Recommendations from the SMSA Crime & Mystery Book Club

For the last month of the year, we are recommending series that we enjoy or have just started reading. 

Big Issue.jpg

The Big Issue Magazine

One recommendation from the left field. In a time when magazines are on the decline, one of our members suggested The Big Issue as a magazine that should be regularly read. Not only because the money goes to a good cause, but because the articles are well written, interesting and more substantial than any other magazine available today.

According to its website, "The Big Issue is timely and topical and loved by readers for its distinctive brand of irreverence. Since its inception in Australia in 1996, more than eight million magazines have been sold, with $16 million going into the pockets of Australia's homeless, marginalised and disadvantaged." Get a subscription this Christmas and your money will go to homeless women. 

Barry.jpg

The Raven's Eye by Barry Maitland

The Raven's Eye is the 12th novel in the Brock and Kolla series, which are usually classified as whydunits rather than whodunits. DI Kathy Kolla and DCI David Brock of Scotland Yard, London are in the Serious Crime Unit. There is not an hint of romance between the characters which is pleasant change from the norm. The series started in the early 1990s and is still being writ

ten today. Maitland's love of architecture comes through in his description of London and the rest of England, if the story goes there, His focus on the growth of his characters through the years, rather than a reset that does happen in other series, keeps readers coming back. If you like a police procedural and good characters, start at the beginning of the series with The Marx Sisters.

Elizabeth.jpg

Series by Elizabeth Linington

Elizabeth Linington has written under many non-de-plumes, namely, Dell Shannon, Anne Blaisdell, Lesley Egan and Egan O'Neill. In 1960 she published Case Pending the first novel of her most popular series (written as Dell Shannon) featuring LAPD Homicide Lieutenant Luis Mendoza.  She wrote 41 novels as Dell Shannon.

In 1961 she published three books, Nightmare, a standalone that was written under the name Anne Blaisdell and made into a movie called Die Die My Darling in 1965 starring Tallulah Bankhead and Stephanie Powers. Another Dell Shannon called, The Ace of Spades, and A Case for Appeal her first novel written as Lesley Egan. She has also 16 novels under her real name, Elizabeth Linington. 

Echo.jpg

Echo Park by Michael Connelly

Echo Park is the 12th in the Hieronymus 'Harry' Bosch series. Bosch is a LAPD Detective who retired and became a private investigator before returning to the LAPD's Open Unresolved Unit - basically the cold case unit. Bosch is a Vietnam War vet who grew up in refuges and orphanages and his past is a theme that comes up often in the series. Los Angeles is just as much a character in these novels and Harry's many roles in the LAPD and as a PI give the reader an insight into different parts of the city. These books are 'airport novels' that are a bit formulaic so it is difficult to read one after another. However, they are great one-off reads.

Jeri.jpg

Veil of Lies by Jeri Westerson

Marketed as a medieval noir, Veil of Lies is the first in this crime series set in 1383 featuring Crispin Guest, a disgraced knight turned detective. Guest was stripped of his title as a result of supporting his liege from the House of Lancaster over Richard II, son of Edward the Black Prince for the English crown. Guest is preoccupied with his loss of status in relation to his birth right, and the idea of heritage and breeding anchors his approach to life. The tone of the book is a bit modern in comparison to the history it is illustrating, which makes this a light read. The use of the term noir in describing the book is misleading as a disgruntled private investigator who is attracted to a woman involved in a crime does not make it noir. It makes it like most private investigator crime novels out there. 

Carter.jpg

Getting Warmer by Alan Carter

This is the second book in the Cato Kwang series set in Perth, Australia, first featured in our recommendations earlier in the year. The plot is described on the Freemantle Press website as "Cato Kwong is back. Back in Boom town and back on a real case - the unsolved mystery of a missing fifteen-year-old girl. But it's midsummer in the coty of millionaries and it's not just the heat that stinks. A pig corpse, peppered with nails, is uncovered in a shallow grave and a body, with its throat cut, turns up in the local nightclub. As a series of blunders by Cato’s colleague brings the squad under intense scrutiny, Cato’s own sympathy for a suspect threatens to derail his case and his career." This is a series I am planning on diving into, as it is always interesting to have a series set in a city that is not a common location for crime novels.

Colin.jpg

Coffin Scarcely Used by Colin Watson

This is the first in the Flaxborough Chronicles by Colin Watson written in 1958. Flaxborough is a small fictional town in England, not the name of the Detective, which is a bit of a change. These cosy British crime novels feature DI Purbright and Sergeant Love who are decent and centred, and in Coffin Scarcely Used they investigate the death of the unpopular editor of the local newspaper. The novels usually target the pretentiousness of the bourgeoisie and money is the root of all evil. There are twelve novels in total and four of the Flaxborough novels were adapted for television by the BBC under the series title Murder Most English. The last book was written in 1982. Colin Watson died in 1983.

Andrea.jpg

The Inspector Montalbano Series by Andrea Camilleri

According to Goodreads.com "In 1994 Camilleri published the first in a long series of novels: "La forma dell'acqua" (The Shape of Water) featured the character of Inspector Montalbano, a fractious Sicilian detective in the police force of Vigàta, an imaginary Sicilian town. The series is written in Italian but with a substantial sprinkling of Sicilian phrases and grammar. The name Montalbano is an homage to the Spanish writer Manuel Vazquez Montalban: the similarities between Montalban's Pepe Carvalho and Camilleri's fictional detective are remarkable. Both writers make great play of their protagonists' gastronomic preferences" This is a very popular series that has been translated into English and was made into a long running television program by Italian TV channel RAI in 1999. The TV series has been running for nine seasons and is still in production.  

Harry.jpg

The Rabbi Small Series by Harry Kemelman

The Rabbi Small series began in 1964 with Friday The Rabbi Slept Late and ended twelve books later in 1996 with The Day The Rabbi Left Town, when Harry Kemelman died at the age of 88. This series is one of the most famous clerical detectives in crime fiction. Although technically a Rabbi is not part of their community as the same way as clergy in Christianity. The books are set in a small knit Jewish community in a fictional town of Bernard's Crossing, along the east coast of the US. The books are fill of humour and sharp observations and the mysteries are solved by the Rabbi using logic and teachings from the Talmud. Kemelman did say that the purpose of his stories was to teach and explain Judaism to Jews and Gentiles. He succeeds in this.

Ann.jpg

Almost Night by Ann Prospero

Almost Night is Ann Prespero's debut novel featuring Detective Susannah Cannon of the Miami Police Homicide Squad. Published in 2000, this novel is written in the first person and highlights what Susannah goes through in the male-dominated world of a homicide police squad. The story starts when the body of Carla Reeves indicates that the killer has previous skill and knowledge and indicates that they may be a serial killer. However, Almost Night is the only crime novel by Ann Prospero at present, so not technically a series. Ann Prospero has also written recipe books and is a freelance journalist.

Faye.jpg

Hangman by Faye Kellerman

As highlighted last month, Faye Kellerman writes a series featuring Peter Decker and his wife Rina Lazarus set in Los Angeles. She is an American author who explores modern Judaism through these characters. She has written nineteen novels in this series, two short story novels with her husband, crime author, Jonathan Kellerman and has co-written a teen novel with her daughter Alexa.

Jon.jpg

The High Commissioner by Jon Cleary

The High Commissioner introduces Sergeant Scobie Malone of the Sydney police. Written in 1966, Malone is sent to London where he is to arrest the Australian High Commissioner for the murder of his first wife. This novel was a best seller and made into a movie. However, Cleary wrote two more Malone novels in the following ninenteen years before coming back to writing a Malone novel nearly every year. Jon Cleary is known for his 1953 novel The Sundowners as well as his Scobie Malone series. He wrote over fifty six novels, twenty of them featuring Malone.

maisie-dobbs-225.jpg

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

Maisie Dobbs is the first in the Maisie Dobbs series set in between the world wars in England. Maisie is a Psychologist and Investigator who began her education prior to World War I when as a servant in a big house owned by Lady Rowan Compton, she was discovered reading in the library. Lady Compton supports Maisie's search for knowledge by sponsoring her to be educated by Lady Compton's friend Dr Maurice Blanche, a Psychologist. The war intervenes and instead of going to Cambridge University, Maisie enlists as a nurse. The impact of the war is a thread throughout Maisie's career and the following ten novels, as we follow Maisie through the late 1920s and early 1930s. Jacqueline Winspear was born and grew up in England and now lives in the US. The series is ongoing. 

Dana.jpg

A Cold Day for Murder by Dana Stabenow

The Kate Shugak series is set in Alaska and starts with A Cold Day for Murder, first published in 1992. Kate is an Aleut and was raised by her grandmother in the National Park in northern Alaska. She is an ex-investigator for Anchorage District Attorney's office and is now a Park homesteader. She was injured in her role as an investigator for the D.A.'s office and is now asked to use her skills to find out what happened to a missing National Park ranger. The books investigate the tensions between the traditional Aleut way of life and modern America. There are twenty one novels in the Kate Shugak series. Dana Stabenow also writes science fiction and thrillers and has two other series, the Star Svensdotter series (science fiction) and the Liam Campbell series featuring Alaskan State Trooper Liam Campbell.

The SMSA Crime & Mystery Book Club will be back in January, when we will discuss what books we read over the holidays. See you then.