Book Reviews

Death of a Bore (Hamish Macbeth, #21) by M.C. Beaton

Death of a Bore

Title: Death of a Bore (Hamish Macbeth, #21)
Author: M.C. Beaton
Rating: ★★★

This was my July 2018 Mystery Book Discussion group read at my local library.

John Heppel is a new guy in town, a published writer and newly-inducted screenwriter for a television series. He is the Gilderoy Lockhart of Lochdubh, Scotland: makeup-ready anytime production crews could be near and never one to pass by a chance to toot his own horn. After providing writing classes to the locals (who all somehow wish to be writers), he is mysteriously found dead…a supposed suicide. 

Lockhart

Hamish MacBeth is the local constable, redhead, and typical young male afraid of losing his bachelorship (not sure if that is a word?). 

MacBeth is one of those guys who goes with his gut even though it might get him into some trouble. And that is exactly what he does… convinced one of his beloved townsfolk isn’t the murderer, he sets his eyes on those of the production cast. But everyone seems to be lying…at least a little! After being provided with a “fake” screenplay, he is convinced that someone from the television crew is behind the murder, and possibly the murder of another woman. 

When Hamish’s ex-girlfriend and reporter shows up, things are bound to get more complicated. And of course, all of the ladies in town think it is time Hamish finds a wife. However, after a near death and the resolution of the murder, MacBeth misses his opportunity to tell Elspeth (his ex-girlfriend) how he really feels and instead, is left with the comfort of his new cat and dog (which he seems to care about more than anything). 

One big thing that bothered me was Hamish is so poor, but he’s cooking lamb chops for dinner. What?! Also, the ending was unnecessary. The cat brought no relevance to the story whatsoever. 

JULY 2018 MYSTERY BOOK DISCUSSION

Book Reviews

The Victoria Vanishes: A Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery (Bryant and May #6) by Christopher Fowler

Victoria VanishesTitle: The Victoria Vanishes: A Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery (Bryant and May #6)
Author: Christopher Fowler
Rating: ★★★★

Arthur Bryant And John May (similar to Holmes and Watson) are senior detectives at the Peculiar Crimes Unit (PCU), on their way to retirement. We find our two detectives on a new case: four woman (similarly aged) have been killed publicly in pubs.

During this investigation, the PCU is facing closing by headquarters due to the detectives straying from the beaten paths. Jack Renfield, former nemesis, has been promoted as their senior and is a strict law-abider, forcing the detectives to try to be on their best behavior.

After a shocking twist, the murderer is apprehended. The detectives are getting older, and with that, their health is deteriorating, which has caused some issues along the way. 

But seeing as you’re here too, tell me, how long would it take a man to build a Victorian pub from scratch and then dismantle it again? Could he do it in a single night?

One night while Bryant is walking home, he notices a middle-aged woman entering the Victoria Cross pub. Later, he finds out that the same lady was murdered. However, later going back to the scene of the crime, Victoria Cross no longer exists. Is it his memory issues or is there something more?

I thought this was a great read for those who are choosing to read the novel as a standalone. Never having read a Bryant and May novel in the past, I didn’t feel like I was missing out on much. It was easy to distinguish and get a feel for who the characters really were, which is definitely something I look for in a novel.

Who is behind all of the murders and what was the motive? What is the connection between the women?

MAY 2018 MYSTERY BOOK DISCUSSION

Book Reviews

Tamarack County (Cork O’Connor #13) by William Kent Krueger

Tamarack CountyTitle: Tamarack County (Cork O’Connor #13)
Author: William Kent Krueger
Rating: ★★★★

Evelyn Carter, wife of a retired judge goes missing. Cork O’Connor, a retired sheriff, is called to help on the investigation. Due to a massive snow storm, traces are Evelyn are next to none. Is she already dead or will they able to find her before it is too late?

Conveniently, Anne, O’Connor’s daughter, comes home around the same time all of this is happening. Is there a connection? Why is she acting so strange? 

You are the light. The darkness will always try to snuff you out.

Bad things are happening in Tamarack County. A friend’s dog is beheaded and O’Connor’s own son’s life is threatened not once, but twice! Over twenty years ago, an innocent man may have been sent to prison on account of O’Connor. Is there a coincidence between these murders and the ones twenty years ago? 

Remember when we used to sleep out in the backyard in the summer, hoping we’d see the northern lights? We’d stay awake as long as we could and nothing would happen. Then we’d finally fall asleep, and sometimes we’d wake up and there they’d be. I think happiness is like that. If you spend your life looking for it, you’ll probably be disappointed. It comes on its own.

I found it really cool to learn more about the Native American culture. It was my first experience of this lifestyle and a good one at that! Being the first time I’ve read a novel that included a shaman, it was an interesting twist on a murder mystery.

What did bug me, though, was that O’Connor started seeing his son’s girlfriend’s mom. Like what?! Come on, dude, nothing good can come out of that! And then you end things with her to go back to a girl that ditched you. You’re old, you should know better than that! She only told you she loved you because she knew she was losing you to someone else. Ugh! I don’t even want to talk about it anymore.

Who is behind all of these murders? Will justice ever come to Evelyn and Dexter (the dog)? Is there a connection between these murders and the case from twenty years ago?

MAY 2018 MYSTERY BOOK DISCUSSION

Book Reviews

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale

The Suspicions of Mr WhicherTitle: The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective
Author: Kate Summerscale
Rating: ★

When three-year-old Saville Kent is murdered, everyone is quick to point their fingers at each other. Speculation shows that the child saw two people fornicating who shouldn’t have been, or was it jealousy? What was the exact motive?

The word ‘clue’ derives from ‘clew’, meaning a ball of thread or yarn. It had come to mean ‘that which points the way’ because of the Greek myth in which Theseus uses a ball of yarn, given to him by Ariadne, to find his way out of the Minotaur’s labyrinth

The above quote is about the only useful piece of knowledge in the entire novel. I know I am being extremely harsh, but I absolutely hated this book and I think it is the only one that I have ever not completely finished. This was also the general consensus of my monthly book discussion group. 

If you like history books, then this is the book for you. It is actually considered nonfiction (not bad, but not for me for this genre), which I didn’t know initially. The novel is based on the Road Hill murder case. What bothered me was that there almost was a distinction of two stories instead of the one. While used for comparison, I didn’t feel like it added anything to the story. If anything, to me, it took away from the novel. And honestly, kind of being in a reading slump, a history book was not good for it. Some things I did find interesting, however, the summation of the novel could be cut in half without the alternating of history and the “present” (story, not this time period).

Nothing can be more slightly defined than the line of demarcation between sanity and insanity … Make the definition too narrow, it becomes meaningless; make it too wide, and the whole human race becomes involved in the dragnet. In strictness we are all mad when we give way to passion, to prejudice, to vice, to vanity; but if all the passionate, prejudiced and vain people were to be locked up as lunatics, who is to keep the key to the asylum?

What I found annoying (and this was popular in that time period) was that if a woman disagreed about anything, she was considered insane. I’m not a feminist, but why women? It was typical for guys to cheat in that time, yet we are the ones “insane” for not being tolerable of those actions. It is sad that just gossip alone could distinguish someone as “mad” or “insane” and everyone would believe it and convict someone for that. It ruined a lot of people’s lives.

Perhaps this is the purpose of detective investigations, real and fictional — to transform sensation, horror and grief into a puzzle, and then to solve the puzzle, to make it go away. ‘The detective story,’ observed Raymond Chandler in 1949, ‘is a tragedy with a happy ending.’ A storybook detective starts by confronting us with a murder and ends by absolving us of it. He clears us of guilt. He relieves us of uncertainty. He removes us from the presence of death

The one historical element that I found to be beneficial was that this case, with Mr. Whicher, set the tone for all murder mysteries to come. Honestly, this story was kind of sad. There was so much ridicule for the family. Not only them, but it destroyed Whicher’s career, when he was right all along. What is interesting is that in order to put someone on trial very little actual evidence, if not just suspicion, is needed. All of the media makes it much worse for those people. Talk about gossip!

Personally, I wouldn’t recommend this novel to anyone. It felt like torture the whole time I was reading it. The potential was there, but the execution was not for me. If you like historical nonfiction, you may enjoy this. It just wasn’t the book for me.

 

Will the murderer ever reveal him/herself? What will happen to him/her? Was the person who confessed the true murderer? Did s/he have help? What really happened to little Saville?

APRIL 2018 MYSTERY BOOK DISCUSSION

Book Reviews

All the Little Liars (Aurora Teagarden #9) by Charlaine Harris

All the Little LiarsTitle: All the Little Liars (Aurora Teagarden #9)
Author: Charlaine Harris
Rating: ★★★

So all of you may know Charlaine Harris from the popular TV show, True Blood. While the characters are horrendous and the books aren’t all that thrilling, All the Little Liars was a new approach from Harris’s typical fanfare. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not thrilled with her writing style or plot line. It’s predictable and I found it annoying.

That’s not the only thing I found annoying. Another was our beloved protagonist. She can’t seem to keep her nose out of anything and is a little condescending towards law enforcement, which is a big “no no” for me. 

Anyways…the story begins in a small Southern town. Our protagonist, Aurora Teagarden, works my dream job as a librarian. Due to an unexpected pregnancy, her wedding is rushed. An unexpected surprise comes when her step-brother, Phillip, runs away from their shared father and comes to live with her and her new husband. One afternoon after school, three children go missing and Phillip is one of them. As we soon come to find out, a body is found at the last known destination of the teenagers.

The cruelty of children is more shocking than the cruelty of adults. Not only was I shocked, I was angry. But it felt somehow wrong, unhealthy, to be so furious with a child.

Is the recent bullying of an eleven-year-old girl the source of the childrens’ disappearances? Is Phillip responsible since she had a crush on him? Did one of the bully’s older brother kidnap them for standing up for his sister’s victim? Are they still alive?

It must be one of the worst things in the world, to see your child revealed as a selfish little sadist.

Phillip, the new guy in town, is one suspect in the case against the missing teenagers. Did he kidnap the eleven-year-old who has a crush on him after embarrassing him? Aurora decides to take on the investigation by herself. I felt like the author was trying to fit too many of today’s issues in one book. It just felt pushed and I didn’t really think that most issues added anything to the story. Aurora seems unrealistic in her approach and would be in extreme trouble with the law in real life. I just didn’t find the story believable.

Could Phillip’s dad’s gambling be the cause of his disappearance? Did the new guy, Phillip, hold his peers hostage? Did bullying go too far? Will the teenagers be found alive?

MARCH 2018 MYSTERY BOOK DISCUSSION

Book Reviews

A Darkness More Than Night (Harry Bosch #7, Terry McCaleb #2, Harry Bosch Universe #9) by Michael Connelly

A Darkness More Than NightTitle: A Darkness More Than Night (Harry Bosch #7, Terry McCaleb #2, Harry Bosch Universe #9)
Author: Michael Connelly
Rating: ★★★

Terry McCaleb is a retired FBI agent who secretly misses the adrenaline received from investigations after a transplant ended his career. L.A. County Sheriff’s detective Jaye Winston phones McCaleb to get his insight on a tricky case she is working on that dead-ended.

So, what it’s like, Terry? Being a father.”

“It’s like having a gun to your head all the time. Because I know if anything happens to her, anything, then my life is over.

For those of you who read this novel, you will know that McCaleb’s daughter, Cielo Azul, is named after an unidentified girl who her father had previously investigated. In Terry’s terrifying time of almost-death, he thinks about his young daughter, who helps him to remain calm. She is now his everything (which makes me mad because his wife should be!). McCaleb would do anything to protect his family, but without even realizing it, during his investigation, he puts his family into danger.

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. When you look into the abyss the abyss looks into you. You know, all the clichés. They’re clichés because they’re true. You don’t go into the darkness without it going into you and taking its piece.

There is some dirty work going on in the background of this case, which is also associated with Harry Bosch’s current case in court. No one is as they seem and everyone seems to be breaking some kind of law. So, is it okay to break a law or hide the truth in the name of justice?

One of the biggest problems I had with this novel was that I didn’t really feel connected to any of the characters. Frankly, most of them just annoyed me. And let’s be realistic, Terry, don’t make promises you can’t keep. If I was Graciela, I would’ve kicked your butt!

Despite the lack of character development, I enjoyed the novel after the first half. It took me forever to get into the book. Not enough action for me. 😉 The one thing I really appreciated was that I was unable to find out who was guilty of the homicides until the detectives did. Although, with the clues given, I’m not sure I could’ve figured it out on my own anyways.

Will Terry convict his friend, did he risk the safety of his family, and potentially endanger himself?

FEBRUARY 2018 MYSTERY BOOK DISCUSSION

Book Reviews

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Hercule Poirot #4) by Agatha Christie

The Murder of Roger AckroydTitle: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Hercule Poirot #4)
Author: Agatha Christie
Rating: ★★★★★

The truth, however ugly in itself, is always curious and beautiful to seekers after it.

Wow! So I definitely judged this book to be outdated and not-relatable because of the publication age date. Nevertheless, it was the complete opposite. Christie adds a slight sense of humor from some characters (Poirot and Caroline) in order to add lightness to a grave murder.

Murder, blackmail, drug abuse, and suicide…this sounds like a novel that could very well take place in the present. Why is it always that deceit has a direct correlation with love? That self-preservation seems more important than justice at times? Christie makes a clear representation of society as it is and always will be…we are all guilty of putting our best interests in front of justice at times. But does that mean it’s right? No. Sometimes we judge others before finding out the entire truth. Just like in this novel, it was easy for the upper class to assume that the lower class: the servants or poor, were most likely suspect to the murder. However, we see that most times, that is not the case.

The author does a great job of keeping both the audience, as well as the characters, in suspense throughout the journey, while at the same time sending us some clues along the way. I found it interesting that one character, although static, seems to be the most in tune with the facts instead of basing off of personal preference. While Caroline is the epitome of a Drama Queen, she also seems to be the only logical person aside from Poirot. The ending really gives readers the “Aha!” moment that we all look so tirelessly for at the end of a fulfilling read.

always bear in the mind that the person who speaks may be lying

One thing that I really liked about this novel is that we got a look inside each of the suspects’ lives. With that being said, since they were the ones describing their whereabouts at the time of the murder, the reader only gets to see the suspects’ sides. But be careful…because not everything is at it seems. All of the suspects lie…whether largely or little white lies. The murderer may come as a surprise to some, but I suspected this person all along. Can you find out who the killer is before the truth becomes clear?

JANUARY 2018 MYSTERY BOOK DISCUSSION