Sunday, February 10, 2008

Pick of the Month - The Arsenic Labyrinth

The Arsenic Labyrinth by Martin Edwards (3rd in series)
Protagonist: DCI Hannah Scarlett and Historian Daniel Kind
Setting: Cumbria, Lake District, England
Rating: 4.0
Reading British mysteries is comfort food for me. And now I've found another author to add to my comfort list: Martin Edwards, who has written two mysteries series. This one, set in the Lake District, features DCI Hannah Scarlett and historian Daniel Kind and is a mix of the traditional British cozy and a police procedural. Hannah, assigned to the Cold Case Squad, re-investigates the disappearance of a woman 10 years ago in The Arsenic Labyrinth. We think we know who the murderer is -- after all, he confesses to us readers. But Edwards throws us quite a few twists and turns. And, of course, there's a growing spark between Hannah and Daniel, who both already have live-in partners. Although I haven't read the first two in the series, Arsenic Labyrinth didn't suffer for it (but now I do want to go back and read the first two). This is a wonderful read -- not only for the plot, but for the descriptions of the Lake District and the wonderful real-life characters.Luckily for us Americans, The Poisoned Pen in Phoenix publishes Edwards' books here.

Here's an interview of Martin Edwards:

February reads

Island of Bones by P.J. Parrish (5th in series)
Protagonist: Private investigator Louis Kincaid
Setting: Sanibel, Captiva and Ft. Myers, Fla.
Rating: 3.5
While I had some quibbles with the book (would have liked to have known more about Kincaid), this is another book that I enjoyed for its Florida setting. Here, Kincaid finds a skull washed up on the beach after a hurricane. A few days later, a woman's body is found among the mangroves. Then a woman hires Kincaid because she suspects her father, a mild-mannered librarian, has had something to do with two women who went missing years ago. Yes, it's all somehow related in this complex plot.

No Graves as Yet by Anne Perry (first in series, on audio)
Protagonists: Matthew and Joseph Reavley
Setting: England, 1914
Rating: 3.7
While I found one book to lack characterization, this book almost had a little too much! There were times I wished the author would get on with the plot. On the eve of World War I, Reavleys' parents are killed in a car accident; the sons soon suspect this is no mere accident. Their father was on his way to see Matthew, an intelligence officer, with what he claimed was an explosive document about a conspiracy that would disgrace England. Then just days later, a student of Joseph's is murdered in Cambridge -- a student who was adamantly against England becoming involved in a war. Can the two be connected? Excellent plotting. I already have the second book in hand!

Transgressions by Sarah Dunant
Protagonist: Lizzie Skorvecky
Setting: London, England
Rating: 4.6
Once in a while comes a book I absolutely cannot put down. Transgressions is one such book. Lizzie lives alone, after a breakup with her longtime boyfriend. Weird things start to happen: some CDs go missing, music is playing when she comes home. She changes the locks, but the next morning she wakes to find the breakfast table set for two. Is she going crazy? Does she have a poltergeist at home? Or will Lizzie have to deal with something much more human and more terrifying? A very smart female thriller.

Rampart Street by David Fulmer
Protagonist: Valentin St. Cyr
Setting: New Orleans, 1910
Rating: 3.7
When a rich man ends up shot dead in a bad part of town, his family wants to know what happened. But there are plenty of people who would just as soon cover it up. Valentin, a down-on-his-luck, has-been detective, is hired because the powers-that-be think he won't do a good enough job. Well, of course, he does. As a bonus, we get to see New Orleans at a time when it was filled with "jass" clubs and whorehouses. A very atmospheric book. I only wish I could have liked Valentin more -- he's an aloof, cold character.

Friday, February 08, 2008

News from around

Over at CrimeSpot, it's Black Mystery Month, where you'll get an education to black crime fiction and black detectives.

John Grisham, in an Associated Press interview, says he's not a literary author, that's he an entertainer. As someone who made $9 million last year, I'm sure he doesn't care what he's called; he's laughing all the way to the bank. He also talks about his addiction to political campaigns and his new book, The Appeal.

There's been a bit of uproar over quotes attributed to Whitbread award-winner Joan Brady. The whole story is over at P.J. Parrish's blog, which writes Brady sued a shoe factory in her English village claiming that toxic fumes had caused her health to deteriorate so much that she had been "reduced to writing thrillers." Or so that was the quote in the London Times. As it turns out, Brady said no such thing, Parrish writes. Says Brady: "I haven't dumbed down. I never said it. That's the pure invention of the Times. They have decided that this effete literary woman has become so stupid that she can no longer write boring literary fiction and writes poorly selling thrillers instead. My mental faculties haven't deteriorated. And anyway, what an insult it would be to thriller writers to suggest that you need to be stupid to write them. It seems to me so irritating that you would denigrate a remarkable genre where much of the best writing is done. I'm a great admirer of writers like John Grisham and Scott Turow." Anyhow, her new thriller is Bleedout, and it's one going on my TBR list.

And over at Euro Crime, we learn that
screening of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency movie, based on the novel by Alexander McCall Smith, has been set for March 24.