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Monday, November 3, 2014

Murders with a Paranormal Twist

This post is topical but just a bit late for the season of Hallowe’en, Day of the Dead, All Souls Day, or whichever tradition you celebrate at the end of October/start of November: three novels featuring murder mysteries including, respectively, a ghost, a skeleton, and an entity killing Seers in an alternate-Asian realm.

The ghost appeared in “Seeing the Light” a debut novel by Edmonton author Eileen Bell,  Marie Jenner is a young woman trying for a normal life despite her stalker ex, her sick mother, and an inherited, apparently incurable tendency to see, and hear, ghosts. On landing a job at a skeevy import-export business, she promptly meets the ghost of the building maintenance man. Farley is convinced he was murdered despite evidence to the contrary, and wants her to prove it. As well, he’s lonely, and just likes to talk to someone who can hear him.  Juggling his demands and her human boss’s gets her into embarrassing moments with the hot new maintenance man, whose reciprocal interest in her may not be quite on the level. Then things get really hot. Literally.  “Seeing the Light” is published by Tyche Books. Come to the Calgary launch on November 7th at Owls Nest Books in Britannia Plaza, 50th Ave and Elbow Drive SW.

The skeleton clattered into my Kindle via Leigh Perry’s “A Skeleton in the Family.” Sid, the skeleton, followed young Georgia Thackery home decades ago, and has lived in her parents’ attic ever since, with no memory of his life before meeting Georgia. He spends his days watching movies, surfing the web, and dodging the dog who lusts after his femur. When Georgia and her teen daughter smuggle Sid to the local comic convention in disguise, he sees someone he recognizes, but isn’t sure why. Investigating the connection to his former life pushes Georgia into the worlds of academic politicking and cutthroat reporting. Or is that cutthroat academia? Whichever it is, somebody’s disturbed enough to start poking back, dangerously for Georgia, her daughter, and her friends.  “A Skeleton in the Family” is published by Berkley Prime Crime.

“To Journey in the Year of the Tiger” is an alternate-Asian fantasy novel by H. L. Dickson. Someone, or some thing, is systematically killing off the Empress’s Council, seven Seers who live high in the mountains. The Empress sends the captain of her personal guard, a lion named Kirrin, to investigate, along with his scapegrace young brother and two tigresses, one an alchemist and the other a scholar. Their journey into the mountains is beset by unseasonal weather, bandits, and other obstacles, and they arrive too late to prevent yet another death. Was it poison? Was it magic? Unravelling the mysterious manner of the killings, and making connections with the remaining Seer’s dark visions, puts the whole party at peril from within and without.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The 1920's as seen by Peter Wimsey

1920s London is a great place to set a mystery. In the Golden Age of Mystery (British edition), the greats were Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Margery Allingham. Georgette Heyer's contemporary (for the 1920s & 1930s) mysteries are often overshadowed by her more famous Regency novels, but share much of the witty insouciance that keeps the latter charming readers well into this century. I read them all voraciously.

Newcomers in that tradition who set books in the 1920s and 30s include Carola Dunn, Rhys Bowen, Catriona McManus and Dolores Gordon Smith. There are many others, but these are the ones I've read and enjoyed enough to keep reading. I seek out their new work.

Anyone thinking they'll need a dictionary to comprehend the slang of the era is welcome to sample this one online. Although it appears more American than British at first glance, there are plenty of overlaps.  

Part of the fun of reading historical mystery is immersing yourself in the spirit of a different era.  I was delighted to receive a link to a blog post hosting lovely film footage of London, shot in London in 1927. An example of an English-developed colour film process, it has been smoothed out to get rid of the characteristic grit and graininess of early film. I wish they'd used 1920's music when they re-released, but they didn't. It's still fun to watch, and as a bonus, I can imagine my father and his sisters whenever there's a child in the frame, as they were children in London when this footage was shot.

Let me not forget to mention, amongst 1920s series that I adore, Australia's Phryne Fisher mysteries by Kerry Greenwood. Fun, flighty and more than faintly sexy, Phryne adaptations are now appearing on PBS and ABC stations near you.

Because I truly am a glutton for the 1920s and surrounding decades, I have an ever-expanding list of titles to sample when time and opportunity permit, including Kate Morton's The House at Riverton, Robert Bastable's A Mansion and its Murder, and Laurie R. King's Touchstone. Care to suggest others I might enjoy?

Monday, February 3, 2014

"The Goddaughter By Melodie Campbell"

A caper worthy of Donald Westlake, but starring a woman much more savvy than Dortmunder. What more need be said?

Dangerously funny! Be warned, there are sneaky spit-laugh moments throughout. Honestly, I have not laughed out loud, loudly, in the middle of the night so often since I was in third grade and entranced by Freddy the Pig.

The porkers here are Gina’s male relatives and their “business” acquaintances, as befits a woman whose extended family is THE local crime family in their part of Canada. After a courier from another “family” gets killed on their turf, they’re desperate to avoid a gang war and Gina’s the least likely to be searched at the border so….

Oh, did I mention the jewels? Fabulous! And the shoes? To die for, darlings! And the MAN. The kind we’d all like to have at our side (or back, or front) when bullets are flying and bodies are bouncing. There’s a bit of mattress-bouncing too, but the heated action takes place off-page, with only some tasty flirtation around it.

Also, it’s short, a Rapid Read that you can get through in half an hour over your coffee.With due respect for potential choking due to sudden spurts of laughter.

This is an insanely zany caper that unrolls speedily into your eyes and brain with great visual images crafted from fewer words than I would have ever imagined possible. A comic tour-de-force and not to be missed! A heartfelt five stars from me.

The Goddaughter
By Melodie Campbell
Published By Orca Rapid Reads
Pub Date: September 1, 2012
Price: $9.95

Also available for Kindle.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Interrupted Aria by Beverle Graves Myers

This novel is at once a neatly plotted mystery and a lacy confection worthy of the Baroque in gilded, dissolute Venice. The writing is so smooth as to become rapidly invisible, leaving me immersed in the world of Tito Amato: his home life, his singing background and aspirations, his adjustment to his new role as a fĂȘted darling of the haughty ruling families of Venice.

The secondary characters are well rounded and believable. The investigation of a dire crime at Tito's first opera job is motivated and convincingly conducted.

It was not necessary to know anything about opera, and very little about Venice, to follow this tale, but I learned quite a bit about both without being at all distracted from Tito's travails. A wonderful book, and highly recommended to historical mystery readers and those looking for a solid mystery outside the usual.