Tag Archives: mystery

How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny

Redd Becker Book Review

Louise Penny does it again. In this story Chief Inspector Gamache investigates the death of Myrna’s by Louise Pennyfriend. Because Myrna is the Inspector’s neighbor, Gamache works with caution. To solve the murder, he must delve into the past of a very public yet secretive family. Meanwhile, he faces his own demise within his department of Quebec’s sûreté. With his trusted personnel gutted, he attempts to prove himself free of blame, while ferreting out where the true source of corruption resides.

Louise Penny Plays with Sub-plot

Louise Penny mastered the layering of subplot in this novel. Her intriguing characters possess distinct personalities, along with histories and motives to unravel and caste suspicion. 

While Penny writes in third person, her characters compel readers. We care about them. Not just the Chief Inspector, but his assistant, his wife and the people living in Three Pines. They all become as real as our friends and neighbors. We want to know them.

Having read several mysteries by Louise Penny, I’ve been interested in the manner her writing style changes. In early works she wrote with a more conservative attention to sentence structure, while in later works sentence fragments enliven the telling. Her use of phrases add immediacy to story events and personalizes the narration.

How the Light Gets In by Louise PennyHow the Light Gets In (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #9) by Louise Penny
Series: Chief Inspector Gamache
on January 1st 1970
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 405
Goodreads

The stunning, ingenious and sinister new novel in the internationally bestselling Inspector Gamache series.

A DETECTIVEAs a fierce, unrelenting winter grips Quebec, shadows are closing in on Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Most of his best agents have left the Homicide Department and hostile forces are lining up against him.

A DISAPPEARANCEWhen Gamache receives a message about a mysterious case in Three Pines, he is compelled to investigate -- a woman who was once one of the most famous people in the world has vanished.

A DEADLY CONCLUSIONAs he begins to shed light on the investigation, he is drawn into a web of murder, lies and unimaginable corruption at the heart of the city. Facing his most challenging, and personal, case to date, can Gamache save the reputation of the Sûreté, those he holds dear and himself?

Evocative, gripping and atmospheric, this magnificent work of crime fiction from international bestselling author Louise Penny will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

The Good, the Bad, and the Emus by Donna Andrews

Redd Becker Book Review

by Donna Andrews

Writing in first person, Donna Andrews, puts the reader into the quirky mysteries of Meg Langslow. Andrew’s books provide entertainment in easy to read prose. Add humor, and the afternoon slips by within Meg’s mystery.

I like that the main character is not morose. Wrapping the story around the antics of an emu round-up provides squiggle room to keep it light. Now place the entire emu crew, including a film crew, camping next to Meg’s grandma’s old house. From here, Andrews creates a recipe for humorous drama.

In this story, Meg agrees to find her long-lost grandmother, but quickly learns she died. Hence she becomes obsessed with investigating who killed her. Her grandfather’s pet project, to rescue a herd of wild emus in Virginia, overlaps with the investigation, thus casting suspicion on him. Add the emu project’s entanglement with a suspect, who’s bent on acquiring land for mineral excavation. Doesn’t look good for Grandfather.

As a writer I noted the inconsistent use of commas throughout the novel, an over use of the passive voice and more “that”s than I like. That said, I enjoyed the characters and story line.

Donna Andrews’ Series

Donna Andrews captures a niche mystery market with her Meg Langslow series. Twenty-two books and waiting.

The Good, the Bad, and the Emus by Donna AndrewsThe Good, the Bad, and the Emus (Meg Langslow, #17) by Donna Andrews
Published by Minotaur Books on July 8th 2014
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 320
Goodreads

Life will never be the same for Meg Langslow after family secrets are revealed, introducing a whole new layer of intrigue in Donna Andrews's beloved series. Meg’s long-lost paternal grandfather, Dr. Blake, has hired Stanley Denton to find her grandmother Cordelia. Dr. Blake was reunited with his family when he saw Meg’s picture—she’s a dead ringer for Cordelia—and now Stanley has found a trail to his long-lost love in a small town less than an hour's drive away. He convinces Meg to come with him to meet her, but unfortunately, the woman they meet is Cordelia’s cousin—Cordelia died several months ago, and the cousin suspects she was murdered by her long-time neighbor.Stanley and Meg agree to help track down the killer and get justice for Cordelia. Grandfather even has perfect cover--he will come to stage a rescue of the feral emus and ostriches (escaped from an abandoned farm) that infest this town. He dashes off to organize the rescue—which will, of course, involve most of Meg's family and friends in Caerphilly. But then, the evil neighbor is murdered, and not only Cordelia’s cousin but also the entire contingent of emu-rescuers, who have had conflict with the neighbor, are suspects. Only Meg and the cousin—who seems to share a lot of telling traits with Meg—can find the real killer and clear the air in The Good, the Bad, and the Emus, the newest beverage-spittingly funny installment in this uproarious series from the one-and-only Donna Andrews.

 

The Tintern Treasure, Roger the Chapman Mystery by Kate Sedley

Redd Becker Book Review

Kate Sedley captivates us with her Roger the Chapman mysteries. by Kate SedleyShe takes us to England during the late middle ages. Interesting characters placed in fascinating foreign settings enhances the read.  In this mystery, Roger, traveling trader, stays at a monastery with three wealthy men from his home town. The monastery’s vault remained sealed for over one hundred fifty years when the mystery begins. When the vault is violated, nobody knows what is missing.

Roger endeavors to locate the contents, while he attempts to identify a the traitor to King Richard who would steal from the monastery. Several subplots with those from his past and within the monastery spice up his investigation.

The action in The Tintern Treasure flows easily, but the plot was too obvious. Regardless I enjoyed the quick read.

Kate Sedley’s from Bristol

Known for her Rodger the Chapman series, Kate Sedley follows many England born mystery writers. A list of the twenty-two books in the series can be found on Cozy Mysteries web site.

The Tintern Treasure, Roger the Chapman Mystery by Kate SedleyThe Tintern Treasure (Roger the Chapman #21) by Kate Sedley
Series: Rodger the Chapman #21
Published by Severn House Publishers on July 1st 2012
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 233
Goodreads


An important discovery puts Roger the Chapman’s life in danger . . . -
In the autumn of 1483, Roger goes on an errand of mercy to Hereford, where he is caught up in the Duke of Buckingham’s rebellion against the new king, Richard III. Roger takes refuge in Tintern Abbey, but on his return to Bristol, a murder and a series of house robberies lead him to the eventual discovery of the treasure stolen from the abbey on the night he was there. It also means great danger, not only for himself, but a member of his family . . .

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 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
Series: Inspector Gamache #10
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.

Sacred River by Debu Majumdar, story of a temple gold heist

Redd Becker Book Review

In Sacred River, A Himalayan Journey, Debu Majumdar introduces us to East Indian characters from all walks of life.  He weaves them Sacred River by Debu Majumdartogether as they journey to the source of the Sacred River, each for their own reasons. The meld of characters on their disparate quests immerses the reader in the complexities of India’s rich and diverse culture.

The question of ‘what happens to the gold that monasteries receive from worshipers’ became the focus of the murderous prologue scene. From there we follow three primary story lines. The poor farmer Jaglish, a light to cherish, begins and ends Majumdar’s story. Persons associated with the SMS society contrast with the farmer’s endearing role. The SMS needs money for philanthropic endeavors. Although work by the SMS helps the poor, its leaders  plan to grow the charity exponentially, thus putting them into a precarious financial position. When they acquire an old manuscript with a mysterious sequence of numbers, they make plans to rob a temple at the source of the Ganges.

Majumdar introduces Shovik in chapter 5. Although Shovik grew up in India, he married and lived with his family in the USA. His midlife crisis drew him back to India. Majumdar intertwines the three story lines, with each character reflecting a different aspect of India.

Backstories peppered throughout enlighten the reader on motives and personal challenges. We travel through a couple childhoods which took me out of the main plot. But ultimately, the story returns to the gold heist.

Debu Majumdar Writes India as a Character

India exists as a character itself in Majumdar’s tale. Rich detail on the intricacies of Indian culture impregnate every page. His descriptions take you there. You walk the streets and meet the people.  Majumdar blends history and religion, while Hindu folk tales add yet another layer.

The cover fooled me. It gave me the impression of a spiritual book, rather than a fiction novel. While the spiritual transformations that the journey to the source of the Ganges prompts is the theme of the story, the gold heist functions as the plot holding everything together. The heist itself is a fun read.

Majumdar Takes Award

Debu Majumdar won the Somerset Award in Literary Adventure for Sacred River, A Himalayan Journey.

Somerset Awards Writing Competition recognizes emerging talent and outstanding works in the genre of  Contemporary/Literary Fiction. The SOMERSET Awards is a division of Chanticleer International Novel Writing Competitions.
Sacred River by Debu Majumdar, story of a temple gold heistSacred River: A Himalayan Journey by Debu Majumdar
Published by Bo-Tree House on October 10th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Historical Fiction
Goodreads

"Mystery, love and beautiful scenery wrapped into a terrific journey."
- Jim Porell, Pine Plains, NY.
An Indian-American journeys to mystical Gangotri Glacier in the Himalayas, searching for peace and renewal. As he travels, a pilgrimage temple near the glacier becomes the target of a gold heist. Pilgrims, thieves, tourists, and events flow toward the temple independently with their individual stories. The life struggles of an illiterate farmer, lofty goals of a charitable organization, desire for fame, romance, and cultural nuance, along with Indian myths and legends, supply colorful threads to the story. Their paths cross and re-cross until the ultimate denouement. As little tributaries flow together to make the magnificent Ganges River, each thread is woven to make a beautiful tapestry with an uplifting conclusion. While, on the surface, all action centers on the treasure heist, underneath, this is a story of a spiritual quest invigorated by Indian mythological and folk tales. The novel is also a travelogue of India; through the events of the journey and planning for the gold heist, the reader comes face to face with the real India. A Himalayan journey that will touch your soul.

Praise for Sacred River

Sacred River is a deceptively readable novel that begins with murder and ends with a temple treasure hunt. The real treasure, however, is the intervening story which unwraps India itself--its deep history, dramatic geography, captivating people and above all its spirituality, both Hindu and Buddhist. The writing is clear, swift and engaging, as if written for young readers, but readers of every age will enjoy and profit from it. Since at least Tagore, modern Indian writers have offered great gifts to the rest of the world. Sacred River is another one.
- Jerry Brady, former newspaper publisher, Peace Corps staff member, and co-founder of one of the world's largest micro-lending organizations, Accion International.
Sacred River graciously introduces us to the old songs and stories about gods and heroes who make sites sacred and pilgrimages fruitful. And as an Indian story of pilgrimage ought to do, Sacred River also teaches its readers that the best fruits of pilgrimage are reserved for those who do not seek them.
- David Curley, Professor Emeritus, Western Washington University.
A brilliant novel, which gives a wonderfully vivid flavour of India with all its idiosyncrasies and contradictions. It transports you there, from Delhi to the foothills of the Himalayas, and there is an intriguing glimpse into Hindu beliefs and gods with insightful snippets of scriptures and stories. The novel also involves an ancient manuscript, a mysterious number sequence, and a plot to steal temple treasures. Fascinating and thought provoking that will bowl you along, wanting to know more.
- Barbara Hall, Nibley Green, Gloucestershire, U.K.
Mystery, love and beautiful scenery wrapped into a terrific journey. This book has elements of both a murder/mystery and historical fiction. What is unexpected is the spiritual journey that the author took with his characters, which might also be a pilgrimage of sorts for the reader. There are some great life lessons shared in the book, intertwined with a love story, deception and intrigue and a wonderful travelogue on the trip to the head of the Ganges River. All of these different angles are woven together in a very enjoyable way. It is worth every minute!
- Jim Porell, IBM Distinguished Engineer, retired, Pine Plains, NY.