Tag Archives: mystery

I Hunt Killers

Author: Barry Lyga

Jasper Dent, vol. 1

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Seventeen-year-old Jasper Dent (better known as Jazz) did not have the most normal childhood. Actually, he was raised by his dad, a notorious serial killer–raised to think like and eventually become a killer himself. But now Jazz’s dad is behind bars and Jazz wants a different life for himself. So when the body count begins to rise in his small home town, Jazz decides to (unofficially and without the sheriff’s permission) assist with the investigation. Because he knows how the killer thinks. And to prove to the town that he’s not like his dad . . . only, is it the town or himself that he needs to convince?

So, I’ve never read much Barry Lyga, but I Hunt Killers was an interesting enough read. It’s kind of a mashup of a contemporary YA novel and an adult crime thriller. And I guess that’s where I get my weird personal reactions to this story. Because on the one hand, I really enjoyed it, but on the other hand, it’s kind of strange and unsettling in a way I’m not sure I like. There’s this total dichotomy, even though in the book the elements are actually combined pretty well. On the crime thriller side, you get this guy who can get into the killer’s head, you get some pretty intense crime scenes, some very painfully intense flashbacks to the guys’ childhood, and a puzzling mystery that gradually unfolds. And on the YA side, you’ve got this kid who is struggling to even see himself as human, who struggles to see the people around him as human rather than just as things to be used. There is a ton of psychological and emotional baggage and internal conflict going on. And then you’ve got Jazz’s awesome girlfriend Connie and his BFF Howie–both of whom get dragged into the mess that Jazz involves himself in. The writing and the pacing of the story are good. The author clearly put a lot of research into this book. And I would read more of Barry Lyga’s books. I probably would read more of this series, even. But I still feel just a bit off about I Hunt Killers . . .  but maybe that’s the intended results, because how can a book about a kid who was raised to be a serial killer ever really be okay?

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

The Janitor’s Boy

Author: Andrew Clements

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Normally, Jack Rankin is something of a model kid–polite, hard-working, good grades. Life isn’t exactly normal right now, though. The entire middle school has been dumped in the ancient high-school building for the year until their new building is ready to use . . . the high-school building where Jack’s dad works as the janitor. Not a big deal, except let’s be honest, when the other kids find out, it’s totally a big deal. Let the teasing begin. And wondering why his dad so desperately wants to ruin his life, Jack begins to get angry. That’s when he comes up with the perfect revenge.

Although I’ve been vaguely aware of Andrew Clements’ writings for some time, this is the first time I’ve actually read one of his books, and I must say, I’m impressed. This middle-grade/coming-of-age story is warm, humorous, accessible, and engaging. Moreover, it delves deep into the complexities of the parent-child relationship at a challenging age and stage of life, opening some interesting discussions on the topic from both the child’s and the parent’s point of view. I love, love, love that the story actually carries Jack through the transformation of perspective from seeing his dad as someone who provides for him and tells him what to do to seeing his dad as an actual whole person with his own problems and stories and personality. It’s something I’ve experienced personally, but I’ve never seen a book actually develop this phenomenon before. I think this is what truly raises the bar in this book, transforming it from an amusing middle-grade story to a beautiful, moving coming-of-age story. I also really enjoyed how much individual personality each of the characters had and the way in which that personality affected the flow of the plot. In short, The Janitor’s Boy was an impressive surprise for me, and I would highly recommend this book.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

The Return of Doctor Mysterio

BBC

My rating: 4.5 of 5

NOTE: This TV special takes place following The Husbands of River Song” and immediately preceding series 10 of Doctor Who. It’s relatively spoiler-free, but you should still be sure to watch “The Husbands of River Song” first because you’ll miss half the feels of this episode if you don’t.

On Christmas Eve of 1992, the Doctor is in New York, trying to stabilize the mess he’s made of time there. That night, he encounters a young boy named Grant and accidentally gives the boy superpowers (don’t ask; it’s the Doctor) . . . and a strict command to never use those powers. Twenty-four years later, the Doctor returns to New York to investigate an alien invasion (surprise) only to encounter Grant–who is living a double life as both nanny to a small baby and local masked superhero “Ghost.” So much for never using those powers. . . .

At first, I was kind of exasperated with the writers for choosing a superhero story–I mean, that’s basically the only sort of movie that seems to be coming out right now! And honestly, I’m not the superhero movie type. But “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” is Doctor Who, and I have to admit that it brings in the best of both worlds. You’ve got all the quirkiness and geekiness of Capaldi’s Doctor (absolutely brilliant!) and the classic Who alien invasion story. Plus you’ve got a good guy trying to protect the people he loves and live up to the ideals of the old superhero comics he read as a kid . . . all the while keeping his true identity a secret from the very clever and insightful (except as it regards him) journalist that he works for. The lightness and action of the superhero plot (and the sweet, innocent romance they work in) actually do a lot to counterbalance what may otherwise have been a very dark and angsty story (if you’ve watched “The Husbands of River Song,” you know why). On the other hand, the interactions between the Doctor and the journalist, Lucy, are humorous on the surface but serve to draw out and develop the Doctor’s inner turmoil, which is neat to see. In any case, I would definitely recommend “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” to any fan of Doctor Who.

Written by Steven Moffat/Directed by Ed Bazalgette/Produced by  Peter Bennett/Music by Murray Gold/Starring Peter Capaldi, Matt Lucas, Justin Chatwin, & Charity Wakefield

2 Comments

Filed under Media Review

The Magic Thief

Author: Sarah Prineas/the-magic-thiefIllustrator: Antonio Javier Caparo

Magic Thief, vol. 1

My rating: 4.5 of 5

In a city that runs on magic–magic that is inexplicably running out–young Conn survives by picking locks and picking pockets. But one hungry evening, he unwittingly picks the pocket of the wizard Nevery, stealing the wizard’s locus magicalicus which ought, by all rights and expectations, have killed Conn instantly. Surprised at the boy’s survival, Nevery decides to take him on, first as a servant and then as an apprentice. Because Conn may have a greater talent for magic than has been seen in the city for quite some time . . . and he may just be able to find out what’s been happening to the city’s magic.

I first read The Magic Thief  at the recommendation of Anastasia @Read & Survive (thanks for the suggestion!), and I must say that the story more than lived up to my expectations. The world building is excellent, immersing the reader in a magically-powered Dickensian world without being unnecessarily descriptive or wordy about it. The author does the same thing with the characters–they are full of character and life, and she does a fabulous job of showing this to us through their words and actions rather than telling us about them at length. Also, I really love the way Prineas plays with phrases, turning them outside-in or changing them just a bit to make them attention catching and unique; it adds to the impression that this is set in a different world quite effectively. As an additional plus, there’s a lot of interesting plot that is gripping and fun even for an adult but that is also completely age-appropriate for the book’s primary intended middle-grade audience. I love it! I would definitely recommend The Magic Thief both to most children and to adults who like fantasies and/or children’s books.

4 Comments

Filed under Book Review

Ouroboros (2015 TV Series)

TBSouroboros

Status: Completed, 10 episodes

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Growing up together in the orphanage of Mahoroba, Danno Tatsuya and Ryuzaki Ikuo found love, inspiration, and strength in their caregiver, Yuiko-sensei. . . . That is, until one night when she is murdered and the case is covered up by a police man wearing a gold watch. Young Tatsuya and Ikuo vow to find Yuiko’s murder and exact their own justice. Twenty years later, Tatsuya is a leader in the yakuza and Ikuo is rising through the ranks of the police, working together to ferret out any clues as to Yuiko’s killer. But will they be able to handle the truths they find?

Ouroboros is probably the best J-drama I’ve seen to date. Of course, part of that is the fact that it stars both Shun Oguri and Toma Ikuta, two of my favorite actors. They have a really great dynamic when they work together, and their part in this show was definitely a huge plus for me. But I think that even for those unfamiliar with these two, the show has a lot to offer. It’s a cops and yakuza story, with lots of interconnecting plots, tragic backstory, and a nice balance of drama and action. There are some nicely choreographed fight scenes, even. And an adorable but tragic love story (more than one, depending on how you look at it). Of course, being a J-drama, there’s a certain amount of just plain goofiness, especially at the beginning (then again, can you put Toma in a show without some goofiness?). But again, it balances out, and by the end of the show, it’s just plain heartbreaking. This is a tear-jerker, to be sure, but I think the writers did a great job of making the story fall the way it needs to, not the way you necessarily want it to. . . . It feels like hitsuzen when you get down to it, I guess. Also just have to mention that the character development is remarkably well done–especially for this sort of show–and even the relatively minor characters are interesting. And one last point of note: the casting for the childhood versions of Tatsuya and Ikuo are fabulous. So often, kids seem just picked at random, but the kids chosen for the roles here are perfect, both in appearance and in how they act. Ouroboros is high on my list of recommendations, both for those who enjoy J-dramas and for those who like detective stories in general.

Note: At this point, I don’t know of an official English version of this show, but there are some quite decent fan-subs available.

Based on the manga by Kanzaki Yuya/Directed by Yasuharu Ishii/Music by Kimura Hideakira/Starring Toma Ikuta, Shun Oguri, & Juri Ueno

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Media Review

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.

 

3 Comments

Filed under Book Review

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).

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review