Murder at the Vicarage

I’ve never read an Agatha Christie book. She is someone who clearly deserves the respect she is given, but she’s never really been on my radar. I know she has a few one-off books like And Then There Were None, but she is mostly known for her Miss Marple series and her Hercule Poirot series. For the book challenge, I needed to read a book with a female protagonist over the age of 60, and although Miss Marple is simply described as elderly, I am making the leap of faith that she is at least 61 years old.

Agatha Christie died before I was born, so it’s safe to assume her books are considered classics. There’s no DNA evidence, no forensic investigation, just old-fashioned police detective work. So when a man is found murdered, the police, unhappily aided by busybody Miss Marple, are left to simply put the pieces together. Witnesses are interviewed, secrets are kept, affairs are had, and the mystery gets solved.

What I wasn’t expecting was a level of humor in the book. I chuckled a few times at Christie’s clever turn-of-phrase. The story is told from the vicar’s perspective and the murder happened in his home (he’s clearly not the murderer, so take that out of the equation now) but he aids the police in finding the killer. He likes Miss Marple’s snark and doesn’t mind discussing his information with her, as opposed to the police who are just annoyed by her. Marple is a likable, fun character, and I really enjoyed this book. I will also be reading the first Hercule Poirot book later this year, so keep an eye out for that review.

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Girl in Snow

I really love Netgalley, but I’m just really bad at making the books I get from them a priority. When I got Girl in Snow from them a couple of years ago, I had every intention of reading it quickly, but it just got buried under all my other books. But when I saw I needed a book with a weather element in the title, Girl in Snow jumped right into that slot. And if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know I’m very particular about mystery/thriller books because so many of them are poorly written. I’m always nervous when I start a book by an unfamiliar author, but wow this was a great one. I’m so happy to report that this was a very well-written, interesting book.

The story is told from three perspectives, all third-person narrator, but from that particular character’s point-of-view. We meet Cameron, an outcast with a rough family story who draws amazing portraits, but who also has a secret. Next is Jade, also an outcast with a rough family, but much angrier about it. Finally is Russ, the police detective tied to the case in an unusual way. At the center of the story is beautiful Lucinda, who is found murdered one morning on the playground of a sleepy Colorado town. It’s likely Russ didn’t do it, considering he didn’t even know her, but Cameron and Jade are on the fringes of suspects because they lived near Lucinda and both knew her. Equally a suspect is Lucinda’s ex-boyfriend, Zap.

I’m really not sure if this book fits into the adult or young adult category, but no matter, because it’s great. I really didn’t know which character murdered Lucinda until the reveal, but the murderer wasn’t just thrown in as a random person never mentioned in the book (like a drifter), so the rationale was explained and legitimate. This book was a quick little read with great, clever language, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

 

In the Woods

I’ve heard of the Dublin Murder Squad books for awhile now and have been meaning to read them for awhile. I finally sat down and made a point to read the first one, In the Woods. I like a good thriller/murder mystery, and was really pleased with how well done this one is. It seems like most thrillers are cheap, predictable, and churned out so quickly that much thought isn’t put into craft. However, there were some really great passages in this book that made the reading experience much more enjoyable than the average thriller.

Det. Rob Ryan is a member of the Dublin Murder Squad, meaning his job is to investigate murders. His partner, Cassie, is like a sister and together, they make a great team. However, Rob’s secret has the ability to hinder his perspective. When he was a kid, three kids went into the woods to play, and only one, Rob, came out. The other two have never been found and Rob doesn’t remember much. He now goes by his middle name, went to boarding school and acquired a different accent, so he flies under the radar and no one, save Cassie, knows his story.

Their newest case is the death of a 12 year old girl whose body is found near the woods were Rob was found. His memories are triggered, and he wonders if the two situations are connected. The book is full of several twists and turns, some of them I saw coming, but most I didn’t, and by the end, I was reading as quickly as I could to see who killed the young girl and whether or not Rob was able to put all the pieces of his own childhood together. There are several other books in the series, all are spin offs of the previous one, and I can’t wait to delve back into this series.

The Cuckoo’s Calling

I really do love JK Rowling. My proof is that I made it through The Casual Vacancy, even though it was a really tough read. So, I was nervous to start this book because I just wanted to really be impressed with her all over again, rather than disappointed. And, thankfully, I was impressed.

The first in a trilogy, The Cuckoo’s Calling introduced us to Cormoran Strike, a private investigator who has hit a rough patch, to put it mildly. He was recently dumped, has very little business, and has nowhere to live. In walks his temp, Robin, and thankfully, a case. Cormoran knew the family from back when he was a child, and one of them came to him with a request- figure out who killed his sister, even though it was ruled a suicide. The sister, Lula Landry, plunged to her death. Lula, one should note, is a supermodel.

Cormoran has his skeletons, which are revealed slowly and with perfect timing. He and Robin fall into an easy understanding, once he admits that he truly does need her help in uncovering the truth behind Lula’s death. The plot was engaging to the point that I hated to put the book down each time because I felt like I was one step away from finding out what happened. This book reminded me a bit of a previous book I read, Night Film , which also starts with a mysterious death and a search for truth.

I look forward to reading the rest in the trilogy. Cormoran is a likeable, honest guy, and with his counterpart, Robin, by his side, I have a feeling they will have interesting jobs in their future.

All the Missing Girls

Yet another Netgalley book! So, I’ve read one great one and one bummer one. However, this one I selected completely on the premise alone. It’s a murder mystery, but it has a unique feature. It’s told in reverse. Which really seems odd, given the whole mystery aspect, but this novel really does work.

The fact that it’s told in reverse is laid out for you up front, so there’s no confusion as to what is happening. And, as a speed reader, I found myself having to go a lot slower with this book to really grasp all the details.  Reading a book in reverse chronological order is like looking at a picture and then being told the story behind it. Normally you make the memory and look at the picture later, then the memory comes flooding back. And I was skeptical about whether or not this novel (and unknown, to me, author) could pull it off. And while the book had some confusing moments and not everything is perfectly resolved (but rather implied), as a whole, it was really great.

The murder mystery genre is really hit or miss for me. Some novels are so predictable and formulaic that you see the murderer coming a mile away. And not to give anything away, but the resolution wasn’t wholly surprising to me, but the storytelling was really what made the book readable and interesting. Reading it in chronological order would have been nowhere near as intriguing.