March seemed to be mystery month here. Several new-to-me series debut novels came through my library reserve list so I dipped my figurative toe in several types of mysteries, old and new.
A CAT WAS INVOLVED by Spencer Quinn (Mystery, Short Story, Animals)
This is really a short story, the prequel to Dog On It and the entire Chet & Bernie mystery series, but it fills in a blank for me & it’s important enough for me to record as book. (Count it as a novella: honestly, it’s hard to know how long it was since it was on my Kindle.)
This series is my very favourite. It’s light-hearted enough to be narrated by the dog, which device is a source of much humour. But it’s always a good, serious mystery too.
This short story filled in the blanks of Chet & Bernie’s meeting – and it has a mystery to boot. Loved it!
Read this if: you’re a Chet & Bernie fan (obviously); you like dogs and mysteries and are looking for a new series to read; or you want a small taste of what the series is like – if you like this story, you’ll like the books. 5 stars
THE OLD MAN IN THE CORNER by Baroness Emmuska Orczy (Mystery, Short Stories, Classic)
Agatha Christie’s 1929 Partners in Crime is a series of short stories in which Tommy & Tuppence Beresford imitate the detecting styles of the popular detectives of the day. Orczy’s Old Man in the Corner has his place in their playacting.
Published in 1909, this collection of short stories, initially serialized, feature the nameless man in the corner who reveals to intrepid reporter Polly Burton his solution to several unsolved crimes in London and other cities such as Dublin, Liverpool etc. Many of the crimes are elementary but still clever, and given that this genre was still cutting its teeth, Orczy shines. In addition to thinking of unsolved crimes, she must always have ones in which the fact that they are unsolved , or wrongly solved, didn’t mean the false conviction of an innocent person.
Thanks to Jane at Fleur Fisher for her review that prompted me to get the library to dig this out of storage for me.
Read this if: you’re fairly new to mystery stories and want an introduction to the genre; you’re a young teen keen to solve conundrums; or you’re a keen admirer of mysteries and want to explore a classic of the genre. 4½ stars
*HASTY WEDDING by Mignon Eberhart (Mystery, Vintage)
Although this isn’t a first in series, it was my introduction to this vintage-era author, an American contemporary of Christie, Marsh and Ellery Queen.
This story is set in Chicago high-society in the 1930s and is a very matter-of-fact glimpse into that lifestyle, similar to early EQ novels. The puzzle itself is pretty standard, but entertaining. And the reader is thrown off to a slight degree because Eberhart wrote mainly stand-alone novels, so there was no knowing “good guys” from “bad guys” because of continuing characters.
The past progressive verb tense (was taking, were talking) put me in mind of Christie’s Sad Cypress and was slightly irritating. Christie didn’t regularly use that, and perhaps Eberhart didn’t either.
I have a few more Eberhart titles on my shelves so I’ll be reading at least those – and who knows where it will go from there?
Read this if: you’re a fan of the society settings of early Ellery Queen novels; or you’re a Chicago fan and would enjoy a glimpse into the city in 1930s. 4 stars
TOO BIG TO MISS by Sue Ann Jaffarian (Mystery, Amateur Sleuth)
This first in the series featuring plus size paralegal Odelia Grey delved into the on-line sex trade while still having the feeling of a cozy about it. The mystery is solid, though as with any cozy, there are stretches of suspension of disbelief. But it’s Odelia herself who will take me back to more of this series. She’s fun, she’s sexy, she has a life, she’s plus size, and although she’s aware of the world’s perceptions of her (“Weight was the last acceptable prejudice. It was still politically correct to assault and ridicule fat people.”), she’s not overly bitter about it: what more could you ask for in a novice sleuth?
Read this if: you’re looking for a new “cozy” murder mystery series with a heroine who’s life-size and imperfect.
3½ stars plus ½ for Odelia. 4 stars
MURDER ON THE ROCKS by Karen MacInerney (Mystery, Amateur Sleuth)
This first in the Gray Whale Inn series set on an island off the coast off Maine features innkeeper & Texas transplant Natalie Barnes. It’s a charming cozy with a decent mystery, and mouth-watering descriptions of the breakfasts Natalie whips up for her guests.
Read this if: you’re a cozy (murder) mystery fan who has B&B aspirations; or you are taken with the lifestyle and scenery of the NE coast of the USA.
STEALING WITH STYLE by Emyl Jenkins (Mystery, Amateur Sleuth)
Another first in the series, this time featuring antiques appraiser Sterling Glass. Although the information about the various antiques is very interesting, Sterling herself borders on being one of those perfect heroines – and as this first book closes, she nabs a job that will have her jet-setting and living on expense accounts.
Read this if: you’re looking for a mystery without a murder (sort of refreshing, don’t you think?); or you love The Antiques Roadshow. 3½ stars
*THE CORONER’S LUNCH by Colin Cotterill (Mystery, Amateur Sleuth)
Yet another first in the series, this one of Dr. Siri Paiboun, state coroner in Communist Laos in 1976. This was promising, although I must admit that after reading The Headmaster’s Wager, the tongue-in-cheek treatment of the communist state was a little jarring at first.
So here’s the thing about Siri: not only do his dead patients appear to him in dreams, he channels a thousand year old native warrior. If that doesn’t bother you – go for it: you’ll find this a refreshing addition to your other mystery reading. As for me, that’s the end of my reading in this series.
Read this if: you want an exotic locale and don’t mind a spiritistic approach to your mysteries. 3 stars
* Eberhart’s WEDDING completes the ‘title with a celebration’ in Beth Fish Reads’ What’s In a Name 2013 Reading Challenge.
* Coroner Siri’s LUNCH completes the ‘title with something you’d find in the kitchen’ in Beth Fish Reads’ What’s In a Name 2013 Reading Challenge.