, the mystery!

I’m currently reading An Expert in Murder, by Nicola Upson. She uses one of my very favorite mystery writers, Josephine Tey, as a main character and focus in this book. I’m not overly excited about it as I read it, though. I think I’d rather be reading Josephine Tey’s books again!

Next week, I will be reading Mary Stewart’s, The Ivy Tree, for Anbolyn’s Mary Stewart Reading Week, in celebration of Lady Stewart’s 97th birthday.

And I downloaded to my Kindle a mystery to re-read: The Haunted Bookshop, by Christopher Morley. I remember that I liked it when I read it ages ago, but I don’t remember much about it. I’ll call it a re-read, but at this age, all my re-reads are like first-time reads! Ha!

Finally, during our weekly visit to our library, (we go there more often, but we walk there every Monday!) I found another Hazel Holt mystery, Mrs. Malory and the Fatal Legacy, that I haven’t read yet. I love reading Hazel Holt’s books. They’re like having tea while sitting on the front porch with an old friend!

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Cozy

Today’s topic for The Estella Society’s bookish photo-a-day challenge is “Cozy.”  They call them “cozy mysteries.” I’m not sure exactly what that means, but I really enjoy many of them, especially if they are written by Hazel Holt. I love her writing, enjoy the solving of the mystery, and am attached to the main character, Mrs. Malory, and her adult son.

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#EstellaGram – 25 “Cozy”