Fabulous Fiction Firsts #101

The Queen Gambet: A Leonardo da Vinci Mystery* by Diane Stuckart is the first of a projected series.

Set in 15th-century Milan, the Renaissance artist/inventor was pressed into service by the Duke of Milan to solve a murder during a spectacular chess match played with human pieces.

With high-stake political maneuvers across Europe and a priceless painting in the balance, da Vinci must investigate quietly behind the scene, with only the help of Dino, his young apprentice who has his own secrets to guard.

This new historical whodunit renders a lively portrait of court life in Renaissance Milan, as well as fleshes out the humanity and the genius of the renowned master.

*=Starred Review

Margaret Truman

Truman FamilyTruman Family

Another connection to our collective recent past has died. Margaret Truman
(Daniel) daughter of former President Harry Truman died Tuesday January 29. Ms Truman was the author of the popular, mystery series “Capital Crime Series with 23 titles in total.
In addition to her writing skills Ms Truman was an accomplished singer. In 1950 her Father then President sent a now famous missive to a music critic who had trashed his daughter’s performance at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. Truman wrote, “I have just read your lousy review …I have never met you but if I do, you’ll need a new nose” I wonder if any of the present aspirants to the Presidency would be as candid.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #97

Oh, how I hate being late to the party! At the American Library Association Midwinter in Philly last week, the hot topic was nordic mystery and the most eagerly anticipated read was The Redbreast* (and I am still #13 on the waiting list!)

People-in-the-know are calling Norwegian Jo Nesbo's English debut "an epic new novel, brilliant in scope and design - a deep and fearless investigation of betrayal spanning two centures and three continents". It also introduces to North American readers Police Detective Harry Hole who finds himself sitting on top of an international conspiracy during a presidential visit to Oslo.

This winner of the Glass Key prize for the best Nordic crime novel, "fans of Henning Mankell and Karin Fossum will have a seriously difficult time putting down", writes Bruce Tierney of BookPage.

*= Starred Reviews (Jessica: Enjoyed yours in LJ)

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #95

Shortlisted for the CWA's New Blood Dagger Award, this compulsively readable debut novel by Kitty Sewell is dark and intriguing.

Ice Trap* is set in Moose Creek, a tiny outpost in Canada's Northwest Territories where Dr. Dafydd Woodruff returns after an absence of 14 years to investigate a paternity claim against him. He was sure he never had sex with Sheila Hailey, a head nurse who is beautiful, cruel and manipulative but the positive DNA test clearly points to Sheila’s twin being his.

Sewell’s skillful mixing of long buried secrets and past shame, depiction of Dafydd’s crumbling marriage, and the puzzle surrounding his newfound family make for a compelling read.

For other mysteries set in the Canadian arctic, try The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney and Consumption by Kevin Patterson.

* = Starred Review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #93

This engrossing British police procedural marks the debut of Elena Forbes and her Detective Inspector Mark Tartaglia – a stubborn cop who mystery fans will no doubt grow to love – much like Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus.

When 14 year-old Gemma Kramer's broken body is found on the floor of a church, the official ruling is suicide, that is - until a witness saw her kissing a much older man and the toxicology report comes back showing traces of GHB. Before long, Tartaglia has three more suspicious deaths on his hands and is looking at a charismatic psychopath with a terrifying predilection for lonely girls and deadly heights.

Critics are calling Die With Me* “an intelligently plotted, convincing and nicely textured read”, and Forbes is “definitely one to watch”. Fans of the television series Prime Suspect might want to check this one out.

One more thing... if you are not already a fan of David Lawrence's Detective Stella Mooney series, we also highly recommend the latest : Down Into Darkness*.

* = Starred Reviews

Good Christmas Read

Ever read any of the Melanie Travis Mysteries?

Well, Jingle Bell Bark is no exception to Laurien Berenson's long list of Poodle inspired mystery novels. When Melanie son's School bus driver Henry, is suddenly taken off their route and replaced by teenaged back-talking Annie Gault, Melanie and her friend Alice are curious to find out what happened to Henry. When they show up at his house unannounced, his next door neighbor informs Melanie and Alice that Henry the bus driver has suddenly died. Seeing that Henry's two dogs Remington and Pepper have been left to fend for themselves, Melanie wastes no time scooping them up and shuffling them over to her Aunt Peg's kennel in Greenwich. The book is a nice fast paced holiday mystery in a great series of novels.

Kolla & Brock: Great Police Procedurals

Sergeant Kathy Kolla and Detective Chief Inspector David Brock of Scotland Yard are the backbone of a fantastic police procedural series set in London and the surrounding area. Barry Maitland’s stories are nuanced, detailed, and fascinating. Plots can involve you with Marx and his descendants, stamp collecting, shopping malls, Jamaican immigrants, or Islamic terrorism. Kolla and Brock have strong investigative skills and are committed to discovering and uncovering the truth, despite administrative or political impediments. I have three more to go. It is a comfort to know that if I am struggling to make headway in How to Read the Bible or Hunger’s Bride that I have an involving good read as a break.

Read them all and read them in order:

No Time For Goodbye By Linwood Barclay

A teenage girl, Cynthia Bigge, wakes up one morning to find her entire family gone; they’ve simply vanished! Are they dead or alive? Why did they leave her? Will they ever come back for her? All of these questions (and many more) are answered 25 years later.

Bravo to Barclay! What an amazing storyteller!

The Secret History

For anyone looking for a fun read, definitely pick up a copy of Donna Tart's The Secret History. By "fun" I mean this was a real "page-turner." There's so few new mysteries out there these days that are actually impressive, it made this somewhat morbid book extremely compelling. It may sound like an exaggeration for a modern mystery, but it could be described as "Dostoyevsky-esque." The story is narrated by a pathological liar, and the opening scene reveals that a murder has taken place that the narrator and his friends were involved in. The true mystery of the book lies in what lead up to the murder as well as the narrator's examination of the nature of his college life. The Secret History plays with ideas of guilt, punishment, and social pathology paralleled with everyday apathy.

Girl at Sea...romance, mystery and Italy!

Despite the semi-hoochie book cover this is a smart, thoughtful, adventurous tale about a 17 year old girl named Clio, on a whirlwind summer mystery trip with her eccentric father on a yacht in Italy. The cast of characters includes her dad's girlfriend, Julia an English researcher on a mysterious archealogical dive, her bubbly daughter, Elsa and Julia's very cute research assistant, Aidan. A centuries old mystery about a sunken ship, Pompeii, scuba diving, art supplies, jellyfish and tattoos all figure in this quirky good book. Maureen Johnson has done it again with Girl at Sea.

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