Marple: Twelve New Mysteries

marple jacket

Marple: Twelve New Mysteries

A well-written short story can make for a very satisfying one sitting read. If you like traditional mysteries with a variety of mundane and exotic settings and time periods from 1930s to the 1970s, this collection is a fine choice. Agatha Christie’s iconic amateur sleuth, Miss Jane Marple, solves new mysteries in short stories by twelve acclaimed women authors, including Ruth Ware, Alyssa Cole, Lucy Foley, and Leigh Bardugo. Miss Marple travels to Hong Kong, Italy, and New York City, and investigates crimes at a vicarage and at Christmas, sometimes finding the culprit surprisingly close at hand. If you fancy new Hercule Poirot tales, try Sophie Hannah’s four new mysteries, beginning with The Monogram Murders.

Brenda

Daisy Darker

daisy darker jacketDaisy Darker by Alice Feeney

Fans of Agatha Christie’s  And Then There Were None, rejoice! Alice Feeney takes readers on a tense and tumultuous journey with this modern twist on a murder mystery classic.

Daisy Darker tells the twisted tale of the Darker family, who gather on a tidal island in Cornwall, United Kingdom, to celebrate the birthday of their beloved, if not eccentric matriarch. The party, which falls on Halloween and Nana’s eightieth birthday, proceeds as smoothly as can be expected for this dysfunctional clan until they begin to be murdered, one by one every hour, starting at midnight with the aforementioned matriarch and birthday girl. Adding to the suspense and unease is a raging storm that leaves the family stranded at Nana’s sprawling seaside mansion until morning. Seemingly no one in this deceitful crew is safe, as everyone from Daisy Darker herself to the pianist prodigy father has secrets to hide, even from those they are supposed to love the most.

Feeney expertly concocts an immersive and atmospheric setting by featuring a unique landscape and utilizing descriptive language. Said captivating language contributes to the visceral feeling of unease that readers are likely to endure, while turning page after page, as alluring settings are an Alice Feeney staple. This title is one of her more memorable works, and is chock-full of complex characters that are well-developed, snarky, and unreliable, which make the mystery all that more intriguing and onerous to solve. Told from the perspective of the title’s namesake, Daisy Darker combines short chapters, dramatic flashbacks, and an intricately crafted storyline, to leave readers feeling haunted and eager to discover who the most dangerous Darker really is.

Readalike titles include One by One by Ruth Ware,  An Unwanted Guest by Shari LaPena, and They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall.

Savannah

 

The Bullet That Missed

bullet that missed jacket

The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman

The Thursday Murder Club meets for a third time in their upscale retirement village to charm readers while the 70-somethings gather to discuss and solve another cold case. This time Elizabeth, Ron, Ibrahim, and Joyce are looking at the disappearance of TV journalist Bethany Waites, whose car was found at the bottom of a cliff 10 years earlier. Bethany was investigating a money-laundering scheme. One of their earlier cases has had unintended consequences, as Elizabeth and husband Stephen have been threatened by a mysterious Viking, who demands that Elizabeth kill Viktor, or else. Viktor is a retired Russian Colonel, who was in the KGB when Elizabeth was a British spy. How Elizabeth approaches this dilemma makes for delightful reading, especially as Joyce records the scenes in her diary. Joyce gets to meet a TV personality when they’re looking into Bethany Waite’s case, and gets to swim in a private rooftop swimming pool. Former union organizer Ron gets to play snooker and drink whiskey with Russian Viktor, and a (possibly former) gangster. While the three men seem to have little in common, they certainly enjoy their time together. Elizabeth’s husband Stephen, who has dementia, gets more scenes here, including an adventure connected to rare books. Other characters from the first two books return, some in new and unexpected relationships. This novel is humorous and witty, and full of strong, dangerous men and women. That many of the characters are well over 70 simply adds to their charm. While not a cozy British mystery, it’s entertaining and heartwarming. Start with The Thursday Murder Club for maximum enjoyment. More entries are planned.

Brenda

The Spare Man

spare man jacket

The Spare Man by Mary Robinette Kowal

This blend of mystery and science fiction from the author of the award-winning Lady Astronaut series and the Glamourist Histories makes for an entertaining read. Tesla Crane and Shal Steward are on their honeymoon on a luxury spaceship en route to Mars, along with Tesla’s therapy dog Gimlet. Tesla is traveling incognito, and Shal is a recently retired detective. When Shal witnesses a murder, he becomes a suspect, and Tesla, who has wealth and great tech skills, goes into action to clear his name. Tesla has anxiety and back pain from a lab accident years ago, and Gimlet both helps with her anxiety and charms almost all the passengers and crew. The spaceship has different levels with Earth, Martian, and lunar gravity, a fancy bar, an auditorium with a spectacular magic show, and plenty of staff corridors for Tesla to try to search for answers. Tesla and Shal enjoy spending time together, trying a variety of imaginative cocktails (with and without alcohol), and very much resemble a future version of Nick and Nora from the 1934 film The Thin Man. There is plenty of witty banter, a funny and indignant remote lawyer, and plenty of drama as well as security personnel with varying levels of detecting skills. Tesla is famous as well as wealthy and walks a fine line between asserting her privilege and needing accommodations for her disability. The mystery is clever and certainly kept me guessing. This book will be published October 11.

Brenda

Killers of a Certain Age

killers of a certain age jacket

Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn

Four friends and longtime coworkers Billie, Natalie, Mary Alice and Helen are on a cruise to celebrate their early retirement when they spot another coworker and find a bomb. So much for a relaxing vacation! 40 years ago, when the women were 20, they were recruited to work for a nongovernmental organization that provides justice outside the law. In other words, they are assassins selected and trained to take out the very worst criminals and leaders. Flashbacks to their training and early missions make for compelling reading.

In the present, the foursome go on the run, after evacuating the ship. The only ones that could have targeted the group are the directors of their organization, known as the Museum. Boltholes in New Orleans and rural England lack the luxury of the cruise ship, and there’s tension among the group. Missions in New Orleans and the catacombs of Paris are well described, along with an art auction. As expected, there is a fair amount of violence, narrated from Billie’s point of view, along with clever detecting and planning, and an intensifying pace. This is an appealing group of very smart and dangerous women. While Helen seems a bit frail for only 60 and Billie has daily aches and pains despite doing yoga two hours every day, it’s refreshing to read about middle-aged protagonists who still move like action heroes when needed. I feel like the women probably know Elizabeth of Richard Osman’s Thursday Murder Club. Will there be a sequel? Unknown, but I think there’d be plenty of interest. To be published September 6.

Brenda

 

The Grief of Stones

grief of stones

The Grief of Stones by Katherine Addison

Sequel to Witness for the Dead, this is a stunning shorter fantasy mystery set in a steampunk world where technology is mostly in the background, with Thara Celahar traveling the city of Amalo with his new widowed apprentice Velhiro Tomasaran by tram and sending notes by pneumatic tube, and rarely, airship. Thara is a cleric who has the ability to read the thoughts and feelings of the recently dead, which helps in investigating the cause of death, location of a will or treasured item, or even identity or religion. His new cases involve him with all classes of society in Amalo. He is elven, many of his clients are all or part goblin. I like how the set of a character’s ears show their mood or energy level. His friends, including admirer and new friend Pel Thenhior, a composer and director of opera, often aid his investigations. Thara is not well paid, and has a single room, taking all his meals and tea out, and visiting bathhouses. When his secondhand black coat of office needs extensive mending, he gratefully trades with his female apprentice. Thara is frequently asked if he is well after a dramatic confrontation with a monster in an underground tomb, and he is clearly shaken up, having lost something very valuable in the process. Readers, along with Thara’s allies, will hope his health and fortune improve in the promised final book in The Cemeteries of Amalo trilogy, set in the world of The Goblin Emperor.

 

Brenda

A Pair of Mystery Story Collections

I recently had the good fortune to read two new collections of mystery short stories. This is my idea of perfect armchair or bedtime summer reading, as the stories are focused on character and setting, but not so much on a detailed plot.

Bruno’s Challenge and Other Stories of the French Countryside by Martin Walker

If you’d like to read about Bruno, Chief of Police visiting the weekly market in St. Denis France, and then cooking or enjoying the local food and drink with a collection of villagers, then look no further. Berries from a local French or farmer’s market make an excellent accompaniment to the stories. Occasional trips around the southwest region of France, horseback riding, and a cave in Lascaux add to the ambience. The mysteries are slight and easily solved by Bruno and company. The other 14 books begin with Bruno, Chief of Police. Some of these get rather dark in tone, though the writing and setting are always top notch.

The Lady With the Gun Asks the Questions by Kerry Greenwood

If you’d rather visit Melbourne, Australia in 1928 or 1929, the delightful Miss Phryne Fisher will be your guide. Elegant, witty, and streetwise, Phryne is delightful and extremely well-dressed company, who occasionally takes justice into her own hands. Raised poor and currently rich and generous, Phryne shines in a wide variety of settings and mysteries. Sometimes the mystery is simply to discover if there’s actually been a crime, or just an accident. Another story features an eloping couple and no crime at all. Four of these stories are brand new; some older stories have been recently revised. Phryne is popular for the television series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, and has delighted mystery readers in 21 other books, beginning with Cocaine Blues and (so far) ending with Death in Daylesford.

Brenda

A New Look at Agatha Christie

Recent Books and Films inspired by the Queen of Crime

Mysteries

 Benedict, Marie. The Mystery of Mrs. Christiemystery of mrs. christie jacket

Buzzelli, Elizabeth Kane. And Then They Were Doomed

Cambridge, Colleen. Murder at Mallowan Hall

Christie. Agatha. The Last Séance: Tales of the Supernatural

De Gramont, Nina. The Christie Affair

Hannah, Sophie. The Killings at Kingfisher Hill, The Mystery of Three Quarters

Rader-Day, Lori. Death at Greenway

Wilson, Andrew. Death in a Desert Land, I Saw Him Die

Non-Fiction

Thompson, Laura. Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life

Valentine, Carla. The Science of Murder: The Forensics of Agatha Christie

TV & Films

Crooked House

Death on the Nile

Inside the Mind of Agatha Christie & Agatha Christie’s England

Murder on the Orient Express

Triple Feature: Three Tales of Murder & Mystery

Coming Soonmarple jacket

Marple: Twelve New Mysteries 9/22

Cambridge, Colleen. A Trace of Poison 10/22

2020 saw the celebration of 100 years since the publication of A Mysterious Affair at Styles, Agatha Christie’s debut novel. There continue to be new editions of her mysteries, as well as books and films inspired by the author and her characters. Enjoy!

Brenda

Magic for Liars

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

Oakland private investigator Ivy Gamble is mugged on her way to work, and shortly afterwards a stranger appears in her locked office. Ivy is asked to investigate a suspicious, gruesome death at Osthorne Academy for Young Mages. Ivy doesn’t usually investigate possible murders, but the retainer offered is large, and she will have the chance to reconnect with her estranged twin sister Tabitha, a teacher at the school. Ivy has 14 years of experience as a PI, but feels ordinary compared to her brilliant, magical sister.

At Osthorne, Ivy wonders if it’s wrong to let staff and students think she also has magical powers. What if she dates one of the teachers? Does she want a relationship with her sister, and can she be trusted? Darkly humorous, this compelling read skillfully combines mystery, fantasy, and relationship fiction. Readalikes include Book of Night by Holly Black, Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo, and A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik.

Brenda

The Maid: A Novel

The Maid: A Novel by Nita Prose

Molly Gray enjoys cleaning, especially returning hotel rooms to a state of perfection. Mostly she enjoys her work as a maid at the Regency Grand Hotel, in an unnamed city. While many of the guest treat Molly as though she’s invisible, other guests, such as wealthy businessman Charles Black, verge on rudeness. Molly is very naïve and socially awkward, but has a few people she trusts and counts as friends at the hotel, including a bartender and Giselle, Charles Black’s second wife.

Lately Molly has been struggling to pay her rent, since the death of her beloved grandmother, so her supervisor’s habit of swiping Molly’s tips is doubly frustrating. When Molly discovers a body in a hotel suite, she becomes a person of interest. With the help of some unexpected friends, as well as remembering her Gran’s wise advice, Molly gets ready to testify in court.

Readers will worry about and cheer for Molly in this heartwarming debut with several clever plot twists. This is not a gentle read, though it’s low in violence. Suggested for readers who like eccentric yet charming characters, with a theme of found family. Readalikes include Pretty as a Picture by Elizabeth Little, How Lucky by Will Leitch, and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.

Brenda