Murder by Misrule

I think it’s tricky to have true historical figures in a novel, and even more so when said figure is a main character–and the main plot is not historical.  Nonetheless, I enjoyed this mystery with Francis Bacon as the leader of a group of amateur sleuths.   The characters are well-drawn; the details enlightening, and the mystery itself intriguing.

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

I must have read some Sherlock Holmes stories before–I’m sure I must have.  But I can’t recall doing so.  I’ve seen movies and TV shows, serious takes and spoofs.  But this might be the first time I’ve read the real thing.

The real thing doesn’t disappoint. Sherlock is brilliant and quirky, Watson grounded and real.  The problems are ingenious, and though I still prefer novels to short stories, I enjoyed every one of these. I believe I’m keeping this book.  I may even keep an eye out for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s other collections.

Flask of the Drunken Master

Susan Spann’s Shinobi Mystery series is great fun.  I love that it locates me firmly in a place and time in history that I know little about.  What’s even better is that it does this in a way that keeps a pretty puzzle and interesting people at the heart of the story.

In this particular book, Hiro and Father Mateo must prove the innocence of a brewer they know (Hiro owes him a favor) before the man is punished for murdering a competitor.  It’s a complicated little problem, set in a destabilized Kyoto (a situation which brings its own complexities), and the strain of navigating these troubling waters reveals some fault lines–or at least pressure points–in Hiro and Father Mateo’s relationship.  The descriptions are rich, the writing well-done.  It was a great pleasure to read, and I’ll be picking up Susan Spann’s next book when I can.

 

Career of Evil

This is the third Cormoran Strike novel, a deliciously complicated psychological mystery by Robert Galbraith (otherwise known as J.K. Rowling).  I first picked up the Galbraith novels because I love Rowling’s work, but I keep reading them because they’re wonderful.

I love Cormoran Strike, Robin Ellacott, and the way the relationship between them sparks with chemistry and confusion, even more than if they were romantically involved.  I love the complexity of the other characters and the richness of the world.  I love the insight the work gives into the everyday struggles of living in modern London.

I also like the mystery itself.  There’s plenty of suspense and enough red herrings to keep me guessing until fairly late in the story.  Altogether, an excellent book of its type.  Galbraith has become one of my favorite mystery authors, one of the very few whose works I keep around on my shelves for re-reading.

Antler Dust and Buried by the Roan

These two are the first couple of novels in the Allison Coil mystery series by Mark Stevens (who I got to work with for a while this past summer while helping out a bit with the Rocky Mountain Writer podcast he does for RMFW–well worth listening to if one writes at all, by the way.)

These were thoroughly enjoyable, with interesting puzzles, well-drawn characters and quick-paced action.  What I liked best, though, was the setting–the Rocky Mountains seemed as beautiful in this book as they look from my backyard on a clear day.  I also loved the strong friendship that develops between Allison and Trudy, a woman she meets in the course of her first investigation.  I don’t often find strong female friendships in novels that aren’t labeled “Women’s Fiction,” and it’s nice to find one here.

I’ll read more Allison Coil mysteries–I just have to wait until my book budget recovers from Christmas.

 

The Floating Admiral

I love Dorothy Sayers.  I’m fond of G.K. Chesterton and Agatha Christie.  This game (they were wise not to call it a story), unfortunately, mixed up their talents (and those of several authors I’m less familiar with) in a way that did justice to none of them.

The puzzle they set for each other hared off in so many directions, it was impossible for even the great fiction writers represented here to stick to a recognizable narrative arc.  Neither did the characters always seem to be the same people from segment to segment.

On the other hand, it was interesting to see what these various authors made of each others’ puzzles, and I was impressed enough with the ending Anthony Berkeley came up with that I’m going to see if I can hunt down more of his work.  For me, finding a new author I like makes it worth the read.

Why Shoot a Butler?

I read Why Shoot a Butler? while the kids were off at school today. I’m more familiar with Georgette Heyer’s romances, but I like her enough that I was willing to try this (besides, my sister gave it to me with a glowing recommendation.)

It turned out to be a light, fun read. Frank Amberley’s obnoxious brilliance is entertaining, so much so that I was only slightly annoyed at all the places where he investigated this or that–and then didn’t tell what he discovered. Probably best that way, because it kept me from guessing everything on the second page. As it was, even my somewhat sluggish mind had unraveled about two-thirds of the puzzle by book’s end, so if I’d known more, I probably would have guessed the whole, which tends to make a mystery less interesting.

Still, the dialogue is witty, the characters crisp, and the setting the type of idyllic British countryside town I love to visit in books. (I’ve never had the opportunity to visit one in person. Who knows if they even exist, and if so, whether they’d be any fun?)

Definitely worth curling up with for a couple of entertaining hours.