Category Archives: Book Reviews

The Haunted Season by G. M. Malliet

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The Haunted Season by G. M. Malliet The Haunted Season by G. M. Malliet
Narrator: Michael Page
Series: Max Tudor Mysteries #5
Published by Dreamscape Media on October 6, 2015
Source: Library
Genres: Mystery
Length: 9 hrs 21 mins
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Lord and Lady Baaden-Boomethistle have been in residence for some weeks now, and the villagers are hoping for a return to the good old days, when the lord of the manor sprinkled benefits across the village like fairy dust. Father Max Tudor's invitation to dinner at the hall comes as a welcome novelty; it will be his first time meeting the famous family that once held sway in the area. Before he has time to starch his clerical collar and organize a babysitter, a sudden and suspicious death intervenes, and the handsome vicar's talent for sorting through clues to a murder is once again called into play in this charming and clever story.

I skipped #4 in the Max Tudor series, mostly because Father Max was getting married and having a baby and I just didn’t want to read about the new family, but I just couldn’t pass up the cover for The Haunted Season. Apparently I didn’t need to worry about the baby. He is so well-behaved and calm and peaceful that he barely causes a ripple in Max’s life. And I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, his mother after all is nearly perfect and a healer to boot. Hmm, that sounded meaner than I meant it to. I don’t dislike Awena, and in all honestly she’s not in much of this book.

Lord Baaden-Boomethistle is our deceased, decapitated by a wire strung between two trees while he was out riding his horse. We’ve got several suspects, mostly members of his family. There are a couple clues, a few secrets, and of course Max manages to put it all together, with some help from DCI Cotton, the recurring cop character.

If that was it, adding in the villagers and church members, and bit more of his new curate, Destiny, I would have enjoyed it more. There were a couple things that made me lower it a star or two. First, the miracle of the face on the wall. Not a big fan of miracles in otherwise straight forward (non-paranormal) mysteries. At the same time, Awena, Max’s wife, is actually a healer, like her touch, in addition to herbs and what-not, can physically heal people, so maybe it is partly paranormal, but overall it’s not, so those touches just don’t flow with the rest.

And the end was just not well done. To be honest, I don’t know why it was added on. There’s a big scene involving a character who is part of a theme in the series, but comes out of nowhere in this book. Instead of actually seeing the action, we end up getting an info dump where Max and DCI Cotton tell an associate what happened. It was clumsy. I think I might be done with the series.

I listened to the audio and I do think the narrator did a good job with the variety of characters – and there are a lot. I think listening to it was probably the better option, because at least when there was the long “here’s what happened,” it was kind of like we were part of the conversation too.

About G. M. Malliet

Malliet did post-graduate work at Oxford University after earning a graduate degree from the University of Cambridge, the setting for her earlier series, the St. Just mysteries. Raised in a military family, she spent her childhood in Alaska, Colorado, New Mexico, and Hawaii and has lived in places ranging from Japan to Europe, but she most enjoyed living in the U.K. She and her husband live across the river from Washington, D.C., in the colonial “village” of Old Town, Alexandria. Her hobbies include reading, hiking in the Blue Ridge, cooking vegetarian meals, and planning the next vacation. She writes full time nearly every day, and is writing a screenplay in addition to her mystery novels and short stories. She gets her ideas from people watching, particularly in airport waiting areas, train stations, parks, and restaurants.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

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Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Series: Hercule Poirot #10
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on January 18, 2011 (first published 1934)
Source: Won
Genres: Vintage Mystery
Pages: 265
Format: Paperback
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“The murderer is with us—on the train now . . .”

Just after midnight, the famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift. By morning, the millionaire Samuel Edward Ratchett lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. Without a shred of doubt, one of his fellow passengers is the murderer.

Isolated by the storm, detective Hercule Poirot must find the killer among a dozen of the dead man’s enemies, before the murderer decides to strike again.

I had wanted to read Murder on the Orient Express again before watching the movie, and was lucky enough to win a copy in a Goodreads giveaway. This is at least the third time I’ve read it, but it’s one of those ones that I wish I could re-read for the first time. The solution is so perfect, but also so memorable.

Poirot is one of my favorite all-time detective and this particular mystery showcases his reasoning skills. The setting is perfect, a group of people are trapped in a train stuck in the snow, and clearly there is a killer on board. There is no access to people’s records, no way to check on their true identities, not contact with the outside world at all. I’ll grant you he manages to make some leaps in his deductions, but that’s part of his charm. It’s by no means a fair mystery, the reader can’t solve it, but I do love how all the clues and red herrings work together. I can’t say that the characters are well-developed, they’re mostly stereotypes, but that makes sense given the story.

Murder on the Orient Express is a low-key mystery. It’s mostly people talking, telling their versions of events. There is some hunting for clues, going through peoples luggage, building timelines, but there’s not much action, unlike in the trailer. There is some implied danger, but on re-readings that sense is lost a little.

Of course, I’m still looking forward to the movie. And the cast looks great.

About Agatha Christie

Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie, Lady Mallowan, DBE (née Miller; 15 September 1890 – 12 January 1976) was an English crime novelist, short story writer and playwright. She is best known for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections, particularly those revolving around her fictional detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. She also wrote the world’s longest-running play, a murder mystery, The Mousetrap, and six romances under the name Mary Westmacott. In 1971 she was elevated to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for her contribution to literature.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

Glass Houses by Louise Penny

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Glass Houses by Louise Penny Glass Houses by Louise Penny
Narrator: Robert Bathurst
Series: Inspector Gamache #13
Published by Macmillan Audio on August 29, 2017
Source: Purchased
Genres: Mystery
Length: 13 hrs 23 mins
Format: Audiobook
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When a mysterious figure appears on the village green on a cold November day in Three Pines, Armand Gamache, now Chief Superintendent of the Sûreté du Québec, knows something is seriously wrong. Yet he does nothing. Legally, what can he do? Only watch and wait. And hope his mounting fears are not realized.

From the moment its shadow falls over Three Pines, Gamache suspects the creature has deep roots and a dark purpose. When it suddenly vanishes and a body is discovered, it falls to Gamache to discover if a debt has been paid or levied.

In the early days of the investigation into the murder, and months later, as the trial for the accused begins in a Montreal courtroom on a steamy day in July, the Chief Superintendent continues to struggle with actions he’s set in motion, from which there is no going back. “This case began in a higher court,” he tells the judge, “and it’s going to end there.”

And regardless of the trial’s outcome, he must face his own conscience.

I love Louise Penny’s Armand Gamache series. If you haven’t read it, you should. Do start at #1 though, you’ll appreciate them most that way.

That being said, this was not my favorite of the series. I liked the whole concept the book is built around, the ideas of Conscience and guilt and judgement. As always, the characters are well-done and I am happiest when a large part of the book revolves around the familiar village of Three Pines, as it does here. There are some new folks in town, most of whom have secrets, but finding out who they are and what they know/have done was interesting. Our old friends are all pretty much the same as always, which is good.

Things that didn’t work for me:

1. The construction of the story. This story jumps back and forth in time too much and too abruptly. We are at a courtroom trial in the present, but for half of the book we don’t know who’s on trial or who they killed. We jump back to the time when the figure appeared on the square and the crime that soon follows. I didn’t like the set-up and it’s not what I expect from Penny. Yes, I know authors can broaden their styles, try new things, but bah. I did listen to it on audio, maybe the transitions worked better in print. I didn’t really notice if they happened around chapter breaks or not.

2. It’s a bigger story than I like. It deals with the opioid epidemic and drug cartels. Yes, there was the murder and a small list of suspects, but I prefer a book to stay there. I don’t need the larger story, in this case it was the “war on drugs” but it could be any government/society altering scenario. They’re just not my cup of tea (or cafe au lait, since we are in Three Pines).

3. Gamache seemed a little off here. He’s always serious and caring, but I think the serious and, I don’t want to say guiltiness, but maybe the pressure of what he’s doing is weighing a bit too heavy, and repeated a bit too much.

And then there were the last two chapters, which were just excellent and almost redeemed the entire book for me.

About Louise Penny

Louise Penny (born 1958) is a Canadian author of mystery novels set in the Canadian province of Quebec centred on the work of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec. Penny’s first career was as a radio broadcaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. After she turned to writing, she won numerous awards for her work, including the Agatha Award for best mystery novel of the year five times and the Anthony Award for best novel of the year five times.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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