Normally when bloggers go on holiday such as the Puzzle Doctor, you can expect a large volley of reviews upon their return. So this post is a confession is sorts really… as this post is all you are getting and even worse only one of my reads is a bona fide 100% mystery novel.
But before you start sharpening your pitchforks and crossing me off your Christmas card lists, I can explain. Given the rut I felt I was semi-sort of in during last month’s reading I thought a week of books I didn’t need to review and were of themselves not out and out mystery novels might just be the remedy I needed. However, since I am sure you are all agog with what these books were here is a very brief survey of them:
Symposium by Muriel Spark
Now Spark is a tricky author to classify in terms of genres. Quite a while ago I planned to review her novel Memento Mori, yet by the end of the book found that it was not a mystery novel at all. Her writing though is brilliant so I was keen to get back to trying more of her work. So whilst this book does involve manslaughter, murder and house robberies, I would maintain this not being a mystery or crime novel, as the narrative’s interest decidedly lies elsewhere. The reader though still has the mystery of how events at this dinner party will conclude, so perhaps Spark is a good segway into non-mystery/literary fiction for the mystery fan who is thinking maybe they should try books outside of their preferred genre. Nevertheless I definitely enjoyed this one.
Smoking Kills (2018) by Antoine Laurain
Laurain is one of my go to authors for non-mystery reads, so I was excited to read to see he had another book coming out this year. Whilst it will probably never make its way into the crime fiction section of any bookshop the general structure of it is aligns itself quite well with the inverted mystery genre. We know the killer’s identity as he is narrating the story, he even tells us he gets caught – so what’s the mystery you ask? The mystery is how a smoking ban in the narrator’s workplace sets off a series of events which lead to the narrator becoming a serial killer. I won’t say any more but there is an almost gem of a plot device used in this chain of events and vintage crime fans will appreciate the unusual murder methods the narrator uses in his crimes. The only downside for me was the ending as it felt a little flat in my opinion, but there is still plenty to enjoy in the rest of the book.
Estoril by Dejan Tiagu-Stankovic
This story goes back to the 1940s to a specific resort in Portugal during WW2, charting the events which take place and the variety of guests which come through their doors including a Jewish refugee waiting for his parents and a catalogue of secret agents and double agents, Portugal being a neutral country. I felt the book started well and I especially enjoyed the character of the refugee, unfortunately I think the writer’s fidelity to historical accuracy, (a lot of his characters are real life ones), got in the way of a good story as the plot events become fairly dull and the second cast of characters which follow the opening set didn’t really grab my imagination.
Calling Major Tom by David M. Barnett
Again this is a story with an unusual premise. The protagonist fed up with his life and through a darkly humorous turn of events gets sent up into space for a trip to Mars, with a view to setting up life supporting structures on arrival. However his communication system ends up connecting him with a mobile phone owned by an old lady with dementia and through this chance phone call he ends up being involved in the increasing problems of this old lady and her two grandchild she is failing to care for. One of my favourites from this list, though again the ending fell slightly flat in the last chapter. Nevertheless Barnett is an author I will return to.
Jane and His Lordship’s Legacy by Stephanie Barron
This is the 8th in Barron’s Jane Austen mystery series, which is a bit of a leap from the last book I read called Jane and the Wandering Eye. This book does reveal quite a big spoiler from the 7th story, but not one to ruin your enjoyment of this one. The characters and setting were a delight as always, but I did feel that the mystery side was not as good as I remember from the earlier books in the series.
I did run into some aborted reads as I did get half way through Mark Watson’s Hotel Alpha, the tedium getting a little too much for me. I had also taken along with me The Ministry of Special Cases by Nathan Englander, but I really couldn’t get into the opening chapter. Has anyone read this? Is it one to persevere with?
Anyways my next review is definitely going to be 100% mystery fiction, so don’t panic! However, my next post is also my 800th, so for that there will be something a little bit different…