Recommendations from the SMSA Mystery & Crime Book Club

It is time for this month's recommendations of books from the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts Mystery and Crime Book Club.  The focus in partners in crime.

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Murder on the High Seas by Conrad Allen
Murder of the High Seas is Conrad Allens's series of crime novels featuring ship detectives George Porter Dillman and Genevieve Masefield in the early 20th Century.  George and Genevieve work undercover and solve murders, fraud and theft for various passenger ocean liner companies.  These books are wonderful light romps that give you an insight into class, society and the history of the time.

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Mortal Mischief by Frank Tallis
Mortal Mischief is the first book in the Liebermaan Papers series set in Vienna from 1902 to 1914.  According to Frank Tallis' website, "It was a time of unprecedented activity in the worlds of philosophy, science and the arts. The coffee houses of Vienna became lively debating societies, in which the political, social, and cultural agenda of the 20th century was set. Sigmund Freud, Arnold Schoenberg, Arthur Schnitzler, Gustav Klimt, Theodor Herzl, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Gustav Mahler, were all neighbours; however, at the same time, Vienna was playing host to a quite different set of thinkers. German mystics, social Darwinists, and race theorists whose ideas would eventually be consolidated under the banner of Hitler’s National Socialism."  The partners in crime  are Dr. Max Liebermann is a psychoanalyst and disciple of Sigmund Freud and his friend Detective Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt, who enjoy musical evenings together when they are not investigating crimes.  Oskar often calls on Max's psychoanalytic knowledge.  Mortal Mischief is a great slice of historical crime with flourish and detail about Vienna and, what sounds like, the most delicious Austrian desserts and coffee.

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False Intentions by Arlene Hunt
Arlene Hunt is an Irish crime writer who has set her series of novels around rookie detectives Sarah Kenny and John Quigley and their ailing detective agency, QuicK, in Dublin, Ireland. Set in modern times, False Intentions is Hunt's second novel, but the first about Kenny and Quigley.  The story  is a fast paced thriller with a vivid portrayal of Dublin's seedy underbelly of drugs and prostitution.

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The Collini Case by Ferdinand Von Schirach
German Ferdinand Von Schirach writes intricate court room dramas when he is not being a lawyer.  Set in Berlin, the book quickly describes the murder and the subsequent surrender of the murderer, Collini.  Young up and coming Public Defender, Caspar Leinen accepts the case and works hard to defend his uncooperative client.  The novel delves into Germany's past as well as that of Collini and his lawyer.  It is sometimes an uncomfortable read showing both the perspective of the victim and the murderer.

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The Search for Anne Perry by Joanne Drayton
So not within the theme but talked about anyway,  Joanne Drayton is Associate Professor in the Department of Design at UNITEC, Auckland and is known for her biographies, especially that of her 2008 biography of crime writer, Ngaio Marsh.  The Search for Anne Perry is Drayton's fifth biography and focuses on tying examples of Anne Perry's Victorian crime novels with her past as an illustration of how she reveals herself through her writing.  According to the book's description "In 1994, director Peter Jackson released the film HEAVENLY CREATURES, based on a famous 1950s matricide committed in New Zealand by two teenage girls embroiled in an obsessive relationship. This film launched Jackson′s international career. It also forever changed the life of Anne Perry, an award-winning, bestselling crime writer, who at the time of the film′s release was publicly outed as Juliet Hulme, one of the murderers."  This book is a bit salacious and could do with tighter editing and better bridging between ideas and passages of Anne Perry's writing.  Here is an interesting review of the biography in the New Zealand Herald.  

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Templar's Penance - A Knight's Templar Murder by Michael Jecks
Michael Jecks' Templar novels are set in the 1320s in the West Country in Britain and features ex-Templar and investigator Baldwin Furnshill and his friend Bailiff Simon Puttock.  In Templar's Penance, Baldwin and Simon are on pilgrimage across Europe to Santiago de Compostela in Spain and come across a young girl who was raped and murdered.  This is a wonderful medieval crime series and Baldwin and Simon are great companions for this pilgrimage and their other investigations. And you get to learn about the Knight Templars and what became of them during the time of Edward II of England and his consort Queen Isabella of France. 

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Agatha Christie
Two novels were recommended.  The Big Four and By The Pricking of My Thumbs.  The Big Four is a Hercule Poirot novel.  Poirot and Captain Hastings investigate the world domination conspiracy of the Big Four, and according to Wikipedia 'are typical ethnic and national stereotypes of 1920s British fiction, with the Chinese characters typecast as Fu-Manchu-esque bandits. Other key villains include a French femme fatale and a vulgar American multimillionaire. These characters implement consparicies and undetectable poisonings operated from a super-secret underground hideout.'  By The Pricking of My Thumbs features Tommy and Tuppence Beresford who investigate the retirement village, Sunny Ridge, where Tommy's Aunt Ida resides and ultimately dies.   

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Laurie R King
American author Laurie R King writes a Sherlock Holmes pastiche which includes a completely new character, Mary Russell.  Mary is King's creation and becomes a Dr Watson replacement and wife of Sherlock Holmes.  If you can get past that change to canon, the two books recommended where, The Language of Bees and God of The Hive.  The story started in The Language of Bees continues in the God of The Hive and centres around an investigation into a religious cult called 'The Children of the Light', which has roots in Shanghai, China.  Set in 1924 in England, Scotland and Orkney Island, Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes come across Holmes estranged son by Irene Adler and delve into the workings of Mycroft Holmes' government department.  Not for the Sherlock Holmes purists.

Hope you have found something that might want to read.  Unfortunately I will not be at the March meeting, however I will bring you the April recommendations, where the theme will be stories that involve frames, both literal and metaphorical.  

P.S.  Nancy Pearl is an American librarian who was the Executive Director of the Washington Center for the Book at the Seattle Public Library in Seattle, Washington.  She is known for her idea of connecting with the reader without pretence.  Her 2003 book, Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment and Reason offers recommendations all based on the premise that it is more important to enjoy the book that you are reading.  She coined the 50 Page rule which is "If you still don't like a book after slogging through the first 50 pages, set it aside. If you're more than 50 years old, subtract your age from 100 and only grant it that many pages."  Words to live by.  Life is too short and you shouldn't waste it on a book you are not enjoying.