A review of Every Hidden Fear: A Skeet Bannion Mystery by Linda Rodriguez.
Tag Archives: mystery series
A Case of Doubtful Death: A Frances Doughty Mystery by Linda Stratmann (The Mystery Press, $14.95, 283 pages)
Author Linda Stratmann is not shy about telling her tale in graphic detail. Get ready for an amazing visit to England in the late 1800s and an education in the means by which folks dealt with death and burial. Ms. Stratmann explores in depth the notion of death houses where the recently deceased are treated as patients and monitored by medical staff to assure that a loved one is not buried alive. The particulars of the monitoring of the dead, the care of the corpses and the maintenance of security are laid out in minute detail. The service is costly and not really an option for folks of the lower classes.
The notion of class and appropriate vocations for females during the Victorian Era are prominent themes in the Frances Doughty Mystery series. This book is the third in the series. Frances is a plucky young woman who has taken up the profession of detective after her father died leaving her in need of an income. She is aided by her sidekick Sarah, the former Doughty family housekeeper. Sarah is a burly, intelligent and no-nonsense woman who happens to be the oldest of eight children. Clearly, she is experienced in dealing with people.
An American counterpart for this series would be the Sarah Woolson Mysteries by Shirley Tallman that are set in San Francisco during the same era. Both series make ample use of dress codes and etiquette to give the reader a strong sense of the limitations placed on these capable and very smart young women who are struggling to make an honest living while furthering the cause of equality for their sex.
In Doubtful Death, the significant (read that dead or missing) characters work at Life House (a death house), the location for much of the tale. These men include several physicians and two orderlies. The tale begins with the death of one of the physicians and the disappearance of one of the orderlies, both occurring on the same night. Henry Palmer, the orderly who has disappeared, is the stalwart older brother in a family of five orphans. His sister and her fiance approach Frances Doughty in the hope of finding Henry, preferably alive.
Absent cell phones, the internet and medical technology common today, the pace of the search for Henry Palmer could have been laboriously slow; however, Francis makes good use of her shoe leather, contacts among the eccentrics of her city and foot messengers to solve the mystery. To Ms. Stratmann’s credit, the pace moves along well and her dry wit that is expressed through conversation among the characters is most entertaining.
A review copy was provided by the publisher. “In the field of historical crime writing, (Stratmann) is bound to make her mark.” SJ Bolton
A Case of Doubtful Death will be released on September 1, 2013.
Manna From Hades: A Cornish Mystery by Carola Dunn (Minotaur Books, $24.99, 309 pages)
The Valley of the Shadow: A Cornish Mystery by Carola Dunn (Minotaur Books, $14.99, 305 pages)
What better way to slow down the action of a mystery than set it in the countryside in the time before cell phones? Indeed, author Carola Dunn makes good use of the weather and topography of Cornwall, England as she tests the wits and patience of her two main characters, Eleanor Trewyn and Detective Sargent Megan Pencarrow. These charming ladies are aunt and niece, respectively. Eleanor is a retired world traveler whose heart is open and willing to serve humanity. Megan is a suspicious and eager police officer who has moved to her aunt’s new home of Port Mabyn after a difficult time in London.
Together, these two are able to get themselves into rather peculiar situations while chasing the bad guys. In Manna, the charity thrift shop which Eleanor sponsors is the location of a murder. This crime comes after a very valuable donation is received by the organization. It makes for an enticing mystery situation which Eleanor is unable to resist. Megan and the local police force led by Detective Inspector Scumble are hard pressed to keep up with Eleanor as she scurries about the countryside following her hunches and seeks to untangle the web of confusing clues she discovers.
In Shadow, we catch up with the Port Maybn ladies just as Megan performs a heroic off-duty rescue of a naked young fellow floundering in the water below the treacherous cliffs abutting the seacoast. The first few chapters of this installment of the Cornish Mysteries are a bit scattered, not unlike the efforts needed to secure the nearly-dead swimmer. The action evens out and becomes manageable about midway through the tale.
Fans of this series are treated to greater insight into Detective Inspector Scumble’s values and beliefs. His attitude is well known as he is usually quick to let those around him have a clear idea of what bothers him. The cast of characters has some expansion in this scenario and old favorites are kept in the mix to assure the reader’s commitment to the Cornish Mysteries.
Younger readers may have difficulty suspending their reality when encountering the 1960s-70s era that is most assuredly more slowly-paced than today due to the absence of smart phones and GPS. When Eleanor is frantically searching for a public phone to contact Megan and DI Scumble, it’s obvious today’s crime fighters have better methods for catching the bad guys.
Review copies were provided by the publisher.
A review of Death on Telegraph Hill: A Sarah Woolson Mystery by Shirley Tallman. Read Chapter One here:
All I Did Was Shoot My Man: A Leonid McGill Mystery by Walter Mosley (Riverhead Hardcover, $26.95, 336 pages)
“And the only sound that’s left/ After the ambulances go/ Is Cinderella sweeping up/ On Desolation Row.” Bob Dylan
All I Did Was Shoot My Man is the fourth in a series of Leonid McGill mysteries by Walter Mosley. This time an abrupt ending creeps up out of nowhere and doesn’t quite seem to relate to the closure of the rest of the plot – there are likely plans in place for a fifth book.
McGill introduces characters and events in a unique way that sometimes works and sometimes is frustrating. Often plot twists are dropped on the reader as if they should know what’s going on, but these elements do not always come together or make total sense for a couple of pages or chapters. Perhaps this may sometimes keep the reader’s interest level high, but it backfires at other times.
In this story, Zella Grisham murders her boyfriend for cheating on her, and McGill, a private investigator, allows himself to get pulled into proving her innocent of a crime for which she is falsely accused. The proof involves a massive amount of money and a large international company.
The real perpetrators of the crime eventually come after McGill, threatening him and his family until McGill – who seems to have a love-hate relationship with just about every character in the book – manages to connect the dots.
McGill’s family is another story altogether. Mosley uses the family by attempting to create some sense of normalcy within the chaos. The characters have a rather bizarre definition of family, but they are one. There are kids from multiple parties and partners, both married and otherwise, that form relationships built on varying combinations of love, convenience, and desperation.
Fortunately, the characters created by Mosley are interesting. It is this fact that there are relationships and personalities, rather than just action and events, that makes this a better book than most of its kind.
A review copy was provided by the publisher. “If you like your crime snappy, hard-boiled and razor-edged, Walter Mosley is for you.” Victoria Clark
Dave Moyer is an educator, and the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.
After reading Nora McFarland’s second Lilly Hawkins mystery, Hot, Shot, and Bothered, I was curious about the characters and their alliances. Rather than rehashing the background for the series here, I suggest you check out the review posted previously on this site.
In this debut book, Lilly has a sense of urgency associated with getting the breaking story while assuring her place on the news team. She is caught up in her own drama and dives furiously into an assignment in foggy Bakersfield, CA. Making the most of being a TV news camera person, a shooter, is uppermost in Lilly’s mind. As you might imagine, there’s a whole other scenario playing out behind the main story – a decent fellow is gunned down while driving a truck full of cargo. Moreover, the cargo has vanished but no one is sure what it was! There are private security guards, sheriff’s deputies and a wealthy businessman who create a murky view of the facts in the story. To make matters even more confusing, Lilly’s co-workers are not exactly who she thinks they are.
The action takes place over the span of one day. Author McFarland packs the day with a remarkable volume of action that includes car chases, hiding from the authorities and a gang attack. While action plays a key role in the story, it is the development of Lilly’s relationships with her co-workers that brings the story to life. She must decide who is on her side and who is blocking her career path. Several past mishaps with camera equipment and a black tape of the crime scene investigation are leading the newsroom management to wonder about Lilly’s abilities and commitment to her profession. Lilly’s past includes the loss of her father and estrangement from her mother. These traumas contribute to the plot. Needless to say, there’s no boredom in this book!
McFarland’s style is consistent over the two mysteries. Let’s hope she adds to the Lilly Hawkins series with the same attention to heart and action present in the first two books.
A review copy was provided by the publisher. “Packed full of adrenaline and attitude, A Bad Day’s Work is a roller-coaster ride… Don’t miss it!” Lisa Scottoline