Monday, December 17, 2012

Ten Mysteries I’ve Read in 2012

I love reading mysteries, which is probably why I write them. Here’s are ten mini-reviews of books I’ve read this past year. Some were published this year, others almost a century ago. They run the gamut from cozy to thriller, and are in no particular order.

1. LAST ONE TO DIE by Tess Gerritsen
I’m a huge fan of the Rizzoli & Isles TV series, which was why I was surprised to find the characters are so very different in the novels. Though LAST ONE TO DIE was the first of the series I read, I never felt lost—only had the urge to read all the previous novels. Fast-paced and intriguing, LAST ONE TO DIE is a great read by a skilled writer.

2. THE BODY IN THE GAZEBO by Katherine Hall Page
I’ve read every one of the Faith Fairchild mysteries, and this book’s a winner. One aspect I like about this series is that some of the novels are set far from the small Massachusetts town where Faith and her family reside. An out-of-town wedding is the setting of THE BODY IN THE GAZEBO.

3. BROKEN HARBOR by Tana French
I was awed by Tana French’s three earlier novels, but found myself wishing BROKEN HARBOR had been considerably shortened. A family is set upon in their home. Three members die and one survives. The question is: who savagely attacked them and why?

4. THE BIG SLEEP by Raymond Chandler
I led a book club discussion of THE BIG SLEEP, remembering how much I’d loved reading this novel forty years ago. To my dismay, this time I was disappointed. The characters struck me as two-dimensional, and I found it almost laughable how people kept pointing guns at Philip Marlowe. But THE BIG SLEEP is a must read for every serious mystery lover because of its importance to the genre.

5. THE AFFAIR by Lee Child
This Jack Reacher novel takes place in 1997, when Reacher is still an army MP. He and a woman sheriff investigate a murder with close ties to the nearby army fort. THE AFFAIR is exciting and a page-turner, as is every Lee Child novel. I’ve discovered  many women are Jack Reacher fans, despite the body count in every book. He’s one of our  modern day heroes.

6. THE SECRET SERVANT by Daniel Silva
I suppose the Gabriel Allon series are spy thrillers, but I’m including THE SECRET SERVANT on this list. Allon is an Israeli intelligence agent involved in intrigues around the globe. In this novel, he has to rescue the daughter of an American diplomat before she is murdered. Like every Silva novel, this adventure captures your attention from beginning to end.

I adore this cozy series that takes place in a Cotswold English village. In AUNT DIMITY AND THE VILLAGE WITCH, a famous artist comes to Fitch in search of information about an ancestor who might have been a witch. Soon the whole village is helping her unravel the mystery.

8. BELIEVING THE LIE by Elizabeth George
In this, the latest Inspector Thomas Lynley novel, Lynley investigates the death of a man, and discovers all sorts of sordid activities going on among the various people connected to the victim. While I’ve enjoyed reading almost all of her earlier Lynley novels, this one is overly-long and too complex.

The Deadwood books are pure delight. Violet Parker--single mother of twins, novice real estate broker, and sleuth--juggles the many aspects of her life. Her zany  relationship with the sexy Doc is the funniest romance going. Then there’s the paranormal element. Charles blends them all together with a deft hand.

10. THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD by Agatha Christie
One of Christie’s most famous and certainly most controversial novel takes place in a small English village. Poirot is asked to solve the murder of Roger Ackroyd. We meet the usual array of Christie characters, learn their secrets and past misdeeds. The ending is most unusual. I loved rereading this book. It holds up as the true classic it is.

Please leave a comment and name a mystery or two you’ve read in 2012.


Susan Russo Anderson said...

Marilyn, Thanks so much for this post and these short but right-on reviews. You are introducing me to a number of authors, and I will have to read some Katherine Hall Page.

THE AFFAIR introduced me to Lee Child and now I'm reading his Jack Reacher books in order and am on #9 but still THE AFFAIR is memorable.

This year, among others, I read Anne Perry's Monk series and liked them, especially A SUNLESS SEA and Denise Mina's THE END OF THE WASP SEASON.

Marilyn Levinson said...

Thanks for stopping by. I like Anne Perry's two Victorian series. I'll look for Denise MIna's book.

Patricia Gligor said...

I'm a Katherine Hall Page fan! I've read most of her novels. "The Body in the Gazebo" was one of my favorites!

Marilyn Levinson said...

I knew we had something in common.

Patg said...

I agree with the Agatha book, certainly one of my favorite rereads. I think I've read it 3 times.

Marilyn Levinson said...

AC stands up to the test of time.
I'm happy to say my mystery, MURDER A LA CHRISTIE, which discusses Dame Agatha and her books, will be published in 2013.

Jake said...

Like your choices. Have read most. Your next book sounds interesting. Have noted on my TBR list of coming attractions.

Palmaltas said...

Love these short reviews! I read mysteries more than any other genre. I read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie a long, long time ago and don't remember it well. My favorite Christie novel is They Came to Baghdad. And one of the cutest mysteries I read this year was Where There's a Will by Mary Roberts Rinehart, one of the ladies of the Golden Age of Mystery.

C. M. Albrecht said...

One of my favorite Christie books is "Why didn't they ask Evans?" With that catch line to provoke the reader from start to finish, how could it miss? Yet, as I've been taught: the ending should be a surprise, yet inevitable. It was.
One of my first loves was Farewell, My Lovely, and of course, being a dumb kid, the ending, for me at least, was a surprise, yet inevitable. However Mr. Chandler's books haven't held up well over the years. This was real pulp fiction, and nowadays, most readers are more sophisticated. On a sad note, film has helped a great deal to butcher the works of both Mr. Chandler and Dame Agatha.

Sandra Parshall said...

Of course I rushed over here on the chance that MY book would be on your list! Oh well. LOL

I agree with you about Broken Harbor and Believing the Lie. Both would be far better books with some rigorous editing. French is a marvelous writer, though, with a stunning gift for characterization, and I will read anything she publishes.

I loved Denise Mina's END OF THE WASP SEASON. Wonderful book, like everything she writes. Megan Abbott's DARE ME is a tour de force and deeply thought-provoking. I loved CRIMINAL by Karin Slaughter, and I didn't find it anywhere near as "grisly" as some reviewers have said. If you like a gentler mystery, Margaret Maron's THE BUZZARD TABLE is superb. I loved seeing more of Deborah Knott's husband, Deputy Dwight Bryant, on the job. He reminds me a lot of a guy named Tom Bridger...

marja said...

Dang, Marilyn, I haven't read any of these. Guess I'd better get busy. Thanks for sharing so much about them.
Marja McGraw

Marilyn Levinson said...

So glad my new book intrigues you.

Marilyn Levinson said...

C. M. I never read "Why Didn't They Ask Evans?" unless it was also published under another title. The often happened with her books--one title in England, another here in the US.

Marilyn Levinson said...

I read lots of Mary Roberts Rinehart years ago. I remember liking them a lot.

Marilyn Levinson said...

I haven't read your new book yet. I've hundreds of books in my house waiting to be read. And lately I find myself falling asleep when I read late at night.

I'm glad to hear that Deborah Knott is now married. I must get back to that series--and to your book, of course.

Marilyn Levinson said...

Glad you stopped by. We can't possibly read all the wonderful books we'd like to and get any work of our own done.

Donna Coe-Velleman said...

Thanks for the reviews, Marilyn. I really like Child, Silva and Chandler. Now I have a few more names to read.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I always love reading reviews. Many of these authors of favorites of mine as well.

Jacqueline Seewald

Maryann Miller said...

Thanks so much for the terrific teasers for these books. While some are by authors I enjoy, I have not read most of them. Can't believe I missed that Reacher book. I thought I had read them all. I also agree about the Chandler book. I noticed recently in watching an old series Thriller that was hosted by Boris Karloff in the 60s that the writing was much less sophisticated than it is now. People were doing silly things, motivation was not set up well, and there were inconsistencies in the story line. For instance, the central character kills his wife by having an explosion in the basement, yet the next few scenes shows him in the garage and in the house and all is intact. LOL

Marilyn Levinson said...

Donna, Jacqueline and Maryann,
Thanks for stopping by and sharing your favorites.

I think these days writers make a point of exploring the motives and psychological aspects of their characters. I know I do.

Kathleen Kaska said...

Glad to see you read an Agatha Christie mystery. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is one of my favorites. I just reread Laurie R. King's The Moor and enjoyed even "moor" the second time.

Di Eats the Elephant said...

I have also been thinking about re-reading my Agatha Christie books. One you didn't mention that I read, and which deserved the praise it got, was Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. It paves a new road...and if I told you more, I'd give too much away. Only this should suffice: you have not seen this before. Yet, it doesn't quite veer off the road into taboo or forbidden territory as another made-famous-in-2012 book does. It simply surprises you again, and then again. Hard to do to mystery readers, harder yet for those who write mysteries.

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