Who killed Michael Abramowitz? There are frequent clues in Baltimore Blues, Laura Lippman’s first mystery novel. Reading blurbs on Sujata Massey’s “Rei Shimura” series books reminded me that I love to read local author Laura Lippman’s mysteries with settings in our Chesapeake Bay region. Don’t you enjoy reading books set in your own area? I relish being reminded of the neighborhoods, restaurants, and streets I know or want to explore. Remember CAMEL from my last posting? E=EXCEPTIONAL SETTINGS! Don’t forget about CAMEL to help you to find great books of this and any genre.
So now that we have explored EXCEPTIONAL SETTINGS in the first paragraph, let me tell you how I became enamored of mystery stories. Mysteries were my first love from when I was an early reader in grade school beginning with “The Bobbsey Twins” series. All my allowance and birthday money was spent in my home town in northern Indiana on these and other mystery series books. I continued to collect and read any mysteries for my age group. Then in high school I subscribed to the Columbia Mystery Book Club, using all my babysitting money on Perry Mason novels. Now I read any thrillers, suspense and mystery novels recommended by reviewers, friends and family. I love them light, such as Agatha Christie ones, to very dark, such as Steig Larssen’s books and all mysteries in between. Please let me know your favorites in the comment section!
Returning to the concepts in the CAMEL acronym suggested @ Book Club Cheerleader (see below), let’s explore some of the other traits of a great title. What is an example of COMPLEX CHARACTERS in the mystery genre? Sharyn McCrumb in If I Killed Him When I Met Him has two complex secondary characters, Eleanor Royden and Donna Jean Morgan, who are wives accused of murdering their husbands. The investigators in the story are a forensic anthropologist and two lawyers, Elizabeth’s brother Bill and his partner, A. P. Hill. You do not need to read the first Elisabeth MacPherson book in the series to understand this interesting title by MacCrumb, still I encourage you to try more books in her bibliography.
Let’s find some stories filled with A for AMBIGUITY. This trait can be in the theme, the characters, the climax or the solution. The author of this type of book keeps you guessing throughout the novel. Many of you have read Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series about the Egyptian anthropologists. Ms Peters, known as Mertz/Peters/Michaels, was prolific; as a matter of fact, she wrote under three names. On her website there is a quote I would like to share: “At 85, Elizabeth Peters (aka Barbara Michaels [and Barbara Mertz]) is enjoying her cats, her garden, lots of chocolate, and not nearly enough gin.” One of my favorite characters she created is a librarian (surprise, surprise) named Jacqueline Kirby. Naked No More contains a plot, themes and characters who are ambiguous!
Now I know you are ready for a recommendation of a mystery novel full of M=MEATY issues. Through the Darkness, the sixth book in Marcia Talley’s Hannah Ives series, is about the kidnapping of the protagonist’s one year old grandson. I do not know how Marcia wrote that one, but she carried it off with her usual flair for suspense, realism and care for her characters.
Yesterday I mentioned a book with letters which covers the LITERARY DEVICES idea. As a former English teacher and school librarian, my favorite of the entire CAMEL concept for choosing books is LANGUAGE and LITERARY DEVICES. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks is an untraditional mystery; in fact, it is probably not listed as a mystery on many book lists. Still this brilliant novel includes clues, an investigator and many characters hiding the facts from others as well as the reader! This popular novel follows the provenance of an object, an illuminated text from the current times back to the beginning of its inception. This technique has been used by other authors which I will explain in another post.
Here are some mystery blogs and websites I follow: