Sixth Grave on the Edge by Darynda Jones (Charley Davidson #6)

Redd Becker Book Review

Darynda Jones writes cross-genre novels that highlight romance, by Darynda Jonesmystery and the occult. Her writing style captures her protagonist’s sharp, irreverent personality and keeps you in Charley’s mind set. Jones breaks the traditional literary approach, but she punches her story up with fun similes, creative descriptions and unexpected subplots that take the reader on tangents into the world of angels, Lucifer’s children and the afterlife.

The protagonist, Charley, sees ghosts. She inherited the role of ‘grim reaper’ which gives her the power to help souls transition, but additional powers, hinted-at, lurk beneath the surface. With a compassionate perspective and defiant approach, Charley blunders forward resolving crisis for the living and dead alike.

To spice the story up romantically, the devil’s son, Reyes, entangles Charley in his sexy-hot tentacles which creates tension, titillation and intrigue.

For me, a muddled middle of subplots left me wondering. By the end I was left wondering. Many of the subplots don’t resolve cleanly and the ending opened as many doors as it closed. Regardless, plenty more books in the series carry Charley’s tale forward.

Darynda Jones Writes with Wit

Darynda Jones’ fresh writing (as writing coach, Margie Lawson, would say) entertains and keeps the reader captivated. Her characters verge on the hilarious; such as a corpse with a hard-on who rides shot-gun in her car.

A review on the first three Charley Davidson novels at FictionVixen provides the foundation for the series, although it contains spoilers.

Sixth Grave on the Edge by Darynda Jones (Charley Davidson #6)Sixth Grave on the Edge (Charley Davidson, #6) by Darynda Jones
Series: Charley Davidson #6
Published by St. Martin's Press on May 20th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Mystery, Romance
Pages: 326
Goodreads

Few things in life can come between a grim reaper and her coffee, but the sexy, sultry son of Satan is one of them. Now that Reyes Farrow has asked for her hand, Charley Davidson feels it's time to learn more about his past, but Reyes is reluctant to open up. When the official FBI file of his childhood abduction lands in her lap, Charley decides to go behind her mysterious beau’s back and conduct her own investigation. Because what could go wrong?
Unfortunately, another case has fallen into her lap—one with dangerous implications. Some very insistent men want Charley to hunt down a witness who is scheduled to testify against their boss, a major player in the local crime syndicate. If Charley doesn't come up with an address in 48 hours, the people closest to her will start to disappear.
Add to that a desperate man in search of the soul he lost in a card game, a dogged mother determined to find the ghost of her son, and a beautiful, young Deaf boy haunted by his new ability to see the departed as clearly as he sees the living, and Charley has her hands full. The fact that Reyes has caught on to her latest venture only adds fuel to the inferno that he is. Good thing for Charley she's used to multi-tasking and always up for a challenge…especially when that challenge comes in the form of Reyes Farrow.

A Great Reckoning (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #12) by Louise Penny

Redd Becker Book Review

Louise penny’s latest Inspector Gamache mystery begins in Three An Inspector Gamache mysteryPines where we find the inspector deciding to accept the Commander position at the Sûreté academy in order to weed out corruption and the perspective of recruits from thugs to officers with integrity. (Many times I wished such practices could root out and change the police forces in some of our cities in the USA.)

When a teacher at the academy is murdered the independent inspector enlisted to oversee the investigation suspects Commander Gamache.

Inevitably, Penny includes scenes with the Quebec village of Three Pines in her stories. In this tale an orienteering map serves at the link between the tiny village and the academy. Four recruits are brought to the village to research its history. The characters Penny has developed living in Three Pines are all there, adding their usual charm.

Plenty of Suspects

There are always plenty of suspects including the independent investigator, Deputy Commissioner Gelinas; Armand’s oldest friend and later foe, Micheal Brebeuf, who Armand enlists to teach corruption, a crime Brebeuf was guilty of committing; four students close to the murdered professor; and a tactician brought in to teach, Hugo Charpentier. Jean Guy even begins questions his old boss, when he suspects Armand of being the father of a recruit. Twists keep you second guessing until the final reveal.

A Great Reckoning is a well-written mystery, although it may not include the fresh writing of some of Penny’s books.

Inspector Gamache Mysteries

Louise Penny has written twelve mysteries with Inspector Armand Gamache as lead from 2005 to 2016. Each develops the man and his connection to the quaint Quebec village of Three Pines.

A Great Reckoning (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #12) by Louise PennyA Great Reckoning (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #12) by Louise Penny
Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #12
Published by Minotaur Books on August 30th 2016
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 389
Goodreads

The next novel in Louise Penny's #1 New York Times bestselling series featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache.
When an intricate old map is found stuffed into the walls of the bistro in Three Pines, it at first seems no more than a curiosity. But the closer the villagers look, the stranger it becomes.
Given to Armand Gamache as a gift the first day of his new job, the map eventually leads him to shattering secrets. To an old friend and older adversary. It leads the former Chief of Homicide for the Sûreté du Québec to places even he is afraid to go. But must.
And there he finds four young cadets in the Sûreté academy, and a dead professor. And, with the body, a copy of the old, odd map.
Everywhere Gamache turns, he sees Amelia Choquet, one of the cadets. Tattooed and pierced. Guarded and angry. Amelia is more likely to be found on the other side of a police line-up. And yet she is in the academy. A protégée of the murdered professor.
The focus of the investigation soon turns to Gamache himself and his mysterious relationship with Amelia, and his possible involvement in the crime. The frantic search for answers takes the investigators back to Three Pines and a stained glass window with its own horrific secrets.
For both Amelia Choquet and Armand Gamache, the time has come for a great reckoning.
#1 New York Times bestselling author Louise Penny pulls back the layers to reveal a brilliant and emotionally powerful truth in her latest spellbinding novel.

The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie, Miss Marple mystery

Redd Becker Book Review

In Agatha Christie’s The Moving Finger, a newcomer to the village receives a poison pen letter and finds The Moving Fingerthat many other villagers received them too. A maid who suspects the identity of the letter’s author is murdered before she can tell anyone.

I always enjoy Agatha Christie’s writing. Her style reads easily. She includes plenty of dialogue interlaced with setting descriptions. Equally important, she keeps you guessing with well placed clues as characters develop. The typical English village settings intrigue American readers, but her popularity demonstrates that English readers adore her stories equally.

The Moving Finger POV

Christie’s books, particularly her Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot series, fascinate me. Both sleuths capture reader’s imaginations, yet they often don’t appear in a story until the ancillary characters become well established. In The Moving Finger Miss Marple hardly appears at all. The delay in the sleuth’s appearance may be due to the narrators Christie chooses to tell the story. She often writes in first person, but not from the sleuth’s point-of-view. 

Agatha Christie is well worth reading, even if you’ve seen the TV BBC dramas.

The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie, Miss Marple mysteryThe Moving Finger (Miss Marple, #4) by Agatha Christie
Published by Harper Collins on January 1st 1970
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 299
Goodreads

The placid village of Lymstock seems the perfect place for Jerry Burton to recuperate from his accident under the care of his sister, Joanna. But soon a series of vicious poison-pen letters destroys the village's quiet charm, eventually causing one recipient to commit suicide. The vicar, the doctor, the servants—all are on the verge of accusing one another when help arrives from an unexpected quarter. The vicar's houseguest happens to be none other than Jane Marple.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Redd Becker Book Review

A. S. King gives us a well written coming-of-age story in Please Ignore Vera Dietz. Vera struggles with more than any teenager should. Her mother abandoned her, her father struVera Dietz by A.S. Kingggles with life, her best friend’s father beats his mother and love seems always out of grasp for Vera. Pressures from the gang at school demean Vera and when her best friend and love of her life rejects her, her world implodes.

A difficult story for me to read, because everyone makes bad decisions, one after another. They never seem to make a good decision. No reprieve appears in sight. Even King’s ending laid a heavy hand on the heroine.

Undoubtedly, Please Ignore Vera Dietz is an important depiction of how life for many teens works. For those more fortunate, the story depicts issues some teens face, however, it hurts to visualize such a bleak life as completely as King depicted Vera’s.

Vera Dietz comes to life with style

King writes in a familiar first person perspective that suits the story well. Written in Vera’s voice, the style is believable and carries you into her world.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. KingPlease Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
Published by Ember on April 10th 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 326
Goodreads

Vera’s spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she’s kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything. So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone—the kids at school, his family, even the police. But will she emerge to clear his name? Does she even want to? Edgy and gripping, Please Ignore Vera Dietz is an unforgettable novel: smart, funny, dramatic, and always surprising.
From the Hardcover edition.

The Long Way Home by Louise Penny, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #10

Redd Becker Book Review

Many of you are familiar with Louise Penny’s Québécois inspector, Armand Gamache. A character full of warmth, compassion and, by Louise Pennyalways necessary for a great inspector, an ingenious perspective. When Gamache’s friend and neighbor’s husband fails to show up for a date on the one year anniversary of their separation she wants to know why. The search for his whereabouts leads Gamache from Paris, to Italy, to the recluse reaches of wilderness Canada, where the estranged husband has gone to redeem himself.

Penny paces her mystery. She takes the reader on circuitous paths that develop characters and enriches the overall ambiance of the story. By the end we are as fond of the isolated community of Three Pines, where Gamache lives, as the characters directly connected with the mystery. Fear not, however, as Inspector Gamaches’ patience and understanding of human psychology prevail to unravel the mystery.

Louise Penny Writes with Style

Once again I enjoyed Penny’s mystery. She writes in third person omniscient, developing the plot with care and paying attention to the details.

I didn’t like the end of The Long Way Home. It was too expected–although perhaps necessary in order to remain within the mystery genre’s expectation.

For those interested in writing: Take a look at Penny’s use of sentence fragments. She builds paragraphs on incomplete sentences that create images with the least amount of words. Penny uses this style to its fullest effect in her later novels.

Point-of-view shifts often, sometimes for only a short period of time. This technique builds rapport with multiple characters.

Although Penny breaks some of the rules teachers advocate these days, her fragmented sentences and word choices create a familiar atmosphere appropriate for the caring Inspector Gamache.

The Long Way Home by Louise Penny, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #10The Long Way Home (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #10) by Louise Penny
Published by Minotaur Books on August 26th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery
Pages: 373
Goodreads

Happily retired in the village of Three Pines, Armand Gamache, former Chief Inspector of Homicide with the Sûreté du Québec, has found a peace he’d only imagined possible. On warm summer mornings he sits on a bench holding a small book, The Balm in Gilead, in his large hands. "There is a balm in Gilead," his neighbor Clara Morrow reads from the dust jacket, "to make the wounded whole."
While Gamache doesn’t talk about his wounds and his balm, Clara tells him about hers. Peter, her artist husband, has failed to come home. Failed to show up as promised on the first anniversary of their separation. She wants Gamache’s help to find him. Having finally found sanctuary, Gamache feels a near revulsion at the thought of leaving Three Pines. "There’s power enough in Heaven," he finishes the quote as he contemplates the quiet village, "to cure a sin-sick soul." And then he gets up. And joins her.
Together with his former second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, and Myrna Landers, they journey deeper and deeper into Québec. And deeper and deeper into the soul of Peter Morrow. A man so desperate to recapture his fame as an artist, he would sell that soul. And may have. The journey takes them further and further from Three Pines, to the very mouth of the great St. Lawrence river. To an area so desolate, so damned, the first mariners called it The land God gave to Cain. And there they discover the terrible damage done by a sin-sick soul.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Redd Becker Book Review

by Anthony DoerrAll the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is a touching story written in 3rd person omniscient. We follow the lives of two main characters from pre-World War II to various points throughout their lives. A blind French girl growing up during the war and a German orphan boy who has a knack for radios, each ferret their way through harrowing times. 

This is one of the best books I’ve read recently. The intensity of the times drew me in, but the characters are the juice that kept me reading.

Anthony Doerr knows Plot

Doerr weaves plot complexities wonderfully. While two main characters create the warp and weft of the story, which we expect to converge, Doerr develops secondary characters. He explores all of them fully, as a result, they add color, depth and intrigue to the overall storyline. Doerr includes well-researched details that build believability in this wonderful piece of historical fiction. He develops locations, scenery, circumstances and his characters with attention to detail.

Doerr addresses all lose ends by the book’s close, except one. We never learn what happened to the mysteriously sought-after diamond. That said, who cares? It’s a great read.

On a side note, the book felt too long in places, but that is largely a matter of Doerr’s writing style, which I consider ‘Setting’ as described by Nancy Pearl. Not my favorite style, but revered by many.

A Pulitzer Prize for Anthony Doerr

The Guardian wrote an article on the author after the announcement of his Pulitzer Prize win. Enjoy getting to know the author.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony DoerrAll the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Published by Scribner on May 6th 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 530
Goodreads

Winner of the Pulitzer PrizeFrom the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.
Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.
In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.
Doerr’s “stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors” (San Francisco Chronicle) are dazzling. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, he illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, a National Book Award finalist, All the Light We Cannot See is a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer “whose sentences never fail to thrill” (Los Angeles Times).

The Humming Room by Ellen Potter

Redd Becker Book Review

Humming Room by Ellen PotterEllen Potter starts The Humming Room with a young girl, Roo, hiding while state troopers search her parent’s trailer. The scene seemed foreboding and not what I expect in a middle grade book. By the end of the chapter I feared for Roo, either her parents died or committed a terrible crime. One imagines the mystery of what happened the challenge of the story, but that plot line evaporated more quickly then it arrived. The mystery remained unresolved, making it incongruous to the rest of the story.

In the next chapter Roo moves in with her uncle on the isolated Cough Island, where a new world introduces new mysteries. Two housekeepers attempt protecting Roo from something undefined, but with little effect. New mysteries appear everywhere.  A Faigne or phantom boy skirts around the river, stirring Roo’s imagination. Humming in the walls entice her, while rumors of her uncle killing his wife haunts her. Bottom line, there is no lack of mysteries in Potter’s novel. All, but the first mystery is resolved by the end. What happens to the parents is never addressed, only that Roo loved her father, who looked like her uncle.

Roo proves a confrontational personality, but one I grew to embrace. Each chapter of the story left me wondering what comes next. The plethora of mysteries drives the story, but its core revolves around Roo building relationships and establishing her equilibrium.

Ellen Potter Builds on Sounds

I like how Potter incorporates sounds in her story. She builds Roo’s character on the girl’s listening ability. From the opening scene, with Roo under the trailer listening to the state troupers’ boots above, to the end. Even the title, The Humming, reflects Potter’s obsession with sound. The story weaves what Roo hears into every scene. The sounds of the river and swishing of oars, flapping of a bat’s wing and swish of a crane overhead all serve to enliven the read. We question the squirrel’s chatter who befriends Roo, and the unidentifiable crying she hears. Neither do we miss the humming in the walls of her uncle’s mansion. Perhaps most distinctive is Roo’s ability to hear sounds in the earth when she puts her head to the ground, which is a thread at the beginning and end of the story, tying it together.

The World Listening Project announced the theme for World Listening Day which occurs annually–scheduled for July 18th, 2017 this year. The theme will be “Listening to the ground”

The Humming Room by Ellen PotterThe Humming Room by Ellen Potter
Published by Feiwel & Friends on February 28th 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Middle Grade, Mystery, Young Adult
Pages: 192
Goodreads

Hiding is Roo Fanshaw's special skill. Living in a frighteningly unstable family, she often needs to disappear at a moment's notice. When her parents are murdered, it's her special hiding place under the trailer that saves her life.
As it turns out, Roo, much to her surprise, has a wealthy if eccentric uncle, who has agreed to take her into his home on Cough Rock Island. Once a tuberculosis sanitarium for children of the rich, the strange house is teeming with ghost stories and secrets. Roo doesn't believe in ghosts or fairy stories, but what are those eerie noises she keeps hearing? And who is that strange wild boy who lives on the river? People are lying to her, and Roo becomes determined to find the truth.
Despite the best efforts of her uncle's assistants, Roo discovers the house's hidden room--a garden with a tragic secret.
Inspired by The Secret Garden, this tale full of unusual characters and mysterious secrets is a story that only Ellen Potter could write.