Tag Archives: Mystery

Audiobook Review: Angelica’s Smile by Andrea Camilleri

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angelica's smile

Title: Angelica’s Smile (Inspector Montalbano #17)

Author: Andrea Camilleri

Translator: Stephen Sartarelli

Read by: Grover Gardner

Category: Mystery

Audio published: June 24, 2014 by Blackstone Audio

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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Purchase: Audible | Amazon | Book Depository

A rash of burglaries has Inspector Salvo Montalbano stumped. The criminals are so brazen that their leader, the anonymous Mr. Z, starts sending the Sicilian inspector menacing letters. Among those burgled is the young and beautiful Angelica Cosulich, who reminds the inspector of the love-interest in Ludovico Ariosto’s chivalric romance, Orlando Furioso. Besotted by Angelica’s charms, Montalbano imagines himself back in the medieval world of jousts and battles. But when one of the burglars turns up dead, Montalbano must snap out of his fantasy and unmask his challenger.

I like this series more in theory than I do in fact. Angelica’s Smile was okay, but not outstanding. Of course, it probably didn’t help that I missed all the Orlando Furioso references, since I’d never heard of it, let alone read it. Apparently, it’s “one of the most influential works in the whole of European literature” and I’ve missed out on it. Once again, Montalbano falls in lust at first sight. Maybe it’s some kind of midlife crisis, he feeling old, she’s attractive, he decides cheating on his girlfriend is an option after all. Meh.

The burglaries themselves are rather interesting, although the criminal is contacting Montalbano directly, which happened in the last book I listened to in this series. Does that actually happen often in real life? I kinda doubt it.

The Sicily setting is fabulous and does often lead to some great food. And I like the general attitude, it’s amusing and clever. Montalbano’a a bit of a jerk, but in a good way. I don’t think I’d like him in real life, but he’s enjoyable to read about.

This one didn’t grab me though. There was nothing that really elevated it from your average mystery. The cast of secondary characters/suspects was a bit long and with all the Italian names they were hard for me to keep straight. The end was a bit confusing too, maybe because it was on audio and I wasn’t fully paying attention, but I was happy with at least part of the whodunnit.

Grover Gardner did a good job as the narrator, I thought. He has the right tone for Montalbano and he makes it sound foreign but not too much so, if that makes sense. The audio’s short, about 5½ hours, and has a lot going on, so it kept my attention. For a good quick read, it’s not bad, but the first few I read in the series I enjoyed more than the last couple. I don’t know if I’m being more picky now, or if they’re just not as good.

Edit: If you’re interested, here the link to the Wikipedia article on Orlando Furioso.

Review: Vintage Murder by Ngaio Marsh

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Vintage murder

Title: Vintage Murder (Inspector Alleyn #5)

Author: Ngaio Marsh

First published: 1937

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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Death served well-chilled

The leading lady of a theater company touring New Zealand was stunningly beautiful. No one-including her lover-understood why she married the company’s pudgy producer. But did she rig a huge jeroboam of champagne to kill her husband during a cast party?

Did her sweetheart? Or was another villain waiting in the wings? On a holiday down under, Inspector Roderick Alleyn must uncork this mystery and uncover a devious killer…

I was having trouble deciding what to read. I’m halfway through a couple of books and just kinda stuck. I was sitting in the chair and happened to see this on the bookshelf, so I pulled it off. Marsh rarely disappoints me.

Vintage Murder comes pretty early in the series. Alleyn is in New Zealand recovering from something or other, but none of these fictional detectives can actually have vacations. He happens to be travelling in the same train as a theater group. He ends up becoming friendly with them, goes to see the shoe and at the party afterwards someone is of course killed – by a giant bottle of champagne no less.

Marsh is one of the original Queens of Crime, but she also loved the theater, and her thorough knowledge of the theater people and the actual stage mechanics are on display here. Alleyn is her series character, an intelligent likeable man, but she also manages to give the secondary characters full personalities. They are a rather colorful cast, and of course all of them are potential suspects.

One thing I like about Marsh, besides knowing what to expect from her books, is her descriptions. She has an eye for detail, whether it be the landscape or suspects reactions during interrogations. I do wish Alleyn would fill us in on what he’s thinking along the way, but the explanation at the end pulls it all together.

The one negative probably comes from the era when it was written. A bit of Maori culture was included, but more as an interesting piece of the puzzle than a true interest. And the Maori people themselves are portrayed as barely civilized. But the 30s could be rather racist and sexist.

Even though this is the 5th in the series, it definitely works as a stand-alone or out of order, which is how I’ve been reading them.

Audiobook Review: Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

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Midnight

Title: Midnight Crossroad (Midnight, Texas #1)

Author: Charlaine Harris

Read by: Susan Bennett

Category: Mystery, Paranormal

Audio published: May 6, 2014 by Recorded Books

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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Purchase: Audible | Amazon | Book Depository

Welcome to Midnight, Texas, a town with many boarded-up windows and few full-time inhabitants, located at the crossing of Witch Light Road and Davy Road. It’s a pretty standard dried-up western town.

There’s a pawnshop (someone lives in the basement and is seen only at night). There’s a diner (people who are just passing through tend not to linger). And there’s new resident Manfred Bernardo, who thinks he’s found the perfect place to work in private (and who has secrets of his own).

Stop at the one traffic light in town, and everything looks normal. Stay awhile, and learn the truth…

I am not a die-hard Charlaine Harris fan. I got bored of her Sookie books and read maybe one in her Aurora Teagarden series. I picked up midnight Crossroad because it sounded fun enough and I didn’t really have anything I was desperate to listen to. It’s also the first in a trilogy and I usually stay interested enough for three books, just not 5 or 6 or 7, with a few rare exceptions. This turned out to be an enjoyable, light book, not outstanding but entertaining.

Midnight, Texas is full of misfits who someone all fit together. I guess if you had read some of her other book some of the characters would be familiar to you, but they weren’t to me. The local folks include a vampire, a witch, a mysterious woman who’s secret I’m not sure of, the gay couple who run the salon/antique shop, the kind of creepy Reverend, the couple who run the diner and the family at the gas station. And Manfred, the new guy, an internet psychic. None of them are terribly compelling, but they’re all kind of interesting. I didn’t really care about them, but passing the time listening to what was going on in their tiny town was a nice enough way to spend an afternoon.

There’s the big mystery – the pawn shop owner’s ex-girlfriend, who he had thought left him, is found dead down by the river. Who killed her? But since everyone has his or her own secrets is tough to see what’s actually going on. I liked the mix of paranormal and mystery. I’m interested enough to read the next in the series when it comes out, get to the characters better, see who else’s secrets are exposed.

I listed to the audio and I do think Susan Bennett as reader added something to it for me. I may have gotten a bit bored actually reading it in print, but she kept the story interesting, the characters easily differentiated, and made it easy to know who’s viewpoint we were seeing events from. Her tone didn’t give away the bad guy as narrators sometimes do.

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