Tag Archives: Mystery

Audiobook Review: The Long Way Home by Louise Penny


long way home

Title: The Long Way Home (Inspector Gamache #10)

Author: Louise Penny

Read by: Ralph Cosham

Published: August 26, 2014 by Macmillan Audio

Genre: Mystery

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Audible

Happily retired in the village of Three Pines, Armand Gamache, former Chief Inspector of Homicide with the Sûreté du Québec, has found a peace he’d only imagined possible. On warm summer mornings he sits on a bench holding a small book, The Balm in Gilead, in his large hands. “There is a balm in Gilead,” his neighbor Clara Morrow reads from the dust jacket, “to make the wounded whole.”

While Gamache doesn’t talk about his wounds and his balm, Clara tells him about hers. Peter, her artist husband, has failed to come home. Failed to show up as promised on the first anniversary of their separation. She wants Gamache’s help to find him. Having finally found sanctuary, Gamache feels a near revulsion at the thought of leaving Three Pines. “There’s power enough in Heaven,” he finishes the quote as he contemplates the quiet village, “to cure a sin-sick soul.” And then he gets up. And joins her.

Together with his former second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, and Myrna Landers, they journey deeper and deeper into Québec. And deeper and deeper into the soul of Peter Morrow. A man so desperate to recapture his fame as an artist, he would sell that soul. And may have. The journey takes them further and further from Three Pines, to the very mouth of the great St. Lawrence river. To an area so desolate, so damned, the first mariners called it The Land God Gave to Cain. And there they discover the terrible damage done by a sin-sick soul.

I don’t know where to start with my feelings about The Long Way Home. I love this series, but this was not one of my favorite installments. Even though it’s a mystery, it’s more interested in character than plot, in thoughts and feelings than actions, which has been true of all Penny’s books; it’s what makes them stand out. It also makes it a series best read from the beginning, to know the characters, to learn their stories, the things that are important to them, how they interact with each other. However, it can also make it slow, a bit plodding. It’s also not a typical mystery in that it doesn’t start with a crime, it starts as the search. There are eventually crimes uncovered, and there is a murder, but not til late in the story. I don’t think that’s really a spoiler: there’s always a murder in her mysteries.

I hate to admit that I didn’t actually like Peter. I’m afraid I would have wanted Clara to find him so she could divorce him, not to save him. He was a jerk the last time around, and never one of the characters I wanted to sit down and spend time with, so it took me a while to get in to the story. After all, it is basically a search and rescue mission to save Peter.

In Penny’s mysteries the themes are fairly obvious. While most mysteries are a little simpler, mostly good versus evil or sin and redemption/punishment, her books develop other themes. Here we have healing, both physical and mental, the artistic process, and, obviously, returning home, as Gamache has retired to Three Pines and Peter has not returned, for unknown reasons. I like that it’s about thoughts and feelings, but sometimes it can be a bit slow and repetitive. How many times do we need to go over the same ground?

I listened to this on audio and Cosham, as always, did a wonderful job as narrator. He is the voice of the series for me. I like hearing the French phrases and names common in Quebec. (And sometimes I might go around the house repeating them because I like how they sound. And my daughter and husband might look at me funny.) I’m told, however, that in this one I’m missing something by not having the hardback. Apparently the texture of the cover actually enhances the story. Also, the image is from a painting by Canadian artist Charles Gagnon, an artist who figures predominantly in the book.

It’s a good book. I had to admit it had me crying at the end, even if it was a bit cheesy. Sometimes cheesy works.

I don’t know if I’m being more critical than usual because I do love this series so much, care for these characters, want to visit Three Pines, but a couple of things bothered me. First, there’s the way people treat the old poet, Ruth Zardo. Yes, she’s mean and crotchety and usually drunk, but I don’t feel like they have to constantly being flinging jabs at her. Yes, she gives as good as she gets and yes, she finds the insults amusing, but it’s a fine line between amusing and mean, and sometimes I think her friends cross over it, forgetting she’s a real person and not just a caricature. Okay, I know they’re all fictional people, not real, but you know what I mean.

Second, I felt like the mystery was wrapped up a little quickly at the end. Slow revelation is one of Penny’s strengths and the rushed ending didn’t do her characters justice.

I truly enjoyed the book and can’t wait for the next in the series. I just don’t think it was quite as strong as some of the others. Maybe that makes sense though; the urgency that Gamache had in previous books is resolved. He’s healing and maybe the overall slower pace of this one provides a kind of respite.

Reivew: I Adored a Lord by Katharine Ashe


I adored a lord

Title: I Adored a Lord (The Prince Catchers #2)

Author: Katharine Ashe

Published: July 29, 2014 by Avon

Genre: Historical Romance

Rating: 4½ out of 5 stars

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Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository

Three very different sisters beguile society with their beauty and charm, but only one of them must fulfill a prophecy: marry a prince. Who is the mystery Prince Charming, and which sister will be his bride?

All that clever, passionate Ravenna Caulfield wants is to stay far away from high society’s mean girls.

All that handsome, heroic Lord Vitor Courtenay wants is to dash from dangerous adventure to adventure.

Now, snowbound in a castle with a bevy of the ton’s scheming maidens all competing for a prince’s hand in marriage, Ravenna’s worst nightmare has come true.

Now, playing babysitter to his spoiled prince of a half-brother and potential brides, Vitor is champing at the bit to be gone.

When a stolen kiss in a stable leads to a corpse in a suit of armor, a canine kidnapping, and any number of scandalous liaisons, Ravenna and Vitor find themselves wrapped in a mystery they’re perfectly paired to solve. But as for the mysteries of love and sex, Vitor’s not about to let Ravenna escape until he’s gotten what he desires . . .

I tend to avoid titles like this; “I Adored a Lord” just seems kinda cheesy, but I was reading some early reviews and it sounded too fun to pass up. I was right, this is just a light read, a wonderful combination of historical romance and mystery. Usually, I’m not a fan of romance clogging up my mysteries, but I do like it when a mystery helps along a romance, which it does here. I guess it comes down to how it’s being sold – as a mystery or a romance.  At heart, I Adored a Lord is a romance and an enjoyable one at that.

Ravenna is not a society charmer and it’s her sister’s fault she’s at this party. Ravenna is a gifted medic adores animals. She’s a bright woman and not afraid to be who she is. Well, I take that back, she prefers to be seen as less special than she is. Vitor has issues – he’s been celibate for a couple of years, was tortured at one point in time and has a reasonable distrust of his brother. But he’s not the pushy, alpha-male. He makes men puff their chests out and woman stare from under lowered eyelids, but he tries not to notice. Sparks are apparent at their first meeting in the stable, but the romance is a slow-simmering one. There’s plenty of heat, but it doesn’t build too quickly. The reason I really liked Vitor though is that he appreciates Ravenna’s intelligence, curiosity, tenacity. Yes, he finds her beautiful and tempting and enjoys teasing her, but he would not want her to act like the other society maidens with their fawning, their cattiness. That’s what makes them a great pair, both as potential lovers and as a pair of detectives.

The book does have a large cast of characters to keep track of, but eventually you get to know them all. They are (almost) all suspects and it’s interesting to try to guess whodunnit as the clues are revealed. So many suspects, none seemingly with much of a motive. I was kept guessing, but I usually am.

It is the second in the series, but works fine as a stand-alone. I may go back and read the first one, though, just because I enjoyed this one so much. Or not and I’ll just wait for the third. I do think Katherine Ashe is an author I’ll read more of.

I Adored a Lord is probably one of my favorite books I’ve read this year. It’s just fun and made me smile.

Audiobook Review: Angelica’s Smile by Andrea Camilleri


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.

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