Recommendations from the SMSA Crime & Mystery Book Club

his month the theme was books that mix genres, for example espionage, science fiction, romance, or literature.  Here are our recommendations:

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The Auction by Justin Scott

American author Justin Scott who has written 29 novels from the 1970s to present day.  He writes under the pen name Paul Garrison and co-writes with Clive Cussler on the Isaac Bell novels.  He also writes a detective series about Ben Abbott and other mysteries as J.S. Blazer and Alexander Cole. Quite prolific.  The remainder of his books are spy stories with ships or boats as a main part of the plot.  he blurb on the back of The Auction outlines the plot "Your bid is expected at the Pendragon auction..Lancelot. The message came in over Comptel's private telex link. Pendragon was the codename for the most influential - and least-known - individual in history. One who dealt in nations: a broker who traded empires, a man who held the coveted key to world power. Now he was a hostage. Comptel would be bidding against other multinationals, Arab sheikhs, presidents and generals: against all who knew that, without Pendragon, nations would topple and empires would fall. Comptel would start the bidding, but the ending of it was Pete Chamberlain's job. His lethal assignment: find Pendragon. Find him fast. Only the kidnappers, the Russians and the CIA stood in his way."

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The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon

This novel is a detective story set in an alternate history version of present day.  History diverges during World War Two hen a temporary settlement  for Jewish refugees was established in Sitka, Alaska in 1941, and that the fledgling State of Israel was destroyed in 1948. The novel is set in Sitka, which it depicts as a large, Yiddish-speaking metropolis. " The plot centres on Meyer Landsman an alcoholic homicide detective with the Sitka police and his partner, half Tlingit, half Jewish, Berko Shemets who investigate the death of a man in a run down hotel.  The dead man is found by Landsman with a open chess board with an unfinished game on it.  Landsman and Berko discover that the victim was Mendel Shpilman, the son of the Verbover rebbe, Sitka’s most powerful organised crime boss. Mendel was believed by many to be the Tsadik ha-Dor, the potential messiah, born once in every generation."  The book plays on words and concepts and offers a different take on what it means to be Jewish and the concept of an Israeli state.  It is often very funny and it has thought provoking alternative history scenarios such as "Germany crushes the Soviet Union in 1942 and World War II continues until 1946, when Berlin is destroyed with nuclear weapons. Chabon refers to a 'Polish Free State' existing in 1950, and describes some characters as veterans of a lengthy 'Cuban War' in the 1960s. President John F. Kennedy was not assassinated and married Marilyn Monroe; Orson Welles succeeded in making his film of Heart of Darkness. And when describing the modern world, Chabon refers to a 'Third Russian Republic' and an independent Manchuria that has its own space program."

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Victims by Jonathan Kellerman

Victims is the 27th Alex Delaware novel from Jonathan Kellerman.  Published last year, it focuses on a series of horrific murders in Los Angeles, psychologist Delaware and LAPD detective Milo Sturgis team up again to find the common link between to victims who are found in grotesque tableaus with the only cue being a blank piece of paper with a question mark on it left on each body. The investigation takes them into the mental health industry in LA through the tropes of a police procedural mixed with modern psychology.  Kellerman has been writing since 1985 and is a very successful crime novelist and holds a degree in psychology.  If you like his books and the Alex Delaware character, this is a nice addition to the continuing story.

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The Hand of Mary Constable by Paul Gallico

The blurb on the back of the book says "Are the spiritual manifestations of Professor Constable's dead daughter Mary genuine or is someone trying to sabotage his work? The only hard evidence is a wax hand bearing a set of Mary's fingerprints, but the truth must be uncovered as the apparent spirit is sapping the Professor's will with each passing hour."  A crime novel with a heavy supernatural theme, The Hand of Mary Constable keeps the reader tooing and froing, along with ghost-hunter and lead investigator of the novel, Alexander Hero, between thinking that the Professor is becoming mental unstable or there really is a supernatural reason for what is going on.  The Hand of Mary Constable (1964) is a sequel to Too Many Ghosts (1959) which also features Hero, who specialises  in exposing fraudulent ghosts and mediums. Paul Gallico did not stick to a genre.  His first and most successful novel was The Poseidon Adventure, however he also wrote The Snow Goose, both novels which were made into very successful films.  He is the author of 50 novels over a span of 50 years (three of which were published after his death in 1976).

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Fatal Network by Trevor Scott

Goodreads says this, "Trevor Scott is the author of a dozen mystery/thriller novels in the Jake Adams International Thriller Series, the Hypershot Series, and the Tony Caruso Mystery Series. He has traveled to 50 countries and currently resides in Oregon. When he is not traveling or writing, he spends as much time as possible hiking and hunting the western mountains." Fatal Network is a Jake Adams novel that take the former Air Force Intelligence and CIA Officer from an aircraft carrier off the coast of Italy to the banks of the Rhine as he tries to keep vital technology out of the hands of German and Hungarian agents while looking for the man who created it.  This is a well written airport novel that keeps you on the edge of your seat as you follow the dead bodies and technology across Europe.

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Diego Marani

Diego Marani is an Italian novelist, translator and newspaper columnist.  His most famous book is a New Finnish Grammar written in 2000 and translated into English in 2011. This short novel, just under 200 pages, is set in Trieste, Italy in 1943, where a German doctor finds an unidentified solder who is injured and has lost his memory.  The German doctor is originally from Finland believes the soldier is also from Finland.  The Doctor sends the soldier back a friend in Finland to be treated and learn Finnish so he can reconstruct his memory.  All while the war is on.  This is a mix of mystery and a literary novel that uses language and the search for identity to unravel the mystery pot.  Another recommendation penned by Marani is The Last of the Vostiaks which was written in 1998 and translated in 2013. Like a New Finnish Grammar, it is a mix of mystery and literature which raises the question of language as an identity symbol.  The book is about a Siberian native of the fictional Vostiak who has been a prisoner in a Gulag who speaks a language that has almost disappeared. He is discovered by a Russian student who believes that he is the living proof of the philological connection between the Finnish language and the American natives.  A theory disputed by the Russian student's old Finnish professor, who tries to prevent the appearance of the last of the Vostiaks at an academic conference.  Both novels a short and full with ideas and philosophy wrapped around a plot that is solving a mystery or crime.

 

Next month the focus is on a crime or mystery set during a season such as the solstice, summer or winter,