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lady narcissa

Mysteries: Cosy, Cats, Capers, Historical, Medical, Procedural and everything in between

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This topic wasn't started as recommendations to anybody in particular, so it isn't now either.

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13 hours ago, john said:

Been reading the "IQ" books by Joe Ide, which the promotional materials describe as about a "street smart Sherlock Holmes." Not really true, it's about a smart guy and his partner who's a bit of a gangster sorting out street level problems in inner city LA. They mainly drive around getting into fights with people, its more like Batman than Sherlock Holmes. Lots of wacky, larger than life characters, high energy and wit, entertaining set pieces. At times it feels more like an adult Hardy Boys than a serious crime book. So cautiously recommended if you like that kind of thing.

OOooo intrigued by Batman and wacky larger than life characters and adult Hardy Boys.  So more Joel Schumacher Batman than Christopher Nolan Batman?  I am put off slightly by the high price of the ebooks here, however.  I will keep my eye on the first one to see if the price goes down.

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10 hours ago, lady narcissa said:

OOooo intrigued by Batman and wacky larger than life characters and adult Hardy Boys.  So more Joel Schumacher Batman than Christopher Nolan Batman?  I am put off slightly by the high price of the ebooks here, however.  I will keep my eye on the first one to see if the price goes down.

It's not as goofy as Schumacher Batman. :P The setting is quite gritty, it feels kind of like the Wire, minus the cop stuff (and in LA, crips and bloods gang wars and stuff) but written with a lot of humour and camaraderie. Ide was a screen writer before so he's good at dialogue and quickly drawing characters (also Snoop Dogg is apparently making it into a tv show). They're very readable, very entertaining, but I mainly wanted to say that it's nearly all action, there's not much unravelling of puzzles. Even though the main character's a genius, he mainly works things out on the fly and uses his long list of skills plus improvised gadgets, it's not your more thoughtful detective book.

The first three books are quite often on offer for ebooks (on UK Amazon anyway). I got the first one cheap but couldn't resist paying full price for the next few, isn't that always the way.

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Last night I started The Caves of Périgord (2000) by Martin Walker. This may really be the last novel of Walker's there is, until he publishes a new one in 2021 -- The Coldest Case, May 25, 2012:

https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/series/PLE/bruno-chief-of-police-series

As we see from the title this is the same southeastern France as his many-volumes of the Chief Bruno of (fictional) Saint-Denis, but it isn't part of that series.  But evidently this, Walker's first novel, was the kick-start to him doing a series of policier's in this valley that has hosted the longest continual human habitation in Europe.  The novel switches back-and-forth between the present of 2000 and 17000 B.C. via a cave wall painting that is the period of the caves of Lascaux and Altamira -- a magnificent bull clearly taken from a much larger wall work, but the image is so much smaller than that of what was known.  Where did it come from? So we learn at least two different eras of history, that of the prehistoric and that of WWII, the French Resistance, English soldiers, the Nazi Occupation and the Norman Invasion.

The present day era centers a young woman, an American working for an art auction house in London.  I mention her because Walker's one of the few if not the only male fiction writer who effortlessly integrates women’s clothes and hair into his narrative and not only gets it right, but gets it in naturally, as part of her character.  He does this less successfully in the Bruno books, probably because Walker tells these details via Bruno, whereas in this novel, he tells these details via Lydia Dean's own consciousness.

As said, I began the book last night, and was immediately immersed all the way.

 

Edited by Zorral

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Finished the first and second Vera Stanhope books. I had a really hard time with the first one because LOL I work in bird conservation and the whole thing brought up way too much work-related anxiety. Second one was good though, so I'm looking forward to continuing that series.

I also read the first two St. Cyr books, which I really enjoyed but they really lean on the tropes so I'll need to space those out.

Just started the second Amelia Peabody book and these books are gems. I'll be looking into the other series by Peters as well, as @lady narcissa mentioned how fun they were too. 

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1 hour ago, Xray the Enforcer said:

I also read the first two St. Cyr books, which I really enjoyed but they really lean on the tropes so I'll need to space those out.

That's a good strategy for these books.

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I read two more of the Rebus series and unfortunately, I still find the first three the best of the now six books I read. Black and Blue is a bit too long and way too ambitious with too many cases and persons intricately combined and really stressing plausibility at times. But such are faults easy to overlook as overall it still moved along nicely for the most part. But The Falls (which I read in German translation because I can get these for free from a library) was really bad. The mediocre translation didn't help but this was overlong, convoluted, boring, somewhat predictable, not really exciting at all. I understand that Rankin loves Scotland and Edinburgh but half page or longer infodumps on local stuff are getting tedious (and I can't even know if real or made up, he did make up a historical figure but one cannot tell from the infodumps if they are about a real or made up historical killer, case or doctor). So are the excruciating details about what everyone is eating, drinking and I also came to dislike the "trademark" mentionings of pop songs (I usually don't know being in the wrong age bracket and generally not much interested in popular music). I'll try two more because I already borrowed them ("Resurrection Men" and "A question of blood")

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I have tried the Mark Douglas-Home Sea Detective series recommended by Hereward, and like it. The main character is well drawn, and seems to owe quite a bit to M C Beaton's Hamish MacBeth, which may be reinforced in my mind by the fact that the audiobook is read by David Monteith who also did Hamish. So far the first two books are pretty gripping and switch viewpoint between two characters with different stories that intersect in the plot. 

I'd like to plug Steve Hamilton. He has a series started 1998 with PI Alex McKnight, a former detroit cop now located in northern Michigan. 

He has more done a few stand alone novels and a second series which are really thrillers, of which Exit Strategy is pretty fascinating.

 

Edited by Castellan

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6 hours ago, Jo498 said:

... I understand that Rankin loves Scotland and Edinburgh but half page or longer infodumps on local stuff are getting tedious (and I can't even know if real or made up, he did make up a historical figure but one cannot tell from the infodumps if they are about a real or made up historical killer, case or doctor). So are the excruciating details about what everyone is eating, drinking and I also came to dislike the "trademark" mentionings of pop songs (I usually don't know being in the wrong age bracket and generally not much interested in popular music). I'll try two more because I already borrowed them ("Resurrection Men" and "A question of blood")

I read a few when they came out but I could detect what I thought was a pretty plodding mind at work and the terrible pop song theme reinforced that impression, I got annoyed and gave up.

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I liked the first three with Rebus, so I do not want to condemn the whole series, but as I wrote, I was disappointed by all of the later ones I read. The character changed towards a far less interesting type and Siobhan who apparently is to become a major side character is utterly boring in "The falls" where she has already an important rôle. I think he only started the pop song references later. I find them cringeworthy and also that  (despite me being usually far from the current woke sensibility in these matters), like Rowling's Cormoran he is shown as a fairly unattractive man both in appearance and manners, Rebus is also workoholic and borderline alcoholic, but has no problems getting laid, although not with supermodel girls like Strike, they are intelligent and attractive women who can hardly be that desperate. ;) 

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18 hours ago, Jo498 said:

I read two more of the Rebus series and unfortunately, I still find the first three the best of the now six books I read. Black and Blue is a bit too long and way too ambitious with too many cases and persons intricately combined and really stressing plausibility at times. But such are faults easy to overlook as overall it still moved along nicely for the most part. But The Falls (which I read in German translation because I can get these for free from a library) was really bad. The mediocre translation didn't help but this was overlong, convoluted, boring, somewhat predictable, not really exciting at all. I understand that Rankin loves Scotland and Edinburgh but half page or longer infodumps on local stuff are getting tedious (and I can't even know if real or made up, he did make up a historical figure but one cannot tell from the infodumps if they are about a real or made up historical killer, case or doctor). So are the excruciating details about what everyone is eating, drinking and I also came to dislike the "trademark" mentionings of pop songs (I usually don't know being in the wrong age bracket and generally not much interested in popular music). I'll try two more because I already borrowed them ("Resurrection Men" and "A question of blood")

Stop reading Rankin.  He isn't for you.  This post makes me shake my head while gazing off into the middle distance.

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23 hours ago, Jo498 said:

I read two more of the Rebus series and unfortunately, I still find the first three the best of the now six books I read. Black and Blue is a bit too long and way too ambitious with too many cases and persons intricately combined and really stressing plausibility at times. But such are faults easy to overlook as overall it still moved along nicely for the most part. But The Falls (which I read in German translation because I can get these for free from a library) was really bad. The mediocre translation didn't help but this was overlong, convoluted, boring, somewhat predictable, not really exciting at all. I understand that Rankin loves Scotland and Edinburgh but half page or longer infodumps on local stuff are getting tedious (and I can't even know if real or made up, he did make up a historical figure but one cannot tell from the infodumps if they are about a real or made up historical killer, case or doctor). So are the excruciating details about what everyone is eating, drinking and I also came to dislike the "trademark" mentionings of pop songs (I usually don't know being in the wrong age bracket and generally not much interested in popular music). I'll try two more because I already borrowed them ("Resurrection Men" and "A question of blood")

Clearly Rebus isn't for you.  For one thing the elements you don't like are what attracted many of his readers in the first place and helped created the 'northern noir' boom in the first place too, spreading from northern England and Scotland to the expansion of the present popularity of scandinavian noir on both the page and the screen.

Mediocre translation isn't the fault of the author though, knowing quite a few professional translators, translating the slangy, regional tones and usages into German would be very hard to do successfully, or so I'd think.  

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As I read five in English and only one in German, the translation can hardly be the main problem. I liked the atmosphere of the first three books and there is some in "Black and Blue" with the extraordinary places like an oil platform. But I clearly have the impression that Rankin got worse (and also far more "ordinary" and less special/scottish?). The popsong sillyness only popped up later and while drinking as a pastime and vice had a role since the beginning the utterly boring gory details about the precise drinks and snacks of every bloody lunchbreak, or literally every line of trivial banter among the colleagues was not in the early books (or at least not to such an annoying extent). Not every details creates atmosphere or characterises a character, there is a point when it feels like routinely filling up pages.

Next recommendations I received are books by John Harvey, Reginald Hill, Tana French and William Brodrick? Any comments on these?

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Personal opinion: classic Reginald Hill  - say from Ruling Passion (1973) to Bones and Silence (1990) - is definitely worth trying. Later on he had obviously got a bit bored of police procedurals and his books got weirder and started genre hopping.

Apart from anything else, one of his books contains possibly the single most audacious clue in the whole of crime fiction. Even to say which book it is in might be a slight spoiler:

Spoiler

A Killing Kindness

 

Edited by A wilding

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5 hours ago, Jo498 said:

But I clearly have the impression that Rankin got worse (and also far more "ordinary" and less special/scottish?). T

What you are experiencing as degeneration of writing in the Rebus series is a reflection of how things change in time, even in such a place in which the 'twee' and supernatural are marketed to attract tourists' foreign money.  Reality bites, and it bites more and more in Scotland too.  So, yes, those first three books are what they are -- and then, as it does everywhere, changes that affect the outside world affect this one too, in everything from computers arriving in the police station to Rebus's once charming habits becoming less so as he -- like the world, and the readers too -- age.  So some of us find this aspect why we kept reading.  It isn't working for you so you should just give up because that ain't comin' back, anymore than anything else is from one's younger days and expectations.

Re Tana French -- I loved her books from the start, until the last two, prior to the very latest, just published, a western featuring a retired US cop in Ireland, and unrelated to the previous books.  The one right before this new one, The Wych Elm, which, finding the characters and their povs so uninteresting, I never finished it.  Which was sad, as I had so looked forward to it, and the reviews were so positive.

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On 10/17/2020 at 3:59 AM, Zorral said:

Re Tana French -- I loved her books from the start, until the last two, prior to the very latest, just published, a western featuring a retired US cop in Ireland, and unrelated to the previous books.  The one right before this new one, The Wych Elm, which, finding the characters and their povs so uninteresting, I never finished it.  Which was sad, as I had so looked forward to it, and the reviews were so positive.

I loved In the Woods. I have read some of her later ones but for some reason none of them are as memorable as that one. I didn't mind The Wych Elm, I got absorbed in it, but can hardly remember it. It also did not seem particularly original, more like an exercise in a particular kind of mystery/crime novel. Broken Harbour I remember the broad theme and nothing else. I just checked her book list and think I might have missed one somewhere, as well as not having read the latest one, so I am off to amazon to order them.

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On 10/16/2020 at 6:29 PM, A wilding said:

Personal opinion: classic Reginald Hill  - say from Ruling Passion (1973) to Bones and Silence (1990) - is definitely worth trying. Later on he had obviously got a bit bored of police procedurals and his books got weirder and started genre hopping.

Apart from anything else, one of his books contains possibly the single most audacious clue in the whole of crime fiction. Even to say which book it is in might be a slight spoiler:

  Reveal hidden contents

A Killing Kindness

 

The very first Rebus "Knots and crosses" contains a fat title clue the protagonist and colleagues miss for a long time and  I have seen a cover that basically resolves it! I totally missed it because as a non-native speaker I wasn't familiar with the name of the game and I am horrible with clues/puns based on (near) homophones because I read/write far more English than I speak and listen to (OTOH there was an anagram clue in "The falls" I saw before the investigators) and I had an omnibus edition with a more neutral cover.

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It is a while since I read those Rebus books. But basically it is difficult to discuss clues because of their spoilery nature.

Feel free to come back if/when you have worked your way through Reginald Hill. :)

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Are there any Ann Cleeves books that don't involve birdwatching? I just finished book three and the whole damn thing is about birding :lol:. The first one was about bird habitat and the second one had a lot of birds in it. (I'm not complaining, mind. it's just not what I expected given my day job and my primary hobby)

Edited by Xray the Enforcer

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Vera's father was both a birdwatcher and a stealer of bird eggs -- among other things he did, which mostly weren't 'nice'.  She was brought up to it.  Everything about her father, who made her what she is, in her own way, stays with her, just like his jeep or whatever the vehicle is, stays with her, no matter how old.  But the vehicle is always better to her than her father ever was.  But you, family.

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