Tag Archives: detective story

The Red House Mystery

Author: A. A. Milnethe red house mystery

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Mr. Anthony Gillingham has made a life of wearing many hats, switching from one to the next as soon as he has mastered the first. And his sharp wit and photographic memory make doing so rather easy–not that he doesn’t work at excelling at whatever he chooses to do. So when he stops in at the countryside residence of Mark Ablett (to visit an old friend who is also staying there on holiday) and discovers a murder has just occurred . . . well, why not try being a detective?

I absolutely love Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh series, so I was pretty excited when I discovered he also wrote other books, including this one, solitary mystery. For those who love fast-paced, tightly plotted mystery thrillers, The Red House Mystery is nothing like that. For those who enjoyed Milne’s children’s books, this is that sort of story, just for adults and a murder mystery. Which makes no sense at all, I know, but it’s true. This book is quaint and bucolic, there’s a period-specific air of leisure–and indeed a very period-specific vibe in general–that shine throughout in that natural way that historical fiction can never quite emulate. Which isn’t to say that the mystery itself isn’t interesting and perhaps even clever. It’s just developed in a more leisurely sort of way. I liked the characters, even though Mr. Gillingham is a bit larger than life–how many detective stories are written about characters who aren’t? In any case, The Red House Mystery isn’t groundbreaking or marvelous, but for a nice, easy-paced, fun read, I think it suits quite nicely.




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The Angel’s Kiss: A Melody Malone Mystery

Author: Justin Richardsthe angel's kiss

My rating: 3.5 of 5

*SPOILER ALERT*: This book ties in to the seventh series of Doctor Who, and there may be spoilers for those who haven’t seen this series yet. And really, a huge part of the appeal of this story will be exclusively for those who have seen the series.

Melody Malone–sole detective and owner of the Angel Detective Agency. You could say that she specializes in a certain sort of case. Not that she isn’t intrigued when Rock Railton, one of the most attractive actors around, comes by–flirting atrociously and claiming someone’s out to kill him. But Melody isn’t hooked, not until she hears the phrase “kiss of the angel”. But when she comes around to a party–at Rock’s invitation–she encounters an ancient hobo who begs her assistance and a Rock Railton who doesn’t even recognize her. Something very strange is going on. . . .

Fans of Doctor Who will likely recognize The Angel’s Kiss as a book that showed up in the show–a book written by River Song under the pen name of Melody Malone, which ended up playing a large part in the plot of an episode or two. (As a complete aside, there’s got to be a word for that, right? Books that show up in other stories but that previously didn’t exist in the outside world? Like the Simon Snow books, and Carry On in specific, since it became an actual physical book afterward in a slightly different form. It’s been bugging me, so if you know, please comment.) In any case, the text of this actual e-book isn’t the same as what you hear in the TV show. But there’s a definite River Song tone to the whole story which totally makes it. The entire book is written in first person, and you can hear her bad-girl vibe coming through strongly throughout. That and the humor, sass, and attitude with which the story is told are what bring this mystery from dime novel to dazzling, really. (And it is very funny. I caught myself laughing aloud in public several times. Oops.) The Doctor Who references are also a definite plus. As you can imagine, the story involves the Weeping Angels as a major plot device . . . so it was weird to me that their mechanics were different from what I’ve seen previously for them. But then, they’re an intelligent alien species, so I guess they can pick different ways to do things. It does work with the plot–although let’s face it, the plot is always secondary to Melody’s brilliance. Which is just the way I like it; River is a favorite of mine. I’d recommend The Angel’s Kiss for Doctor Who fans . . . I think it would probably fall a bit flat without the context, even though it doesn’t really play directly into the plot. More like, it plays way too much into the humor, so you’d miss all the parts that make it really good. But yeah, for fans, very much a recommended read.

Note: As far as I know, this is only available in e-book format (but if you find a hard copy, let me know).


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Sherlock (TV series)


My rating: 5 of 5

Dr. John Watson has come home from Afghanistan due to a war injury, and he’s having trouble adapting to civilian life . . . financially and psychologically. So when an old friend introduces him to Sherlock Holmes–a most interesting and unusual man who is willing to share the rent for a flat–John finds himself rapidly accepting the offer. Life with the self-proclaimed “consulting detective” soon draws Dr. Watson into a whirlwind, solving crimes and assisting Holmes in whatever capacity he can–certainly in a medical one. Perhaps even as a friend, whatever the sociopathic  Holmes may say.

Why do I love this series so much?! I’m a huge fan of Doyle’s classic Sherlock Holmes stories–I grew up reading them. As such, I usually hate movie/TV versions of the stories since they almost always get important stuff wrong. Sherlock gets it right. Rather than trying to re-create a Victorian setting and Victorian characters while still making it interesting for a modern audience, the creators immediately scrap all that and go for a modern London setting. Instead of trying to pull details from the classic stories, they pull feelings, ideas, and inspiration. So it feels right–but also fresh and exciting. The plots are intriguing, and I really love they use of hour-and-a-half episodes to allow a full development of individual plots within the episode. Steven Moffat’s touch on the show is pretty evident, which I (as a big Doctor Who fan) really love–you’ve almost got a Doctor-Companion dynamic going between Sherlock and John, and it works beautifully. The characters and the character dynamics are spot-on perfect–very, very fun to watch. Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock is brilliant, absolutely brilliant. But I really think Martin Freeman as Dr. John Watson is the heart of the show, the one who makes you really care. And the interactions between the two . . . priceless. The other characters/cast members are brilliant as well, from those who show in nearly every episode (like Mrs. Hudson & DI Greg Lestrade) to Sherlock’s nemesis Moriarty to those who only show up briefly in one episode. I loved the camera angles, the production, and the creative use of screen text to show Sherlock’s though processes. All around, Sherlock is just brilliant–highly recommended!

Created by  Mark Gatiss & Steven Moffat/Written by  Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat, & Stephen Thompson/Starring Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman/Based on the stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Note: Currently this series is ongoing, with three (3-episode) seasons and one special currently available.

Update 02/12/2017: I just finished watching the fourth season (which brings the series up to a whole 13 episodes. Yay! I definitely enjoyed this season and found it to be in keeping with the previous seasons in most regards. There were definitely some surprises though, and I found the almost surreal quality of the episodes to be unique and intriguing–difficult to follow sometimes though. I’ll be interested to see if a fifth season comes to be; the end of this season almost felt like a good-bye, but I haven’t heard an official announcement that the series is completed. We’ll see, I guess.


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Broadchurch (2013 TV show)

ITV/Created by Chris Chibnallbroadchurch

My rating: 4.5 of 5

When the body of 11-year-old local Danny Latimer is found murdered on the beach, the small seaside town of Broadchurch is torn apart. Suspicious fly madly as neighbors who have known each other their entire lives begin to mistrust each other and deeply kept secrets begin being unearthed. Local policewoman and close friend of the Latimers, DS Ellie Miller finds herself assigned to the case, working under the leadership of an outsider, DI Alec Hardy. Not an easy task, as Hardy challenges Miller to doubt everything she knows, to look at her friends and neighbors with a cold cynical eye. But as the two watch the rifts growing in the tightly knit community, they vow to do whatever it takes to catch Danny’s murderer, whoever it may be.

I have to admit, I originally only tried watching Broadchurch because David Tennant has a starring role (which he performs admirably). I was very impressed, and by more than just Tennant’s acting. Chris Chibnall’s work in crafting a murder mystery in a small, contemporary British seaside town is impeccable. The suspense is kept up really well, feeding the audience clues while keeping the identity of the murderer a close secret. Even more impressive than the mystery (to me at least) was the way in which the show portrayed the effects of the murder and subsequent investigation on such a small community, as well as on Danny’s own family. The psychological and dramatic development was really well done, touching and unsettling without being overdone. I think a huge factor in how the show turned out is the excellent casting work and character development that was put into it. Each character plays an important role, and the actors chosen for the roles are perfect. Of course, Tennant makes for a great detective–cool and cynical, with a dark past. And Olivia Colman’s role as Ellie is a perfect counterpart, sweet and fiery and all too trusting. And Arthur Darvill as the local vicar–I swear, I would watch an entire show just devoted to Arthur Darvill being the local vicar, it’s fantastic. As an added bonus, Eve Myles joins the cast in the second season; I love her work. On the whole, I didn’t enjoy the second season as much as the first–the first being devoted to the criminal investigation of Danny’s murder while the second is split between the trial and the re-opening of Hardy’s dark previous case, the Sandbrook murders. Both series are excellent, I just felt that the second series wasn’t quite as strong as the first. Still, for anyone who enjoys crime fiction (or a good British drama), I would highly recommend Broadchurch.

Written by Chris Chibnall & Louise Fox/Directed by James Strong & Euros Lyn/Starring David Tennant & Olivia Colman/Music by Ólafur Arnalds

Note: Currently this TV series consists of two seasons of 8 episodes each. I’ve heard rumor of a third season, but haven’t seen anything particularly official or final yet.




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The Golden One

Author: Elizabeth PetersThe Golden One

Amelia Peabody Mysteries, volume 14

My rating: 4.5 of 5

The year is 1917, and the war is beginning to make travel extremely difficult. Not that that’s about to keep Amelia and her brood out of Egypt. Defying any danger with a stiff upper lip, the Emersons make their way from England back to their archaeological digs near Luxor, only to find that local tomb robbers have discovered a previously-unknown tomb . . . one they suspect might be royal. Of course, the family deems it their duty  to find this tomb and protect it before the robbers completely clear its contents. Meanwhile, the family is kept busy on other fronts keeping Ramses away from the War Office and their attempts to bully/persuade him into doing more secret service work behind enemy lines. Amelia’s certainly got her hands full–and couldn’t be happier!

As with all of Peters’ Amelia Peabody books, The Golden One is a delightful admixture of mystery thriller, archaeological adventure, and historical romance of the best sort. Her portrayal of the setting is detailed and skillful without being burdensome–you get what you need to appreciate the setting, but she doesn’t spend pages on unnecessary description. The balance of the historical setting–the war and such–against the Emersons’ personal lives and interests is also excellently done, suiting the largely first-person style of the narrative. I also enjoyed in this volume having the contrast between Amelia’s own first-person voice–very Victorian, feministic, and full of personal witticisms–and the extracts from “Manuscript H” which are told in third-person from Ramses’ and Nefret’s perspective. The generation gap is clearly evident, and the contrasting perspectives are easily distinguishable and provide additional helpful information about what’s happening at any given time. Also interesting about this particular volume is the duality of the plot: one thread focusing on Ramses’ mission into the Turkish lines as a spy of sorts, sandwiched between two other sections focusing on the Emersons’ archaeological work and attempts to find the new tomb. It’s a bit unusual for these stories, but it works quite well. All in all, I think The Golden One is an excellent archaeological mystery for anyone even remotely interested in that genre, as well as for anyone just wanting an exciting and engaging story. Also of note, as this is the fourteenth volume of the series, it definitely includes numerous spoilers for previous volumes, but if you don’t care about that, there’s certainly enough background in the book itself to read it independently without needing to read the others first.

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Another Note: The Los Angeles BB Murder Cases

Author: Nisioisinanother note the los angeles bb murder cases

Based on: Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata

My rating: 4.5 of 5

When Kira brought terror to the criminals of the world using a secret Death Note, he found himself confronted by former FBI agent Naomi Misora. But years before the Kira case, Misora was already becoming, in some way, connected to those future events. Because it was years earlier, back in Los Angeles, that she first worked on a case with the great detective L, a case that was unique in many respects. When L first contacted her to be his eyes on the scene (rarely if ever appearing in public himself), there have already been three violent murders, each with some distinctive characteristics: wara ningyo nailed to the walls of the victim’s room, victims with alliterative initials, clues to the next murder left at the scene. Almost as though the whole thing were some horrible game. . . . Even stranger, Naomi somehow finds herself cooperating with a most unusual private detective who goes by the name Ryuzaki, loves sweets to an obscene extent, and who is clearly more clever than he lets on. Very suspicious. . . .

I really love The Los Angeles BB Murder Cases. Ever since I first read in Death Note the mention that L and Naomi had worked together on a case before (with no further explanation), I knew that was a story I would love to hear. And Nisioisin was a great choice to write this story; he’s an excellent light novelist, and I think he preserves the essences of the characters from the original manga excellently while crafting a brilliant original story at the same time. I think this light novel will particularly appeal to those who like puzzles and such–because really the whole murder scheme is a big puzzle created to challenge L. Macabre, I know, but interesting all the same. But even if you don’t feel like trying to reason out the puzzles along with our detectives, it’s fascinating enough watching their interactions from a more psychological standpoint. Ryuzaki in particular is an intriguing character: see if you can guess his identity, but be warned, he’s tricksy. I also have to note that the very Japanese writing style (in the voice of Mello, no less), suits the story well, even though it is set in the U.S. My one . . . not exactly complaint, but the one thing I didn’t really love, is the inclusion of shinigami eyes into the mix. I’m still not sure if they were intended to make it seem less violent or more mysterious or just to provide a greater connection to the original manga, but it just seemed unnecessarily complicating to me. On the whole though, Another Note: The Los Angeles BB Murder Cases is an excellent light novel, particularly for readers who enjoy the Death Note manga/anime or who like detective stories; I would definitely recommend this book.

On a side note, while I rarely have much to say regarding the actual physical publication of books, this volume is an exception. It’s a work of art, absolutely. The black matte cover with a cool/creepy silver design on it, the partial-height white dust jacket that carries the silver design seamlessly on to it’s high quality paper, the equally impressive quality of the paper the story is printed on, and the classy design of the pages themselves are all extremely impressive to a book geek like myself. Very nice.


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The Big Over Easy

Author: Jasper Ffordethe big over easy

Nursery Crimes Series, vol. 1

My rating: 4.5 of 5

In a world where detective work is valued as much for its entertainment value as for the actual societal benefit of bringing criminals to justice, detective sergeant Mary Mary dreams of becoming Official Sidekick to a recognized, published detective. Instead, her transfer to the Reading branch lands her in what seems to be a career dead end, working under Detective Inspector Jack Spratt in the Nursery Crime Division. But things pick up a bit when the death of Humpty Dumpty–originally believed to be accident or suicide–is discovered to have been a murder. And not just any murder, but one steeped in schemes, plots, and old loves lost. This will be a case that will try DS Mary’s loyalty and skills to the max, but it might just be the case that will win her loyalty for her sometimes bumbling superior as well. And you never know, it might even get them published.

Yet again, in The Big Over Easy, Jasper Fforde has crafted a strange and unpredictable world . . . one oddly reminiscent of our own. I love it! It’s been ages since I’ve enjoyed a detective story as much as I did this one. As I said, the alternate universe he presents is unique, quirky, and interesting–full of mysteries and oddities at every turn–and yet is similar enough to reality to bring poignant perspectives on our own lives. I love the multitudinous (and sometimes subtle) allusions to nursery rhymes and fairy tales that are mixed throughout the story, as well as the tongue-in-cheek way they are used. The plot itself is solid and surprising, bringing in a number of unexpected elements . . . and also pleasantly intermixing the detectives’ own personal lives. The characters themselves are well written, although again, full of that quirky, tongue-in-cheek style–some more than others. Jack and Mary, at least, are more normal, credible individuals–and because of that, more full of real individuality and character, which is nice. I would definitely recommend The Big Over Easy to those who like detective stories (as long as it doesn’t have to be too particularly realistic) and to those who enjoy a good romp in fantasy–or in Fforde’s quirky worlds, at least. It was a very good story.


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