Bubble bubble. Toil and Trouble!

Title: Thrice the Brinded Cat hath Mew’d By Alan BradleyPublisher: Bantam, 352 pp September 2016

Genre: cozy mystery, YA, British, historical, fiction

5 stars : Read in one sitting, as all previous books were, often late into the night

Author:

Alan Bradley was born in Toronto, Canada. After a career in television broadcasting, he retired from the University of Saskatchewan to write full-time. His publications include children’s stories, lifestyle and arts columns in Canadian newspapers and screenplays. His adult stories have been broadcast on CBC radio and published in various literary journals. He was the recipient of the first Saskatchewan Writers Guild Award for Children’s Literature. 

The first in the series, “The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie” won the 2007 Debut Dagger Award of the Crime Writers Association in the UK; the 2009 Agatha Award for Best First Novel; the 2010 Dilys, awarded by the International Mystery Booksellers Association; the Spotted Owl Award, given by the Friends of Mystery, and the 2010 Arthur Ellis Award, given by the Crime Writers of Canada for Best First Novel. It was also nominated for an Anthony Award, a Barry Award, and a Macavity Award. Sweetness made numerous lists and awards including the New York Times, as a Favorite Mystery of 2009, an American Library Association nominee as Best Book For Young Adults; a Barnes and Noble Bestseller. The audiobook version of “The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie” was voted Best AudioBook by iTunes. The books are all NYTimes best sellers. Don’t miss the audio books narrated by Jayne Entwistle- she is absolutely perfect, and in 2014 won Outstanding Audiobook Narration for The Dead in their Vaulted Arches. Academy Award-winning producer/director Sam Mendes, of “Skyfall” and “American Beauty” fame has optioned for Flavia for television movies (2012).

Story line:

This is book 8 in what I hope is a long series of sleuthing for our intrepid youngster Flavia De Luce. Yes, another cliffhanger so we know book 9 is in progress. Please read these in order as there is a good progression of character, friendships, sleuthing techniques, layers of personal history, and ‘in jokes’. My favourites are volumes 1,6 and now 8. A word of warning, have your hankies ready. If you love the Flavia stories you will definitely enjoy this installment back in 1950s England. Flavia returns without welcome as her father is gravely ill. In no time she’s off on trusty Gladys, in the usual English weather with the usual suspects. Fortunately there is a body and sleuthing commences.

Flavia has charmed me since the very first novel as has Bradley’s excellent writing. Flavia is still a fascinating, captivating, curious, quirky, beguiling, precocious 12 year old. Her observations are priceless. I enjoy the intricate mysteries that Bradley creates, here with interesting details of woodcarvers, witches, childhood storybooks, but Flavia is the reason to read. I love her clever mind. She is going to be an incredible, formidable adult! I can’t wait for the next book. The anticipation of each novel is exceeded only by the actual read. 

Quotes:

Gladys gave a little squeak of delight. She loved coasting as much as I did, and if there was no one in sight, I might even put my feet up on her handlebars: a bit of bicycle artistry that she loved even more than ordinary free-wheeling.

Life with my sister Daffy had taught me that you could tell as much about people by their books as you could by snooping through their diaries – a practice of which I am exceedingly fond and, I must confess, especially adept.”
Thanks to my Girl Guide training, I was able to bluff convincingly when required. All those wet and windy Wednesday evenings spent in cold, drafty parish halls were paying off at last.

How could I tell the dear man that murder made me feel so gloriously alive?

The DeLuce blood is stronger, afterall, then sentiment.

There is an art to staging a convincing accident. It is not as easy as you may think – particularly on short notice. First and foremost, it must look completely natural and spontaneous. Secondly, there must be nothing comical about it, since comedy saps sympathy.

The world can be an interesting place to a girl who keeps her ears open.

Read on: 

If you like Harriet the Spy or Lemony Snickett’s Violet Baudeleaire. Or are a Sherlock Holmes Fan.

Or listen to Jayne Entwistle narrate Julie Berry’s Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place.

Laurie King The Beekeeper’s Apprentice

Martha Grimes Belle Ruin series

Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley, as well as purchased hardcover. Available from Rochester Public Library.

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Fall into a good book

Title: A Time of Torment by John ConnollyPublisher: Atria 480 pp

Genre: mystery, thriller, fiction, series, Charlie Parker

5+ stars

Author:

John Connolly, born in Dublin, Ireland, studied English in Trinity College, Dublin and journalism at Dublin City University, subsequently spending five years working as a freelance journalist for The Irish Times newspaper. He continues to contribute literary articles and interviews. He has visits Maine for over 20 years. The Time of Torment is the 14th Charlie Parker novel, joining a long line of exceptional writing, plot development and suspense. The first, Every Dead Thing (1999) introduced the former policeman hunting the killer of his wife and daughter. Dark Hollow followed (2000) then The Killing Kind, (2001) and The White Road (2002). 2005 marked the publication of The Black Angel, The Unquiet, (2007) The Reapers, in 2008 The Lovers, in 2009, and The Whisperers, the ninth Charlie Parker novel (2010). The Burning Soul, was published in 2011, followed by The Wrath of Angels and The Wolf in Winter  2014. Last year I reviewed and highly recommended A Song of Shadows, the 13th Parker novel. 

In 2003, John published his first stand-alone book, Bad Men. Nocturnes, a collection of novellas and short stories followed and then Night Music: Nocturnes Volume 2, the second collection of short stories. The Book of Lost Things, concerns fairy stories and the power that books have to shape our world. The Gates (2009), was his first novel for young adults. A sequel published in 2011 as Hell’s Bells in the UK and The Infernals in the United States, was followed by The Creeps. DreamWorks Studios acquired the Samuel Johnson trilogy for development. With his partner, Jennifer Ridyard, he has written Conquest, Empire and Dominion, in the Chronicles of the Invaders YA series.

Books to Die For, a nonfiction anthology co-edited by John Connolly and Declan Burke, won the 2013 Agatha, Anthony and Macavity Awards for Best Critical/Biographical Book of the year. His website: http://www.johnconnollybooks.com.

Story line:

As always John Connolly delivers an impeccable thriller. I still insist these need to be read in order, but know people who have started in the middle of the series, even with this book. They ALL go back the first novel. You don’t have the suspense of character development nor history with details that make the over arching story. Each book is a chapter in am amazing life.

This time we start in Maine and finish with a Cult in West Virginia. It could have been anywhere in the USA, particularly the Appalachians but also the West and Midwest, PNW. Connolly nails our culture of guns, violence, paranoia but also portrays intense loyalty, family and friends. The paranormal element is slight, tangible and believable. And ever present in the next book, as clearly there is much more ahead. Eager anticipation for every word.

Every book is well written, plot driven, meticulously researched and a joy to read, and reread. I always look forward to Louis and Angel. And now await Sam’s development. I own them all. Read them in one sitting, reread to ponder nuances. And leave the lights on.

Quotes:

The Collector had not seen Parker in more than a year, and was astonished by the changes in him. It was not simply the physical alterations wrought by his suffering, although his injuries, and his ongoing recuperation from them, had left him thinner than before, and his hair was speckled with white where the shotgun pellets had torn paths through his scalp. No, this was a man transformed within as well as without, and the unease that the Collector had always experienced in Parker’s presence, a glowing ember of concern, suddenly exploded into flame.

But it was his gaze that was most altered. If it was true what they said about the eyes being the windows to the soul, then Parker’s soul burned with a new fire. His eyes held a calm conviction that Dave had not seen in them before. This was a fundamentally changed man, one who had come back strengthened, not weakened, by what he had endured, but who was also both less and more than he once had been. 

….was good news for Portland’s better restaurants, once they’d grown used to Angel’s distinctive taste in attire and concluded that he wasn’t about to steal any of the silverware.

Sam was not what he had believed her to be. She was his daughter, and more than that: she was a being in the process of becoming, but what might ultimately emerge from that metamorphosis could not be foretold. If Sam knew, then she declined to say.

Parker could spend a lifetime hunting the servants, or he could find the master and destroy him.

Law and justice are not the same.”

He had decided that when he became governor, or world ruler—whichever came first—he’d pass a law forcing people to make and take all cell phone calls outside bars and restaurants, on pain of having their phones confiscated, or fed to them. 

For a moment, Parker thought he should have become a lawyer. He could have learned to live with the shame if it enabled him to own apartment blocks.

“I ought to warn you,” Parker told Louis. “They won’t have seen anything like you before.” “You mean black, or gay?” “No, just clean.”

The Fulci brothers rarely blessed the Porterhouse with their business. They preferred to avoid blighted institutions on the grounds that they brought their own trouble with them, and so drinking somewhere like the Porterhouse was like taking sand to a desert.

And then he saw the name attached to the academic reference, and a prickle of disquiet crept across him like the touch of a spider in the dark.

A dead king, then, is a kind of effigy, typically centered on the skull of a victim, but very rare, even in its most basic form, and the creation of one, as far as we can tell, is entirely the preserve of the most extreme of criminal groups or gangs.

Maybe sometime in the past, long before people knew about fripperies like proper plumbing, A/C that didn’t sound like a failing jet engine, and towels with a consistency softer than sandpaper, Dryden’s might have served as an acceptable rest stop for those with suitably low expectations, but it now belonged to another, distant century, just like smallpox and tuberculosis, although Louis wouldn’t have been surprised if a sample of some of the gunk behind the sink in his bathroom had revealed traces of both.


Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley, as well as purchased hardcover. Available from Rochester Public Library.

Sometimes you can’t escape the claws….

Title: Escape Clause by John Sandford (Virgil Flowers, #9 )
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons 400 pp October 2016

Genre: mystery, thriller fiction, suspense

5 stars

Author:

From Amazon author list: John Sandford is the pseudonym for the Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist John Camp. He is the author of twenty-six Prey novels, most recently Extreme Prey; four Kidd novels; nine Virgil Flowers novels; three YA novels coauthored with his wife, Michele Cook; and three stand-alones, most recently Saturn Run.

Story line:

Virgil Flowers, my favourite investigator for the MN Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), is back for another roller coaster ride. We moved from dognapping to catnapping- with endangered tigers stolen from the Mn Zoo. Everyone else is involved in politics at the state fair (leftover from the last Davenport Prey book). Virgil gets the short straw as body counts rise, brutal attack occur and bombs go off.

I always looks for the references of either Davenport or Flowers depending on the book series, and this doesn’t disappoint. I don’t think of it as a spinoff either, Virgil feels more like a real MN cop: tough, smart, long haired (farmer), quirky Midwestern boy. Love the cultural t-shirt references. He does the legwork, finds the clues, thinks through the larger pictures and gets his sociopath, without a gun, if at all possible. The cat helped. 

I read this in one sitting, relieved to be laughing more with Virgil’s engaging antics and comments. Several of the Flowers books have been very dark indeed. The Midwest realism works on all levels, from the swimming hole to the immigrant factory to the traffic. Small town life contrasts seething political issues, with good commentary and further thought. This book will not disappoint.

Read on:

To the first Virgil Flowers Dark of the Moon, or the Prey Series.

If you like Lee Child (Jack Reacher), Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch) or David Baldacci (John Puller) series. 

Quotes:

“You must be the famous Virgil fuckin’ Flowers.”

Virgil could feel his heart clogging up with grease as he finished the sandwich,

New Ulm was getting more like LA every single day, Virgil thought.

“Did you have a gun with you?” Davenport asked. “Yeah.” “You didn’t shoot it, did you?” “No.” “There’s the fuckin’ Flowers we all know and love,” Davenport said.

…..but they had the IQs of small rocks.

“It’s another one of your damn Twin Cities murders that you keep unloading on us,” the sheriff said. “If he’d dropped the refrigerator fifteen feet west, it’d technically be a Minnesota case, which it should be.” “You’re breaking my heart,” Virgil said.

“Why do your cases always wind up like this?” Duncan asked, running a hand through his hair. “Why can’t you have a straightforward missing-tigers case?”

….had physically frozen on a street corner. For nearly half an hour, he’d been unable to pick up a foot to move. Since it was St. Paul, nobody had noticed.

“I gotta think,” Virgil said. “I mean, I am thinking, but I’m not coming up with anything.”

“Beer, weed, and skinny-dipping,” Bill said. He sounded happy about it. “It is just sort of Minnesota in the summertime, isn’t it?”

“If it was anyone else, I wouldn’t believe it. With you, I think, ‘Yeah, probably,’ ” she said.


Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley. Will be available from Rochester Public Library.