Sweet Masterpiece – Connie Shelton

I’ll readily admit that the only reason I read Sweet Masterpiece was that it popped up in one of the Bookhub-emails that I actually read as a free book for Kindle, so I downloaded it to my «emergency library» (i.e. my phone), and then started it one of those times I was suddenly stuck somewhere without a book. It seems to be self-published, which would not normally be something I consider as a selling point. «Free,» however, sometimes works.

On the other hand, I would hardly have continued past the first few pages unless I found something to interest (cue trying to pick the next phone-read and dropping No Game for a Dame by M. Ruth Myers, also downloaded because it was free, like a hot potato after only a few sentences). Because I did. I also found quite a few things to irritate, though, so whether I’ll ever read another book of Shelton’s remains to be seen.

Sweet Masterpiece is the first in a series which belongs to the sub-genre «cosy mystery». I’m not neccessarily averse to a bit of cosyness or a bit of mystery, even in combination, however, a little bit of origininality could perhaps have been nice. The mystery is… well, not very mysterious. The cosyness dominates to the exclusion of much of an actual plot. Add to that a magical element – and fond as I am of fantasy, there is a time and a place for magic and I’m not sure this was it – and an ending which was… Well, both unpredictable in a «they lived happily ever after» sort of way and quite, quite as unbeliveable as that phrase is at the best of times.

On the other hand, I liked Shelton’s characters. Sam is charming (dare I say «sweet») in the way which makes you want to curl up with a glass of wine with her and get her to tell you her life story. And the, well, I guess I could call it extended family do their best to liven up an otherwise lumbering story. Add to that some snippets of local detail from an area of the USA I’m not that familiar with and you have enough to keep me going through the 200 odd pages. But, well, unless the next story in the series turns up as a freebie, I guess I’m unlikely to revisit Sam Sweet.

Pushing Up Daisies – Rosemary Harris

pushingupdaisiesI found Rosemary Harris’ Pushing up Daisies in my ebook library, though to be frank I have no memory of purchasing/dowloading it, so how it ended up there is anyone’s guess. In any case it seemed the sort of thing one could read on and off on the phone when suddenly stuck without a «proper» book, so I started it. And suddnely I had finished, without it being much off at all, just mostly on. So I guess that’s a recommendation?

Ok, so a little more detail: Pushing up Daisies is the first book of a series of mysteries, featuring Paula Holliday, who used to work in television, but now runs a gardening business «in the country». It’s an excellent example of the genre of mysteries where the protagonist is not a police officer or detective, but simply someone who has a knack for stumbling over mysteries, like unexplained dead bodies, and is then too intelligent/curious/restless/meddling (strike those you do not think fit) to leave the case to the authorities, all the while proving an interesting backstory and parallell plotlines which only tangentically touch upon the «crime». I like Paula, I like several of the other residents (permanent or temporary) of her neighbourhood, and I will definitely read more books in the series.

Candle for a Corpse – Ann Granger

gangerI had occasion to stop by Gjest Baardsen this week, where there is an OBCZ, and picked up a couple of books, one of which was Candle for a Corpse by Ann Granger.

The book was unregistered, but I have now registered it on Bookcrossing, and I’ll get it passed on. I’ll try to figure out if I can get it journalled by the OBCZ first, though.

Anyhow, this was pretty perfect reading for me at the moment. What with having a newborn in the house I do get a lot of reading done (it’s something I can actually do while nursing), but my concentration is not at its best. So I’ve been doing a bit of rereading, which is always good for a «rest», but I need a bit of new input too.

Ann Granger’s sleuths are a perfect pair, really. One – superintendent Alan Markby – is a policeman and therefore a pro, the other – Meredith Mitchell – works for the Foreign Office, and is thus just a curious amateur as far as detective work goes. So you get the best of both worlds as far as sleuthing go. They are also a pair in the romantic sense, which provides a little bit of personal interest (which I like in a crime story, as long as it’s a little bit and doesn’t take the focus away from the main plot) and a little bit of tension, too.

In this book, the lokal grave-diggers dig up a corpse which is too close to the surface and too recently interred to be legitimately buried, and that sets off the investigation. The plot twists are just clever enough to keep me guessing while still being believeable. The gallery of characters is charming (mostly, and I suppose in this context even nasty characters have their charm), and the feel of the setting is spot on.

All in all, I’m very happy to have made the acquaintance of Markby and Mitchell.

Started Early, Took My Dog – Kate Atkinson

atkinson_startedearlyHaving gotten my hands on Started Early, Took My Dog, I obviously had to start it as soon as possible.

Jackson Brodie gets himself mixed up, yet again, with a lot more old history than he had bargained for. This time missing children is the variation of the recurring theme. A far cry from archetypal crime, Atkinson is firmly rooted in tradition, but runs circles round most of her fellow crime writers.

For one thing, she produces passages such as this: «Schrödinger, whoever he was, and his cat, and anyone else that felt like it, had all clambered inside Pandora’s box and were dining on a can of worms. Jackson felt the beginnings of a headache, another one, on top of the one he already had.»

I’m already waiting for her next book.

Friends in High Places – Donna Leon

Friends in High Places showed up in the zone recently, and I decided to bring it home and give it a look-see, not having read anything by Donna Leon before.

I rather enjoyed this peek at Venice, and especially the darker sides of Venetian society. I must say, though, that if Leon’s descriptions of «how society works» are accurate, I’m sure glad I don’t have to live there.

An especially endearing aspect of the book was that Brunetti’s daughter Chiara is reading the Aubrey/Maturin series (and therefore wants to learn how to sail), and that his wife has read them and loved them. One cannot but admire their excellent taste in literature…

(Bookcrossing journal)


Endelig ble det mulig å få fatt i Frelseren til en nogenlunde ok pris, så endelig fikk jeg lest den. Fort gikk det også. Boka var veldig bra, men jeg kom jo selvsagt på hvorfor jeg ikke kan lese så mange realistiske krim-bøker på rad. Det er nemlig slik at i «snill krim» – Agata Christie for eksempel – er det som regel slik at de som blir drept «fortjener» det (i den grad det er mulig, selvsagt) og dersom morderen er sympatisk så løser det seg liksom ganske bra til slutt. Sånn er det ikke i virkeligheten, selvsagt. I virkeligheten er det til stadighet folk som blir drept som ikke har gjort noe som helst for å fortjene en vrikket fot en gang. Sånn er det gjerne også i realistisk krim – det er noe av det som gjør den realistisk. Og sånn er det i Nesbø, og jeg liker det virkelig ikke når «feil» mennesker dør. Ikke at jeg synes at han skulle begynne å skrive «snille» krimbøker, da ville ikke bøkene være på langt nær så gode, men jeg må altså prøve å huske at jeg ikke skal lese flere slike bøker på rad, for det har jeg ikke godt av.

Men en om gangen er helt fint, og Frelseren levde opp til forventningene. Kan anbefales på det varmeste – men begynn i andre enden dersom du ikke har lest noe Nesbø før.

The Deep Blue Goodbye

Technically a reread, though it must be 15 years since I last read The Deep Blue Goodbye. I found the Travis McGee books terribly fascinating when I was 15-16 years old, and I still do, though I suspect I understand a few things now that I didn’t then. I’m glad to see from a quick search at Amazon that most of the series seems to be in print still, this is a good thing, as MacDonald writes with a particular nerve seldom equalled in my experience. I also notice that I don’t recognise all the titles, I suspect a trawl of suitable second-hand bookshops when next in Britain is in order (I picked The Deep Blue Goodbye up in Hay this summer).

The Crocodile on the Sandbank

I was quite happy to get hold of this from a fellow bookcrosser, as Peters’ books sounded rather intriguing. The Crocodile on the Sandbank is the first (as far as I can ascertain) book in which Amelia Peabody – «the female Indiana Jones» – makes her appearance. The book suffers from this to a certain extent, as a large part of it is occupied by Amelia’s explanations of her life so far and of what has put her in the position to travel to Egypt in the first place. Neccessary, perhaps, but I felt it was a bit heavy-handed, to be honest. Too much tell, not enough show.

The pace picks up a bit further in, though, and unfolds itself as a pretty well-spun yarn. Amelia is a likeable creature, though a bit of a cliché, in fact all the characters are chlichéd, but to a certain extent that is what the genre dictates. I can’t quite make up my mind if the plot and characters are too predictable and hence boring and a waste of time or delightfully predictable and therefore to be savoured in the way a Bond movie is savoured. The jury is still out.

Not a book to make a lasting impression therefore, but if I come across more Peabody mysteries I will most likely read them before passing them on.

(This copy’s bookcrossing journal.)

Mean Woman Blues – Julie Smith

Mean Woman Blues by Julie Smith was an accidental read, so to say, one of my colleagues got too many books at once from various bookrings and wondered if I wanted to read any of them. It’s the second book (I think second, it may be later) in the tale of Skip Langdon, New Orleans detective, and a character from her past – and previous book(s) – Errol Jacomine, surfaces in unpleasant ways and there is a bit of a showdown. The novel is entertaining enough in a way, but I never got very involved and something left me feeling a bit uneasy. Googling Skip Langdon revealed at least one discussion of whether Smith wasn’t commiting both sexual and racial stereotyping, perhaps that is it? (The gay men are VERY gay, the black people seem to be mostly pretty «primitive» and Skip’s boyfriend is certainly a complete stereotype in this book.) In any case, I’m not likely to read any more of Smith’s novels.