Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Mysteries in April and Picks of the Month


In April I read seven books, all mysteries. My reading included books set in four countries: one in Canada, one in Australia, two in the UK, and three in the USA.

It was a strange month for reading. I had a trip planned to visit my family in Alabama late in the month and most of my activities centered around that. My mother has health problems and my sister is her primary caregiver, so my thoughts have been focused on that for a while. I hate to fly and it is a long trip, but the positive factor is the reading I can get done in the air and on the ground (assuming I can get good light).

I have only reviewed four of the books I read.  I did have access to a computer to work on, but there was neither time nor energy to write reviews while I was in Alabama. So once I can get my thoughts on the books together, I will be catching up on reviews.

The books I read in April are:

Time's Witness by Michael Malone
The Burning by Jane Casey
Original Sin by David Mark
The Golden Spiders by Rex Stout
The Night the Gods Smiled by Eric Wright
Eleven Days by Donald Harstad
A Few Right Thinking Men by Sulari Gentill

I am not sure it is fair to pick a favorite for the month when I have not had time to digest and review my feelings for nearly half the books. This is especially true because so many of the books I read this month had wonderful qualities, yet none of the new books that I read for the first time this month really rose above the others.

I will feature two of the books I felt are worth highlighting:

Time's Witness, is the second book in a police procedural series. Cuddy Mangum is the narrator and the Chief of Police in Hillston, North Carolina. Cuddy is educated, but he is not refined, and to the powerful and rich inner circle of Hillston residents, he is a redneck. The book was published in 1989 and set around the same time period. The story in this book centers on George Hall, a black man arrested seven years earlier for killing a white cop. He is now on death row and supporters are seeking a reprieve or pardon. This is a very long book and there are many characters, but Malone does a beautiful job with them all. There are some quirky characters and the story is told with humor at times. Yet it is a very serious story. The themes are the death penalty, racism, inequity in the justice system, and the power that the rich can wield to get what they want. The author is passionate about his beliefs; telling the story via Cuddy make this more palatable.


The Nero Wolfe novels by Rex Stout are always a joy to read, and I have read all of them more than once. The Golden Spiders is typical in some ways: we get to see some of the activities in Wolfe's home, his love for food, his quirks, and we get the final gathering of suspects where Wolfe reveals the killer. However, in this novel, Nero Wolfe uncharacteristically agrees to work with a young boy from his neighborhood on a potential case of possible kidnapping. Archie and Wolfe and his pack of freelance detectives investigate a group of people taking advantage of poor immigrants who are seeking help in getting settled in this country.

This story seemed unusual to me because Archie, Fred, Saul and Orrie actually get into a gun fight with some thugs. Archie often carries a gun, but rarely uses it. The plot is very convoluted and the book is shorter than some Nero Wolfe novels. My copy was 150 pages. The first eight Nero Wolfe novels were all around 300 pages long.


The Crime Fiction Pick of the Month meme is hosted at Mysteries in Paradise. Bloggers link to a summary post for the month, and identify a crime fiction best read of the month.


18 comments:

  1. Glad you made it back safe and sound. Hopefully the trip went as well as it could. I'm fairly sure you out-read me this month!
    Mark and Malone are on the pile and I have picked up one Stout book to give him a try - not this one though.
    I read the Harstad book years ago, but still have it, so will read once more someday before passing it on. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on it.

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    1. I find it hard to believe I could out-read you, Col. To be honest, I haven't fully recovered from the trip, mentally or physically, in the two days I have been home. It is good to be back, I missed my husband and son. I look forward to seeing your summary. I don't think I missed any of your posts but sometimes could not do them justice reading on the tablet.

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  2. The Malone book has of course become even more topical following the recently botched execution - I really will try and get this one, thaks TracyK.

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    1. Sergio, I don't do a good job of keeping up with news, plus have been in a fog for a few days, so had not heard about the botched execution. That is horrifying, I can't even bear to read about it. I do hope you try Time's Witness. It is long but the writing is good.

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  3. Wonderful reading tips....I'm starting to like detective books! I just finished the newest 'French' investigator. "Yeruldelgger". My review in English is available :)) and I hope the book ( has won several prizes) will be translated very soon!

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    1. Nancy, I saw your review, the book sounds very interesting. I do hope the book is translated into English.

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  4. Tracy - You had a solid reading month. As always I like the variety in the books that you read. And who could argue with a Nero Wolfe mystery being one of your standouts? :-)

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    1. Margot, Whenever I read Rex Stout, his books always outshine the others I read. Maybe just because he is such a comfort read for me.

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  5. THese both sound very good to me. I am gonna add those to my TBR pile...

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    1. Gautami, I hope you try them. Each very different from the other of course, but good in their own way.

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  6. I hope you recover from your trip; it sounds like it was difficult.
    But the wonders of reading fiction, especially mysteries, is that it will distract and entertain you, providing the books are not overly brutal.
    Nero Wolfe's stories with Archie Goodwin's shenanigans and wit are just perfect for a time like this. I have resorted to them frequently (provided the language doesn't irk me) or I have turned to A. McCall-Smith's Precious Ramotswe books, easy, hopeful, nonviolent, optimistic.

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    1. Thanks, Kathy, it has been difficult and has taken a lot out of me. My sister is dealing with it all the time, so I should not complain. And, yes, reading mysteries did help. Of the three I read on the trip, only one had bothersome subject matter, but it was well-written with good characters.

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  7. Tracy I hope your mom's health improves. I hate to fly too, but you went. It counts.
    As for the books you listed, you know I liked the Nero Wolfe (though it's not one of my faves because of the i.d. of the victim) but I also want to mention ELEVEN DAYS by Donald Harstad, a book I liked very VERY much. More especially I went on to love every other book written by Harstad. (There are only four or so in the series so far.) The thing is, Hartstad's a pretty slow writer so there's been nothing for a few years. But the good news is, I just found out he's got a book due out this year. This is one I'll read no matter what.

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    1. Yvette, thanks for your kind words. I am very glad you mentioned the new book by Harstad. I enjoyed ELEVEN DAYS, and I do plan to continue reading that series.

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  8. I haven't read either book but it's nice to see some classic crime appearing in the 'best of' recommendations. We bloggers can tend to neglect the old in favourite of the new but this clearly isn't the case with you, Tracy!

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    1. Thanks, Sarah. My problem is ... I want to read everything (except the most violent, gritty and explicit) and I get frustrated trying to pick and choose. Re-reading Rex Stout seems like a waste when I have several vintage authors I haven't read yet waiting in the wings, but I know I can count on Rex Stout's writing.

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    2. Tracy, I'd be interested in reading "Time's Witness' as it sounds a lot like "The Chamber" by John Grisham though the stories are different. I like a healthy dose of realism in fiction.

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    3. Prashant, I looked into The Chamber since I would like to read more legal mysteries. It does sound interesting. I will have to try that sometime.

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