Archive for the ‘Mystery’ Category

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.

groveatlantic.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 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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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 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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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 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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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 The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place, by Julie Berry

Sunday, July 19th, 2015

scandalous_sisterhood_largeThe Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place

by Julie Berry
read by Jayne Entwistle

Listening Library, 2014. 9.5 hours on 8 CDs.
Starred Review
2015 Odyssey Honor Audiobook

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place are the students at a girls’ Victorian boarding school in Ely, England, St. Etheldreda’s School for Young Ladies.

Right at the start of the book, the girls’ awful headmistress suddenly dies, as does her odious brother. The girls don’t want to be sent home! Smooth Kitty forms a plan. They will carry on as if nothing has happened. Stout Alice is an aspiring actress, so she can impersonate Mrs. Plackett when visitors come to the door. Pocked Louise is a budding scientist, so she can determine if poison was used. Dour Eleanor can be in charge of burying the bodies in the vegetable garden, and Disgraceful Mary Jane can distract any men who come around. Dear Roberta and Dull Martha have parts to play as well.

There’s one problem: What will the murderer do if their plan didn’t work the first time? Will they be convinced Stout Alice is in fact Mrs. Plackett and try again to kill her?

This is a delightful book about girls caught in a difficult situation who come up with questionable ideas for dealing with it.

I enjoyed the atmosphere of Ely with the cathedral looming, as I have been there and that’s what I remember.

Naturally enough, it reminded me of Summer of the Gypsy Moths in that both books begin with girls burying a body and trying to convince others that nothing has happened. The Sisters of Prickwillow Place have the advantage of there being seven of them. Can they work together to be able to stay together?

This is a murder mystery with a Victorian atmosphere. I listened to the book, and the narrator is wonderful, using a distinct voice for each character, and all with an English accent which of course makes for delightful listening.

The trailer is wonderful and gives you the flavor of the book.

julieberrybooks.com
listeninglibrary.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 The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins

Friday, May 15th, 2015

girl_on_the_train_largeThe Girl on the Train

by Paula Hawkins
read by Claire Corbett, Louise Brealey, and India Fisher

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

Warning to potential listeners: If you have ever been cheated on, this book contains some triggers which will remind you of that time. However, it’s also somewhat therapeutic. It will make you feel that your own reactions were incredibly calm. You were not a crazy woman! (Who knew?)

Rachel Watson rides the train into London every morning and goes home every evening – so her flatmate won’t know that she lost her job months ago for turning up drunk. Every day, the train stops as it passes the house where Rachel used to live – and where her ex-husband Tom lives with his new wife and child – the woman who replaced Rachel and the child she longed to have.

To avoid looking at her home, right next to the tracks, naturally enough Rachel watches the people a few houses down. They are the perfect couple. As in love as Rachel used to be. Rachel gives them names, Jess and Jason, and she imagines their perfect lives.

Then, one day, Rachel sees Jess kissing a man who is not Jason. Jess is ruining Jason’s life, just as Tom ruined hers! That evening, having thought about it all day, in her drunken agitation, she gets off the train at her old stop. She knows something bad happened when she wakes up at home the next morning with a cut on her forehead, but she doesn’t remember at all what it was. And the newspapers say that Jess – actually named Megan – has gone missing.

Gradually, we learn about Rachel’s past, about Megan’s history, and about Anna, the woman who replaced Rachel with Tom. Rachel has not been doing well since Tom left her. And she doesn’t blame Tom – she was already a drunk before he left, depressed because she wasn’t having a baby. Now she calls him at odd hours, even turns up at the house.

But after Megan’s disappearance, Rachel is sure Megan’s husband will be suspected. The police need to know about the man Megan kissed. The husband needs to know. Maybe Rachel has to lie a little bit to get them to listen to her, but it’s all trying to help….

I have to admit, the people in this book are not very nice. The situations are sordid. There’s a whole lot of cheating going on. But ultimately, I found I couldn’t stop listening (and this was another audiobook which had me bringing the final CD into the house to finish listening). The audio production is very well done. The three different narrators for the three women – Rachel, Anna, and Megan – make it clear who is speaking at any given time.

I think the character of Rachel is what had me hooked. I remembered the world-shattering pain of learning my husband was cheating. It would have been so very easy to turn to alcohol. To call him and beg him to take me back. If he had married the mistress and moved into our home with his new wife and baby? Well, her pain was all too easy to imagine.

And the mystery is a tangled and interesting one. There are compelling twists along the way. Let me just say that some of the cheaters get a satisfying comeuppance. But best of all is that by the end of the book we feel that Rachel, who has believed many lies about herself, is on her way to healing.

And that’s a beautiful thing.

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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 The Handsome Man’s Deluxe Café, by Alexander McCall Smith

Thursday, May 7th, 2015

handsome_mans_deluxe_cafe_largeThe Handsome Man’s Deluxe Café

by Alexander McCall Smith
performed by Lisette Lecat

Recorded Books, 2014. 9 hours 45 minutes on 9 discs.

This is the first of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books which I listened to instead of reading. It’s pleasant listening, though in some ways it emphasized the rambling nature of the books. I did enjoy the reader’s African accent, which seemed appropriate, and now am completely sure I know how to properly pronounce “Mma” and “Rra.”

This book has one main puzzle for the detective agency, which seemed a bit easily solved, but was at least an interesting case. Most of the book was about Mma Makutsi’s new endeavor – opening a restaurant, called The Handsome Man’s Deluxe Café.

On top of that, Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni has to let Charlie go. He doesn’t have enough work at Speedy Motors. But Mma Ramotswe feels sorry for Charlie and takes him on at the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. But does Charlie have what it takes to become a detective? And can he and Mma Makutsi actually work together?

Reading these books is always like spending time with philosophical, cheerful old friends. Listening to one is a nice way to spend time winding down from a day at work.

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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 New York Christmas, by Anne Perry

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

new_york_christmas_largeA New York Christmas

by Anne Perry

Ballantine Books, New York, 2014. 164 pages.

I’ve gotten hooked on Anne Perry’s Christmas mysteries. They offer a wide variety of situations, and I like some better than others. But all take place at Christmastime, and all offer a quick cozy holiday read – with murder. But justice is always done and they all have an overall message of peace and hope.

My hold on this year’s novella came in just in time for Christmas, though I was already in the middle of another eagerly awaited novel, so I got A New York Christmas read a few days after Christmas.

I particularly like it when Anne Perry uses characters from her other books in the Christmas novels. I don’t know why, since I haven’t read many of her other books (some day), but it gives a sense of a window into a larger world.

A New York Christmas is told from the perspective of Jemima Pitt, twenty-three-year-old daughter of Thomas and Charlotte Pitt. The book opens with her on an ocean liner crossing the Atlantic.

It was December 1904, and she was crossing the Atlantic to New York, where she would stay for at least a month. Mr. Edward Cardew had invited her to travel as a companion to his daughter, Delphinia, who was to marry Brent Albright, the son of Rothwell Albright, Mr. Cardew’s international business partner. It would be the society wedding of the year.

Not long after arriving, a murder happens, and Jemima is the primary suspect. The wealthy family she’s been staying with seems extra eager to place the blame on her. Can she use what she’s learned from her father to find out who is the actual killer? And where can she find help in New York City? And why did Miss Cardew’s mother abandon her child so many years ago? If Jemima can find out about the murdered woman, she thinks she might be able to figure out who did kill her.

It’s after Christmas now, but this story makes cozy reading at any time. This is now Anne Perry’s twelfth Christmas mystery, and it’s never too late to start a holiday tradition.

anneperry.net
ballantinebooks.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.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!