Archive for the ‘Mystery’ Category

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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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/girl_on_the_train.html

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!

Review of The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday, by Alexander McCall Smith

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

comforts_of_a_muddy_saturday_largeThe Comforts of a Muddy Saturday

by Alexander McCall Smith

narrated by Davina Porter

Recorded Books, 2008. 7.75 hours on 7 compact discs.

I love Alexander McCall Smith’s books. But I do find it easier to get through his rambling Isabel Dalhousie books by listening to them on my commute. This way, I get to listen to Davina Porter’s delightful Scottish accent, and I don’t mind if not a lot happens during any one listening session. (I get impatient when that happens when I’m reading.)

Isabel Dalhousie is a philosopher who meddles in other people’s lives. In this book, she’s asked to help with a genuine case, to clear a doctor’s name. Isabel and the listener do find out the solution to the case, but it’s not really because of deduction that it’s solved.

Still, it’s fun to go along with Isabel as she ponders motives in big areas as well as in the little things of life. Her son is getting bigger and she always finds ethical issues to think about.

This series makes for nice agreeable listening.

alexandermccallsmith.com
pantheonbooks.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.

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

Review of The Mystery of the Screaming Clock, by Robert Arthur

Sunday, January 18th, 2015

screaming_clock_largeAlfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators in

The Mystery of the Screaming Clock

by Robert Arthur

Random House, New York, 1968. 184 pages.

This is Book 9 in The Three Investigators series. This may be about where my brother stopped letting me read his copy when I was a kid. This Interlibrary Loan process is great!

The Mystery of the Screaming Clock is another puzzle-based mystery. It starts with an alarm clock that, instead of a normal ringing alarm, gives off a piercing scream of a woman in mortal terror.

The clock turned up at the junkyard, and now Jupiter Jones wants to solve the mystery of who would create an alarm clock that screams. They discover a whole room full of screaming clocks made by a man who once did sound effects for an old radio mystery show.

Not surprisingly to the reader, this turns to a mystery involving art theft and an innocent person who needs his name cleared and another boy who gets to take part in the investigation.

The clock has a message glued to the bottom:

Dear Rex:
Ask Imogene.
Ask Gerald.
Ask Martha.
Then act! The result will surprise even you.

Clearly, The Three Investigators need to find Rex, Imogene, Gerald, and Martha. This leads them, eventually, to cryptic clues and a puzzle to solve. But they are not the only ones trying to solve this particular mystery. The story does include the usual mortal peril for some of our heroes. It doesn’t include the rival gang of bullies, and I thought it the better for that omission.

I enjoy the puzzle mysteries in this series, though this one had one part of the clues in a form readers couldn’t possibly figure out themselves. But the story of kids chasing down clues and cleverly solving a mystery with fast-moving action does hold up after almost 50 years.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/screaming_clock.html

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 interlibrary loan via 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!

Review of The Mystery of the Fiery Eye, by Robert Arthur

Sunday, January 18th, 2015

fiery_eye_largeThe Mystery of the Fiery Eye

by Robert Arthur

Random House, New York, 1984. 164 pages.

This is Number Seven in the series of The Three Investigators. I was terribly disappointed when my interlibrary loan came in and apparently I hadn’t specified that I only wanted the original 1967 edition. However, I’m pretty sure the only change is that Alfred Hitchcock was changed to “Hector Sebastian,” a fictional “detective turned mystery writer” rather than a famous actual movie director.

This is another mystery, full of action and danger. As in many others, two of the Three Investigators get captured at some point in the story. A lot of luck is involved in the successful solution of the case, but there is also some deduction. And, as has become customary (I didn’t even notice this from when I read them as a kid), there is a boy from another country who is in on the investigation. In this case the other country is Great Britain, so at least there are few stereotypical elements in the boy’s personality and way of speaking.

This mystery includes some written clues – thus making it more of a puzzle than some, and also making it a type I particularly enjoy. Though the clues are not quite as clever as those in The Stuttering Parrot, and I thought the whole process of following red herrings had a few too many coincidences. But it’s still a fun puzzle to watch Jupiter Jones work on.

The Mystery of the Fiery Eye is notable in that it finally has a girl make an appearance! Not a very flattering example, but at least this book acknowledges that girls exist! The girl, Liz Logan, is talkative and eager.

“Look, don’t you ever need a girl operative?” Liz was asking eagerly. “I’m sure you must on some of your investigations. There are times when a girl would be a big help. You could call on me. I’m a terrific actress. I can use make-up to disguise myself, and I can change my voice and –“…

Bob took the card and climbed into the truck beside Hans, not even noticing the blue sedan that passed them. He was thinking that Liz seemed like a pretty nice sort, and maybe a girl could help them sometime. It was true Jupiter had little use for girls, but if the right occasion ever arose, he’d suggest they call Liz Logan.

I honestly don’t remember if Liz shows up later or not, but I think I vaguely remember some such 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 an interlibrary loan via 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!

Review of The Secret of Skeleton Island, by Robert Arthur

Sunday, January 18th, 2015

skeleton_island_largeAlfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators in

The Secret of Skeleton Island

by Robert Arthur
illustrated by Harry Kane

Random House, New York, 1966. 158 pages.

This is Book Six of The Three Investigators series, and the fourth one I’ve read in my current rereading spree. Reading them out of order so far has not mattered a bit.

This one I actually remembered some crucial plot details because they are so cool, actually involving pirate treasure. I will say no more about that.

This book doesn’t have anything at all about the gold-plated Rolls-Royce and Worthington, the chauffeur, but it has plenty of adventure. Right at the start, Alfred Hitchcock sends them off to Skeleton Island, off the southeast coast of the United States, where a company is making a movie at the old amusement park on the island.

But the movie company is having trouble. Pieces of equipment have been stolen, and their boats have been tinkered with at night. What’s more, a legendary ghost has recently been seen riding the old merry-go-round. The girl died long ago when she vowed to finish her ride in a storm, but was then struck by lightning.

One thing I’d forgotten was how many of these books have a stereotypical ethnic character. In this case, it’s Chris Markos, from Greece, a diver who’s trying to find pirate treasure to help his injured father. The townspeople are stereotypical and superstitious as well, easily falling for the ghost story and gossiping intensely and mistrusting Chris, the foreigner.

But the overall story is fun and adventurous. Pirate treasure. Boats. Being marooned. Making a movie. Scuba diving. Lives in danger and a mystery to solve. This was a fun one to revisit.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/skeleton_island.html

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 interlibrary loan via 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!

Review of The Mystery of the Vanishing Treasure, by Robert Arthur

Sunday, January 18th, 2015

vanishing_treasure_largeAlfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators in

The Mystery of the Vanishing Treasure

by Robert Arthur
illustrated by Harry Kane

Random House, New York, 1966. 159 pages.

This is Book Five in The Three Investigators series. I’ve decided to post my reviews of the books in order, even though I’m reading them out of order. As I read, I remembered quite a few details from this one, probably because there are some quite bizarre things.

The book begins with Jupiter discussing how he would steal the Rainbow Jewels from a local museum. The three decide to go to the museum on Children’s Day to practice their investigator skills – and while they are there, a valuable Golden Belt is stolen. Their help on that mystery is refused, but then they are asked to help one of Alfred Hitchcock’s friends, who has been seeing gnomes. It’s a bizarre case – little people with fiery red eyes peering in the windows and digging noises at night. We aren’t surprised when the two cases dovetail.

As usual, I am once again amazed at what the boys’ parents let them go off and do on their own! And once again, they get into danger, but the strategic placement of a chalk question mark (and a very clever and memorable placement in this case) gets them out of it. Once again, we have a stereotypical ethnic character – this time a boy from Japan. At least the author is trying to be cross-cultural, though not perhaps in the politically correct way it would be approached today.

Still no girls at all have appeared in these books, but they are still a quick-reading adventure yarn, where kids figure out a case that has adults stumped. I’m having great fun going back in time with these mysteries.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/vanishing_treasure.html

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 interlibrary loan borrowed via 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!