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Sycamore Row by John Grisham (2013)

sycamorerowA very rich man (Seth) kills himself by hanging and leaves much of his estate to his black caregiver by a holographic will. Of course, Seth’s family challenges the will; a jury must determine whether Seth’s handwritten will is valid.

John Grisham’s masterful storytelling leads the reader through the trial, the families’ histories and a look at justice and redemption. This is one of Grisham’s best novels set in Clanton, Mississippi, with a street lawyer (Jake) from A Time to Kill as the principal character. Grisham teases the reader to find out why a deceased man would abandon his children and grandchildren in such a manner; how he accumulated such a fortune; and what became of his brother who is mentioned in the handwritten will. Amazing characters, afflicted with greed, stupidity, racism and drink color the story in Sycamore Row and entertain the reader as he navigates through this engaging tale. For more information, read this review in the New York Times.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (2003)

curiousincidentChristopher Boone finds a dog has been killed in his neighborhood. He decides to investigate and solve the crime. Because Christopher is autistic, the story is unusual and captivating. It’s a mystery, but not really a mystery. Check out Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

The Mangle Street Murders by M. R. C. Kasasian (2014)

manglestreetRenowned London detective Sidney Grice is irascible, vain, and a genius. When he takes in a young woman as his ward, he never dreams that her humanistic approach to life will assist him in his detecting. A chance meeting with a doctor and struggling writer Arthur Conan Doyle suggests that Grice and March Middleton, his ward, will become the model for his famous detective Sherlock Holmes.

Find a copy of The Mangle Street Murders by M. R. C. Kasasian today.

A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nunn (2009)

beautifulplacetodieWhen an Afrikaner policeman is murdered in a remote area of South Africa, detective Emmanual Cooper is brought in to investigate. It is 1952, and the Apartheid system has recently become the law of the land. How does an honorable policeman investigate when not all witnesses are considered equal and people of different races are only allowed to associate in very proscribed ways? What is most intriguing in this story is the application of "race laws" that overrule family relationships and human behavior. Check out Malla Nunn’s A Beautiful Place to Die; for more mysteries set in Africa, see our book list.

Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany (2013)

heartlikemineGrace, a career woman in her mid-thirties, enters into a relationship with Victor, a divorced workaholic with two children. After Victor’s ex-wife passes away suddenly under mysterious circumstances, Grace is thrown into all the turmoil that unfolds. Heart Like Mine is narrated by three different females. The character development is really good. I’m looking forward to reading more books by Amy Hatvany.

The Impersonator by Mary Miley (2013)

impersonatorIn 1924, vaudevillian Leah Randall finds herself unemployed. When approached by shady Oliver Beckett with a scheme to impersonate a missing heiress and share in her inheritance, Leah is at first dismissive. When no paying roles materialize, Leah gives in and finds herself in a mansion on the Oregon coast impersonating Jessie Carr. Jessie disappeared seven years before. Is she alive, and if not, what happened to her? Could what happened to Jessie now happen to Leah? Mary Miley’s The Impersonator is a fun jazz-era mystery inspired by Josephine Tey’s Brat Farrar.

The Woods by Harlan Coben (2007)

The woodsNot only do you get drawn into the book immediately because of the murder of Paul Copeland’s sister almost twenty years prior, but you realize that the case he is currently prosecuting prosecuting (against a group of rich fraternity kids) is putting his life in danger.

Check out The Woods by Harlan Coben today.

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman (2014)

index.aspxIn New York City in 1911, a fire devastated both the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in Greenwich Village and destroyed the amusement park Dreamland being constructed above Coney Island.

These public events are the framework for a spellbinding tale in which the author weaves realism and fairy tale. This novel, a romance and a tightly plotted mystery, is set among carnival sideshows, freak shows, and the midway of Coney Island. Her portrayal of New York City during a pivotal year in the city’s history turns the city a character in its own right.

Alice Hoffman’s storytelling magic is here in The Museum of Extraordinary Things: a love story rich with history and a sense of place.

Buzz Kill by Beth Fantaskey (2014)

index.aspxIn this witty teen mystery, Millie Ostermeyer investigates the murder of the successful (yet unpopular) high school football coach in small town Honeywell. Aided by the enigmatic quarterback Chase Albright, Millie battles her archnemesis – the newspaper editor and cheerleading captain Viv – and the bumbling town detective in her pursuit to uncover the truth and clear her father’s name.

Buzz Kill by Beth Fantaskey is a great fit for fans of Veronica Mars, Nancy Drew, Meg Cabot’s Heather Wells mysteries, or Lisa Lutz’s Spellman family.

Chinatown (1974) R

chinatownIt is 1933 and private detective Jake Gittes is hired by a socialite to investigate her husband’s extramarital affair. Jake doesn’t know what trouble he is about to find and what is really going on. Pre-war southern California is the setting for murder, treason, political graft, deceit, and more.

Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway are at their best. This film noir movie was written for the big screen and was nominated for 11 Academy Awards. The American Film Institute rated Chinatown the second best mystery movie.

The Invisible City by Julia Dahl (2014)

index.aspxRebekah Roberts is a stringer reporter for the New York Tribune. Growing up in Florida and raised by her father, she is scarred by the absence of her Hasidic mother, who left when Rebekah was a baby. Her parents never married and met while Rebekah's mother was questioning her faith. When Rebekah is at the scene where an ultra-Orthodox woman is found dead at a scrap yard, she finds herself trying to understand a faith she doesn't know that well. She is also working on the case with a policeman named Saul who knew both her parents all those years ago. Saul wants justice for the murdered woman, Rivka Mendelssohn, but believes that the police are not investigating thoroughly and leaving it to the Hasidic community to dictate what's done, such as not performing an autopsy on Rivka. Will Rebekah be able to put her personal issues aside and put her journalist skills to good use?

Julia Dahl’s Invisible City is the first book in the Rebekah Roberts series and features an intriguing main character along with interesting story. It would appeal to readers who enjoy the Kate Burkholder books by Linda Castillo.
 

Veronica Mars Season 1 (2004-2005)

Veronica_Mars_season_1_DVDAfter hearing about this cult classic and the groundswell of fan support to make a movie, I finally watched season 1 of Veronica Mars. I can see the appeal. The title character (portrayed by Kristen Bell) is a likable yet troubled high school student in Neptune, California.

After her best friend Lilly (Amanda Seyfried) is killed and her dad Keith (Enrico Colantoni) loses his job as sheriff over the handling of the murder investigation, Veronica uses her PI skills to discover the truth behind Lilly’s death. This arc lasts the entire 22 episodes, as does Veronica’s quest to discover what happened to her at a party last year. In the meantime, she’s solving mysteries big and small for classmates and community members, plus dealing with the typical high school angst. A smart, addictive show.

The Witch Doctor's Wife by Tamar Myers (2009)

index.aspxIn the waning days of Belgian control of the Congo, enthusiastic young American Amanda Brown arrives to manage a missionary guest house. But can Amanda's enthusiasm survive living in a very different culture where witch doctors have power, everyone is named for their own worst deformity, and Belgians control every means of wealth? Amanda, called Ugly Eyes because Africans are disturbed by her blue eyes, proves up to the task since she is open to the beauty and strangeness of the country. Tamar MyersThe Witch Doctor’s Wife is for lovers of Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books, but with more emphasis on the interactions of peoples of different cultures.

The Whiskey Baron by Jon Sealy (2014)

In the early 1930s, when Prohibition was the law of the land, small time and big time bootleggers and distributors fought for control of the market. In rural South Carolina, Larthan Tull controls both. When small timer Mary Jane Hopewell tries for a cut of the business, murder ensues. As circumstances and bad judgment collide, Sheriff Chambers tries his best to prevent the worst. Jon Sealy’s The Whiskey Baron is a dense, multi-charactered historical novel.

Out of the Deep I Cry by Julia Spencer-Fleming (2004)

index.aspxOut of the Deep I Cry is another suspenseful installment of drama in the small town of Miller's Kill. This mystery spans decades and Julia Spencer-Fleming skillfully goes back and forth naming her chapters - Then and Now. Having this advantage, the reader begins to piece things together even before Rev. Clare and Russ crack the case. Jane Ketchem, mother of Mrs. Marshall from St. Alban's vestry, is still supporting the local clinic thirty years after her death. When Mrs. Marshall decides to give the money to the church, a series of events is put into motion that uncovers family secrets that have been hidden since before her birth.

As Rev. Clare and Russ work closely to uncover the truth and bring the proper people to justice, they find their friendship and their mutual attraction growing stronger. Soul mates is the only term that comes to mind as Spencer-Fleming describes the depth and pureness of their love through beautifully written dialog. The scripture passages and details of the religious ceremonies serve to solidify the morality of the characters.