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A Bonanza of Staff-Recommended Mysteries

August 6, 2009 by Reader's Connection

Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz
Revenge of the Spellmans Who knew footnotes¹ could be so much fun? In this third installment featuring the totally dysfunctional Spellman family2, Isabel is still trying to escape the family business.  She’s on her second therapist (the first having admitted defeat), bartending part-time (until Connor3 shows up), and taking one last make-or-break case to decide if she wants to continue detecting.  But she’s not the only one in crisis.  Her successful and non-zany lawyer brother David is having a who-am-I crisis, her sister Rae is driving Henry4 mad and may have cheated on her PSATs, and the parental unit has picked this particular time to give Isabel an ultimatum.  For those who like their mysteries light, the Spellman series may be just the ticket.

1 Author Lutz has loaded this novel with footnotes, ostensibly providing additional information, but mostly just making us laugh.

2 Spellman Investigations, a family affair: The family that snoops together, stays together!

3 With an irresistible and barely understandable Irish brogue.

4 Police officer friend who cringes at the sometimes borderline-legal Spellman antics.

–Cheryl Holtsclaw, West Indianapolis Library

Careless in Red by Elizabeth George

Careless in Red

In Careless in Red George brings back detectives Thomas Lynley and Barbra Havers.  In this book as in all her others she employs various voices to tell the story. What makes this novel so richly satisfying is her delving into the psyches of both the main and secondary characters.   By the end of the tale the reader cares not only about the victim but has some sympathy for the murderer as well.

In an attempt to come to terms with the murder of his wife Lynley quits his job then starts walking along the Cornwall coast.   On the 43rd day of his trek he discovers the body of a young man at the base of a cliff, Lynley quickly moves from suspect to unofficial consultant.  Havers is sent down from Scotland Yard to assist DI Bea Hannaford in solving the crime and to convince Lynley to return to the Yard.   The proverb “Revenge is a dish best served cold” is at the heart of the crime.

–Debbie Overshiner, Eagle Library


The Rabbit Factory by Marshall Karp

The Rabbit Factory

Don’t let the 600+ pages of this great book daunt you.  The plotting is fantastic and the characters really come alive.  Who killed the Familyland mascot, “Rambunctious Rabbit”?  Cops Mike Loman and Terry Biggs, along with the head of security at the park, look for someone with a grudge against Eddie Elkins (the rabbit) but wonder how the killer got into the employee area of the amusement park.  When there are more murders and mishaps, the Los Angeles mayor gets after them to clear up the case immediately!  Since every murder is done in a different manner, it seems like an impossible task.  Mike’s father, Big Jim, used to work for the head of the park and fills them in on the park’s  history.  This was Mr. Karp’s first novel.  The others, much shorter, are just as exciting.

–Kay Smith, Spades Park Library



Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

Maisie Dobbs

Maisie Dobbs is the engaging young heroine of a mystery series that takes place in England between the wars.  This first book introduces Maisie and traces her background from household servant to WWI nurse to novice detective.  A brave, contentious, and sensitive young woman, the budding British sleuth uses integrity and intuition to solve her first case.  Never having recovered from the horrors she herself witnessed as a nurse in France during the Great War, Maisie achingly observes the war’s lasting effects on her fellow countrymen as well.  Now she is forced to recall memories she has long fought to suppress as the past and the present come together.  It is imperative that Maisie draw strength from both….for lives may be at stake at the hands of a former soldier pushed to the brink by his own war demons . . .

–Angie Lewis, Wayne Library

The Beekeeper´s Apprentice; or, On the Segregation of the Queen by Laurie R. King

The Beekeeper´s Apprentice; or, On the Segregation of the Queen

If you enjoy complex mysteries with fascinating characters give this title a read. The protagonist is Mary Russell, a fifteen year-old orphan who literally stumbles over the famous Sherlock Holmes while walking on the Sussex Downs. It may seem as though author Laurie R. King uses Jeremy Brett’s portrayal of the famous detective as the template for her characterization; you can decide. Two principle players from the stories originally by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Dr. Watson and Mrs. Hudson, are written in such a way that the reader will perhaps appreciate them more than in the original stories. Plus Professor Moriarty, Holmes’ villainous archenemy, is resurrected in a surprising way. If you are a devotee of Sherlock Holmes you may love reading an unusual take on the iconic detective. This is the first book in a series of nine with the most recent title, The Language of Bees now available.

–Roberta Ash, Wayne Library


Aunt Dimity’s Death by Nancy Atherton

Aunt Dimity's DeathAdd together a formerly pink bunny; an English cottage; and an unexpected inheritance. Mix in a ghost journal. Blend with the writing of a preface to a book of Aunt Dimity stories that is the catalyst for the gentle haunting of a woman and a select few around her. Spice with protectiveness and humor. The result is a multilayered mystery that presents a unique interaction between the living and the dead. While this does not contain a murder, mystery readers will savor the untangling of the many threads of the story.  This is the first book in the Aunt Dimity series. It is the appetizer for the feast of the whole series.

–Trudy Pickett, College Avenue Library






Dog on It: A Chet and Bernie Mystery by Spencer Quinn
Dog on ItIt’s hard to imagine a more likable detective than Chet Little.  He’s an almost-graduate of K-9 School—a nasty last-minute cat incident derailed his completing the course with honors—and valued partner of the all-too-human Bernie, owner and sole employee of the Little Detective Agency.  While Bernie mulls over leads in tracking down 15-year-old Madison Chambliss, Chet contemplates smells, snacks, and why humans say things like “the whole ball of wax” (which leads to further contemplation of what would that taste like?).  Bernie, perhaps less skilled than most private investigator heroes, is nevertheless as “dogged” as they come: just one of the things that makes Chet so loyal to him.  They each bring their own set of skills to the case, and together they get their man.  Even better, in Chet’s opinion, is the giant box of high-end dog treats that’s part of their reward for a job well done.  Fun, without being too “cutesy”, this book is sure to smell like a winner to anyone looking for a humorous mystery.

–Cheryl Holtsclaw, West Indianapolis Library

Remember: The Bouchercon, the biggest of the mystery conferences, will be in Indianapolis, October 15th – 18th.



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