My Top 10 Mysteries

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. The prompt for this week was Top 10 books from your favorite genre. According to Goodreads, Mystery is my biggest shelf – by far. It was hard to come up with my 10 favorites – I have 2000+ that I’ve rated – but here are 10 that I love to reread. I’m going to force myself to choose just one from each author, but it’s so hard!

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The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie This one is not the first Hercule Poirot – that one is The Mysterious Affair at Styles. It’s not the most famous – Murder on the Orient Express wins that title. But for some reason, I think it’s my favorite.  It’s clever, occasionally funny, and plays fair with the reader. The cover could be better, but it does hint at what’s going on in the plot.

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In the Best Families by Rex Stout This series has sort of fallen out of fashion. I think that’s a shame, as it features two of the most memorable characters in mystery – Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. This is definitely not the place to start if you want to try it out – I’d suggest starting at the beginning with Fer-de-Lance – but this is where it all culminates into the most suspenseful and shocking climax.

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The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King I’m going to be controversial here and say that I actually prefer King’s version of Sherlock Holmes to the original. I know, heresy! But this is an older, more mellow version of the sleuth and the writing is – sorry, Sir Arthur – much, much better. The series declines as it goes on, but the first 3-4 were just perfect, and this cover is my favorite.

Death and the Dancing Footman by Ngaio Marsh Another author who is frequently forgotten by modern writers. I will admit that her treatment of queer characters is problematic. But most mystery writers of the era didn’t even admit that they existed. This book is a Stately Home murder with our handsome copper Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn on the scene.

Miss Seeton Sings by Heron Carvic This series might be unique in that it had 3 different authors, each of whom kept the characters in the original. Carvic created the character and his version is both funny and biting. Miss Seeton herself is an elderly retired art teach who just keeps blundering into the most appalling crimes and stirring things up, but all without realizing what’s going on.

A Late Phoenix by Catherine Aird Set in a fictional county in England, this series features a hardworking inspector, his clueless constable, and in this book, some nasty secrets dating back to World War II. Aird had to juggle the timeline around in later books to keep up with publication, but in this one, her characters are old enough to remember the war and the chaos it caused.

A Free Man of Color by Barbara Hambly Set in pre-Civil War New Orleans, everything in this series is shaped by race. The main character, Ben January, is Black. So is the victim. That means that the White police are going to hush things up as soon as possible. But Ben refuses to allow that to happen. So much history in here, and none of it pretty.

Blind Justice by Bruce Alexander This series is not very long – the author died after book 5 – but I enjoyed it so much it still makes the list. This is the first in the series about historical figure Sir John Fielding, a 18th century criminal court judge and founder of London’s first police force.

Murder With Peacocks by Donna Andrews As a Southern woman with a large extended family, I can neither confirm nor deny that this is what we are like. My family weddings never involved Spanish moss, peacocks, or murder. But murder isn’t off the table, that’s all I’m saying.

The Thin Woman by Dorothy Gilman Another great comic mystery series. Ellie Haskell is just trying to get through a family reunion when she hires a male escort to pose as her fiance. Then the aged relative dies and leaves them an inheritance – jointly. Now they’ll have to figure out how to live together before someone kills them both.


Did I tempt you with any of these favorites? What was on your list? Let me know in the comments and feel free to leave a link to your list. Happy reading!

 

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Murder at the Mill: a review

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Iris Grey needs a quiet place to work on her art and decide what to do about her failing marriage. She finds just what she needs in Mill Cottage, deep in Hampshire and even featuring a picturesque stream nearby. Things are going pretty well until Christmas time. That’s when the neighbors plan a big holiday party that ends with a body being found floating in the previously mentioned stream.

Iris is right in the middle of events. She was present at the holiday party and has been drawn deep into the neighbors secrets. Now she has to figure out what’s going on before she dies too.

I liked this mystery, but from the description I was imagining a 1930s style house party with servants and sleuths and all. However, this is set in present day. The overall feel of the book is quite different as well. I think the description was rather misleading. I did enjoy this story and I quite like Iris. However the mystery wasn’t all that hard to solve and I’m not sure I would feel compelled to read another in this series.

*I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.*

Murder at the House of Rooster Happiness – a review

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Title: Murder at the House of Rooster Happiness 🐓

Author: David Casarett

Meet Ladarat Patalung – the first and only nurse detective in Thailand. 
Two nights ago, a young woman brought her husband into the emergency room of the Sriphat Hospital in Thailand, where he passed away. A guard thinks she remembers her coming in before, but with a different husband – one who also died.

Ladarat Patalung, for one, would have been happier without a serial murderer-if there is one — loose in her hospital. Then again, she never expected to be a detective in the first place.

And now, Ladarat has no choice but to investigate…

The first novel in a captivating new series by David Casarett, M.D.

Ladarat at works at a large hospital in the tourist town of Chiang Mai, Thailand. She is  a nurse ethicist, which means she helps with tough decisions that doctors and patients make every day. She enjoys her job, but when a friend who is a police officer asks for her help investigating a sudden death at the hospital.

A woman arrived at the emergency room with her dead husband and her marriage certificate, asking if she could get a death certificate. Very odd, she thinks. Even more mysterious when she discovers that the same woman had visited the hospital a few years earlier, with a different dead husband, one with the very same name. The police think it was murder, and that in fact, the woman might be a serial killer. Ladarat isn’t sure she’s cut out to be a detective, but surely finding a killer is an ethical thing to do? Meanwhile, she’s also helping the family of a dying tourist and preparing for a coming inspection by the health department.

I really enjoyed this book. The setting was so refreshing. I found myself drawn deeply into the world of the busy tourist destination. Then the hospital was a great place for the story too – so much human drama. The writer is always comparing the  Thai and American culture.

My one concern – I would have enjoyed this book more of it were an Own Voices book. This was written by an American doctor, so it’s no wonder that he got the hospital part right. But I really wondered how accurate the whole Thai setting was.  In the end though I liked it enough that I would probably read another book by the same author.

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Review: Madame Koska

This book was received in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. My opinions, however, remain my own. Thanks for the chance to read this book!

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I love the style of this cover!

Title: Madame Koska and the Imperial Brooch

Author: Ilil Arbel

Setting: London, about 1920

Synopsis:

Meet Madame Koska—a fabulous haute couture designer and the owner of a new atelier in 1920’s London who has a knack at solving crimes that simply baffle the police.

When a priceless brooch disappears from a museum in Russia, Madame Koska is suddenly drawn into the mystery. But who is Madame Koska? And what does the missing jewel have to do with her? Find out in her first adventure!
 

My Review: After arriving in London, Madame Koska opens a fabulous new fashion house, catering to the many wealthy women who crave that European sophistication. Meanwhile, everyone is talking about the new Russian emigres and the rumor that a stolen brooch belonging to the late Empress has surfaced in the London underground.

This was a light, almost frothy novel with an interesting main character and what sounding like some fabulous clothing! Madame Koska has arrived in London and plans to take the fashion world by storm. Her resilient spirit made me root for her. I also loved the look at the old school fashion world, the culture of the Russian emigres and the challenges they faced. It was such a quick and fun book. The mystery was quite light, and rather unbelievable, but honestly, I still enjoyed the book so much I didn’t really notice the lack of actual mystery. I would have loved some art sketches of the clothing and jewels the author described!

This is apparently based on a character in the 20th century novelist’s Angela Thirkell’s books. I’ve never read anything by her, but it didn’t really affect my enjoyment of the book. I am curious enough about her books though that I added one to my TBR list. Apparently she is typical of many period writers about stereotypes based on races and religion, so I am a little hesitant about that, but still kind of curious.

Including a picture of some of the Russian imperial jewels just so you can drool!

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The Case of the Deadly Doppelganger: A Review

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Title: The Case of the Deadly Doppelganger (Dr. Ribero’s Agency of the Supernatural #2)

Author: Lucy Banks

It’s only been a couple of months since his mother died and he discovered that ghosts and spirits are real, but Kester is part of a whole new life now. One with friends, sort of, and a father, albeit an odd one, and maybe even a girlfriend. He’s got a purpose too, working at a supernatural agency that deals with ghosts. Kester can open a door into the spirit world that lets the departed pass over. At least, he did it once. Now he’ll have to do it again – before anyone else is killed.

A malicious spirit is hunting down the residents of Lyme Regis and killing them in their homes. Kester and his friends will have to move fast and overcome some personal rivalries if they want to succeed.

I really liked this series when I discovered it last year and I was so excited to win an ARC from NetGalley for the second book. If you like funny mysteries or mysteries with a little supernatural aspect thrown in, you will totally love these!

Thanks to NetGalley for the chance to read this one for free. My opinions are all my own.

Humorous Mysteries

23014654If you like a little humor with your mysteries, Donna Andrews has got a series for you. Meg Langslow is a blacksmith whose family has a tendency to get involved in stuff that leads to murder. She has discovered a wide array of murder victims over the years, but she keeps her head and always manages to figure out who done it.

I love funny books, so I took a break from my Off the Shelf challenge this month and read two of Andrews’ latest books, Lord of the Wings and Die Like an Eagle. All of them have birds and bird-related puns in the title.

Lord of the Wings revolves around the mythical town of Caerphilly, Virginia where they’ve begun a new Halloween Festival. Things were going pretty smoothly until someone started a strange scavenger hunt. It started at the zoo and ended in a murder. The next book in the series, Die Like an Eagle, centers around Meg’s twins and their first baseball team. The books are #18 & 19 in the series, but you can start anywhere really and give it a go. My favorite is probably We’ll Always Have Parrots which involves a fan convention. It is just hilarious.  Great reads for curling up with a good book.

Review: As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust

Title: As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust. Flavia De Luce #7

Author: Alan Bradley

Spoilers for the previous books in the series, so if you’re planning on reading them but haven’t yet, don’t read this review! You’ve been warned.

At the end of the previous book, Flavia’s beloved mother Harriet has been located and brought home to Bishop’s Lacey at last for a burial. But while Flavia has inherited everything, she’s being packed off to Canada to Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy to be trained up in all the things a gentlewoman (and a spy?) might need to know. Flavia is homesick, but full of pluck as per usual, so when a body falls out of her chimney, she takes it in her customary stride. Something is clearly a foot.

I enjoyed this one, but it wasn’t as much fun without the usual Buckshaw crowd. Still, it did Flavia good to let her stretch her wings a bit and see what she was made of. Looking forward to the next one.

Review: The Treasure at Poldarrow Point

Title: The Treasure at Poldarrow Point (Angela Marchmont, #3)

Author: Clara Benson

After solving two cases in close succession, Angela Marchmont is struck with a nasty case of pneumonia. Her doctor has ordered a rest cure at the sea side, so she’s headed to Cornwall. She’s barely unpacked when her impulsive goddaughter has shown up and discovered a local story of buried treasure.

Naturally, young Barbara has decided that would be the perfect project for their summer holiday. Angela is reluctant at first, but she gets caught up in the lives of the local residents. There’s a sweet old lady and her nephew, a quarrelsome married couple, an odd scientist, and an attractive Scotland Yard detective all involved in the events nearby.

The lighthearted treasure hunt takes a deadly turn when someone takes a shot at Angela and Barbara goes missing.

This one was my favorite in the series so far. The others were rather predictable, but not in a terrible way. This one I was actually caught off guard more than once. I thought I had it figured it out, but there were several surprises in there. I have already downloaded the next one in this series. If you like the British mysteries, this series is so much fun.

Reread: Murder Over Easy

Title: Murder Over Easy, Trailer Park #2

Author: Jimmie Ruth Evans

I don’t know if you ever reread books, but I am happy to revisit one I enjoyed before. And when I saw this one at the library, I decided to pick it up for a second helping.

Wanda Sue is a hardworking single mom, trying to make ends meet. She works two jobs, one at the local diner and one overnight stocking shelves at the discount store. On her way home early one morning, she gets a call from her boss at the diner that he’s been arrested for the murder of another waitress. Wanda Sue believes her boss is innocent, so she starts out to find the real killer.

So what was it about this book that make me pick it up again? Well, it wasn’t the genre. I got a little bit into the book and then remembered that I don’t really like cozy mysteries. They rely so much on quirky characters and coincidence that the “mystery” is virtually nonexistent. I generally spot the victim and the murderer before anyone is dead, and that drives me nuts. No, it was the character.

Most fiction is written about the middle class. People who live in moderately nice houses, have a couple of cars, a couple of kids in school, and a decent job. Books about single people generally don’t mention roommates and their apartments are nice. Then there are plenty of book about the rich, too. But books about the working poor are not so common. The ones you do find focus on drugs or violence or despair, not on how many of the working poor are functioning just fine, thank you. Sure, money is really tight, but that’s just the way it is and there’s no point in worrying about it. Meanwhile, it’s time to get to work, and if that means working two jobs, then it does, and that’s that.

My family has fluctuated between lower middle income and upper middle income, but some of my best friends were a distinct income bracket below mine. I was in their homes often enough to know that they are not well represented in what’s being published today. Their lives are different from those with more money, but they aren’t as bleak as you might imagine. I loved this series because you see that. Wanda Sue doesn’t complain. Sure, she’s tired, but she’s happy to have her jobs, she loves her kids, and she helps her friends when she can. I would recommend this series just because of her, but start with the first book, Flamingo Fatale.

Gentler Downton Abbey Mysteries

Murder at Ashgrove House by Margaret Addison

I’m a big fan of the Golden Age mysteries – the ones featuring a private detective, a locked room or closed mystery set among the English upper classes, a set of clues, and a tidy ending. Hercule Poirot is the classic sleuth you think of with these, but I’m always on the lookout for more books in this sort of genre. There are several other series that were popular at the time – Inspector Alleyn by Ngaio Marsh, Albert Campion by Margery Allingham, Lord Peter Wimsey by Dorothy L. Sayers, Inspector Appleby by Michael Innes, Miss Silver by Patricia Wentworth. These were mostly written by women featuring a gentleman sleuth or an nice old lady.

These type of mysteries have never really gone out of style. They’ve been redone, satired, spoofed, reimagined and so on. With the popularity of Downton Abbey, these books are hot again. I found this series through Kindle Unlimited and decided to give it a try. I’m not crazy about them, but they were pretty good.

Rose Simpson works at a dress shop. A friendly coworker invites her to a country weekend at her aunt’s estate. Lady Lavinia took the job on a bet but now she’s finding it too much like actual work. Rose is happy to get out of the city. She’s hoping for a nice relaxing weekend. Instead, a snobby woman gets murdered and Rose is caught right in the middle of things.

I liked Rose, mostly, although she is a little too quick to scream and fuss when things go wrong. She seriously  needs to toughen up. She’s a bit too much of a Mary Sue right now – everyone who likes her is a good guy, and everyone who doesn’t is clearly a bad guy. But my main complaint about the book is that there is way too many recaps. The cops have to review the investigation, review the evidence, review the interview they just conducted. Then the suspect has to have some interior monologue for a few paragraphs as well. The POV skips from character to character with no way of marking the text so that the reader can tell when it changes. The second book at least had a line break in between, but this one has nothing.

The plot wasn’t anything complicated, but I did like the setting. I’m hoping that it will improve. I’m only giving it 3 stars, and I would cautiously recommend it for readers who like this type of book.