Australian Police Mystery

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Title: The Dragon Man, DI Challis #1

Author: Garry Disher

Setting: Australia present day

Off the Shelf challenge

Meet Hal Challis, Detective for the Mornington Peninsula police force in Southeast Australia, in the first investigation in this prize-winning crime series

“A serial killer is on the loose in a small coastal town near Melbourne, Australia. Detective Inspector Hal Challis and his team must apprehend him before he strikes again. But first, Challis has to contend with the editor of a local newspaper who undermines his investigation at every turn, and with his wife, who attempts to resurrect their marriage through long-distance phone calls from a sanitarium, where she has been committed for the past eight years for attempted murder—his.”

The police procedural is a name for a type of mystery which is pretty much like the name implies – it centers around a group of police officers and one or more crimes they are trying to solve. Generally there’s one central case and a few others minor ones. Depending on the writer, there’s also some stuff about the officers, about their home lives, their relationships, their backgrounds. It’s like Law & Order or NCIS.

Normally I like police procedurals. I’ve read a lot of them, set throughout the 20th century up until modern ones. My favorite authors tend to be out of print, but there are some writers who are still producing first class books.

This one was not one of them.

I see that it won quite a few awards and has all kinds of blurbs on the back. What can I say? I was not impressed. It wasn’t that I hated all the characters. DI Hal Challis, the MC, is interesting with quite the back story.

It’s just that I got bored. I thought this was about a serial killer, but the writer wound up spending so much time on other crimes, on the personal lives of the police officers, on accusations of police misconduct, that the serial killer case got lost. I think if I had been in a different mood, I might have enjoyed it more.

I did like the setting. I don’t read much Australian fiction, so it was nice to get out of my comfort zone and see what else is out there. So that part did work for me.

Overall, I don’t know if I’d recommend this one or not. Maybe if you want to try a police novel and are looking for an unusual one, you could give it a try. Also, it’s the first in the series, although it doesn’t necessarily read that way, and it’s possible the series gets better as it goes. Unfortunately, I don’t think I could find any more by this author if I wanted to. And I guess that’s OK. I think I’ll just call it quits here and move on. 2.6/5 stars

Trigger Warning: sexual violence

 

 

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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.

10 Series I Just Can’t Wait to Finish

13555073Are you looking for another great series to follow? I’ve got 10 that I have to recommend, along with the first book in each and the author.

  1. Lockwood & Co. The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud. Set in a world where ghosts are common, but only children can see them, the kids at Lockwood & Co start their own business. They quarrel a lot, but they know their jobs. I’m up to #5, which I think is the last one in the series. They’re more MG books than YA, but so much fun that I don’t mind.
  2. Flavia de Luce, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley. Flavia is a very unusual child. She likes poisons. Like, a lot. Which is good, because she’s able to solve murders. Set in a little English village after WWII, this series is like a warm cup of dark cocoa.
  3. The Reckoners, Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson. Ten years after the Calamity, the superpowered people called Epics have taken over the world. Regular people are nothing but a resource, but they’re ready to fight back. I’ve only read 1 & 1.5, but the next book is on my birthday wish list.
  4. 8097637 The Legend of Eli Monpress, The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aaron. Eli is a wizard and a thief. He’s also got a plan. He’s always got a plan. This series isn’t finished yet, but it’s been a lot of fun so far, and the first one was free!
  5. Spells, Swords, & Stealth, NPCs by Drew Hayes. This group of friends know they’re only NPCs, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be heroes. 3 books in this fun series so far. Also free through Kindle Unlimited.
  6. The Grisha Trilogy, Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. If you haven’t tried this one, what are you waiting for? Amazing fantasy series that I’m just loving. Not as good as Six of Crows, but then, what is?
  7. Amory Ames mysteries, Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver. Amory and her husband have a complicated relationship. She also has a tendency to find dead bodies. Set after WWI, lots of fun.
  8. The Queen’s Thief, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner. Stinking amazing fantasy series. 5 stars! I’m currently listening to #2 and I’m dying! Amazing isn’t even good enough. The writing is just so good. I wish I had written it.
  9. Ms. Marvel, No Normal by G. Willow Wilson. I love this series of graphic novels. The art and the story are both great. Even if you’re not normally a superhero fan, give this one a try.
  10. 8629611The Price of Freedom, The Last Kings Amulet by Chris Northern. Loosely based on a Roman/fantasy mashup with a bunch of necromancers thrown in as well. The first one in this series is free as well.

Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen

Title: Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen 👑 🔪💈 (Sheriff Dan Rhodes #19)

Author: Bill Crider

Setting: small town Texas present day

Petty young Lynn was a favorite stylist at the beauty shop, especially with the men. But someone didn’t like her – enough that they got her over the head with her own hair dryer. Is her murder connected to the string of thefts in the county? Or was it her love life? The sheriff needs to catch the killer before someone else dies.

I really like these books. There’s a lot of humor in them, as well as a slice of small town life. As a former Texan, I just really get a kick out of this series. I would start with the first book in the series, Too Late to Die. They’re all pretty quick reads.

The Sans Pareil Mystery

Title: The Sans Pareil Mystery (Detective Lavender #2)

Author: Karen Charlton

“On a cold February night in Regency London, a dark curtain falls on the Sans Pareil Theatre following the death of April Clare, a promising young actress, whose body is found in mysterious circumstances.

Detective Stephen Lavender and his dependable deputy, Constable Woods, quickly discover that nothing is quite as it seems. As successive mysteries unfold, they soon realise that it is not only the actors from the Sans Pareil who are playing a part.”

It’s funny how sometimes your books align. I just finished 2 books about Regency England and crime. I already reviewed Newt’s Emerald  (verdict = good)  and now this one. Unlike the first book, this one does not have a fantasy element. It’s strictly mystery, with a little romance.

Let me say that I rated this 7/10, but I’m still looking forward to the next book. The writing could be better – too much telling, too much exposition in parts. I swear the characters must be dumb to have to have things explained to them! But the characters and the world building make these rewarding books. Detective Lavender is not your conventional copper. He is a Bow Street Runner, but he’s also more of a gentleman. Then there’s his lady love, Dona Magdalena, recently escaped from Napoleon’s invasion of Spain. I love her, and she gets a big part in this book. Constable Woods and his family are great too.

I mostly listened to this, but if you get it on Kindle Unlimited, you can switch back and forth between book and audio, which is awesome. The narrator did a really good job with the men, not so hot with the women. I’d recommend this one if you enjoy historical mysteries. But start with the first book, The Heiress of Linn Hagh.

 

Review: Private

7134202Title: Private (Private #1)

Author: James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Format: Audiobook

Source: Audible freebie

Setting: Los Angeles, present day

“Wouldn’t it be neat if there was a private investigation business that was WAY COOLER than the cops? With a super advanced crime lab that had all the latest stuff? And investigators who could carry big guns and didn’t have to follow all the police regulations? And they worked for all the big clients because they were so cool?”

Well, yeah, I guess that would be neat. Not very believable, but neat. And I would read that.

“Wouldn’t it be great if we had a whole bunch of diverse characters that all have sexy secrets and every one has this like, diverse background that we’ll go into in complete detail, like an Irish secretary who is working on her citizenship? And a quirky scientist guy who does his own forensic exams? And a damaged main character who inherits the whole business from  his criminal dad and has to fight with his EVIL TWIN BROTHER???”

Um, I guess so. Evil twins are kind of over done, but…

“And would wouldn’t it be EVEN BETTER if the crime exposed the rotten underbelly of Hollywood with the mob and prostitutes and drugs and serial killers after school girls and a conspiracy to undermine professional football?”

Wait, how does football fit in to this?

“Wouldn’t you totally read that?”

Not on purpose I wouldn’t.

“Oh, so we’ll just throw it all in there a little at a time, so you’re already hooked on the story and you have to read it to see what happens. Wouldn’t that be super cool?”

Nope.

Throwback Thursday

This review appeared last year.

Hole in One

by Catherine Aird

mystery

audiobook

Story: The local golf club’s beginners tournament comes to a halt when a competitor discovers a head in the sand trap. Detective CD Sloan has to identify the body, find a killer, and get the tournament moving again so his boss can win that trophy.

Pros: Old-fashioned mystery

Cons: Old-fashioned mystery

I love that this series sticks to the standard detection model of crime-solving – no unrealistically accelerated forensics, no conveniently useful social media, no hidden spycams everywhere. Just interviewing suspects, using some logical deduction. But just as the cops are pretty much 20th century, their attitudes are out of date too. Why are the witnesses repeatedly introduced as “lady golfers?” Why not just golfers? I don’t play golf, so maybe that distinction is still typical of country clubs and private courses. But it was irritating. And what’s with the wives who only join the club so they can keep an eye on their husbands?

I listened to this one yesterday and it was short and enjoyable, but it wasn’t really outstanding. 3.0 stars

Back in the Day

 

Title: Age of Myth (Legends of the First Empire, #1)

Author: Michael J. Sullivan

How do you kill a god? It can be done, especially if the gods you are worshiping are NEARLY immortal. For centuries, the humans have lived on the slender margins where the Fhrey allow them to exist, offering regular tribute and slaves to keep their oppressors happy. But now one of their own has killed a god, and that can’t be good.

Raithe is the god-killer, Malcolm the former slave, and together they go on the run. With a little luck, they can hide out until they die from starvation. Some luck, right? But even that is too much to ask.

Let me just say I liked this book a lot. I had high hopes, as it’s by the author of the Riyria chronicles, which long time readers will know that I ****LOVED****. So maybe my expectations were a little too high. This one is set hundreds of years before those books, back in the days when humans were first building town and had yet to discover metalsmithing. That alone makes for interesting reading, as most historical fantasy or fiction tends to be set much later.

But I guess I was hoping for some of the awesome friendship and humor that makes the Riyria chronicles so extraordinary. This book had some humor, that’s for sure, but it’s not as much fun as those books. This one is more female-centered too, so that was nice.  I’m excited to read the next book, Age of Swords.

Space Mystery!

This book was provided to me for free in exchange for an honest review.
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Title: Matters Arising from the Identification of the Body: A Guerline Scarfe Investigation

Author: Simon Petrie

I’m a big nerd when it comes to space. I don’t know a lot, but I love stories set in space, science fiction stories, and stuff like that. I also love mysteries. When I got asked to review a book that had both, I couldn’t resist.

Guerline Scarfe – what a name – is the equivalent of a police officer sometime in the future. She’s been asked to investigate a suicide. It looks like a pretty straightforward case, but she is a thorough officer and figures that any death deserves an explanation.

Tanja Morgenstein was working on Jupiter’s moon Titan when she pulled off her helmet. Despite the doctors best efforts, she died. Now it’s up to Guerline to figure out why she did it.

I really enjoyed this book. I liked the mystery aspect, I liked the characters, and I really enjoyed the setting. It’s a world enough like our own that I could identify with what was going on, but enough different that it was completely fresh. I recommend this one and I’m looking forward to the next book in this series. Apparently Petrie has other books out but none in this series yet, but who knows? 4/5 stars and thanks for the chance to read it.

Pretty Good Urban Fantasy

Title: A Dragon of a Different Color (Heartstrikers #4)

Author: Rachel Aaron

Setting: alternate Detroit

SPOILERS FOR THE REST OF THE SERIES

I’m assuming that when you read #4 up there, you know I’m going to comment on the rest of the series up until now, right? Just checking.

Do you like dragons? Do you like the idea of dragons living among humans in today’s world? Then you should check out these books by Rachel Aaron. The series starts with Nice Dragons Finish Last.  Main character Julius is, as you might guess, a nice dragon, which makes him a liability in his clan. His mother decides to get rid of him. Lucky for Julius, he meets an aspiring mage named Marci. Unluckily, she’s in trouble with the mob about then. It’s a fun series. I really liked the first book, but I feel like the author is losing her steam a little bit here.

This one starts immediately after #3, No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished. In that one LAST SPOILER ALERT! I’M SERIOUS! Marci has died, Julius took control of the Heartstrikers clan away from his ruthless mother, and most of the clan has dispersed to their own lairs.

That’s when the Chinese dragons show up. They want to take over the clan. Julius is not happy – he didn’t work as hard as he did to set up a dragon council just to give control to some outsider – but unless he comes up with a plan fast that’s exactly what he’ll have to do. Fortunately, Julius can always come up with a plan.

My biggest complaint in this one was that there was so much talking! So much discussion, over and over and over, about how we’re all in terrible danger unless we do something fast. So let’s talk about it for another 2-3 pages before we do anything, right? How about no. How about you cut to the chase and do something! I still really like Julius as a character, but we hardly got to see him be awesome at all. And why have a book about dragons if they’re not going to be awesome all over the place?

If these do sound like fun, they are available from Amazon through Kindle Unlimited for free. You should definitely start with book 1 though. It really was fun.