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I’m not sure if this post is spoilerish or not. I’m not giving away anything on the crime resolution, but I have Thoughts on the way the book ends. Many reviews on Goodreads that aren’t hidden make similar references.

237209This has been in and out of my wish-list for ages – I’d read a review and add it, then I’d read another and would take it out. It happened at least 4 times. But I found myself at the airport, having finished my book during the previous flight and with another 5-hour flight ahead of me (yes, I know, how could I have planned it so badly?!!). In the Woods was the only title in the airport’s small bookshop that rang a bell.

I enjoyed it, but the resolution was extremely frustrating, bordering on the insulting.

It’s a mystery novel that uses the recent plot trend of one mystery forcing the protagonist to go back to his/her childhood neighborhood/small town, the scene of another mystery, that remained unsolved for 20 years.

Thumbs up for the the Dublin setting and the insight into Irish police procedures. The book became famous because it’s more “literary” than your usual crime novel. The language is elaborate, and care is give to description and character building. I’m completely behind French on that, and though she was very successful… but the ending…

Maybe she took the “literary” angle too far. In literary fiction I’m ok with unsolved mysteries, unanswered questions, and bad guys that are known but not brought to justice – but it’s SO frustrating in a crime novel. Especially if the book is part of a series clearly marketed as crime, vs. for example, a stand alone novel that bridges genres, like The Collector.

A different ending would have made In the Woods a very near-perfect mystery novel for me.

I’d be very interested in your thoughts on this, especially if you’ve read it!

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Other thoughts: Fyrefly’s Boom Blog, Rhapsody in Books, Joyfully Retired, Literate Housewife, Always with a Book, Belle Wong, BooksPlease (yours?)

 

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Previous mini-reviews in the mystery category: Malice (Kyoichiro Kaga #4) by Keigo Higashino, narrated by Jeff Woodman and Hounded (Andy Carpenter #12) by David Rosenfelt, narrated by Grover Gardner 

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The Dead Will Tell (Kate Burkholder, #6) by Linda Castillo, narrated by Kathleen McInerney

An Amish family is murdered after a botched robbery, but no one is brought to justice. Thirty-five years later, a series of mysterious murders all have in common a connection to that almost forgotten horror. Chief of Police Kate Burkholder is chosen to investigated and the case will strike a chord with her: many years ago she was also part of the Amish community before deciding to leave.

The story was interesting, mostly because of what I learned about the Amish. Castillo really captures the tension between them and the “English” community in what (I thought) was a realistic way. The book also had good pacing and characterization, especially for a relatively short mystery, but the actual plot was less catching (whodunnit easy to figure out). Don’t have much to say about it – it’s one of those books that get a solid three-star because it was good but don’t produce any strong feelings. I’m afraid I’ll forget all about it in a year or two…

When books are told in the first person a good narrator is essential, and in this case Kathleen McInerney discreetly but confidently became Chief Burkholder. She was a good choice for this book – her voice is expressive but calm, which suited the Amish theme, but could also handle the action scenes. Also, she was comfortable with German words and sentences. I’ve added a couple of books to my Audible wish-list because of her, so that’s a good sign!

MissingYou_Coben_lgMissing You by Harlan Coben, narrated by January LaVoy

Yes, that rarest of things: a stand-alone mystery book. But one that was not my cuppa. The story revolves around Detective Kat Donovan, who’s persuaded by a friend to enter an online dating site. On her first time browsing profiles she comes across one with the photo of her first love, but under a different name.

This triggers a plot that involves kidnapping, live burials, mafia, prostitution, closeted parents, mental illness and I don’t know else all wrapped in coincidences that should be confined to Dickens. And don’t get me started on the romance *eyes rolling to the back of my head* Sorry to be this blunt but it’s a short post and it’s that kind of day and that kind of book.

I know Miss Susie, my fellow mystery category armchair judge, disagrees with me, but I felt that LaVoy’s narration was often over the top – she positively purred at some points (see her interpretation of a drunk guy trying to pick up women at a bar). On the positive side, LaVoy’s narration style really matched the book, so she was a good casting choice. I guess?

17910157Providence Rag (Liam Mulligan #3) by Bruce DeSilva, narrated by Jeff Woodman

A bit like Malice, Providence Rag puts a twist on the typical sequence of a mystery plot, which made him stand our from the other books.

During the start of his career as an investigative reporter, Liam Mulligan helps police arrest one of the youngest serial killers in recorded history. The community wants him in jail for life, but a loop-hole in Rhode Island’s law dictates he must be free at 21. Through a series of fabricated charges the killer has been kept in jail, but now one of Liam’s colleagues decides to report on these illegalities, igniting the anger of the justice system and general citizens against the newspaper. While Liam’s colleague pursues a story that will likely release the killer, Liam goes after a legal way to keep him behind bars.

It’s an interesting premise and ethical dilemma that actually sparked a good debate at my dinner table one night. I had fun with the different characters and the way the story was told, with different POVs and with interludes, although I wouldn’t mind a more fleshier characterization of the main people.

Providence Rags probably has the biggest number of speaking parts of all the books in this category and Woodman really does an amazing job in distinguishing each one of them. Often it’s a very subtle different, but just enough for the listener to easily follow a dialogue without getting confused about who’s talking. He managers several different accents, intonations and pitches, which is a hard thing to pull off and a sure indication of the narration’s quality. My first audiobook by him, but definitely not the last.

18214414The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike #2) by Robert Galbraith, narrated by Robert Glanister

The only book in the list that I listened to before Armchair Audies started, and by far the story that gave me more pleasure to follow. I like to think I’d feel the same if it wasn’t so famous, but who knows? The fact is: JK Rowling is an amazing story-teller and her characterization is on a different level from any other on the mystery list.

This second novel sealed the deal and I’m now completely engaged in the lives of Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacot (and shipping them hard!). It’s also one of those books where you can tell the author is having fun in writing about the publishing business, exposing its dirty little secrets.

As an narrator, Glanister started off with an advantage because I can’t resist a British accent 😉 He doesn’t get as many opportunities to shine as Woodman (see above), but for such a deep voice, it’s pretty impressive the range Glasnister managers to pull off. He doesn’t make women sound too whinny or childish and is the perfect voice for Cormoran (rough with teddy-bearish glimpses). There were some characters that could easily come out as stereotypes if read by a less professional narrator, but Glanister keeps them well under control.

My perdition for the 2015 Armchair Audies mystery category

I’d say it’s a call between Jeff Woodman and Robert Glanister, but since I have to chose one, I’ll go with Woodman. Mostly for his flexibility and creativity in creating so many distinct characters in Providence Rag.

The best of luck to all nominees!

The first two of the six books I’m reviewing for Armchair Audies’ Mystery category.

20613611Malice (Kyoichiro Kaga #4) by Keigo Higashino, narrated by Jeff Woodman 

The best thing about Malice is the way it moves away from the classic mystery novel timeline. The audiobook is about 7 hours-long and the mystery was solve less than 2 hours in. The rest of the story is all about the motive and peeling layers of backstories until the whole truth is uncovered. Malice is not about whodummit, but why. The pace is gentle, with no major action, but there were a couple of creepy scenes, made creepier by the narrator (good thing!).

It’s the fourth in the Keigo Higashino series, but the first to be published in English, so I suspect that’s why Detective Kaga does’t get as much character development as I’d like. A shame. I got really curious about him.

About the narration, I felt Jeff Woodman’s strength (sample) is to be able to make each character unique. I’ve still to decide if this always is a good thing, because it can work like book covers with faces: it plants images in your mind instead of letting you create them. For instance, Detective Kaga sounded meticulous, rational, introverted and Nonoguchi sounded old and frail. These were things I got more from their voices than what they were saying. Woodman also faltered a bit on the Japanese names, especially at the beginning.

I’m sorry to report that Malice still wasn’t the first Japanese book I’ve read with an interesting female character. I don’t want to generalize because I haven’t read Japanese literature that much, but this is starting to bug me: I need RECOMMENDATIONS! Help me break the spell!

51SYGEOC6xL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Hounded (Andy Carpenter #12) by David Rosenfelt, narrated by Grover Gardner

Hounded’s is about policeman Pete Stanton being accused of murder and asking lawyer Andy Carpenter to defend him – clearly I should be more impressed by this, because these two have History, but I’m starting at the series’ 12th book…

But to be honest, I don’t think this was the reason why I didn’t enjoy Hounded. The plot was completely over the top: Mafia, FBI, a contracted assassin, euthanasia pills for dogs gone missing, a new dead person in every chapter (or so it felt), a tech wiz that can find out anything (such a plot cop-out), a lovable orphan boy happily going to sport events a few days after his father is murdered in their home, a lawyer that conducts the worst witness interviews I’ve ever read about,…

BUT! I really liked the narration 🙂 For some reason, Grover Gardner’s voice reminded me of Sheriff Amos in Murder, She Wrote. Haven’t seen an episode in ages, but Gardner immediately brought Cabot Cove to mind, in a sort of genial, look-at-us-happily-solving-murders-among-friends kind of way. Listen to the sample to see what I mean. He brought to life a book I’d have dropped after a couple of chapters. My only tiny quibble was his struggle with Latino accents.

9572203Perfect book to read on a winter night by the fireplace when everybody has gone to bed. It helped there was no snow in Lisbon, so I was just agreeably scared and not freaked out by the possibility of someone building a snowman in my yard. I’ll never look at snowmen in the same way again.

This was my first Jo Nesbø and I was hooked by the twists and turns, red herrings and shocking revelations. The scenes made from the killer or victims’ POV were ridiculously vivid and suspenseful and that last scene – I was holding my breath (looking forward to Scorsese’s take on it).

Also, it was refreshing to read a crime novel that’s not set in London or a major US city. Nesbø’s Oslo in the winter was dark, silent, isolated and oh-so creepy, perfect for a book like this.

Although the author didn’t bothered too much with hiding who the real killer was, some creative details made this book stand out from other thrillers, like (no spoilers) the first chapter revelation, or the end scene about the mold (didn’t you think it was like an end-of-credits trailer?)

That being said, I wish Harry Hole was a more original character and didn’t fit so well into the embittered, drunk, loose-cannon, Neil Young-loving detective trope.

I don’t think I will religiously follow the series, but I know at some point I’ll crave for a read just like The Snowman.

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Other thoughts (yes, I was the last person in the world to read this): Rhapsody in Books, Leeswammes, Reading on a Rainy Day, Beth’s Book Nook, Walk with a Book, A Book Sanctuary, Crime Scraps, Farm Lane Books, Literary Housewife, Winston’s Dad, Book Chatter, Book Chase, RA for All, Dot Scribbles, You’ve GOTTA Read This, Stargazerpuj’s Book Blog, Page 247, Mysteries Paradise, On My Bookshelf, Back to Books (yours?)

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