One By One by Ruth Ware

One by One

This book was recommended by one of my local librarians.

Stats: Published in 2020, Audio – 11 CDs, Narrator – Imogen Church, Print – 372 pages

Blurb: Getting snowed in at a beautiful, rustic mountain chalet doesn’t sound like the worst problem in the world, especially when there’s a breathtaking vista, a cozy fire, and company to keep you warm. But what happens when that company is eight of your coworkers…and you can’t trust any of them?
When an off-site company retreat meant to promote mindfulness and collaboration goes utterly wrong when an avalanche hits, the corporate food chain becomes irrelevant and survival trumps togetherness. Come Monday morning, how many members short will the team be?

What I liked: As people started getting picked off “One by One” in a situation where there is only so many people involved in a place where they can’t get away from each other (in a snowed in chalet), I definitely thought of Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians (which started out with a not socially acceptable – now – title). And Ruth reproduces the feeling of that great Christie story pretty well. You definitely feel like you’re in the chalet. You definitely get the feeling of the different characters (and Imogen Church helps this a lot too), and I didn’t know “who done it” until she tells you. I was listening so I couldn’t really go back and see if she “cheated” at all in how she used the different people’s voices (the different sections are told by different characters), but I trust that she’s a good enough author that she didn’t do that. I also like how the Ware does tell you who the murder is but there is still more of the book to go. The final ski down the mountain was a nasty. I’m not a skilled downhill skier, so it put me on edge for sure.

What I didn’t like: The end was a bit slow and I don’t remember learning with happened to some of the other characters when they split up. I would have liked to know why they didn’t come back in time.

Rating: 4/5

Death on the Nile – Agatha Christie

Death on the NileI am writing a mystery (the third book in the Agnes Kelly Mystery Adventure) so I want to listen to good mystery novels and who is better than Agatha? – Not many 🙂

Stats: First published Nov. 1, 1937. Audio book is 8 hours (7 discs). This audio books was narrated by the actor David Suchet.

Blurb: (Goodreads) Linnet Doyle is young, beautiful, and rich. She’s the girl who has everything–including the man her best friend loves. When Linnet and her new husband take a cruise on the Nile, they meet brilliant detective Hercule Poirot. It should be an idyllic trip, yet Poirot feels that something is amiss.

What I liked: I really didn’t have a clue to “who done it” until the very end even though the murder took place on a moving boat. And I think the only reason I figured it out before Poirot announced it was I think maybe I have read the story a long time ago but don’t remember that I read it. But I didn’t remember the surprise at the very end. I wonder why Christie decided to add that last bit. It is interesting as a writer how there is quite a bit of setup before the murder even takes place. That would never fly in a story written today. And not only does the murder kill once, but three times before Poirot figures out who did it. I always enjoy Christie’s portrayal of Poirot – he does think highly of himself.

What I didn’t like: There was a bit too much background information to my liking and it got a little confusing about who was who, because there has to be many different characters since the murder happens on a moving boat and there has to be various people to suspect of the crime. David Suchet does a wonderful job creating the different characters.

Rating: 4/5

 

Death of a Chimney Sweep by M.C. Beaton

Death of a Chimney Sweep (Hamish Macbeth #26)I was up for a mystery. I wanted to listen to Agatha Christie but the library I was in didn’t have her in audio (unheard of!) so I picked this up. I’d never read Beaton (aka Marion Chesney) before. It’s not the first dead body I’ve read about in a chimney, however. I wonder if this is mostly a writer’s fantasy or do murderers really stuff bodies in chimneys? Sounds difficult to me!

Stats: published in 2011, print is 247 pages, audio book is 5 discs or 5′ 37″, narrator is Graeme Malcolm.

Blurb: In the south of Scotland, residents get their chimneys vacuum-cleaned. But in the isolated villages in the very north of Scotland, the villagers rely on the services of the itinerant sweep, Pete Ray, and his old-fashioned brushes. Pete is always able to find work in the Scottish highlands, until one day when Police Constable Hamish Macbeth notices blood dripping onto the floor of a villager’s fireplace, and a dead body stuffed inside the chimney. The entire town of Lochdubh is certain Pete is the culprit, but Hamish doesn’t believe that the affable chimney sweep is capable of committing murder. Then Pete’s body is found on the Scottish moors, and the mystery deepens. Once again, it’s up to Hamish to discover who’s responsible for the dirty deed–and this time, the murderer may be closer than he realizes.

What I liked: I especially liked the narration. Malcolm does a wonderful job with the various characters so that you can almost picture them. I don’t know the man, but he’s got to be from England or maybe even Scotland, where the story takes place. I liked the town folk of Lochdubh (what a wonderful town name – I wonder if it’s real?). Beaton/Chesney does well in playing up the local flare. The lady spinster giving the bad guy bleach with his tea was a particularly nice touch! And the Hamish character is very lovable – a practical man (gets rid of a dead body rather than have his cat implicated), smart and quirky. I’m not surprised she has more books around him.

What I didn’t like: The author has an odd writing style – bouncing around from one character to another to tie up loose writing end no matter what was going on. It threw me at first but by the end, I was used to it and could just take it in stride. I wonder if all her Hamish mysteries are written this way?

Rating: 4/5 – A fun read/listen

That Old Black Magic by Mary Jane Clark

I like mysteries, so I thought I’d try this one and I have never read any Mary Jane Clark novels.

That Old Black Magic (Wedding Cake Mystery, #4)Stats: Audio is narrated by Therese Plummer, 6 discs for 7.5′, pubished in 2014, print is 368 pages.

Blurb: New York Times bestselling author Mary Jane Clark whips up a savory and suspenseful confection in her newest mystery featuring Piper DonovanAspiring actress and wedding-cake decorator Piper Donovan has barely arrived in New Orleans to perfect her pastry skills at the renowned French Quarter bakery, Boulangerie Bertrand when a ghastly murder rocks the magical city.Intrigued by the case, Piper can’t help but look for the “Hoodoo Killer” among the faces around her. Could it be the handsome guide eager to give her special private tours? Or the inscrutable jazz musician who plays on historic Royal Street? What about the ratings-starved radio talk-show host? Or even the amiable owner of the local Gris-Gris Bar?Though Piper has a full plate decorating cakes for upcoming wedding celebrations, she’s also landed an exciting but unnerving role in a movie being shot in the Big Easy. When the murderer strikes again, leaving macabre clues, she thinks she can unmask the killer. But Piper will have to conjure up some old black magic of her own if she hopes to live long enough to reveal the truth.

What I liked: I’m not sure. It was an “okay” read and I didn’t figure out “who done it” before the author told me, but it was just kind of blah. I’m not even sure why I say that. I guess Piper was not a particularly interesting character and I guess the author really didn’t make me care too much about her. Maybe if I’d have read other books in the Piper Donovan series – this is #4 I think – I might have enjoyed it more. Oh, and Theresa Plummer does a fine job.

What I didn’t like: It wasn’t so much I didn’t like this thing I’m about to mention, it was more that it seemed odd – Piper is a cake decorator and an actress?!  What? The oddity of this in the story is she is visiting New Orleans to work with a renowned baker, then she hears about a 2 day acting job. Weird. Two day acting job in a movie? I don’t know the movie business much but that seems very unrealistic. I could see an actress moonlighting as a baker between gigs but to take on intership, so to speak, for baking must mean you’re serious about baking. But how can you be serious about baking and be serious about acting. I know it’s picky and this is supposed to be a cozy mystery, but…it just bothered me. And the writing was “okay.” It wasn’t very inspiring, if you know what I mean.

Rating: 3/5

Bones Never Lie by Kathy Reich

19085558I picked this up because I wanted to listen to a book I knew I would enjoy because I haven’t read a Reichs’ book I have not liked.

Stats: 336 print pages, Narrator Katherine Borowitz, published September 2014

Blurb: (Goodreads) Unexpectedly called in to the Charlotte PD’s Cold Case Unit, Dr. Temperance Brennan wonders why she’s been asked to meet with a homicide cop who’s a long way from his own jurisdiction. The shocking answer: Two child murders, separated by thousands of miles, have one thing in common—the killer. Years ago, Anique Pomerleau kidnapped and murdered a string of girls in Canada, then narrowly eluded capture. It was a devastating defeat for her pursuers, Brennan and police detective Andrew Ryan. Now, as if summoned from their nightmares, Pomerleau has resurfaced in the United States, linked to victims in Vermont and North Carolina. When another child is snatched, the reign of terror promises to continue—unless Brennan can rise to the challenge and make good on her second chance to stop a psychopath.

But Brennan will have to draw her bitter ex-partner out of exile, keep the local police and feds from one another’s throats, and face more than just her own demons as she stalks the deadliest of predators into the darkest depths of madness.

What I liked: This is the first time I can remember that I actually figured out part of the puzzle. I don’t know if Reichs wrote the story so the reader could figure out part of it, but she did. She didn’t give away why the killer did what the killer did (won’t tell you whether it’s a male or female), so I still wanted to listen to the end so I could find out why. You do want to find out why because of the odd case. The story is about children being killed, so that automatically makes you care, but the story is written well, as every book of Reich’s I’ve read so far. The narrator, Katherine Borowitz, was fun to listen to and did well with the different voices. Reich uses characters from an older story, so it makes the characters seem more real.

What I didn’t like: I can’t remember anything I didn’t like.

Rating: 5/5

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley

22693905This is the 7th in the Flavia de Luce Series

Genre: Murder mystery

Stats: Published January 2015, 392 pages, 9 discs – 11 hours, read by Jayne Entwistle

Book Blurb: (Goodreads) Hard on the heels of the return of her mother’s body from the frozen reaches of the Himalayas, Flavia, for her indiscretions, is banished from her home at Buckshaw and shipped across the ocean to Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy in Toronto, her mother’s alma mater, there to be inducted into a mysterious organization known as the Nide.

No sooner does she arrive, however, than a body comes crashing down out of the chimney and into her room, setting off a series of investigations into mysterious disappearances of girls from the school.

What I liked: Alan Bradley always makes a good mystery that you can’t figure out but this is not his best book. I really enjoy his names i.e., Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy – wonderful. Jayne Entwistle was as good as usual. Book spoiler: I’m surprised he is bring Flavia back to England so soon. I figured there would be a few books at this institution. Maybe he didn’t like it (someone at his publishing house maybe told him he has to change the scene) and that’s why the book isn’t the best.

What I didn’t like: The story seemed a bit disjointed. It wasn’t as tightly written with clues and characters as his 6 other books, but hey – 6 good books in row is a good record. I can’t complain too much.

Rating: 3.5/5

Still Life by Louise Penny

still lifeA good friend gave me this book. I had not read any Louise Penny but I probably will read more.

Genre: Murder mystery, 293 pages of very small type (my paperback edition), published in 2007, 1st Armand Gamache mystery

Blurb: (Goodreads) Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montréal and yet a world away. Jane Neal, a long-time resident of Three Pines, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it’s a tragic hunting accident and nothing more but Gamache smells something foul this holiday season…and is soon certain that Jane died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.

With this award-winning first novel, Louise Penny introduces an engaging hero in Inspector Gamache, who commands his forces—and this series—with power, ingenuity, and charm.

What I liked: It was a good story; good characters, good plot, different subplots (subplots that had very little to do with the story but added to character development), and I couldn’t guess who done it! It was interesting to read about life in small town, Canada. Similar to small town Wisconsin as far as I could tell.

What I didn’t like: I always have a hard time reading stories from other countries that use in apostrophe with dialogue (Canada, Australia, maybe the UK too, I’m not sure). It’s a minor annoyance but sometimes (especially with the small type I was reading, it was hard to see when someone was talking.  The other thing that was just a bit hard to swallow was how everyone saw themselves or others in town in the “still life” painting the dead character did. If the painting is as busy as it sounds (it’s a scene of parade), then I highly doubt people could pick themselves out of a crowd.

Rating: 4/5

Bones Are Forever by Kathy Reichs

bone are fI was taking a trip and needed a book to read. Kathy Reich is always a good choice.

Genre: Murder Mystery

Blurb: (Goodreads) A woman calling herself Amy Roberts checks into a Montreal hospital complaining of uncontrolled bleeding. Doctors see evidence of a recent birth, but before they can act, Roberts disappears. Dispatched to the address she gave at the hospital, police discover bloody towels outside in a Dumpster. Fearing the worst, they call Temperance Brennan to investigate.

In a run-down apartment Tempe makes a ghastly discovery: the decomposing bodies of three infants. According to the landlord, a woman named Alma Rogers lives there. Then a man shows up looking for Alva Rodriguez. Are Amy Roberts, Alma Rogers, and Alva Rodriguez the same person? Did she kill her own babies? And where is she now?

Heading up the investigation is Tempe’s old flame, homicide detective Andrew Ryan. His counterpart from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is sergeant Ollie Hasty, who happens to have a little history with Tempe himself, which she regrets. This unlikely trio follows the woman’s trail, first to Edmonton and then to Yellowknife, a remote diamond-mining city deep in the Northwest Territories. What they find in Yellowknife is more sinister than they ever could have imagined.

What I didn’t like: The topic of dead newborns, though not throughout the story, is a sad one,  the names of places and characters got a little confusing at times because I was listening to this story, and the explanation of diamond exploration gets a touch old, but that’s about it for the didn’t like category.

What I liked: Like most Kathy Reich stories, it kept you wanting to read/listen chapter after chapter. I always like Temperance’s attitude and there are typically interesting characters that she comes across to add a smile and some spice (like the kid on the bike – fun dialogue there) to the story.  You get a feeling for who done it, or a least a bit of one, until she reveals the probably motive close to the end. But it’s an interesting enough ending that a probable guess doesn’t spoil the book at all. The narrator was the one I’ve heard for most of Kathy’s books,  Linda Emond , and she is very good, as usual.

Rating: 4/5

Dead Man’s Chest by Kerry Greenwood

dead man's chestGenre: Murder mystery, a Phryne Fisher mystery (narrated by Stephanie Daniel)

Blurb: (from Goodreads) Phryne Fisher needs a rest. It’s summer. She packs up her family and moves to Queenscliff, a quiet watering place on the coast. Where she meets with smugglers, pirate treasure and some very interesting surrealists, including a parrot called Pussykins. What is the mysterious Madame Selavey hiding? Where are the Johnsons, who were supposed to be in the holiday house?

What I liked: I liked the narrator of this story, Stephanie Daniel, did a nice job with the large number of characters. I like Greenwood’s characterization, the characters are very real and enjoyable and the main character – Phryne Fisher – is a woman to be admired, more notable because this story was supposed to take place, I’m thinking, in the 1920s but the rest…

What I didn’t like: The rest seemed all over the place. I really had a hard time keeping the characters straight, even the main ones until well into the book. Part of the issue might be that this is book 18 in the Fisher mystery series (I was unaware of this when I picked it up), but maybe it’s also because Greenwood is Australian and maybe the book style of that country is different from mine. I have noticed a difference, at times, reading from someone from the UK so perhaps it is similar with the country down under. And the story was very difficult to follow. Greenwood moved from one scene and set of characters to another with minimal to no transition and at times it was difficult to know what the characters were talking about until a page or so into the scene. I kept reading because I liked the characters, but the story itself was uninteresting and odd at times. Perhaps if I tried an earlier work, it would have been better. Sometimes writers or editors become lazy after so many books in a series.

Rating: 2/5

A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton

a if for alibiActually, A is for Almost. A is for Alibi is almost there but not quite.  We were listening to it in our car on a trip to meet family and even my husband thought it was just so, so.

Genre: murder mystery

Blurb: A IS FOR AVENGER
A tough-talking former cop, private investigator Kinsey Millhone has set up a modest detective agency in a quiet corner of Santa Teresa, California. A twice-divorced loner with few personal possessions and fewer personal attachments, she’s got a soft spot for underdogs and lost causes.

A IS FOR ACCUSED
That’s why she draws desperate clients like Nikki Fife. Eight years ago, she was convicted of killing her philandering husband. Now she’s out on parole and needs Kinsey’s help to find the real killer. But after all this time, clearing Nikki’s bad name won’t be easy.

A IS FOR ALIBI
If there’s one thing that makes Kinsey Millhone feel alive, it’s playing on the edge. When her investigation turns up a second corpse, more suspects, and a new reason to kill, Kinsey discovers that the edge is closer–and sharper–than she imagined.

What I liked: The writing was fine. The dialogue was fine. The story was plausible.

What I didn’t like: It didn’t keep my interest. I was stuck in a car while listening to it and it was only 3 CD’s in length (thank goodness), so we listened to the whole thing, but I didn’t connect with the main character – Kinsey Millhone – at all, and I kept getting the different characters mixed up – they just weren’t that memorable. I am not a mystery writer and most of the mysteries I have read have been Agatha Christie, so I really can only compare Ms Grafton’s work to hers, and I’m sorry to say, it doesn’t compare. I will try one more Grafton alphabet novel, maybe picking further up the alphabet, hoping she improved with practice.

Rating: 2.5/5