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15 Years of Mysteries: Part Four

By Brian Abbott

Welcome to Part Four of 15 Years of Mysteries! The Mystery Book Club (at my local library) continued its tour of mystery fiction with several women authors.

Perhaps the biggest mystery of the year, however, was why there wasn’t a selection for May 2007. I’ve not been able to find a single document, file, listing, or source that suggests we read anything for May nor can I determine why we possibly didn’t meet that particular month. In any event, we ended up only reading 11 titles for this particular year.

CrocodileontheSandbank PardonableLies deathofriley CoverHerFace OldWineShades thymeofdeath alpineadvocate BlackestBird BlackwaterSpirits Thunderstruck highlandchristmas

January 2007 selection

Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters

Synopsis:  31-year-old Amelia Peabody inherited her father’s fortune and his strong will. Now she’s headed for Cairo, accompanied by a girl with a tarnished past, to indulge her passion for Egyptology. Little did she know that murder and a homicidal mommy lay in wait for her.

Thoughts:  The idea was to read the first ever Amelia Peabody mystery and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

February 2007 selection

Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear

Synopsis:  In her third case, Maisie Dobbs sets out to prove whether aviator Ralph Lawton is dead or alive. The investigation brings her to France and reunites Maisie with an old friend who may have a connection to the mystery.

Thoughts:  A wonderful historical series set in the era between the two World Wars.

March 2007 selection

Death of Riley by Rhys Bowen

Synopsis:  Molly Murphy embarks on a new life in America as a private investigator. She apprentices under Paddy Riley, who specializes in divorce work. But one case leads to murder and an unexpected turn in Molly’s budding career.

Thoughts:  Another entry in the Molly Murphy mystery series and our group’s third time reading the adventures of Bowen’s spunky heroine. Somehow we ended up reading book two after having previously read the third book in 2006.

April 2007 selection

Cover Her Face by P.D. James

Synopsis:  A young housemaid is found strangled in a locked room. Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard arrives to investigate a household of potential suspects.

Thoughts:  A classically plotted, ingenious murder mystery.

June 2007 selection

The Old Wine Shades by Martha Grimes

Synopsis:  A curious tale in which a man in a pub relates about a man whose wife, son and dog went missing. The dog came back, but how and why? And was there even a crime? Richard Jury, listening to this Schrödinger’s cat-esque story, investigates.

Thoughts:  This 20th entry in the series reads like a philosophical debate which may not suit everyone’s taste. I found it strangely interesting.

July 2007 selection

Thyme of Death by Susan Wittig Albert

Synopsis:  A lawyer turned herb shop proprietor is convinced that her friend did not commit suicide. As she begins to investigate, she finds a trail of clues that lead to a killer with more than one target in view. Nominated for an Agatha and an Anthony for Best First Mystery.

Thoughts:  Albert took a conventional mystery troupe (it’s not suicide; it’s murder) and spun it into an entertaining story that introduces the fictitious Texas town of Pecan Springs and its quirky denizens in this series debut.

August 2007 selection

The Alpine Advocate by Mary Daheim

Synopsis:  Newspaper publisher/editor Emma Lord gets a juicy story to cover when a handsome heir is murdered. Unfortunately for her, she becomes part of the story and the investigation as she pursues her scoop.

Thoughts:  This series debut seemed promising, but it’s a slow start.

September 2007 selection

The Blackest Bird by Joel Rose

Synopsis:  In the summer of 1841, a popular tobacco shop girl is found brutally murdered, the scion of a firearm fortune beats his publisher to death, and a young Irish gang leader is accused of killing his family. This mix of fact and fiction takes its inspiration from the true crime case of Mary Rogers and its connection to Edgar Allan Poe who fashioned it into the 1842 story, The Mystery of Marie Roget.

Thoughts:  The story as a whole, while interesting comes across as pastiche. Poe’s portrayal seems at odds with the reality of what is known of his character.

October 2007 selection

Blackwater Spirits by Miriam Grace Monfredo

Synopsis:  In the 3rd series book, a half-Iroquois deputy stands accused of murder, and Seneca Falls librarian Glynis Tryon steps in to clear his name. Meanwhile, a female physician, spiritualism, and the Temperance movement lend turbulence to the story.

Thoughts:  Another tour-de-force historical mystery.

November 2007 selection

Thunderstruck by Eric Larson

Synopsis:  Larson interweaves the true story of a murderous doctor and Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor of the wireless telegraph, an invention that becomes instrumental in capturing a murderer.

Thoughts:  Though I had long wanted to read The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America and heard several raves about it, Thuderstruck ended up being the first Eric Larson I read. And I loved it. Larson does an amazing job of breathing life into history, making it both intriguing and entertaining. This was our group’s first time reading a nonfiction title, but it wouldn’t be the last!

December 2007 selection

Highland Christmas by M.C. Beaton

Synopsis:  Police Constable Hamish Macbeth investigates a string of unrelated petty crimes that strike during the Christmas season.

Thoughts:  This was a very light read, which was very light on the mystery aspect. It really was more like a charming village tale with quirky characters. A breezy read for a cozy winter afternoon, but not one of the author’s best. While the focus of the book group’s discussion was on the monthly selection, we also discussed other Christmas mystery stories the group had read. My contribution – naturally – was recommending Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot’s Christmas.

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And those were the selections for 2007. Yet again, there wasn’t any particular rhyme or reason for the choices other than trying to pick good reads. And of course there were a couple authors that the group revisited. I was beginning to notice, however, that several of the cozy mysteries weren’t necessary good fodder for discussion. Good reads, sure. But generating topics for discussion? Not always.

In 2004, I began a book discussion group focused on the mystery genre. In the 15 years since, the Mystery Book Club has read more than 150 mysteries, suspense thrillers, and a few true crime tales. Follow along as I take you through the years in a look back at “15 Years of Mysteries.” Stay tuned for part five.


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