Recommendations from the SMSA Mystery & Crime Book Club

ere are April's recommendations of books from the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts Mystery and Crime Book Club.  The focus for this month is a story that includes frames, doors and mirrors.

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Smoke and Mirrors by Kel Robertson
This is an Australian crime novel was published in 2008.  It is the second novel featuring ustralian Federal Policeman Brad Chen.  He is an ex-football star of Chinese extraction who is named after Australian cricket legend Donald Bradman. The book is set in Canberra and involves politics and crime.  Sounds like a typical day in a politicians life then.  According to Pan Macmillan Smoke and Mirrorsprovides readers with more of the intricate plotting, witty dialogue and eccentric characters from Kel Robertson's sensational debut, Dead Set (2006).” 

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The Mist In The Mirror by Susan Hill
Susan Hill is an English author who wrote The Woman in Black and I'm The King of The Castle. The Mist In The Mirror is in the same tone - a period crime novel with supernatural overtones.  The synopsis by Random House says “An inveterate traveller, Sir James Monmouth has spent most of his life abroad. He arrives in England on a dark and rainy night with the intention of discovering more, not only about himself but his obsession with Conrad Vane, an explorer. Warned against following his trail, Sir James experiences some extraordinary happenings - who is the mysterious, sad little boy, and the old woman behind the curtain? And why is it that only he hears the chilling scream and the desperate sobbing?”

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Cameo by Winston Graham
Winston Graham is not known for crime novels.  He wrote the Poldark novels and Marnie, which was made into a film by Hitchcock. Cameo is a bit of a departure for Graham.  It is set in London during the Blitz in World War 2.  A soldier on leave goes to check on his parent's home after a night out drinking and accidentally goes into the wrong house where he finds a dead woman. It all starts from there.

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The Doors Open by Michael Gilbert
Set in modern times, Paddy Yeatman-Carter, a regular insurance broker, sees a man attempting suicide in the reflection of his carriage window one night on a commuter train.  He intervenes and stops the man by taking him to the pub for a drink. However, the very next day the same man is found dead, and Paddy believes the circumstances to be extremely suspicious. Paddy involved his friend and lawyer, Nap Rumbold, to help him to discover the truth. During their investigation they become suspicious of the dead man’s employers: the Stalagmite Insurance Company, who appear to hire some very dangerous staff.  You won't look at insurance companies the same again.

 

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Jose Carlos Somoza
Somoza was born in Cuba but lives in Spain.  
The Athenian Murders  is a postmodern murder mystery set in ancient Greece. It tells two stories at the same time - the translation of an ancient Greek manuscript that tells the story of the death of one of the pupils from Plato's Academy and the investigation into what caused it; and the footnotes show a second plot set in the modern day about the academic who is translating the text. As the story advances, however, the translator is alarmed to discover references to himself, which seem to address him personally in an increasingly menacing fashion. The Athenian Murders is Somoza's English debut.

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The Art of Murder is another English translation of Somoza's original Spanish novel.  It is set in the near future where realism in art has reached a new level.  Each painting is literally alive. The model is the canvas, and young men and women are lining up for the privilege to be painted, posed, bought and rented by collectors.   The Amazon.com synopsis says "a young female model is brutally murdered, and the detectives assigned to the case may have little interest in modern art, but they're going to have to acquire an appreciation quickly."  It is well written but disturbing as the themes of art, under-age sex, and ownership confront the reader.  

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Orders From Berlin by Simon Tolkien
This novel is set in 1940 during World War 2.  Set during the Blitz (popular setting this month) Detective Constable Bill Trave investigates the death of a rich widower in his Chelsea flat on the behest of the man's daughter, Ava.  Ava learned from an old friend of her father that he worked for MI6 before the War and that this may have something to do with his death.  This is a spy thriller set in war time, with double agents, Nazis and Churchill.  Nice.

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Trust Your Eyes by Linwood Barclay
A modern take on Rear Window, Trust Your Eyes uses the internet as the window that enables a schizophrenic man, who spends his days and nights on a website, to see something that he shouldn’t: a woman being murdered behind a window on a New York street.  Thomas, the viewer gets drawn into a conspiracy of crime while battling his dilusions.

That is it for this month.  Hope you find the recommendations helpful.