Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “mystery”

loopyker’s #CBR4 Review #08: The Killings at Badger’s Drift: Chief Inspector Barnaby Series, Book 1 by Caroline Graham

badgersdriftblogI’m a fan of the TV show, Midsomer Murders, and the first five books in Caroline Graham’s Chief Inspector Barnaby Series inspired this TV show, so I thought I’d see how the audiobooks compare starting with The Killings at Badger’s Drift: Chief Inspector Barnaby Series, Book 1 . I haven’t read any of the original (7) print books.

If you’ve seen the British TV show, then you know that Midsomer Murders follows the investigations of Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby and his younger sidekick Sgt. Gavin Troy, around the quaint little villages in the English countryside . These are slower paced murder mysteries when compared to typical American shows. Runtime per episode is 100 minutes. If you find these too slow-paced for you, then the 8-13 hour or more length of the audio books won’t be to your taste.

Compared to the TV show, I found both the Barnaby and Troy characters less likeable. DCI Barnaby was missing that subtle, warm humour portrayed so well by actor John Nettles and similarly, Sgt. Troy was missing the sweetness to his inexperienced bumbling that Daniel Casey (and later Jason Hugh as DS Jones) brought to the roll.

Read the rest of the review at Loopy Ker’s Life

sonk’s #CBR4 Review #36: The Likeness by Tana French

Detective Cassie Maddox is a recent transfer to the Domestic Violence unit of the Dublin police force after a horrific case in her old department (Homicide) shook her up so much that she needed to get out (this is the mystery in Into the Woods). She’s finally adjusting to her new position when she’s called to a murder scene in the countryside. The victim, a young woman, looks exactly like her. And to further complicate things, her I.D. identifies her as Alexandra Madison–the alter-ego Cassie created as an undercover cop at the beginning of her career.

I wasn’t kidding when I said Tana French is like crack to me. This was SO GOOD.

Read the rest of my review here.

Malin’s #CBR4 Review #100: My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland

So it’s no secret that pretty much everything I read consists of genre fiction, mostly paranormal fantasy, or romance (sometimes either of those genres aimed at young adults) or a mix of all of the above. So Felicia Day’s Vaginal Fantasy Hangout was pretty much made for someone like me. Now, for most of the time the group has been running, I’ve read at least one, if not both of the books featured as Reads of the Month. However, this month (November), they feature zombie books, with at least a bit of a romantic element to them.

I’m not going to lie, I’ve read books with vampires, werewolves, all sorts of other kinds of shapeshifters (including dinosaurs, so thanks, VFH ladies!), ghosts, demons, angels, fairies, dark elves, you name it – I’ve probably read some variation of fantasy/romance where this was a feature. Until now, I’d drawn the line at zombies, however. My husband reads, and watches The Walking Dead, and I’ve caught the occasional episode. I watched Shaun of the Dead. I don’t like horror, though, in any genre, so zombies tend to be something I avoid. I certainly don’t see it as a successful starting point for anything with romantic elements. Clearly popular culture disagrees with me, though, as Warm Bodies was a huge publishing success and now looks like it’s going to be a really rather entertaining film.

One of the reasons I join online book clubs, and browse review sites, and book blogs and participate in the Cannonball Read is to discover new things. So while I was initially reluctant, I decided to give zombie fantasy a try. My Life as a White Trash Zombie is the story of Angel Crawford, who wakes up in the hospital after what appears to be a drug overdose. She was apparently found stark naked on the side of the highway, on the same night as there was an accident not too far away, and the driver of the car was found decapitated. With the head missing from the scene of the crime. Angel has no memory at all of how any of this came to pass, but is relieved that the police only question her, as a drug overdose is in violation of her parole.

She’s given a bag of clothes and a letter from one of the nurses, where she’s told to show up at the parish morgue for a new job, and she has to hold down the job for at least a month, or the police will be told about her OD, and she’ll end up in jail. She’s also given 6 bottles of some mysterious liquid, and told to drink one every other day. The letter also states that if she were to end up in prison, she’d be dead before long, so Angel is too scared to refuse the job offer.

At the morgue, she discovers that she’s not only expected to drive a van and pick up corpses, she’s also meant to help the morgue technicians with autopsies. Previously, Angel’s not been able to see anything even vaguely gory without throwing up, but she now seems to be able to handle all sorts of disgusting smells and sights without so much as a dry heave. Strangest of all, the sight and smell of dead brains seem to drive her wild. Before long, Angel realises that she actually kind of likes her job, and wants to prove that she can stick with something, no matter what her deadbeat on again off again drug addict boyfriend or drunken father says. She just needs to figure out why she has an unnatural craving for brains, why dead bodies keep showing up decapitated, and who got her the job at the morgue in the first place?

For the first couple of chapters, I wasn’t sure about Angel as a protagonist, and her no ambition deadbeat attitude. By the time she starts her job at the morgue, I was starting to warm up to her, and I’m very glad that I kept going with the book, as it turned out to be both a fairly exciting page turner, and lots of fun. Once Angel gets developed more as a character, and starts building her self esteem and accomplishing things, I really enjoyed her and her rather snarky wit. I wish she’d wised up about her abusive, drunken asshole of a dad, and extreme loser boyfriend sooner, but we can’t have everything, now can we?

The way zombies are portrayed in the book is also really well done. Angel can pretty much survive any injury or damage as long as she ingests enough brains, and while she no longer feels the effects of pills or pot, she can eat human food as well, so long as she consumes brains every other day or so. The more energy she expends, the more often she has to have a brainy snack. Her job at the morgue is obviously perfect, and once she faces up to the fact that she’s now the walking undead, she tries to research her “condition” as best she can, and gets on with things without complaining.

There’s some pretty cool supporting characters as well (not the drunken dad or pothead boyfriend), and a subplot involving Angel’s continued crush on one of the deputies who arrested her a while back. The book is not a romance, as such, but it looks like the romance angle might be stronger in the sequel (which I’m now pretty excited to read). So I still haven’t had to face an actual main story romance where one or both of the characters is a zombie, and guess that’ll have to be next on my list.

Cross posted on my blog.

Bothari’s #CBR4 Review #50: Blood in the Water by Jane Haddam

You know that co-worker friend who’s really cool, and you think you could be outside-of-work friends instead of just friends-at-work? And then you start hanging out outside of work and you realize that too much of this person is not a good thing, and small doses is best? I think I may have hit my lifetime dose of Gregor Demarkian novels. I’m pretty sure I’ve read all of them, or at least all but one or two. I used to really enjoy them – I liked the stories, and Gregor, and the happenings on Cavanaugh Street, and the way Jane Haddam gives such detailed background into what other authors would consider minor characters. This time, I found myself sighing a little in exasperation at some of Gregor’s quirks, and felt a little weighed down by all the minor-character details – how do I know what’s important? Is that a clue, or a character-building expository blip?

This time, Gregor is hired by a snooty gated community outside Philadelphia. Two bodies were found in the poolhouse on the property, although one is too badly burned to be recognized. They are assumed to be Martha Heydrich and her young lover Michael, and Martha’s husband Arthur is promptly arrested. When the local police run DNA on the burned body, it comes back male, so Arthur is released, and the authorities are flummoxed. Enter famous retired-FBI agent turned detective Gregor Demarkian. He shuffles around the community, observing behavior and imploring the local cops to think – the answers, he says, are always right there. If I were the local cop, I think Gregor would’ve been the third body. He gets a little bit schoolteacher-condescending with them. Not that schoolteachers are all condescending, but you know what I mean. That “Everything you need to know is right in front of you. You just have to put it together” nonsense. Why not just say “That guy did it. Arrest him whilst I tell you how and why”?

So I’m not sure if this book is not as good as previous books, or if I’ve just read too many and am getting tired of them. It was an audio book, so maybe listening to it illustrated the more annoying aspects more than reading it would have. If you’re a Gregor Demarkian fan, this hits all the usual notes, and the mystery itself is appropriately mysterious. However, I think I’ll take a nice long break before I read another one.

Funkyfacecat’s #CBR4 Review 21: Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann

I first found out about this book in ElCicco’s review, and as well as the plot summary, I was struck by both the title and the cover – it evoked F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sylvia Plath’s Journals  and all sorts of vague images of post-war Americana. The UK cover is a bit different , but still nice enough for me to succumb to buying the book brand new in hardcover, which I am usually far too broke to do.

The title of Tigers in Red Weather, taken from a Wallace Stevens poem (randomly alluded to in the text), is oddly fitting for this tale of the teeth behind affectionate family smiles. Nick is a strong and strangely beautiful woman, married to Hughes who she barely knew before the war – both are deeply in love but tempted elsewhere. Helena is her cousin, also married to a man she hardly knows, who promises to take care of her and does it by encouraging her to take “mother’s little helper” tranquillizers and amphetamines. Nick’s daughter Daisy (Gatsby reference?) is golden and unhappy in love, Helena’s son Ed is an aloof observer, warped by his father. Their holiday paradise on Martha’s Vineyard is disturbed by a murder, and suggestions that one of the family may have been involved on some level.

Most of the book I really enjoyed – Nick is a charming and well-drawn character, even if she isn’t particularly original – she’s basically Daisy from The Great Gatsby grown up, after a war that’s scarred her but lightly. Her fraught, fragile moments, however, are evocative, and as is her struggle to love the man she’s with. Her daughter is also naive, fond, foolish – her agonies of first love are very relatable. The other side of the family doesn’t fare as well; Helena is quite uninteresting and often exasperating, and her son seems like he crept in from another novel entirely.

Nick, her husband Hughes, Daisy, Helena and Ed each have their own chapter. Ed’s chapter is the most jarring; he doesn’t fit in with the rest of the chapters. I suspect his chapter is supposed to show the others up in sharp relief, causing us to re-evaluate everything else, and it probably symbolises all sorts of things, but to me it just felt…cheap and unnecessary. It kind of dampened my enjoyment of the whole book, which is generally well-written, particularly with regard to atmosphere – the clinking of ice and cigarette smoke form a constant low-tempo background to the plot. It will be interesting to see what Klaussmann writes next.

meilufay’s #CBR4 review #72 Exile (Garnethill #2) by Denise Mina

Exile is the second book in Denise Mina’s Garnethill trilogy.  I suppose you could read it as a stand-alone novel because the actual mystery in the book is unrelated to the mystery in the first book, but I personally would recommend reading Garnethill first.  The character arcs in Exile so clearly are building on the events of the first book that I can’t imagine picking up this book and not feeling as though you’re missing something.

The second book or film in any trilogy often feels very interstitial and Exile is no exception.  While the book tells a satisfying murder mystery story, it’s clearly setting up the characters for the third and final book in the series and, as a result, was a slightly less satisfying read than the first book.  Don’t get my wrong, I enjoyed this book thoroughly and I can’t wait to read Resolution, but I didn’t find this book to be as compulsive a read as Garnethill.  Still, I’m pretty excited about Denise Mina as a writer and I can’t wait to read more of her books.

meilufay’s #CBR4 review #70 The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett

It’s interesting to me that in terms of influence, Raymond Chandler seems to be cited more by novelists (Paul Auster, China Miéville) and Dashiell Hammett, by filmmakers (the Coen Brothers, Rian Johnson).  Both the Coen Brother’s Miller’s Crossing and Rian Johnson’s Brick were influenced by Hammett’s writing and all three filmmakers specifically cite The Glass Key.  As part of my crime fiction spree, I had been planning to read the Maltese Falcon or the Thin Man (because I’ve seen both movies), but my library didn’t have either available.  A quick internet search revealed the interesting factoid that both the Coen Brothers and Rian Johnson named this book as a particular influence and so of course I had to read it.  I’d never heard of The Glass Key before (though of course I’d heard of Dashiell Hammett) so I had no idea of what I was getting into.

The Glass Key gives almost no exposition.  It describes what is happening but gives almost no narrative background.  The reader is left to infer who everyone is based on their actions and dialogue.  Whereas Raymond Chandler’s hero Philip Marlowe is wittily succinct, Dashiell Hammett’s Ned Beaumont is the strong silent type, saying almost nothing.  Like Marlowe, Beaumont clearly feels deeply while saying as little as possible.  The literal beatings that Beaumont is willing to endure in order to protect the reputation of his boss and friend, Paul Madvig, and solve the mystery, is a testimony to Beaumont’s loyalty and strength of character.  Despite the fact that he lives in a morally corrupt world, and at least passively participates in a morally corrupt system, Beaumont comes across as a character of integrity.  His rules may not be the same as society’s but unlike society’s rules they are inviolate.

By the end of the first chapter, I was completely hooked by this book. The lack of exposition makes the action very immediate and gripping.  I literally could not put it down.  I can not wait to read more Dashiell Hammett books.

meilufay’s #CBR4 review #69 The Big Sleep (Philip Marlowe #1) by Raymond Chandler

I’ve been on a bit of a crime fiction spree lately, reading the classics of the genre from Arthur Conan-Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series to Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley (review to come).  Although I’ve seen all the classic Philip Marlowe movies, I’ve actually never read any of Chandler’s books.  Having read this one, I can see what all the fuss is about.  Raymond Chandler has a unique way with language, crafting long, drawn-out, intensely visual similes.  The Big Sleep was laugh out loud funny in places, poignant in others.  Yes, Philip Marlowe is sexist, racist and homophobic, but he’s also a bruised romantic  and the moments when his cynical mask slips and reveals the hurt underneath are almost unbearably heartbreaking.  Good stuff.

meilufay’s #CBR4 review #68 The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan-Doyle

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a collection of short stories.  If one is reading Sherlock Holmes in publication order, then one would read this volume after A Study in Scarlet and the Sign of Four.  I really enjoyed A Study in Scarlet and found the Sign of Four well enough to continue on with the series.  Fans of various incarnations of Sherlock Holmes will recognize some of the situations and characters in these volumes, in particular Irene Adler, who was featured in both the Robert Downey Jr movies and in the second series of Steven Moffat’s Sherlock.

The problem with reading Sherlock Holmes stories en masse is that they all bleed together.  Although the particulars of each case are different, that’s like saying the particulars of every episode of Scooby Doo are different.  Something seemingly impossible happens then Sherlock Holmes reveals how it was practically accomplished.  In a good story, one is engaged enough in the characters and intrigued enough by the set up to enjoy reading through to the conclusion.  In a mediocre story, the whole thing can become a bit monotonous and boring.

It’s interesting to me that three books in and Sherlock Holmes’ great antagonist, Moriarty, has still not shown his head.  I’ll be interested to see if the series is revitalized by this famous villain because right now it’s feeling very repetitious to me.

meilufay’s #CBR4 review #67 The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan-Doyle

The Sign of Four is the second Sherlock Holmes novel written by Arthur Conan-Doyle.  I read this immediately after A Study in Scarlet and I found the mystery much less engaging than I did the first book.  Whereas A Study in Scarlet felt very fresh, almost modern, The Sign of Four suffers from the fact that dozens of films and television shows have knocked off the Sherlock Holmes formula.  I think if you enjoyed the first book, and you enjoy the genre, you will probably enjoy this book, but I didn’t love it.

Post Navigation