Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “mystery”

loopyker’s #CBR4 Review #19-21: Various mysteries by Elizabeth Peters

thejackalshead400rabbitsdevilmaycare

See my review comparing three Elizabeth Peters mysteries, The Jackal’s Head, The Night of Four Hundred Rabbits and Devil-May-Care at Loopy Ker’s Life.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #35 – London Calling by Anna Elliott

The further adventures of Susanna and Captain Clark, who is actually Lord James Ravenwood.  They’re now engaged, and he’s still doing the spy thing for king and country.  England is still at war with France, and James has to go to London to do some intriguing.

Susanna follows him, mostly because she’s jealous and afraid he might cheat on her.  Sounds legit.  Of course Susanna gets involved, at first without James knowing.  She gets into a few scrapes, and needs a bit of rescuing. She stays with her flighty Aunt Ruth in London, and auntie gets involved too.

It’s pretty easy to determine how everything all shakes out, but that’s not to say the book isn’t entertaining.  It’s yet another fun little piece of fluff, a great distraction and a quick, breezy read.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #34 – Susanna and the Spy by Anna Elliott

Anna Elliott concentrates her writing on the Regency period, like many of the books I’ve reviewed this Cannonball.  She’s also the author of those Georgiana Darcy diary books, which are Ok, as is this book.

Susanna Ward lost her father, who was a bit peripatetic, but took very good care of her.  She’s trying to find work, most likely as a governess.  It’s either that, or she doesn’t want to think of what will happen to her. Her father’s family has money, but had disowned her father long ago. She’s on her way to London to look for work, and at a stop on the way, she runs into a man she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl.  He worked on the family estate,  and tells her he thinks her grandfather was murdered.  It’s possible his death was connected to a local ring of smugglers, led by a man calling himself Captain Clark.

At another stop on the way, at a roadside inn, Captain Clark barges in her room bleeding.  Susanna decides to help and hide him, so there’s your meet-cute.  Susanna ends up at the family estate, and meets her uncle, aunt and cousin.  Some are friendlier than others.  And then Captain Clark shows up, using another name.  Hmmm, he may not be what he seems.

Susanna sleuths around to find out who Captain Clark really is, and who killed her grandfather.  It’s a nice little piece of fluff, also like a lot of the books I’ve reviewed this Cannonball.  2012 was a rough year, as you can tell by my choice of reading material.  I’d recommend this to anyone who likes old-fashionedey cozy mysteries, or Regency romances.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #33 – The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne

Did you know that A.A. Milne wrote a mystery story? It’s not all just Pooh (sorry, had to make the joke). It’s another “locked room” mystery, and is just as funny and clever as you would expect.

The story is set at Mark Ablett’s (red) country house,  at a house party.  The guests are a widow and her daughter, a retired major, an actress, and Bill Beverley, one of our heroes. Mark’s brother Robert, the black sheep of the family, arrives from Australia while most everyone is away from the house and shortly thereafter is found dead in a locked room, shot through the head. Mark has gone missing. Tony Gillingham, something of a ne’er do well, has just arrived to call on his friend Bill, and hears part of the murder.  He decides to investigate. Tony wants to be Sherlock Holmes, and Bill is his Watson; the two friends work together to follow the clues and figure out the murder.

The story is very entertaining, and the language is very much in the line of the fun stories of the time (again I refer to Wodehouse, but that’s kind of home base for me). It’s not terribly hard to figure out whodunnit, but who cares?  It’s a fun read, and I definitely will be investigating Milne’s other non-Pooh stories.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #32 – Death of a Serpent by Susan Russo Anderson

So clearly we’ve entered the mystery portion of my Cannonball. This was yet another Kindle freebie (I feel the need to disclose that every time, sorry if it’s annoying) I picked up because it was billed as an “historical mystery.”

The story takes place in Sicily in the late 1800s. Prostitutes are being murdered, marked, and dumped back at the brothel. The madam/brothel owner goes way back with Serafina, a local midwife/renaissance woman. Serafina investigates the murders, as she apparently has before (there are other books, which I have not read).

The killer could be a local mafia don, an old lover of Serafina’s, or possibly an odd monk who has recently come to town.  Serafina (like many of these lady detective stories) acts more like a modern woman than a woman of that time acted, at least as far as I know. Maybe women were always like we are. Regardless, she gets into a number of scrapes, puts herself and others in danger, all in the name of finding the murderer.

The story was fairly well researched, and fairly well written. There were a number of flaws with the writing and grammar, but I had originally chalked that up to a bad translation from Italian. Then I found out the author is American. It could also have been a bad scan for the Kindle, or just lack of editing. There are some good bones of a story here, and perhaps the author will work on her craft. Practice makes perfect, I hear.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #31 – Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie

This is another great Agatha Christie early book – and the other one I was able to get free for my Kindle (The Affair at Styles being the other one).  I’m going to have to start paying for them now, or figure out how the library book thing works (for the Kindle – I know how it works for real books).

This is the first Tommy and Tuppence book, although I don’t think Christie wrote many of those. Very 1920s, almost Wodehousian, with a bit of Thin Man thrown in for fun.  Tommy and Tuppence are friends, he’s an ex-soldier, she’s an ex-nurse – they’re bored and broke, and decide to form The Young Adventurers, Ltd.  They plan to hire themselves out for, well, anything.  A man overhears their plans, and offers Tuppence a position.  Trouble starts when Tuppence gives her name as “Jane Finn,” a name she had heard, but just randomly chose. The man thinks Tuppence is trying to blackmail him. Turns out Jane Finn is someone that may be important (not just to the story, but in the world of the story), and who may be suffering from total amnesia.

The British government gets involved, as does a man claiming to be Jane’s cousin. Tuppence is kidnapped, Tommy ends up stuck in a Bolshevist den, and is rescued by a young lady. Hmm.  Wonder who she might be?!

There’s a lot going on in this story, but the action moves along nicely, and of course everything is tied up with a nice bow at the end. As I said, I’m not sure how many more T&T books Christie wrote, but I definitely need to find out if there are any others, because this one was fun.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #30 – The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

       “Every murderer is probably somebody’s old friend.”

The Mysterious Affair at Styles is the first Hercule Poirot mystery by Agatha Christie, and it was an auspicious debut. I’m a huge Christie fan by way of PBS Mystery!, but had never read many of her books (odd for someone who does as much reading as I do).  This book has started me down the Christie path, and I’m glad there are plenty of stories to catch up on.

This one is a classic locked-room mystery.  Hastings runs into an old friend, and is invited down to Styles St. Mary for a visit.  Hastings had been there before when he was younger, but had lost touch with the family. The matriarch of the family, stepmother to the sons of the house, has recently remarried – and the family is not happy.  The cast of characters is introduced, with all the potential suspects, and mater is poisoned.  Hmmm.  Who could’ve dunnit?  One of the unhappy sons, the unhappy daughter-in-law, the creepy new husband, the innocent looking family helper?  Hmmmm.

And who  might be in Styles St. Mary, friends with Hastings, and a Belgian refugee?  Hmmm.  Yup, it’s Hercule Poirot (yes, he’s a Belgie, not a Frenchie). They follow a few red herrings, jump to a few wrong conclusions, and of course use the tiny grey cells.  Poirot of course figures it out, and calls everyone together at the end to announce whodunnit.

Agatha Christie’s writing makes what is probably a very difficult task seem effortless.  I read somewhere that she wrote this first book on a dare.  I’m glad she didn’t pick truth.

Funkyfacecat’s #CBR4 Review #31: Footsteps in the Dark by Georgette Heyer

Heyer’s work is divided into dashing Regency-set romances and mostly light-hearted detective novels set 1920-1955ish. I very much enjoy the latter in the same way as I enjoy Agatha Christie, but they differ from Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Miss Marple series in that the actual police rather than private detectives play a central role, and  I’d say they’re slightly inferior in quality as well – read individually every now and then Heyer’s detective fiction is fun but read many at the same time they start to blur into one as there is usually a central romance and main characters are rarely given features other than “pleasant,” “cynical and snide with a heart of gold,” “cynical and snide with the cold dead eyes of a killer,” “flamboyant foreigner,” “obviously gay and unmanly interior designer” and so on. The villains are generally well-drawn and various, though, and overall there’s a sense of ease rather than serious moral questions or threat.

Footsteps in the Dark is typical in that it involves young upper-class people who become embroiled in strange happenings in a country house that two of them have inherited. There are mysterious groaning noises, secret passages, and it’s all quite Gothic, a fact variously relished and feared by the group – until it’s realised that it must be human agency causing the eerie events, and there are, of course, several suspicious characters in the neighbourhood.

The novel generates a bit of suspense, there is an unlikely love story, and there is plenty of good-humoured banter. The solution to the mystery is a bit different than the usual missing will or long-standing grudge, and it’s a fun, if slight read.

Goddess of Apathy’s #CBR4 Review #9: Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

gone girl

Some sunny day baby
When everything seems okay, baby
You’ll wake up and find out youre alone
Cause Ill be gone
Gone, gone, gone really gone

Gone, gone, gone really gone
Gone, ga-gone, cause you done me wrong

—“Gone, Gone, Gone,” Alison Krauss & Robert Plant

Once upon a time, there was a married couple, named Nick and Amy Dunne. They seemed so perfect, so fabulous, so wonderful. It was their fifth wedding anniversary. This day of planned romance is immediately forgotten when Amy is is suddenly gone—missing. There’s no body, but there are signs of a struggle. Of course, Nick is the prime suspect in her disappearance.

I wasn’t expecting a lot from this novel when it was given to me. I heard the book was good and I wouldn’t be able to put it down. I pshawed that notion, but I was taken aback when I found myself totally enthralled by the first person narrative of reading Amy’s diary. I felt like I knew Amy, she was written so well. She told me things about her relationship with Nick, how it began, how he made her feel, how things changed when their fortunes changed and they had to move from their hip digs in New York to the Midwestern commonness of North Carthage, Mississippi.  Amy was someone I was rooting for and I was so concerned that her amazing husband had done something terrible to her. Isn’t it always the husband in cases like these?

There are always two sides to every story and author Gillian Flynn deftly swapped narrative voices in the novel and allowed us to experience Nick’s side. He was just as honest and engaging as Amy. He’s just a good-hearted Midwestern boy who loved this fantastic girl. Now, whose side am I on? Nick was a good husband, not perfect but Lord, he tried. Amy was such a perfectionist. She was so spoiled. He did the things he did to survive and try to find some happiness.

I was very pleased with how the book played out and was taken by surprise the entire time. I could not put the book down. I highly recommend it for the suspense, mystery, and the warped psychology of the plot. It is an entertaining quick read.

Karo’s #CBR4 Review #24: The Daughter Of Time by Josephine Tey

More crime, but much more charming. This is one of the books my husband has brought home after hearing about it on Radio 4. He never reads them, but thinks I might like them, and I love him and think it’s the most romantic thing ever.

I had never heard about Josephine Tey before, and I don’t know if that’s strange. She died in 1952, so her novels qualify as classics, and, as wikipedia has just told me, The Daughter of Time was voted greatest mystery novel of all time by the Crime Writers’ Association in 1990. I had no idea, and it makes me smile, because there is nothing particularly suspenseful or spooky about it. It’s just… charming. I have a feeling I’m going to use this word a lot in this review.

Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard is in hospital with a broken leg, and in order not to go mad, he asks his friends to supply him with mysteries to solve. He ends up with reproductions of portraits of famous people, and is fascinated by the one of Richard III, a famously deceitful, murderous brute of a King, whose face, according to Grant, shows nothing but gentleness and suffering. With the help of a researcher at the British museum, Inspector Grant sets out to solve the mystery of the Princes in the Tower, the young nephews Richard III is said to have killed.

All I know about British history is puzzled together from bits I have read in novels or seen in movies, and this particular episode was mostly unknown to me. For a British reader in 1952, it would have been one of the best-known bits of historical knowledge, I guess, which makes the novel exciting from the start. As it turns out, it’s a joy to read, and quite easy to follow even for the uninitiated (me). It’s a straightforward mystery, with new and astounding facts delivered to Grant’s hospital bed every day, and moving along at a steady pace. Grant is charming (there!), the minor characters are lovely (even better!), and even Richard III turns out to be a good man. Everything about this book made me feel warm and fuzzy; its old-fashionedness (The time it takes to find facts! Old school books have to be ordered or rummaged for in the nurses’ bookshelves, volumes leafed through in the British Museum, telegrammes waited for in hospital… Ah.), the goodwill and friendliness of the characters, the fact that the most recent bloodshed happened in the 15th century… This is a comfort read. The entire Josephine Tey boxset immediately went onto my Christmas wish list. I’ll be the happiest reader for the next few weeks.

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