Audio Fabulous Fiction First #141

BBC Audiobooks production of Catherine O'Flynn's "heartbreaking, hilarious, immensely rewarding" debut novel What Was Lost* is not to be missed.

Nominated for the Man Booker Prize, the story begins with 10 year-old Kate Meaney, amateur sleuth/loner, except for the unlikely Adrian, adult son of a local shopkeeper, and Teresa, a girl who sets new standards for naughtiness. Then, one day, Kate disappears.

20 years later, two employees of the Green Oak Shopping Center where Kate doggedly set up surveillance of her bank robber "suspect" begin seeing Kate's ghost on the security camera. All at once, the many lives that were affected by her disappearance converge and collide.

As clever and engaging as Kate Atkinson's Case Histories (2004), and the latest in the Jackson Brodie series, When Will There be Good News? (2008), guaranteeing you many hours of deligthful listening.

*= Starred Review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #140

P.J. Brooke is the pen name of the husband & wife writing team of Philip O'Brien and Jane Brooke. Both active in the Scottish government, they live part of the year in the old Moorish district, the Albayzin in Granada, where Blood Wedding* is set.

First in the Sub Inspector Max Romero series, the story begins with the death of lovely Leila, a Muslim postgraduate student, found near Max's own family estate, and the prime suspect's link to a shadowy terrorist group. The mystery surrounding the death of poet Federico Garcia Lorca during the Spanish Civil War adds depth and complexity to the plot.

Compelling characters, exotic and atmospheric setting, and the smooth weaving of historical and cultural details make this a strong addition to the Euro-crime genre.

Highly recommended as a readalike for Carlos Ruiz Zafón's (author's website) The Shadow of the Wind (2004), set in Barcelona, and the Inspector Alvarez series set in Mallorca.

* = Starred Review

He Who Fears Not Reading a Series in Order

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I intended to start Karin Fossum’s Inspector Sejer series with book one, of course. But after reading the back cover of book two, He Who Fears the Wolf, I had to skip book one and dive right into book two. There have been five books translated into English from Norwegian thus far and Fossum is definitely a hot author on the “Scandinavian Mysteries to Read list.” She is also a poet and it is clear in her writing, as her words float across the page and down your spine. This time around a woman is found murdered on the front porch of her farm house. The only witness is an overweight 12 year boy who is obsessed with archery and is living in a home for juvenile delinquents. He reports that a local man named Errki, a schizophrenic recently escaped from a mental institution, was at the scene and he soon becomes the top suspect. The same day the body is found a bank is robbed in the center of town (and was actually half witnessed by Sejer himself). The bank robber takes a hostage with him, who turns out to be the escaped schizophrenic. The three misfits are soon drawn into each others webs and each end up individually contemplating how much they have in common. This mystery is ironic, sad, heartwarming, and suspenseful all at the same time.

Too Close To Home by Linwood Barclay

Linwood Barclay, author of No Time for Goodbye, brings terror and suspense in his latest novel, Too Close to Home.

In Too Close to Home, Seventeen-year-old Adam Langley’s family takes a week long vacation; Derek, the next door neighbor kid, decides to execute a foolproof plan to access the Langley’s home for a bit of romantic time with his girlfriend, Penny. Unfortunately, Penny gets grounded and cannot make it and the Langley’s suddenly return home. While Derek is hiding out in the basement, someone comes into the house and murders the entire Langley family, and this is only the beginning of the story.

Mystery readers will enjoy Too Close To Home.

Billy Boyle World War II Mysteries

Blood Alone: A Billy Boyle World War II Mystery, the third in a series by James R. Benn, is an adrenaline-paced mystery that successfully grabs your attention on the first page. The story is fast, tricky and stays in full-tilt throttle.

Billy comes to in a field hospital in Sicily (the first day of the Allied Invasion) with amnesia and has “concerned” visitors he quickly figures out want him dead. His memory comes back in bits and pieces as he meets up with Vito Genovese, Lucky Luciano and other famous American mobsters “assisting” with the American war effort. Then he recalls his uncle General Eisenhower has entrusted him with a secret mission—only, you guessed it—he can’t remember what it is!

In case you want to read the entire series in order, the AADL also has the first two books Billy Boyle and The First Wave: A Billy Boyle World War II Mystery.

(Audio) Fabulous Fiction First #135

Spending too much time on the road? Busy with chores? Couldn’t find your reading glasses? Those are just more reasons to get to some of these fabulous fiction firsts. They are on audio! Smart and savvy publishers are releasing the audio format simultaneously with the print edition. Here are two of my current favorites.

I was mesmerized from the first track by professional actor Lincoln Hoppe’s poetic delivery of The Gargoyle*, by first time novelist Andrew Davidson . This “intense tale of unconventional romance” between a severely-burned hedonistic porn star plotting suicide and a beautiful sculptress in the psych ward who remembered their tragic love affair 700 years ago at a German monastery. “There's pure magic here, a classic redemption story… Davidson's Gargoyle is a rare gem: completely engrossing, wholly unforgettable, and utterly transcendent.”

Fans of Victorian domestic drama (think Upstairs Downstairs) and Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell series would find much to like in Gerri Brightwell’s FFF The Dark Lantern - “a suspenseful novel of mistaken identities, intriguing women, and dangerous deceptions."

* = Starred Reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #133

When the corpse of a teenager turns up in an area known as the borderlands between the North and South of Ireland, Inspector Benedict Devlin heads up an investigation whose only clues are a gold ring placed on the girl's finger and an old photograph.

“McGilloway's debut Borderlands* is marked by tangled, derivative plotting, exceptionally mature prose and a hero as charismatically volcanic in his own way as Louisiana's Dave Robicheaux”. ~Kirkus Reviews

“With a mood and investigative style reminiscent of Hakan Nesser’s Inspector Van Veeteren series…, this is an excellent new procedural series, especially notable for its realistic and sensitive portrayal of life in modern Ireland.” ~Booklist

For fans of Tana French, another noteworthy newcomer to the genre.

* = Starred Reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #131

If you liked Company of Liars (see FFF #130 blog), then you would like Jeri Westerson's FFF Veil of Lies : A Medieval Noir*.

Stripped of his rank and honor for plotting against Richard II, disgraced knight Crispin Guest uses his wits to eke out a living in fourteenth-century London, taking on an investigation on behalf of a reclusive merchant that draws him into the middle of a complex conspiracy involving dark secrets, international plots, a missing religious relic, and murder.

Looking for similar reads? Check out the Matthew Shardlake historical mystery series by C. J. Sansom; the Dame Frevisse series by Margaret Frazer; and the Matthew Bartholomew series by Susanna Gregory.

* = Starred Review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #130

In 1348 England, as the plague ravages England, nine desperate strangers attempt to outrun the Black Death, revealing their individual stories as they travel away from the devastation, but one among them is hiding a far more sinister secret.

"British author Karen Maitland makes her U.S. debut with Company of Liars that tips its hat deeply to Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. "Executed with stunning skill and precision, her medieval world is full of the fantasy and mystery you'd expect from the genre — but it also parallels our own culture more than we might expect."

"Decidedly not your English teacher's Chaucer, but creepy, suspenseful, fun", with a "gasp-out-loud finale". English majors and historical mystery fans are not going to want to miss this one! And you would want to watch for FFF #131 !

Historical Mystery Series Fan Alert

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Here is a mystery series perfect for curling up in a comfortable chair with mulled cider in your favorite 16th century outfit.

Fiona Buckley’s Ursula Blanchard mysteries take place in Queen Elizabeth I’s court and begin with Ursula’s introduction in To Shield the Queen. Here we meet the recently widowed Ursula as she is summoned to court by Elizabeth to become one of her attendants. Elizabeth, it seems, likes Ursula because her mother was nice to Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn. Ursula helps Elizabeth unravel the murder of Sir Robert Dudley’s wife.

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