"Charles Paris is a part-time detective and professional actor, drawn into the affairs of an amateur theater company. Charles's friend Hugo's wife is murdered, and Hugo is charged with the crime.
Paris takes on the case personally. The solution to the mystery lies in a clever double alibi. An Amateur Corpse is an absorbing and entertaining account of theatrical back staging, back scratching and backbiting."
2. All the Tea in China by Kyril Bonfiglioli (Charles Mortdecai #3).
"Inspired by a shotgun blast in the seat of his breeches, young Karli Van Cleef quits his native Holland to seek his fortune. He arrives in early Victorian London and soon he is turning a pretty profit. But Karli sees that true opportunity flowers in India’s fields of opium poppies and the treaty ports of the China coast. So he takes a berth in an opium clipper hell-bent for the Indies.
It is a journey beset with perils. Karli is confronted by the mountainous seas, high-piled plates of curry, and the ferocious penalties of the Articles of War. He survives the malice of the Boers, the hospitality of anthropophagi, and the horrors of Lancashire cooking. En route he acquires some interesting diseases, dangerous friends and enemies, a fortune, and a wife almost as good as new."
3. Rock Paper Tiger by Lisa Brackmann (Ellie McEnroe #1).
"American Iraq War veteran Ellie Cooper is living in Beijing when a chance encounter with a Uighur—a member of a Chinese Muslim minority—at the home of her sort-of boyfriend Lao Zhang turns her life upside down. Lao Zhang disappears, and suddenly multiple security organizations are hounding Ellie for information. They say the Uighur is a terrorist. Ellie doesn’t know what’s going on, but she must decide whom to trust among the artists, dealers, collectors, and operatives claiming to be on her side—in particular, a mysterious organization operating within a popular online role-playing game. As she tries to elude her pursuers, she’s haunted by memories of Iraq. Is what she did and saw there at the root of the mess she’s in now?"
I've finished 4 books since my last entry. September has been an excellent month even if I've read quite a few graphic novels as part of my September genre challenge in my UK Reading group.
1. Death of an Outsider by M.C. Beaton (Hamish Macbeth #3).
"Death of an Outsider is the 3rd book in M.C. Beaton's Hamish Macbeth cozy mystery series set in Scotland. Constable Macbeth has been ordered to replace Sgt MacGregor of Cnothan for three months while the Sgt is taking his vacation. That means taking his dog Towzer out of his comfortable residence at Lochdubh and bus down to this dour town. Strangers aren't popular there and the place reminds me of the town the League of Gentleman. Well, maybe not quite so strange. But Hamish is very unhappy. What if the love of his life, Priscilla Halburton-Smythe returns and he's not there?
Hamish is not made too welcome when he arrives but he is a voluble, competent individual and gradually makes inroads to the community. Luckily for him, living next door to the police station is a lovely Canadian Jenny Lovelace makes his situation somewhat more bearable. Things happen fairly quickly. He is asked to investigate the attack on Mrs Mainwaring, the wife of an Englishman who has made himself very unpopular in the community. Supposedly she was scared by three women dressed as witches. Local scoundrels send him on wild goose chases but Hamish does make his presence known and deals quite satisfactorily with them.
At some point, a skeleton is discovered on the moors. There is more to this discovery, incidents that lead up to it, but I won't ruin that portion of the story for you. Suffice it to say that it's quite an interesting story. The discovery of the skeleton means that Hamish's arch enemy, Inspector Blair is sent to Cnothan to head the investigation. Blair doesn't like MacBeth because he solved previous cases which Blair had been investigating. Blair doesn't really want to investigate and he sends Hamish hither and yon to keep him out of the way. The problem is that Hamish is a good, sound copper and we know he'll come up smelling of roses anyway.
All in all, it's an entertaining, cozy, quick read and quite enjoyable. The people are all interesting and the crime is also unique. Most enjoyable, fun mystery. I'll continue enjoying this series. (4 stars)"
2. Tank Girl: One by Jamie Hewlett.
"Tank Girl Classic #1 by Alan C. Martin contains the first 15 episodes of the Tank Girl comic series; published from October 1988 to February 1990. It also contains bonus features, comic book covers from the various editions and a preamble from the authors. I found this particularly interesting as James Hewlett, one of the contributors came from Worthing UK, where my wife also was raised and it turns out she sold Hewlett's parents' house back in the day. Reading through it permitted us to reminisce about locations mentioned in it and also about our visits back to her hometown. Made for a nice touch for me.
The various editions are fun and drawn excellently. Tank Girl is set in a dystopian Australia. Why would a bunch of young punks for Worthing set their series there? Well, as they say, ' because it was flat and devoid of buildings and therefore very easy to draw.' Of course, other factors included the Crocodile Dundee movies and Mad Max. Tank Girl is a wild, trouble-making girl, who drives a tank. Of course. She also dates a Kangaroo. Of course. Her best friends are Jet Girl and Sub Girl. Of course.
Don't take the series to seriously. Although having said that, there are quite thoughtful moments within. There is also tons of action, lots of beer drinking and great drawings. Beneath her scruffy, wild exterior, Tank Girl is a beautiful girl, sparkling eyes and clean, well-drawn features. Of course, she doesn't always feel like that; especially after a night of partying. There is something that draws you into this graphic novel series; it's full - on, quirky, snarky, filled with pop culture references and loads of good old fun. Now to get Volume 2. (4 stars)"
3. The Bone Garden by Kate Ellis (Wesley Peterson #5).
"The Bone Garden is the 5th book in the Wesley Peterson mystery series by English author Kate Ellis. The stories have an archeological backdrop normally that somehow impacts the story. In this one, work is being done at Earlsacre Hall, to excavate the old building and gardens. A body (skeleton) is discovered in the dig, bringing out DS Wesley Peterson and his boss, DI Gerry Heffernan. It turns out the body of a young woman, who seems to have been buried alive, is part of the history of the Hall. Another skeleton is discovered below the first one and later, in a trailer park, a murdered body is found.
Now a criminal investigation is also instigated. A lawyer with some involvement in the archeological dig has called Wesley and let him know that he needs to see him. Arrangements are made to meet at a cricket match where both will be participating but before they can meet, the lawyer, Brian Willerby, is also discovered dead in the woods near the cricket ground. Was he murdered as well?
The investigation is an interesting one as well as the historical aspects of Earlsacre Hall. The beginning of each chapter leads off with either correspondence from the past by people from the Hall or also chapters of a book about an old visitor to the Hall in the 1700s. There are links between the current murders and the archeological work that makes the story more interesting. Wesley has a degree in archeology so has an interest in the work being done. His boss and the other members of the police department; Rachel and Steve all are well-fleshed out and all have important roles in the story.
It makes for an interesting mystery, with nice twists and turns and an interesting group of suspects and witnesses. I liked the historical aspects of the story and also the overall tale. Most enjoyable. (4 stars)"
"I have not read the Sookie Stackhouse books (on with the TV series True Blood is based) in any particular order. All Together Dead is the 7th book in the series and probably the 3rd or 4th book I've enjoyed so far. I'd suggest it's probably better to read in order as there are events mentioned in this particular story that refer to events in the past. However, having said that they are explained well enough that I had a good idea what had taken place.
On that note, we find Sookie, waitress with the ability to read minds, with a roommate in her home in Bon Temps Louisiana. Amelia is a witch from New Orleans whose home was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina. She also fears retribution from her fellow witches as she used her powers to turn her boyfriend Bob (I gather it was somewhat accidentally) into a cat and Bob also is living with Sookie. This is a minor story mind you. The main story involves the Queen of Louisiana. She is to go on trial for the murder of her husband, the King of Arkansas, an event which was witnessed by Sookie in a previous novel. All of the vampire Kings and Queens and their entourages are heading to a vampire conference at Rhodes, a town near Chicago. They will be staying at a vampire specializing hotel, the Pyramid of Gizeh. Besides a big party, a wedding (between two vampire kings), etc, there will also be the trial of the Queen of Louisiana. Sookie has been hired to attend, so she can monitor any humans attending for the benefit of her queen. Also attending will by Eric, a previous vampire lover, and the Sheriff of the Shreveport vamps and one of the Queen's men, Bob, Sookie's first vampire lover and now in her bad books for various reasons and Quint, her new boyfriend and a weretiger, hired to stage the various events.
Of course, there are many other characters, including Barry Bellhop another human telepath who Sookie previously met on a visit with the King of Texas (Barry works for him). Of course, there are many twists and turns in this interesting story. The conference is being picketed by the Fellowship, a quasi-religious group that detests vampires. The main witnesses against the Queen, vampires from Kansas, are found murdered. There are suspicious people all over the hotel. It's a fast-paced story and quite interesting. I always find the Sookie books, kind of Anita Blake light, which is fine. There is some sex, but it's not as graphic as that in the Blake books and there is violence, but even that isn't as graphic. But still, it's not necessary as the stories are quite excellent.
An excellent story, with many twists and turns. What are the suitcases? Who killed the Kansas vamps? Who is threatening the queen? And will Sookie sort out her love life? Good solid fun. (4 stars)"
I've started 3 books to end off September.
1. The Cat Who Saw Red by Lilian Jackson Braun (Qwilleran #4).
"Something is amiss at Maus Haus. Not just the mystery of an unsolved "suicide" which hangs over the old mansion, but something ominous in the present-day residence. When Qwilleran moves in to work on his new gastronomical assignment, strange things begin to happen. First it's a scream in the night, then a vanishing houseboy. But when his old girlfriend disappears, something has to be done. Qwilleran, Koko and Yum Yum set out to solve the mystery--and find a murderer!"
2. Relic by Douglas Preston (Pendergast #1).
"Just days before a massive exhibition opens at the popular New York Museum of Natural History, visitors are being savagely murdered in the museum's dark hallways and secret rooms. Autopsies indicate that the killer cannot be human...
But the museum's directors plan to go ahead with a big bash to celebrate the new exhibition, in spite of the murders.
Museum researcher Margo Green must find out who-or what-is doing the killing. But can she do it in time to stop the massacre?"
c. The World of Suzie Wong by Richard Mason.
"The timeless story of the love affair between a British artist and a Chinese prostitute.
Robert is the only resident of the Nam Kok hotel not renting his room by the hour when he meets Suzie at the bar. She becomes his muse and they fall in love. But even in Hong Kong, where many white expatriates have Chinese mistresses, their romance could jeopardize the things they each hold dear. Set in the mid-1950s, The World of Suzie Wong is a beautifully written time capsule of a novel. First published more than fifty years ago, it resonated with readers worldwide, inspiring a film starring William Holden, a ballet, and even a reggae song. Now readers can experience the romance of this groundbreaking story anew."
My Ongoing Look at the Mystery Genre - American Cops
In my last entry on this topic I highlighted Tony Hillerman's Navajo mystery series.
a. A Rage in Harlem (#1 / 1957).
"A Rage in Harlem is the first book in Chester Himes's Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed cop series set in Harlem New York. Himes sounds like a fascinating author. He was born in Missouri in 1909. He began writing while serving time for jewel theft. He ended up having approximately 20 novels published before his death in 1984. The Harlem Detective series consisted of 9 novels. Three of the books, including A Rage in Harlem, were turned into movies.
This story features both of the tough detectives but they play somewhat minor roles in the whole story. It is about Jackson, a man who works for a local Harlem funeral director, maintaining the building and driving the hearse. Jackson is played by a couple of con artists who trick him into believing they can convert $10 bills into $100. Providing them his life savings, he is tricked into losing all of the money. His girl friend, Imabelle, might or might not be in on the act. There is another ploy here; Imabelle has a trunk under their bed which supposedly contains gold ore.
Jackson steals money from his employer, hoping to be able to gamble back the money he has already lost. I think you know the result of that effort. He then gets his brother Goldy to help him find Imabelle and also to get the gold ore. Goldy is another con man. He dresses as a nun and cons locals out of money for the 'purpose' of charity... that being Goldy is the charity.
Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed, the two tough Harlem cops, who don't mind using their pistols to solve problems get involved at Goldy's behest. They plan to con the con men who are now using the fake gold mine ploy to get money from Harlem locals.
It's all a very fast paced, colorful, entertaining story. Himes creates fascinating characters, a gritty setting and story and images that live with you. Harlem, in his description, is poor, at times dirty and violent, but filled with music and wonderfully presented characters. I've not read a story like this before. It has left me with a desire to find the other books in the series and to see how he further develops his characters. (4 stars)"
b. The Real Cool Killers (#2 / 1958).
"When Harlemites set about each other with knives, it's an everyday kind of happening. But when a white man is shot dead in a Harlem street one steamy evening it means trouble, big trouble.
Plenty of people had motives for killing Galen, a big Greek with too much money and too great a liking for young black girls. But there are complications - like Sonny, high on hash, found standing over the body with a gun in his hand that fires only blanks, a street gang called the Moslems, a disappearing suspect, and the fact that Coffin Ed's own daughter is up to her pretty neck in the whole explosive situation..."
The complete list of books can be found at this link.
Tomorrow I'll do my end month summary for September 2019. Enjoy your week.