Tag Archives: murder mystery

Book Review: Mr. Kiss and Tell (Veronica Mars #2)

Mr Kiss and Tell Veronica Mars2004 cult classic TV show Veronica Mars is one of the great loves of my life (it’s one of the tags used enough to actually show up in my tag cloud to the right, for the record). So of course I pre-ordered show creator Rob Thomas and co-writer Jennifer Graham’s second book in the novel series as soon as it was available, knowing that, even if I didn’t like, it, I still wanted to support the series and the world.

In Mr. Kiss and Tell, a girl has been brutally raped and assaulted, and claims that an employee at the Neptune Grand, where she spent the evening before her assault, is the perpetrator. She plans to sue the hotel, which hires Veronica to find out the truth.

The second half of this (as was the case in the first book), is much faster-paced and tighter than the first half, but only my familiarity with and love for the characters gives life to what is unfortunately rather an underwhelming, stale world. Every single plot twist and turn, except perhaps one, is predictable – the book sets up the two or three central conflicts in the first one-third and then unrolls them in exactly the way you’d expect, without deviation. One of these subplots is the institutionalized corruption and injustice of the police force, and the series wants to be a dark, gritty take on this, a reflection of 21st-century realities, but the depth of world and character-building just isn’t there. What does that structure look like, how does corruption interact with itself, what are the internal processes and motivations of those involved? The subplot is brushed on, hinted at further development, but never really delved into.

Logan takes up a scant handful of pages sprinkled through the novel, reflective of his non-prioritized role in Veronica’s life, which is faithful to the original series but is puzzling and frustrating at this point. Rob Thomas and the writers assured fans by the events of the film that Veronica is deeply in love with Logan and committed – yet one of the same things that tore them apart in the TV series is still evident, and unlike in the series, the book doesn’t show it as a flaw: Veronica’s compulsive habit of prioritizing her cases over everything in her life.

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Book Review: The Emperor’s Blades, plus Waiting on Wednesday Book Meme

New WoWWaiting on Wednesday is a weekly book meme hosted by Breaking the Spine in which bloggers post about an upcoming book they’re eagerly waiting for.

I’ve been eagerly anticipating Ashley Weaver’s Murder at the Brightwell, which sounds like the most delicious murder mystery ever, a beautiful cocktail of romance, 30’s beachy glamour, and murder, but since it came out yesterday (I have already requested it at the library), it would be cheating to include it. So I’ll go with my other choice, the second book in Brian Stavely’s Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne, The Providence of Fire.

the emperor's blades book coverThe first book in the Unhewn Series, The Emperor’s Blades, was rich, fast-paced, and immensely satisfying – it did a brilliant job of laying out three, strong personalities and their very different worlds, and then culminating them at the end. It was largely the tale of hot-headed yet brilliant Valyn, the emperor’s son who has been in training his whole life as one of the Emperor’s Blades, warrior-assassins who are put through years of intensive, regimented training in all kinds of weaponry as well as stealth tactics, survival, etc. Valyn is already a gifted, deadly force at the beginning of the novel, and only grows as it goes on, also stepping for the first time into a leadership position he’ll have to learn how to exercise.

A world away, his brother Kaden, the heir to the throne, is a pupil at a remote monastery where he learns what seems to him esoteric and useless skills – which might one day save his life.

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Book Review: The Nursing Home Murder by Ngaio Marsh

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The Nursing Home Murder, Ngaio Marsh

When Britain’s Home Secretary Derek 0’Callaghan dies shortly after an emergency appendicitis operation, no-one at first suspects foul play. But his wife is convinced someone killed him, and the autopsy shows poisonous levels of hyoscine, a drug used during the operation. Chief Inspector Alleyn is called in, and finds that very nearly everyone in the room had a reason to kill 0’Callaghan: the nurse was his ex-lover, the surgeon was in love with the nurse and furious at O’Callaghan for breaking her heart, and the secondary nurse is a Bolshevik sympathizer who believed 0’Callaghan was ruining the country.

This is Ngaio Marsh’s third book in the Alleyn series, and it’s not very good: it’s neither a good Marsh novel nor a good mystery in general. The plot is relatively complex; multiple suspects, all with opportunity and good motives, and about a dozen red herrings appear, in particular the victim’s sister as a suspect. It’s also difficult to keep track of the exact order of events during the operation; 0’Callaghan receives three separate injections, all administered by different people – all suspects – and none of this part becomes clear until Alleyn stages a reconstruction of the operation toward the end of the novel. Had Marsh placed this reconstruction toward the beginning, the actual events, and the stakes at play, would have been much clearer and the reader would have been given more reason to be invested. As it is, it is not infrequently confusing, and this isn’t helped by the majority of the suspects being rather stupid, uninteresting people, drawn by Marsh with one-note characterizations. Sir Robert Phillips, the surgeon and an old friend of the Secretary’s, is the only interesting one, and even his purpose in life is reduced to a blind infatuation with one of the nurses.

All in all, this is perhaps the weakest Marsh I’ve read so far. The characteristics that would make her later books so satisfying – her incisive character sketching, the warmth and humor of Inspector Alleyn, her ability to turn a plot on a small, overlooked detail – are only faintly present – the stirrings of a great writer trying to break through inexperience. Her later Alleyn novels show an incredibly developed confidence and prowess for plot; this is competent but dull.

What I’m Into Lately: Murder Mysteries, Austen Web Series, Northern White Wine

65-third 1. Summer put me on a huge murder mystery kick for some indefinable reason, so I’ve been engulfing Agatha Christie like Turkish delight.

Third Girl. This is a twisty Christie in that you really have no idea where you stand until the last 10 pages or so of the novel – in some of her novels, especially the Marple ones, Christie gives us most of the information, but in this one nearly all of it is withheld so we’re as confused as the victim. I did figure it close to the end but simply by instinct rather than logic. Poirot is approached by a girl who is convinced that she has murdered someone – Poirot goes on the hunt and can’t find anyone who has been murdered! This is also one of the faintly disturbing ones – a girl is psychologically ruthlessly manipulated, so it left me with a feeling of unease. Nonetheless worth a read and there’s a sweet romantic note at the end.  (Side note: do you follow me on Goodreads yet?)

The Seven Dials Mystery. A very melodramatic and ultimately silly plot, but the character-writing is superb – Lady Eileen Brent, better known as “Bundle”, is the quick-witted, plucky daughter of a Lord, and when a man is murdered in her father’s house and some clues turn up months later, she goes determinedly on the hunt. She’s a delight and there’s some very endearing romance. A Superintendent Battle mystery. All told read for the dialogue and ignore the plot.

2. Emma Approved. This webseries based on Emma from the production team behind The Lizzie Bennett Diaries is not very good, but it’s finally picked up speed with the adorable latest episode which featured some flirtation between Emma and Alex Knightley.

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Borealis Northern White wine. This 2012 Willammette Valley wine is what the wine shop recommended when I asked for a white that was slightly sweet. It’s still a little too sweet for my taste, but really grew on me over time. It seems to be a versatile wine, it starts out a little dry in the mouth then delivers sweetness; I would say offhand that it’s a wine better with food than drunk on its own, and that it goes well with Asian food. There’s something addicting about it nonetheless – it’s a perfect refreshing summer wine, I find myself reaching for it more evening after getting home. $12.99. Update: much more polished description from Drink here.

Book Review: Hush Now, Don’t You Cry

hushnowdon'tyoucryFull disclosure: I only read about a third of this so this is really more my impressions than any full, impressive book review. Rhys Bowen is an award-winning mystery writer with dozens of books, and this is the 11th in her Molly Murphy series – and also my introduction to her writing.

But look – this just wasn’t very good. Molly, an Irish private detective in a world in which lady detectives are an anomaly, has just married a New York City senior detective and the two are off on their honeymoon to an acquaintance’s estate on Rhode Island. Shortly after arriving, their host turns up dead, and the two are naturally pulled into the mystery of solving his murder.

Molly (just so you know, the book is written in the first-person) is an endearing protagonist, as is her husband Daniel – both brave, fairly clever, possessed of senses of humor. But the good characterization is buried in overly long prose and a trite mystery setup. If you’re read even one or two gothic novels, much less a great many murder mysteries, you will start to check out the moment Molly arrives at an old mansion and sees the ghostly head of a mysterious child in a window – a child who was killed years before. From there, it only gets worse – a houseful of wealthy relatives any one of whom could have wanted the victim dead and who are sketched with the barest of details and personality, a suspicious housekeeper who pops out of mysterious corridors, a decanter of whisky conveniently left in a secluded spot…

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What I’m Into: Korean Dramas, Hardboiled Detective Fiction, and Cherry Chocolate

Korean Drama_The Heirs_Lee Min Ho_Park Shin Hye_Poster_Seoul In Love Now Blog

1. Heirs. I haven’t watched a Korean drama in a straight two years, but when I heard that my favorites Lee Min Ho, of the charisma and the bushels of talent, and Park Shin Hye, of the adorableness and expressive face, were being paired together, I knew I had to get on that. Heirs has made me fall madly for it; the romance is wistful and delicate and achingly addicting – it’s the small moments that get me, like him watching her sleep, or the two sitting on opposite sides of a winecellar wall,  both lost in thought, the wall a visual symbol of how two people can be physically close yet find each other so hard to reach. You can watch all aired episodes so far on Dramafever.

2. The Thin Man. I picked up a vintage copy of Dashiell Hammett’s famous hardboiler (yes I just coined this, why should “potboiler” exist and not “hardboiler”?) at a book sale this weekend, and a fourth of the way in am highly enjoying it. Nick and Nora Charles are a wealthy socialite couple in New York for Christmas. Nick, a former ace detective, left that life behind when he married Nora and devoted himself to running the various businesses she was left heir to by her family. The couple are blithely in love and live in a breezy flurry of cocktail parties and social events, but are left ever so slightly bored by it. So when a murder turns up practically on their doorstep Nora pushes Nick to get involved, and in between throwing back a drink every other page, he manages to do some able detecting. Some people find this book hilarious, but I find it more endearing than anything. Also, best opening line of all time surely –  “I was leaning against the bar in a speakeasy on Fifty-second Street, waiting for Nora to finish her Christmas shopping, when a girl got up from a table where she had been sitting with three other people, and came over to me.”

3. Seattle Chocolates. This stuff is delicious, y’all, particularly the Rainier cherry – I generally don’t like either cherries or pecans but somehow the blend in this chocolate bar is just perfect, rich and fruity and chocolatey and wildly addicting.

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