Tag Archives: Mystery

L is for Lowcountry

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L

I just finished reading Southern Heat by David Burnsworth. It’s set in Charleston, South Carolina, but often refers to the area as the lowcountry, a term I was unfamiliar with, so I looked it up.

The Lowcountry is a geographic and cultural region located along South Carolina’s coast, that includes the South Carolina Sea Islands. Once a location that was known for its agricultural wealth, the Lowcountry today is internationally renowned for its historic cities and communities, its natural beauty, and its unique cultural heritage, which have attracted millions of visitors and thousands of new residents. The definition of what constitutes the Lowcountry varies. While it always includes the counties of Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton, and Jasper counties, it usually is broadened to include Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester counties, which is how it is used in the novel.

Tourism is the current dominant economic sector throughout much the Lowcountry and is based on resort amenities, historic and cultural sites, and natural features. Hilton Head Island, Fripp Island, Seabrook Island, Kiawah Island, and the Wild Dunes portion of the Isle of Palms, have developed into popular destinations for golf, tennis, and beach vacations. Longstanding seaside communities including Edisto Beach, Folly Beach, Sullivan’s Island, and the Isle of Palms remain popular destinations for visitors and a growing number of permanent residents and second-home owners. Charleston is one of the leading cultural and historic destinations in the United States and attracts millions of visitors each year.  Hunting Island State Park, Edisto State Park and other local, state, and federally protected or preserved lands and wetlands provide thousands of acres of pristine natural areas that are accessible in areas to millions of visitors.

The tensions between locals and tourists, between conservation and development are part of Southern Heat.

Southern heat

Title: Southern Heat

Author: David Burnsworth

Category: Mystery

Published: Feb 19, 2014 by Five Star

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Add: Goodreads

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository

Gunshots echo down an antebellum Charleston alley. Brack Pelton, an ex-racecar driver and Afghanistan War veteran, witnesses the murder of his uncle, Reggie Sails. Darcy Wells, the pretty Palmetto Pulse reporter, investigates Reggie’s murder and targets Brack.

The sole heir of his uncle’s estate, Brack receives a rundown bar called the Pirate’s Cove, a rotting beach house, and one hundred acres of preserved and valuable wetland along the Ashley River. A member of Charleston’s wealthiest and oldest families offers Brack four million dollars for the land. All Brack wants is his uncle’s killer.

From the sandy beaches of Isle of Palms, through the nineteenth-century mansions lining the historic Battery, to the marshlands surrounding the county, Southern Heat is drenched in the humidity of the lowcountry

Southern Heat hit all the right notes for me. I like the setting – coastal south Carolina and especially the dive Brack inherited, Pirate’s Cove. The characters are good. Brack has issues, but I like his attitude. He knows he’s a bit of a loose cannon, still grieves for his wife and knows that while revenge may not be the best option, ti’s what he’s going with. He’s a sarcastic and snarly and you’re rooting for him. He teams up with an interesting group of people, including Darcy, a pretty reporter who’s as tenacious as he is, and Brother Thomas, the leader of an African-American church who knows what’s going on in his community. I also really liked one phrase Brother Thomas used: “”A man can’t avoid reaping what he sows.” It fits the whole of the book well.

The mystery’s good. You don’t know who Brack can trust. There are plenty of bad guys to fill all the spots. And they all have guns. There’s a lot violence in this one. Brack’s Charleston is a gritty, corrupt town. But it’s not just an old boys network, the women here can hold their own too. and just when you think you have it all figure out, you realize you’re wrong.

I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I hope we see more of Brack.

One complaint though. I have an ARC and the blurb on the back gave away the whole story, including the big scene at the end, so the surprises weren’t really surprises to me, which was a little disappointing. I’m not above reading the end of books first, but I don’t want told before I’ve even started how it’ll end.

B is for Bat

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B

B is for Bat. I recently listened to The Bat by Jo Nesbø and a review follows. The story takes place in Australia, so first I thought I’d talke a bit about bats “down under,” large fruit bats actually. In the sandstone caves of Northern Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland, there are numerous depictions of flying foxes, some dating back tens of thousands of years.  In The Bat, several Aboriginal stories are referenced but not the one about a confrontation between Tjinimin the Bat God and the Great Rainbow-Snake.  Tjinimin wanted to have sex with the Green Parrot-Girls that were the consorts of Great Rainbow-Snake and of course Great Rainbow-Snake objected to this.  At the end of the story Tjinimin hangs upside-down in a tree to admire the stars and decides never to try having sex with anyone again, whereupon his nose falls off.  Which is why bats have such short faces, apparantly.

Flying foxes eat fruit and this has inevitably brought them into conflict with humans who grow fruit, especialy when the bats preferred natural resources have been logged out of existance. Flying Foxes, along with all other native bats, are now protected in Australia.

The Bat is named after an Aboriginal myth where the bat is associated with death, a story I can’t seem to find on-line.

the bat

Title: The Bat (Harry Hole #1)

Author: Jo Nesbø

Read by: John Lee

Category: Mystery

Audio published: July 2, 2013 (first published 1997)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Add: Goodreads

Purchase: Audible | Amazon | Book Depository

Harry Hole is sent to Sydney to investigate the murder of Inger Holter, a young Norwegian girl, who was working in a bar. Initially sidelined as an outsider, Harry becomes central to the Australian police investigation when they start to notice a number of unsolved rape and murder cases around the country. The victims were usually young blondes. Inger had a number of admirers, each with his own share of secrets, but there is no obvious suspect, and the pattern of the other crimes seems impossible to crack. Then a circus performer is brutally murdered followed by yet another young woman. Harry is in a race against time to stop highly intelligent killer, who is bent on total destruction

Although The Bat is the first in the series, it’s the second I’ve listened to and maybe the third or fourth that was translated into English. I found it interesting that to introduce his character, Nesbø takes his character out of his home, puts him in contact with all new people. It lets us meet Harry Hole as he introduces himself to others. Except I’d already met him on his home turf.

In a way, The Bat was similar to The Redbreast, which is the other I listened to. Harry’s on a case;  Harry meets a woman who he’s not destined to spend the rest of his life with, probably not even another book; a colleague is killed; Harry, the “recovering” alcoholic, gets drunk for days on end and then needs to solve the case to find justice for his friend; Harry solves the case but it takes an emotional toll on him. I wonder if that’s the general layout of each, or it’s just coincidence that is was in the two I’ve read.

As a whodunit, it was good. There were several potential suspects. I like the variety of character, both suspects and assistants. There are hookers and drug dealers, shady cops and strong boxers, a drunk sky-diver in the park and a gay clown.  Harry himself is an odd duck, an outsider, not good at dealing with authority, a loner, but then he falls pretty hard for a random girl he meets. In a lot of ways, he’s the typical detective these days.

John Lee, the narrator, does a good job with different personalities and accents. It’s clear who is speaking and his reading faded into the story.

It is amusing too, in a dark way. I don’t want to spoil anything but there’s a bet partway through. Harry loses and it’s funny and sick at the same time.

One thing I especially liked was the weaving of Aboriginal folklore into the story. Several of the characters tell Harry the myths of the country, hoping to give him a little light into how they think, feel, how the country runs.

I’ll keep listening to these for a while, although based on this and The Redbreast, it hasn’t turned into one of my favorites yet.

Harry Hole Series

  1. The Bat
  2. The Cockroaches
  3. The Redbreast
  4. Nemesis 
  5. The Devil’s Star
  6. The Redeemer 
  7. The Snowman
  8. The Leopard
  9. Phantom 
  10. Police  

And a quick thanks to all of you who left comments on A yesterday, some regular readers, some folks stopping by for A to Z.

Mary at Play off the Page
Marie from Every Day Is a Miracle
marcuslee2401 from The Masquerade Crew
Sabrina Garie, Romance Author
Chrystal from Housewives of Blogdom
blodeuedd from Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell
Christine from The Dead Writers Society
Elle from The Erratic Project Junkie
Stacy from Stacy’s Books
The Childlike Author from The Playground
Cheryl from Cheryl’s Random Thoughts
Ryan from Wordsmithsonia

 

Audiobook Review: The Lake Quilt Mystery by S. D. Brown

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lake quilt mystery

Title: The Lake Quilt Mystery

Author: S. D. Brown

Read by: Wendy Pitts

Category: Middle school, Mystery

Audio published: January 21, 2013 (first published 2009)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Add: Goodreads

Purchase: Audible | Amazon

Freedom Lake Resort
Gated. Fenced. Remote.
Miles from home.
Miles from friends.

The moment twelve-year-old Kelsey and her mother arrive at Freedom Lake, it’s obvious that this is not going to be the kind of resort experience Kelsey expected. Or hoped for. A nurse escorts a girl in a straight-jacket out the back door of their cabin and Kelsey’s creeped out. The girl begs Kelsey for help. Mrs. A., the woman who runs the resort, apologizes and explains that the girl hasn’t been taking her meds. That’s when Kelsey learns there’s a private school on the property for girls with “special needs.” It’s off-limits to resort guests, not that Kelsey would have a reason to go there.

At first Kelsey believes Mrs. A. because she has other things to worry about. Like how she will fit in with the rest of the resort kids. One boy in particular. Things change when one of the “special girls” slips Kelsey a secret message. It’s a riddle. As Kelsey begins to unravel its meaning, she realizes something chilling is going on at Freedom Lake Girls Academy. The more Kelsey learns, the greater her danger. If she’s not careful, she might become a “special girl,” too.

I enjoyed The Lake Quilt Mystery, a middle school mystery starring twelve-year old Kelsey.  Freedom Lake is a good setting. It seems like one of those resorts folks go back to year after year, but it has an odd school on the grounds for “special girls.” Kelsey’s first “meeting” with one of the girls is odd, and we know something’s up.

The mystery’s good for a  middle school book. There’s enough clues but only a few suspects and the solution makes sense. There’s not way out there twist at the end, which I think is good for an audience who is still learning how mysteries are constructed. There is definitely danger though, for Kelsey and for the girls at the school that she ends up needing to save. Kelsey in a lot of ways is the typical amateur sleuth – bright and stupid at the same time, putting her life in danger. At least she has the common sense to call the cops, even if it doesn’t work out ideally.

Kelsey’s a fun girl, smart, determined, perhaps a little more boy crazy than the 12 year olds I’ve known. Amber just turned 14, so I’m not that removed from 12, and she and her friends were way less interested in boys as more than friends than Kelsey. They would not have been hoping to meet a boy on vacation. I liked Kelsey’s resourcefulness, but do we have to be pushing boys at 10 and 11 year olds? On the other hand, at least the guy who ends up being her side-kick is nice, hard-working, and a reader.

Quilts for a large piece of the puzzle and I liked the bits of history about quilting, the women who made them, and the connections to the underground railroad. (A quick internet search suggests that perhaps the link to the underground railroad is not as clear as the story presents it. It seems to be more possible theory than fact.)

Wendy Pitts is excellent as the narrator. The story is told from Kelsey’s point of view and she nails the twelve-year old voice. She felt like Kelsey, not like an adult pretending to be a kid.

Overall, it was a good story. Not necessarily a must-read, but fun enough. It would have been a good one to listen to on a long car ride when Amber was younger.