Saturday, February 23, 2008

Playing With Fire

In general, I like to start a series with the first book in the series. I like to be introduced to characters and watch them develop through the series. I also like to watch the relationships for the characters develop. So far I cannot think of any of these series I have tired of. But sometimes I guess it is not always possible to start with the first book in the series.

Playing With Fire is a case where the book is not the first in the series. It is written by Peter Robinson. There are two sleuths in this series that takes place in Yorkshire and the surrounding area. Alan Banks is an inspector and Annie Cabbot is one of his deputy inspectors. One of the things I learn about them is they had a romantic relationship sometime in the past. Now they have moved on and have strictly a working relationship. But of course previous relationships can affect current relationships.

This book is opened with a fire and the death of two persons. It is not known what caused the fire at first but the inspection points to arson. Since it was arson the deaths become murders. There is no apparent motive for these fires and murders but there are suspicions.

Another fire is discovered later in another place. It also results in a death. Again it is arson and murder. There does not appear to be any connection to these two fires but they are investigated as possibly related.

A safe with a painting inside it is found at the site of the second fire. This provides the most likely connection with the other fire where one of the persons who died was an artist. The painting is determined to be a forgery. It becomes apparent this is the connection and the murderer must have a connection with two of the dead persons.

The investigation reveals a definite connection between the two fires and an unidentified third person.

To discover who this person is read the book yourself. I do not want to give it away. It is a surprise.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Women's Mystery Club

The Women’s Murder Club work together as the sleuths in a series written by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. They are a group of friends who have gotten together to solve mysteries. They are a diverse group of women in the San Francisco area. The Club consists of a police detective (Lindsey Boxer), a medical examiner (Claire Washburn), a lawyer (Yuki Castellano), a reporter (Cindy Thomas) and an Assistant DA (Jill Bernhardt) who was killed in one of the books. Each book in this series has a number in the title - 1st to Die, 2nd Chance, 3rd Degree, 4th of July, The 5th Horseman, The 6th Target, and 7th Heaven. I have just finished the sixth book in this series.

This book does not involve just one crime but several crimes under investigation. In my mind, this gives the book a little more plausibility since you do not expect the police to be just involved with a single crime.

The first crime involves a shooting on a ferry. Four people were killed, Claire Washburn was wounded, and her son was also shot at. Was he the sixth target? The second crime involved a kidnapping (and murder) which proves to be related to other kidnappings (and murders). Also there are a series of crimes in an apartment complex where Cindy Thomas lives.

The person who did the shootings on the ferry turns himself in at Lindsey’s place and confesses to the murders. Yuki is involved in the team to prosecute the killer. The killer has an attorney who defends him on the basis of a mental illness. The case ends in him being found not guilty after which he issues a warning. More on that later.

The kidnapping proves to be a mystery. Suspects include the nanny (who ends up being murdered), the parents, and pedophiles. There is no ransom made but a letter makes threats if the police are brought in. Lindsey gets help from several sources including the FBI and an employee of the agency who supplied the nanny of the kidnapped girl to discover the links to other kidnappings and missing persons. It turns out the kidnappers are the owners of the agency and they usually sell the kids they kidnapped to wealthy clients for sex toys. Fortunately, this little girl is rescued before she is delivered as a sex toy.

The crimes committed in Cindy’s apartment complex cause a lot of concern. Dogs are brutally murdered, property is destroyed, and there is a murder. Through good police work and investigation, the man responsible is discovered and arrested.

Now back to the shooter from the ferry. He is sent to a secure facility for mental treatment. However, through a series of calculated events, he escapes. The meaning of the threat he made is figured out and he is recaptured. When another person dies, there is evidence he was struck by the last stray bullet fired on the ferry. He was NOT intended to be the 6th Target but he was. And it is this 6th target that allows the shooter to be brought back to trial in which he is sure to be found guilty.

Friday, February 8, 2008

"Just The Facts"

Bill Crider is one of my favorite Texas mystery writers. I found out he co-authored a book called Houston Homicide with a former PI named Clyde Wilson. I had two reasons to read the book. First, it was written by Bill Crider and second, it takes place in Houston where I grew up.

A family (man, wife, and his mother) is murdered in their home. This is when a homicide detective in the Houston Police Department is introduced in the book. His name is Ted Stephens. He is asked to take charge of the investigation by his boss.

The book was written in a first hand account. It seemed to me this book had a flavor of the tv series Dragnet. Do you remember the phrase “just the facts”? This was the type of information you learn from Ted Stephens early on – very concise. There was very little elaboration.

Ted Stephens identifies and investigates several likely suspects – including a son of the murdered man. He is helped in his investigation by a friend – a PI named Clive Watson. Each of the suspects seem to have alibis – including the son. Does it sound like the son was involved?

Well…, as a result of his investigation and the help of his friend, he is able to determine the son was involved. He gets testimony from a dirty lawyer and he discovers the alibi of the son was not true. His alibi was a young lady who was on drugs. She is rescued when a drug overdose would have meant her death. Thru this experience she becomes convinced she has a calling to become a nun. So she decides to confess and verifies the son committed the murders when he was trying to rob his grandmother.

With the information he gets, Ted arrests the son and closes the case.

As a side story, Ted learns the girl who wants to become a nun is diagnosed with cancer a week after the case is closed. A month or so later, he learns the cancer goes into remission. He is not sure he believes in miracles but in the end decides he needs to go back to church.

Oh..., by the way. The phrase “just the facts” was a shortened version of what was really said on Dragnet. The real phrase according to Snopes was “All we want (or know) are the facts”.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Writer and The Sleuth

There are two things about mysteries that impress me – the writer and the sleuth. Let me talk about the sleuth first. The sleuth is not just a standard Sherlock Holmes. Don’t get me wrong – I like Sherlock Holmes. He was one of the first sleuths I started reading. Sleuths come from different walks in life. You have your cop turned PI. Then you have your detective. You have the ex-lawyer who runs a herb store and gets involved in mysteries. You have your college professor drawn into mysteries. You have your small town sheriff investigating murders and other mysteries. You also have the game warden who gets involved in mysteries. Even a writer might be a sleuth. There seems to be no limitations to job backgrounds a sleuth might have.

The sleuth in Pushing Up Bluebonnets is Abby Rose. This is the fifth book in the Yellow Rose Mystery series written by Leann Sweeney. Abby Rose started off as a rich heiress involved with running a computer company. A death at her home and connected search for her biological background got her started in the business – becoming an investigator. She is brought into this mystery when a young lady is involved in an accident and has Abby’s business card. It becomes apparent this “accident” was helped along by somebody else who wants the young lady dead. Even the young lady is a mystery – who is she? She seems to be the missing but found granddaughter of a prominent man in a small town family – but things do not add up.

We have learned thru the series how stubborn and determined Abby can be when it comes to getting answers. When somebody meets her one of the things they mention is what they have heard about her and how impressive she is. Well.., in this book, we come to realize (as other characters in this book do as well) that Abby can be vulnerable. While she may appear to be a “superwoman” she has her weaknesses as well.

In spite of the web drawn in this book, she comes to discover who tried to kill the young lady. She finds out about the young lady’s past. And she discovers who in the prominent family knew about the young lady’s past – to a certain extent. One mystery remains at the end of the book. Will the “mob” still try to eliminate the young lady to get back at her previous family or will she be “protected” by her new family? Maybe not!!

I mentioned a writer could be a sleuth. I should not be surprised because the writer of the mystery has to be sleuth of sorts to develop the mystery. At the same time, the writer can come from different walks in life as well. They can be lawyers, doctors, professors, any number of law enforcement fields, or unrelated fields. This is just another way the writer and the sleuths are alike. It does not matter what the background is – the mystery writer can write a mystery and a character can be a sleuth.

Finally, I enjoy the mystery when it is not just about the sleuth. There is a story involving other characters as well. Case in point. The story about the original officer who found the abandoned girl and tried to help her out. She was unable to at the time. Now she is no longer a cop due in some part to an illness she has - MS. Now she is able to pass on information useful in solving the mystery. The author gave a very impressive description of the meeting with Abby, her, and her dog. At the end there is another meeting with Abby, the ex-cop, her dog, and the grown young lady who the ex-cop tried to help as a little girl.

Good job!!!