Tuesday, March 27, 2012

An array of mysteries

Two weeks per month, my reading choices are "assigned," since we teen librarians run three book clubs--one for high school-age teens, and two (one at the Central Library and one at Buena Vista) for middle school teens--and there are selections for each club that must be perused. So, during the other two weeks per month, I read an eclectic mix of teen fiction (we do, after all, have to find a good book for NEXT month!) and adult novels. Lately, I have been in the mood for mystery, and so of course I applied to Aunt Agatha, blogger at Death in the Stacks (http://deathinthestacks.blogspot.com/), for good choices. She started me on three series, and I am enjoying all of them.

Deborah Crombie: I have to say that Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and his able sidekick, Sergeant Gemma Jones, remind me more than a little of the Lynley/Havers duo from Elizabeth George's mysteries, but I would call Crombie's books George Lite. That's not a negative--I don't mean that they're not good reads, they definitely are--but George assigns so many personal complications to her intertwined array of characters (wives, husbands, girlfriends, best friends, neighbors!) that the heavy behind-the-scenes drama takes up a good half of each book, whereas Crombie, while giving us tantalizing glimpses into Kincaid's and Jones's home lives and personal concerns, stays focused primarily on the mystery/crime. Of course, since I have only read the first two books in Crombie's series, I may be surprised as I move further into their world at what personal details are revealed! And I will be reading further...Crombie has written a baker's dozen of these. (I also found it interesting that while they write British mysteries, both Crombie and George are American.)

Since books two and three of Crombie's series were checked out when I was needing another good book, I moved on to Aunt Agatha's second suggestion, which was the Regency (historical) mysteries of C. S. Harris. I am really enjoying these, too--while they are not the frothy, lighthearted fare you would expect from a Georgette Heyer Regency romance, the setting and the lingo are the same, so if you are a fan of the Regency period, you will feel right at home in the world that Harris creates. Her protagonist, Sebastian St. Cyr, is a slightly rakish nobleman who becomes a detective on his own behalf in the first book--What Angels Fear--when he is accused of murder, and--once he has solved that one and saved himself--decides he likes speaking up for the downtrodden and finding justice for those who would otherwise go unregarded. These books are smart, rich in historical detail, and compelling in their characterizations. There are seven so far.

The third series I assayed was the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths. While these are also set in England, they couldn't be more different. Ruth is an archaeologist, more at home with bones and ancient artifacts than she is with people. She lives in a house on the edge of a marsh near Norfolk, and relishes her remote, isolated location. She is drawn into crime-solving by a request to identify some bones found in the marsh, and although these turn out to be thousands of years old, the next set are contemporary, so Galloway stays on the case. Griffiths is only three books into this series, but her quirky protagonist definitely caught my interest, and I will continue with these as they appear on the shelves.

Starting this weekend, it's time for me to go back to book club reading (Marcelo in the Real World, by Francisco X. Stork, Everlost, by Neal Shusterman, and The Iron King, by Julie Kagawa, are this month's fare), but in a couple more weeks, I'll be back in the throes of murder, in the company of those compelled to solve a mystery! (Plus, Aunt Agatha gave me four more series suggestions for when I'm done with these!)

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