The East Bay Mystery Readers' Group - 2 March 2004 Meeting Recap

THE ADVENTURESS (Amateur Sleuth) - Carole Nelson Douglas - GOOD+

Diva/detective Irene Adler and her bridegroom, handsome barrister Godfrey Norton, are honeymooning in Paris when they become embroiled in an investigation: a drowned sailor's body has been recovered from the Seine, and on his chest is a tattoo. A tattoo like one Irene once saw in London--on another sailor's chest, while the corpse lay upon Bram Stoker's dining room table. This clue will lead Irene to the first beautiful blond American princess of Monaco, political and matrimonial treachery, and a sword duel as she and her new friend Sarah Bernhardt unravel the mystery--with, of course, the help of Godfrey, Irene's faithful chronicler Miss Penelope Huxleigh, and Sherlock Holmes himself.

The plot was well developed, the period very well researched, and the dialogue excellent. Charlotte and Blaire found the narrator, Penelope, irritating after awhile, but I enjoyed the contrast between her and Irene. We all enjoyed this book although not certain we, personally, would read more. But if you like period cozies, give it a try as it is quite fun.

THE BALLAD OF FRANKIE SILVER (5th of the Ballad series) - Sharyn McCrumb - Blaire/Good; Charlotte/Okay; LJ/Didn't finish.

The Ballad of Frankie Silver is the fifth in the Ballad series, and it might well be the best. The blend between the old story and the new is perfect, as Sheriff Spencer Arrowood digs into the 1832 case of the first woman ever hanged for murder in North Carolina--18-year-old Frankie Silver, charged with dismembering her husband--while some disturbing new evidence is surfacing about another, much more recent capital crime.

As you can tell, our opinions varied on this, but we did all agree it's not a mystery, per se. However, it does a wonderful job of pointing out there truly is a different definition of justice between the have's and have not's. Blaire liked the atmosphere of the place and the period. She also liked the way it blended the three murders. Charlotte thought it was Okay, although she liked the present-day story better than the past. Neither she nor Charlotte liked the graphic detail of the end of the book. I just couldn't get into it. I found it very slow and without a character which whom I could connect. The group did read a previous Ballad book and agree they are well written.

ISLAND OF BONES (P.I. Mystery) - P.J. Parrish - Blaire/VG; Charlotte & LJ/Good.

Set in the late 1980s, a young woman's bullet-ridden corpse is found tangled in mangrove roots on Florida's seacoast. Kincaid, a former cop turned private investigator, is hired by a woman who fears that her father, Frank Woods, a middle-aged, nondescript librarian with murky connections to several missing women dating back as far as 35 years, may be the killer. Although all signs point to Woods's guilt, his confession and apparent suicide never sit well with Kincaid. He reluctantly teams up with Mel Landeta, a gruff but ultimately likable local police officer who's losing his eyesight, and they return to the last place Woods visited-the Island of Bones.

Both Blaire and Charlotte liked this the best of the three books. It had interesting characters and a very interesting plot. There was very good suspense at the end. The only thing that dropped it for me was there were times I felt Kincaid did things that were TSTL. But I did enjoy it and we all agreed we would probably read another book by Parrish.

Books for April 6th are:

THE FIFTH ANGEL (Thriller) - Tim Green Jack Ruskin, a well-respected New York lawyer, is also living every parent's nightmare after his teenage daughter becomes the victim of a sexual predator. As Jack tends to her, his sorrow and pain gradually grow into hot-blooded rage and he decides to take matters into his own angry hands. This is a novel where the "good" guy is the criminal and the "bad" guy is the victim, and you have to decide whether retribution or justice is deserved. The Fifth Angel is not a read for the faint-hearted

ON BEULAH HEIGHT (Police Procedural) - Reginald Hill Fifteen years earlier, the quaint British village of Dendale suffered double tragedies: three children were kidnapped, never to be found, while a fourth barely escaped with her life. Then the government forced the villagers to evacuate Dendale so they could flood its homes and shops to create a new reservoir. A decade and a half later, seven-year-old Lorraine Dacre disappears from Danby, the village where most of the Dendale's inhabitants retreated. Dalziel and Pascoe are caught in a painful nightmare. They failed to solve the earlier case; can they solve this one?

THE RUBY IN THE SMOKE - Philip Pullman (Gothic thriller for those 12 and older--that includes us--highly recommended by Jack)
Set in a rogue- and scalawag-ridden Victorian London, 16-year-old Sally Lockhart has no time for the usual trials of adolescence: her father has been murdered, and she needs to find out how and why. But everywhere she turns, she encounters new scoundrels and secrets. Why do the mere words "seven blessings" cause one man to keel over and die at their utterance? Who has possession of the rare, stolen ruby? And what does the opium trade have to do with it?

Looking ahead, books for May 4th are:

BURGLARS CAN'T BE CHOOSERS (Amateur Sleuth/Burgler) - Lawrence Block LORD DARCY - Part I (Alternative Time-Line Mystery) - Randall Garrett
MANHATTAN NOCTURNE (Amateur Sleuth/ Reporter) - Colin Harrison (available in HC at Dark Carnival for paperback price)

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