Posts Tagged ‘mystery’

The Vesuvius Club by Mark Gatiss

This is a book I’ve had my eye on, on and off, for a while now. The title and cover grabbed me initially, and it sounded like the kind of twisted humour I quite like, but for some reason I’d never got round to it. Recently it became part of the Library Backlog (which has become large enough to warrant being a proper noun I feel).

It took me a while to get into this book, possibly because I’m having concentration issues at the moment. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would but it certainly wasn’t a bad start to a series, and by the end I was convinced to look for the others.

This is the start of a series about Lucifer Box, a British spy at the end of the last century. He’s certainly and interesting character – vain, arrogant, a bit of a cad but fairly heroic despite himself. In this adventure (and it’s definitely an adventure) he finds himself investigating the murders of a number of professors of vulcanology.

You do need a particular type of sense of humour to appreciate the book I think, but luckily mine is a bit warped. It doesn’t just rely on the humour though – you do end up quite liking Lucifer, and the actual mystery is well written and, if not quite believable, coherent enough to draw you in and work well in the context of this particular character. It’s a fun read, and I’m looking forward to Lucifer’s further adventures.

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Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

I can’t remember where I got the recommendation for this from, but it popped up on the basis of me liking the Sookie Stackhouse books.

Elena is a journalist living in Toronto with her boyfriend Philip, living a reasonably normal life. At least, as normal as you can when you’re the only female werewolf and somehow have to balance that with city life, a job, a relationship etc. Elena left The Pack, rebelling against the whole werewolf thing, but they need her help and summon her back.

I really enjoyed this book, possibly even more than Sookie Stackhouse. It’s a bit darker than that series and Dead Witch Walking, and somehow I warmed to this more than Dead Witch Walking although I can’t really put my finger on why. Elena was great, similar personality traits to Sookie and Rachel Morgan (the aforementioned witch) but equally she has her flaws, so you don’t always approve of what she’s doing. Her relationship with Clay does a great job of holding your interest without getting too sappy, and the central plot is definitely gripping. I did get slightly frustrated waiting for Elena to come to the fairly obvious conclusion about what she’s really looking for out of life, but that had to wait until the end of the book really and, intelligent though she is, she’s also really stubborn, so that delay isn’t particularly unbelievable.

I recommend giving this a go.

Conjugal Rites by Paul Magrs

I’ve been waiting for this to come out in paperback for ages, and I rushed out to buy it at the first available opportunity, which was yesterday, and finished it today. It was definitely worth it.

Conjugal Rites is the third in a series of books starring Brenda and Effie, two formidable old ladies who live in Whitby and find themselves drawn into solving mysteries, usually involving supernatural goings on. Throughout the books you learn more about Brenda’s mysterious past along with the mysteries, and get to watch Brenda and Effie’s friendships develop, and there’s a lot of humour alongside the supernatural stuff.

The three books are very different. The first does have a story running through it, but each chapter is also a mystery in its own right. I often describe it as being structured a little like the Treehouse of Horror episodes of The Simpsons. It sounds disjointed but actually works very well to introduce Brenda, drop some hints about her and prove that Whitby really does attract some odd things. Books 2 and 3 revolve much more about one central story, with 2 delving much more into Brenda’s history and 3 more on her future.

This book has been my favourite with 2, although very good, probably the weakest in the series. There is the return of some familiar love-to-hate characters, some old friends and one long-awaited appearance. I can’t go into too much detail without giving a lot away but it’s a brilliant adventure and Whitby is the perfect setting, with Brenda (especially) and Effie being some of my favourite characted ever. I can’t wait for the next one (but I’ll have to).

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

This one was another Library Thing recommendation, and one that I really enjoyed. Flavia de Luce is nearly 11 years-old and a frighteningly clever child with a passionate interest in Chemistry, which she indulges in an old laboratory in the family home. Poison is a particular interest of hers. She lives with her distant father, two older sisters (with whom she is in a bit of an ongoing battle) and the family’s employees. When a body is discovered Flavia’s father is arrested, and she is left to solve the case.

This book is the first in a series and I’m really looking forward to the others. The mystery is well told, although I did guess whodunnit a while before the end it still kept me interested, and even once you know whodunnit it takes a while to piece together why. I loved Flavia’s character – she’s not an entirely believable 11 year-old but that really doesn’t matter. She’s intelligent and matter-of-fact with a wicked streak that I found strangely appealing. In some ways it’s a bit like A Series of Unfortunate Events for grown ups (this is an adult book), with an atmosphere a bit like Jonathan Creek.

I definitely recommend this and look forward to meeting Flavia again.

Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn

I picked up Silent in the Grave, the first book in this series, following a glowing recommendation on another blog and I wasn’t disappointed. It started with a death, which turned out to have been a murder, and followed the investigation by Nicholas Brisbane, a slightly grouchy mysterious figure, and Lady Julia Grey, the victims wife. It was great, and I’d been very excited about reading the sequel.

Silent in the Sanctuary gets off to a necessarily gentler start – you can’t really start in the thick of the action in a sequel and it had to cover what Julia Grey had been up to, and manoeuvre her and Brisbane back together. It was well done, and the story didn’t lose anything for it. In fact I quite liked the chance to get to know the family and characters a bit better.

It didn’t take me long to read, mostly because I was enjoying it so much I raced my way through it. Grey and Brisbane are fantastic characters and work really well as a double act and the tension between them never gets tiresome or ridiculous – the will-they-won’t-they provides an edge to the story and a more pleasant backdrop to some of the grizzly goings on. The incidental characters are all likeable and believable. I didn’t guess whodunnit and there was plenty of humour along the way.

The next book in the series is due out in March I believe, and I’m really looking forward to it.

The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde

I read this because it was the first of my book club reads, and also because it’s been sitting waiting for me to read it for a long time for no particular reason.

Set in a fictional version of Reading the book is a murder mystery. Detective Jack Spratt and his partner Mary Mary of the Nursery Crimes Division are trying to solve it, under pressure to produce a publishable mystery story at the same time. This is the first of a series in which two have so far been published, and the only one of them I’ve read to date (though I’ve owned the other one for a while as well and it will be picked up this year).

I enjoyed this too – it was a light, fun read and it’s funny throughout. The ending is convoluted but not too difficult to follow and you’re very much on Jack Spratt’s side throughout. There are numerous nursery rhyme references and a number of affectionate digs at the detective novel/TV show. On the whole I didn’t enjoy it as much as the Thursday Next series, which are among my favourite books ever, but it’s still very good.