Tag Archives: Mystery

4:50 from Paddington – Review

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4:50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie
Age: Adult
Genre: Mystery
Location: England
Source: Public Library
Publisher: Signet Classics 
ISBN: 0451200519
217 Pages

This book was read as part of the Miss Marple feature, hosted at The Sunday Book Review.

This week’s discussion is centered around the Miss Marple novel: 4:50 From Paddington, or What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw! 

On a typical train ride to visit a dear friend, Elspeth McGillicuddy witnesses a most severe and heinous murder through the window into a train headed in the opposite direction. With no one believing what she saw, Mrs. McGillicuddy turns to her friend Miss Jane Marple for advice. Soon Miss Marple is on the case, leading us through a series of events and clues as she tries to solve the murder of the mysterious woman.

Following the classic mystery formula, I think fans of Dashiell Hammett will really appreciate this book because of its wit, humor, characters and the twisting plotline. I tried to guess who-dun-it numerous times and was wrong at each turn. I adored all the characters, especially Miss Marple. She reminded me of Angela Lansbury from the Murder She Wrote TV series I used to watch as a child. This was my first Agatha Christie book and I deeply regret I never read her work earlier. There were quite a few mentions of other mysteries that she solved sprinkled throughout this novel. I would have loved to known about those crimes and how she solved them.

Digging into the death of the mysterious woman, Miss Marple and her aides are led into the Crackenthorpe estate. This is a home of greedy children, a miserly old father, tension and frustration oozing throughout the family members. Anyone and everyone in associated with Rutherford Hall is a suspect, but just who is the suspect? That is cleverly disguised through various clues, alibis, subsequent murders taking place.

Join the discussion of 4:50 from Paddington at The Sunday Book Review and be a part of the Cooling Down with AC group this summer.

Book 26 of 2011

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Lost in a Good Book – Review

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Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde
Age: Adult
Genre: Mystery

Three months after Thursday’s Next’s adventures in the Eyre Affair, she is back for another round with Goliath industries. This time, she has to figure out a way to delve into Poe’s The Raven to rescue the Goliath agent she banished into the dismal poem in order to get her life back to normal and bring her husband back from eradication. With the help of various literary figures, Miss Havishamm and the Cheshire Cat, Thursday has to figure out a way to delve into literature without the prose portal and set things back in their proper order.

The Thursday Next series is one of the best books for literary nerds who love literary fiction. Although I enjoyed this book just as much as I did the Eyre Affair, I did have a few issues with the book. I think the biggest obstacle for me was the representation of Miss Havisham as anything other than doom-&-gloom matchmaker. It just didn’t sit write turning that character into a cartoon parody of herself. The plot and the writing overall is hilarious, especially for those with a soft spot for puns. Fforde has a huge imagination and he made no hints at reigning it in for this novel. Thursday is a strong character, full of spunk, insecurities, pride and morals.  Fforde also manages to cover some serious issues in a light way. Issues of cloning are apparent with the Neanderthal characters, fighting for their rights, despite being classified as something other than living, breathing beings. The ending of this novel sets itself up right away for the third installment of the Thursday Next series, Well of Lost Plots, one I can’t wait to start reading.

Lost in a Good Book
By Jasper Fforde
Viking, 2002
ISBN 0965752615
399 pages
 
Book 19 of 2011
 
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The Maltese Falcon – Review

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The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammet
Age: Adult
Genre: Mystery

One of the original noir detective mysteries, the Maltese Falcon is a story about San Francisco detective Sam Spade and his partner Miles Archer. On a typical day at work, a young lady enters into the offices of Spade and Archer to ask for help bringing her runaway sister back home. What soon ensues is a tangle of lies, and deception that suck Sam Spade into a chain reaction of murder, greed and lust.

My first experience with Dashiell Hammett was The Thin Man, set in New York. I absolutely adored The Thin Man and was looking forward to reading The Maltese Falcon, particularly because the book is set in San Francisco. That being said, I was slightly let down by The Maltese Falcon. I did not find Sam Spade to be near as endearing as Nick Charles and I don’t think he was meant to be. Spade lied, he cheated, and he took advantage of women just to further his case. I didn’t connect with the characters at all and that took away from the book. Nearly all of the characters were terrible people who did terrible things for their own personal benefit, except for Spade’s secretary.  In typical Hammett form, there was plenty of witty rapport between the characters which this book a quick read. Since this wasn’t a who-dun-it type of mystery, there weren’t too many plot twists. I did like the story itself and the back story for the much searched for Maltese Falcon. I loved that it was set in San Francisco and for other local Hammett fans, there is a weekly Dashiell Hammett tour in SF, tracing all the sites mentioned in the book.

The Maltese Falcon
By Dashiell Hammett
Vintage Books, 1929
ISBN 0394717724
229 pages
Book 17 of 2011
 
 
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On What Grounds – Review

Okay, I have a weak spot for puns, I have a weak spot for coffee, and I have a new addiction to mystery books. All that combined = A Coffeehouse Mystery series by Cleo Coyle.

Not the usually high caliber literary work that wins awards, but I’m at a stage in my life where I don’t want to read heavy and profound works of literature. I want to read something that keeps my attentions, and makes me laugh along the way.

On What Grounds (Coffeehouse Mysteries, No. 1)On What Grounds fits the bill. On Clare Cosi’s first day back in New York to manage the Village Blend, she discovers the unconscious body of one of her employees at the bottom of the basement steps. While the police ruled the incident as accidental, Clare thinks there was some foul play involved and soon starts her own investigation to find out what really happened to Anabell.

Along the way, there is a sexy Lietenant Quinn and her ex-husband Matteo vying for her attention. Coyle has done her research on New York history, infusing, at times overwhelming, the story by name-dropping the most recognizable aspects of history and New York celebrities in relation to the coffeehouse The Village Blend. One thing that I enjoyed the most are the paragraphs devoted to coffee, making coffee and the history of coffee. I’m an amateur coffee drinker at best, but this book gives a pretty good introduction in the difference in flavors, in the quality of a cup of coffee. I’m ready to go out and experiment my newfound knowledge with coffeehouse along the Bay.

What I like most about these types of genre mysteries is that in the back pages of the book, there are little freebies. In this book, there are freebie recipes for coffee, cocktails, and cappuchino walnut cheesecake. Other genre mysteries have crossword puzzles, knitting patternts, etc. Most anything that was mentioned throughout the book is available for the reader who finishes the book. =) Who doesn’t like freebies?

I requested the following 6 books in the series, and so far only books 4, 5, and 6 have come in for me. So I’m making due with reading a couple other books in the meantime (Dead To The World and Confessions of a Former Child).

FINAL GRADE: A-

On What Grounds
by Clare Cosi
Berkeley Prime Crime, 2003
ISBN 042519213x
276 pages

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The Big Over Easy – Review

The Big Over Easy Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the Kings Horses and all the King’s Men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

The death of one Humperdink Stuyvesant van Dumpty is at the root of this literary mystery novel for detectives Jack Spratt and Mary Mary of the Nursery Crime Division. After a depressing acquittal of murder charges brought against the Little Pigs for the death of “Big Bad” Wolffe, Jack Spratt is in need of a major case to help boost his career before the NCD is disbanded and Spratt is out of a job. New to the force is Mary Mary, who has something of a crush on Friedland Chymes, Reading’s most popular detective. In the city of Reading, the story is often more important than the actual case, since publication counts of cases are used in the criteria of a successful agent. Chymes and Spratt have a large bit of rivalry going throughout the case.

The case of Humpty Dumpy starts innocently enough, with a simple investigation of a possible suicide. But as forensics and common sense start to get involved, Spratt and Mary realize there is more than meets the eye as turn of events keep getting more and more confusing with each progression and appearance of evidence. Spratt is dealt with more questions than answers and more opposition than support from his superiors.

Although I am a fan of Fforde’s writing style and his witty use of puns and blatant literary allusions (are they still allusions when they are so obvious?), this book was not as good as The Eyre Affair of the Thursday Next series. In this book, I felt that there was plenty of set-up for Chymes to be the evil cop, but that expectation fell through, and Chymes was just whiny and stayed on the side-lines for the majority of the novel. The storyline is amusing, although I wasn’t laughing out loud at each page as many other reviewers claimed to have done. I did find the ending(s) endearing, just because Jack Spratt is a really lovable character. I think Fforde is very gifted at taking a simple nursery rhyme and creating a whole world around four simple lines. Although his characters could have used more work, I think his plot was well paced and effective.

From a previous Weekly Geek, a few other bloggers asked me some questions about this book, so I’ll answer them now:

Christine over at She Reads Books asked: How did you like The Big Over Easy? In particular, what did you think of the ending (and ending, and ending, and ending…)?

I liked the continuous ending. I think Fforde was wise enough to cut it off after a certain point and I think he was able to neatly tie up all the loose ends. I think the multiple endings was a big character trait of Spratt as well and worked in his favor for drawing sympathy from the readers.

Tiny Library over at The Tiny Reading Room asked: Did you find you enjoyed The Big Over Easy? Did you think the book “worked?” My book club had mixed reactions to it.

I did enjoy the book for the most part. A few characters I think should have been either more developed or just cut out completely. I think Fforde had an outline and premise for this book went about it in a way pleasing and fun way (if you like puns…which I love).

FINAL GRADE: B

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The Big Over Easy
By Jasper Fforde
Hodder and Stoughton, 2005
ISBN 0340897104
398 pages