Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #1 by: Louise Penny Publishedon: September 30, 2008
“Three Pines wasn’t on any tourist map, being too far off any main or even secondary road. Like Narnia, it was generally found unexpectedly and with a degree of surprise that such an elderly village should have been hiding in this valley all along. Anyone fortunate enough to find it once usually found their way back.”
My first Louise Penny book! I’ve read so many wonderfully written reviews on a few of her books that it was becoming difficult not to add her books to my list, especially since I enjoy detective stories/police procedurals.
Still Life is set in the small village of Three Pines, Quebec Canada. And when a retired teacher who also enjoys painting is found dead it sends shock waves throughout the close-knit community. To help solve the mystery of her death, Chief Inspector Gamache and his team are called in and begin their investigation.
Before picking up The Postscript Murders, I had come to the conclusion that it was just not practical or possible for some of the main elements from The Stranger Diaries to carry over. This was mostly true with the story within a story format since the short story, The Stranger, was very unique to Clare, the first book’s main character. The short story not only introduced the gothic atmosphere, but the fictional author as well, both of which had a distinct presence throughout the book.
I mention this in hopes that no one goes in and is immediately disappointed. The Postscript Murders is a terrific murder mystery, but it does not carry over several elements that made The Stranger Diaries unique and memorable. It can be jarring. Once or twice, I thought to myself that it almost felt as if it were written by a different author, or was part of a different series.
The Devil and the Dark Water by: Stuart Turton Publishedon: October 6, 2020
“Surviving isn’t winning. It is what you do when you’ve lost.“
The Devil and the Dark Water is a paranormal mystery inspired by the Batavia shipwreck of 1628. The true story of the Batavia is horrific. A shipwreck by itself would be terrifying, but it takes a further insidious and sinister turn even after the survivors find their way to a nearby island. If you ever happen to read the true account, you might actually think it is a bad plot of a horror novel, except in this case it happens to be true. Drawing on this, the author uses people/roles, names, and places to create his story. And while there are similarities The Devil and the Dark Water is not a retelling or accounting of the actual shipwreck, but is its own unique story.
The Black Orchid Girls by: Carolyn Arnold Publishedon: February 10, 2022
Black Orchid Girls is the 4th book in the Detective Amanda Steele series that gives a solid story, but felt a little bland.
Early one morning a girl is found murdered in the Leesylvania State Park and Detective Amanda Steele and her partner Detective Trent Stenson are called in to investigate. The girl turns out to be a local college student, Chloe Sumner, with a heart for the environment and was frequently known to go to the park for the Mystery snail. Soon the detectives are given plenty of leads to begin their investigation, which include boyfriends, roommates, and rivals just to name a few.
The Stranger Diaries (Harbinder Kaur #1): Elly Griffiths Publishedon: March 5, 2019
In Stranger Diaries, Elly Griffiths has written a wonderful gothic story that combines a fictional Victorian-era short story with a modern murder mystery.
Clare is the single-mother of 15-year-old Georgie. She teaches high-school English in the house where R.M. Holland, the long-deceased author of short-story The Stranger, used to live. In her spare time, she researches the various mysteries surrounding R.M. Holland, mostly relating to rumors about his wife and possible daughter. Shortly in, Clare learns that her coworker and friend, Elle has been murdered. DS Harbinder Kaur and her partner Neil are assigned to the case, however, they find plenty of roadblocks during their investigation as the people who knew Elle feel compelled to hide certain truths from them.
A Gilded Gotham Mystery by: Katie Belli Publishedon: October 6, 2020
Originally I wondered if the gaslight in the title was a reference to the actual gas-light of that era, or was a story about being gaslighted. Either way, I knew it was a story that I would be intrigued by, not to mention it having a terrific cover.
While only my second book by this author, it’s clear that the setting and mood are important characteristics to the stories she tells.
Her Final Words centers around a small town in Idaho called Knox Hollow. Within its borders is a church known for its strict doctrines and tight control over its members. While FBI Agent Lucy Thorne investigates the murder of Noah Dawson, this church and their beliefs are woven into the story. None moreso than their belief that there should be no medical intervention when someone is sick or hurt. The state’s Shield Law protects parents in these instances, but it is no less controversial. Throughout the story we learn how difficult it is for the small police department to coincide with this church.
One of the fascinating aspects of the book is how little we know of our main character, Agent Thorne. Often, this genre will provide a detailed character description along with a list of their flaws and demons. Instead, Agent Lucy Thorne enters the story with very little background given. As the story progresses we learn about who Lucy is not by her history, but by her actions and by how she interacts with Sheriff Hicks and Deputy Grant.
While Lucy’s narrative is the central POV, mixed in are chapter’s from the events leading up to when Eliza confesses to FBI. Initially, I feared I would get bored of seeing only one person’s flashback. So I was pleasantly surprised when the past events were told from multiple points of view. By doing so we are given an incomplete picture of what transpired that helps to keep us guessing until the pieces finally start to fit together at the end.
In general, Her Final Words comes across as a straight mystery/suspense story with no alternating story lines told. For me, this approach worked as it allowed me to focus only on the story at hand. Once started, I became engaged rather quickly and am glad I picked it as this month’s First Reads choice.
Rating: 4 stars
It seems like an open-and-shut case for FBI special agent Lucy Thorne when Eliza Cook walks into the field office. The teenage girl confesses to murdering a young boy. Disturbingly composed, she reveals chilling details only the killer could know. Beyond that Eliza doesn’t say another word, leaving a vital question met with dead silence: Why did she do it?
To find the answer, Lucy goes to the scene of the crime in the small Idaho town of Knox Hollow. But Lucy’s questions are only mounting. Especially when she’s drawn deeper into the life of the victim. Then a combing of the woods yields unsettling evidence that Eliza isn’t the only one in this close-knit rural community with secrets.
Getting to the truth is becoming Lucy’s obsession. And it’s a dangerous one. Because for the good folks of Knox Hollow, hiding that truth will take more than silence.
Detective Lew Kirby #1By: S.W. Kane Published On: July 1, 2020
I loved it. As I write this review, I’m already plotting how to put in my request to ensure Connie and Raymond both make it back to the next book in the series.
The Bone Jar mystery begins when the security guard of an old, dilapidated asylum discovers an elderly lady dead in one of the rooms. Soon DI Lew Kirby and his partner Pete Anderson are called to the scene to investigate. What they discover is the building is due for construction with limited access so the question isn’t just who is the lady and why was she killed, but how did they get in.
The story is primarily told from two POVs: DI Kirby and Connie Darke. DI Kirby is a bit unusual for detective novels these days in that he has a fairly normal life. He has a new girlfriend and he gets along with his family. He’s also a competent detective who gets along decently well with his coworkers and during the investigative process finds himself having some rather interesting interviews. Connie is someone we don’t meet until several chapters in. She has ties to the investigation and assists it effortlessly. Every time she entered the scene I knew to read carefully because something was going to happen. But as a reader I sincerely appreciated how she wasn’t a character who did stupid things, such as getting herself into danger without calling the local DI on the case. Nothing more frustrating than a character walking into a bad situation with their eyes wide open and doing nothing about it.
The plotting and pacing of the unraveling of the mystery seemed spot-on, which is what keeps me hooked in suspense novels. Always moving forward steadily until we get to the ‘thrill’ part where they catch the villain. And unlike other books I’ve read where the story feels over once the villain is caught, this one spent time giving the reader closure on several fronts to give a satisfying conclusion along with the hints of what may pop up in future books.
As much as I enjoyed the book, I do have two issues I wanted to bring up: 1) There is a splattering of curse words in the story. They are not everywhere and you can go long sections without seeing them, but some of them felt unnecessary. 2) There’s an unanswered question in my mind about an alibi that was being looked into that I don’t remember seeing the final result of. However, it’s also very possible that it was answered and I just missed it while reading.
Overall, a terrific start to a new series.
Rating: 4.5 stars
Two murders. An abandoned asylum. Will a mysterious former patient help untangle the dark truth?
The body of an elderly woman has been found in the bowels of a derelict asylum on the banks of the Thames. As Detective Lew Kirby and his partner begin their investigation, another body is discovered in the river nearby. How are the two murders connected?
Before long, the secrets of Blackwater Asylum begin to reveal themselves. There are rumours about underground bunkers and secret rooms, unspeakable psychological experimentation, and a dark force that haunts the ruins, trying to pull back in all those who attempt to escape. Urban explorer Connie Darke, whose sister died in a freak accident at the asylum, is determined to help Lew expose its grisly past. Meanwhile Lew discovers a devastating family secret that threatens to turn his life upside down.
As his world crumbles around him, Lew must put the pieces of the puzzle together to keep the killer from striking again. Only an eccentric former patient really knows the truth—but will he reveal it to Lew before it’s too late?
By the end of the first sentence we know that Eunice Parchman is the murderer. In truth, the first sentence is one of the best first sentences I have read in a book. It is clear, concise, and straight to the point. I love the first sentence because not only do we learn who the murderer is we also know who she murdered and why. This novel does not question her guilt because that is clear. Nor does it question whom she murdered. What it does do is take a closer look at what led up to that moment.
This is a true psychological thriller that takes a look at the makeup of the killer – her motivations, what shaped her life, and what she did to hide what embarrassed her. Who was she when no one was looking or cared to look? But there is more to this story than the murderer. There is a family involved and this book also lays out all the choices the family made along the way. Those moments of hesitation they felt about her character, but never acted on. Moments when they had a clear choice to change the direction their life was about to take in ‘what if’ conversations.
Judgement in Stone at times feels like a mix between an in-depth TV murder investigation and the narration of the Twilight Zone with its hindsight commentary of specific events that might have prevented their deaths. At times the narrator even implores the character to take another course of action. But they can’t change the past; instead the narrator can only show us how the character failed themselves. We can only see where the victims should have listened to their own doubts about incongruous behaviors.
The majority of the book leads up to the murders, but equally fascinating were the events following. The narrator once again tells you what her downfall is, but until there is an arrest doubts linger in my head. Eunice is so smug and self-satisfied in her belief that she’ll get away with it. She has taken care of everything and the investigators are none the wiser. This is the smallest part of the book, but is one of my two favorite sections. The other favorite being any time the narrator breaks the fourth wall.
A Judgement in Stoneis one of Ruth Rendell’s best, if not the best work. The psychological motivations of both the Eunice and the family were expertly portrayed. The in-depth discussion within the story at what Eunice considered a weakness was fascinating. All in all, this is a thought-provoking book that will stay with me for quite a while. I am also certain that I will be hard pressed to find another equal to it.
Rating: 5 stars
What on earth could have provoked a modern day St. Valentine’s Day massacre?
On Valentine’s Day, four members of the Coverdale family–George, Jacqueline, Melinda and Giles–were murdered in the space of 15 minutes. Their housekeeper, Eunice Parchman, shot them, one by one, in the blue light of a televised performance of Don Giovanni. When Detective Chief Superintendent William Vetch arrests Miss Parchman two weeks later, he discovers a second tragedy: the key to the Valentine’s Day massacre hidden within a private humiliation Eunice Parchman has guarded all her life. A brilliant rendering of character, motive, and the heady discovery of truth, A Judgement in Stone is among Ruth Rendell’s finest psychological thrillers.
Charles Lenox Mystery Book .3 By: Charles Finch Published on: February 18, 2020
The Last Passenger is a book from one of my favorite mystery series and always one I can count on to deliver a good story and one that leaves me immediately wanting to pick up the next in the series, even if it is a re-read. The Last Passenger was no exception.
The story opens in a scene filled with humor and wit – apparently London has decided Charles needs a wife. Through-out the story we get to watch Charles skillfully evade potential future wives as they are introduced to Charles over and over again. Marriage and love in general are one of the common themes in this novel. But, this book is set in a time where a woman’s economic and financial options are limited, which is also introduced into the story. Even so, if one is lucky enough they get to experience true love, which we get to see very clearly through Lady Jane and Lord Deere’s relationship.
Toward the beginning of the story Charles becomes involved with a murder case where the clues and lack of clues are difficult to interpret, not to mention no one has any idea of who the victim is, which takes quite a bit of sleuthing to figure out. Through the course of the investigation we learn there is a connection tied to the politics of the American slave trade and as the story progresses the reader is given a little insight around the differences between the U.S. and U.K. policies and support in regards to slavery and the slave trade.
How does one not fall in love with this series? Because this is a prequel to the actual series I knew already where the story would take the characters, but even so, my heart still broke with that ending. It was so incredibly well done and so emotional. Not overly dramatic, but skillfully done with a delicate, light touch leaving my heart raw and bare.
Highly recommended to anyone who loves a traditional detective mystery story that is set in England in the mid 1800’s.
Rating: 5 stars
Thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press and Minotaur Books for the advanced reader copy and opportunity to provide an honest review.