September has been a bit of mixed-up month for me. The first part of the month was back to church time after the summer. The second part of the month, I’ve been on holidays. My reading has also been mixed-up. At one point I had at least six books on the go at once. I’ve managed to finish three of those ones, along with several other books. Almost everything tis month has been of the detective fiction nature, although three of them relate to a food loving detective.
March, April, May, June, July, August
Next month I plan on doing a whole lot more reading around the subject of food. Including at lest a couple of books that I intend to devote full posts to. So, with that out of the way, here’s what I read this past month.
Death on Tap is the first book in Ellie Alexander’s second mystery series. Her first series is the Bakeshop Mysteries. The protagonist in this series is Sloan Krause, a brewer in the town of Leavenworth, Washington, a town that has built it’s reputation on being a Bavarian themed town known for it’s beer.
This has the classic elements of many cozy novels. It opens with her catching her husband cheating on her. He is wealthy, and self-absorbed like most of the husbands in cozy novels. The big difference is that his family loves Sloan, an orphan who had no family until she met her in-laws. She works for them as a brewer and is very good at her job.
After catching her husband cheating oon her, she takes a job, on the advice of her brother-in-law, with a handsome new brewery owner. However things go sideways as on the morning after the brew pub’s soft opening a rival brewer is found dead in the fermenter. Sloan’s ex is the prime suspect, and whatever her feelings about what he’s done, she’s intent on proving him innocent.
As the case unwinds one of the differences in this novel is that the local police chief seems to be somewhat open to accepting Sloan’s help in solving the murder. The pacing is crisp, and the sub-plot around her ex and his fling as an interesting layer to the story without bogging it down. I also like that the book ends without giving any direction as to which way her relationship with the her boss at the new pub will go.
On the whole I enjoyed the bits about brewing and beer tasting. LIke all these books I find that the relationship between the work load of the ficitional brew pub and the reality of opening any new business seems to be stretched the most. I definitely intend to pick up the next two books in this series.
Louise Penny is a Canadian writer of detective fiction, and creator of the Armand Gamache, Three Pines mystery series. This series was reccomended to me as being similar in character to the Bruno series. Particularly in the way that good eating has a place of prominence for both detectives.
Three PInes is an almost mythical town, set in rural Quebec. A former United Empire Loyalist haven, it’s a too good to be true town that’s a home to artists, outcasts, the lonely, and quite frequently, murderers. Each of the crimes being investigated by Gamache has a connection to the town and it’s past.
Alon the way he comes in to contact with a core of villagers, Peter and Clara, the artist, Ruth, the poet, Oliver and Gabri, the gay couple who run a bed and breakfast, and Myrna, the former psychologist who gave up that position to open a bookstore. This group of friends helps, in various ways, in the solving of the crimes. They are a merry band who spend much time together eating and drinking and enjoying life.
In addition to the villagers Gamache has his team of detectives. They are intensely loyal to him, and as these stories progress we learn more about why this is so. Gamache’s strength and weakness are the same thing. He sees it as his role to take on the broken and weak and hlep them move to being strong and whole. He has sacrificed promotion and glory to do this.
Yet in all this he is a happy and contented man with a loving wife and family, and this loyal team, along with his best friend and boss Superintendant Brebeuf. However, as the series progresses we find out there is a case from his past that also continues to haunt him. He brought in a crooked Inspector (Arnot) and the negative light it shone on the Surete has made him some powerful enemies. Things are not what they seem in his team, particularly with the miserable detective Nichols and detective Lemeiux.
The best part of the books is that Penny draws great characters. Both as individuals and in the way that they interact with each other as a community. One of the best things about the characters I like is that they grow as the series progresses and there is always something new to learn about them.
She also does a great job with the atmosphere and the setting of the novels. She gives great descriptions of the countryside and houses with out slipping over the line into the habit of giving too much detail. Her food descriptions are also good, although I get a feeling that they are pulled from Chatelaine’s food trend of the month.
The one part of the books that I find hard to swallow is the background surrounding the Arnot case and how it played out. Without giving too much away, I found the suicide aspect of the story too far-fetched. It was far-fetched in Dorothy Sayers day, and even more so today. However, I will most certainly keep up with the rest of this series.
Last month I read Black Echo, the first book in Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch detective series. At the end of the book there was an intro into one of the Lincoln Lawyer books. The Lincoln Lawyer is another Connelly series, but in this case the main character is a lawyer. He is the half-brother of Bosch, but that doesn’t really come into play in this opening novel.
Mickey Haller is a defense lawyer who works out of the back of his car, the titular Lincoln. Twice divorced, he has a difficult relationship with his first wife, a prosecutor, and a better relationship with his second wife, who serves as his legal assistant.
One day he gets the trial of his life dropped into his hands. He is asked to defend Louis Roulet, a lawyer accused of a violent rape. He takes the case, but as it progresses he discovers may not be as innocent as he claims. It also turns out that Haller may have helped send an innocent man to prison.
As the case progresses Haller is faced with a difficult choice, one that he fears may cost him his career, and maybe more. His actions have some disastrous consequences along the way, and in the end he knows that his only shot at redemption is to try and take down Roulet.
The action is fast paced, and Connelly has clearly done a thorough job of researching how courtroom procedure works. I’ll be picking up more of these books, especially when I’m looking for something of a page turner nature.
After having Rather Be The Devil during August, I did something a little bit different and read my way backwards in the John Rebus series. This book involves a potential gang war in Edinburgh. A series of figures have received a threatening note, among them Big Ger Cafferty.
There are rumours of Glaswegian mobsters moving into the city adn a special team has been set up to monitor. This allows Malcolm Fox to be involved in the action as liaison. We also see a growth in his relationship with Siobhan Clarke. Rebus and Cafferty may both be retired, but when there is crime on the streets of Edinburgh we know that they will both be nearby.
Darryl Christie is featured prominently in this book as he is in Rather Be The Devil. We learn about his relationship with Cafferty. We also learn a bit more of the relationship between Rebus and Fox. There is also a story about the father-son relationship between the Glaswegian mobsters. This makes a good secondary story on the back of the main mystery.
I found this one of the most engaging Rebus books that I’ve read. Looking forward to his new one in October.