Book Snaps

Cherry Bomb, by JA Konrath, read by Susan Beck
I am convinced that mysteries are generally one of two kinds.

In the first kind, everything hinges on the plot. The crime may be gruesome, but it is also utterly baffling and filled with impossible contradictions and incongruent clues.  The solver of the crime is either brilliant and challenged or in way over his/her head, but persistent and utterly determined and may even discover a new level of brilliance in themselves.

In the second kind, the crimes are gruesome and vividly described and the villian is  brilliant, demented, and diabolic.  The solver is always a step behind and the solution hinges on a sudden understanding of a clue or a belated coincidence or some other device that moves the story along.

This book is sixth in a series that falls into this second category.  The other books are Whiskey Sour, Bloody Mary, Rusty Nail, Dirty Martini, and Fuzzy Navel.  And...are your ready for this? The heroine is police detective Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels - get it?

Here's the twist in these books. Everyone is at risk. If you think, "Oh no, she (the author) would not kill off the lover, fiancee, beloved partner, mother, father, brother, whatever..." Think again.  She would.  That gives the books a kind of edge that others lack.

For me, the books are a bit overwrought - too much gruesomeness; too much gory detail; too much personal angst; all of it too often repeated.  Besides, I am more a plot person. 

Still, these books move along. The plot line is fairly unpredictable. The characters are interesting.  If you think the blood and guts stuff is edgy and you like that kind of thing, give them a try.

The Viongier Vendetta: Wine Country Mystery Series Book 5, by Ellen Crosby (Read by Christine Marshall)
First things first.  Let's solve the two mysteries about the title.  If you are trying to figure out how to say Viongier, it is something like Vee-yon-zhay.  And which wine country?  Well, not France or Spain. 

Think US.  And not California or New York.  These Wine Country mysteries take place in Virginia wine country. I am not a wine expert so I have no trouble confessing that I never heard of Viongier and did not know that it means roughly, "the road to Hell."  And until I read these books, I did not know that Virginia has a wine country.

Now, let's get on with it.  This is a book that revolves around the plot and the plot is kind of light weight.  An old school chum calls Lucie Montgomery to Washington, DC, for a reunion and then disappears. Then Lucie discovers that her friend left post cards with cryptic messages for Lucie and an old boyfriend. 

Together, they try to unravel the message, but the boyfriend dies - and may have been murdered - before they find the solution. The story moves along with one step forward always followed by a bit of back sliding until the clues begin to make some sort of sense.

These books are nice, light mysteries. Maybe a bit more challenging than the Murder-She-Wrote kind of thing, but nothing that will keep you awake at night. Still, I see nothing wrong with just being entertained.

Think of a Number, by John Verdon, Read by George Newbern
This book is all about the plot and I enjoyed it. With just a little research, I discovered that this is the author's first book and I think he did a pretty good job.

The hero is Dave Gurney, a retired homicide investigator who has a reputation for catching serial killers. The plot hinges on an odd trick.  The killer taunts his victims to think of a number, which he seems to know in advance.  The first murder is enmeshed in baffling and impossible clues, but as the victims multiply, the explanations for the clues are carefully revealed.  Each step toward greater involvement in the case and each step closer to solution of the crime leads Gurney down another path of self-examination and self-discovery.

Here was my favoite part.  I got the solution just a hair's breath ahead of the sleuth.  I love when that happens and I like thinking it is because the author so carefully parcelled out hints that I was led down the path - just a head of the main character.

Here is my least favorite part and a little advice to writers.  The book goes on and on after the story is over.  I like a good mystery to end shortly after it is solved.  Wrap up the loose ends and end it.  If it goes on, I am looking for some twist.  If no twist is coming, END IT already.  Just my opinion...

Remarkable Creatures, by Tracy Chevalier (e-book)
This is another of Tracy Chevalier's historical fictions and it is a very pleasant book to read.  The central figure is Mary Anning who one of those very lucky people who is born at the right place at the right time and with the right skills and abilities to do something really outstanding.  Unfortunately, she was the wrong sex and so the gifts of place, time, and talents were nearly lost.

Mary was a fossil hunter in the area of Lyme Regis, England, which turned out to be an amazing area for finding complete fossils of creatures long extinct.  Her findings challenged both science and religion and most of the credit for her work landed elsewhere. 

This book is about her friendship with Elizabeth Phillpot, a genteel lady who loved the fossils and helped Mary and her family at least get fairer pay for her work.  The friendship across class lines was nearly as challenging as Mary's work and makes up a good part of the story.

This book is a good, quiet story of two very marginal women who lived modest almost painfully quiet lives with few expectations.  Still, it is a compelling story well told.  

Storm Front: The Dresden Files Series, Book 1 by Jim Butcher, read by James Marsters
Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden is the world's only openly working Wizard.  He has an office and a shingle and he consults with the police and takes clients just like a private detective.  His work occasionally brings him into contact with the White Council represented by Morgan, his personal nemesis.  In his efforts to defeat the evil of those practicing wicked magic, he is constantly at risk of violating the rules of the White Council and facing destruction or breaking the law and facing arrest.  Or just plain being destroyed.  Harry walks a delicate balance.

Still, it is a good story and if you like this kind of adult magic fantasy, it is a pretty good book.  I am looking forward to the next installment.

Major Pittegrew's Last Stand, by Helen Simonson

This is one of those gentle books about a man who is in the later stages of middle age and discovering that everything around him is changing.  As he struggles to move his life forward he discovers that most of the things he thought were important are actually not.  It all culminates in a final all or nothing confrontation.  I confess, I have a soft spot for British novels and this was enjoyable to listen to.