Peter Lovesey: The Crime of Miss Oyster Brown

Peter Lovesey has written some of my very favorite detective novels – The False Inspector Dew(1982), Rough Cider (1986) and The Reaper (2000), not to mention his long and delightful Peter Diamond series.  One of the things Lovesey is the very absolute best at is simply plot.  In his novels, these can be longer and more complex affairs, but in this collection of short stories, the plots are deadly little masterpieces of wit and style.

Short stories are a tricky medium.  In a short span of pages, an author needs to draw the reader in, make them care about at least one person in the narrative, and tell a completely contained story, soup to nuts.  Lovesey’s elegant writing and humor serve him well, as story after story in this collection, reprinted here by the venerable Crippen & Landru, are both memorable and concise. read more

Elly Griffiths: The Stranger Diaries

This is a banner week for us as we add two new reviewers!  The second is our daughter Margaret. who unsurprisingly is a big mystery fan, and one of her favorites is Elly Griffiths.  Welcome, Margaret!

Elly Griffiths, author of two mystery series, takes a stab at stand alone fiction with The Stranger Diaries. This novel brings us a modern-day gothic horror story while keeping solidly grounded in tradition. Instead of a castle or drafty mansion, there is an old school with secrets. Instead of a threatening lord of the manor, characters are menaced by fellow teachers and students. There is a ghost story in the background of the novel, and a mystery concerning the true identity of someone long dead. Delightfully, the novel’s three heroines are not quite so traditional. read more

Claire Harman: Murder by the Book: The Crime That Shocked Dickens’s London

Like many True Crime books, Murder by the Book starts with a bloody crime, a man with his throat cut in his own bed. London in 1840 was a pretty grim place, but the reason this crime became a veritable national sensation didn’t have much to do with the gore of the thing or the apparent brazenness of it, but the simple fact that it happened to a member of the uppermost crust, Lord William Russell. Forget the miserable and dangerous lives of the poor, when an aristocrat got murdered, the new consort, Prince Albert, and the old general, the Duke of Wellington, wanted to see the matter cleared up as soon as possible. read more

Sophie Hannah: The Next to Die

Sophie Hannah’s books are police procedurals, and technically a series, but she seems always more interested in plot than in the coppers making the deductions.  That’s not a bad thing, but there’s no Inspector Dalgleish or Rebus or Banks to love.  Instead, the reader gets the messier – and no doubt far more realistic – interchange of police at all different levels and abilities.  In the case in this novel, the group have a very puzzling crime to solve.

Hannah diffuses her narrative with different narrators, newspaper columns, emails, and a host of other devices that keep the reader guessing along with the detectives.  There’s the straight up procedural story where the police are trying to solve a string of four murders that look to be paired murders of best friends, though carried out at different times and in different locations, and then there’s the story of the various characters in the novel. read more

The Noir version of The ABC Murders

John Malovich as Poirot, Rupert Grint as Inspector Crome

When we closed the store and no longer felt Amazon breathing down our necks, we went ahead and subscribed to Amazon Prime so we could catch up on things like Bosch, which customers had been telling us frequently they enjoyed.  (And Bosch is excellent, very true to the books though not an exact replica).

Prime’s The ABC Murders is not an exact replica of Christie’s enjoyable, early serial killer novel either.  First there’s the casting of John Malkovich as Poirot.  He doesn’t look like everyone’s mental picture of Poirot – that would be David Suchet – he’s instead an older, defeated Poirot, scraping along without his faithful valet, George, and his nightly hot chocolate. read more

Peter Robinson: Careless Love

This title is available Feb. 12.  You can pre-order and we’ll ship when it arrives.

Peter Robinson’s Inspector Banks books are classics of the rare sort – British police procedurals that aren’t too dark, with a sympathetic main character at the center of things. Banks is a decent guy, obsessed with music and wine (reading the books is a crash course in jazz) and respectful of his co-workers. That said, I was thinking recently about what makes a book great, rather than just good. And I think it’s theme. read more

Start at the very beginning

An overview of First in Series books: find them for sale in our online store.

We’re offering these first in series titles for a couple reasons – one, some are hard to find and mystery readers like to read a series in order!  And secondly, while many of you may be familiar with these series, you may have only read the later books.  These are all incredible starts to great characters and stories.  Reading through all of them will give you a great overview of contemporary mystery fiction, in all its many threads – private eye, police, cozy, British procedural, historical.  Setting has proven to be key for the modern mystery as has a broader array of character types, ranging from Tony Hillerman’s iconic Joe Leaphorn to James Lee Burke’s P.I. Dave Robichaux to Laura Lippman’s kick-ass Tess Monaghan to Dorthy Gilman’s sweet old lady CIA agent Mrs. Pollifax.  If you had walked in to our store, we would have recommended these titles to you depending on your interest.  One of our all time bestsellers was Deborah Crombie’s spectacular debut, A Share in Death.  We hope you’ll dig in!  Here’s a list, and you can find them for sale on the online store page. read more

Susan Hill: The Various Haunts of Men

First in a series novel. 

There are some mystery novels that are as much novels as they are mysteries. Admirers of authors like Elizabeth George, Ruth Rendell and P.D. James who favor complex plots, multiple characters and a subtle, slow accumulation of suspense found another skilled writer to savor when Susan Hill published her first Simon Serrailler mystery, The Various Haunts of Men, in 2004.

Branding the book as a “Simon Serrailler mystery” is a bit disingenuous, as Chief Inspector Serrailler is not the central focus, but a rather distant presence, reflecting the elusive nature of his character, particularly to DS Freya Graffam, a newcomer to the small English town of Lafferton, and the central agent of law enforcement in the narrative. Like the traditional English novel there are many other fully realized characters including the killer, his multiple victims, tangentially involved townsfolk and the town itself. read more

Lynne Truss: A Shot in the Dark

While I was hesitant to pick up this novel – Truss is best known for her grammar book Eats, Shoots and Leaves – I was smitten by her introduction where she confessed her goal of becoming a member of the Detection Club.  After reading that, I was all in, and the book took me the rest of the way on its own.  This is the kind of funny, dry, intelligent humor the Brits do so well, and the set up is delicious.

The novel is set in Brighton in 1957, and makes frequent reference to Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock, a classic novel about gangs.  Truss’s Brighton, while also beset by gangs, is a slightly less ominous place.  The story opens as Inspector Steine is greeted by a new and enthusiastic recruit, Constable Twitten.  Steine is pretty oblivious and only interested in resting on his past laurels – where two rival gangs took themselves out under his watch – he now insists, Stalin-like, that there is no more crime in Brighton. read more

Elly Griffiths: The Dark Angel

Elly Griffiths goes from strength to strength with her Ruth Galloway series. She’s created a long form look at a main character that most readers not only love, but identify with. In this outing as Ruth hits the beach with her glam friend Shona, her discomfort at wearing her old black one piece in public is something pretty much any woman can relate to. But of course there’s more than an identification with Ruth Galloway that makes Griffiths’ novels a standout – she’s an effortless and energetic storyteller who punctuates her writing with healthy dollops of humor. What’s not to love? read more