Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Mentalist, anyone?

Is anyone watching the new mystery show The Mentalist? I watched the pilot online over the weekend, and I thought it had potential. The detective reminds me of Sherlock Holmes, which is always a good sign!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Link to Bones Recap: The Finger in the Nest

I haven't been happy with my Bones reviews, but I also haven't had the energy or wit lately to do the sort of recaps I've been wanting to do. I was browsing around Bones sites tonight and discovered that The Recapist does nice long recaps that are pretty awesome. So I'm going to link you to those for a while instead of trying to reinvent the wheel. Here's last week's episode, 4.04, "The Finger in the Nest."

Monday, September 22, 2008

Quick Review: Pride and Prescience by Carrie Bebris

Pride and Prescience by Carrie Bebris

First of all, let's get this out of the way: I am a Jane Austen fan. If you don't like Jane Austen, you probably won't like this book. That said, I am not a Jane Austen fanatic. I don't much mind when interpretations stray a bit from the canon. (I don't even mind Keira Knightley as Elizabeth.) If you are an Austen purist, you probably won't like this much either.

Now that we've established where I stand on such important issues, I can get to the point: Pride and Prescience is easily one of the best Austen pastiches I've read. The best thing was the characterization: it seemed to be spot on, especially that of Darcy. It provides a nice look at Elizabeth and Darcy's relationship in their first few weeks of marriage, but there's nothing graphic that throws the reader out of the Austenlike tone. (There is one point when Darcy asks Elizabeth to leave her hair unbound as she's getting ready for bed, and oh. My. Goodness. Be still, my heart.)

The mystery itself was decent. Not great, as "serious" mysteries go, but certainly not the worst I've read. The one slight problem I had with the book was the paranormal aspect. It was well done, but... I think it just surprised me. I kept thinking there was going to be some "explanation" of the paranormal events, but there wasn't. I mean, the mystery was solved, but there wasn't any "oh, it just seemed like magic because of such-and-such." So if you don't like paranormal mysteries (perhaps in the tradition of the Gothic novels Austen's characters read), you might not like this book. With that caveat, though, I'd definitely recommend it to Austen or Regency fans who like a good sense of humor and some playfulness of plot.

Grade: A-

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Autumn Reading

Today's question:

Autumn is starting (here in the US, anyway), and kids are heading back to school–does the changing season change your reading habits? Less time? More? Are you just in the mood for different kinds of books than you were over the summer?

I seem to have less reading time recently, but I'm not sure how much that has to do with autumn specifically and how much is just because of some new commitments. Autumn does make me in the mood for different kinds of books - I'm much less interested in contemporary fluffy stuff, and much more interested in classics and "serious" stuff. I think this has a lot to do with the "back to school" idea - even though I'm not in school, I feel like it's time to study!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

TV: Bones 4.3: The Man in the Outhouse

(Note: I'll get the review out more quickly next week, I promise. I realize I'm right under the wire here as far as my self-imposed "post review before the next episode airs" rule goes.)

I liked this second episode of Bones Much more than I did the season premiere. Agree? Disagree? Comment below and weigh in!

Plot: A trucker uses an abandoned outhouse - and it explodes. (I forget why, exactly. That part wasn't very clear.) The trucker survives, but a body is found stuck in the outhouse and Booth and Brennan are called in. They eventually figure out that the dead man is the host of a TV show dedicated to busting cheating spouses. This, of course, opens up a whole new area of potential suspects: the busted spouses (mostly husbands). The usual suspects - family, friends, coworkers - are around, too. The case is fairly straightforward, with no suggestion of a relationship to ongoing plots, but it's an entertaining one-off.

Booth/Brennan: At the beginning of the episode, Booth realizes that Brennan is dating two men at the same time, and the fallout from this is hilarious. Brennan sees nothing wrong with, or even odd about, her situation, but Booth can't even comprehend acting as she does. His Catholic faith is really reflected in his view of relationships - it's nice to see that bit of verisimilitude. Their on-and-off conversation about the situation continues throughout the episode, and Booth uses the example of the cheating spouses in the case to extol the virtues of monogamy.

Perhaps inevitably, Booth and the two men all end up meeting, hilarity ensues, and Brennan ends up single by the end of the episode. This sets up one of the cutest ever of their often-cute episode-ending scenes, in which Booth tells Brennan that he knows the one right person for her is out there and she just has to be open to seeing it, and shippers everywhere squee. Then Booth offers to buy Brennan dinner, and tells Sweets not to come along because he wants it to be just the two of them. Awww.

The Squints: There was virtually nothing about the major Hodgins/Angela drama of last week, so that was annoying. The main squint subplot revolved around the grad student of the week, Daisy, and her attempts to make Brennan like her. The other squints are alternately amused and annoyed by these efforts, and Daisy ends up getting fired. The very last scene of the episode, though, involves a very cute interaction that suggests that we may see, or at least hear about, Daisy again.

Overall Grade: A

Wednesday: What's on your shelf? (9/17)

Yay, we've made it to the middle of another week! What are you currently reading or watching? Do you like it? Add your opinions below, and we can all get some new ideas and recommendations.

I'm currently reading Mew Is for Murder by Clea Simon, and next up in the review queue is Death by Bikini by Linda Gerber. I finished Foyle's War a few weeks ago and haven't really started watching a new series yet, but I've been watching the odd Miss Marple here and there. And, of course, I'm looking forward to Bones tonight!

How about you?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

New Agatha Christie tapes

The BBC had a story yesterday about thirteen hours of Agatha Christie audio tapes that were recently found. They seem to be notes to herself for her autobiography, and discuss aspects of both her life and her work in some detail. That link goes to the text news story, but from that page you can also listen to the radio story, which includes some clips of Christie's recordings. Her voice sounds exactly the way I'd imagined. Fun!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Classic Chandler Essay: The Simple Art of Murder

In 1944, Raymond Chandler wrote an essay about mystery fiction for the Atlantic. Thanks to that magazine's wonderful free online archive, we can read "The Simple Art of Murder" in its entirety.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The butler did... what?

Ever wonder where "The butler did it" came from? The Straight Dope investigates.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

TV: Bones 4.1-2: Yanks in the UK (Part 1 and 2)

Yay, Bones is back! What did everyone think of the first episode? My (spoiler-free) thoughts below...

Plot: Booth and Brennan are in England to give speeches, but they get roped into helping their British counterparts with a few cases. The first case involves a murdered American heiress and her aristocratic British boyfriend and their complicated families. I found it a little hard to follow, but I couldn't put my finger on why. This was another one where it seemed like they came up with a punchline along the lines of "Hey, wouldn't it be funny if they were in England and had [xyz famous mystery cliche] happen?" So it was fine, but kind of... eh.

In the second hour, the murder victim was Brennan's UK counterpart himself. This case involves all sorts of delving into British academia, crew teams, industrialization vs. preservation debates, and more. Booth and Brennan do their thing - sending data and evidence back to the squints for help - and, of course, solve the case. This case was more satisfying than the first one.

Booth/Brennan: There was a lot of nonsense about Booth being completely out of his depth in England - not able to understand driving laws, incapable of successfully talking to people, generally being non-functional. This seemed completely ridiculous - he was a big important secret military sniper, right? He can't be this bumbling whenever he's put into an unfamiliar setting. It just seemed completely out of character.

There was some interesting stuff with Booth's reaction to Brennan considering getting involved with her UK counterpart. His reaction was not as unsubtle as I'd feared it would be, and I think their interaction boded well for the development of the relationship this season.

The Squints: I was less-than-thrilled with the various squint subplots this episode, too. Angela's long-lost husband finally resurfaces and throws everyone into turmoil, with results that I really didn't like. (Sorry to be vague, but I'm trying to avoid spoiling too much here.) Sweets did actually have some good insights, but isn't he supposed to be there to actually consult on cases at this point? It's kind of hilarious that this department of half a dozen people seems to need a full-time shrink just to deal with their interpersonal issues. I did like the Grad Student of the Week, but at the end of the night he announced that he was leaving because he couldn't take all the drama involved in working there. Yeah. I was kind of sympathetic with him on that one.

Overall Grade: B

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Follow us on Twitter!

Do you use Twitter? Follow us at TheMysteryShelf. You'll get updates about new posts as well as occasional other mystery-related news and links.

Review: Tippy-Toe Murder (Leslie Meier)

Tippy-Toe Murder by Leslie Meier
Kensington, 1994, 256 p.

Genre(s): Cozy; small town; mom as detective

Plot: A retired ballet teacher disappears without a trace. Then the much-disliked owner of the local hardware store is murdered. An employee he'd just fired is blamed, but Lucy Stone knows her friend Franny didn't do it - or does she? There may be more to Franny and her past than meets the eye. At the same time, Lucy starts to get an idea of where the missing woman might be, and why. The two plotlines come together in an unexpected (and slightly contrived) way, and the results, having to do with domestic abuse, child abuse, and troubled teenagers, are rather more gritty than I expected from what started out as a light cozy. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing, though - it made it more realistic. But it did read a bit as though Meier had started out with an Issue for this book, rather than a plot.

Characters: This is the second Lucy Stone mystery, and the character is starting to come into her own, although I still wish she had a bit more of a distinct personality. While she's trying to solve the mysteries described above, Lucy is also dealing with an unexpected pregnancy and the strain that it has put on her marriage. This subplot makes her husband Bill come across pretty negatively in this book, although there are signs that things might be improving at the end. Lucy's kids are refreshingly realistic - her son has the Little League equivalent of stage fright, and her daughters are preparing for their first ballet recital (and, in a wonderfully realistic touch, popping the heads off their Ken dolls). Lucy's friendship with cop Barney Culpepper continues; Lucy makes sure to explain to the reader that she thinks the "rule" against married women being friends with men is ridiculous, but I liked Barney a lot more than Bill in this book, which didn't help matters. The rest of the minor characters are all fine, but there are too many of them. (See below.)

Setting: Once again, we're in the small town of Tinker's Cove, Maine. (I was slightly confused because there is talk of outlets "up north" in North Conway, which is in New Hampshire. Not that I think these things need to be kept factual, but since there are outlets in North Conway, NH, I wasn't sure if she was referring to that actual town or a fictional North Conway, ME. Not that it matters to the plot or anything.) The town manages to seem close-knit and cozy without being too idealized, which is nice. The various town issues mentioned in passing all seemed pretty realistic, and Meier avoids the trap of the overly eccentric small town characters. There are many named characters, which definitely helps the reader get a feel for the community and Lucy's roots in it, but I had trouble keeping all of her friends and their back stories straight.

Writing: The writing was fine - clear and descriptive, with very few errors. The dialogue was good, and different characters definitely had their own voices. My only issue with the writing was that both narration and dialogue seemed a bit old-fashioned at times.

Grade: A-

Friday, September 5, 2008

Quick Review: They Did It with Love (Kate Morgenroth)

They Did It with Love by Kate Morgenroth
Plume, 2007, 336 p.

This literary mystery is set amongst a book club in hoity-toity Greenwich, CT. It revolves in point of view between many characters, focusing on Sofie, a recent transplant from New York. Various secrets and complications are revealed as the characters try to figure out what happened to one of their book club members. Some of the characterization was a bit superficial and facile, but overall the book was quite good. And it had my favorite kind of ending for a mystery: it almost completely surprised me, but when I looked back at the plot, I realized it was cleverly set up all along.

Grade: A

Review Index

Here's an index, by author, of all the reviews published on this site. As the list gets longer, we may put it into a few different formats, but one list will work for now.

(Note: "Quick" after a title means it's a short review. Ideally, they will be replaced by full reviews eventually.)

Barrett, Lorna
Murder Is Binding 2008

Bebris, Carrie
Mr. and Mrs. Darcy:
Pride and Prescience 2004

Christie, Agatha
Miss Marple:
Murder at the Vicarage 1930 (quick)

Clark, Mary Higgins
Where Are You Now? 2008 (quick)

Meier, Leslie
Lucy Stone:
Tippy-Toe Murder 1994

Morgenroth, Kate
They Did It with Love 2007 (quick)

Reichs, Kathy
Temperence Brennan:
Death du Jour 1999 (quick)
Bones to Ashes 2007 (quick)

Warner, Gertrude Chandler
The Boxcar Children:
The Boxcar Children 1942

Death by Latte Cyber Party Preview

Linda Gerber has a video preview up for her cyber launch party for her upcoming YA mystery, Death by Latte. Go check it out! The first in the series, Death by Bikini, was published earlier this year.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Site Recommendation: Stop, You're Killing Me!

My very favorite mystery reference site is Stop, You're Killing Me!. (And it's been nominated for an Anthony! Yay!) If you haven't been using it, you should definitely check it out.

The backbone of the site is a huge index of mystery novels - or rather two of them, one alphabetical by author and one by character name. I have found this invaluable, particularly when I'm trying to make sure I read a series in order. (Non-series novels are covered as well.) I'm sure it's not completely comprehensive, but I can't recall ever trying to look up an author and not being able to find him or her.

And as if that weren't enough, the site has several other great indices, including the Location Index, Job Index, and Historical Index. I often use those three when I'm in the mood for a certain type of book. There's also information on award, read-alike recommendations, and more. Go check it out!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Links of the Day (9/3/08)

(This "Links of the Day" feature will list mystery-related links I've come across that are interesting but don't need a whole post.)

Irish crime writing is having some sort of Golden Age, it seems.

The Guardian's Observer column has an Autumn Crime Round-Up that discusses James Lee Burke, Barbara Vine, and Kate Atkinson. And another round-up from The Scotsman, involving Mark Billingham, Paulus Hochgatterer, and Karin Slaughter. And The Telegraph, too: Kate Atkinson, Barbara Vine, P.D. James, Irvine Welsh.

Some profiles: P.D. James, Qiu Xiaolong, Dick Francis, Ruth Rendell, and Kathy Reichs.

Times (London) review of the new Kate Atkinson

Telegraph review of The Birthday Present by Barbara Vine

An interview with Margaret Coel

Win a copy of Nemesis

Head over to Euro Crime to win a copy of Nemesis by Jo Nesbo!

Yes, we're back!

Hi everyone! (If anyone's still out there...) We took a bit more of a break than planned over the summer, but now that the weather is turning cooler (good reading weather!) and the fall TV series is starting up, we're back! Bones starts tonight... who will be watching with me? We'll get a recap/review up tomorrow.

Quick Review: Murder at the Vicarage (Agatha Christie)

I decided to go through and try to read all of Christie, at least in series order if not totally chronological order. I'm starting with Miss Marple, because it's completely ridiculous that I think I'd only ever read one of this series (years ago) before this one, especially as I love most of the TV adaptations. I was delighted to find that my library has a bunch of that black hardcover series of Christie that was coming out (as some sort of book club, maybe?) in the late eighties or early nineties - my mom has them, so in my head that's the way Christie is supposed to be.

Murder at the Vicarage was the first Miss Marple novel that Christie wrote, and it's clear that she hadn't quite decided what she wanted to do with the character yet. Miss Marple isn't as nice or as sympathetic a character in this novel as in the later ones. Her sleuthing abilities are recognized and respected by a few of her neighbors, but she is also sometimes resented as a busybody. I was also surprised to discover that the novel is narrated by a different character, the town vicar, Mr. Clement. I ended up really liking the vicar, and I hope that he shows up in later books. The mystery was intricately and practically perfectly plotted, as you'd expect from Christie, but as a novel, this early one was a bit rough. I did love the setting and atmosphere - a village in England between the wars.

Grade: A-

Monday, July 28, 2008

Times reviews Foyle's War

Here's a nice review of Foyle's War in the Times. I'm a little behind - I'm finish up the last series on DVD, and I have the new ones waiting on the TiVo. I think this is my favorite British mystery series, so I very much hope that the "last series" won't actually be the last!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Quick Review: Death du Jour by Kathy Reichs

As I mentioned in my recent review of Bones to Ashes, I decided to go back to the beginning and read this series in order. Since I had read the first one last year, I started with this, the second. It was a great read. As usual, Temperance Brennan investigates several murder cases, and some of them are connected but some aren't - a feature I enjoy, because everything can't be connected all the time. This one was mostly set in North Carolina, but there were some nice Canadian winter scenes. The main mystery revolves around murders connected to a new religious movement, and there's some interesting stuff about cults, etc. There's also some nice supporting material about Brennan's daughter and Brennan's long, drawn-out semi-relationship with Detective Andrew Ryan, and I'm looking forward to seeing how that develops over the course of the series. My one main problem with the book was that it seems unlikely that there are so many cases that have ties to both of Brennan's homes (Montreal and North Carolina), so I'm hoping that later books in the series focus on one or the other.

Grade: A

Monday, July 21, 2008

Quick Review: Bones to Ashes by Kathy Reichs

Kathy Reichs is the inspiration for (and one of the producers of) the show Bones, about a forensic anthropologist who works with the FBI solving crimes. Since I love the show, I picked up the first in the book series last year. It was fine, but I wasn't thrilled with it - possibly just because it was so different from the show. But a few days ago, I was at an airport shop looking for something to read, and the most recent Kathy Reichs seemed like the best among the (very limited) options. And I'm so glad I picked it up, because I loved this one! I liked the main character, Temperance Brennan, much better in this installment, although that is probably partially because I had had some time to get over the fact that the character in the book is completely different from the character on the show. Brennan is working with the police department in Montreal when an officer brings her bones that just might belong to her childhood friend who went missing forty or so years before. At the same time, her sometime lover Ryan (also a detective) enlists her help with a string of murders of teenage girls. A few other cases are involved as well, and there are various subplots involving Brennan's friends and family. The book also provide an interesting glimpse into traditional Acadian culture. The plot is quite complex, and it's definitely a page-turner. I thought the major flaw in the book was that one of the big twists at the end seemed pretty obvious way before the characters realized it, and I got frustrated that they were being so dense. Other than that, though, I loved it, and I will definitely be reading the rest of the series.

Grade: A

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Carofiglio wins Radio Bremen Krimipreis

Gianrico Carofiglio has won the Radio Bremen Krimipreis, a German crime fiction award. According to the article, Carofiglio is an Italian prosecutor who writes part time. It looks like a few of his books have been translated into English, including his award-winning debut, Involuntary Witness. Has anyone read him?

Monday, May 12, 2008

5/12 Release: Fidelity by Thomas Perry

Fidelity by Thomas Perry

From Perry's site:
"When we meet a new person in life, we realize we are not only dealing with the person we see, but also with what he's seen and done and heard. I've always tried to reproduce that fact in my books, but this has been a particularly important part of the last few I've written — Nightlife, Silence, and now Fidelity. In a way, Fidelity takes this notion the farthest. In order to succeed, characters must learn to use the knowledge and intuition they have to understand the secrets of a dead man's past."

Saturday, May 10, 2008


It seems the majority of people are finding this blog by Googling for spoilers. And I don't really post many spoilers. Sorry!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sad news about Women's Murder Club

Kristin at E! says it's probably not coming back next season. Bah. I really like that show!

Mysteries in the Times Book Review (5/4/08)

In the Crime column, Marilyn Stasio focuses on Tom Rob Smith's Child 44, which we've discussed here before. The more I read about it, the more intriguing it sounds. I'll definitely get it from the library after my move. Stasio also discusses Kjell Eriksson's The Demon of Dakar, Chris Knopf's Head Wounds, and a new reprint of Derek Raymond's How the Dead Live.

Dwight Garner's Inside the List column discusses Harlan Coben's Hold Tight and the issue of parental supervision of children's online activities.

Mysteries on the Bestseller List
Hardcover Fiction:
1. Hold Tight by Harlan Coben
2. Where Are You Now? by Mary Higgins Clark
3. The Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall Smith (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #9)
6. The Appeal by John Grisham
7. Compulsion by Jonathan Kellerman (Alex Delaware)
9. Small Favor by Jim Butcher (Harry Dresden #10)
16. Winter Study by Nevada Barr (Anna Pigeon)

Paperback Trade Fiction:
6. The Quickie by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
7. The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by Alexander McCall Smith (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #8)

Paperback Mass-Market Fiction:
1. Simple Genius by David Baldacci
2. The Woods by Harlan Coben
3. Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child (Jack Reacher)
4. Creation in Death by J.D. Robb (Eve Dallas)
6. Hokus Pokus by Fern Michaels (The Sisterhood)
7. The Unquiet by John Connolly (Charlie Parker)
8. The River Knows by Amanda Quick
9. I Heard That Song Before by Mary Higgins Clark
13. Obsession by Jonathan Kellerman (Alex Delaware)
15. The Atlantis Prophecy by Thomas Greanias
18. The Alibi Man by Tami Hoag

Maureen Corrigan on Mr. Whicher

On yesterday's Fresh Air, Maureen Corrigan had an interesting review of The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, which I'm reading now. Take a listen!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Wednesday: What's on your shelf? (5/7)

This is going to look really familiar: I'm in the middle of moving, and have been reading little and watch less. Sorry. I'll get more interesting in a few weeks, I promise.

Reading: Still on The Man in the Woods by Rosemary Wells and The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale.

Watching: I still have that Miss Marple from Netflix that I haven't managed to watch yet. And I have two Women's Murder Club to catch up on.

How about you? What's on your shelf?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

New Releases: 5/6

A few big name releases today:

Careless in Red by Elizabeth George
Blurb from George's site:
"Lynley discovers the body of a young man who appears to have fallen to his death. The closest town, better known for its tourists and its surfing than its intrigue, seems an unlikely place for murder. However, it soon becomes apparent that a clever killer is indeed at work, and this time Lynley is not a detective but a witness and possibly a suspect."

Phantom Prey by John Sandford
From the summary on Sandford's site:
"A widow comes home to her large house in a wealthy, exclusive suburb to find blood on the walls, no body – and her college-age daughter missing. She's always known that her daughter ran with a bad bunch. What did she call them – Goths?...

But the police can't find the girl, alive or dead, and the widow truly panics. There's someone she knows, a surgeon named Weather Davenport, whose husband is a big deal with the police, and she implores Weather to get her husband directly involved. Lucas gets in only reluctantly – but then when a second Goth is slashed to death in Minneapolis, he starts working it hard. The clues don't seem to add up, though. And then there's the young Goth who keeps appearing and disappearing: Who is she? Where does she come from and, more important, where does she vanish to?"

And Stuart Woods's Shoot Him If He Runs is now in paperback:

Monday, May 5, 2008

2008 Edgar Award Winners

The Edgars were awarded on May 1. Here are the winners. The awards are given by the Mystery Writers of America.

TV: Bones 3.12 - The Baby in the Bough

Brennan with a baby. Hah. Yeah.

Plot: Booth and Brennan get called to the scene of a car accident, because the driver of the car was set on fire and the body is therefore unrecognizable. Booth hears crying, and they find a baby. In a tree. Yeah. Apparently, when the car crashed, the baby's carseat flew up into the tree and stayed there. So they get the baby out, and then they find a key that might provide vital evidence, and then - shocking! - the baby swallows the key, and therefore has to stay with Booth and Brennan until the evidence comes out the other end. (And, by happy coincidence, Brennan is registered as a foster parent! Yeah.) Brennan and Booth, with baby in tow, follow the clues to a small town in West Virginia and eventually figure out what happened to the baby's mother. The whole set up is rather more unbelievable than usual - it's like they said "Hey, let's make them have to interact with a baby!" and then just made stuff up to get there. But the actual mystery is decent.

Booth/Brennan: The baby stuff was actually pretty cute, but there was something even more interesting to the Booth/Brennan relationship. At the beginning of the episode, Booth realizes that Brennan's books and movie deal have made her pretty wealthy, so he spends the rest of the episode trying to convince her to buy a vacation house so he can fish. She keeps shooting down the idea, of course, but neither of them questions his assumption that her vacation house would be for their joint use. Hmmm...

The Squints: There was some hilarious stuff with Angela saying she wanted "a million" kids and Hodgins panicking and then subtly trying to reduce the number.

Overall Grade: B+

Huffington Post Review: Slip of the Knife

Fred Klein at the Huffington Post has a review of Slip of the Knife, a mystery by Scottish author Denise Mina. I haven't heard of Mina before, but the novel sounds interesting.

Huffington Post Review of Child 44 Audiobook

The Huffington Post has a review of the audiobook of Child 44.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

TV: Without a Trace 6:15 - Deja Vu

This episode aired on April 24. Recap by Amy W.


This week's missing person: Jay McCann
A coma patient named Jay McCann awakens three years after the car crash that put him in the hospital. His awakening and subsequent recovery is deemed a miracle, and while taking a walk outside of the rehab center, he "fades" out. The team follows several false leads, including that his wife was having an affair, and a father of another coma patient asking Jay to "unlock" his coma-ridden son.

Through their investigation, the team finds that a mistress was blackmailing Jay – a mistress that has been missing since Jay's accident. Jay was carrying a cashier's check to pay the woman off. However, he was delayed by the accident, and she lost her temper. His brother, on site to take her to the airport after the payoff, accidentally killed her in a struggle. When his brother confirms this memory to Jay, Jay insists on going to the police. His brother refuses, but Jay leaves his brother under the impression that he is going to the authorities. He is later found, unconscious and missing his wallet, on the subway. The episode ends with him back in a coma, in another hospital.

Ongoing plot development: Jack and Jen Long
Jack is still in the hospital recovering from his gunshot wounds. While awaiting his sponge bath, his iPhone rings and he listens to a panicked voice mail message from Jen Long. Through the episode, Jack keeps asking Sam to check in on Jen, but Sam puts him off, telling him that she is too busy with the McCann case. Jack gets fed up, doses himself on his pain pills and breaks out of the hospital.

Jack confronts Jen's mother first, who is fairly hostile with him since Jen has been put on a witness list to testify against her abductor. She believes however that Jen is safe, as she has been sent to stay with her aunt. Jack makes her listen to the panicked message, and she tells him how to find the aunt. When he arrives, the apartment is open and he finds the aunt locked in the closet. The abductor had been there, beating the aunt, until she let it slip that Jen might be at the park. Jack goes to the park and talks to a group of punks (with horrible drawn-on tattoos) and they tell him that the abductor had also been there looking for her as well. He tries to talk to other people, but his health is failing quickly. He eventually tracks her to a diner that he "remembers" and hears her struggling in the back. She's being forced into a van, which Jack shoots at. The van loses control and hits Jack, but the driver manages to get out with a gun. From the ground Jack fires off shots and kills him. Jen thanks Sam, who has finally managed to arrive on the scene, as her ordeal is now over.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Want to know about Bones season four?

No, I'm not going to spoil you here. But if you want to know, you should go read the April 30 edition of Ask Ausiello.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Swedish Crime: The Ice Princess

International Noir Fiction has an interesting review of The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg. Unfortunately, it's not out in the U.S. yet. I'm not sure I've ever read a Swedish mystery - or novel at all, for that matter - so I'd be very interested to give this one a try. The reviewer's comments on the differentiation between cozy mysteries and more "noir" crime novels are worth a look, too.

Library Journal Genre Spotlight

Library Journal published their 2008 mystery genre spotlight a few weeks ago. It's an interesting look at current trends and upcoming events in mystery publishing. It has some interesting stuff about audiobooks and large print, as well as "regular" books. International and historical mysteries are on the rise, yay! Also, there's an interview with Meg Gardiner.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

CWA's Cartier Diamond Dagger to Sue Grafton

The Crime Writers' Association has announced that its Cartier Diamond Dagger award for 2008 will be given to Sue Grafton. The prize is awarded for "sustained excellence in the genre of crime writing."

New Releases: 5/1

Dawn's Light by Terri Blackstock
This is #4 in Blackstock's Restoration series of Christian suspense novels. It seems to involve "the end of a global electrical blackout and murder."

Fire and Ice by Anne Stuart
This is romantic suspense, and the author's site has this description:
In the wake of a failed love affair, brainy beauty Jilly Lovitz takes off for Tokyo. She's expecting to cry on her sister Summer's shoulder, then spend a couple months blowing off steam in Japan. Instead, she's snatched away on the back of a motorcycle, narrowly avoiding a grisly execution attempt meant for her sister and brother-in-law.

Her rescuer is Reno, the Committee's most unpredictable agent. They'd met once before and the attraction was odd – tattooed Yakuza punk meets leggy California egghead – but electric. Now Reno and Jilly are pawns in a deadly tangle of assassination attempts, kidnappings and prisoner swaps that could put their steamy partnership on ice.

Authors: Want your book reviewed?

We choose books for review pretty much based on personal whim, but if any authors are reading this and would like us to consider your book for review, we're happy to oblige! If you have a review copy to send, e-mail us for the address. If you don't have any review copies available, e-mail anyway, and we'll try to get your book from the library or somewhere. (Note: We can't guarantee that your book will be reviewed, but we'll try. And sending us a copy does not increase your chances of a positive review, just a review in general.) Thanks!

(Late) Wednesday: What's on your shelf? (5/1)

Oops, totally forgot to post this yesterday! Sorry! So what are you all reading and watching this week? I'm...

Reading: A few non-mysteries, actually. But I am reading an out-of-print young adult mystery called The Man in the Woods by Rosemary Wells. Oh, and I just started The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective, which is about a real murder case that, according to the author, helped shape detective fiction. Here's an extract from the book, by Kate Summerscale.

Watching: I still have that Miss Marple from Netflix that I haven't managed to watch yet. I'm thrilled that Bones is back, and I have Tuesday's Women's Murder Club on the TiVo. Look for reviews of all those sometime this weekend. (I hope. I'm moving, so I won't have as much free time as normal.)

How about you? What's on your shelf?

Booking Through Thursday: Mayday!

I've done this meme before on my regular blog, but since it's about books I figured I'd move it over here.

Today's question:

Quick! It’s an emergency! You just got an urgent call about a family emergency and had to rush to the airport with barely time to grab your wallet and your passport. But now, you’re stuck at the airport with nothing to read. What do you do??

And, no, you did NOT have time to grab your bookbag, or the book next to your bed. You were . . . grocery shopping when you got the call and have nothing with you but your wallet and your passport (which you fortuitously brought with you in case they asked for ID in the ethnic food aisle). This is hypothetical, remember….

First, let me just say that it is very seldom that I leave the house at all without books or knitting - and I often have both. But okay, I'll go along with the hypothetical. And, of course, the answer is that I would buy books at the airport! One good thing about reading lots of genre fiction is that it's easy to find mysteries or romances at airports or Target or even the grocery store, if you're stuck. And if for some reason the bookshop wasn't open, surely there would be somewhere to buy a newspaper or some magazines, at least, right?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Mysteries in the Times Book Review (4/27)

In the Crime column, Stasio focuses on Jack O'Connell's The Resurrectionist, a dark, surreal novel involving comic books and illegal trafficking in human tissue. She also discusses Andrea Camilleri's The Paper Moon, Domenic Stansberry's The Ancient Rain, Mick Herron's Reconstruction, and Richard Stark's Dirty Money.

Mysteries on the Bestseller List
Hardcover Fiction:
1. Where Are You Now? by Mary Higgins Clark
5. Small Favor by Jim Butcher (Harry Dresden #10)
6. The Appeal by John Grisham
7. Compulsion by Jonathan Kellerman (Alex Delaware)
12. Zapped by Carol Higgins Clark (Regan Reilly)
13. 7th Heaven by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (Women's Murder Club)
14. Dead Heat by Joel C. Rosenberg
16. Winter Study by Nevada Barr (Anna Pigeon)

Paperback Trade Fiction:
7. The Quickie by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
17. The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by Alexander McCall Smith (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #8)

Paperback Mass-Market Fiction:
1. Simple Genius by David Baldacci
2. The Woods by Harlan Coben
3. Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child (Jack Reacher)
4. I Heard That Song Before by Mary Higgins Clark
5. Creation in Death by J.D. Robb (Eve Dallas)
7. The Unquiet by John Connolly (Charlie Parker)
8. Obsession by Jonathan Kellerman (Alex Delaware)
12. The River Knows by Amanda Quick
13. The Alibi Man by Tami Hoag
16. Hokus Pokus by Fern Michaels (The Sisterhood)
17. Sacred Stone by Clive Cussler and Craig Dirgo (Oregon Files)
20. High Profile by Robert B. Parker (Jesse Stone)

Review: Murder Is Binding by Lorna Barrett

Murder is Binding by Lorna Barrett
Berkley, 2008, 288 pages

Plot: This is the first in Barrett's "Booktown" series, set in fictional Stoneham, NH, a town full of bookstores. When Tricia Miles, owner of the mystery bookshop, finds the body of the next-door cookbook shop, she becomes the sheriff's main suspect in the murder. She must delve into a variety of small-town intrigues and secrets while dealing with her difficult sister and keeping her business afloat. The plot was good: nothing particularly shocking, but a fair number of twists and turns that kept me reading.

Characters: Tricia is a likeable character, and I'm looking forward to reading more about her in future books. She's kind and hard-working but not perfect, and she's less ridiculously naive (about things like going alone in the dark into suspect's houses and such) than many main characters of cozies are. As always with amateur detectives, Barrett will need to keep finding hooks to get Tricia involved in murder investigations - she was a suspect in this one, but (hopefully) that can't happen every time. There is a potential relationship with a newspaper editor, so maybe he will pull her in? Hmm. That editor was probably my favorite of the secondary characters, so I hope he sticks around. There are an assortment of other secondary characters who will provide for plenty of plots and subplots in future books, including other bookstore owners and Tricia's employees. Tricia has a rather fraught relationship with her sister, Angelica, and at the end of the novel Angelica moves to Stoneham, so there will be no shortage of family angst to draw upon.

Writing: The writing is fairly solid and serviceable but not particularly great. Since it's a first book, I'll give some leniency for roughness. It's certainly not bad, just not strikingly good, either. It could have used a better copy-editor, too - there were some typos. And, most annoyingly, both times that the phrase "Hear, hear!" was used, it was misspelled as "Here, here!" That's one of my pet peeves.

Grade: B

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Need some inspiration for a mystery?

The Old Bailey, London's big criminal court, has posted all its records from 1674 to 1913. You might have to wait a little while before accessing it, though, because everyone got really excited and the site has crashed.

No Bones for me.

For some completely inexplicable reason, my TiVo told me it was recording Bones last night but actually recorded Dancing with the Stars. Um, what? It's never done anything like that before, and it was quite disappointing to discover the error when I sat down all ready to watch. Oh well. I'll watch it online tonight.

How du Maurier wrote Rebecca

The Telegraph has an article about Rebecca and potential ties to the author's life. Any other Rebecca fans reading? I read it a few years ago and loved it.

4/29 Release: Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

Coming out today:

A Soviet police detective searches for a missing child. From Publishers Weekly:
"Set in the Soviet Union in 1953, this stellar debut from British author Smith offers appealing characters, a strong plot and authentic period detail."

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Indian Bride wins LA Times Book Prize

The LA Times Book Prize winners have been released, and the winner in the mystery/thriller category is Karin Fossum for The Indian Bride. Fossum is a Norwegian author, and this is the fourth book in her Inspector Sejer series to be translated into English. From Publishers Weekly:
Insp. Konrad Sejer is faced with a baffling crime when the battered body of a woman surfaces in a field outside the town of Elvestad. She's soon identified as Poona Jomann, the new wife of Gunder Jomann, who traveled to India in search of a life partner. Gunder's sister's injury in an auto accident kept him from meeting his bride at the airport, leaving her to travel to their new home alone, a journey that ended in murder. With a skill few can equal, Fossum deftly paints the provincial inhabitants of Elvestad, coupling those poignant word portraits with a whodunit and an insightful but fallible detective.

Reflections of Madness

In Bookslut's Mystery Strumpet column this month, Clayton Moore discusses several mysteries that have a hint of madness or a nightmarish mood.

The Times reviews Roman de Gare

I hadn't heard of Roman de Gare before, but the review makes it sound pretty interesting. It's "a thriller, a murder mystery and a somewhat self-conscious literary puzzle," but also somewhat overdone and silly, they say. Worth a look. I'll try to get it from Netflix when it comes out.

TV: Bones 3.11 - Player Under Pressure

This episode was supposed to air in season two, but it was postponed because of the shootings at Virginia Tech. They redid some of the character development stuff to make it fit into the third season, and it finally aired last Monday.

Plot: The decomposing body of a star basketball player is found in a university gym, and Booth and Brennan must explore the world of elite athletes to figure out who killed the star. The mystery this week was set up pretty well: there were a nice number of suspects with reasonable motives, but it wasn't too convoluted. And I guessed what the solution was going to be, but it was a "Wow, that was set up very well and now I feel clever" sort of thing rather than an "Aww, that was way too obvious" thing.

Booth/Brennan: Still no mention of the kiss in the Christmas episode! Bah. It seems that recently Brennan had been getting better at dealing with people, but in this episode she was back to being completely socially inept, to the point of messing up the investigation (by telling people they were suspects, etc.). Some of this might have been because this was an old, updated episode, but it was still annoying. They also had another instance of the "One of them inadvertantly insults 'people like' the other, and then they kiss [not literally, unfortunately!] and make up at the end" meme, which is getting a little old but still works, I think.

The Squints: Not too much going on there this week - I read that the subplot was supposed to be about Hodgins trying to propose, but obviously they had to take that out when the episode was postponed. There was some weird stuff about Angela being touchy about taking messages for Hodgins, and then Camille yelling at Angela for having sex in the storeroom and being caught on the security camera, and blah blah. Enh.

Overall Grade: B+

4/28 Release: Sundays at Tiffany's

New release today: Sundays at Tiffany's by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet

"As a little girl, Jane has no one. Her mother, the powerful head of a Broadway theater company, has no time for her. She does have one friend - a handsome, comforting, funny man named Michael - but only she can see him.

Years later, Jane is in her thirties and just as alone as ever. Then she meets Michael again-as handsome, smart and perfect as she remembers him to be. But not even Michael knows the reason they've really been reunited.

SUNDAYS AT TIFFANY'S is a love story with an irresistible twist, a novel about the child inside all of us-and the boundary-crossing power of love."

Honestly, I'm not sure this is a mystery, but it's James Patterson so I figured some mystery readers would be interested. It sounds intriguing.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Just an FYI...

I'm going away for the weekend, so posting will be sporadic to nonexistent, depending on how much downtime I end up having. (I will try to get my Bones post up before the new episode airs on Monday, though.) See you Monday!

James Bond News #2: Exhibit at Imperial War Museum

A James Bond/Ian Fleming exhibit opened last week at the Imperial War Museum in London. Here's the exhibition Web site. Anyone going? Wish I could...

James Bond News #1: New YA Series

Charlie Higson, who writes the Young Bond kidlit series, is now moving on to an older teen version. On why he's moving to YA:

"The question of sex is the hardest thing - one of the facts we get from one of Bond short stories is that he lost his virginity aged 16 in a brothel in Paris. I don't think I can quite get away with that for a 10-year-old reader."

Should be interesting. No word yet on a release date.

Voting Open: Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year

You can vote here among the longlist for the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year award. The winner will be announced at the Theakstons Crime Writing Festival in July.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Women's Murder Club is coming back!

I just saw a commercial on ABC for new episodes of Women's Murder Club. The first new episode will be aired on Tuesday (4/29) at 10 p.m. Yay! I've missed this show. Anyone else watch?

Movie News: The Oxford Murders

Trashionista tells us that The Oxford Murders, based on a novel by Guillermo Martinez, is being released in the UK tomorrow. It sounds like it has potential - a professor tries to solve a series of murders that have something to do with math. And, of course, it's set in Oxford. No word yet on a US release date, but I'll keep my eyes open.

Top 50 Greatest Crime Writers?

The Times (UK, not NY) has a list here. Actually, that's the intro; there's a link from there to the actual list, and if you click on each name, you'll see a little blurb about the author and his or her works. I have to admit that I haven't read all that many authors on this list, but it will be handy for finding reading ideas. What do we think? Anything missing? I was kind of surprised that Highsmith was #1 - I'd expected Conan Doyle or Christie, I guess. Opinions?

Serialized Patricia Cornwell

The Times of London is serializing Patricia Cornwell's new novel, The Front, which will be released next month. It's the sequel to At Risk. Start with the first chapter here. To go along with this, they have a nice long profile of her up.

Quick Takes: Where Are You Now? by Mary Higgins Clark

Quick Takes are short features about books that we're not going to fully review at this point.

Premise: Carolyn's brother disappeared ten years ago when he walked out of his college apartment and was never seen again. He calls once a year, on Mother's Day, to let his family know that he's okay. This year, Carolyn has decided that she must find him. The case quickly becomes entwined with the disappearance of Carolyn's young neighbor, and Carolyn must delve into the past and present lives of everyone who knew her brother to figure out what's going on.

Thoughts: The reason this is a Quick Take rather than a review is because I didn't finish it. It was due back at the library today, and at about 12:30 last night I had 100 or so pages left and just wasn't enjoying it, so I gave up and just read the last few chapters. I will only review books that I've read in their entirety, but I may do Quick Takes on things I don't finish. But don't worry - I'll always tell you if I haven't read the whole thing.

I was really into Mary Higgins Clark for a while in my early teens, and then hadn't read her for years. I tried her 2007 novel, I Heard That Song Before, and thought it was a fun read, although nothing great, so I went ahead and started this one. I thought the plot of Where Are You Now? was fine. It wasn't anything particularly earth-shaking or memorable, but it was a decent suspense plot with perhaps a few too many characters.

The real problem I had with the book was the writing. Honestly, I'm not sure whether Clark's writing has deteriorated or whether my standards were lower ten years ago. Maybe it's a little of both. The grammar was okay, thank goodness, but the writing style reminded me of one of those old-fashioned, very didactic children's books in which everything everyone's thinking - and how the reader is supposed to feel about it - is carefully spelled out. The dialogue seemed completely unrealistic, and the interior monologues of the characters were just not written the way that real people think. The language was very formal and it was all about telling rather than showing. A few examples from the first chapter:

"First, I must find a way to track my brother down. What happened to him? Why did he disappear? There was no sign of foul play."

"When we were growing up, Mack was my best friend, my confidant, my pal. Half my girlfriends had a crush on him. He was the perfect son, the perfect brother, handsome, kind, funny, an excellent student. How do I feel about him now? I don't know anymore."

The character is clearly talking to the reader rather than actually thinking. I know this happens to some extent in all first person writing, but it was extremely exaggerated here - and the chapters that were in the third person had the same issue. This really kept me from getting into what could have been a quick, fun read.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Wednesday: What's on your shelf?

Each Wednesday, we'll have this open thread for The Mystery Shelf community to share what we're reading and watching right now.

This week, I'm...

Reading: I'm currently in the middle of Mary Higgins Clark's new one, Where Are You Now?; hopefully I'll have a review for you tomorrow. I think next up will be Murder Is Binding by Lorna Barrett, which my librarians tell me is based on the town where I live.

Watching: I should be getting another McEwan Miss Marple disc from Netflix today, and I'm also anxiously awaiting the next episode of Bones - I hope it will be online so I can watch it tonight!

What are you reading and watching this week?

Other Blogs about Mysteries

Do you have a blog that reviews or discusses mysteries? Leave a comment and I'll add you to the list!

Mystery Only
Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind
Crime Fiction Dossier
Detectives Beyond Borders
Euro Crime
Hey, There's a Dead Guy in My Living Room
International Noir Fiction

All About Romance (includes romantic suspense and occasional mysteries)
Stuff and Nonsense

What is a mystery, anyway?

While deciding what to include in my Times Book Review post, I started thinking about how we're defining "mystery" for the purposes of this blog. Basically, anything goes. I'm using "mystery" as a catch-all for detective novels, crime fiction, thrillers, suspense, romantic suspense, etc. If the solution to a crime (or possibly another big puzzle) is at the center of a book, show, or movie, it counts. Of course, this definition may have to be refined as we go along, but I think it will work for now.

Mysteries in the Times Book Review (4/20)

Each week, we'll bring you a summary of mystery content in the New York Times Sunday Book Review, as well as the placement of mysteries on their bestseller lists. This post will usually appear on Sunday or Monday.

John Banville is writing mysteries under the name Benjamin Black. There's a review of the second in his series, called The Silver Swan. The review also mentions the stir caused when "literary" authors write mysteries. Personally, I like mystery as a genre - obviously, or I wouldn't have started this blog - but I also firmly believe that good writers are found in all genres and types of fiction, and that the artificial boundaries can be as hurtful as they are helpful.

The Paperback Row column includes a few things that sound mystery-like, or at least suspenseful: April in Paris by Michael Wallner and Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino. I haven't read either of these authors, but both books sound interesting. The Finder by Colin Harrison is an Editor's Choice, and the new Harry Dresden sci fi mystery by Jim Butcher, Small Favor, is discussed in Inside the List.

Mysteries on the Bestseller List
Hardcover Fiction:
2. Small Favor by Jim Butcher (Harry Dresden #10)
3. Compulsion by Jonathan Kellerman (Alex Delaware)
4. The Appeal by John Grisham
9. 7th Heaven by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (Women's Murder Club)
10. Winter Study by Nevada Barr (Anna Pigeon)
11. Hollywood Crows by Joseph Wambaugh
12. A Prisoner of Birth by Jeffrey Archer
13. Dead Heat by Joel C. Rosenberg
14. Guilty by Karen Robards

Paperback Trade Fiction
8. The Quickie by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
10. The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by Alexander McCall Smith (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency)

Paperback Mass-Market Fiction
1. Simple Genius by David Baldacci
2. The Woods by Harlan Coben
3. Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child
4. I Heard That Song Before by Mary Higgins Clark
7. Creation in Death by J.D. Robb (Eve Dallas)
8. Obsession by Jonathan Kellerman (Alex Delaware)
9. Hokus Pokus by Fern Michaels (The Sisterhood)
10. The River Knows by Amanda Quick
11. The Unquiet by John Connolly (Charlie Parker)
15. The Alibi Man by Tami Hoag
18. Sacred Stone by Clive Cussler and Craig Dirgo (Oregon Files)
20. The Echelon Vendetta by David Stone

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

TV: The Murder at the Vicarage (McEwan)

First, two caveats: 1) I have never read this book, although I have read other Miss Marples and 2) I have not seen any of the Joan Hickson Miss Marple adaptations since I was a child, so Geraldine McEwan is my default Miss Marple, although I know these versions are somewhat controversial.

This is the first Miss Marple book, and so also the first in the McEwan TV series. I loved it, mostly. It's set right in St. Mary Mead, so it has all that lovely village life with cottages and flowers and tea and vicarages. It's my favorite type of escapist books/TV, really. An abrasive local squire (Derek Jacobi!) is found dead in the vicarage, and Miss Marple must help the police figure out what happened. Considering the small number of characters, there are a fair number of plot twists and the solution is pretty complex.

There was one element I didn't like: the nightmarish flashbacks that Miss Marple kept having. Sure, it was interesting to have some context for her, but they really pulled me out of the story. I'm not sure the flashbacks occur in any but the first episode; the only other episode I can think of with flashbacks is At Bertram's Hotel, and those flashbacks are to her childhood and fit in better with the story, I think.

Despite the flashbacks, I really enjoyed this and I'm looking forward to watching the whole series in order. (I saw a few scattered episodes when they aired on PBS.) I think Geraldine McEwan is a perfect Miss Marple: she's witty and sharp, but also gentle and caring, and really looks perfect for the role. And, of course, there's the knitting!

Masterpiece: Mystery Schedule

It seems that PBS has changed the name of Mystery! to Masterpiece: Mystery! in order to fit in with their other new names (Masterpiece: Classic and Masterpiece: Contemporary). But, more excitingly, they have posted their schedule for the summer. It includes:

Foyle's War: Series V: Yay yay yay yay yay! This series about a police detective on the southern coast of England during World War II is probably my very favorite British TV mystery series ever.

Lewis: Series I: This is a spinoff of the popular Morse series. I've never seen Morse (it's in my Netflix queue), but I liked the pilot of Lewis they showed last year, so I'll be giving this a try.

The Inspector Lynley Mysteries: Series VII: These are based on the popular Lynley series by Elizabeth George, although I think the episodes they're producing now are not actually based on the books. I love the books, but I'm way behind - I've only read the first three. And only seen one of the adaptations. I wonder if I could catch up by the time these air?

The Shadow in the North: For some reason, this isn't on the schedule page, but it's on the main Masterpiece page so I'm assuming it will be aired. This is the second mystery featuring Sally Lockhart, a Victorian teen detective. I loved these books as a teenager. I'll have to watch the first adaptation (The Ruby in the Smoke) soon in preparation for this.

All in all, looks like a great season! Any opinions? What are you looking forward to?

Rereads: The Boxcar Children


This is the first in an occasional series in which we reread mysteries we remember fondly and see how they hold up.

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner (1942)

Summary: The four Alden children (Henry, 14, Jessie, 12, Violet, 10, and Benny, 6) are orphans who run away because they are convinced that their grandfather, who didn't like their mother, won't like them either. They find an abandoned boxcar in the woods and set it up as a house; Henry tries to support the family by doing yard work and odd jobs. A local doctor hires him and soon figures out his secret. Eventually, the doctor hatches a plan to reunite the children with their grandfather - who, of course, turns out to be delightful and not scary at all.

Then: I loved the Boxcar Children books when I was a kid, although I think I got into them a little later than I should have - I was also reading much harder things around the time I remember reading these. I think I loved them mainly for the old-fashioned atmosphere - the clothes, the meals, the idealized way of life.

Now: The first thing that really struck me when I reread this the other day was that it actually isn't a mystery at all. The rest of the series are mysteries, but this first one is... an adventure story, I guess. I'd sort of forgotten that. I still love the old-fashioned atmosphere, and this held up pretty well, overall. It's so very unrealistic, which I might not have realized as much as a kid. And scary! These kids are basically homeless, on their own in an unfamiliar town. (And how did they get there? Who let them leave wherever they were before? I really wanted that part of the story.) I was also struck by how strict the gender roles were - but it was published in 1942, after all. The children are all very, very duty-conscious, and the older ones, especially, seem to have no faults. I don't remember whether they get less perfect in later books - I'll have to read a few more soon.

Verdict: A little dated, but well-written, engaging, and full of enough action to hook today's kids.

On spoilers

Whether to give away endings is always a big question when you're talking about books, and it's even more important of an issue when talking about mysteries. Overall, our policy is to avoid spoilers, especially in reviews of new books and shows. Sometimes, though, the ending is what we want to write about. (This may especially be the case in our Rereads series, which is about older things anyway.) When there are spoilers, this warning will appear at the top of the post:


I know it's not ideal, but I hope that will at least help a little. If you have any other ideas of how to deal with this, let me know.

Tuesday Releases (4/22/08)

Here are some mysteries and thrillers being released today:

David Baldacci: The Whole Truth
Iris Johansen: Quicksand
Stuart Woods: Santa Fe Dead

Mystery Writers' Blogs

I'll keep updating this list as I find more...

Meg Cabot
Linda Gerber
Tess Gerritsen
Kristin Hannah
Clea Simon

Want to write for us?

You have your own opinions about what you read and watch, I'm sure. Care to share? We're always open to submissions. Here are the steps:

(0. OPTIONAL: E-mail me to check whether we're interested in a review of a given title. Please keep in mind that a favorable response to your query is NOT a complete guarantee that your review will be published.)

1. Send me your review of a mystery novel, short story, TV show, movie, game, etc.

2. I'll write back to let you know whether we will be able to use your review. I may suggest edits at this point, and I'll also want to confirm the name you'd like to appear on the review, etc.

3. After we work all that out, your review will appear on The Mystery Shelf. It may take a little while, because I space out posts based on type of content, etc. But it will get there!

I look forward to reading your contributions.

Hello out there!

Just a test post so I can see how it looks as I play around with the template.