Having read these three mysteries, back-to-back, I thought I’d do a comparison of them. Robinson’s latest centers on the discovery of the body of a teenage boy, stuffed into a wheelie bin. A secondary story-line involves Zelda, Annie’s father’s partner, who is a victim of human trafficking. Banks comes across as arrogant, pompous, and acting as a lone wolf as he interviews suspects and reveals details of the cases to the very suspects that he’s investigating. His constant references to musical artists and obscure songs has now become tiresome and boring. The rest of his team are seldom present during this overly-long story. Banks and the other characters have no personality, no individuality, and are wooden and cold.
One would never be able to pick them out of a line-up, having no real sense of what they even look like.
Crombie takes her characters out of London and into the country as Duncan, Gemma, and family are guests at the family estate of Melody Talbot, Gemma’s detective sergeant. But the quiet weekend that they’d all hoped for is not to be when a tragic car accident, followed by a series of mysterious deaths, draws Kincaid and Gemma into the investigation. The complex relationships between the characters are fully explored, giving the reader a true picture of each participant in the story. I felt that I really knew these people and understood their motivations.
Logan McRae has a particularly gruesome case to tackle, in McBride’s fourth installment of this intense series. A legal appeal has released a convicted serial killer back into the community 20 years after his crimes. Now people are going missing again and human meat is being found in butchers’ shops. McRae, along with DI Steele and Insch literally jump off the page as they go about the grisly task of finding the killer, leaving the reader laughing at the gallows-humour and eccentricities of these colorful, well-formed characters. McBride’s ability to bring his characters to life is second-to-none, and even the dead victims have more life than any of the characters in Peter Robinson’s latest.
Agatha Christie published this book in 1938. But the story is timeless. Other than a brief mention of events in another part of the world, one could easily assume that this was a contemporary novel.
Simeon Lee, the patriarch of a family of four, insists that each of his children come home for Christmas. But don’t think that he plans on playing “happy families”. His intentions are the complete opposite. He does everything to goad each of his children by insulting them and denying their petty grievances and long-held grudges. Before the first Christmas cracker is even pulled, he’s found bludgeoned to death in his locked bedroom.
When the Chief Constable of Middleshire receives a call about the murder, he asks Poirot, who is spending Christmas with him, to come along while he investigates. Poirot’s ability to stand back, observe and listen is his forte. It’s not his “little grey cells” (who aren’t even mentioned), that allow him to understand the “human condition”, but his powers of observation. And it’s always that one word, or gesture, or look that, when observed by Poirot, seals the fate of the murderer.
A more clever mystery you won’t find. There’s a reason that Agatha Christie is known as “The Queen of Crime” and this novel says it all.
What starts out as a routine visit to the zoo for Joan and her precocious four year old son Lincoln, soon turns into a run for their lives as someone is stalking and killing the animals and humans alike. This is the ultimate story of Mother-love and how the instinct to protect one’s young wins out over everything else.
I read this mesmerizing thriller in one sitting and I defy anyone to be able to put it down before you’ve reached the last page.
When the body of a man is found in a car wreck on the Solway mud flats, it’s initially treated as an unfortunate accident. That is until he’s identified as a man who was declared dead two years previously. DI Marjory (Big Marge) Fleming is called in to assist in the investigation, much to the chagrin of DI Len Harris who is relegated to following her lead.
Her investigation finds that the dead man was part of a group called the Cyrenaics who believed that pleasure was the ultimate – until one of them died from an overdose. The group disbanded, with some moving away, others disappearing, and one supposedly committing suicide. It is this last person who is now the center of their investigation.
Fleming and her team are tasked with investigating the recent death while having to review the case of the overdose death two years previously. Their job is complicated enough without the constant hostility of Harris and his team who go as far as with-holding evidence with the aim of sabotaging the investigation.
A complicated case with complex characters leads to a whopping good mystery. Templeton is at the top of her game with this one.
Any account of child murder, whether it’s ripped from the headlines or found between the covers of a mystery novel, is disturbing . MacBride’s debut novel, set in Aberdeen, Scotland, and featuring DS Logan McRae is certainly not for the faint of heart. A child murderer is at large and his indignities to the bodies of these little souls is truly gruesome.
If DS McRae thought that he’d be able to ease back into work after a year on sick leave, he had another thing coming. The strangled and mutilated body of a four-year-old boy has been found in a ditch and they’ve pulled out all the stops to find his killer. But David Reid’s body won’t be the last one they find.
It’s hard to imagine that anyone could find anything to laugh at in a novel such as this, given its subject matter, but MacBride is able to slide in bits and pieces that do make the reader laugh out loud. DS Logan himself can be a load of laughs, as he slogs his way through the bitterly cold December in Aberdeen, cursing at Angus Robertson and his six-inch hunting knife which were responsible for his year of sick leave. Meanwhile, it seems that his superior’s major preoccupation is with his role in the upcoming Christmas panto, which inspires some very creative insults from DS Logan.
Colourful, complex characters, an atmosphere of cold, dark and death, and a plot that will keep you on the edge of your seat. It doesn’t get better than this when it comes to a mystery!
The Australian Outback is a punishing environment even for those who know it well and respect it. So how did Cameron Bright come to be where his body was found – at the legendary stockman’s grave – without any provisions or even a vehicle to get him safely back home? This is the major question that is posed by this standalone novel by Jane Harper, author of The Dry and Force of Nature. And this is the question that Nathan, the oldest of the three Bright brothers, tries to find the answer to.
Harper’s ability to create such tangible atmosphere in her novels is critical to how the reader reacts to the whole story. Here we suffer the heat and dryness of the Outback to the point of thirst; feel the grit of the sand between our teeth; and feel the sweat as it soaks into our clothes. We can only imagine, in horror, what Cameron felt while slowing dying in the heat and relentless sun.
In The Roar of the Crowd by Janice MacDonald, one or her characters says: “literature teaches us that subtext and back story is where everything really happens”. This couldn’t be more true than it is in this novel. Despite being estranged from his family for ten years, Nathan is determined to solve the tragic mystery surrounding his brother, Cameron. But there are so many secrets and so much pain to get through…
Make sure you add this book to your list of “must reads” along with Harper’s first two, if you haven’t read them already.
As I was reading Leon’s latest Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery I began to think that she’d taken a departure from her usual format. The story was interesting – Count Falier, Brunetti’s father-in-law, asks him to investigate his wealthy, elderly friend Gonzalo Rodriguez de Tejada who has recently put a plan in place to adopt a much younger man as his son. And as the particulars of Gonzalo’s plan unfold, along with the resistance to the adoption by his friends, Gonzalo abruptly drops dead on the street. So – a death – but one that is easily explained.
It isn’t until page 169 that we are faced with a murder. As Louise Penny stated in an interview on CBC Radio’s “Q” in 2017: “Murder is the beginning, not the end of the story”. It is at this point that the author explores human nature and the “real” story comes out. Leon is certainly on board with this premise and beautifully peels away the layers of this story to get to the core and ultimately, to the truth.
Masterfully written, with fully-fleshed characters and a setting that begs one to purchase an airline ticket to Venice (if only to eat one of Paolo’s glorious meals), this novel ticks all the boxes as a terrific read.
DEAD MEN’S BONES (4 daggers out of 5) PRAYER FOR THE DEAD (5 daggers out of 5)
There’s never just one case at a time that Tony McLean is handed. Nor is it ever a couple of “normal” cases, easily solved, that land in his lap. First he finds himself ankle-deep in snow, peering into the gully of the River North Esk as the SOC officers retrieve the body of a man from the swirling, detritus-filled waters. Easy enough, he thinks, until he bends down to examine the man and discovers that not only is he naked, but his entire body is covered in tattoos with only a few traces of white skin visible. So begins Dead Men’s Bones, Oswald’s fourth book in his Tony McLean series. But before McLean can get back to the station, he’s alerted to a shooting at a farmhouse in north-east Fife. A prominent politician, Andrew Weatherly has shot and killed his wife, two daughters, and then has turned the gun on himself.
When journalist Jo Dalgliesh approaches McLean to ask for his help in finding Ben Stevenson, a fellow journalist who has gone missing, McLean is shocked beyond belief when Ben’s body is found deep in Gilmerton Cove in a sealed chamber, with nary a hair left behind for forensics. Prayer for the Dead takes McLean on a dark and dangerous path, one that he never imagined even existed.
Both of these novels are darker and more disturbing in their content as Oswald brings in more facets of the occult and deviant behaviour. But Tony is never completely on his own tackling the forces of evil. He’s supported by a cast of wonderful characters from Grumpy Bob (DS Laird), Angus Cadwallader, the pathologist, and DS Ritchie, to Madame Rose and Detective Superintendent Duguid (a perfect foil to McLean). These novels are not for the faint of heart!