Thursday, 29 December 2016

Top Ten Mysteries - 2016

Earlier this month, up to Christmas, I counted down my Top Ten books (any genre) and songs from 2016. Yesterday in my Mystery reading group on Goodreads, I posted my favourite (Top Ten) mysteries of 2016. I did have 4 5-star rated mysteries in 2016, but only one made it to my 'any genre' Top Ten. Since mystery is by far my favourite genre these days and since I read so many mysteries in 2016, I think it's only fair that I add my Top Ten Mysteries List to this Blog as well.

So there you go, my rationale and now my Top Ten List, counting down from #10.

Top Ten Mysteries - 2016

10. Bangkok Tattoo by John Burdette - Tattoo is the second book in the Sonchai Jitpleecheep mystery / police series, set, of course, in Bangkok. I tried the first book, Bangkok 8, out of chance as I had enjoyed other mysteries set in Asia. Bangkok 8 was excellent, leading me to continue the series. Tattoo was just as good. You've got a mixture of spirituality, action and interesting characters and stories. I now have the third boo, Bangkok Haunts, on my bookshelf and hope to read that in 2017. My review of Tattoo is below.

"This is the 2nd book in the Sonchai Jitpleecheep police series, set in Bangkok, Thailand. The first book, Bangkok 8 was excellent and this follow-up was just as good. The story is a rambling mystery, starting off with the discovery of the body of a CIA agent, who has been mutilated.
Sonchai and his boss, Colonel Vikorn, work to protect the prostitute who was with the body. The story wanders through the underworld of Thailand, with Sonchai meeting with CIA agents, Muslim 'terrorists', the Yakuza and many others as he tries to solve the murder.
There were nice surprises throughout and the story and the characters and the locale are all so interesting. Well worth following Sonchai on his journey to solve this case."

9. The Pale Betrayer by Dorothy Salisbury Davis - The Pale Betrayer was a crime story by American writer Davis (1916 - 2014). It was my first attempt at one of her stories and I thought it was great. Betrayer was published in 1965. I will have to try more of her books as she has an extensive catalogue. My review is below.

"I'm not sure where I heard of Dorothy Salisbury Davis, but I think The Pale Betrayer was listed in the back of another similar type story I read. The plot looked interesting so I ordered it and have finally got around to reading it.
Sort of a simple plot, a scientist, a physicist, who works in nuclear physics, returning from a conference in Greece is murdered on his way to his university labs to show a movie he had received from a Russian physicist.
This book is set during the Cold War period, which adds one possible motive. As well, his friend, who may also love his wife, seems to have some involvement, as he might be being blackmailed. The story is a slow-burn, but from the beginning I liked some of the main characters; the police investigating the crime, the young female physicist student, Anne Russo, who the lead cop, Lt Marks, is taken with. All are interesting and I liked them very much.
As well, Louise Steinberg, best friend of the wife of the victim is down-to-earth and adds nice colour. The story moves along at a nice pace and ultimately, gets you hooked and as the plot becomes clearer, even more enjoyable. I did like this and it was worth getting through the vagueness of the first few chapters to get into the story. Well worth reading. I think I will look up more of her books now."

8. The Dragon Man by Garry Disher - This is the first book in Australian crime writer Garry Disher's Inspector Hal Challis mystery series. It's a basic police procedural, but there is so much more, excellent characters, interesting cases and a look at Australian life. I can't wait to read more of this series. In fact, I have the 2nd book, Kittyhawk Down awaiting my attention. My review is below.

"I enjoyed The Dragon Man, the first DI Hal Challis mystery, by Garry Disher very much. It's an Australian police procedural that moves along very nicely, is populated with many interesting characters and has many nice little twists and turns as the police team investigate the various cases that make up the story.
The basic story is the abduction, rape and murder of local women, but there are also other cases that may or may not be related; the woman from New Zealand who is living in the area under witness protection; a spate of arson attacks, break-ins, etc. The police investigation is lead by DI Challis, who also deals with regular calls from his wife who is in prison after trying to murder him; his current girl-friend, the local newspaper reporter; all the while working on rebuilding a damaged airplane in his spare time.
The other members of the police team are all interesting personalities, with their own foibles and issues but are also an effective investigating team. The cases, as well, were very interesting and they were tied together very satisfyingly. An entertaining page turner that I finished in a day once I stated it; excellent introduction to this series."

7. Seaweed on the Street by Stanley Evans - I found this book, well, in fact, the first three books, in the Silas Seaweed series by chance while exploring the shelves of my local used book store, Nearly New Books. It had three things going for it; an interesting cover, an interesting synopsis and it's set in Victoria on Vancouver Island (I live just up the road). So with those attractions, I tried it pretty quickly and enjoyed it thoroughly. Seaweed is a native policeman who works out of a small office in downtown Victoria. There is a spiritual element to the story and nice descriptions of the area, which added to my enjoyment and it was an excellent story. Seaweed on Ice is next in line and the series has two advantages; it can fit into either my Cop series challenge or my Canadian fiction challenge. So I'm pretty sure I can get to it in 2017. My review of Seaweed on the Street is below.

"Seaweed on the Street was a pleasant surprise. Silas Seaweed, a Victoria policeman and Salish Indian, is a combination of Travis McGee and Joe Leaphorn. Seaweed is what is known as a 'neighborhood' cop, working from a small office in downtown Victoria, B.C. His district is peopled by prostitutes, druggies and pimps, besides the normal people who live and work there. He has been a police officer for 20+ years and is a bit of a cynic, but also a man with a big heart.
Silas is asked by a lawyer, for a dying billionaire, to try and find his missing daughter, who has been missing for many years. This means searching in the past and trying to find out why and where she might have gone. Seaweed also finds himself trying to help a native acquaintance who had been falsely? accused of a murder in the past.
This journey finds Seaweed travelling around Vancouver Island, to Seattle and even to Reno as he tries to unravel the mystery. He's a man with a heart of gold, angered by the treatment of the local prostitutes by their pimp and also wanting to resolve the case of his native acquaintance, John Scow. It's an excellent tale, told in a manner that makes you keep reading to find out how it will be involved.
I liked Seaweed's character and many of the people he meets as he works the case. It was also fun to read a story set in Victoria, a locale I lived in for a couple of years. All in all I enjoyed the whole premise and story totally and look forward to reading the rest of this series."

6. Trent's Last Case by E.C. Bentley - Philip Trent is similar to Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey, a rich playboy who likes to solve mysteries. Bentley only wrote 3 books featuring Trent, which is unfortunate as the first story was so excellent. I do have the remaining two books, Trent's Own Case and Trent Intervenes on my bookshelf. I'll try to savour them. My review of Trent's Last Case is below.

"Trent's Last Case was the first book by EC Bentley in the Trent series, which only consisted of 3 books, the other two being Trent's Own Case and a book of short stories. The book is dedicated to his friend, GK Chesterton, who wrote The Man Who Was Thursday.
Trent is an artist and sometime contributor to The Record, when requested by the owner. In this instance he is asked to investigate an interesting murder/ suicide of a rich American living in England to see if he can ascertain the culprit. The books moves along at a somewhat sedate pace, taking the time to introduce characters and the outline of the case; the victim, his associates, including his wife and others and to allow Trent the opportunity to conduct his investigation.
I liked the pace, the writing style and the investigation. There were nice little surprises, both in solving the case and the ultimate ending. Written in 1913, it still seems valid and not at all outdated. I enjoyed very much."

5. The Black Echo by Michael Connelly - This is the first book in the Harry Bosch mystery series. I had read one previously, one of the later books, City of Bones, and remember enjoying but not being overwhelmed by it. Then the missus and I watched Season 1 of Bosch, based on the books, and I was hooked. I wanted to give the series another chance and also wanted to start at the beginning. It was excellent, a really entertaining read. The next two books, The Black Ice and The Concrete Blonde await my attention. My review of Echo is below.

"The is the first book in the Harry Bosch mystery series. I have previously read one other but will have to try it again and read the series in order.
I enjoyed this very much. I liked the methodical way the crimes were investigated and I like Harry Bosch. He's an old style cop, a smoker and a coffee inhaler, but he has strong values of right and wrong. He has been moved to Hollywood division as a punishment and finds himself investigating the murder of a companion from the Vietnam War; a fellow tunnel rat.
His investigation leads him to an old bank robbery and he becomes involved with the FBI, especially Agent Eleanor Wish. He is also being tracked by the LAPD's Internal Affairs as they try to find something to discredit him with.
The case is interesting, it provides details about Bosch's past, his time in the Vietnam War and how it might relate to this case. Lots of tension, interesting characters and storyline and many twists and turns. Harry, from the TV show, and Harry in the book are similar and you develop great empathy with the character. I enjoyed this story very much and look forward to further exploring Harry Bosch's mysteries."

4. Petrella at Q by Michael Gilbert - This is my first of two mysteries by English mystery writer, Michael Gilbert. He lived from 1912 to 2006. Petrella at Q was written in 1977 and is a collection of short stories featuring Michael Petrella. My review is below.

"This is the 2nd book by Michael Gilbert that I've attempted. It was excellent. The basic premise is that the book follows Detective Chief Inspector Patrick Petrella, of London's Patton Street Police Station over the course of a year.
It is a collection of short stories, each a different case, but, at the same time, some that follow one on the other. There are some mundane cases and as you get into the stories, some that create a great deal of tension. The last couple of stories, especially, where Petrella and his team are involved with the local heavy - hitter underworld, had me on the edge of my seat.
I quite enjoyed the investigation process, how Petrella and his inspectors follow leads and sort through issues. It reminded me of the process that Law & Order followed as the police investigate the particular crimes. I also liked the personalities of the various team members and the bursts of inspiration that come from Petrella. He knows his local area and the people there and uses his smarts in sorting through the chaff to come up with solutions. Excellent, perfect little book. It turns out that Gilbert also wrote 4 other books featuring Petrella. I will have to check them out."

3. The Unfinished Clue by Georgette Heyer. Heyer is another British mystery writer I've discovered the past couple years and The Unfinished Clue was my first stab at her writing. She lived from 1902 - 1974 and also wrote historical fiction. My review of The Unfinished Clue is below.

"A most enjoyable mystery, my first by Heyer and I thoroughly enjoyed. It was a cozy mystery, involving the murder of a cantankerous man, unloved by pretty well everybody associated with him. Inspector Harding is called down from Scotland Yard to investigate and ultimately solves the crime.
I liked his character very much and also that of his plodding Sgt. There were also other characters I liked very much, especially Miss Fawcett. No reliance on fancy CSI-type technology, basically interviews and following up on questions, but so totally satisfying of a story.
The ending was also satisfying and had a little twist I didn't really see coming. Not a book I'll think about for years to come, but just a perfect, enjoyable read. (5 stars). Always nice to discover a new author that you want to read more of."

2. Smallbone Deceased by Michael Gilbert - This is the second Michael Gilbert book. It was written in 1950 and was his fourth book, all featuring a favourite detective, Inspector Hazelrigg. I loved this story. My review is below.

"I've read a couple of other books by Michael Gilbert and have enjoyed them all so far. Smallbone Deceased ranks up there with Petrella at Q as my favourites of his so far. Smallbone is a perfect little mystery. It's billed as an Inspector Hazelrigg mystery and, indeed, the good Inspector does play a prominent role.
But the supporting cast also adds very much to the story, especially poor Sgt Plumptree who has to wander around London interviewing possible witnesses. He is an inexhaustible man, a credit to the London Police Force. As well, there is Henry Bohun, the newest member of the offices of Horniman, Birley and Craine, who finds himself helping Inspector Hazelrigg with his investigation to a great extent.
The basic story is that a body, that of Mr. Smallbone, a client of the firm, is found in one of the firm's deed boxes, having resided there for a few weeks. This starts up the investigation, which I enjoyed following very much. There was an interesting steadiness to the investigation; I've mentioned Sgt Plumptree already, but the rest of the team of investigators are all excellent. I'll highlight Mr. Hoffman who works through the paperwork, checking the firm's finances to try and find reasons for the murder.
The investigation moves at a nice, steady pace, allowing all of the characters time to inculcate themselves into your memory. They all are enjoyable; there is a nice humour at times that keeps the story light. All in all, the book was so very enjoyable, even the ending was satisfying. I will definitely continue to find more books by Gilbert to enjoy."

1. Beast in View by Margaret Millar - Canadian writer, Margaret Millar, ranks right up there as one of my favourite mystery writers. I've enjoyed quite a few of her books and Beast in View is one of my favourites, along with The Soft Talkers. This book was in my overall Top Ten for 2016, but I'll provide my review once again.

"Beast In View was a true gem. I've enjoyed a couple of her other books in the past few years, when I've been able to find copies. The Soft Talkers was one of my favourites of last year. Beast in View is another 5-star read.
It's such an interesting story. I love how Millar develops her plots. Is it about Helen Clarvoe, who lives alone in her apartment, isolated from the world about her? Is it about Mr. Blackshear, Helen's financial adviser, bored with his work, who she asks to help her find the woman who made the distressing call to Helen and who begins to conduct an investigation on Helen's behalf? Or is it about Evelyn Merrick, the woman who makes the initial call to Helen and who seems to be making many calls to other people that have upset her?
I loved how it moved along, from the one character to the other, how the tension builds, how the story surprisingly makes a turn to the left. Excellent, excellent!! She is such a wonderful writer."

So there you go, my Top Ten mysteries for 2016. I'm looking forward to starting my 2017 reading. I have one more book to finish in 2016, that being A Monstrous Regiment of Women, the second Mary Russell mystery by Laurie R. King. I'll provide a final summary of 2016 in the next day and then probably list my first 4 books of 2017 after that. Enjoy the rest of your year!

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