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The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny (2012)

Louise Penny’s fans might try The Beautiful Mystery (eighth in the series) to find Chief Inspector Gamache in a venue other than Three Pines. The Chief Inspector, assisted by Guy Beauvoir, travels to a remote monastery hidden deep in the Quebec wilderness to find which (if any) of the 24 brothers has murdered the choir director. The Brothers all have beautiful voices and are totally committed to performing the Gregorian chants in each office of the day.

A recently released trial CD has brought in good revenue but also conflict among the brothers as to whether or not to pursue commercial success. One group of Brothers welcomes the new revenue while others are afraid notoriety will interfere with their devotions. Other complications arise as Guy is distracted from the hunt by his secret relationship with the Chief Inspector’s daughter and his chemical dependency developed while he was recovering from previous wounds.

The Beautiful Mystery is the winner of the 2012 Agatha Award for best novel, the 2013 Anthony Award for best novel, and the 2013 Macavity Award for best novel.

A Circle of Wives by Alice LaPlante (2014)

Palo Alto police detective Samantha Adams is assigned to investigate the suspicious death of plastic surgeon John Taylor. Even though Taylor had a heart attack, he has a puncture wound on his shoulder. The police are also tipped off that Taylor had not just one wife, but three. He had been married to wife number one, Deborah, for over thirty years and they had three children. Wife number two, MJ, is an accountant, with whom he lived in Los Gatos. Helen, a pediatric oncologist, was much younger than John--they met when she asked him to consult on one of her patients.

In Alice LaPlante’s A Circle of Wives, the reader observes the unfolding murder investigation and has a front row seat as all the secrets of each of the four women's lives are laid bare. An engrossing novel that keeps you guessing right up to the end. A great readalike for Tana French's Broken Harbor and A. S. A. Harrison's The Silent Wife.
 

Refusal by Felix Francis (2013)

Although Dick Francis died in 2010, his legacy of English horseracing mysteries continues under the very capable pen of his son Felix Francis. Refusal, his third novel without his father as coauthor, fits nicely into the genre. The principal is an ex-jockey who reluctantly takes up his prior vocation as a private eye to sort out blatant corruption that clearly would give a bad name to the racing sport. The novel keeps the reader in suspense wondering how the principal will keep himself and his family safe as he confronts the bad bullies attempting to fix racing results.

 
 

How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny (2013)

After hearing rave reviews of Louise Penny’s mystery series featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, I decided to try her latest one, How the Light Gets In. The audiobook is beautifully narrated by Ralph Cosham, who captures the quaint essence of the village of Three Pines perfectly. This is the ninth book in the series and Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is investigating the murder of the last remaining Ouellet quintuplet, Constance Pinot. Gamache is surrounded by a rich cast of characters from the little village that includes an eccentric poet with a duck for a pet.

Despite not having read any of the previous books in the series, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and I would like to go back and start at the beginning. A great novel with a cozy winter setting that draws you in.

Inferno by Dan Brown (2013)

In Inferno Dan Brown and Robert Langdon again take us on a tour of Renaissance art and literature while spinning a thrilling tale of danger and escape. One should see Amazon.com for pictures of some of the classic sights described along the way. Also current issues like overpopulation and bioterrorism appear with some suggested solutions you may not like but you may be startled by the stark predictions.

I enjoyed this run around from Harvard to Florence to Venice to Istanbul with interludes on a large sea vessel named Mendacium. Although at first I could hardly put my tablet reader down, towards the end I became weary of the game and wanted it to end.

 

First Frost by James Henry (2013)

Have you enjoyed the Touch of Frost mystery DVDs? Frost’s exploits first appeared in a series of books by R. D Wingfield in the 1980s. This year, Frost’s story is continued in a prequel by James Henry entitled First Frost. Frost is just as rumpled, irascible, and brilliant as in the original books and TV series as he solves crimes on the perpetually understaffed Denton Police Force.

 

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (2013)

When the news broke the J. K. Rowling had released a mystery under a pseudonym, I (like millions of others) rushed to see what The Cuckoo’s Calling was about. The premise sounded interesting: a disabled veteran turned PI investigates the alleged suicide of a supermodel in contemporary London.

This was the only book I read on my weeklong vacation. It was engrossing with sympathetic characters, a fascinating mystery with twists and turns, and those fabulous descriptions that Harry Potter fans will recognize. Robert Galbraith garnered great reviews even before the Rowling connection was revealed. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series (due in 2014) featuring PI Cormoran Strike and his very capable assistant Robin.

Mandarin Gate by Eliot Pattison (2012)

In this seventh of the Inspector Shan series, we have culture, politics, and a compelling mystery to keep one reading another page when it is time to turn off the light and go to sleep. In Mandarin Gate, neither the reader nor Inspector Shan (now demoted to irrigation ditch inspector) can see a reason for the terrible triple murder but can only speculate as to a possible cause. Beijing wants the crime solved without international ripples and Inspector Shan is very concerned that the recent suicide of his friend, an unregistered Tibetan monk, may have implications in the case. Readers concerned about China’s dismantlement of Tibet’s culture and religion will find much to think about while reading Eliot Pattison’s compelling novel.

 

Defending Jacob by William Landay (2012)

The book shows family relationships, teenager’s lives, teen violence, law procedure, and a “killer’s gene.” Author William Landay is a former district attorney.  The dialogue in Defending Jacob is excellent (I may compare it to Ernest Hemingway’s dialogue, as he is famous for that).

Other staff enjoyed this novel as well – last summer, Elizabeth and Denise reviewed the book.

Devil's Food Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke (2012)

Had enough of summer heat and humidity? Why not escape to Lake Eden, Minnesota, in February and help Hannah Swensen solve another murder! Hannah’s adventures are intriguing, yet light. That's why the cliff hanger ending at the end of Devil's Food Cake Murder surprised me. Is it finally time for Hannah to choose between her two suitors?

I enjoyed the mystery and my family enjoyed Hannah's delicious Chocolate Euphoria Cookie Bars and Chocolate-Covered Raisin Cookies. Fluke's character uses chocolate to soothe murder induced stress and pry information out of potential suspects.

Check out Joanne Fluke’s Lake Eden Cookbook for all of Hannah’s recipes.

A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear (2011)

Maisie Dobbs is a fearless, independent woman in the 1930s who runs her own detective agency and has taken on an undercover assignment for the British government. Maisie calmly solves mysteries and helps people along the way. A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear is the eighth book in the Maisie Dobbs series.

Monkeewrench by P. J. Tracy (2003)

This thriller mystery jumps right through cyberspace. A killer begins murdering victims on a computer game. By duplicating each murder exactly, the police department of Minneapolis must try to outwit and out think a psychopathic genius. The story is easy to follow and sure fun to read. Get started with Monkeewrench then read the rest of the series by P. J. Tracy.

Death is a Cabaret by Deborah Morgan (2001)

This is the first book in the Antique Lover's Mystery series. Both the premise and the characters have potential, but the plot drags in parts. Jeff Talbot is a retired FBI agent who has turned his passion for antiques into a business. He retired early from the FBI for a little peace and quiet with his wife who suffers from agoraphobia and cannot leave their home. His antique buying trip to Mackinac Island is anything but peaceful and quiet. Jeff finds himself using his FBI skills once again when dead bodies turn up at the Grand Hotel. Morgan adds authenticity to the story with her extensive knowledge of antiques. Download the audiobook of Death is a Cabaret today.

 

Archie Meets Nero Wolfe by Robert Goldsborough (2012)

In the early thirties, Rex Stout created the eccentric private detective Nero Wolfe who lived in a New York brownstone, raised orchids, ate gourmet dinners, drank beer, and solved crimes from the comfort of his chair, aided by the leg work of Archie Goodwin. In this prequel by Goldsborough, we see how this famous partnership started.

Fresh in Depression-era New York from Ohio, Archie is willing and ready. He gets a job with another private eye, solves some cases, and then when the son of a wealthy Long Island millionaire goes missing gets his chance to work with the great man. Archie has all the ironic humor and wry eye we know from the classic series. Check out Archie Meets Nero Wolfe by Robert Goldsborough today.

The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro (2012)

A thriller without a trail of blood and gore and an author with expertise in the art world, B.A. Shapiro takes us underground to the history and methods of art forgery. When a struggling artist commits to do a reproduction of a famous painting by Degas, the action begins. The plot twists and turns between the past and the present, but I was never confused; rather, I was fascinated by Shapiro’s knowledge in the art world. The Art Forger races to an ending that left me hoping this author will write another book.