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January Part 2

At our first meeting of 2019 we discussed Ian Rankin (see Part 1), but we also chatted about the other books we'd read and enjoyed recently ...
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Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash
It never ceases to amaze me how we in the Crime Fiction Book Group can all love crime fiction and thrillers, and still like such a wide variety of books. At our January meeting we talked about what we’d read and enjoyed over Christmas… from the future to a Classic.

Let’s start with Clover. She strongly recommended J. D. Robb’s series of 'In Death' books. Especially Obsession in Death from 2015, which she gives 4-Stars out of 5. J. D. Robb is a pseudonym for the writer Nora Roberts, who under her own name writes romantic fiction. The 'In Death' series is romantic crime fiction, a bit in the vein of the classic Mary Stewart books, but set in New York in the mid-21st century, so about 40-50 years into the future.

Clover says these books are not pure sci-fi, simply crime set in a slightly futuristic setting. The main protagonist is Eve Dallas, a lieutenant with the NYPSD – New York Police and Security Department. Fantastic Fiction, that stalwart record of all books written (and not just crime fiction) says: “Eve Dallas has solved a lot of high-profile murders for the NYPSD and gotten a lot of media attention. She – and her billionaire husband – are getting accustomed to being objects of attention, of gossip, of speculation. But now Eve has become the object of one person's obsession. …. But Eve knows that underneath the worship and admiration, a terrible threat lies in wait, ….. Because in time, idols always fall. ....”. I will admit J D Robb is new to me (but won’t be for long, I expect).

Clover also recommends the French author Michel Bussi, especially his 2016 book Black Water Lilies, set in Monet’s garden in Giverny. “This is the story of 13 days that begin with one murder and end with another. Entangled in this mystery are three women: a young painting prodigy, the seductive village schoolteacher, and an old widow who watches over the village from a mill by the stream. All three of them share a secret”. Clover found it an intriguing mystery and gave it a good 4-Stars. She also recommends Michel Bussi’s first book After the Crash.

Opal shared her view of former police and CID officer, now turned crime writer, Clare Mackintosh with us. Especially her 2018 book Let Me Lie. A thoroughly engrossing psychological thriller, which she rated 4-Stars out of 5. “The police say it was suicide. Anna says it was murder. They're both wrong”, says the blurb. Intriguing!!

Opal also enjoys the books by Eva Dolan. These are set in and around Peterborough, so are therefore full of added colour to us who live in the area. All Eva’s books concern themselves with people who can be seen as marginalised. Migrant workers, transsexuals, disabled etc. She finds the books pretty brutal, not in any way pleasant, but rates them 4-Stars too. And, like most of us, she enjoys the DCI Banks books by Peter Robinson, which are set in Yorkshire. Her Christmas book of these was the 2014 When the Music’s Over, which she describes as “A jolly good read with a great setting”.

Bunny recommends the Swedish author(s) Lars Kepler, a pseudonym for a couple of already established authors, Alexander and Alexandra Ahndoril. In particular she recommended The Hypnotist from 2011. This story, set near Stockholm, concerns itself with a young boy who witnessed the killing of his family and who seems to be next on the killer’s list. To get to the bottom of the case the police persuade an eminent psychologist, against his better judgement, to take an ethically dubious course of action and hypnotise the boy – with terrifying results. Bunny gives this book, and its sequel The Sandman at least 4-Stars. And lastly, she also enjoys Simon Kernick’s action-packed mystery thrillers.

Calendar Girl had read C L Taylor’s, The Missing. This intriguing and surprising thriller about a teenaged boy who has gone missing, and his mother’s increasingly fraught and frantic attempt to find out what happened to him was reviewed here last month. Calendar girl liked it and gave it 3 to 4-Stars.

Freyja had a read of a couple of Sophie Hannah’s books. First her Agatha Christie tribute and continuation of the Hercule Poirot saga Closed Casket. As we discussed earlier: “What is the point of re-writing the works of a famous author?” Occasionally this works. But in this case, NO!! Freyja had been reading some of the rave reviews of this book and they have her flummoxed. She found it tedious, long-winded, irritating and even more unlikely than Agatha herself. She struggled greatly to get through it and rated it 1-Star at the most.

Also by Sophie Hannah, Freyja read Did you see Melody (also known as Keep Her Safe). The flyleaf blurb says: “Pushed to breaking point, Cara Burrows flees her home and family and heads for a five-star spa resort. All she wants is space and time to think. …. Instead she gets a shock in the middle of the night when she is given the key to a room that's already occupied - apparently by a father and daughter, the latter who seems to be America's most famous murder victim, Melody Chapa, whose parents are serving life sentences for her killing. But if Melody's dead, how can Cara have seen her?”.

Freyja found this book hilarious. Apart from the mystery, which was well laid out and described, there was a host of situations and characters which were laugh-out-loud funny. Like the obsequious resort staff who agreed to everything the customer said. If he was to say “The moon is made of blue cheese” they would have answered “Yes, Sir, of course, Sir”. Or the host of one of these so-very-American legal TV shows, who is so outrageous in her proclamations that, even when you know it’s fiction, you still find yourself shouting at the page “Woman, you can’t say that. That’s slander!” Freyja awarded 4-Stars for that.

Lastly, we moved with Freyja back through the years to the classic 1936 novel The Santa Klaus Murder by Mavis Doriel Hay. The blurb says: “Aunt Mildred declared that no good could come of the Melbury family Christmas gatherings. So, when Sir Osmond Melbury, the family patriarch, is discovered – by a guest who is dressed as Santa Klaus – with a bullet in his head on Christmas Day, the festivities are plunged into chaos”. This is one of those locked room country house murder mysteries that were so popular during the Golden Age of crime fiction. It’s fiendishly complicated, minutely plotted and actually pretty good. To aid you there’s a diagram of the house and a list of the characters. You find yourself constantly flicking back to the map, trying to follow who went in and out of which door at what time. It deserves a good 3-Stars.
Freyja