Tag Archives: fiction

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries….

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Death at Victoria Dock – Kerry Greenwood (1992, Poisoned Pen Press, Arizona)

Phryne Fisher and her entourage encounter all sorts of danger and political intrigue when faced with a group of anarchists hell-bent on executing a secret attack in Melbourne.  Plenty of blood, sex, and twisted alliances in this one – but Miss Fisher takes it all in stride, and never fails to wear the perfect outfit and shoes while on the case.  Great light reading, as usual.

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The Green Mill Murder – Kerry Greenwood (1993, Poisoned Pen Press, Arizona)

A death at a popular jazz club leads the always intrepid and impeccably-dressed Phryne Fisher on an adventure over Australia, as she takes to the treacherous skies and does some slumming in the mountains to help a wealthy family resolve a messy inheritance – and figure out whodunit, of course.  As usual, Greenwood’s mysteries are fun and frivolous, easily digestible in an hour or two.

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Blood and Circuses – Kerry Greenwood (1994, Poisoned Pen Press, Arizona)

The usually unstoppable and ever-fashionable Phryne Fisher dons theatrical rags and shows her vulnerable, emotional side as she joins a travelling circus to uncover the reason behind a series of unsettling sabotages and the bloody murder of a beloved performer.  Phryne relies more heavily on her allies and friends in this one than usual – and the reader gets some interesting p.o.v.’s from members of the police department, including the determined Detective Inspector Jack Robinson, and the young, eager constable Tommy Harris.  In tone and style, this book marked a bit of a departure from the others in the series so far, with mostly positive results.  I was particularly impressed with the detailed descriptions of circus life – although they took up a sizeable amount of ink, I found them just as fascinating as Phryne does.

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Kerry Greenwood – Ruddy Gore (1995, Poisoned Pen Press, Arizona)

The exquisitely stylish, cool-as-a-cucumber Phyrne Fisher sets out to solve a murder which occurs during a production of the Gilbert and Sullivan play “Ruddigore.” While the motivations and passions of the theatre group’s players muddle and twist (and often mimic the play itself), Miss Fisher risks life and perfect limb to sort it all out.  Along the way she is thwarted by a ghost and makes the very intimate acquaintance of a young Chinese man who has secrets of his own.  This was one of my favourite Miss Fisher books so far; I was pleased to see that the strong, mostly-implacable Phryne was back (I had been a bit alarmed at her lack of independence in “Blood and Circuses, “ and had worried that our delightful heroine had lost her a bit of her strength, nerve, and resolve).

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Lee Kvern – 7 Ways to Sunday.

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7 Ways to Sunday: Stories – Lee Kvern (2014, Enfield & Wizenty, Winnipeg)

The dynamics of human relationships comes out in dark, often uncomfortable, and always thought-provoking ways in this powerful collection of shorts from Alberta writer Lee Kvern. Standouts for me include the heartbreaking “Snapshots (in Bed),” a catalogue of all of the losses of a dying woman, “LEAD,” a brilliantly-told vignette of a lonely teenager, and the title story, which recounts the unspooling lives of a selfish man and his family. These are not quiet stories; they crackle and explode with hard lessons and gut-wrenching surprises.

Louise Penny – A Fatal Grace.

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A Fatal Grace – Louise Penny (2006, St. Martin’s Minotaur, New York)

A bizarre death by electrocution on a frozen pond in the middle of a Christmas Day curling tournament  leads Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his team once again to the small Quebec village of Three Pines.  All the familiar faces are here in this second book of the series, and Penny delves deeper into their lives as she draws the reader into the unsettling dark secrets of this sleepy little settlement.  As with Still Life, I was smitten with the easy elegance of Penny’s prose and her development of the personalities and behaviour of her characters…even though the actual mystery was fairly transparent.

Lemony Snicket – File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents.

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File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents – Lemony Snicket (2014, HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., Canada)

These bite-sized mini-mysteries tie into the series All the Wrong Questions and offer tantalizing tidbits about the residents of the almost ghost town Stain’d-by-the-Sea that might just become important later on.  (Or maybe not – how will you ever know?).  Dark, clever, and hilarious, as usual.

Alan Bradley – The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches.

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The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches – Alan Bradley (2014, Doubleday Canada)

I fear if I go into much detail about The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, the sixth Flavia de Luce novel, I risk a spoiler, so I’ll tread carefully and just say that this is the darkest novel of the series to this point, with Flavia’s ordinary hijinks severely tempered by family matters. Of course, there IS a fresh murder – and a very high profile one at that – but strangely, it isn’t the focus of this mystery.  Bradley instead ties up a bunch of loose ends from the previous books, and takes Flavia into new, extremely interesting and dangerous territory, setting up for the upcoming stories about this irrepressible heroine.

Eileen Schuh – Shadow Riders.

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Shadow Riders – Eileen Schuh (2016, Castle Harbour Publishing)

When Allison Montgomery is kidnapped by two members of a bike gang and forced to travel to South Korea to help secure illegal business dealings, she just wants to make it home alive. Instead, she is surprised to find herself falling in love with one of her manipulative, cruel captors.  Psychologically, physically, and emotionally traumatized, Allison will do just about anything to guarantee her survival – even though the cost may be greater than she could ever imagine.  Eileen Schuh’s new tie-in to her excellent BackTracker series is a difficult, dark, and gritty look into the life of an abused woman and the violent circumstances that threaten to destroy her.  Thoroughly researched and well-paced, Shadow Riders is not an easy read, but an important one.

Gillian Flynn – Gone Girl.

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Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn (2012, Broadway Books, New York)

I managed to read Gone Girl without the experience being ruined by spoilers of any kind:  I didn’t watch the movie or read any reviews or talk to anyone eager to divulge the plot.  So the big plot twist was a surprise to me, like it was intended.  Too bad I was so disappointed when it came, as the first part of the novel is smack-you-hard-between-the-eyes brilliant.  The rest of it is…well…meh.  But it didn’t stop me from ripping through this psychologically-loopy thriller about a marriage gone sour – and I mean, really, really murderously sour.  As I found with Flynn’s first novel Sharp Objects, I pretty much hated the flawed, unredeemable behaviour and personalities of the main characters, and there were entire chapters that could have been easily hacked away without compromising any bit of the story – but Flynn’s relentless pacing was certainly engaging.