Soho’s reading challenge continues

Dark NightRecommended:  Upon a Dark Night by Peter Lovesey; originally published in Great Britain in 1997 by Little, Brown and Company, published in the U.S. in 2005 by Soho Press Inc.; reissued by Soho for Kindle, list price $14.99 (USD)/currently $9.99 (USD), paperback edition, $14.00 (USD). Book 5 of a 16-book series.

Peter Lovesey features a fiction favorite – the victim whose memory is utterly lost – in Upon a Dark Night, his fifth crime novel featuring the irascible yet insightful Peter Diamond.

The effort is ambitious, even audacious, yet Lovesey succeeds where lesser writers have failed. First, he did his homework. He writes knowledgeably about dissociative amnesia, avoiding the popular misconceptions regarding this really rare form of memory loss.  This factual framework means a story that was written nearly 20 years ago remains believable today, even with advances in medical knowledge.

The story also succeeds because of Lovesey’s skill. The plot is complex, but the clues are well placed and the characters, as always, are well drawn. Lovesey rightfully allows Diamond to suffer some consequences for his boorish behavior, and this allows readers to continue to believe in the obviously flawed but essentially kind character of the detective. The pace also showcases Lovesey’s skill, maintaining the reader’s interest in seemingly separate storylines and allowing the reader to see the connections while Diamond remains in the dark.

Like the earlier books in this series (as well as other series on Soho’s International Crime list), the setting is superb. Throughout the story, Lovesey scatters details from Bath’s past and present, along with intriguing hints of history involving ancient battles between the Britons and the Saxons. He also continues to showcase the city using the Royal Crescent not only as the scene of a woman’s death but as the backdrop for a production filming The Pickwick Papers.

I’m reading my way through the Peter Diamond series as I participate in Soho’s reading challenge celebrating 25 years of publishing international crime fiction. I have two months to read all 16 mysteries, and I hope to pull it off because it’s been a pleasure to read these and I’d like to read the first five and I’d like to read the 11 remaining.

These are traditional detective stories. In some, such as this one, the victims do die violent deaths, but Lovesey exercises discretion in the details. He also keeps the use of expletives to a minimum, though readers will find a few in this particular novel. He writes too well to rely on them, either for “realism” or other unconvincing reasons, so readers shouldn’t take offense.

NOTE: Sis thanks Soho for her complimentary reading copy of Upon a Dark Night and for the opportunity to participate in the publisher’s 25th anniversary reading challenge. Her review, as always, reflects her own opinions.

Description:  A young woman is dumped, injured and unconscious, in a private hospital’s parking lot. She is an amnesiac with no memory prior to her discovery by hospital personnel. Detective Inspector Peter Diamond of the Bath homicide squad is unwilling to become involved. He has other, more important cases to solve: A woman has plunged to her death from the roof of a local landmark while half the young people of Bath partied below, and an elderly farmer has shot himself. Are these apparent suicides what they seem, or are there sinister forces at work? And might the amnesiac woman hold the key to both cases?

About the author: Peter Lovesey has written 16 Peter Diamond mysteries, known for their use of surprise, strong characters and hard-to-crack puzzles. He has received the Cartier Diamond Dagger, the Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere, the Anthony, the Ellery Queen Readers’ Award and is Grand Master of the Swedish Academy of Detection. He has been a full-time author since 1975. Earlier series include the Sergeant Cribb mysteries seen on TV and the Bertie, Prince of Wales novels. The Diamond novels, set in Bath, England, where Peter lived for some years, feature a burly, warm-hearted, but no-nonsense police detective whose personal life becomes as engaging to the reader as the intricate mysteries he solves. Visit his website at www.peterlovesey.com for more.

Soho Crime has been publishing atmospheric crime fiction set all over the world for the last 25 years. The publisher’s popular series take readers to France, China, England, Laos, Northern Ireland, Australia, Japan, Germany, South Africa, Italy, Denmark, and Palestine, among other locales, with entire range of crime fiction—detective fiction, police procedurals, thrillers, espionage novels, revenge novels, stories of thieves, assassins, and underworld mob bosses.


Lambert & Hook return for Final Act

Kindle edition coming 1 September 2016
Kindle edition coming 1 September 2016

Recommended:  Final Act (Book 29 in the Lambert & Hook series) by J.M. Gregson; Kindle ebook scheduled for release 1 September 2016 from Severn House Publishers, Kindle pre-order price $15.33 (USD); hardbound edition now available, list price $28.99 (USD), current price $24.05 (USD).

A company of actors all but upstage the “real” detectives in Final Act, the latest mystery in J.M. Gregson’s long-running Lambert & Hook series.

Sam Jackson chews the scenery behind the scenes as the highly successful television producer pretending to be a Hollywood mogul – coarse in appearance, behavior and speech – until he’s found dead in his caravan in a break between shooting. Everyone on location, from his assistant to the star to the aging actor in a cameo role, has a reason to wish him dead, and Gregson focuses suspicion on each one equally, and convincingly.

Jackson himself is so repulsive that the reader won’t regret his demise. In fact, I enjoyed the mystery more once he was off stage, so to speak, and the other characters could take over. And they do take over, pushing Detective Chief Superintendent Lambert and Detective Sergeant Hook out of the limelight and into supporting roles for their 29th appearance.

The series began in 1989 with Murder at the Nineteenth. That one, alas, alack, is not available for Kindle, but many of the earlier ones have been re-released by Endeavour Press. I’ve picked up several at discounts, though they are still a bargain at anything from 99 cents to $3.99 (USD). The list price on Final Act is much higher, and much higher than many of the U.S. mysteries. The quality is also higher.

Gregson writes well. The characters are fully fleshed. Even when they are the stock characters of drama – the national treasure with a knighthood, the Page Three girl with a plunging neckline, the good-looking gay with a house-husband – they aren’t stereotypical shortcuts or social statements. The story demands them, and Gregson provides them. He also provides a satisfying puzzle. Until the very end, it seems as though anyone could be the killer. But at the very end, it seems that only one could ever have been suspected.

What more can a mystery reader expect?

NOTE:  Sis received a complimentary advanced reading copy from Severn House via NetGalley, for which she is grateful. Neither attempted to influence her review.

Description:  Sam Jackson is not a man who suffers fools – or anyone else – gladly. A successful British television producer who fancies himself as a Hollywood mogul, he makes enemies easily, and delights in the fact. It is no great surprise that such a man should meet a violent death. Detective Chief Superintendent Lambert and Detective Sergeant Hook deduce that the person who killed him is almost certainly to be found among the company of actors who are shooting a series of detective mysteries in rural Herefordshire. But these are people who make a living by acting out other people’s fictions, people more at home with make-believe than real life – and the two detectives find interrogating them a difficult business. How can Lambert and Hook fight their way to the truth when faced with a cast of practised deceivers?

About the author:  J.M. Gregson, a Lancastrian by birth and upbringing, was a teacher for twenty-seven years before concentrating full-time on writing. He is the author of the popular Percy Peach and Lambert & Hook series, and has written books on subjects as diverse as golf and Shakespeare.

Readers who are reluctant to, or who refuse to, pay so much for ebooks may prefer to borrow this title from a lending library, but many of the titles in this series are quite affordable. Here are a few:

Description: Lydon Hall is, as the estate agent’s brochure puts it, a house full of character. But its many interesting features should surely not include a corpse in the elegant drawing-room? Is this death the suicide it appears to be? Superintendent John Lambert and Sergeant Bert Hook are brought in to investigate the tight-knit village community which houses Lydon hall. And everyone one they meet seems suspicious. From the glamorous French widow of the deceased to the man living rough on the moor they all seem to know more about this death than is at first apparent. Moreover, it gradually emerges that the staff of the estate agency he owned all had their different reasons for disliking the dead man…

‘Making a Killing’ is a chilling, expertly plotted mystery story and the second book in the Lambert and Hook Detective series.

The Fox in the Forest When the town vicar Peter Barton is found shot in the woods between two peaceful villages on Christmas Eve, Superintendent Lambert and his CID team are called in to investigate. His estranged wife herself was missing in the days before her husband’s death, busy with her lover. Could she be the killer Lambert is looking for? Or could it be the only man who seems to dislike the victim and owns a matching shotgun? Or the sweet local boy who travels through the woods every day? Then a second victim is found, again in the woods, again with a shotgun: a man they had held for 36 hours before. It seems that they have a serial killer on their hands, selecting victims at random, a killer who the papers are calling the ‘Fox’. With an endless list of potential suspects and no real evidence, Lambert struggles to find his culprit. The rural community closes in upon itself with secrets when another girl is attacked by the Fox and everyone seems to know the details of the two killings. Can Lambert and his team find a killer amongst the various townspeople with connections to the murders? More importantly, can they piece together the few clues they have to find the truth before another victim is found?


Bloodhounds tracks the history of the mystery

bloodhoundsRecommended: Bloodhounds by Peter Lovesey; 304 pp; first published in Great Britain in 1996 by Little, Brown and Company; this edition published by Soho Crime, Kindle list price currently $4.99 (USD), paperback edition, list $15.95 (USD) but selling today at $12.98 at Amazon.com. Book 4 of a 16-book series.

Bloodhounds lays a trail that leads from the earliest crime stories to contemporary ones, while treating fans of this fiction to a modern locked-room mystery.

In the fourth book of the deservedly popular Peter Diamond series, bestselling writer Peter Lovesey tips his hat to his colleagues, from John Dickson Carr to Andrew Vachss. The result is not only a pleasing puzzler, but a guide to the best of the past and the present. This one should be read with a notepad at hand, for jotting down all the titles you’ll want to search for later – and plan on jotting them down because I doubt if you’ll want to interrupt your reading to fetch them.

I’m reading my way through the 16-book series as Soho Crime celebrates 25 years of publishing international crime fiction with a reading challenge. I have two months to complete it, and I don’t foresee any obstacles.

In this one, Diamond is back in Bath and back on the force at the only job he really does well . . . even if he is a bit of both a curmudgeon and a Luddite.  Lovesey created him at a time when political correctness was at its silliest, and Diamond is nothing if not politically incorrect. He is, however, sincere and that sincerity earns the admiration of readers as well as the (sometimes grudging) respect of the detectives who work with him at Avon and Somerset.

Bloodhounds pits Diamond against John Wigfull, the oh-so politically correct and career-conscious cop introduced in The Last Detective as Diamond’s would-be successor. Lovesey skillfully plays the two characters off, with John the rhinestone and Peter the Diamond.  We get Wigfull at his worst, smug with apparent success . . . but appearances are deceiving and he is, after all, the imitation detective while Diamond is genuine.

 Once again, Lovesey takes the reader on a tour of Bath, showing us the graceful Georgian buildings as well as the grimy back streets where no open-topped buses venture. The rich setting is a trademark of the Soho International Crime series, and Lovesey shows why he’s a champion from the first to the fourth (so far – I expect nothing less in the books to come).

The Bloodhounds of Bath are an uncongenial collection of fans of detective fiction who meet weekly in a crypt below a local church. Perhaps the only thing the members have in common is their love for mysteries, though the debate over the merits of any mystery are fierce and more than a few hackles are raised.

The first several chapters alternate between the Bloodhounds and Diamond, and this style may bother some readers. Lovesey had already earned my trust, so I was quite willing to follow where he led – and, before long, he led me (and Diamond and other detectives) along several false trails on the way to a satisfying solution.

The victim is battered with a blunt instrument, but the details are never gory or graphic. The corpse may be bloody, but the language (with perhaps one exception) is not.

NOTE: Sis received a complimentary copy of Bloodhounds from Soho Crime via NetGalley for her participation in the publisher’s 25th anniversary reading challenge.  Neither the publisher, nor any of its authors, have dogged her to write anything other than her own opinions.  She is, however, most grateful to Soho Crime for the opportunity to read and review this series!

Description:  A rare stamp and a corpse are discovered in Bath within hours of each other. As he investigates, Inspector Peter Diamond discovers that both the person who found the stamp and the victim belong to the Bloodhounds, an elite group of mystery lovers, who now urge Diamond to bring the murderer to justice. But there’s a hitch: the body lies inside a padlocked houseboat and the only key is in the pocket of a man with an airtight alibi.

PETER LOVESEY wrote the 16 Peter Diamond mysteries, known for their use of surprise, strong characters and hard-to-crack puzzles. He was awarded the Cartier Diamond Dagger in 2000, the Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere, the Anthony, the Ellery Queen Readers’ Award and is Grand Master of the Swedish Academy of Detection. He has been a full-time author since 1975. Earlier series include the Sergeant Cribb mysteries seen on TV and the Bertie, Prince of Wales novels. The Diamond novels, set in Bath, England, where Peter lived for some years, feature a burly, warm-hearted, but no-nonsense police detective whose personal life becomes as engaging to the reader as the intricate mysteries he solves. Visit his website at www.peterlovesey.com for more.

Soho Crime has been publishing atmospheric crime fiction set all over the world for the last 25 years. The publisher’s popular series take readers to France, China, England, Laos, Northern Ireland, Australia, Japan, Germany, South Africa, Italy, Denmark, and Palestine, among other locales, with entire range of crime fiction—detective fiction, police procedurals, thrillers, espionage novels, revenge novels, stories of thieves, assassins, and underworld mob bosses.


 

A flawless Diamond?

summonsThe Summons sums up why readers love Peter Diamond, the erstwhile detective chief inspector of Avon and Somerset who solves crimes the old-fashioned way.

“. . . but at least he pursued the truth, whatever the cost. That was what had kept him from being kicked off the force all the times he’d traded aggro with people like Farr-Jones. His values were right,” Peter Lovesey writes, as the third in this 16-book series nears its climax.

Diamond’s values are right, and here he pursues the truth at considerable cost. This story opens with Diamond, now working as a bag boy at a London supermarket, and his wife, Stephanie, in bed late at night when two cops arrive with orders to drag him back to Bath. Diamond has begun to realize how badly he misses police work, and how unsuited he is to any other job, but he’s not quite ready to come to the aid of the assistant chief constable who yanked him off his last case. But, the ACC’s daughter has been kidnapped by a man convicted four years earlier of a brutal murder, on the strength of Diamond’s investigation, and who demands that Diamond and only Diamond reopen the investigation and find the real killer.

Soho Crime, celebrating 25 years of publishing international crime fiction, is promoting the series in a reading challenge, and this is a challenge I’ve accepted and enjoyed. I have two months to read the whole series, and I’m more than game.

The detective is definitely a rough diamond, if you’ll forgive the pun, but Peter Lovesey continues to provide the polished prose that would make any story a pleasure to read. The characters are deftly drawn, from the convict who escaped from a prison on the Isle of Wright to the variety of police officers and officials who are working to capture him. And he shows us Bath as Jane Austen never did, highlighting one of the outstanding features of this Soho list:  Settings from cities and towns around the world.

This story is much more tense than the first two, which should please readers who don’t care for a leisurely approach. The violence is, perhaps, more intense, yet its depiction so restrained that it is unlikely to offend. The cast includes convicts and “crusties,” but, while some of the language is quite vulgar, indeed, it is free of the vulgarities that offend some sensibilities. The deceptions are devious, so I was never quite sure if I had solved the case or netted another red herring, so I remained fully engaged even as the denouement unfolded and the end grew near. This is definitely one I’d like to read again.

Details:  The Summons by Peter Lovesey; 304 pp; first published in Great Britain in 1995 by Little, Brown and Company; this edition published by Soho Crime, Kindle list price currently $4.99 (USD), paperback edition, list $15.95 (USD) but selling today at $15.27 at Amazon.com. Book 3 of a 16-book series. Edgar Award Nominee for Best Novel (1996), The Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction (1995). Those who missed last week’s sale may be interested to know that The Last Detective is again discounted to $1.99 and several of the stories are discounted to $4.99.

NOTE: Sis received a complimentary copy of The Summons from Soho Crime via NetGalley for her participation in the publisher’s 25th anniversary reading challenge.  Neither the publisher, nor any of its authors, have challenged her integrity in regard to her reviews.  They remain uniquely hers.  She is, however, most grateful to Soho Crime for the opportunity to read and review this series!

Description:  John Mountjoy has escaped from prison and taken a hostage, and the only person he’ll talk to is Detective Peter Diamond, who arrested him four years earlier for the murder of a young journalist. Diamond must follow a cold trail to find another killer and clear Mountjoy’s name before another life is lost.

LoveseyPETER LOVESEY wrote the 16 Peter Diamond mysteries, known for their use of surprise, strong characters and hard-to-crack puzzles. He was awarded the Cartier Diamond Dagger in 2000, the Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere, the Anthony, the Ellery Queen Readers’ Award and is Grand Master of the Swedish Academy of Detection. He has been a full-time author since 1975. Earlier series include the Sergeant Cribb mysteries seen on TV and the Bertie, Prince of Wales novels. The Diamond novels, set in Bath, England, where Peter lived for some years, feature a burly, warm-hearted, but no-nonsense police detective whose personal life becomes as engaging to the reader as the intricate mysteries he solves. Peter and his wife Jax, who co-scripted the TV series, have a son, Phil, a teacher and mystery writer, and a daughter Kathy, who was a Vice-President of J.P.Morgan-Chase, and now lives with her family in Greenwich, Ct. Peter currently lives in Chichester, England. Visit his website at www.peterlovesey.com for more.

Soho Crime has been publishing atmospheric crime fiction set all over the world for the last 25 years. The publisher’s popular series take readers to France, China, England, Laos, Northern Ireland, Australia, Japan, Germany, South Africa, Italy, Denmark, and Palestine, among other locales, with entire range of crime fiction—detective fiction, police procedurals, thrillers, espionage novels, revenge novels, stories of thieves, assassins, and underworld mob bosses.


 

The Peter Diamond series continues to sparkle

Recommended:

diamond solitaireDiamond Solitaire by Peter Lovesey; first published in Great Britain in 1992 by Little, Brown and Company; this edition published by Soho Crime, Kindle list price $9.99 (USD), paperback edition, list $16.95 (but discounted at Amazon to $14.69 (USD); Book 2 of a 16-book series. As always, prices are subject to change without warning.

Diamond Solitaire is a gem of a detective story.

The second in the series of 16 detective stories featuring the irascible and overweight ex-detective superintendent Peter Diamond begins in the furniture department of Harrods’s, the landmark London department store, and takes the reader on a worldwide journey from Europe to North America and on to the Far East. And the journeys are chief among the joys of Peter Lovesey’s series, as well as other series from Soho Crime.

I read it as a continuation of Soho Crime’s reading challenge, celebrating 25 years of publishing international crime fiction. The publisher has given me two months to read my way through the series. This is a challenge I’ve accepted with alacrity.

First, the stories shine with the highly polished prose so often found in British fiction, even among the so-called “genre” fiction of crime fiction, or mysteries. Second, Diamond is an outwardly unlovable but in fact oh-so-lovable character! Here, he is stripped of the authority he once held with Scotland Yard, yet he maintains an inner authority that no shield can provide. Third, like all the Soho Crime series, these stories are rich in their international settings.

This time out, Lovesey takes readers from London to Milan, New York, Tokyo and Yokohama, picking up a sumo wrestler along the way. He explores the cut-throat pharmaceutical industry, and the more conventionally cut-throat Mafioso. He gives glimpses into post-graduate research at prestigious universities as well as the uniquely Japanese culture of sumo wrestling.

The pace is leisurely, and the mystery multi-faceted. The young girl found under a pile of pillows is speechless. Is this a symptom of autism, or a symptom of terror? And who, and where, are her parents? Diamond can’t let it go. Meanwhile, the founder of a pharmaceutical company is given a deadly diagnosis, while his firm struggles to keep a competitive edge and come up with a new and profitable drug – and deal with the question of his succession. The mafia is lurking around on the fringes with contract killers and hired henchmen.

Once again, Lovesey provides a pleasing puzzle in this semi-police procedural. The language is not as clean as The Last Detective, and some readers may not care for the four-lettered words scattered in the speeches of some of the characters. The violence, though, is handled with discretion. You can’t have murder without violence, but the details are never nauseating.

NOTE: Sis received a complimentary copy of Diamond Solitaire from Soho Crime via NetGalley for her participation in the publisher’s 25th anniversary reading challenge. Neither the publisher, nor any of its authors, have challenged her integrity in regard to her reviews.  They remain uniquely hers. She is, however, most grateful to Soho Crime for the opportunity to read and review this series!

Description:  After resigning from the Avon and Somerset Police Force in a fit of pique, Peter Diamond is reduced to working as a security guard at Harrods’s, but he loses that job after an abandoned Japanese girl if found under a pile of pillows after the store closes. Diamond’s search for another job is sidetracked by the mystery of the speechless girl’s identity – and the plot that threatens her safety.

PETER LOVESEY wrote the 16 Peter Diamond mysteries, known for their use of surprise, strong characters and hard-to-crack puzzles. He was awarded the Cartier Diamond Dagger in 2000, the Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere, the Anthony, the Ellery Queen Readers’ Award and is Grand Master of the Swedish Academy of Detection. He has been a full-time author since 1975. Earlier series include the Sergeant Cribb mysteries seen on TV and the Bertie, Prince of Wales novels. The Diamond novels, set in Bath, England, where Peter lived for some years, feature a burly, warm-hearted, but no-nonsense police detective whose personal life becomes as engaging to the reader as the intricate mysteries he solves. Peter and his wife Jax, who co-scripted the TV series, have a son, Phil, a teacher and mystery writer, and a daughter Kathy, who was a Vice-President of J.P.Morgan-Chase, and now lives with her family in Greenwich, Ct. Peter currently lives in Chichester, England. Visit his website at www.peterlovesey.com for more.

Soho Crime has been publishing atmospheric crime fiction set all over the world for the last 25 years. The publisher’s popular series take readers to France, China, England, Laos, Northern Ireland, Australia, Japan, Germany, South Africa, Italy, Denmark, and Palestine, among other locales, with entire range of crime fiction—detective fiction, police procedurals, thrillers, espionage novels, revenge novels, stories of thieves, assassins, and underworld mob bosses.

Want more to read? Try Kindle Unlimited, free for 30 days:

Saturday Savings with MiddleSisterReviews

More funny mysteries — for free!

And discounts on a classic, plus a funny film memoir

I have read and enjoyed some books in all of these mystery series, though not the ones that are offered free today.  Please remember to verify the price before purchase, as they are always subject to change without notice.

List price, $4.99 (USD)
List price, $4.99 (USD)

Murder on Opening Night:  When Myrtle Clover and her friend Miles attend a play in their small town, there’s a full house on opening night. It’s clear to Myrtle that one of the actresses is a stage hog who loves stealing the spotlight. Nandina Marshall certainly does upstage everyone—when her murder forces an unexpected intermission. Can Myrtle and Miles discover who was behind her final curtain call….before murder makes an encore?

Add Audible for only $1.99!  And, thanks JoJoPNW for pointing out that others in this series are free today as well:

Progressive Dinner Deadly, which I have read and recommend:Progressive

To the residents of the sleepy town of Bradley, North Carolina, hardworking Jill Caulfield seemed beyond reproach. She volunteered at the women’s shelter, worked at the church preschool, cleaned houses for extra money, and actually enjoyed yard work. And she was nothing less than a saint to cheerfully put up with her unemployed, skirt-chasing, boozer of a husband. When intrepid octogenarian sleuth Myrtle Clover caught Jill, her new housekeeper, peering into her medicine cabinet, she should have been upset. But discovering that Jill wasn’t such a squeaky-clean goody-goody made her vastly more interesting in Myrtle’s eyes. Myrtle would have happily continued figuring out what made Jill Caulfield tick. If Jill hadn’t foolishly gone and gotten herself murdered, that is.  Add Audible for $1.99.

dyeingA Dyeing Shame:  Some beauty secrets are more dangerous than others. When Beauty Box beautician Tammy Smith is discovered with a pair of hair shears in her back, there are suspects and secrets aplenty in her small Southern town. Octogenarian Myrtle Clover, bored by bingo and bridge, is intrigued by the crime…and her neighbors’ secrets. But discovering, and blabbing, secrets got Tammy killed and Myrtle soon learns her sleuthing isn’t just dangerous…it’s deadly.

A Body in the Backyard:  Extreme gardening often involves gnomes andbody in the backyard planted bodies. It’s just an ordinary day for octogenarian sleuth Myrtle Clover—until her yardman discovers a dead body planted in her backyard. This death isn’t cut and dried—the victim was bashed in the head with one of Myrtle’s garden gnomes. Myrtle’s friend Miles recognizes the body and identifies him as Charles Clayborne… reluctantly admitting he’s a cousin. Charles wasn’t the sort of relative you bragged about—he was a garden variety sleaze, which is very likely why he ended up murdered. As Myrtle starts digging up dirt to nip the killings in the bud, someone’s focused on scaring her off the case. Myrtle vows to find the murderer…before she’s pushing up daisies, herself.

Frances and Richard Lockridge‘s Mr. and Mrs. North mysteries are classics — and a series I regret not encountering long, long ago.  I’m making up for what I’ve missed whenever I find these on sale, and Mysterious Press is offering the fifth in the series today for $1.99:

Discounted to $1.99 (USD)
Discounted to $1.99 (USD)

Hanged for a Sheep:  Mrs. North must protect her aunt from being poisoned—whether she likes it or not. Pamela North has never worried about making sense. When she has a thought, she expresses it, and if no one in the room knows what she’s talking about, it’s no trouble to her. While Mrs. North’s unique style of thought can make her a challenging conversational partner, it also makes her one of the finest amateur sleuths in New York City. But no matter how sharp her wit, she can’t pin down Aunt Flora. An indomitable old woman, shaped like a snowman and just as icy, Flora is convinced that someone is trying to slip her arsenic, and she’ll be very cross if her niece can’t stop the culprit before he succeeds.

Aunt Flora stubbornly refuses to let Pamela call in the police, until a suspicious dead body forces them to ask the opinion of Lt. William Weigand. It’s a screwy mystery, and that means it’s perfect for Mrs. North.

Hanged for a Sheep is the 5th book in the Mr. and Mrs. North Mysteries, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.

Also today, Geraldine Evans is offering a boxed set of the first four mysteries in her comic and almost-cosy series of 17 (so far!) mysteries featuring a pair of British detectives, Rafferty and Llewellyn:

DEAD BEFORE MORNING:  British Detective Joe Rafferty and his partner,

List price, $4.99 (USD)
List price, $4.99 (USD)

Sergeant Dafyd Llewellyn in a murder mystery involving the killing of a young woman bludgeoned beyond recognition, with no ID and found in a secure place to which she supposedly had no admission. Who is she? How has she gained access? And who was responsible for her murder? These are just a few of the questions the detective duo must answer in this first novel in the cozy mystery series. With difficulties besetting them on all sides, including their own superintendent and a media that has decided to adopt the case of the ‘Faceless Lady’ as their own personal crusade for justice, newly promoted Inspector Rafferty has something to prove.

DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN:  British Detectives Joe Rafferty and his partner, Dafyd Llewellyn, in their second murder mystery investigation, set out to discover who killed Barbara Longman, a woman with no known enemies. But when it soon becomes apparent that the murder has been committed by someone who must have known the victim well, the police investigation shifts to the victim’s family, the wealthy and influential Shores. Rafferty suspects that Charles Shore, not a man known to forgive failure, will use his influence to damage Rafferty’s career should he fail to find the murderer.

DEATH LINE:  Third novel in the Rafferty & Llewellyn mystery series, Death Line sees the detective duo trying to solve the murder mystery of the famed “seer,” Jasper Moon, with his own crystal ball. Gradually it becomes clear that Jasper Moon was a man of many parts, not all of them appeared very savoury. Moon was a wealthy man, but seems to have written no will; certainly, Detectives Rafferty and Llewellyn can’t find it. In a case involving as many twists and turns as a snake avoiding capture, the detectives must take their murder investigation back through the years to the victim’s youth to answer that question: ‘Who did it?’ And Rafferty fears that after such a long time, the evidence their murder inquiry needs will no longer be there to find.

THE HANGING TREE:  Fourth novel in the Rafferty & Llewellyn mystery series. This murder mystery involves the detective pair in the case of the vanishing hanged man. But when the hanged man turns up in Dedman Woods for a second time, the British detectives are able to confirm that he is a man many had reason to hate. Because Maurice Smith, charged years earlier with four child rapes, had escaped on a legal technicality. Detective Rafferty feels ambivalent about the case from the start. Not sure his desire to solve it is strong enough, he has to fight the feeling that natural justice, in winning out against the judicial sort, has right on its side. The punishment has, in his book, fitted the crime. As the usual police procedure continues towards an unwanted conclusion, Rafferty, caught between the law and his own sense of morality, feels this is an investigation that could cause him to demand his own resignation as a detective.

Discounted to $3.99 (USD)
Discounted to $3.99 (USD)

Also today, film fans — and anyone who enjoys a quick wit — may want to take advantage of a discount on the previously out-of-print autobiography of George Sanders, Memoirs of a Professional Cad. I’ve read only a small portion, but that’s only because I’ve had too many demands on my reading time to go further.  I don’t often read celebrity biographies, much less autobiographies, but I’m convinced Sanders could write about nothing at all and I’d still want to read it.  He really has a way with words, and, to my mind, this is a bargain at the discounted price of $3.99 (USD).

Description:  What might we dare to expect from an actor’s autobiography, even one from a star as personable as George Sanders? In the case of Memoirs of A Professional Cad, we possibly get more than we deserve. George Sanders undoubtedly led a colourful, glamorous and even action-packed life, spanning the peak years of Hollywood’s golden age. But the greatest joy of his memoirs is how funny they are, and how penetrating their author’s wit. Endlessly quotable, every chapter shows that the sardonic charm and intelligence he lent to the silver screen were not merely implied.

George’s early childhood was spent in Tsarist Russia, before he was obliged to flee with his family to England on the eve of the Russian Revolution. He survived two English boarding schools before seeking adventure in Chile and Argentina where he sold cigarettes and kept a pet ostrich in his apartment. We can only be grateful that George was eventually asked to leave South America following a duel of honour (very nearly to the death), and was forced to take up acting for a living instead.

Memoirs of A Professional Cad has much to say about Hollywood and the stars George Sanders worked with and befriended, not to mention the irrepressible Tsa Tsa Gabor who became his wife. But at heart it is less a conventional autobiography, and more a Machiavellian guide to life, and the art of living, from a man who knew a thing or two on the subject. So we are invited to share George’s thought-provoking views on women, friendship, the pros and cons of therapy, ageing, possessions, and the necessity of contrasts (Sanders’s maxim: “the more extreme the contrast, the fuller the life”).

Previously out of print for many decades, Memoirs of A Professional Cad stands today as one of the classic Hollywood memoirs, from one of its most original, enduring and inimitable stars. This edition also features a new afterword by George Sanders’s niece, Ulla Watson.

Death in Disguise delights

Recommended
Recommended

Death in Disguise slayed me with its first sentence:

“The Royal Victoria Hotel, Whitebridge, was widely considered to be a superior hotel for superior people, and most of the guests who stayed there would have thought it very bad manners to allow themselves to be murdered within its confines.”

How could I resist a mystery about a woman so gauche as to allow herself to be murdered under such circumstances?  I couldn’t.  I didn’t.  The author rewarded me, strewing the story with many delightful witticisms while weaving a complex and memorable mystery.

Make that mysteries. The fatal faux pas is one.  The victim’s identity, and her presence at the Royal Victoria and, indeed, in Lancashire itself, are others.  And they all tie into a murder committed some 54 years in the past, with the accused unsatisfyingly acquitted but not cleared of suspicion.  This ending is all a reader can expect, unmasking the identity of victims and villains in crimes old and new.

I’d not read the earlier Monika Poniatowski mysteries, nor the DCI Woodend series that preceded them, but I wasn’t lost.  The story had just enough hints of earlier events to pique my interest in the past without pulling me out of the present.  The setting is handled with equal ease. The “present day” mystery occurs in 1978, while the old murder took place in 1924. Nothing shouts nostalgia, nothing constantly reminds you that the present day is not, in fact, present, except that detecting does involve detecting and not simply forensic sciences.

All in all, this was a pleasure to read . . . good writing without gratuitous violence or embarrassing sexual encounters.  Hints of the unsavory provide a bit of spice without making the reader squirm in discomfort.  Nothing unmannerly, except murder, of course!

The hardcover edition is now on sale with a list price of $28.99 (USD) but an actual price of $24.09 (USD) at Amazon.com; the Kindle edition is available for pre-order with an expected release date of 1 August 2016, at a price of $20.93 at the time of this post.

Note:  Sis received an advanced reading copy from Severn House, via NetGalley. Sis, and Severn House, would have thought it very bad manners to expect anything more than an honest and independent review in return.

Description: When the body of an American woman is found in the Prince Alfred suite at the Royal Victoria Hotel, DCI Monika Paniatowski is faced with one of the most baffling cases of her career. The woman who called herself Mary Edwards had been a guest at the hotel for the past two weeks, having paid cash in advance. But who was she really – and what was she doing in a small town like Whitebridge? If Monika could discover why the dead woman had come to Lancashire, she would be one step closer to catching her killer. The investigation takes an intriguing twist when Monika learns of a possible link to a 50-year-old murder – but the only person who could tell her why it’s relevant is lying in a coma.

About the author:  Sally Spencer is the pen name of Alan Rustage, first adopted when he wrote sagas and convention dictated that a woman’s name appeared on the cover.  Rustage was a teacher before becoming a full-time writer. He worked in Iran in 1978-78 when the Shah was overthrown.  He writes that he got used to having rifles – and on one occasion, a rocket launcher – pointed at him but was never entirely comfortable with it. He lived in Madrid for more than 20 years and now lives in the seaside town of Calpe, on the Costa Blanca.

His first series of books were historical sagas set in Cheshire (where he grew up) and London. He has written 20 books featuring DCI Woodend (a character based partly on a furniture dealer he used to play dominoes with) and 10 or so about Woodend’s protegé Monika Paniatowski. His DI Sam Blackstone books are set in Victorian/Edwardian London, New York and Russia, and the Inspector Paco Ruiz books have as their backdrop the Spanish Civil War.

Soho Crime challenges readers (and reviewers)

Strongly recommended — without reservation

Last DetectiveIt started with The Last Detective.

Soho Crime, celebrating 25 years of publishing international crime fiction, has thrown down the gauntlet with a reading challenge, and I’ve accepted – beginning with the first of 16 books in the Peter Diamond series. I have two months to read my way through Peter Lovesey. I didn’t need two days to read The Last Detective.

The book won the 1992 Anthony Boucher Award for Best Mystery, and I’ve no quarrel with that decision. I was captivated from the introduction of this rough diamond detective “a genuine gumshoe, not some lad out of police school with a degree in computer studies.” Diamond disdains computers, DNA, and all the forensic sciences so beloved by today’s fans. It isn’t that he distrusts these new technologies. It’s that he recognizes what those who are infatuated with them have overlooked. Scientists don’t solve crimes. Detectives do. Diamond does.

Diamond isn’t exactly lovable – except that he is. He may be overbearing. He’s certainly overweight. He’s been accused of coercing a confession, not by use of force but by use of his forceful presence. He’s a wonderfully contradictory character, and I’m looking forward to getting to know him much better through this reading challenge. In the first book in this series, Diamond lives in Bath . . . the spa town so disliked by Jane Austen, and her heroine Anne Elliot, the heroine of Persuasion. Lovesey capitalizes on the connection, much to the delight of this Austen enthusiast. The Soho Crime novels are known for their international settings, and this one is superb – a character in its own right.

Some of today’s readers may find the story a bit slow – I didn’t – because this isn’t a mystery that is wrapped up in 48 hours. Lovesey alternates the perspective from third person to first, to third, to first, and back to third. Some readers may find this distracting. Again, I didn’t. Lovesey gives each character a distinctive voice, so the changes aren’t confusing at all.

The Last Detective is a rewarding read, with wise insights and witty dialogue and enough misdirection to keep armchair detectives on alert. In addition to all that, it’s a clean read – a police procedural that offends neither sense nor sensibility. If you haven’t read Lovesey, The Last Detective is a very good place to start.

This new edition, featuring an introduction by Louise Penny, is available in e-book ($7.99/USD for Kindle) and paperback ($9.99/USD).

Description: A woman’s body has been found floating in a large reservoir just south of Bristol. In order to solve the mystery of the “Lady in the Lake,” Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond must locate two missing letters attributed to Jane Austen and defy his superiors on the force to save a woman unjustly accused of murder. This is the first of the Peter Diamond series; it won the 1992 Anthony Boucher Award for Best Mystery Novel.

LoveseyPeter Lovesey wrote the 16 Peter Diamond mysteries, known for their use of surprise, strong characters and hard-to-crack puzzles. He was awarded the Cartier Diamond Dagger in 2000, the Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere, the Anthony, the Ellery Queen Readers’ Award and is Grand Master of the Swedish Academy of Detection. He has been a full-time author since 1975. Earlier series include the Sergeant Cribb mysteries seen on TV and the Bertie, Prince of Wales novels. The Diamond novels, set in Bath, England, where Peter lived for some years, feature a burly, warm-hearted, but no-nonsense police detective whose personal life becomes as engaging to the reader as the intricate mysteries he solves. Peter and his wife Jax, who co-scripted the TV series, have a son, Phil, a teacher and mystery writer, and a daughter Kathy, who was a Vice-President of J.P.Morgan-Chase, and now lives with her family in Greenwich, Ct. Peter currently lives in Chichester, England. Visit his website at www.peterlovesey.com for more.

Soho Crime has been publishing atmospheric crime fiction set all over the world for the last 25 years. Its popular series take readers to France, China, England, Laos, Northern Ireland, Australia, Japan, Germany, South Africa, Italy, Denmark, and Palestine, among other locales, with entire range of crime fiction—detective fiction, police procedurals, thrillers, espionage novels, revenge novels, stories of thieves, assassins, and underworld mob bosses. Readers can rely on Soho Crime for an adventure rich in culture and setting.

Sis received an advanced reading copy of this book from Soho Crime via NetGalley in exchange for an independent review as part of this reading challenge. Sis accepts many challenges but none to her integrity.

Take a chance on No Second Chances

By Lyndon Stacey, 224 pp., published by Severn House Ltd. Available in hardcover, list price $28.95 (USD); pre-order Kindle edition, list price $14.99 (USD).
By Lyndon Stacey, 224 pp., published by Severn House Ltd. Available in hardcover, list price $28.95 (USD); pre-order Kindle edition, list price $14.99 (USD). Release schedule 1 July 2016.

No Second Chances opens with an unintended mystery:  Why should Daniel Whelan, an ex-cop delivering farm supplies, jump to the aid of a client he scarcely knows and her insanely impulsive 15-year-old daughter? It doesn’t make sense, and it never makes sense, yet the mystery deserves a second chance and readers, especially those with a passion for animal rescue and dogs in particular, should give it that chance.

Whelan and Taz, the German shepherd who retired from the police force when his handler resigned and now accompanies him on his farm rounds, are engaging and fully developed characters.  I liked them, and I’d like to know them better.  Lorna Myers, the client who only learns her husband has disappeared when a pair of thugs shows up at their farmhouse in search of him, is never much more than a supporting character.  Her daughter, Zoe, is a primary personality, and utterly annoying.

Yet these irritations are what drive the plot.  She rushes headlong into danger, pulling Whelan and everyone else along and irritating both characters and readers alike as she searches for her missing boyfriend while all but ignoring the danger confronting her mother in the wake of her stepfather’s disappearance.  Not to mention the dangers confronting herself, both from those who want to stop her from finding the 19-year-old Traveler (also known as a gypsy, though from Ireland rather than Romany), those who are searching for her stepfather, and those who know that her search for the boy may very well lead to the whereabouts of the stepfather – or at least the reason for his disappearance.

Against all odds, Whelan sticks with Zoe, her boyfriend, and her mother.  Readers who are willing to give the book a second chance should ignore the odds and stick, too, because the mystery is neatly plotted, Stacey’s writing is a pleasure to read, and several of the characters are deftly drawn. The book introduces a character, a beauty who rescues greyhounds, who seems poised to appear in future books in the series, and, like Whelan, I’d like to know her better.

Mysteries, by definition, must include some violence. This isn’t a cozy (although Amazon.com currently has it categorized as such), but the violence shouldn’t offend most readers’ sensibilities. The dialogue does include some vulgar language, though far from egregious by common standards and not unexpected with Travelers among the cast of characters.  I did, however, object to Daniel’s use of an epithet as a term of endearment in the last line. It stopped the story from ending on an otherwise good note for me.

Note:  Severn House provided a complimentary advanced reading copy via NetGalley to allow Sis to read and review this mystery. The review reflects her own and only her own opinions. Sis doesn’t take any chances where her reputation is concerned.

Publisher’s Description: Ex-police dog handler Daniel Whelan finds himself drawn into the complex affairs of a neighbouring family – with potentially fatal consequences. Lorna Myers thinks she knows where her businessman husband is – until two men come looking for him one October evening. By lucky chance, ex-police officer Daniel Whelan happens to be on hand to take control of the situation, but for Lorna it’s the start of a nightmare. If Harvey isn’t abroad working, then where is he?  When Lorna’s daughter asks Daniel for help with a problem of her own, he finds himself reluctantly drawn into the complex affairs of the Myers family – with what could be deadly consequences for both him and his faithful canine partner, Taz.

Pre-order Kindle edition:

Previous books in this series:

No Going Back (Daniel Whelan Mystery, Book 1)


The first in an exciting new mystery series featuring ex-police dog handler Charlie Whelan – When two young sisters run away on Dartmoor, Charlie Whelan and his German shepherd, Taz, are called into action, and a desperate search quickly turns up one of the girls. However, rather than showing relief at being rescued, she seems terrified. Darkness halts their hunt for her elder sister, and Charlie returns home with one distressing question on his mind: just what were the girls running from?

No Holds Barred (Daniel Whelan Mystery, Book 2)


The second in the exciting new mystery series featuring ex-police dog handler Daniel Whelan – When ex-police dog handler Daniel Whelan is asked by his former boss to help a friend who is struggling to run her husband’s haulage company while he is recovering from a vicious attack, he and his German shepherd, Taz, rapidly find themselves attracting the wrong sort of attention. Daniel investigates and soon finds evidence of some very nasty business indeed – but after several violent warnings, he begins to wonder . . has he bitten off more than he can chew?

Nothing But Lies: A British police dog-handler mystery (Daniel Whelan Mystery, Book 3)


Daniel’s ex-colleague, police officer Joey Matsuki, has asked for his help. Joey is concerned for the safety of his fiancée, Tami, who has reported sightings of a sinister, hoodie-clad figure lurking in the area. Joey fears the involvement of a notorious local criminal recently released from prison. But with nothing concrete to go on and police resources scarce, he’s asked Daniel to keep an eye on Tami on his behalf. Working undercover as Tami’s temporary horse-box driver, Daniel soon begins to believe there may be more to the situation than meets the eye. As he questions Tami’s friends and neighbours, it becomes clear that something is not quite right. There are things people aren’t telling him; small but significant incidents that can’t be explained. Events take a tragic turn when there is a fatal hit-and-run incident. But was it really an accident – and could Tami herself have been the intended target?

About the author: Lyndon Stacey is an animal portraitist by trade and loves Western style horse riding. She lives in the Blackmore Vale in Dorset, with three assorted dogs and two cats, and is now a full-time writer. Her many interests include horse riding, animal psychology, classical music, genealogy and exploring the countryside on her motorcycle.