Tag: Mystery

A  Look at the Ultimate Detective


Sherlock Holmes is one of the world’s best-known fictional characters. Holmes became more famous than his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, the first in modern literature to become so. Created in the 1880s, Holmes continues to fascinate today.

“The Science of Sherlock: The Forensic Facts Behind the Fiction,” by Mark Brake takes a deep dive into the Sherlock Holmes phenomena and the realities behind Holmes’s detection methods.

The opening chapter starts at the end – the death of Sherlock Holmes at Reichenbach Falls.  Brake introduces the Holmes phenomena, explaining how Holmes kicked off the modern world of literary fandom. Brake explains how and why the fandom phenomena occurred. He shows why it disconcerted Holmes’s creator to the point where Doyle literally killed off his most popular character.

A Past that Poisons the Present


Father Gabriel was once married and a scholar. He became a priest only after the death of his wife, whom he met while at England’s university town of Cambridge.

“Death of a Scholar: A Father Gabriel Mystery,” by Fiorella De Maria, the fourth mystery in the Father Gabriel series, returns Father Gabriel to Cambridge. The series is set in post-World War II England. Father Gabriel is visiting an old friend, Arthur Kingsley.  A secondary goal is to face the ghosts of his past, in the form of his late wife’s family.

Gabriel and Kingsley became friends when they attended Cambridge together following World War I. After a few years in the chemical industry on the Continent between the two World Wars, Kingsley returned to Cambridge, where he is now a senior fellow at the fictional St. Stephen’s College. It is the first time the two have been together in many years.

Another Fine Mess for Georgie


Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie O’Mara (nee Rannoch) was born thirty-fourth in line for the British throne. A descendent of Queen Victoria, Georgie (as her friends call her) abandoned her place in the succession to marry the love of her life, Catholic Darcy O’Mara. Her family connection led Queen Mary to use Georgie for sensitive investigations. Her husband has shadowy connections with British intelligence. Both lead Georgie into a series of adventures in 1920s and 1930s Europe.

“Peril In Paris,” by Rhys Bowen, is the sixteenth novel in “The Royal Spyness” series, in which Georgie, a member of the impoverished Rannoch family, holds center stage. She is plucky, intrepid, and naïve.  (Her most vehement epithet is “golly.”) She begins the novel pregnant with her first child and bored. Darcy proposes a trip to Paris, before travel becomes impossible.

Darcy has business in Paris. Darcy’s business in Paris is unknown, but is possibly dangerous. Belinda, Georgie’s schoolgirl chum, lives in Paris, working for Coco Chanel as courtier, designing dresses. Belinda has a standing invitation for Georgia to visit her. While Georgie accompanies Darcy to Paris and stays with him the first night, she spends the rest of the trip with Belinda, where it will presumably be safer.

A Noir Mystery Set in Space


From the moment Dagny Blake entered Ezekiel “Easy” Novak’s office he knew she was trouble.  He took her job anyway. Her looks had nothing to do with it. Well, not much.

“Trouble Walked In,” by Mike Kupari, recasts the classic 1940s hard-boiled detective story in a science fiction setting. Novak is a private detective in Delta City, the largest city on the planet of Nova Columbia. He has a one-investigator office. His only employee is his researcher-receptionist Lily.

Who’s Killing the Actors of Rome?


In 1989 Lindsey Davis first wrote about the adventures of Marcus Didius Falco, a Roman informer (private investigator) in First Century AD Ancient Rome. After 20 novels Falco aged out. Davis continued introduced a new line of mystery novels featuring Falco’s adopted daughter, Flavia Albia as the investigator.

“Desperate Undertaking,” by Lindsey Davis is the tenth Flavia Albia novel. It starts at Saturnalia. Domitian is Emperor. Falco is off out of Rome, celebrating the season. Flavia Albia is holding down the fort at Falco’s auction house.

When an old acquaintance of Falco shows up, seeking to hire Falco for an investigation, Albia does what Falco taught her to do and would expect her to do. She poaches his client, convincing the man to hire her for the investigation. Chremes runs a theatrical troupe with his wife Phrygia. He was murdered in a particularly gruesome way, crucified, mimicking the final scene of the play Laureolas. (The play ends with the death by crucifixion of the main character, usually played by a condemned criminal. Theater in Ancient Rome was a full-contact sport.)

Who Really Killed the Unpleasant Lord?


Kitty Worthington is back for her third adventure in solving crime. In her first, she prevented her brother from being convicted of murder. In the second, she saved her sister’s fiancé from a murder charge.  Now she had a new challenge.

“Murder at the Masked Ball,” by Magda Alexander, follows the same template as the first two books. It is the 1920s, and Kitty Worthington, the youngest child in her wealthy family, is trying to avoid her mother’s attempts at matchmaking.  But she stumbles into a murder, one of her friends and relations seems to be the guilty party, and it is up to Kitty and her crew to prove otherwise by finding the actual culprit.

In this case, the accused is her good friend Lord Newcastle. He has carried a torch for Lady Wakefield since before World War I. He even proposed marriage to her, only to be turned down by her family. (He was not then Lord Newcastle, only inheriting the title and fortune due to the death of other heirs during World War I.) Rather than allowing Lady Wakefield to marry a penniless love, they forced her to marry the wealthy Lord Wakefield. He turned out to be as cruel as he was wealthy, regularly beating his wife for failing to produce an heir.

A Mystery Wrapped in a Mystery


Four people sit in the reading room of the Boston Public Library. One, an Australian mystery writer, is in Boston for a year on a writing fellowship. Two others are college students. Another is an author from the Carolinas. They are strangers who have never met.

“The Woman in the Library,” a mystery written by Sulari Gentill, opens with this. The four are quietly observing yet ignoring each other. When a woman screams outside the reading room, library security asks them to remain in the room while they investigate. Nothing is then discovered, and they are told they are free to go.

The incident breaks the ice. They start talking to each other while waiting in the room, then decide to go for coffee together. Soon they bond and become friends. They agree to meet again. When they do meet the next day, they learn a woman’s body was discovered hidden in a room near the reading room. She was murdered. At the urging of one of the four, a psychology student they decide to investigate the murder. The four soon  quickly discover their investigation has led them into danger.

Working Class Meet Modern Art


Abe Allard and C. S. Duffy are private investigators in Chicago.  Not the glamorous investigators of movies and novels, or even noir detectives of mysteries. They do research for lawyers, background checks for corporations, and track unfaithful spouses.

“Where Art Thou?” by Sean Little, takes the fictional pair out of their ordinary paths. They are hired to investigate an art theft. Their wealthy client, Geo McMahon, had a sketch stolen.

McMahon collects art. His home is filled with valuable artwork, including some worth millions. Despite the security he has, a thief was able to penetrate it and steal a piece of art. But the thief only one piece, a hyper-realistic sketch by an up-and-coming black Chicago artist. It is worth very little. It is not even what the artist was known for prior to his overdose death. While he did some hyperrealism early in his career, he was best known for his abstracts. McMahon wants to learn why that particular piece was taken.

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A Methanolated Death


Julia Fairchild is a physician in a small southern Washington State town. She has long-term family roots in Parkview, a town of 38,000 built around the local pulp and paper mill. An internist at the local hospital, Julia has a hobby: solving mysteries.

“One Will Too Many: A Julia Fairchild Mystery,” by PJ Peterson is this series’s fourth book. In the first three, a peripatetic Fairchild (generally accompanied by her sister Carly) are vacationing in exotic locations. This one takes place in Parkview.

It begins with Pam, a childhood friend of Julia getting called out of town abruptly. Pam has to skip an important fundraising event to restore a landmark historic theater building in Fairview. She twists Julia’s arm into replacing her at the tux and formal dress event. This ends up involving Julia in a bizarre death. When banker Jay Morrison gets drunk, Julia gives his girlfriend Sophia a ride home. The next morning, Julia drives Sophia to Jay’s house so Sophia can recover her car. They find Jay unconscious in the dining room.

Death on a Narrow Gauge


Johann Mueller is a physicist. He fled Germany for the United States to escape Nazism.  The US is at war with Nazi Germany, with Mueller employed by the US government as a scientist. It is why he is on Denver & Rio Grande Western’s San Juan Express, heading towards a Colorado mining town.

In “Murder on the San Juan Express,” a historical mystery by K. C. Sivils, Mueller never makes it to his destination. His body is found along the track after he fell from the train. Was his fall an accident or was he pushed?

Since Mueller is a federal employee, the FBI investigates. Special Agent Nelson Paine is assigned the case. Paine’s boss, intends to steal the credit if Paine solves the crime, and shift the blame to Paine if Paine does not solve it. Paine knows this, but does not care. He wants to solve the mystery.

A Mystery Series Opening on a Maiden Voyage


In 1999, published under the pen name Conrad Allen, a mystery was released.  It featured a murder aboard RMS Lusitania during its maiden voyage. It was the first of eight mysteries featuring detectives George Porter Dillman and Genevieve Masefield aboard various Atlantic liners in the years prior to World War I.

“Murder on the Lusitania,” by Edward Marston, rereleases the book. Marston, like Allen, is a pen name used by author Keith Miles, the one he most commonly uses.

Dillman’s role is revealed gradually. He has been hired by the Cunard to operate undercover among the passengers aboard Lusitania during its 1907 maiden voyage. He is traveling as a first-class passenger, with the other passengers unaware of his true role. His mission is to mingle among the passengers keeping a watch out for petty criminals (pickpockets and thieves) and professional gamblers who might be working the passengers.

A 1950s-Style Noir Mystery Set in 1950s New York


Jake August writes pulp fiction. He was a Navy Criminal Investigation Division officer, before he got shot in a brothel in Occupied Japan and got invalided out of the service. Now, in 1952 he writes paperback novels for Rattlesnake Books.

“Deadline: New York,” a mystery by Jim Lester, explores the emerging world of paperback publishing in the early 1950s. New York State Senator Benjamin McClellan is starting a crusade against paperbacks, arguing they are rotting the morals of America’s youth.  Rattlesnake Books is high on his list of offenders.

Jake is ignoring McClellan’s crusade. He has books to write. The adventure novels he churns out are not the Great American War Novel documenting his experiences in World War II. He is not yet ready to write that. Writing paperbacks pay the bills and keep him busy, and Jake is all for both.

A Return to the Golden Age British Mystery


It is 1923. Kitty Worthington, completing a year in a Swiss finishing school is, returning to England for her debut year as she turns 21. An unmarried young woman of the upper classes cannot travel alone, so she is accompanied by her very stuffy older brother Edward.

“Murder on the Golden Arrow,” by Magda Alexander opens with Kitty discovering Ned much less stuffy than Kitty believed. She learns he had a paramour. Worse, traveling on the Golden Arrow from Dover to London the woman is poisoned. While sitting across from Kitty and Ned.

A Scotland Yard Detective Inspector aboard the train, Robert Crawford, takes charge of the investigation. Since Ned gave the poisoned woman medicine immediately before dying Kitty fears Crawford suspects Ned. The dead woman was blackmailing Ned. Kitty knows Ned did not commit the crime, but he seems the obvious suspect.

A Collision of Two Unscrupulous People


Many contemporary novels have been written about lawyers and the law.. Certain types of law lead to exciting drama, especially criminal cases. Bankruptcy law seems an unlikely source for gripping fiction.

“Fresh Start: A 3J Mystery,” by Mark Shaiken, is proof it can be done. It is tightly written, tautly paced, and absolutely absorbing.

Quincy Gunn Witherman builds and operates high-rise office buildings. His buildings are high-end, with 95 percent occupancy and blue-chip tenants. As with most developers, he is highly leveraged.  While his income is solid his properties dropped in value due to a general market downturn two years earlier. The market has stabilized and the buildings again appreciating.

A British Police Procedural Updated to the Present


The British police procedural is one of the most popular forms of detective fiction. The twentieth century brought Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse and P. D. James’s Adam Dagliesh. There are many others, including some set in the nineteenth century.

“Queen of Swords,” by Robert Mills, brings the genre into the twenty-first century.

Senior nurse Jenny Butcher is found strangled in her London flat. Detective Inspector Sanjay Patel, a British-born Indian is the case’s first investigator. He is assigned as deputy to Chief Inspector Tracy Taylor, and an important part of the investigation.

Mystery and Not-Knowing


Recently I had pretty much put aside concerns of not-knowing the outcome of one last test regarding my breast cancer. When the surgeon called a couple of days ago, I was stunned to learn at least part of the results. As I struggled to calm myself (since I was certain the test results would set me free from the possibility of chemotherapy), I realized that I didn’t know a whole lot more than I knew before he called. The results still left me in a state of not-knowing, and I didn’t like it one single bit.

Most people go through life in a continuous state of “not knowing” and don’t even realize it. We don’t know if we will encounter heavy traffic when we go out; we don’t know if it will rain in the afternoon in spite of a sunny forecast; we don’t know if we will catch a cold or get a hangnail. But because these are minor and transient conditions, we don’t worry about them; not knowing is not something we fear because we don’t give it much thought.

Intrigue Seeking Stolen Nazi Art


On March 22, 1945 Major Max Hignite flew his last Luftwaffe mission; a flight to Switzerland in a Ju-52 loaded with artwork stolen by the Nazis. The plane crashed, sealed in a cave by a Swiss lake. Hignite, badly injured, survived. Rescued by local Swiss, he spent months near death in a hospital. By the time he recovered, the Ju-52 had disappeared. Only Hignite was aware of its contents. He decided to move on with his life.

So opens “Ghosts of the Past,” a novel by Mark H.Downer. Moving on included going to the United States after the war ended, joining family who immigrated to the US in the 1930s. In spring, 2001, Hignite is dying. He passes his final flight’s secret to his favorite grandnephew, Matt Ferguson. Matt inherits the aircraft’s manifest cargo and a map showing where it crashed.

Matt, in a well-paying but dull job, decides to recover the treasure as a one-off adventure. Since he is Max Hignite’s executor, Matt uses settling his grand-uncle’s estate as an excuse to take a leave of absence.

Murder and Mystery By the Ohio River


Piper Blackwell is an ex-GI. She saw service in Iraq with the 101st Airborne, seeing combat as an MP. Instead of serving her planned 20 years, she separated at the end of her hitch to look after her father, Paul Blackwell, ill with cancer. Her father, then sheriff of rural Spencer County, Indiana urged 23-year-old Piper to run for sheriff in his place. To her surprise, she won.

“The Dead of Jerusalem Ridge: A Piper Blackwell Mystery,” by Jean Rabe, is the fourth book in this mystery series. Blackwell is into her ninth month as sheriff. She has shaken up the sheriff’s department, mostly for the better. Even her election opponent, Chief Deputy Sheriff Oren Rosenberg, who would like for her to be inadequate so he could replace her, grudgingly admits her competence.

This book opens with Piper taking a three-day Labor Day weekend in Kentucky, with several ex-army buddies. They are playing paintball on land owned by one of them when tragedy strikes. They get attacked by an armed, active shooter. Several of the participants are killed, including the shooter. Others including Piper are badly injured.