Mysteries



Murder, though it have no tongue, will speak
With most miraculous organ.

William Shakespeare Hamlet, act ii. sc. 2.

The Faithful Reader's favorite mystery writers so infuse their works with civilized charm or fascinating puzzles or the magnificence of a location that readers nearly forget murder is afoot.

New Titles

Bleeding Maize and Blue by Susan Holtzer. The accidental sleuthing of computer whiz Anneke Haagen continues in this page turner. Believable characters set on a stage that the Faithful Reader had never before considered as thrilling as it is in this story: collegiate football. Read it and think. More titles in this series.

Death of a Macho Man by M. C. Beaton. This one is, perhaps, one for die-hard fans of Constable Hamish MacBeth. Lots of fairy tale elements in this story; try Beaton's other titles unless you are prepared to be charmed out of your disbelief.

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Authors Worth Looking Up

Catherine Aird This much published author has many stories still in print. To start with, try A Going Concern It's not a very long book, but it's especially riveting because of the question of whether anybody 'dunnit'.

Marian Babson A Taste for Burning Quick to read and not hard to solve. More emphasis on the protagonists, two actesses 'of a certain age', than on the character of the victims and the gravity (no pun intended) of the crime perpetrated. For a fast, but diverting read, try this one.

Jo Bannister A Taste for Burning A large cast for a mystery, and yet each character seemed to have substance and depth. Nifty twists, too; the Faithful Reader bets you won't solve this one much sooner than the last few pages. Charisma is worth a look, too.

Robert Barnard The Bad Samaritan When the vicar's wife loses her faith, somebody must suffer. Barnard builds a large and interesting community before electing a victim. At least some of the story's tension arises from wondering just whose the sacrificial corpse is going to be.

Robert Barnard writing as Bernard BastableToo Many Notes, Mr Mozart Too Many Notes, Mr Mozart Aforementioned Mr Barnard slips into a pseudonym to tell entertaining yarns based on history as it might have been. This case stars an old, wise composer and piano teacher who elected to remain in England and thus lives to guide a charming Princess Victoria through the machinations of court politics.

M. C. Beaton Two series, one starring the deliciously lazy Constable MacBeth and the other a stage for a rather nasty middle-aged woman with whom the Faithful Reader might have uncomfortably much in common, combine humor and knowing views of various aspects of country life in the United Kingdom. In the MacBeth series, look for titles from Death of a Traveling Salesman to Death of a Nag. In the other series, the protagonist snags the top of every title--she wouldn't have it any other way! Her story begins with Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death and culminates most recently with Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley. Further installments are anxiously awaited. For Anglophiles, especially, these books provide interesting looks at current issues affecting those who live outside of London and Glasgow.

Veronica Black A Vow of Devotion Sister Joan of the Daughters of Compassion is as winning a detective as she is unlikely. Others may pass judgment the accuracy of the book's milieu and supporting characters, but it was a suspenseful story filled with interesting observations and ideas about religious life. The series begins with A Vow of Silence and continues through A Vow of Fidelity; all are fun to read and full of surprising turns.

Kate Charles A Drink of Deadly Wine The engaging Book of Psalms series starts with Drink and continues with two further books to date. Church architecture is the pretext, and it's a good one. The Faithful Reader has come to agree with the blurb writer who tagged Charles as the Barbara Pym of crime fiction. See also Appointed to Die, The Snares of Death, and A Dead Man Out of Mind

G.K. Chesterton The Innocence of Father Brown Father Brown is just as good a detective as Sherlock Holmes, and the Faithful Reader would much prefer dinner and a drink with this priest than with the fevered Mr. Holmes. If you want to curl up with a book of early detective stories, this is a good one.

Clare Curzon Nice People If people were so 'nice', there wouldn't be engaging mysteries like this one, huh?

Ruth Dudley Edwards Ten Lords A-Leaping Animal rights and the House of Lords under Labour are the twain terrains that meet in this funny novel. There's a certain amount of perversity seemingly for the sake of perversity in a couple of the characters, which is the reason the Faithful Reader did not hand off this otherwise worthy book to her 14 year old. Recommended, with a couple of reservations which you can work out for yourself.

Sue Grafton The ABC's of murder, as covered by this well-known American writer, are detected by the engaging Kinsey Milhone, a spunky and fearless young woman with a nose for danger and an eye on her bank balance.

Martha Grimes The End of the Pier is gorier than other books on this list, but such writing! Spare, but never parsimonious prose, it's a tangle of sub-plots and deceptions with enough allusions and astoundingly effortless cultural references to satisfy the fustiest reader. Definitely worth a look.

Susan Holtzer, who also manages the homepage for Northern California Mystery Writers. Something to Kill For and Curly Smoke begin, the Faithful Reader hopes, a long series about computer whiz Anneke Haagen, a forty-plus grandmother who loves fast cars and figuring things out. Fun to read and full of perceptively drawn characters. She has added a terrific new book, Bleeding Maize and Blue to the series.

Jill McGown In A Shred of Evidence the professional and personal partnerships of Detective Inspector Judy Hill and Detective Chief Inspector Lloyd provide the background for a tense whodunnit. The Faithful Reader quibbles a bit about the author's need to dispose of a second body, but the pace and the characters draw readers into the heart of mystery.

Ralph McInerny Judas Priest If you really contemplate the title, you'll probably devise a reasonable facsimile of the mystery. Wry and entertaining, McInerny gets his shots off in defense of the the "real" Catholic Church at the end of the twentieth century. McInerny's popular Andrew Broom series is fun to read, too.

Stella Shepherd Nurse Dawes is Dead Who better to write an English medical mystery than an English physician? A wonderful story.

Anna Shone Mr Donaghue Investigates and Secrets in Stones introduce a fellow who may well be destined for the P. I. hall of fame. He has the good sense to visit interesting places, even if he may be all-too-human in his foibles. Plenty of subplots and incidental puzzles.

Dorothy Simpson Wake the Dead, No Laughing Matter, Dorothy Simpson. Diverting, well written, and few wasted details in these mysteries. Ten years have passed since the Faithful Reader first picked up an Inspector Luke Thanet novel; each is still a treat. Her books usually include a loveable protagonist, a credible array of suspects, a sentimental sub-plot and some hot, reasonably well developed sub-texts.

Jill Paton Walsh The Wyndam Case and A Piece of Justice. These books introduce Nurse Imogene Quy (rhymes with 'why', the author points out), a delightful amateur sleuth who works in the rarified atmosphere of a college at Cambridge. Magnificent writing. Smarty-pants who solve the riddles themselves will find that only a few pages remain to be read, anyway.

Donald Westlake Humans Every roller coaster ride has to end, but it's a mistake to let the last tame seconds of the ride wipe out the memory of a rollicking good trip. This book has been panned in various quarters, but give it a chance. Bet you don't put it down Until It's Over.

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A Couple of Good Links to Other Mystery Sites on the World Wide Web

  • The Mystery Zone, purportedly the Web's first e-zine of mystery, suspense, and crime fiction.
  • Joe's Reviews, Links & Stuff has some reviews of current books.

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    Copyright 1996 Anna Read-The Faithful Reader. This page most recently revised on 15 October 1996 at 15:00 PDT.