Five Mysteries Worthy of Your Time

March 24, 2023 at 11:45 am (Mystery fiction, Uncategorized)

[Apologies for the appearance of this post. I’ve been having serious trouble with WordPress’s rather byzantine software.]


Desert Star by Michael Connelly

‘Counting the years of war and police work, Bosch had been looking at the unnatural cause of death for more than half a century. To say he got used to seeing the depravity and cruelty that humans inflict upon each other would be wrong, but he had long ago stopped thinking of those explosions of violence as aberrations. He had lost much of his faith in the goodness of people. To him the violence wasn’t a departure from the norm. It was the norm.’

When he reached the end of the aisle, he made the turn and walked down the next row. The shelves were similarly stacked with cases. A skylight window above brought the afternoon sun down, throwing natural light on unnatural death. Bosch paused for a moment and stood still. There was only silence in the library of lost souls.’

These are just two small samples of the brilliant writing of Michael Connelly. Desert Star is the story of two crimes, one of which is the killing of a family of four. They are buried in the desert. Nearby, blooms a flower called the Desert Star. It is emblematic of Bosch’s determination to bring justice to these four people.

Together with Joanne Fluke, Michael Connelly is receiving  this year’s Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America. He is supremely deserving of this honor.

Before I Sleep by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

Humor and spriteliness characterize the prose utilized by Harrod-Eagles in her Bill Slider series.  She’s especially fond of puns, as witness her chapter headings:

‘If You Knew Sushi Like I Know Sushi’
‘Degas Vu’
‘Dunce Inane To Burnham Woods’

For an enjoyable time without too much heavy lifting, I highly recommend this series. (And thank goodness someone is still writing police procedurals, my favorite crime fiction subgenre.)

Last Seen  in Lapaz by Kwei Quartey

Quartey’s third installment in the Emma Djan series is more  harrowing than the previous two, and more gripping as well. For a work of crime fiction, it’s uniquely structured: Emma. the resourceful member of the Sowah Investigative Agency,  is absent for more than a hundred pages while the author fills us in on the deeds and misdeeds of key characters. Quartey makes it work – and then  some. Once again, the country of Ghana is brought vividly to life.

Dachshund Through the Snow by David Rosenfelt

Some of you are probably already familiar with the works of the dog-loving Rosenfelt. Protagonist Andy Carpenter is an independently wealthy lawyer who only takes on cases when he feels he can provide justice where it’s been unfairly denied.There’s a great deal of courtroom action in this series entry, and it makes for a great read.

                                                              Rock With Wings by Anne Hillerman

So yes, I’m still working my way through Anne Hillerman’s excellent continuation of her father Tony’s series, set in New Mexico. The novels of Hillerman père were the reason Ron and I traveled to New Mexico in the 90s. It is called The Land of Enchantment, and rightly so. I remember the Santuario de Chimayo outside Taos, and the priest – the padre – there, garbed as if it were four hundred years ago. If ever a place could inspire belief, this was it. (The Santuario is in fact a pilgrimage site.)

Anne Hillerman’s novels are as much about family relationships and Navajo culture as they are about crime. Bernadette Manuelito – ‘Bernie’ – has become a main character; she’s as fearless in her pursuit of criminals as is her husband, the ever faithful Jim Chee.

The new series Dark Winds, made for television, brings the world of these and other characters vividly to life. And the scenery, of course, is breathtaking. (Available on DVD)

So, to sum up: for serious, at times even difficult, but worthwhile subject matter, read Desert Star and Last Seen in Lapaz. For a lighter tone and less fraught content, Before I Sleep and Dachshund Though the Snow. And somewhere in between comes Rock with Wings.

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