Tag Archives: mystery

Book Review, Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann

For anyone who likes sheep or likes an amusing twist to their mystery novel, Leonie Three Bags Full by Leonie SwannSwann’s Three Bags Full will hit the mark. From the first page, when a flock of sheep find their shepherd dead, Swann puts us into the mindset of sheep. Maple takes the lead as the flock ferrets out the person who killed their shepherd.

I’ve had the pleasure of spending time on a sheep farm, where one quickly sees that sheep are not necessarily ‘sheepish’. They have various personalities, quirks and foibles, similar to humans. Do they communicate so clearly? I’m not sure. You’ll have to ask the shepherds. Swan certainly takes liberties with how much a sheep can do. Sheep dreams may not be as insightful as Maple’s. But Swann includes enough truth to ground the sheeps’ antics and bring their perspectives to life for us.

Three Bags Full Twists our Perception

The sheep’s interpretations of human events brings levity to the morose Irish village portrayed. Some readers may be startled by Swann’s irreverent associations of God and the church, such as the garden with nice long rows where humans don’t grow anything but ‘they plant dead bodies’. The sheeps’ misunderstandings of who God is and where he lives are also amusing.

The flock make themselves at home in their Irish village, as did I by the end of the story. And I wish them well on their next adventure, which Swann  continues with book two, Garou, of the Three Bags Full series.

A list of sheep on the cover with their unique character traits helps the reader track one sheep from another. Maple, Othelo, Cloud, Ritchfield, Mopple and more. You’re sure to be entertained getting to know them. The mystery is particularly fun for anyone who knows sheep or loves the idea of the quaint Irish village.

Book Review, Three Bags Full by Leonie SwannThree Bags Full by Leonie Swann, Anthea Bell
Series: Sheep Detective Series #1
Published by Doubleday Canada on June 5th 2007
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 352
Goodreads

A witty philosophical murder mystery with a charming twist: the crack detectives are sheep determined to discover who killed their beloved shepherd.

On a hillside near the cozy Irish village of Glennkill, a flock of sheep gathers around their shepherd, George, whose body lies pinned to the ground with a spade. George has cared devotedly for the flock, even reading them books every night. Led by Miss Maple, the smartest sheep in Glennkill (and possibly the world), they set out to find George’s killer.

The A-team of investigators includes Othello, the “bad-boy” black ram; Mopple the Whale, a Merino who eats a lot and remembers everything; and Zora, a pensive black-faced ewe with a weakness for abysses. Joined by other members of the richly talented flock, they engage in nightlong discussions about the crime, wild metaphysical speculations, and embark on reconnaissance missions into the village, where they encounter some likely suspects. Along the way, the sheep confront their own all-too-human struggles with guilt, misdeeds, and unrequited love. Funny, fresh, and endearing, it introduces a wonderful new breed of detectives to Canadian readers.

Book Review, How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny

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.

Book Review, 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.

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

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.

Book Review, 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 by Kate Sedley Book Review

 A Roger the Chapman Mystery

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 by Kate Sedley Book ReviewThe 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 . . .

Book Review, Sixth Grave on the Edge by Darynda Jones

A Charley Davidson Book

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.

Book Review, Sixth Grave on the Edge by Darynda JonesSixth 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.

Book Review, A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny

A Chief Inspector Armand Gamache Mystery

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.

Book Review, A Great Reckoning 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.

Book Review, The Long Way Home by Louise Penny

A Chief Inspector Gamache Mystery,

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.

Book Review, The Long Way Home by Louise PennyThe 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.