Tag Archives: mystery

A Puzzle Worth Pondering

Baker Street Jurors

The Baker Street Jurors: A Baker Street Mystery by Michael Robertson (Minotaur Books, $24.99, 260 pages)

A tall, fiftyish man, clean-shaven, with a thin, aquiline nose stepped into line behind Nigel. “Bloody Hell,” he said, “Is this really the jurors’ queue?”

“I’m afraid so,” said Nigel. “It’s enough to make you want to commit a crime of your own, just to get inside and be warm.”

Author Michael Robertson picks up right where we left off with his fifth installment in the Baker Street Mystery Series. Robertson maintains his crisp sense of humor while delivering a puzzle worth pondering. The books are ideal to take along for a weekend in the country or at the shore. [Or to jury duty!] No need to muddle through the travesty that is the 2016 U.S. election campaign season or the seeming endless reports of man’s inhumanity to man broadcast on CNN. A quick trip to London will be a refreshing change even though it, too, deals with murder, although on a small scale.

Reggie Heath, Queen’s Counsel, and his bride, Laura Rankin, are on an extended honeymoon. Brother Nigel Health has decamped from the U.S. and now makes his home in one of the offices at 221B Baker Street, in Marylebone. An official jury summons is in the morning’s mail; however, the person being summoned is none other than Sherlock Holmes. Nigel makes quick work of fashioning the summons into an airplane and sends it out the open office window toward the street below. His own jury summons is within the stack of mail awaiting him and thus begins another engaging look at the British court system, albeit from the perspective of the jury rather than Reggie’s Queen’s Counsel view.

Baker Street Jurors back

The jury panel members and alternates, of which Nigel is one, endure unusual circumstances and even great peril as they work their way through the evidence presented by the prosecution in the case against Liam McSweeney, a celebrated cricket player accused of murdering his wife. The book is definitely an homage to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. That’s enough of the plot. No need to spoil the fun. Great fun.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

This book was released on July 19, 2016.

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The Ghost Soldier

no shred

No Shred of Evidence: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery by Charles Todd (William Morrow, $25.99, 341 pages)

Hurray for the mother and son writing team known as Charles Todd! In this, the 18th episode of the post-Word War I saga of Inspector Ian Rutledge, the story line is brilliant. Moreover, the intrepid inspector is moved on in the resolution of his wartime grief and haunting. The presence of Corporal Hamish MacLeod, the ghost of a soldier from Rutledge’s horrifying wartime experience, is kept firmly in the background, which allows Rutledge the opportunity to stay calm and focused through much of the tale.

Make no mistake; the usual British class warfare, so prevalent in novels depicting the early 20th Century between the haves and have-nots, is in full swing. The landed gentry of the town of Padsow, Northern Cornwall, or rather two of their daughters and two girlfriends have the misfortune of being spotted by a local farmer while they are out rowing on the River Camel. This particular farmer has more than one reason to seize upon the apparent attempted murder by the young ladies as they struggle to bring another boater onto their craft. Never mind that his craft is sinking rapidly!

Inspector Rutledge is called in to investigate the farmer’s claims because the original investigator has suffered a heart attack. Rutledge is unable to find his predecessor’s notes on the case and must start afresh. He is surprised to realize that he has a connection to one of the accused. To his credit, Rutledge manages to keep his cool and meticulously search for solid evidence that might lead him to the exoneration of the young ladies and the capture of a cold-blooded killer.

no shred back cover

This mystery is a must-read for Charles Todd fans.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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Ride the High Country

High Country Amazon

High Country Nocturne: A David Mapstone Mystery by Jon Talton (Poisoned Pen Press, $14.95, 326 pages)

Well my heart’s in the highlands… I’m gonna go there when I feel good enough to go.” Bob Dylan, “Highlands”

In John Talton’s High Country Nocturne, Mike Peralta, a former sheriff, is implicated in a diamond heist. David Mapstone, a private investigator and former business partner of Peralta, becomes embroiled in a classic good guy-bad guy morality tale; however, for the greater part of the novel one can be excused for being unclear in terms of who the actual good and bad guys are.

When it comes to “Strawberry Death,” there is no ambiguity. She is an evil sociopath who sends Mapstone’s wife, Lindsey, to the brink of mortality. The FBI is involved and Mapstone becomes “re-deputized,” but the story is a manhunt to avenge Lindsey’s perpetrator, solve the mystery of who is behind the diamond smuggling, and navigate Mapstone’s conscience so that he can restore and repair relationships with those who matter in his life.

For those familiar with the geography of Arizona, there is just enough in the book to cultivate some regional interest.

Talton has written 11 novels. High Country is above average in most areas: dialogue, voice, storytelling, character development, intrigue, etc. It will likely be an enjoyable read for most fans of the genre. The tale began with great potential but falls somewhat short of being a truly excellent piece of writing.

Well recommended.

Dave Moyer

A review copy was received from the publisher.

Dave Moyer is an education administrator and is the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.

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A Step Back in Time

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The Taxidermist’s Daughter: A Novel by Kate Mosse (William Morrow, $26.99, 412 pages)

In a remote village near the English coast, residents gather in a misty churchyard. It is St. Mark’s Eve, when the ghosts of those who will die in the coming year are thought to walk.

Alone in the crowd is Constancia Gifford, the taxidermist’s daughter. Twenty-two and unmarried, she lives with her father on the fringes of town, in a decaying mansion cluttered on the remains of town, in a decaying mansion cluttered with the remains of his once world-famous museum of taxidermy. No one speaks of why the museum was shuttered or how the Giffords sank so low.

As the last peal of the midnight bell fades to silence, a woman is found dead – a stranger Connie noticed near the church.

A step back in time brings us to the early 1900s in Fishbourne, Chicester, West Sussex England. The author Kate Mosse (New York Times bestselling author of Labyrinth) is an accomplished writer of novels, non-fiction books and plays. Her writing style is consistent with the time she portrays. The specificity with which she slowly and gently unfolds her grisly tale is riveting, especially in light of the super fast action/thriller/mysteries we see today.

The physical book alerts the reader to the crafting and care embodied in The Taxidermist’s Daughter. Deckle pages add a touch of aged elegance, as do the illustrations marking each of the three parts of the tale and the start of each chapter. There is a detailed map of Fishbourne circa 1912 up front, which adds dimension and a sense of relationship between the sites where the action takes place. Readers would be wise to use a Post-It or page marker for ease in referencing the map. The Deckle edged pages are a bit difficult to separate for leafing back to the map.

taxidermist

Connie, the taxidermist’s daughter, lives with her father, Gifford, on an isolated marshland in an old house. A sequence of events in the marsh, nearby town and church is set forth by an unseen narrator in one type font and a series of first-person missives in a flowing italic font is interspersed between events. The missives are haunting and threatening. Clearly, there is a past deed that warrants retribution.

A murky mystery unravels as though the past is meeting up with the present. Author Mosse provides a wealth of information about the indigenous birds and plants of Fishbourne. The detail with which she lays out Connie’s skillful practice of taxidermy approaches textbook accuracy.

Be very aware that this tale is not for the casual reader of English mysteries. There is much to be learned within these pages both in terms of technical knowledge and human psychology.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book was released on March 29, 2016.

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Don’t Look Down

Never Look Down 2

Never Look Down: A Cal Claxton Mystery by Warren C. Easley (Poisoned Pen Press, $15.95, 312 pages)

Fans of Portland, Oregon will be delighted with author Warren Easley’s series set in and around the city. Never Look Down is the third in the series (Dead Float, Matters of Doubt) featuring Cal Claxton. Claxton is an attorney who balances his boutique winery clients in the country with his pro bono work in Old Town Portland for folks of all ages and persuasions that are down and out.

Easley has a smooth, natural writing style that works well in both the chapters narrated in the first person by Claxton and the third person narrative chapters – from the perspective of a teenage orphan whose street smarts are both instinctual and learned. The counterpoint to Claxton’s adult measured approach to life is Kelly Spence, whose father died in a mountain climbing accident leaving her to fend for herself along with her dad’s girlfriend Veronica.

The urgency created by a murder witnessed by Kelly brings the two together. Claxton’s best buddy, Hernando Mendoza, was collateral damage from the murder in that the woman he was going to marry was the victim. Kelly is a tagger whose work is anonymous and yet noted by the establishment in downtown Portland. Her anonymity is in jeopardy as she bounces around the city running from the murderers.

Never Look Down back cover

Anything beyond these storyline basics will give away too much of a well-crafted plot. To Easley’s credit, the story has an even balance of both Claxton’s and Kelly’s perspectives on life and living.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was received from the publisher.

Not Dead Enough

Not Dead Enough, the fourth book in the Cal Claxton Oregon Mystery series will be released by Poisoned Pen Press on June 7, 2016.

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Life in the Slow Lane

All Men Fear Me

All Men Fear Me: An Alafair Tucker Mystery by Donis Casey (Poisoned Pen Press, $26.95, 302 pages)

Well, now, Charlie, just because I disapprove of this war doesn’t mean I’m a traitor. I think of myself as a patriot, and a patriot of the real kind. This is my big, messy country. I love it. I want for it to be the best country there is. If it suffer ills, I want to cure them. I want for every citizen to enjoy all its rights and privileges, and I believe it is my duty to try and help that happen.

One part history lesson, one part family drama and two parts man’s inhumanity to man is the recipe for Donis Casey’s eighth installment of life in rural Oklahoma in 1917. Alafair Tucker is the center of her large family – 10 children ranging in age from 25 to four years of age, husband Shaw, and her brother Robin. Robin, a labor organizer, is visiting after being away for ten years. The rabid fans of war and nationalism in the small town of Boynton view Robin’s organizing efforts as Socialist-leaning and contrary to the ways of true Americans.

The country has recently entered World War I and a draft has been set in place to raise an army. Alafair is trying mightily to balance her love of her brother with the fervent longings of her 16-year-old son, Charlie, who desperately wants to enlist in the military. The townspeople of Boynton are divided between being suspicious of anyone perceived as “foreign” and their loyalty to long-time friends and neighbors. Kurt Lukenbach, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Germany is married to one of Alafair’s daughters. The more rabid patriots in town regard Kurt with suspicion and hostility.

There is trouble all around in Oklahoma. It’s as though the wood for a fire has been laid and along comes a man with a can of gasoline and a match to hasten the process. The stranger in the bowler hat who arrives in town at the start of the story is literally the catalyst that brings latent hate and fear to a flash point.

Author Casey takes her sweet time setting up the action in this book. Although it is considered a mystery novel, it is more of a history lesson with a covert mystery imbedded within the text. Readers who enjoy a slowly paced and thoroughly detailed story will enjoy this installment of the Tucker family goings on.

As with many books that feature the daily diet of the characters, All Men Fear Me has at the back several recipes featured in the story. Additionally, a calendar of the war rules pertaining to food is listed for readers who curiously enjoy details with their murders.

Recommended to readers fond of life in the slow lane.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book was released on November 3, 2015.

You can read a review of Hell With The Lid Blown Off: An Alafair Tucker Mystery here:

https://josephsreviews.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/were-off-to-see-the-wizard/

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The Reflex

Lasers, Wi-Fi and Bribes, Oh my!

The Enemy Inside 2

The Enemy Inside: A Paul Madriani Novel by Steve Martini (William Morrow, $27.99, 384 pages)

Cars were stopped on the road ahead of her. Ana didn’t care. She drove up onto the sidewalk to get around them. She kept going, one eye on the bleeping signal still emitting on her laptop as she approached the location.

Steve Martini outdoes himself in this, the 16th Paul Madriani novel. Paul and his law partner, Harry Hinds, have been keeping a low profile in recent years. Running from a drug lord who they brought to justice was only half of the problem. Their client base of criminal defendants thinned out when the cops called Madriani and Hines crime fighting heroes. Paul’s daughter, Sarah, asks her dad to represent her friend, Alex Ives, is a seemingly odd DUI vehicular manslaughter case. Paul eagerly gets right to work.

Each time Alex tries to remember just what happened prior to waking up in the desert next to his parent’s burned out car and the wrecked car containing a dead mystery woman, another piece of the puzzle is revealed. Readers who enjoy high tech trickery mixed with politics and murder for hire will thoroughly enjoy this book. Author Martini includes ample background on how national political deals are made inside the Washington, D.C. beltway. When he adds the latest advances in weaponry and electronics, the mix is compelling.

Even long-time Madriani fans will not be able to figure out the twists and turns that lead to the very satisfying conclusion.

Well recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

The Enemy Inside

The Enemy Inside will be released as a mass market paperback (William Morrow, $9.99, 515 pages) on December 29, 2015.

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