Tag Archives: Mystery

The Last Child

the last childby John Hart

John Hart is a writer who describes himself as a “recovering” attorney who lives in North Carolina, the site of his novels.  Although he is currently not practicing law, his experience in our criminal justice system benefits his writing.  He has received praise as a writer who can bring his characters to life, making them very real to the reader.  His thrillers keep us on the edge of our seats, unable to put his work down.  In the book “The Last Child,” Hart mixes a boyhood adventure much like Huckleberry Finn’s with a modern mystery of missing children and serves us a winner of a story.

The hero of the book, Johnny Merrimon, is a 13-year-old boy who had lived in a very happy and strong family.  This changed a year ago when his sister disappeared.  Johnny still will not accept that she might be dead.  His family has been devastated.  Johnny’s father has disappeared, apparently absorbing blame for not being on time to pick up his daughter.  His mother feels guilty and changes her entire life-style, having lost two of her loves- her daughter and her husband.  She uses drugs and alcohol to dull the pain.  The result is that she loses touch with her son.  Both Johnny and his mother are abused by the town’s rich and influential power figure.  Johnny fights back the only way he knows how.  He spends his every moment and all of his energy to find the sister—the twin sister he has lost.  Clyde Hunt, the troubled police detective, is always there, still trying to solve the mystery, which has devastated him and his family, too.  Now the town cringes in fear.  Another young girl has gone missing.

Before long there are dead bodies and twists and turns that keep the reader both guessing and involved.  Hart’s book is full of action and suspense.  There is little time to rest, or to put this exciting book down—which you certainly won’t.  Our book club gave this book the highest rating of any book we have read.  I highly recommend it to both mystery lovers and to anyone who enjoys a fast-paced, exciting story.

Key Ideas from different club members:

I really liked the characters; Well-written; Like 2 books in 1; Wonderful page-turner!  Loved it; Nice read; Fantastic!  Suspense and drama all wrapped up into one; Kept you reading and guessing; Couldn’t predict the ending; Keeps you guessing till the end; Fabulous book!

The Club Members rating of this book:

Pat Gombita, Pat Kuna, Sharon Shaffer, Julie Shultz, Bill Simmons, Helen Skalski, Deb Stewart, Barb Swanson, and Linda Troll

Club’s Average Rating:  4.9 of 5       Rating Range:  4 to 5

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Crime, Family, Fourth Tuesday Book Club Books, Murder, Mystery

The Dirty Duck

by Martha Grimes

dirty duckThis month our book club decided to read works by Martha Grimes. She was born in Pittsburgh on May 2, 1931. Her   father was the city solicitor and her mother owned the Mountain Lake Hotel in western Maryland. Grimes and her brother spent summers in the country at their mother’s hotel (it was torn down in 1967). Grimes received her bachelors and masters degrees from the University of Maryland and taught in a number of places, including Frostburg State University. Most of Grimes’ novels fall in the subdivision of mysteries sometimes called “cozies.” Her most famous character is Richard Jury, a detective from Scotland Yard. Each of the 22 Jury mysteries are named after a pub, usually found in England. The Dirty Duck is the 4th in the Jury series.

Superintendent Richard Jury must find a serial killer who is targeting Americans from a group touring England. The murderer leaves behind lines of poetry after slashing his victims. Jury must also deal with another possible crime. One of the tourists is James Farraday, a millionaire widower from Maryland, who’s 9 year old boy, Jimmy, has disappeared. Farraday demands that Scotland Yard take over this case from the local police, too. Jury is helped by his friend, Melrose Plant, a rich aristocrat. Children often play an important role in the Jury stories, as in this one with the possible kidnapping of Jimmy. The discussion with Jimmy’s teenage sister, Penny, shows that Superintendent Jury has a good rapport with children.
It is recommended that you read the Jury series in order, with the earlier mysteries first. The characters change and develop. Events often build on things that happened in previous books. It is easier to follow and less confusing if you get to know the characters along the way. Grimes is a fabulous writer who uses the English language very effectively. Her stories are often complex, containing a large number of colorful characters, which makes it harder to casually follow events. Martha Grimes is a thinking person’s author. The Dirty Duck is an outstanding example of one of her early books. I would strongly recommend her to anyone who enjoys a good mystery.

Other books by Martha Grimes read by the book club:
Richard Jury books: Dust (#21), Lamorna Wink (#15), The Old Wine Shades (#20), The Horse You Came In On (#11) and The Old Silent (#10)
Other books: Foul MatterThe Way of the FishesDakota and Hotel Paradise
Book club members who read Martha Grimes:
Pat Kuna, Donna Norseen, Sharon Shaffer, Bill Simmons, Deb Stewart, Barbara Swanson, Linda Troll, and Rae Ann Weaver

 

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Fourth Tuesday Book Club Books, Murder, Mystery, Strong Sense of Place, Travel, Writers

Books from the New York Times Best Seller’s List January 2014

  How Lucky You Can Be by Buster Olney

Where can you find a good book when you are looking for one?  The library has hundreds of books, but which one should you choose?  One option is to read reviews (like this one) or to wander through book lists, like the New York Times.  This will give you a good idea of what books are being read and enjoyed by others.  Our club decided to pick books from some of these lists.

​The book How Lucky You Can Be was written by Buster Olney, an ESPN announcer.  It is subtitled “The Story of Coach Don Meyer.”  Coach Meyer is the most famous coach that you never heard of… but other basketball coaches around the country know about him.  He devoted himself not only to his teams but also to teaching the art of coaching to anyone interested in the game he loved.  This is much more than a sports story.  It is the story of a dedicated man who at times neglected his family to achieve greatness in his field, passing the legendary Bobby Knight in career wins with over 903 victories, the most by any coach in history at that time.  It took a tragedy for him to express the love he had for his family — wife, children, and his players.

​ Don Meyer had been a college player at Northern Colorado and a head coach for years at David Lipscomb College and Northern State University.  His success was tremendous, but this story really begins on a lonely stretch of two-land road in South Dakota.  While leading a caravan of cars, taking his players on a team-building retreat, Meyer fell asleep at the wheel.  His car veered into an oncoming tractor-trailer truck.  The Coach was crushed, and it was feared that he would die from his injuries.  At the hospital, doctors prepared his wife because they were certain he would not make it through the surgery.  After five hours, Meyer survived but lost part of a leg, his spleen, and had numerous other injuries.  Meyer said that the accident was the best thing that could have happened to him.  He equated it with an angel providing him with a message.  The doctors found that Meyer had terminal cancer.

​ The story describes how this driven coach, who did not want to give up coaching basketball, rose to face the greatest challenge of his life.  He reassessed his life and his relationships.  His three adult children describe the changes that he under went.  Meyer now expressed himself, particularly his emotional self.  He did not hold back telling his children, his wife, or his players how much he loved them.  This tragedy actually has made their family even closer.  This is the story of a man who’s belief in God, his religion, his family, and his team— both coaches and players– gave him the strength to come back to coaching and to fight the lose of a leg and the cancer.  This would be the toughest battle of his life.

I recommend this book wholeheartedly, not only for basketball fans, as an inspirational story of a man fighting to overcome tremendous odds.  (5 of 5)

Other books from book lists rated by different club members:

Mr. Ives’ Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos

Part love story, part meditation on finding spiritual peace in the midst of crisis.  It is a beautifully written, tender and passionate story of a man trying to put his life in perspective.  (4 of 5)

  Eats, Shoots, and Leaves by Lynne Truss

A funny, informative nonfiction book with excellent examples of misused punctuation. (5 of 5)

  The Hundred Year-Old Man by Jonas Jonasson

The story spans the 20th century with a character similar to Forest Gump.  (4 of 5)

 The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

Multiple story lines and strong women tell the story of World War II.  (5 of 5)

    Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross

Thought provoking historic novel about women being held back by authoritive men.  (4 of 5)

     Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Published in 1932, a thought  provoking novel anticipates developments that have profoundly changed society.  (4.5 of 5)

 The Christmas Train by David Baldacci

This tale shows how we do get second chances to fulfill our deepest hopes and dreams, especially during the season of miracles.  (5 of 5)

 God is not Mad at You by Joyce Meyer

A book that explains the relationship between God and man.  (5 of 5)

     Duck the Halls by Donna Andrews

‘Tis the season to be jolly – a funny novel with a heroine who rounds up stray animals of all sorts as well as a killer.  Duck the Halls! (5 of 5)

    Nighttime is My Time by Mary Higgins Clark

A riveting novel of psychological suspense that depicts the mind of a killer. (4 of 5)

The Club Members rating these books:

Pat Gombita, Mona Herrell, Pat Kuna, Lee Ann Schrock, Julie Shultz, Bill Simmons, Deb Stewart, Barb Swanson, Linda Troll, Patti Tullis and Rae Ann Weaver

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Adult Non-Fiction, Biography, Crime, Fourth Tuesday Book Club Books, Historical, History, Humor, Inspirational, Inspirational, Murder, Mystery, Personal Insights, Religion, Sports, Sports/Entertainment

The Scarpetta Factor

scarpetta factorby Patricia Cornwell

Reviewed by The Fourth Tuesday and Mystery Book Club

                A “procedural” is a type of mystery that follows police at work.  The reader “listens” to in-depth conversations about forensic science or police techniques for dealing with cordoning off an area for public safety.  Often the discussions are long, dry, detailed, and boring… just like real police work.  Procedural mysteries take us into the daily activities of a police officer or a crime scene investigator, like this book’s main character, Kay Scarpetta.  In this era of CSI and other forensic crime shows, Patricia Cornwell’s forensic heroine and her writings are extremely popular.

In this story, Scarpetta has become well known and is in high demand.  Television shows want a forensic expert like her to explain things to their audiences.  They want the “Scarpetta Factor” to draw viewers and raise their ratings, especially when a serial killer is stalking New York City.  CNN is torn between reporting the news and making it.  Is it possible that this maniac is driving a yellow cab and killing women?  Are the people of the great city in danger?  The disappearance of an important, influential financier adds to the city and the police concerns and complicates the search for a possible serial killer.

What people don’t know is that Kay Scarpetta and her husband, Dr. Benton Wesley, are being stalked themselves, apparently by one of his former mental patients.  Their lives and safety are threatened when a package that looks like a bomb arrives at their apartment.  It becomes even more complex when an organized crime figure becomes involved in the plot.

Patricia Cornwell introduces new readers to the people in Kay Scarpetta’s life.  In addition to her husband who is a forensic psychologist and former FBI profiler, we meet her niece Lucy, who is a computer whiz assisting the police.  Scarpetta’s watchdog is the tough cop, Marino, who now works for the hard, driven district attorney, Berger.  Cornwell was never directly involved in police work.  However, much of her character’s lives reflect Cornwell’s own personal experiences, whether it was having a fatherless childhood, marrying an older man as a father image, or entering into intimate relationships with other women.  Cornwell’s own foibles and flaws are used to mold Scarpetta’s world.

For those who love CSI and procedural mysteries, you will enjoy this book.  It is a very long novel that could have been much shorter.  Cornwell must explain who people are, events from the past, and how characters’ relationships developed, for those who have not read her earlier Scarpetta mysteries.  This makes it sometimes wordy and repetitive, but the story is strong.  We recommend it with the understanding that there are weaknesses in this particular book.

Key Ideas from different club members:

Needed knowledge from previous books to really understand; Too long; Too wordy; Too many characters; I got confused with the twists in the story; Hard to follow plot and I usually like her books; Not as good as her other books; Could not stay interested in the book; Enjoyed use of language and phrasing; Intriguing plot; I really liked the book, will read more.

The Club Members rating of this book:

Linda Bowman, Pat Gombita, Mona Herrell, Pat Kuna, Julie Shultz, Bill Simmons, Deb Stewart, Linda Troll, and Rae Ann Weaver

Club’s Average Rating:  3.3 of 5       Rating Range:  2 to 5

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The Sherlockian

the sherlockian

Reviewed by the Fourth Tuesday Mystery and Book Club   

by Graham Moore

Can you imagine wanting to kill the character that made you one of the most famous writers in the world?  That is exactly what Arthur Conan Doyle did in 1893—he killed Sherlock Holmes!  The public at the time was outraged.  How dare he take away our favorite detective!  Little old ladies, swinging their umbrellas, attacked Doyle in the street.  He was advised by everyone on how to bring Holmes back.  Doyle was even sent a mail bomb.  People were certainly upset.  Then Doyle, for no apparent reason, brought Holmes back from the grave after a seven-year absence.  Why?  What happened?

The author of this book, Graham Moore, takes these and other historical events and mixes them with fictional characters.  He creates two mysteries in one riveting novel—tied together by a missing diary– in two time periods presented in alternating chapters.  This approach worked well in the book because of the connections between the two events.

The first mystery takes in 1900.  After deciding to kill off Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle is pulled into a mystery of his own.  Two young women are murdered in unusual circumstances.  His close friend, Bram Stoker (the author of Dracula) serves as his assistant, confidant and friend—or in other words, his “Watson.”  They set out to find justice for the murdered girls and find that the path is quite difficult.

In the second mystery line from 2010, Richard Lancelyn Green, one of the world’s leading scholars on Doyle and Holmes, announces that he has found Doyle’s missing diary.  Green is apparently murdered—strangled with his own shoestring.  It appears that someone wants Doyle’s missing diary.  This diary contains Doyle’s description of the events of his experiences in 1900.  Harold White, a literary researcher, takes on the Holmesian role and sets out to solve the murder and to recover the diary.  Harold also has a “Watson” although a much prettier one.  Her name is Sarah, and she provides Harold with another mystery.  Her puzzle is much more difficult for Harold to solve.

A weakness in the book might be that the characters are not strongly developed and as sympathetic as they could be.  Doyle comes across as a grouchy, mean, self-centered, and not a highly principled man.  He hurts some of those around him and that does not seem to faze him.  This is not the Doyle that has been portrayed in his biographies.

The two mysteries move along in tandem, alternating chapters.  You will learn much about Doyle’s life and work while being entertained by a fabulous young writer, Graham Moore.  There is no real need to be a Sherlockian (one who is obsessed with things about Sherlock Holmes) to enjoy this mystery.  We all agree quite strongly that this is a good book, and we highly recommend it.

Key Ideas from different club members:

Wasn’t crazy about the ending; Great reading experience, fabulous writer; Interesting format; I really liked it, good read; A clever historical fiction novel.

The Club Members rating of this book:

Linda Bowman, Mona Herrell, Pat Kuna, Bill Simmons, and Linda Troll

Club’s Average Rating:  4.4 of 5       Rating Range: 4 to 5

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I’ll Walk Alone

I'll Walk Alone

by Mary Higgins Clark

Reviewed by The Fourth Tuesday and Mystery Book Club

Your child has been kidnapped.  He has disappeared and no evidence of him—dead or alive—has been uncovered.  Would your family and friends support you or blame you for the crime?  Would they suspect that you kidnapped your own son?  How would their views change if a photo surfaced that showed you taking the baby?

Mary Higgins Clark is the queen of suspense novels.  “I’ll Walk Alone” deals with the kidnapping of a three-year-old boy while his young babysitter dozed on the grass near the napping child.  His mother is a gifted and beautiful interior designer who is struggling to make her business successful.  She claimed that she was at the home of a wealthy client when the crime took place.  The mother, Zan Moreland, was initially viewed as the brave parent who never gives up hope that her only child will be found alive.  Time passes by with no evidence of the missing boy.  Two years with no sightings or physical evidence to indicate that he might be alive or dead.  Then a picture is uncovered from an event in the park that shows Zan taking her son from the stroller.  Everything changes.  She is no longer admired.  Her former husband, the father of the missing child, turns on her.  It appears that her identity has been stolen or that she is behaving irrationally.  Zan’s friends and even Zan herself begins to worry about her sanity.

The author brings back Alvirah Meehan, the lottery winner and amateur detective, from an earlier novel and introduces some compelling new characters.  Father O’Brien struggles with a confession that he feels compelled to honor as private but realizes that it might help solve the crime.  It also places his life in danger.  Clark’s storytelling is at its best in this exciting tale with many twists and turns.  You will not be able to put it down until you reach the dramatic and surprising ending.

All of the members of our club rated this book very high and recommend it strongly.  Many of the members are already reading more of Mary Higgins Clark’s books and enjoying them.

Key Ideas from different club members:

An easy read and enjoyable; was a real page turner; many twists and turns; puzzling until the end; kept me guessing; do not read many mysteries but was pulled in completely by this one; great, surprising ending; loved the characters; intriguing suspense; really enjoyed it; excellent; Clark is a great story teller; already have read 2 more of her books.

The Club Members rating this book:

Pat Gombita, Mona Herrell, Pat Kuna, Lee Ann Schrock, Sharon Shaffer, Julie Shultz, Bill Simmons, Lynn Simmons, Helen Skalski, Deb Stewart, Barb Swanson, Linda Troll, and Rae Ann Weaver

Club’s Average Rating:  4.6 of 5       Rating Range:  4 to 5

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September 20, 2013 · 6:01 pm

The Innocence of Father Brown

innocence of father brown    by G. K. Chesterton

    Reviewed by  The Fourth Tuesday and Mystery Book Club

G. K. Chesterton was a respected writer in the early 20th century, publishing many essays, articles, and books on a variety of subjects from religion to economics.  His most famous character was Father Brown, a short, stumpy Catholic priest who wore shapeless clothing and carried a large umbrella.  He had an uncanny insight into human evil and used it to solve mysteries.  Chesterton wrote 51 short stories and two vignettes about Father Brown, based on Father John O’Connor, who was involved in Chesterton’s conversion to Catholicism in 1922.

Father Brown’s approach was more intuitive than Sherlock Holmes’ deduction.  His technique was explained in “The Secret of Father Brown.” “You see, I had murdered them all myself… I had planned out each of the crimes very carefully.  I had thought out exactly how a thing like that could be done, and in what style or state of mind a man could really do it.  And when I was quite sure that I felt exactly like the murderer myself, of course I knew who he was.”  His approach is shaped to a great extent because of his position as priest and confessor.  He explained it to his friend Flambeau, a reformed criminal, “Has it never struck you that a man who does next to nothing but hear men’s real sins is not likely to be wholly unaware of human evil?”  Father Brown always emphasizes rational thought and makes fun of supernatural solutions.

Throughout his stories, Chesterton presents his view of life and the world by emphasizing the importance of education and religion.  Father Brown does not spend his time in a cathedral.  He goes out in the real world:  small towns, individual homes, both urban and rural settings.  He deals with unusual situations, such as a dead man’s body found in an enclosed garden, with no exits, and with the head completely removed.  Another murder takes place in a village where a man’s head is smashed in with such force that no one in the area could have even picked up such a heavy hammer.  Father Brown’s found another death that might have been caused by three different weapons and by several different individuals.  He did not use science, as Sherlock Holmes might have.  He used his understanding of people and philosophic truths.

Although these short stories were well written and interesting, it was easy to lose track of events if you stopped reading in the middle of a story and returned later.  These are not action, adventure stories, but they allow the reader to think through Father Brown’s mystery with him.  We recommend him for mystery fans interested in one of the original fictional detectives.

 

 

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September 20, 2013 · 5:36 pm