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Book Review: Homicide in Hardcover by Kate Carlisle

Reviewed by Joelene Pynnonen

When Brooklyn Wainwright agrees to attend the opening of Covington Library’s latest antiquarian exhibit, she’s expecting conflict. She and her old mentor, Abraham Karastovsky – the man who taught her everything she knows about book restoration, haven’t spoken for six months, after all. What she’s not expecting is to find Abraham shot and close to death; the jewel of the collection, a supposedly cursed copy of Faust, nearby.

When Derek Stone, the head of security for the book exhibition, finds her hunched over the body, she becomes a major suspect. Now it’s up to Brooklyn to clear her name, bring the killer of her beloved mentor to justice, and try to stay alive doing so. With the suspects mounting, the task is getting more impossible by the minute.

Characters and setting are the magical combination that will either win or lose readers in a cosy mystery. Luckily, Homicide in Hardcover has a winning combination. Both the characters and setting are friendly, comfortable and easy to lose yourself in. Brooklyn grew up in an affluent hippie commune. While she doesn’t live there any longer, her family and friends mostly do; and she goes back to visit quite often.

While this is marketed as a cosy mystery and fits the guidelines fairly well, it could also fall into the romantic suspense category. From the first couple of chapters a classic love/hate relationship dynamic pops up around Brooklyn and Derek. It suits the quirky, whimsical atmosphere of the novel, but might be a too cheesy for some cosy crime readers.

The atmosphere of Homicide in Hardcover is fun and light, but that doesn’t keep it from tossing an abundance of red herrings into the mix. There’s no shortage of suspects. Brooklyn’s nemesis in love and work, the vindictively jealous Minka LaBoeuf, is hanging around on the night of the murder. And while there’s nothing to indicate that Minka had a grudge against Abraham, Brooklyn wouldn’t put stealing the Faust past her. Abraham’s own archrival, Enrico Baldacchio, has shown up, despite the bad blood between them. And, perhaps most disturbingly, Brooklyn runs into her mother only moments before finding the fatally wounded Abraham.

As forces close in from every side, Brooklyn needs to search for the truth– even if the answers she finds are not the ones she wants.

Homicide in Hardcover is a solid start to the Bibliophile Mystery series. A quick and easy read, it fills up an otherwise dull weekend quite nicely.

 

Homicide in Hardcover – Kate Carlisle

Berkley (February 3, 2009)

ISBN: 9780451226150

Review: Homicide in Hardcover by Kate Carlisle

When Brooklyn Wainwright agrees to attend the opening of Covington Library’s latest antiquarian exhibit, she’s expecting conflict. She and her old mentor, Abraham Karastovsky – the man who taught her everything she knows about book restoration, haven’t spoken for six months, after all. What she’s not expecting is to find Abraham shot and close to death; the jewel of the collection, a supposedly cursed copy of Faust, nearby.

When Derek Stone, the head of security for the book exhibition, finds her hunched over the body, she becomes a major suspect. Now it’s up to Brooklyn to clear her name, bring the killer of her beloved mentor to justice, and try to stay alive doing so. With the suspects mounting, the task is getting more impossible by the minute.

Characters and setting are the magical combination that will either win or lose readers in a cosy mystery. Luckily, Homicide in Hardcover has a winning combination. Both the characters and setting are friendly, comfortable and easy to lose yourself in. Brooklyn grew up in an affluent hippie commune. While she doesn’t live there any longer, her family and friends mostly do; and she goes back to visit quite often.

While this is marketed as a cosy mystery and fits the guidelines fairly well, it could also fall into the romantic suspense category. From the first couple of chapters a classic love/hate relationship dynamic pops up around Brooklyn and Derek. It suits the quirky, whimsical atmosphere of the novel, but might be a too cheesy for some cosy crime readers.

The atmosphere of Homicide in Hardcover is fun and light, but that doesn’t keep it from tossing an abundance of red herrings into the mix. There’s no shortage of suspects. Brooklyn’s nemesis in love and work, the vindictively jealous Minka LaBoeuf, is hanging around on the night of the murder. And while there’s nothing to indicate that Minka had a grudge against Abraham, Brooklyn wouldn’t put stealing the Faust past her. Abraham’s own arch rival, Enrico Baldacchio, has shown up, despite the bad blood between them. And, perhaps most disturbingly, Brooklyn runs into her mother only moments before finding the fatally wounded Abraham.

As forces close in from every side, Brooklyn needs to search for the truth– even if the answers she finds are not the ones she wants.

Homicide in Hardcover is a solid start to the Bibliophile Mystery series. A quick and easy read, it fills up an otherwise dull weekend quite nicely.

 

Homicide in Hardcover – Kate Carlisle

Berkley (February 3, 2009)

ISBN: 9780451226150

Book Review: I am Legend by Richard Matheson

Reviewed by Krista McKeeth

Recently I decided to pick up I am Legend by Richard Matheson, a book that I’ve come across often on lists of “should reads.” As a fan of vampires, I imagined that I would love the story and enjoy the process of reading through it. But I found a story that, for a while, really frustrated me.

The first half of the novel is heavy on the story setting and the inner monologue of Robert Neville – a man who spends his days making repairs on his sheltered house, finding supplies and killing sleeping vampires. His spends his nights, trying not to listen to the vampires outside his door calling his name and drinking to pass the time. I found the languid descriptions of this man’s every day life hard to get through even though the novel is a rather short read.

It was really the second half of the novel that  caught my attention. As the more active part began, the story truly unfolded about how this world has progressed, to the point where the reader is introduced to the possibilities of its future.

I was happily surprised that there was some great detail of the creatures and idea of what civilisation would be underpin their present state. It made perfect sense and I found it intriguing. I now know why this made it on so many lists and can see some connections between this book and others I have read that came after, and built upon similar ideas.

It turns out that I am happy to recommend this book as well; I am glad I pushed through the beginning to reach such an ingenious ending.

 

Book Review: The Crime at Black Dudley by Margery Allingham

Reviewed by Joelene Pynonnen

A party at gloomy Black Dudley Manor isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time. But George Abbershaw’s good friend, Wyatt Petrie asked him along and the girl Abbershaw loves will be there.

It all seems like an innocent bit of fun at first. When Wyatt told the grisly story of an ancient family dagger and of the game that arose from it, it was only natural for the party guests to want to play. Though the whole thing gave Abbershaw a bad feeling, he could never have imagined that someone would use the game in the darkened house to murder Wyatt’s invalid uncle. But that is just what happened. And more alarmingly, some of the more sinister guests in the house immediately cover up the fact that a murder has occurred.

When those same guests declare the entire house hostage until a stolen item has been returned, the situation becomes critical. Especially since Abbershaw has destroyed the item in question.

Crime at Black Dudley is a fantastic, whimsical cosy mystery with a good dash of adventure. It has a lot of the ingredients of classic crime novels of the era. A large party of people – some with shady pasts, a crime syndicate, hidden passages, looming manors and antique artefacts.

Those elements are enough to keep me riveted, but Crime at Black Dudley has something unique about it as well. That something is Albert Campion. He’s not the usual stoic hero with high moral standing. Instead he’s a flippant, somewhat shady character with a high pitched voice and a habit of prattling incessantly. Unlike the other men trapped in the house, he employs his wits rather than his brawn and doesn’t hesitate to ask the women to look after themselves even going so far as to giving them a gun. From what I’ve read, it seems that Allingham’s detective hero was meant to be Abbershaw. But then Campion came along and stole the show. Campion’s character arc is much smoother than Abbershaw’s. It occurs naturally while Abbershaw’s is forced, making him a much better candidate for a detective series.

While this first book is a great adventure with plenty of atmosphere and a charming cast of characters, parts of it could be more polished. It begins well with a cosy crime feeling but flails around a little as it progresses. In some ways it feels like a mix between a children’s adventure story from the period and an adult crime novel. I like both genres so I found the whole thing thoroughly entertaining but I hope that later books are more firmly entrenched in adult crime.

I’ll definitely be looking into later books by Allingham. Campion is too refreshing a character not to.

 

 

Crime at Black Dudley – Margery Allingham

Vintage (1929)

ISBN: 9780099593492

Book Review: The Murder Farm by Andrea Maria Schenkel

Reviewed by Joelene Pynnonen

No one has seen the Danner family for days. Little Marianne has not been in school. No one is around when the mechanic comes over to fix the engine of one of the farm machines. The postman hasn’t seen anything stir.

Soon it becomes apparent that something is very wrong at the Danner farm. When their neighbours are forced to investigate the family’s strange disappearance, they discover a grisly scene. The entire family and their maid are dead. No one particularly liked the tyrannical patriarch and his withdrawn family but who hated them so much that they would take to the family with a pick-axe, not even sparing the two children?

There’s something compelling about true unsolved stories. Especially those with so many questions attached. In 1922, Bavaria, locals discovered a grisly scene at a farm. All six residents were murdered, most of the corpses piled in the barn. No one from the farm had been seen for several days. But even more disturbing was the fact that in the days that the family lay dead, their animals continued to be fed, their fires laid. In the days before the family had been killed, the farmer had found boot prints in the snow. Ones that led to the house but not away. A newspaper that belonged to no one living at the farm was found too and a set of keys had gone missing. Additionally, when the bodies were discovered, a large amount of cash was found in the house, so robbery wasn’t the motive.

The mystery behind the deaths at Hinterkaifeck may never be solved. However, in Murder Farm a satisfying conclusion is imagined. 

The structure of this novel works well for the kind of mystery it is. Told from a variety of perspectives and in a few different formats, the murder mystery unravels slowly, one piece of evidence at a time. Much of the story is in the form of local testimony. Interspersed in these are devout prayers, the victims’ perspectives, and the unseen murderer’s perspective. As each tale is laid down, it builds a picture of the Danner family, the community and ultimately the mass murder.

While inspired by a true event, Murder Farm is not an attempt to perfectly recreate the original crime. It’s set in a different era; post-war Germany rather than the original 1922. And most of the names have been changed. But the eerie details that first captured people’s attention remain.

Murder Farm is a quick read that will satisfy anyone who has heard the original story. For those unfamiliar with the true events; after reading Murder Farm, you’ll want to know more.

 

The Murder Farm – Andrea Maria Schenkel

Quercus Publishing (January 2, 2009)

ISBN: 9781847247650