The Tenant by Katrine Engberg

Katrine Engberg’s debut mystery, The Tenant, is the first book in the exciting Korner and Werner series.  Another strong entry in the Scandinavian crime genre, Engberg’s debut focuses on  Danish detectives Jeppe Korner and his partner Anette Werner who reside in Copenhagen.  Their latest case involves a young woman, Julie, who has newly relocated to Copenhagen alongside her friend and roommate.  Julie is found murdered in her apartment after a night out with friends.  Julie’s murder has undertones of a ritualistic killing pointing to Danish history.  The detectives soon learn that the victim is a tenant in a building owned by a budding novelist, Esther de Laurenti, who just happens to be writing her first novel about a young women who is murdered.  Her main character bears more than a passing resemblance to Julie.  To complicate matters, Esther is a member of a writer’s group who share their writing with other members of the group and provide feedback to each other.  Did someone have access to one member’s computer and gain access to their writing or did Esther kill her tenant?

Since de Laurenti is still actively working on her novel when the murder occurs, suspicion again turns to her when a second murder occurs and the victim is another person close to her.  She quickly becomes the prime suspect but her motivation is unclear.  Esther de Laurenti’s life is extremely colorful, hosting lavish parties and events for a sampling of Copenhagen’s elite.  Could a fellow partygoer have a reason to frame Esther?  The detectives are convinced that the crimes will continue based on her newly finished prose and urge caution when Esther convinces them to let her write another chapter in order to entrap the killer.  Will the killer follow her storyline?

Looking into her past as well as Julie’s past reveals deep and dark family secrets that are decades old and have just come to light.  Old alliances and friendships are revealed and mistaken identities are divulged.  These revelations are coupled with detective Korner’s personal demons that run the risk of derailing the entire investigation when he becomes involved with someone close to the murders.

Filled with red herrings, mistaken identities and a possible killer that has a master plan for everyone involved, The Tenant is perfect for readers who are passionate about Scandinavian crime.  The second book in the series, The Butterfly House, was just translated into English and released earlier this year.  More books in the series are planned and I look forward to the complex and multilayered relationship between Detectives Korner and Werner.

 

 

One By One by Ruth Ware

Ruth Ware is one of my favorite authors writing primarily mysteries and psychological thrillers.  With many titles being published in this genre over the last few years, Ware is unique among authors with her innovative twists and turns.  Her titles are always among the best.  If you are intrigued by this genre and don’t know where to start, I highly recommend Ruth Ware.  Each of her books is a stand alone title and any would be a good place to begin, including her latest release, One By One.

When One By One  opens, we meet Erin and Danny, caretaker and chef respectively, of a picturesque chalet in the French Alps.  They are preparing the chalet for a new tech start up group who will be arriving from London and will be renting the chalet.  The CEO has rented the house for the inner circle of the company with the intention of team building, presentations and strategizing.

As voyeurs to the group and the changing dynamic between its members, Erin and Danny soon sense tension as old secrets start to emerge. The group conducts their annual business meeting and during the meeting a faction of employees announce their intention to take a buyout deal that would make millions for a select few.

After the tense meeting, the guests try to settle in at the chalet.  Just as they start to relax, an avalanche quickly and violently destroys the chalet’s access to the outside world.  To make matters worse, one of the guests was on the slopes when the avalanche hit and did not return to the chalet.  With the group being isolated, Erin and Danny frantically try to keep the guests calm while simultaneously trying to contact the authorities for help.  They soon realize that help may not be coming and the most dire threat may be from one of the guests as their numbers start to dwindle one by one in a variety of suspicious circumstances.

The book wraps up with a thrilling ski scene that makes you feel like you are right on the slopes of the French Alps.  Again, another winner from Ruth Ware!

One By One is also available as an eBook and eAudiobook on Overdrive.

Deception at Thornecrest : An Amory Ames Mystery by Ashley Weaver

I have been a big fan of the Amory Ames mysteries by Ashley Weaver since the series debuted in 2014.  Primarily set in 1930s England, these cozy mysteries give the reader a glimpse of the pampered life of Amory Ames and her circle of friends as they jet set between England, New York and the warm Mediterranean coast.   The seventh book in the series, A Deception at Thornecrest, is another exciting and richly detailed mystery with a cast of interesting and memorable characters.

At the start of the novel, Amory and her husband, Milo, are currently residing at Thornecrest, Milo’s family estate in England.  They are eagerly anticipating the birth of their first child.  While Milo is away in London, a strange woman appears at the door and declares that she is Mrs. Ames, wife of Milo.  As Amory tries to process the news of how this mishap could have occurred, the woman confirms through a wedding photo of Amory and Milo that she is, in fact,  married to the man in the picture!  Amory’s mind spins with this news and it could not have come at a worse time, with the baby due any day.  All she can think of is that maybe Milo is up to his old tricks again.

After getting word to Milo that he must return to Thornecrest at once, he begins to answer Amory’s expected questions.  With the answers it quickly become apparent what has happened when an unknown man shows up at their door and looks very familiar to Amory and Milo.  This stranger brings a second set of mysterious developments to Thornecrest and with a bit of digging, long dead secrets resurface and questions are answered.   With one mystery somewhat solved, Amory focuses on planning the Springtide Festival in the village.

The day of the Springtide Festival arrives and all is proceeding smoothly until Milo’s stable hand, Bertie, is found murdered during the horse race.   Honing her amateur sleuth skills, Amory sets out to solve the case but she can’t help but wonder if the arrival of a few strangers to town has something to do with the murder.

If you like cozy historical mysteries set in England, I highly recommend the Amory Ames series.  You could read this book as a stand alone or consider starting the series with Murder at the Brightwell.  

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus

As you might know by now, the things I love in books include: murder mysteries, retellings of iconic works, and ensemble casts. Recently I discovered that One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus ticks all three of those boxes! It’s a twist on the iconic movie The Breakfast Club, featuring a compelling murder mystery, and it features a dynamic and well-rounded set of characters. I devoured this book in a  a day or two, because it’s very compelling reading and I had to know whodunit.

The brain is Bronwyn: driven and Ivy League bound. The athlete is Cooper: a baseball player already being scouted by teams and colleges alike. The princess is Addy: the popular girl with the perfect boyfriend. The criminal is Nate: the drug dealer with a broken home and a bad reputation. These four find themselves in detention with Simon, who runs their school’s notorious gossip app and loves spilling everybody’s secrets. But before their punishment is over, Simon is dead and they’re facing a lot of tough questions. Their lives, and their secrets, will never be the same again.

One of my favorite things about this book was the character development. Rather than sticking to their typecast roles, these characters grow, change, and discover new things about themselves through the course of their ordeal. Nobody is quite who they appear to be, in both good and chilling ways throughout the story. It reminded me strongly of the new Jumanji movies in that a dangerous situation is brightened by unexpected friendships made along the way.

Even better – there’s a sequel! One Of Us Is Next is available now, and to my delight it doesn’t immediately put the same characters in danger, derailing all their personal growth and happy endings. Instead, secondary characters from the first novel (including Bronwyn’s hacker younger sister) step into center stage in the second, taking on a whole new mystery and a whole new set of secrets. If you like hopeful mysteries, teen books, great characters, or can’t get enough of The Breakfast Club, I recommend this author’s work whole-heartedly.

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

Mystery fans, rejoice! Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile, first published in 1937, is getting a new film version this October. The film acts as a companion film to the 2017 film Murder on the Orient Express, directed by Kenneth Branagh (also based on a book of the same name). Like its predecessor, this Death on the Nile film will feature a star-studded cast and promises a thrilling interpretation of Christie’s original book.

In the original story, the famous detective Hercule Poirot is on vacation in Egypt when he is approached by heiress Linnet Doyle, who’s being plagued by a stalker. Troubled by the depth of the stalker’s hatred, Poirot finds himself onboard a cruise ship with the stalker, her victim, and the other troubled passengers, none of whom are telling the whole truth. As they journey up the Nile River, the danger mounts and Poirot races against time to discover which of the passengers’ secrets leads to murder.

I’m very excited about this movie, being a lover of mystery books as a genre and Agatha Christie in particular. I saw Murder on the Orient Express when it came out a few years ago, and it was enjoyable. However, Kenneth Branagh’s interpretation of Poirot doesn’t always work for me. While I always read him as mostly dainty and intellectual, Branagh plays Poirot as a dynamic and dramatic character with a troubled past. In the case of Death on the Nile, though, tangled morality and stormy emotions take center stage, so this version of Poirot might actually be more effective.

Whether you’re brand-new to Agatha Christie and her most famous character, or a devoted fan, this is a great opportunity to experience a great mystery story AND think about how storytelling changes when books are turned into movies. You can even compare the new film to an older film version, released in 2004, for the full experience. That’s what I’ll be doing – so stay tuned for my review!

Acorn TV Mysteries!

Over the last month, I have had the chance (and frankly, the time)  to indulge in one of my favorite digital offerings at the Davenport Public Library, Acorn TV!  Since mysteries are my genre of choice, Acorn TV a great place to find both long running mystery series and shorter limited run series.  Acorn TV has many excellent dramas, comedies and documentaries as well.  Two recent mysteries that I have discovered, Mayday and Winter are both top notch mystery series.  Each series is just one season and contain five and six episodes respectively.  These are but two of the many great mystery series available on Acorn TV.  To access Acorn TV from home, go to www.davenportlibrary.com and click on “Digital Content” at the top of the page.  Then, follow the directions under Acorn TV to create an account.

 

Mayday – A small English village holds its annual Mayday festival and parade where a local teenage girl will be crowned as Mayday Queen.  But as the parade begins and the Queen’s float appears down main street, it is empty.  The Mayday Queen has disappeared mere moments before the parade is set to begin with only her abandoned bike found near the woods at the edge of town.  The locals quickly organize to look for her throughout the area.  As the search goes on it becomes clear that many in the village have a motive to do harm to the young girl.  We meet a cast of characters, including ex-police officer, her detective husband, a real estate developer, a society wife and a man with mysterious access to heaps of cash.  Many of the locals have their own dark secrets that they intend to keep at any cost.  The series not only highlights the intricacies of the police  investigation but how the villagers react to a suspect being one of their own.  Mayday if full of red herrings, shocks and surprises and I highly recommend it for mystery fans.

 

Winter – Australian detective Eve Winter is on a brief hiatus between cases when she is recruited to come back after the death of a young woman whose body was found at the bottom of a rocky cliff just north of Sydney.   Simultaneously, Eve learns of a young girl hospitalized after a hit and run accident.  It becomes apparent to Eve that these two cases have everything to do with each other and if she can get the young girl to trust her and talk may be the key to cracking the case.  Splitting her time between the murder investigation and gaining the young girl’s trust, Eve and her team discover that there are many powerful and influential residents who will cover the secrets in their past at any cost.  Winter is another great mystery series with all the twists, turns and secrets of the past that make the story so memorable and suspenseful.

Storm Lit

Tornado BooksTornados are featured in several recent books – from literary fiction to genre mysteries.

In Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos, a tornado is the catalyst for the trajectory of the lives of several people. A 1978 storm takes the life of a mother; many years later the dysfunctional siblings gather for a funeral.

The Stormchasers by Jenna Blum is another story about the effects of tornados on a family. A sister joins a group of storm chasers in order to locate her mentally ill brother, who is a storm chaser, himself.

A 1963 tornado in Oklahoma changes the lives of four people in crisis in Five Days in May by Ninie Hammon.

There are rumors of a movie of The Breathtaker by Alice Blanchard.  Set again in Oklahoma, this is a fast-paced thriller about a police chief who realizes that foul play, rather than the storm is the cause of death for several deaths. The murders mount as the tornado season progresses.

In other books, a tornado is not the driving force in the narrative or psychology of characters, rather it’s a convenient plot point.

The Riesling Retribution by Ellen Crosby is a mystery that begins with a skull discovered after a tornado.

Similarly, in A Bad Day for Pretty by Sophie Littlefile a body is found in the aftermath of a tornado.

 

 

 

 

The Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley

I don’t read a lot of mysteries, but at the suggestion of a good friend I picked up The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, the first in a series by Alan Bradley starring wannabe detective Flavia de Luce.  Flavia is one of the most unique protagonists I have seen lately:  she’s smart, inquisitive, resourceful, and witty.  She has an obsession with chemistry, especially poisons.  Oh, and did I mention that she’s eleven years old?

In The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, we are introduced to Flavia and her family, who are living in an estate called Buckshaw in England in the 1950s.  Her mother disappeared when she was a baby, so Flavia is left with her distant father, her antagonistic older sisters, and man-about-the-house Dogger.  Things are boring as usual at Buckshaw when Flavia discovers a dead man in their cucumber patch in the middle of the night.  When Flavia’s father is taken into custody as the prime suspect, Flavia gets on the case to find out who really did it and prove her father’s innocence.  Flavia follows a series of initially puzzling clues (including an antique postage stamp and a dead bird) that lead to the identity of the killer, making for an exciting and surprising climax.  I listened to the audiobook and it’s very enjoyable; the reader manages to capture Flavia’s spirit very well and make it an exciting listen.

After finishing this book I had to immediately go out and pick up a copy of the second in the series, called The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag.  Flavia meets a traveling puppet show team whose car has broken down, and so they elect to do a series of shows in Bishop’s Lacey while they are waiting for the repairs.  When the star of the show is murdered, of course Flavia is the first one on the case.  I’m in the middle of it right now and I’m glad to say that Flavia has kept her cheek and tenacity fully intact.  The third book in the series, A Red Herring Without Mustard, just came out a couple months ago to rave reviews, and it’s certainly next on my “To Read” list.  If you like mysteries with a strong female protagonist, the charming setting of England, or mysteries that really keep you guessing right up to the end, this series will not disappoint.  Even if you don’t usually read mysteries, I recommend checking out this series, because I’m sure you’ll enjoy getting to know Flavia de Luce.

Following Polly by Karen Bergreen

Alice Teakle grows on you. In the beginning of Following Polly by Karen Bergreen, I thought Alice was pathetic and weird; I wasn’t sure I liked her. Her preoccupation, not to say, hobby, is following an old school mate, who is now a major celebrity. She seems particularly adept at sabotaging herself and any success she might achieve in work or family life.

As Alice’s  life starts to fall apart and she is the prime suspect in first one then another murder, I really began to respect her resourcefulness. Alice turns out to be amazingly adept at hiding from the police, and surviving on the streets.

No matter how bad things ge, Alice is funny and smart (she also has a photographic memory). She is definitely not a stereotypical heroine and the plot’s trajectory is not predictable.

A Spider on the Stairs

A Spider on the Stairs is a “contemporary reimagining of the classic English mystery.”  It is refreshingly old-fashioned in its absence of gore and forensic razzle-dazzle.

This is part of a series featuring Scotland Yard Sergeant Jack Gibbons and his best friend, Phillip Bethancourt. Bethancourt is an upper-class dilettante who tags along with Gibbons while he investigates first one, then several murders around the beautiful, yet tourist-clogged town of York. Chan does a marvelous job of evoking the cozy atmosphere of the bookshop, York’s warren of streets and the countryside during a particularly rainy spell.

Phillip’s social connections  provide Jack with  insider knowledge that help to solve the case. Because he doesn’t have to work and has no real family obligations, Bethancourt can devote whatever time and energy he has left over- after  socializing late into the evening and romancing women.

The book begins with a murder in Mittlesdon, a charming old bookshop. There is a feeling of calm, unhurried serenity  as the bodies stack up – even the bad guys remain polite and civilized.