Books Magazine

15 Years of Mysteries: Part Two

By Brian Abbott

Welcome to Part Two of 15 Years of Mysteries! The first full year of hosting a Mystery Book Club at my local library included a variety of titles in the mystery genre, including cozies and private investigators.

In 2004, I began a book discussion group focused on the mystery genre. In the 15 years since the group first met, 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.”

The first book of 2005 took readers back to the turn of the last century.

15 Years of Mysteries: Part Two
15 Years of Mysteries: Part Two
15 Years of Mysteries: Part Two

15 Years of Mysteries: Part Two
15 Years of Mysteries: Part Two
15 Years of Mysteries: Part Two

15 Years of Mysteries: Part Two
15 Years of Mysteries: Part Two
15 Years of Mysteries: Part Two

15 Years of Mysteries: Part Two
15 Years of Mysteries: Part Two
15 Years of Mysteries: Part Two

January 2005 selection

City of Light by Lauren Belfer

Synopsis:  “The year is 1901. Buffalo, New York, is poised for glory. With its booming industry and newly electrified streets, Buffalo is a model for the century just beginning.” Louisa Barrett, headmistress of a prestigious school, discovers evidence of a murder linked to the newfangled power plant at Niagara Falls.

Thoughts:  I loved this one. So much so that I revisited it for an early appearing review on The Poisoned Martini. Learning more about Buffalo’s rich history was as fascinating and interesting as unraveling the crime. It’s not a fast read, but it holds your interest.

February 2005 selection

Murphy’s Law by Rhys Bowen

Synopsis:  This first book in Bowen’s Molly Murphy was the winner of the 2001 Agatha Award. After killing a man in self-defense, Molly immigrates to America and becomes embroiled in a murder of a man on Ellis Island.

Thoughts:  This was a solid, entertaining read. Molly is a very likeable protagonist.

March 2005 selection

The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell & Dustin Thompson

Synopsis:  Four Princeton seniors work together to solve a mystery contained within a mysterious book published in Venice, Italy in 1499.

Thoughts:  The success of The Da Vinci Code in 2003 spawned similar thrillers in its wake, and this one fits that mold. It’s definitely one of the better fictitious works dealing with mysterious coded manuscripts and characters with sinister motives.

April 2005 selection

A Catered Murder by Isis Crawford

Synopsis:  Bernadette Simmons leaves behind a cheating boyfriend in L.A. to join her sister’s catering business in New York. Their first job together, a high school reunion, ends with a murder, and it’s up to them to solve it.

Thoughts:  I found this one kitschy, but in a good way. However, the mystery plot isn’t really solvable for the reader as a vital clue is revealed moments before the killer is.

May 2005 selection

Rottweiler by Ruth Rendell

A killer dubbed The Rottweiler strangles his victims and removes a personal item from each. A local shopkeeper is drawn into the case when these items start showing up in her shop.

Thoughts:  I’d previously read Rendell’s The Crocodile Bird for a college class and thought it would be a great idea to read another of her psychological thrillers for the Mystery Book Club. Unfortunately, I didn’t care for this one. The Crocodile Bird was a far superior read.

June 2005 selection

The Last Prophecy by Jon Land

Synopsis:  Members of a medical unit that uncovered a secret while liberating a concentration camp in 1945 are being systematically murdered years later because of their discovery. A Palestinian-American detective and an Israeli agent join together to investigate.

Thoughts:  What starts off as a political spy thriller devolves into an ages old conspiracy (ala The Da Vinci Code) tied to lost prophecies of Nostradamus. There were also more than a fair number of Deus Ex Machina moments. While parts of it were entertaining, it’s all a bit too farfetched.

July 2005 selection

Shadow Play by David Cole

Synopsis:  PI Laura Winslow looks into the murder-suicide of a reclusive Navajo and his female companion; deaths that may have a connection to a local gambling palace.

Thoughts:  Cole, a local author who lives part of the year in Tucson, Arizona, once spoke at my local library. This fifth and final book featuring PI Laura Winslow had a slow start, but the setting and characters were interesting.

August 2005 selection

Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs

Synopsis:  Forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan examines the bones of three young women unearthed in the basement of a pizza parlor and discovers their deaths are more recent that the police believed.

Thoughts:  As my first foray into Reichs’ books and the world of forensic anthropology, I found it fascinating. The only drawback was starting in the middle of the series.

September 2005 selection

The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith

Synopsis:  An Edinburgh woman witnesses the death of a young man and sets out to find out what really happened.

Thoughts:  Though not quite as good as The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, philosopher Isabel Dalhousie’s series debut is a charming, cozy read to while away an afternoon.

October 2005 selection

The Twelfth Card by Jeffrey Deaver

Synopsis:  A Harlem high school girl’s life is in danger, and Lincoln Rhyme sees a connection between the girl’s research into her ancestor, a former slave and civil rights activist in the 1860s and the tarot card, The Hanged Man, left behind by the would-be killer.

Thoughts:  With its mix of past and present, The Twelfth Card is a contemporary and historical mystery rolled into one. Add in quadriplegic Lincoln Rhyme, a former crime scene unit investigator, and you have an extremely compelling read.

November 2005 selection

Bookman’s Wake by John Dunning

Synopsis:  Bookdealer Cliff Janeway, a former Denver cop, becomes involved in the case of a fugitive bail jumper who may have been involved in the theft of a priceless edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven.

Thoughts:  I had previously read Arturo Perez-Reverte’s The Club Dumas which involves the world of rare book dealing and was curious to embark on another foray into this realm. While The Club Dumas borders on the fantastic, Bookman’s Wake is firmly grounded in a very plausible plot.

December 2005 selection

School Days by Robert B. Parker

Synopsis:  A society matron hires Boston PI Spenser to prove her grandson innocent of a school shooting.

Thoughts:  I knew of the TV series, Spencer: For Hire,” starring Robert Urich, but I’d never watched many episodes of it. I was more of Hunter fan. However, Parker was a very prolific writer, and I chose his – at the time – latest Spenser novel for the Mystery Book Club. It was a very brisk read, though not particularly memorable in spite of the topical subject of school shootings. Considering this was the 33rd novel in the series, I find that I miss the progression and context of the characters that add to the enjoyment of a series by jumping in the middle of it.

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And those were the selections for 2005. It was certainly a potpourri of mystery titles without any particular rhyme or reason to the choices. I think our goal for that year was to read a variety, and we definitely did! But this is just the beginning. Stay tuned for part three as I continue to look back at the more than 150 books read in 15 years of mysteries.


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