At the moment, Jo and I are in the family room watching the Veronica Mars movie. The patio door is open and we've a nice cool breeze blowing in. We've had some rain this week and the temperature is a bit more comfortable.
So today, I'll update my new book purchases, books finished and any new books I'm reading. I'll also continue with my ongoing look at the Mystery genre, with my last entry in the American PI category.
1. In the Heat of the Night by Matt Pelfrey. This is the stage adaptation of John Ball's book. I'll discuss it more in my review as I read it this week.
"Sir Leonard Wallace, the famous chief of the Secret Service, finds that the peace of Europe is threatened by a gang engaged in the theft and sale of national secrets. Wallace gets busy, and is assisted by the gang leader's own fear of him and his anxiety to get the Englishman into his power. Wallace's investigations, his startling discoveries and his escapes from death make this one of the most exciting books ever written by Alexander Wilson."
1. In the Heat of the Night by Matt Palfrey.
"In the Heat of the Night is an adaptation for the stage by Matt Pelfrey of the novel by John Dudley Ball. This was the first in a series of books featuring African American police detective, Virgil Tibbs. The book was turned into an award winning movie and also an award winning TV series. I've tried to find a copy of the book and when I ordered this copy was surprised to find it was, instead, Pelfrey's adaptation.
With all that preamble, I must say I enjoyed this tremendously. My normal reading of plays is both haphazard and more often than not, not all that enjoyable. But this adaptation caught me from the very beginning and held my interest until the end. It was, to say the least, excellent.
I've seen the movie and have enjoyed the TV series from the late '80s / early '90s as well. This short play grabbed all of the salient aspects of both perfectly; the racism of Alabama when the story / play is set, the intelligence of Virgil Tibbs and his ability to transcend this racism as he tries to help the local sheriff (almost against both of their wills) solve the murder of a local realtor, and the realization by the sheriff and one of his deputies that there is more to a man than just the colour of his skin.
Briefly when local realtor Charles Tatum is found murdered in the middle of the road in Argo Alabama, local sheriff Gillespie has one of his deputies, Sam Wood check out the train station to ensure the possible suspect isn't trying to leave by train. Wood arrests a black man, thinking he is the murderer. It turns out to be Virgil Tibbs, who is a police detective from California, waiting for his train after visiting with his mother.
By various circumstances, Tibbs is thrown into the murder investigation and during this time, the feelings of Gillespie and Wood towards him evolve very quickly. Not so with other members of the community, especially those of the Klan. For a short play, it manages to run the gamut of emotions and personal feelings quickly and effectively. The story is developed in a logical, swift manner and it drags you into the characters immediately. I will still have to find a copy of the original book, but his adaptation was excellent and I can't recommend highly enough. (4.5 stars)"
2. Lie in Wait by Eric Rickstad (Canaan Crime #1).
"The first book in the Canaan crime series by Eric Rickstad, Lie In Wait is also my first exposure to his writing. Based on this story, I look forward to reading more. There are three books in the Canaan crime series and he has also written two standalone novels.
The town of Canaan is located Vermont. The story starts with the violent murder of a young girl, baby-sitting for a local lawyer and his wife. The lawyer, Jon Merryfield, is assisting two gay men in their case against the state. This is not popular with a certain group in the community and this is one possible story line for investigation. Local detective, Sonja Test, is involved in the murder investigation, but in a subsidiary role to the State police investigator, Detective North. There is friction between the two, although they also make a reasonable team.
Other suspects begin to come to the surface as the two investigate. Could it be the star football player, who may have been having a relationship with 'underage' Jessica Cumber. Could it be his father, trying to protect his son? Could it be the lawyer himself? What about Jed King, the local trouble maker, who may have been trying to implicate the lawyer? It's an interesting group of suspects, each with seeming secrets to hide and the investigation moves along nicely.
While Sonja is the main character, the story does move between the various main characters, adding to the texture of the story. There are enough incidents throughout the story and an ongoing feeling of menace which adds to the tension that Rickstad develops. It's not a perfect story by any means but it is well-written, flows along very nicely and all in all, it's a satisfying mystery. (4 stars)"
3. Louisiana Lament by Julie Smith (Talba Wallis #3).
"Louisiana Lament by Julie Smith is the 3rd book in the Talba Wallis mystery series set in New Orleans. I've read books in Smith's other series, one featuring New Orleans cop Skip Langdon and the other San Francisco lawyer, Rebecca Schwarz. This was my first exposure to Talba Wallis.
Wallis is a PI who works for Eddie Valentino. In a previous book she had met her sister, Janessa (same father, different mother). Janessa had told Talba in no uncertain terms that she didn't want anything to do with her. Suddenly she gets a call from Janessa to come help her. On arrival, Talba discovers the dead body of Alyson Brown, Janessa's employee. We discover later that Alyson's daughter has also been murdered. Janessa and her friend, Nathan are both suspects.
Talba persuades her boss to take on the case and this begins the investigation into the murders or murder / suicide. One other aspect of Talba's character that needs to be highlighted is that she is a published poet, under the pseudonym of the Baroness of Pontalba. The story uses poetry at times provide clues to the mystery, an interesting aspect of the story.
There are no shortage of suspects' Alyson's son and other daughter, Janessa and Nathan, Alyson's business partner, etc. it's a meandering story that wanders between Talba and Eddie as they track down the suspects to gather clues. You get a nice picture of parts of New Orleans as the investigation is followed.
It's an interesting story. I found New Orleans interesting and also the main characters. I do find it interesting that Talba is black and the author is white and I wonder how accurate her portrayal of that culture is. At any rate, while not perfect, it is an interesting story and mystery. I will check out the other books in the series. (3 stars)"
Latest books I've started are below.
1. The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan (John Hannay #1). I've read this a couple of times previously. I'm reading this for my Mystery Book Group as I'll be moderating the Group Read discussion in June.
"Adventurer Richard Hannay has just returned from South Africa and is thoroughly bored with his London life - until a spy is murdered in his flat, just days after having warned Hannay of an assassination plot that could plunge Britain into a war with Germany. An obvious suspect for the police and an easy target for the killers, Hannay picks up the trail left by the assassins, fleeing to Scotland, where he must use all his wits to stay one step ahead of the game - and warn the government before it is too late. One of the most popular adventure stories ever written, The Thirty-Nine Steps established John Buchan as the original thriller writer and inspired many other novelists and filmmakers including Alfred Hitchcock."
2. The Book of the Lion by Elizabeth Daly (Henry Gamadge #13).
"It should be a fairly routine job for Henry Gamadge: Examining the papers of a dead poet and playwright with some early promise but not much commercial success. But it's not so much the life and letters as the death of the author (murdered in Central Park) that interests Gamadge. Add in a dead witness and the odd behavior of the family, and Gamadge decides something criminal is afoot."
3. The Master of Rain by Tom Bradby.
"Shanghai, 1926: a sultry city lousy with opium, warlords, and corruption at the highest levels. Into this steamy morass walks Richard Field, an idealistic Brit haunted by his past and recently appointed to the international police. He's not there long before called to the flat of a Russian prostitute, former daughter of privilege found sadistically murdered, handcuffed to her bed. When he discovers among her possessions a cryptic shipping log, he senses that this murder is more than a random crime of perverse passion. What unfolds is a searing story that propels Field into a confrontation with the city's most ruthless and powerful gangster, and a dangerous attraction to another salacious Russian whose sordid connections seem destined to make her the next victim"
My Ongoing Look at the Mystery Genre, American PIs (The Final One)
In my last entry, I looked at Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe series. This is the final entry in my look at American PI's
a. The Woman Who Married a Bear (1992).
"Sitka, Alaska, is a subarctic port surrounded by snow-dusted mountains. In addition to honest work, there is a lot of alcohol consumed and other people's money appropriated. Bars are loud, fights are mean. Rowdy youths party in the ancient Russian cemeteries, sitting on overturned gravestones. Sitka is hardly straight-laced, but murder is uncommon enough to be widely noted—like the Indian big-game guide killed by an ex-miner obeying voices from the earth's center. The victim's mother, a Tlingit Indian, summons to her nursing home a local investigator named Cecil Younger. The case is old and ostensibly solved. She wants him to investigate anyway. What he unearths is a virtual fairy-tale contrived to hide a primal conspiracy."
2. The Curious Eat Themselves (1993).
"P.I. Cecil Younger is in a jam. Louise Root had hired him after she was raped at the Otter Creek gold mine where she was working as a cook. She was the best friend of his ex-girlfriend, Hannah. Louise had come to him for help, and now she's being fished out of the ocean, her throat slashed. He has disappointed Hannah once again, yet suddenly everyone wants Younger's help: his old friend, Doggy, the D.A.; his autistic roommate, Toddy, whose Labrador retriever has disappeared; an image-conscious environmental activist; even the sleazy executives of Global Mining, whose interest in the case is suspicious. This is no longer a simple investigation, but a complicated murder case involving Global's environmentally incorrect waste disposal program and the implications of dumping cyanide into the ground. Dead bodies are piling up faster than Younger can count and he has his hands full just trying to stay alive, tracking down the suspects and some missing documents which could lead to the truth."
"Younger's got the child custody case from hell, and a client to match. Shrill, confrontational, and obsessed, Priscilla DeAngelo is sure her ex is conspiring with a state senator to wrest her son from her. When she storms off to Juneau for a showdown, Younger's custody case swiftly turns into a murder. Fired from her defense team, Younger stays with the investigation. He's not sure what keeps him bulldogging the case—Priscilla's sister, his lost love; his regard for truth as a rare commodity; or the head injury Priscilla's ex gave him—but he won't let go until it's solved."
4. Death and the Language of Happiness (1997).
"Cecil Younger is a man who takes comfort in the absurdity of the universe. And the universe is obliging him, with a joint phone call from his lawyer and his shrink, to convey a job offer from another client: all Cecil has to do is kill a man.
Though common sense tells him murder just isn't a good career move, his finances tell him it can't hurt to meet his potential client. The decision will lead Cecil from a pathetic small-time murder to a decades-old slaughter that is still reaching into the present—and its dark and chilly grasp may extend to Cecil Younger himself…"
The other books in this series are -
- The Angels Will Not Care (1998)
- Cold Water Burning (2001)
- Baby's First Felony (2018)
That finishes my look at American PI's. Next in line in my look at the Mystery genre will be American cop series. Can't wait, eh? Enjoy the rest of your weekend.