Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Great Mystery of Life...OK...Really Good Mysteries of My Bookshelf

It all began with Nancy Drew. I remember a friend reading and loving the Nancy Drew mysteries and feeling that I wanted to read them too but I was sure that they'd be too scary for me. Before long, Nancy and I were best friends, going to the pool together in the summers and taking trips together year round.

Soon, Trixie Belden joined our gang and the three of us were solving mysteries with fervor.

Then there was Agatha Christie with her And Then There Were None which scared me so badly as a junior high student that I had to have my mom sleep with me for a night or two.

I should have started with Murder at the Vicarage which would at least have begun to prepare me for my future (grin).

After growing up a little with Ms. Christie, I made the acquaintance of Mrs. Emily Pollifax, a senior adult widow who spent what would have been her retirement years in the employment of the CIA as a spy. I still get a warm feeling in my heart as I remember all of the adventures Mrs. Pollifax and I took together around the world solving international mysteries. I listened to many of these stories as books on ....TAPE (they are on CD now or you can get them through Audible) narrated by the excellent Barbara Rosenblat.

Even in college I fed my appetite for mysteries and was introduced to the likes of Wilkie Collins, Arthur Conan Doyle, P. D. James, and Tony Hillerman in a class called Detective Fiction. What a treat!  I convinced my Man to pick up a P.D. James mystery at the bookstore recently and am eager to see if he enjoys it.

My early married life was chock full of audio mysteries as I drove 40 minutes to work and then 40 minutes back home at the end of each day. I listened to just about anything narrated by Barbara Rosenblat which included a fun series of mysteries by Elizabeth Peters about a Victorian era English family of archaeologists who honed their craft digging in Egypt (The first book in the series is Crocodile on the Sandbank but I think the best of the series lies in the middle books beginning with  Seeing A Large Cat)


Also narrated by Rosenblat is a fun series about caterer Goldie Shultz by Diane Mott Davidson. (The earlier books in the series are the very best.)

Carolyn Hart has also been a favorite of mine with her series of Henry O mysteries which specialize in taking the reader deep into the setting. I can still remember the feeling of being on a remote island as a huge storm rolls in and also, in a different book, feeling like I'd actually experienced the River Walk in San Antonio, Texas.

Katherine Hall Page has written a series of book just for me. OK, more folks than me enjoy these books but I'm sure Ms. Page has me in mind as she puts pen to page. Her titles begin with "Body in the…" (my fav title is Body in the Belfry) and are about pastor's wife, Faith Fairchild who runs a catering company and solves a mystery or two between serving the entree and dessert. Yessir buddy, a pastor's wife who loves food and feeding folks…sign me up please. There's a new one out this summer that I hope to get my hands on called Body in the Birches. Somewhere between cozy mysteries and serious character studies, these books are always good to draw me in and keep me entertained.

These days I've got a new set of authors on my shelves and in my ears.

I just finished a lovely mystery by Donna Leon called Falling in Love which centers around the stalking of an opera prima donna.

Gudio Brunetti is the detective and the setting is modern day Venice, Italy. This is the 7th or 8th Donna Leon mystery I've read or listened to and each one is a treat. I always feel like I've been in Italy drinking coffee in the shops and riding in boats with the Venetian police force as they investigate crime. Each mystery I read in this series leaves me caring more about the characters than the eventual solution to the crime. Rich reading here.

Another recent favorite of the last few years are the mysteries of Louise Penny who writes about a small village in Canada much like Donna Leon handles Venice. In fact as I was opening a fresh Chief Inspector Gamache (Penny's detective) adventure, I read this review in the front copy of the cover:
Penny has been compared to Agatha Christie, and while there is a surface resemblance there, it sells her short. Her characters are too rich, her grasp of nuance and human psychology too firm for the formula-bound Christie. No, Penny belongs in the hands of those who read not only P. D. James but also Donna Leon, who, like Penny, Mixes her hero's family and professional lives fluidly and with a subtle grasp of telling detail." 
~ Booklist (starred review)
This series is also excellent on audio and the covers are simply beautiful.

Charge into the middle month of summer with a great mystery but BEWARE you might find yourself buried deep in a wonderful series and discover that you've lost a day or two to stories that just won't let you go!

“My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people do not know.” 
― Arthur Conan DoyleThe Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle

{NOTE: This post has affiliate links which means that if you click on a book title, and purchase the book, I get a penny or two to spend on a book or two…}

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