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Labor Day & Fall Mystery Book Reading Suggestions

IN THE September 3 ISSUE

FROM THE 2012 Articles,
andMysteryrat's Maze
SECTIONS

by Gloria & Theodore Feit

We don’t have a movie review today so thought it would be fun to provide some more reading suggestions for your holiday and the beginning of fall. Some of these are brand new books coming out this month, and others are from earlier this year. The first one, The Dog Who Knew Too Much by Spencer Quinn, was a must include review not only because it has a dog as one of the main characters, but also because we have a review of his new book and an interview with him coming up on Saturday the 8th–so you get the chance to check out one of his earlier books first. Hope you find some books you can enjoy–all mystery, but each very different.

The Dog Who Knew Too Much By Spencer Quinn
Reviewed by Gloria Feit

Ah, what a pleasure to re-enter the world of Chet, the canine narrator and K-9 school dropout, and his human companion, Bernie. In the midst of a plethora of dark books and novels featuring over-the-top sadism and end-of-the-world thrillers [not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you], this charming series was just what I needed!

Not that there isn’t mystery aplenty here – including a missing person, murder etc. – after all, Bernie is a detective, and although very humorous, it isn’t your usual ‘cute-sy’ animal-detective tale either – - well, now that I think of it – - the latter does have his own blog [ChetTheDog.com]. The author [Quinn is the nom de plume of prolific author Peter Abrahams] has given us another terrific entry – - the fourth – - in this series, which is just as delightful as the prior books.

As the book opens, Bernie has been invited to be the keynote speaker at a P.I. convention, during which the organizer of the event offers Bernie $10,000 to buy Chet, which he refuses. Soon thereafter, he is hired as a bodyguard. Neither of those things turns out to be as innocuous as one might think: The P.I. is not one to take no for an answer, and the bodyguard duty somehow morphs into a search for a boy who has gone missing while on a wilderness camp hike. Who better than a talented tracker like Chet to try to find him? But things, as always, get a bit more complicated; actually, a lot more complicated, and there is ultimately much more at stake. A quick and a wonderfully entertaining book, and one that is highly recommended.

Seven Days By Deon Meyer
Translated by K.L. Seegers
Reviewed by Theodore Feit

Benny Griessel is chosen to head up a task force to catch a perpetrator who has threatened to shoot a policeman every day [and has so far succeeded in doing so] until the murderer of an attractive woman attorney is captured. Benny of course is the iconoclastic recovering-alcoholic South African detective, now promoted to the exclusive Hawks of the South African Police Department. Through a series of emails, the shooter taunts the SAPD, often giving hints and quoting Bible verses. He tells them and the newspapers the SAPD knows who the murderer is. Unfortunately, they literally don’t have a clue.

While Benny’s brief is to catch the lawyer’s murderer, separately, Mbali Kaleni, a member of the CATS [Crimes Against the State] team and another loner, is selected to catch the shooter. While they work independently, the cases are intertwined. Eventually, both learn the go-it-alone method is of no use, and teamwork is necessary, drawing on the entire resources of the department. Still, Benny relies on his intuition to guide his efforts.

Seven Days is another fine example of the author’s perceptiveness and creative plotting. At the same time, his sensitivity to his characters, especially Benn’s penchant for alcohol and his shy courtship of a lady friend, is tender and insightful. Benny’s characters is further developed in the novel, both as a detective and, especially, as a person.

Highly recommended.

Salvation of a Saint By Keigo Higashino
Translated by Alexander O. Smith with Elye Alexander
(this one comes out in October)
Reviewed by Theodore Feit

What’s more effective in solving a crime: a detective’s intuition and police skills, or the scientific method? This theme seems to be a recurring one in the author’s approach to crime fiction. In The Devotion of Suspect X, Mr. Higashino’s last book, a mathematician was pitted against physics professor Yukawa, also dubbed “Detective Galileo,” while an actual detective, Kusanagi, plied his trade using his intuition and other skills. In the present mystery, they repeat this dance in trying to solve what at first appears to be a perfect murder.

The crime revolves around the death of a CEO by poisoning, and the investigation turns up no evidence of the source of the substance. It is quickly determined that this was not a case of suicide. The wife, usually a prime suspect, was thousands of miles away, and the paramour is also cleared. A junior detective, Kaoru Utsuni, stubbornly pursues the case, finally turning to the professor when neither she nor Kusanagi make any progress in solving the murder. And then the fun begins: logic vs. gut feeling.

The author demonstrates a wonderful ability to wrap a puzzle within an enigma, supplying twist after twist to keep the pages turning, raising the tension as the investigation progresses. This is one clever plot, and the novel is highly recommended.

Hush Now, Don’t You Cry By Rhys Bowen
Reviewed by Theodore Feit

Finally, Molly Murphy and Capt. Daniel Sullivan get married and are on their honeymoon as the book opens, only to be interrupted on the second day when Dan is recalled to duty to investigate a tunnel which collapsed during the building of the new subway. To make up for the break, Alderman Brian Hannan, also the owner of the construction company building the underground, offers Dan use of a guest cottage on his Newport estate, at the same time telling him he wants to discuss something, adding “he may have got it wrong.” Of course, “it” is not revealed.

So Molly and Dan travel up to Rhode Island, arriving in a heavy downpour soaking them when they have to walk to the estate. Then Hannan’s body is discovered at the foot of a cliff on the edge of the estate and the local police aren’t up to the job. Nor is Dan, who comes down with a life-threatening case of pneumonia. Despite her promises to be a good wife and no longer pursue her investigative instincts, Molly step-by-step gets involved in a couple of mysteries, including Hannan’s death.

Perhaps it is the setting for this novel. Past chapters in the series have taken place in early 19th century New York City and Molly, a feisty Irish immigrant, giving flavor and a certain colorful aura to the stories. In the current installment, the Newport milieu makes the characters and plot more staid, and Molly, herself, seems much more suave and sophisticated than a relatively uneducated new arrival to the United States. Nevertheless, if one approaches this novel as ‘just’ an old-fashioned mystery, it is quite enjoyable, and recommended.

Tag Man By Archer Mayor
Reviewed by Theodore Feit

This long-running series finds Joe Gunther really depressed, the result of the murder of his girlfriend during an unsuccessful attempt on the life of the Governor in the previous novel. He’s on sick leave and at loose ends, so he edges back into work by volunteering to help the Vermont Bureau of Investigations investigate a series of break-ins.

Surely one of the more bizarre perpetrators in the annals of crime fiction, labeled the “Tag Man,” enters homes at night, usually not stealing anything, eating some food, wandering around homes highly protected by all kinds of surveillance equipment, and then leaving a Post-it note as sort of a calling card. On one of his ‘visits’ he does take some incriminating material from the desk of a “retired” Boston mobster, and in another finds scrapbooks containing pictures of what appear to be murdered women. These two events set off a chain which soon has him running for his life.

Two things about this novel are somewhat perplexing. First of all, Joe Gunther is one of the better characters of any series around: smart, personable, professional. However, he seems to be developing into more of a grandfatherly type. And to top that, hard-nosed, wisecracking Willy Kunkle now turns out to be a softhearted daddy. More importantly, while the plot develops amid many devious twists, it is brought to a swift, but relatively uninspired conclusion. It almost seems as if the author became bored and decided to call it a day. It is, nonetheless, recommended.

All of these books can be purchased from Mysterious Galaxy Books, which helps support an indie bookstore & KRL!

Ted & Gloria Feit live in Long Beach, New York, a few miles outside of New York City. For 26 years, Gloria was the manager of a medium-sized litigation firm in lower Manhattan. Her husband, Ted, is an attorney & former stock analyst, publicist & writer/editor for, over the years, several daily, weekly and monthly publications. Having always been avid mystery readers & since they’re now retired, they’re able to indulge their passion. Their reviews appear online as well as in three print publications in the UK & US.

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