Archive for the ‘Mystery’ Category

Review of The House of Unexpected Sisters, by Alexander McCall Smith, narrated by Lisette Lecat

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018

The House of Unexpected Sisters

by Alexander McCall Smith
narrated by Lisette Lecat

Recorded Books, 2017. 9.5 hours on 8 compact discs.

Another book about Precious Ramotswe of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency! I keep reading these books (now listening) because the characters feel like an extension of my family. Now that I’m on the 2019 Newbery committee, during 2018 I’m trying not to listen to Newbery-eligible books, not wanting to be swayed by a good or bad narrator. But that gives me one opportunity to “read” books for adults – during my commute. This is a wonderful choice, because Lisette Lecat’s accents make me feel like I’m in Botswana itself.

I wouldn’t, though, recommend that anyone first introduce themselves to the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency with this book. They only have one real case, and it’s one they don’t get paid for, which makes me wonder how they’re carrying on.

Alexander McCall Smith’s books all seem to progress at a leisurely pace, but this one seemed even slower than usual. I still enjoyed it – because I love these characters. But even I thought of switching to something else a few discs in.

One place where I laughed out loud – not in a good way – was when something villainous came up and you-know-who was involved – Yes, none other than Violet Sepotho! It’s getting a bit silly how much she gets around. I remember at the beginning of the series, there were some very creative puzzles. Instead of having the main mystery be how did Violet Sepotho cause trouble this time?

But the part I enjoyed most was the part that related to the title – discovering unexpected sisters. I won’t say more, because I’ll let you enjoy what drama there is. It is truly a surprise – but ends up (no surprise there) being a delightful one.

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

The Woman in Cabin 10

by Ruth Ware
read by Imogen Church

Encore (Simon & Schuster Audio), 2016. 9 discs.
Starred Review

While I’m reading lots and lots of children’s books for the 2019 Newbery Medal, during my commute I indulged in a thriller for adults. This book is so intense, I can’t promise that it didn’t mess with my driving.

We’ve got a wonderfully unreliable narrator. Lo Blacklock is a travel writer, and she gets an opportunity to go on a luxury cruise on a small lavish ship while her boss is on maternity leave. But a few days before the trip, she suffered a break in, and she’s very much on edge. And then, yes, she had quite a bit too much to drink the first night of the cruise.

So when she wakes up suddenly in the night to the sound of a body thrown into the sea, we definitely wonder if that’s really what she heard. But there must be an explanation for the fact that before dinner, there was a woman in Cabin 10 who gave Lo mascara when she asked to borrow some, and didn’t want it back. After Lo hears the splash in the night and calls security, there is no one in Cabin 10, and she’s told that the person who booked that room never came on the cruise at all. So who did Lo see and talk with?

The security staff don’t believe her. The reader isn’t sure we should either. The ship keeps traveling on.

But some more odd things start to happen.

This book does a wonderful job of setting a puzzle which I not only couldn’t solve, but I couldn’t imagine how the author could possibly solve.

Let’s just say that the author did make the puzzle work – with plenty of life-and-death danger and suspense along the way.

The narrator was fabulous. Though I have to say that I’m easily pleased by anyone with a British accent – but she did a good job and was a delight to listen to. Lo’s precarious mental state was communicated often by the tone of voice, sounding somewhat desperate when called for, or bewildered, or simply exhausted.

This was one of those audiobooks I eventually brought into my house to finish, because I couldn’t stand waiting until my next commute. Highly recommended for a version of a locked-room mystery – at sea.

audio.simonandschuster.com

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Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Precious and Grace, by Alexander McCall Smith

Sunday, January 14th, 2018

Precious and Grace

by Alexander McCall Smith
narrated by Lisette Lecat

Recorded Books, 2016. 9.75 hours on 8 CDs.

Here’s another book about the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, with co-directors Precious Ramotswe and Grace Makutsi. The main puzzle of the book involves a Canadian lady who wants to find the place where she grew up in Gabarone and the lady who cared for her. But Mma Ramotswe senses there’s more to the case than meets the eye.

Other plot threads involve a stray dog befriended by Fanwell and a business scheme which Mr. Polopetsi falls for. And guess who’s up for Woman of the Year? It’s Grace Makutsi’s nemesis, Violet Sepotho.

It’s interesting that this one doesn’t have a surprisingly amusing title, but boils the work down to a story of friendship between two interesting ladies, Precious and Grace. They have their difficult moments, but ultimately they help people solve their problems. The book is filled with the usual gentle philosophy.

I’m now enjoying listening to these in audiobook format, getting more of the flavor of the book, as well as correct pronunciation, with the skilled narration and lovely accent of Lisette Lecat.

There’s nothing really new in this installment. But if you’ve come this far, you’ll enjoy another installment of philosophy and friendship with Precious and Grace.

alexandermccallsmith.com
recordedbooks.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of A Christmas Return, by Anne Perry

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

A Christmas Return

by Anne Perry

Ballantine Books, 2017. 176 pages.

Anne Perry’s Christmas murder mysteries have become a holiday tradition for me. They’re cozy; they’re short; and reading one is a nice way to indulge myself as Christmas approaches.

A Christmas Return features Charlotte Pitt’s grandmother Mariah Ellison, who is asked for help with a striking message – a Christmas pudding with a fake cannonball inside. She’s being told that someone is digging up the case about an old friend who was killed when his bookcase fell over and a decorative fake cannonball struck him, which happened twenty years before.

The dead man’s grandson is asking for her help. He was only ten years old when the death happened. Now he wants Mariah’s help clearing his grandmother’s name. Mariah was there at the time, so she alone can help.

These Christmas mysteries are short, but Anne Perry gives us enough back story to care. And there’s something nice at Christmas about seeing justice done and good people vindicated.

anneperry.co.uk
randomhousebooks.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine, by Alexander McCall Smith

Friday, November 10th, 2017

The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine

by Alexander McCall Smith
read by Lisette Lecat

Recorded Books, 2015. 9 hours 15 minutes on 8 discs.

This is the 16th book about Precious Ramotswe of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency in Botswana.

I love these books, especially loving the characters and the relationships that have developed through the series. However, it feels like the action moves more and more slowly each time, so I’ve taken to listening instead of reading, because I tend to be more patient with audiobooks. And the lovely narrator’s voice has finally settled for me the pronunciation of “Mma” and “Rra.”

There were still times when I was annoyed with the slow plot arc, since more than once Mma Ramotswe was thinking long and hard about whether she should talk to Mma Makutsi. But the overall story had the usual one or two interesting cases. This time there was one about a scandal in the past of a late government official as well as the story of a little street boy who vandalizes the tiny white van.

But the overall story is about Mma Ramotswe going on holiday. It’s not her idea – her staff seem to be conspiring to get her to take one. Now that she’s a partner, is Mma Makutsi plotting to take over the agency? However, taking a holiday is more difficult than it would seem.

Truly, a woman with a loving husband is like a woman who walks in sunshine. Listening to this book will bring sunshine into your life.

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Earthly Remains, by Donna Leon

Friday, October 27th, 2017

Earthly Remains

by Donna Leon

Atlantic Monthly Press, 2017. 308 pages.
Starred Review

I have long meant to read a Donna Leon Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery. Her books are set in Venice – and who can help but love Venice? I finally got my hands on an advance reader copy – and I like to bring those on vacation – so I finally got one read, and think I will have to read some more.

I haven’t read any others, but I was quickly involved in this book. The Commissario gets himself in a situation where he’s given medical leave to take a vacation.

He goes out into the laguna to a villa of a family friend of his wife. He does daily rowing with the old caretaker, who it turns out was a friend of his father. But after some time together, rowing and caring for the old man’s bees – the old family friend turns up dead after a storm.

Guido is enough involved to want to figure out what happened. One thing leads to another….

I enjoyed this book very much. I expected Venice and got the laguna where I’ve never been – but the writing was wonderfully descriptive and atmospheric. But I loved the characters. Guido Brunetti has been around and understands people. I like his curiosity that won’t simply let this rest.

I will say I wasn’t completely happy with how things turned out. When I read a mystery, I expect to see justice done, and there was more than one instance that seemed to be coming up short. But – it’s all presented with Guido Brunetti’s pragmatic awareness of what can be done and his philosophical attitude about what people are really like. And it all makes for enjoyable reading. I think I’m going to be looking for the first book in this series and get some history with these characters whom I liked so much.

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Source: This review is based on an Advance Reader Copy I got at ALA Midwinter Meeting.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Across the Universe, by Beth Revis

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

across_the_universe_largeAcross the Universe

by Beth Revis

Penguin, 2011. 398 pages.
Starred Review

This is a science fiction dystopian story crossed with locked room mystery.

Across the Universe is told from two perspectives. First, we have Amy. As the book opens, she watches both her parents get cryogenically frozen to travel on a space ship for 300 years to terraform a new planet. Amy’s father tells her she doesn’t have to go through with it, but she decides to stay with them.

The other narrator is Elder, a sixteen-year-old who lives on the spaceship Godspeed, being trained to be the next leader. He’s frustrated because Eldest hasn’t been training him as he should be. He is destined to lead all the people on the ship – Shouldn’t he know more about it?

Elder finds out about the frozen people in the belly of the ship. Not long after, the beautiful girl with the amazing red hair wakes up. They are fifty years away from landing – who woke her early? How will she cope with life on Godspeed, which is not what she signed up for?

The story continues, seen from both Amy’s and Elder’s perspectives. Things that Elder thinks are normal, Amy sees as seriously flawed. Eldest tells them this is how things must be. Amy tries to explain what life was like on earth, but most of the people of Godspeed believe she’s crazy.

Then more of the frozen passengers thaw – and some die. Who is responsible? Are Amy’s parents’ lives in danger? What secrets are behind the strange life on the ship? And will Amy ever see the stars again? Does Elder have what it takes to lead his people? When should he speak up, and when is it best to simply obey Eldest? What does Eldest know about their mission that he is keeping hidden?

Eldest tells Elder that discord comes from differences. Amy is different. Will the discord she brings destroy the ship?

This is the first book of a trilogy. By waiting so long to read it (I meant to read it ever since it was first published), I will not have to wait to read the sequels! I’ll let you know what I think….

AcrosstheUniverseBook.com
bethrevis.com
razorbillbooks.com
penguin.com/teens

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Source: This review is based on my own copy, which I got at an American Library Association conference.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents

Friday, July 1st, 2016

file_under_13_suspicious_incidents_largeFile Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents

by Lemony Snicket
with various readers

Hachette Audio, 2014. 3 hours on 3 CDs.
Starred Review

This audiobook continues Lemony Snicket’s series All the Wrong Questions set in the strange deserted town of Stain’d-by-the-Sea. However, this is a side file to the case in the main series. Here are thirteen short mystery tales, some more bizarre than others. You don’t at all need to have read the original books – many of the characters are new. Some we’ve seen before, but knowing them ahead of time is not crucial to any of the short cases.

The audiobook has two flaws. The first is that there are 13 wonderful narrators, but it isn’t announced on the audiobook who is reading at any given time. I should have read the label on the CD before inserting it, but I wasn’t going to do that while driving in the car. All the narrators did a great job, but it would have been fun to know when I was listening to Jon Scieszka, Terry Gross, Sarah Vowell, Libba Bray, Ira Glass, Sophie Blackall, Jon Klassen, Chris Kluwe, Holly Black, Sook-Yin Lee, Rachel Maddow, Stephin Merritt, or Wesley Stace.

The other annoying thing is that the conclusions to each short mystery were all given at the end of the third audiobook. But before the conclusions are three stories. So there’s no way to check on the answer to a mystery right after finishing that mystery. If the conclusions had their own CD, I could have popped that in and listened to some conclusions before continuing on. Of course, in the print book, one could just check the back of the book after each mystery. As it turned out, the entire book wasn’t very long, so I found I could mostly remember what was involved in the story once I heard the conclusion. Honestly, there probably isn’t a good way to do this on audio CDs. I would have liked a separate CD for the conclusions – but that would add to the cost.

Other than that, these were totally fun mystery stories. They reminded me of Encyclopedia Brown – with a lot more variety, and a touch of silliness here and there. This would be a great one to suggest to kids who like mysteries, and they don’t need to read the longer 4-volume series, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they turn to that next.

LemonySnicketLibrary.com
HachetteAudio.com

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Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Secret Coders, by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

secret_coders_largeSecret Coders

by Gene Luen Yang & Mike Holmes

First Second, 2015. 91 pages.
2016 Mathical Book Prize Winner (Grades 3-5)

This is a graphic novel that teaches counting in binary and basic coding – and manages not to stretch credibility too far.

Hopper has been transferred to Stately Academy, which her mother insists is the best school in town. But the school is distinctly creepy.

There are creepy birds flying around. When they see Hopper’s Number 7 earrings, they open three of their four eyes. Hopper’s new friend Eni notices that when they see the number 9s all over the school, the first and fourth eyes open. So of course – the birds are robots, using their four eyes to express in binary the numbers they see! (Hey, in a graphic novel this actually comes across as plausible.)

After the birds help them figure out the combination to a locked room, Hopper and Eni find a robot turtle next to a list of commands. When they read the commands, the robot carries them out.

Then another program makes the robot trace a hexagon and open a secret passage. There they find the creepy janitor who says he’ll reveal secrets of the school if they can code a more complicated path. They are about to become Secret Coders.

It’s a fun story – fitting in at a new school, solving puzzles, uncovering secrets – and it does teach binary and LOGO coding along the way. And it teaches those things in a visual and entertaining way.

More books are on the way! It will be fun to see where they go with this idea.

secret-coders.com
firstsecondbooks.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, by Alan Bradley

Saturday, August 29th, 2015

as_chimney_sweepers_come_to_dust_largeAs Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust

by Alan Bradley
read by Jayne Entwistle

Random House Audio, 2015. 11 hours on 9 compact discs.
Starred Review

I decided to listen to the next installment of the Flavia de Luce books, after learning it’s read by Jayne Entwistle, whom I heard read The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place and heard in person at the 2015 Odyssey Award reception. This added to the fun, though I think I would have enjoyed this book anyway. I was afraid it would degenerate into a standard school story — but Flavia is anything but standard.

Flavia has, however, been sent off to school in Canada. But the very night she arrives, a body falls out of the chimney in her room. The body is wrapped in a Union Jack and has been there awhile. It is clearly a murder, since the head is not attached.

Flavia has no relationship with the police in Canada, so she has little access to clues, beyond what she saw that first night. But she does have access to the school’s chemistry lab, and I was happy when her knowledge of poisons did come into play.

I wasn’t thrilled with the hints that the school was training ground for a league of espionage. That seemed a little far-fetched. However, it did make for some nice red herrings along the way. Because there are secrets everywhere at Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy.

Basically, Flavia has a nice classic murder to solve. Who was killed, and how? And she’s not in her native element. Can she pull it off? Flavia is still her unique manipulative self, with a knack for uncovering secrets and an uncanny knowledge of poisons.

alanbradleyauthor.com
randomhouseaudio.com

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Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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