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Aug 21

Murder on the Rue Cassette by Susan Russo Anderson

Posted on Friday, August 21, 2015 in Mystery/Cop, Reviews

From the description on Amazon:

The story begins in Paris at the famous First Impressionist Exhibit on April 15, 1874. But later that night, when the body of a countess is found in the Rue Cassette, Serafina is sent by the slain woman’s wealthy father to investigate the brutal murder. Her budget bountiful, Serafina and her entourage stay at the plush Hôtel du Louvre, dine at Véfour and La Maison Dorée, interview friends of the deceased, have a midnight snack at Les Halles, visit with Berthe Morisot, Cézanne, Les Mardistes and other artists, and lock horns with the French police. As the plot twists, Serafina and her friends find themselves in the savage grip of a mind gone feral.

This is the third book in the series (or fourth, counting a novella, that only existed in e book form).

As I have mentioned before, I really like this series of mysteries, set in 1860’s Italy (Sicily). One thing I really like is that the main characters are so nice and interesting.

Just like the other books in the series, this is a well written mystery, in a fascinating setting, with a number of well developed characters.

Aug 18

Vera (2011)

Posted on Tuesday, August 18, 2015 in Mystery/Cop, Reviews, TV series

I’ve recently watched (most of) two seasons of the UK cop series Vera (2011). It was a pleasant surprise. Most cop series deal with the same old type of case – young women murdered by men. In Vera, you usually have a female killer and as often as not, she kills other women (or children). Depressing as it sounds, it seems to make sense. Women have conflicts with each other, just like men do.

Also, I must say I’ve had more than enough of all those old men who are made out to be irresistible to women thirty or forty years younger. DCI Vera Stanhope, as an older woman is, at least to me, quite new.

Vera is a bit brusque and can seem rude. She’s not that great at social niceties and has spent most of her life alone, but despite her apparent absent-mindedness, she’s very sharp and hardly misses anything, even what is completely baffling to others. She also has her trusted sergeant Joe Ashworth, who seems to regard Vera almost like a mother, rather than a boss. He has a busy personal life, but always manages to find the time to back Vera up.

This, like many other favorite tv series lately, will never inspire any fan fiction. It’s just a very good series to relax with, that can help you forget your own life for a while.

Apr 20

Maria Lang – Crimes of Passion

Posted on Monday, April 20, 2015 in Books, Mystery/Cop, Reviews

A while back I posted a review of Josephine Tey’s novels. It occurred to me that Swedish mystery author Maria Lang (Dagmar Lange), is in some ways similar to this author. Unfortunately, I can’t offer you a page with freebies, but there are two e-book titles available in English, on and on

I have read a few of her books (in Swedish) and so far I can’t say I have noticed anything political in her writing. What I do see is quite a bit of passion. Her characters are all filled with passion and jealousy. Most, if not all, seem to be motivated by love and sex.

The main characters are Puck (a young woman) who’s a scholar in literature. At the beginning of the series, she meets an attractive young man who is also a scholar, Einar Bure. He has a very good friend, Christer Wijk, who is a cop.

I love this mystery-solving trio. They work so well together. And having a background in fan fiction and slash, I can’t help thinking I could write some really cool fan fiction about them, preferably with a bit of slash. 😉 Something tells me the author might understand the slash, if not the concept of fan fiction – although I know there was fan fiction written early on, based on Jane Austen’s books and the Sherlock Holmes books. Apparently, Maria Lang’s mystery writing colleague Dorothy Sayers was a member of the Sherlock Holmes fandom.

From that first case, the three keep working together solving crimes. The mysteries are quite cosy, but like I said, they were at the time (1940’s and on) considered rather ‘erotic’. Don’t get your hopes up though, what was considered erotic in the 1940’s and 50’s is not what we would call the same thing. They’re a lot of fun to read for someone like me, who is interested in history. The cover art is beautiful and evokes the look of the era, if I may say so. I have seen one of the movies – looking forward to seeing the rest soon – that have recently been made from the first six books (that were recently re-published). It’s really fascinating to see all the details – architecture, cars, fashion, furniture etc. The books are never too graphic or depressing. It’s all just good old-fashioned puzzle mystery fun. Maria Lang also caused a bit of a stir, when one of her characters was gay, long before that became common in literature.

On one of my blogs I’ve already mentioned this, but once when my mum was very young and a student, she used to go to the opera all the time, escorted by an older, married male classmate. They went to all the shows and after a while they began to notice that this author was ‘stalking’ them, taking notes, always looking away, ignoring them if they caught her staring. In the end, my mum and her classmate, who, for the record, weren’t involved, ended up as a young married couple in one of the books.

Feb 6

Josephine Tey’s mysteries

Posted on Friday, February 6, 2015 in Books, Mystery/Cop, Reviews

After reading Josephine Tey’s mysteries, I thought I’d post some of my thoughts about them.

First the positives:

They’re free.
They’re very well written in general.
They’re really good mysteries.
The minor characters are mostly nice and interesting.
To me, they’re historic, though I know the author wrote and published them in her ‘present’.

What I had a bit of trouble with:

In my opinion, the ‘sleuth’ Alan Grant, is a tiresome, annoying condescending pretentious snob. He’s terrfied of falling for some woman and ending up getting married.

In fact, most of the characters seem to be a bit bisexual, or maybe it’s just my fan fiction/slash-tainted mind that sees them that way, but that wasn’t meant to be a negative, it’s just connected to Grant’s fear of falling in love (and being lost to crime-solving). Actually, it feels quite modern.

I won’t go into any more about the negatives, because they’re very few and I did like the books. It’s obvious that they’re of far higher quality than most internet freebies.

Some of the books are standalones, others are part of a series about Alan Grant, apparently one of Scotland Yard’s finest (and he’d be the first to agree with that). As far as mystery solving talents go, I agree too. He is brilliant.

In one of the books, The Daughter of Time, Grant’s hospitalized and going stir crazy with boredom. With a little help from his best buddy (faghag?) actress Marta Hallam, he finds a historic mystery to solve. (“Did Richard III kill his little nephews?”). It’s probably the best of the books (or maybe The Singing Sands is or – actually I’m not sure – most of them are really good). The title isn’t explained in the book, so obviously Josephine Tey expected her readers to be as edcuated as she was. Is the meaning clear to most people? I didn’t know what it was referring to, until after quite a bit of research, I ended up finding the explanation in a review on Goodreads. The Daughter of Time, apparently, is Truth, rather than Duty. I’m sure that makes sense as far as history is concerned but I’m not sure if it helps with murder cases. Not in real life. Agatha Christie makes the same claim in The Mysterious Mr Quin (that murder cases can become easier to solve after some time has passed), and it certainly works in her book.

One of the books had a rather unusual (for the time) twist at the end, but I won’t go into that because I don’t want to spoil it for any future readers).

I must say Miss Pym Disposes is probably the one I like the least. It’s about a former teacher, turned best-selling author (a bit like Josephine Tey herself, apparently) who is invited to a girls’ school by an old friend from her own school days. She ends up staying much longer than she’d intended and finds herself fascinated by the students. This book is as well written as the others, but ultimately it ends up being about Miss Pym thinking she can make a life-or-death decision that affects many people and failing because she didn’t have all the facts and that pretty much ruins it at the end.

More than one of these books have been turned into movies and tv series. In fact, I seem to have seen at least one movie and one tv series, not knowing they were based on Josephine Tey’s books. I hardly remembered the movie (Young and Innocent) so that story wasn’t spoiled for me, but I turned out to remember more about the tv series (The Franchise Affair), so that book was pretty much spoiled for me, in the sense that I knew where it was heading right from the start. Strangely enough, that didn’t ruin the story for me, since it was fascinating to follow it anyway.

Dec 11

Kidnapping in Kaua’i by Ava Easter

Posted on Thursday, December 11, 2014 in Books, Mystery/Cop, Reviews, Teen books

A few weeks ago, I finished YA mystery, Kidnapping in Kaua’i by Ava Easter. I read it on Wattpad, but it’s also available on Amazon. Compared to the other books on Wattpad, it was a pleasant surprise. Some of the books on Wattpad are quite entertaining, but most of them are works in progress, subject to editing and revising and – hopefully improving. This book was more finished than that, more polished. It was also really good. Not just exciting, fascinating but also very well written. I give it four out of five stars.

The story is about fourteen-year-old Leilani “Lani”, who lives in Kaua’i (one of the Hawaiian islands). She lives with her ‘grandmother’ Tutu, ‘aunt’ Rita, who is an anti-GMO organic farmer, her 13-year-old foster brother, Pano, and four ‘cousins’ who are two sets of fraternal twins, Fred and Frank, 11 and Franny and Faye, 15.

Apart from wondering about her parents, who left her as a baby with Tutu and her family, Lani’s worst concerns is starting high school. That is until she finds a secret field with some strange unknown fruits and begins to have visions about the island’s ancient gods and legends.

The descriptions about Hawaiian mythology is one reason I found this book so fascinating. I knew practically nothing about this pantheon and the beliefs connected to it.

I also enjoyed reading the story from Lani’s perspective. We may not have that much in common, but Lani’s an interesting main character. It’s easy to relate to at least part of her situation. After all, I’ve been a teenage girl too. The other characters are nice too, especially Tutu and aunt Rita, though I really hate the fact that Pano sometimes hunts and kills animals. That’s one thing I do have in common with Lani.

The twin girls, Franny and Faye, use a sort of private language ‘twin speak’ that Lani has begun to understand and eventually, she lets the twins know that she does.

It’s been difficult for Lani and Pano to get along with the Fabulous Four, as the two sets of twins refer to themselves (the Frightening Four, according to Lani), but during the course of this story, eventually the kids come to understand each other better.

Feb 11

No More Brothers (A Serafina Florio Mystery)

Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 in Books, Mystery/Cop, Reviews

Just last night I finished readind this ebook/novella by Susan Russo Anderson. This summer I read the first book in the series about the midwife and private investigator, Serafina Floria, Fina, who lives in mid-19 century Sicily, Death of a Serpent. I have already reviewed that book, so I’ll move on to the novella.

It was great returning to this ‘universe’. I love Serafina and her family and friends. Sometimes though, I’m a little surprised that this era seems so modern. Was it? That’s perfectly possible. Though I’m a bit of a history fan, I can’t say I’ve delved very deeply into this particular time and place. Or maybe the author has let a bit of anachronism sneak into the story. If so, it doesn’t ruin the experience.

Fina has a big family – seven children and a young orphan who is part servant, part family member. She also has her best friend Rosa, who used to be a madam, but has now retired and lives next door to Serafina. Everyone is quite sympathetic except for Fina’s oldest son, who seems to resent his mother’s sleuthing hobby – though it’s not only a hobby – the police commissioner hires her to help on especially puzzling cases.

This story wasn’t quite as fascinating as the first, but I suppose that’s only natural, since it’s so much shorter, but there was a surprise at the end. The novella was only available as a Kindle download. Fortunately I have a Kindle Touch.

I’m looking forward to reading the third part in the series – Death in Bagheria.

Nov 7

Never Buried, Leigh Koslow Mystery Series, Book 1, by Edie Claire

Posted on Thursday, November 7, 2013 in Books, Mystery/Cop, Reviews

I just finished reading Never Buried, Leigh Koslow Mystery Series, Book 1, by Edie Claire. It’s a mystery, that I found for free on Amazon. It’s also available on Smashwords.

I think that the reason the author made this book available for free is that it’s the first book in a series, and was originally published in 1999.

This was a fun, fast read, but also a really good mystery. I didn’t guess ‘whodunnit’ at all, until the end of the book.

I’ll just say a few words about the plot. Leigh has just moved out of her apartment (cockroach problems), and moved in with her pregnant cousin whose husband is in Japan. One of the first nights Leigh’s sleeping in the old newly renovated Victorian house, she notices a strange man in the yard. The following morning she makes a very unpleasant discovery in the hammock outside. It’s soon apparent that someone wants the two cousins out of the house and the threats escalate. Leigh’s cousin won’t be scared from her home and she and Leigh start looking into the history of the house (despite the disapproval of the investigating police officer, Leigh’s old room mate from college).

Unlike many other Kindle freebies, this was a well written and well edited book. I think I only spotted one spelling mistake in the whole book. I can recommend this book to anyone who likes mysteries (or who appreciates any well written freebie book).

Sep 5

Death of a Serpent by Susan Russo Anderson (A Serafina Florio Mystery)

Posted on Thursday, September 5, 2013 in Books, Mystery/Cop, Reviews

I have just finished reading this fascinating historic mystery. It’s set in 1860’s Sicily, a (more or less) new time and place for me. Other than from my studies of history, I haven’t read anything from this era.

What I really like about this book, apart from the very interesting plot, is that I like most of the main characters. Lately, I’ve been disappointed in so many books, because even the ‘good guys’ are such extremely unsympathetic characters. It’s hard to really get into the plot of a book, if you hate everyone in it. With this book I didn’t have that problem.

I was a little surprised to find that most of the plot takes place in a brothel! But strangely enough you ended up sympathizing with many of the people there, and not just pitying the ‘girls’.

The ‘sleuth’ is a recently widowed midwife with seven children (one of them has run away from home and another has gone off to university). The madam of the brothel is Serafina’s best friend, and that’s why she agrees to look into the gruesome murders taking place on the very doorstep of the brothel. Someone seems to have it in for Rosa, the madam, or is there another motive behind the killings?

One of the few things that bothered me about this well-written book is the fact that almost no one questions Serafina when she suddenly becomes a private investigator. Only two of her sons even comment on the fact!

Another thing that I’ve been wondering about is that everything is so modern. Serafina has studied at the university. She and her friend and some of the children go on idyllic little outings by train. Everyone seems very up to date about things happening in America, though in all fairness many people are emigrating and many others probably have relatives living there who keep in touch regularly. Maybe that part isn’t too surprising. But really, even if the setting is a bit too ‘modern’ I don’t care. This was such a wonderful reading experience I won’t question all the details. The author must have done her research, quite probably she knows more about the time and place than I do anyway.

I can definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes historic mysteries.

Sep 12

Female role models in tv, movies and books

Posted on Wednesday, September 12, 2012 in Books, Children's books, Classics, Fandom, Fantasy, Historic, Humour, Literature, Movies, Mystery/Cop, TV series

I recently read an article about positive female role models in movies. In general, there is a lack of good female role models so I think the short list in the article is a good starting point in changing that. I began to wonder which female characters I would deem positive and came up with this list (some of which were in the original article):

Ellen Ripley/Sigourney Weaver, the Alien movies (especially the first and second)

I read that Ripley was originally meant to be a male character, which figures. What man would write a female character like Ripley? Or anyone? Which is too bad, because I think that any woman who was physically capable would have done exactly the same things Ripley did. All she did was save her own life and those her adopted kid/s and try to pay a corrupt corporation back for killing her crewmates and setting them all up to bring back a lethal weapon in the form of an ‘exo lifeform’.

Erin Brockovich/Julia Roberts in the movie by the same name

Erin Brockovich is an unedcuated rather simple woman who stumbles across corruption and finds that she wants to do something about and then does exactly that. Simple enough, but at least when I watched the movie, I was impressed with her development from someone who just wanted to make a living to someone with a conscience. Normally, I don’t like Julia Roberts, so I was surprised to find that I liked this movie and the main character.

Olive Hoover/Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine

Olive is anything but a cliche. You might say that her grandfather is not really the kind of person who should have been helping her create her act for the Little Miss Sunshine pageant, and you’d think someone would have thought of that before the actual pageant, but I guess then there wouldn’t have been much of a movie. In any case, Olive is an amazing kid and several other characters in the movie are quite unusual and interesting too.

Catherine Morland, Northanger Abbey

Catherine is adventurous, imaginative and though I understand she’s supposed to be a parody of the typical heroine of a ‘gothic’ novel, I really like her. She’s fun and human and flawed, but in general, just nice and you find yourself rooting for her throughout the novel.

Anne Elliot, Persuasion

Anne is also quite different from the other Jane Austen heroines, which is probably why she and Catherine are my two favorite characters from Jane Austen’s books. Poor Anne has been rather too obedient to her family and that has left her in the unenviable situation of being unmarried at the old age of 26. She spends her life trying to help her family and keeping them from bankruptcy. Then when she gets a second chance at life, she’s strong enough to go against her snobbish family and do what she wants for a change.

Beatrice Eliott/Stella Gonet, The House of Eliott

In the first episode of the House of Elliot, Beatrice and her sister Evangeline are basically slaves to their selfish father, but when he dies – which he does during the first five minutes or so of the first episode – Beatrice is the one who quickly finds a way for the sisters to support themselves, doing something they’re both good at and enjoy doing. Beatrice is fun, tough and the sort of person you really root for, except when she’s mean to Jack.

Trudy Joplin/Olivia Brown, Miami Vice

Trudy is the most fun member of the Miami Vice team. Crockett and Tubbs may be sizzling hot, but Trudy is fun, tough and cool. I love her outfits (when she’s not playing prostitute in sting operations).

The rest of my list:

Constance Peterson, Spellbound
Alicia Huberman, Notorious
Tracy Turnblad, Hairspray
Jane Eyre, in the movie by the same name.
Alice, Alice in Wonderland
Miss Froy, Alice Henderson, The Lady Vanishes
Eowyn, LOTR
Stephanie Plum, Lula, Grandma Mazur/mormor Mazur, One for the Money
Veronica Mars, Cindy “Mac” McKenzie, Veronica Mars
From Downton Abbey:
Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham
Lady Sybil Crawley
Lucy Pevensie, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe + Prince Caspian + Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Morgan, Cutthroat Island
Janet, Charmed Lives, Diana Wynne Jones
Tea with Mussolini: Most of the female characters.

As you can see this is a mix of characters from movies, tv series and books. They’re in no particular order, chronological or otherwise. I just put them in as I thought of them. Some are from the early 19th century, others from this year or last year and the rest from anything in between. Considering how long a period of time this is (nearly two hundred years) you could say that it’s a pitifully short list, but of course I’ve probably overlooked several great characters that I might have come up with if I’d taken more time to consider. Also, it’s just characters from the English-speaking world. Anyway, for what it’s worth, this is my list. Do you have one too?

Feb 11

Bone Mountain

Posted on Friday, February 11, 2011 in Books, Mystery/Cop, Reviews

When I first came across Eliot Pattison’s mysteries set in Tibet, I was thrilled. Tibetan culture is something I’ve been interested in for years, in fact ever since I first read Tintin in Tibet. My love for Tibet only increased when I discovered Tibetan dogs (but that’s another story.)

Like the two earlier books in the series, Bone Mountain was fascinating, but sad. Parts of it read like a fantasy because of the incredibly interesting and unique culture and lifestyle of (some of) the Tibetans. Pattison’s ‘sleuth’ Han Chinese Shan, first came to Tibet when he was deported to a gulag. He survived the harsh conditions in the camp by embracing Tibetan religion and culture (the two are completely interwoven, so it’s hard, if not impossible to separate the two).

Bone Mountain deals with the desctruction of Tibet’s nature, by the Chinese occupation force. Reading about it almost made me cry. The ‘hero’ of the book is really Tibetan culture, in many ways illustrated by the characters. They’re all unique, fascinating and mostly sympathetic. It’s obvious that Pattison has come to care about his Tibetan friends and their culture, that, like the country it originated, is threatened by extinction.


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