Tag Archives: Mystery

The Conductors by Nicole Glover

The Conductors by Nicole Glover
Murder and Magic, #1
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2021)
422 pages // 14 hours on Audio
Link to the book in LFPL’s catalog

An often overlooked time period, at least in my personal historical fiction reading habits, is the Reconstruction Era immediately following the end of the Civil War, especially as it was for formerly enslaved people living in the American North. Nicole Glover’s debut speculative mystery novel The Conductors is an interesting depiction of that time period, a slow-paced mystery set in a world where Black folks can work magic, and featuring chosen and found family.

Hetty and Benjy were Conductors on the Underground Railroad who are now trying to find their place in post-Civil War society in Philiadelphia’s Seventh Ward, along with some of the people they helped escape from slavery. They are married but it was a marriage of convenience, something they’ve fallen into to allow greater freedom of movement for each of them. Although the magic system isn’t as well explained as it could be at times, I was really enchanted with the use of constellations as the source of the magic’s power, both from a historical perspective as well as the striking imagery it brings to the world. Hetty and Benjy used their magic skills to help them guide other enslaved people to freedom, but magic can be used for evil here too.

When an acquaintance stumbles across the dead body of an old friend and comes to Hetty and Benjy for help, they know they can’t trust the police to pay attention to the murder, much less solve it or prevent others from happening. Hetty and Benjy quickly realize they’ve gotten into something more sinister than they had expected, and have to work together to learn things about their community that some would prefer remain hidden. For those interested in speculative historical mysteries with found family, I strongly recommend checking out The Conductors.

The Conductors includes mention, discussion, and/or portrayal of enslavement, physical restraint, scars, discrimination, bigotry, racism, colorism, murder, infertility, alcohol consumption, drug use as a coping mechanism, war, gun violence, injury, broken bones, drowning, explosions, torture, funerals, death, grave robbing, miscarriage, and crossdressing as a disguise.

The second book in the series, The Undertakers, is due out in November of 2021, but it can be read as a standalone if series aren’t your thing.

– Review by Valerie, Newburg Branch

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!”

When I first read a review of Fresh Water For Flowers, I found myself drawn to the protagonist, a woman named Violette Toussaint who tends to a cemetery in modern-day France.  Despite the setting (or perhaps because of), I was intensely interested in how the author, Valerie Perrin, would develop this fictional character in such a setting.  I was not disappointed.

Initially, the reader learns of Violette’s childhood as an orphan and how she met the love of her life, Phillipe, and while this was engaging, a broken plot was introduced that provided glimpses of the past and present, from varying viewpoints, in which several storylines and additional characters emerged.  And it was clear that somehow they were all connected – but how?  This drove me to almost frantically read this book, as I became almost desperate for answers to questions that seemed to multiply as the story progressed.

Employing lovely prose, Ms. Perrin examines the lives of characters propelled by pasts and emotions that are simply too powerful to suppress or ignore.  What I find incredible is how the author introduced a seemingly simple story and then added layers, which created a wonderful sense of mystery that left the reader guessing until the very end.  I suppose, it felt as though one were slowly ascending a plot with uncertainty at its summit that then leads to the other side and a slow descent to resolution – although, resolution in this case is not equivalent to a happy ending.

A best-selling author in her home country of France, Fresh Water for Flowers is the first novel by Ms. Perrin to be translated in to English. Hopefully, this will not be the last.

– Review by Rob, Crescent Hill Branch

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

Four friends living in an upscale retirement village who solve cold cases for fun are put to work when the village developer turns up dead. If it sounds a bit like The Golden Girls meets Miss Marple that’s because  it is, but in the best way.

Elizabeth is a retired intelligence agent, bored and desperate to keep her mind sharp. Ibrahim is a retired therapist who keeps his old client files close at hand. Joyce is a retired nurse who is struggling to rebuild a relationship with her highly successful and driven daughter. Ron is a former labor organizer and rabble rouser whose stay at the posh retirement home is paid for by his famous boxer son. Four friends with little in common on the surface except for an interest in murder and solving cold cases.

Their group used to have a fifth member named Penny, a retired police officer. Penny is now in a coma, but her old files have kept the group busy as they try to solve cold cases. When the greatly disliked developer of their little village is found dead with a mysterious picture by his side, the friends get to work, teaming up with a pair of police officers who are charmingly mismatched and amused by this quartet.

What makes this book so delightful is not the mystery, though this is a fun “whodunit” that will keep you guessing until the end. Rather, Osman has done a wonderful job of developing each character and giving us a glimpse of their life before they ended up in Cooper’s Chase, luxury retirement village. They are not elderly tropes, or caricatures of senior citizens, but rather fully developed humans who, as senior citizens, are often overlooked and ignored. Osman lets us know that’s shame because this crew has quite a bit to offer. The story is witty and fun and I found myself deeply attached to the folks at Cooper’s Chase. Lucky for me this is to become a series.

If you like mysteries in the vein of Louise Penny, Agatha Christie, or Robert Galbraith, give this one a try.

– Review by Jenny, Middletown Branch

The June Boys by Court Stevens

Court Stevens, is a community outreach manager for the Warren County Public Library in Bowling Green, Kentucky

Nestled in a rural section of Tennessee, the small town of Wildwood holds a big mystery. Every June for a decade, some of Wildwood’s children are kidnapped by the someone calling himself the Gemini Thief. The boys usually return unharmed thirteen months later…until this year. Now, four boys are taken and one has been murdered.

Where were the kids all that time? Who took them and why? Why has the Gemini Thief’s pattern changed? Several teens decide it’s about time to take charge and get some answers. 

One teen, Thea Delacroix, is a cousin of one of the June Boys, Aulus McClaghen. Thea, out on a ride with her boyfriend Nick, comes upon a crime scene with a dead body. The victim has a keychain in the shape of a castle exactly like the one Thea carries. Could this be a link to Thea herself? Is it a coincidence that Thea’s father is in the process of renovating a castle on the outskirts of town, or is this another connection? Is the body that of Aulus?

If tales of suspense grabs your attention or if you just like solving a mystery, check out The June Boys by Court Stevens.

Review by MicahSt Matthews Branch

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Looking for a murder mystery set in Downton Abbey/The Matrix/Groundhog Day?  YEAH, THAT’S A THING. A thing you never even knew you needed.  And it’s bloody fantastic.  It’s The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

You wake up in a house…Blackheath House to be specific, but knowledge of its name will come later.  And you find yourself in a body you don’t recognize as your own. 

There are three rules of Blackheath House:

  1. Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered at 11:00 p.m.
  2. There are eight days, and eight witnesses for you to inhabit.
  3. We will only let you escape once you tell us the name of the killer.

I adore a good mystery, it’s my favorite genre and this one takes the cake. It’s a different take on the traditional murder mystery; twisty, cunning and quite ingenious in my opinion. It is so complexly layered there may be times in the book, particularly through the beginning, you feel yourself bewildered and lost. 

But hang on!  Store each little scrap of information in the back of your mind and it all comes brilliantly together. 

— Review by Heather, St. Matthews

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

The pool has been a place where many women have spent the last minutes of their life, whether by suicide or by force; maybe even murder. Nel Abbott tries in vain to reach out to her little sister, who ignores her until she receives a call that Nel is dead.

When Jules Abbott receives news that her older sister, Nel, has been found in the drowning pool, she drives back to the town that she had vowed never to return to. With Nel’s fifteen year old daughter, Lena, who believes that her mother has committed suicide and a town that she vowed to never return to, Jules is forced to relieve experiences that she’d rather forget. Lena is angry with her aunt for ignoring her mother for so long and doesn’t even want her around.

 

I picked up this book because Paula Hawkin’s last title, The Girl On the Train, was intriguing to me. Into the Water was fine. It’s very hard to follow a blockbuster like Girl, which had national success. It reminded me of when I rushed to read Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger after the huge success of The Time Traveler’s Wife. I was very disappointed. I felt like the author built you up so high and then left you there to dangle without ever knowing if you would sink or float.

I will not say that the book didn’t have its moments but it’s so hard to get invested in characters that you don’t even like. For argument’s sake, you can say that the title is intriguing, and it is, but…it was all over the place. There were too many characters to count. There were too many back stories to remember. There were too many time hops and not enough real story. To top it all off, the ending felt almost like an afterthought.

I really suggest that you check it out and prove me wrong. Maybe I missed something. Let me know your thoughts. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it more than I did.

– Reviewed by Damera, Newburg Branch

The Willing Murder by Jude Deveraux

The Willing Murder by Jude Deveraux is a light romantic mystery with intrigue, family trauma, and interesting characters that make you care about a 20 year-old murder.

It all began with murder. The dirt had been shifted, moved from beneath. Were one of them still alive?  Once the tree was in place and dirt filled in around it, it would all be over.

Straight out of college, two years ago, Kate Medlar started selling real estate, a job she loved. However, selling the same suburban type homes left her feeling like she wanted to do more. Life at home, too, was becoming more than she could take. Most of her life she had been dealing with her mother’s nerves and fears, as well as her overbearing and interfering uncles. It was time for a change.

In the middle of one her mother’s rants she accidentally mentioned an aunt, her father’s sister, that Kate had never known existed. Sara Medlar was a famous writer who lived in Lachlan, Florida. From what Kate read about the town there was also realtor trying to bring the town back to life. Locating old houses that just needed to be fixed up and put on the market, was just the kind of challenge that Kate needed and a good excuse to finally leave home.

Lachlan, was a town divided by the affluent families on one side and the improvised families on the other. Jack Wyatt had grown up on the wrong side of town and had been tied to the bad reputation of his father for years.  It had taken time, help and tough love , but he was determined to make a difference for both him and the town. With Sara Medlar, as his silent partner, he formed a construction company focusing on rebuilding some of the run down homes. But as rumor would have it, talk said, he was living with Sara Medlar, using her, taking money from and sleeping with a woman old enough to be his grandmother.

The minute she stepped into town Kate heard all the gossip surrounding her Aunt and Jack Wyatt, while a pillar of Lachlan’s community, Alistair Stewart, found the young woman just the right diversion he needed. After all the years she had taken care of her mother, she would now help Aunt Sara and put a stop to Jack Wyatt using her.

She was in for a surprise. Jack and Aunt Sara were nothing like the gossips would have her believe.

Kate, Sara, and Jack just can’t seem to leave the mysterious death of the two women alone. They go in search of answers, while a murderer tries to stop them. Jack has another problem, he is drawn to Kate who seems to have eyes for the debonair, smooth talking Alistair Stewart.

Although the book is written for adults, older teens could also enjoy this murder mystery as well see several of the main characters in their teens.

Format Available: Book, eBook, Audiobook

Review by Katy, Shawnee Branch

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Anna Fox is agoraphobic, unable to leave her home.  She hides away and has her groceries (and plenty of wine) delivered.  She spends her time watching old suspense movies and spying on her neighbors.

When a new family moves in across the way from her Anna immediately starts watching them through her camera lens.  By all looks of it they appear to be the perfect family; a father, a mother and their teenage son.  But when Anna looks out her window one night she sees something she shouldn’t, something horrible.  When Anna attempts to contact the police about what she saw, her world begins to unravel. 

As the reader you begin to question Anna’s memory, her ability to discern fantasy from reality and you begin to realize something is off in Anna’s family as well. I love a good unreliable narrator and The Woman in the Window is a superb twisty thriller.  Finn sets the story against the background of film noir seamlessly.  The level of Hitchcockian suspense is so perfectly delicious and chilling that every time I had to put the book down I just couldn’t wait to get back to it!

Formats Available: Regular Type, Large Type, Audiobook, eBook

Review by Heather, St. Matthews

The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths

The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths, the first book in a new series, finds archaeologist Ruth Galloway entangled in a murder case; something she didn’t quite want. Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson shows up at Ruth’s office because the police think they have found the body of Lucy Downey, a young girl who had been missing for ten years. Unfortunate for the police, but an awesome find for Ruth, the body is actually that of an Iron Age girl.

However, Ruth’s expertise draws her deeper into the case when another young girl goes missing.  Then Inspector Nelson starts getting letters again much like the ones he received when Lucy Downey first went missing. Nelson shows them to Ruth because he hopes that she can help him divine what clues they might hold.

I didn’t know what to expect with The Crossing Places going in because I tend to read cozy mysteries. I hadn’t picked up an actual crime novel or forensic mystery since I graduated college with my Criminal Justice degree. I went into this one completely on a whim (other than the fact that I picked it for my February mystery book discussion). I figured the police, the archaeologist, and a forensic plot would be a change for the group.

After reading The Crossing Places, I felt that Galloway and Nelson are something of a British version of Bones, but better. I was never able to get into the Temperance Brennan series by Kathy Reichs, which Bones is based on. With The Crossing Places, I didn’t seem to have that problem. I guess it’s because I love BBC dramas and mysteries so much, and this book reminded me of them.

Right now the Ruth Galloway series is a 10 book series, of which the library currently has books 1-9. I look forward to the next book in the series, The Janus Stone.

Formats Available: Book, eBook

Reviewed by CarissaMain Library

Mystery Book Discussion

The newest book discussion group in the library system is the Mystery Book Discussion at the Main Library.

The very first book read by the group for the first meeting was a classic, Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. For November and December the group read In the Woods by Tana French and The Snowman by Jo Nesbo. While it has started off as a small group it is slowly growing.

The first three months of 2017 are already planned out:

  • With the reading of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, the meeting for that discussion is January 17, 2017.

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  • In February the group will be reading A Judgement in Stone by Ruth Rendell and that discussion will be on February 21, 2017.

judgmtnstonerendell

  • The book for March will be another Agatha Christie classic, The Murder at the Vicarage, and that discussion will be on March 21, 2016.

If you enjoy reading mysteries, or you enjoy talking about books feel free to stop by the Main Library to pick up a copy of any of the reads. And if you’ve thought about reading mysteries and didn’t have a book in mind or didn’t know where to start, hopefully one of the Mystery Book Discussions will help.

The Mystery Book Discussion is held every third Tuesday of the month at 2:00 PM at the Main library.