mystery


Author Rating: C/B

The Cat Who Could Read Backwards (read 8/1/2013) Recommended

Surprisingly well written, delightful and engaging light entertainment. First published in 1966, this is the first novel in Lilian Jackson Braun’s “The Cat Who…” series, featuring James Mackintosh Qwilleran (Qwill), a former crime reporter who, as the story opens, is hired to write about the art scene for an unnamed city’s newspaper, and introducing Kao K’o-Kung (Koko for short), the cat in the title. Although never formally stated in her books, the geographical settings in the series are thought to be modeled after Bad Axe, Michigan, where Braun lived until the mid-1980s.

UPDATE:  While the first book was a pleasure to read, those that followed … not so much.  Braun was unable or unwilling to continue Qwill as she had begun, and the books that followed hang on nothing but the thin thread of novelty.

The rest of The Cat Who novels are as follows:

Ate Danish Modern (1967)
Turned On and Off (1968)
Saw Red (1986)
Played Brahms (1987)
Played Post Office (1988)
Knew Shakespeare (1988)
Sniffed Glue (1988)
Went Underground (1989)
Talked to Ghosts (1990)
Lived High (1990)
Knew a Cardinal (1991)
Moved a Mountain (1991)
Wasn’t There (1992)
Went Into the Closet (1993)
Came to Breakfast (1994)
Blew the Whistle (1995)
Said Cheese (1996)
Tailed a Thief (1997)
Sang for the Birds (1998)
Saw Stars (1999)
Robbed a Bank (2000)
Smelled a Rat (2001)
Went Up the Creek (2002)
Brought Down the House (2003)
Talked Turkey (2004)
Went Bananas (2005)
Dropped a Bombshell (2006)
Had 60 Whiskers (2007)

Braun also had published three collections of short stories:

The Cat Who Had 14 Tales (1988)
The Private Life of the Cat Who… (2003)
Short and Tall Tales (2003)

Author Rating: B+

Every Demon Has His Day (read 10/26/11) Recommended

This was a random pick from the library shelf that turned out to be terrific! This well-written, humorous, fast-paced story about a woman who discovers she’s a prophet who has to save the world by preventing Satan from fathering the anti-Christ after her husband is killed by a demon and everyone thinks she killed him. Reminiscent of Christopher Moore.

The only reason I gave Lockwood a B+ instead of an A was the lame final chapter.

Can’t Teach An Old Demon New Tricks (read 11/9/11) Recommended

This is a sequel to Every Demon Has His Day and again Lockwood does a good job although, as before, she doesn’t know when to put down the pen. The maudlin sappiness of the last chapter is unfortunately. My only other complaint is Lockwood dumbing-down Frank, a pug in the first book and a novice angel in this one.

Author Rating: D

Isle of Dogs (read 10/20/11) AVOID

Wow, does Patricia Cornwell have something really big she’s using to blackmail someone at Putnam to get them to publish her books? One reviewer at Amazon wonders whether “we have a case of an imperious, arrogant author who has cheesed off her publishers enough that they’re letting her readers see what she’s really like?”

This novel is supposed to have been a change for Cornwell from serial killer/suspense to what the San Francisco Examiner describes as “the world of black humor.” They were a little too generous in suggesting that she “nearly conquers it,” but Carl Hiaasen doesn’t need to move over because Cornwell won’t be keeping him company. Cornwell writes at about the level of a fifth-grader and wouldn’t recognize humor if it ran her over.

Let me give you an example:

“I thought we were doing our best to play down this pirate business,” the governor seemed to remember. [“Seemed to remember”? WTF?] “Didn’t I order Superintendent Hammer not to release any statements to the press about anything without our approving it first?” [Could dialogue be any more awkward?]

“You certainly did. And so far, we’re managing to keep the sensational details out of the media.”

“You don’t suppose Trooper Truth [give me a fucking break] intends to keep blabbing about our pirate problem on the Internet, do you?”

“Yes, sir, “Trader replied as if he knew this for a fact. “We can rest assured his website is going to open a can of worms, because by all appearances, it’s an inside job and I fear your administration could be blamed if things really get ugly.”

“You might be right. I get blamed for most things,” the governor confessed as his stomach rumbled and his intestines lurched into activity like worms suddenly exposed to daylight. He wished Trader had not mentioned a can of worms.

Cornwell received money for writing that crap. There truly is no justice.

Governor Crimm picked up his nineteenth-century magnifying glass, which was English and made of ivory. Peering through the lens, he made out enough of the essay’s contents to get interested and slightly offended.

Really, Putnam?

The only mystery here is how this crap got published.

Author Rating: C

Boo Who (read 10/1/11) Meh

It’s not the most terrible book in the world, and if you are trapped on an airplane with nothing else to read you wouldn’t necessarily be trying to open the emergency exit to escape, but with so many better reads available I threw this book aside.

This is apparently the second in a series. If this is what WaterBrook Press considers worthy of publication, I’d hate to see what they reject.

Author Rating: Not Yet Read

I am adding Banville/Black to my list after reading a recommendation for his crime novel Christine Falls while grazing the internets this morning.

According to Wikipedia, “Banville is known for his precise, cold, forensic prose style, Nabokovian inventiveness, and for the dark humour of his generally arch narrators.”

Author Rating: B+

Reginald Hill is a contemporary English crime writer, awarded the Crime Writers’ Association Cartier Diamond Dagger for Lifetime Achievement in 1995.

Death Comes For The Fat Man (read 8/20/11) Recommended

This is Hill’s 22nd crime novel featuring Yorkshire detectives Andrew Dalziel, Peter Pascoe and Edgar Wield. I would have liked to start reading this series with the first book, but my neighborhood library has a limited selection and, not knowing whether it would be worth the wait to order the first (A Clubbable Woman), I plunged in. If you are a fan of crime fiction and enjoy a good series, I can tell you, if your library has to order it from elsewhere in the system, it will be worth the wait to be able to begin at the beginning. Hill is definitely one of the better crime fiction writers.

Dialogues of the Dead (read 9/3/11) Recommended

Hill does a great job creating compelling characters and sustaining the reader’s interest throughout. I highly recommend this novel for its intelligence.

Pictures of Perfection (read 9/30/11) Recommended

A Dalziel and Pascoe mystery in which appearances can be deceiving.

Good Morning Midnight (read 10/6/11) Recommended

Dalziel and Pascoe investigate a suicide done in such a way as to throw suspicion of murder on the “wicked stepmother” and uncover hints of an international arms conspiracy.

The Woodcutter (read 11/13/11) Meh

I actually haven’t finished reading this one yet and I wouldn’t if I had anything else on my table. It’s a stand-alone story about a guy who leaves home as a young man to seek his fortune so that he can win the hand of his true love. The source of his fortune is the big mystery. When he’s been happily married for about 16 years, he’s convicted of fraud and pedophilia. The story really starts when he’s in prison and we learn his past through his conversations with his psychiatrist. The psychiatrist character is badly drawn and really annoying. I’m in a section now where that character is not involved but I dread her reappearance. I’ll keep reading until the library gets the books I’ve ordered but I doubt I’ll finish this.

Author Rating: A

A Most Wanted Man (read 1/30/11)

This is the first LeCarre that I have read, and I was pleasantly surprised with how good it was, because, in my opinion, most of today’s “popular” authors are crap.

A poor young Russian man named Issa, son of a Chechen woman and a member of the Russian military, makes his way illegally to Hamburg, Germany to see a banker about money his father left in a secret account. Standing between Issa and his dream of becoming a doctor and helping the people of Chechnya are multiple German, American and British spy agencies who believe him to be a terrorist and want to use him to entrap other Muslims as part of the War on Terror or simply lock him away.

The Little Drummer Girl (started to read 2/10/13)

I started this book but my heart wasn’t in it, so I have put it aside. I guess I just don’t find “political thrillers” to be entertainment given that in the real world people are dying as a result of the games portrayed in these books.

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