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Category Archives: Mystery Novels

Magpie Murders

636318482052153699-MagpieMurders-HC-CThis is my first book review for 2018. This was a book I have had on my radar for a while. I belong to a couple writer’s organizations, as you know and at a recent Christmas party for our local chapter of Sisters in Crime, I snagged this one.

I finally finished this book, not because it was boring but because I try to savor good reads and yes, I read slowly.   If I didn’t have to work, I could have stayed up half the night to finish it towards the end.

The author is Anthony Horowitz . I am a huge Midsomer Murders fan. If somehow you have never heard of Midsomer Murders, it is a British Television show and Anthony Horowitz is the screenwriter for it. That show is one of the reasons I signed on to Netflix. One of those reasons it takes me so long to read and write but that could be a future post.

Since reading this book, I did discover he wrote Moriarty. I am assuming it is a Sherlock Holmes version written in his nemesis point of view. Have not read that one yet and because my – to be read pile is so huge, if I do, I am not sure when it will happen. So many books, so little time.

Back to my review. A big reason  I thought this book sounded interesting is that it is a mystery within a mystery. I could not figure out how that could happen, but he did an excellent job of it.

The protagonist is Susan Ryeland. She is the editor of the fictional book ‘Magpie Murders’, written by one of their star authors – Alan Conway.
The whole book is her story about that book and it begins with us reading the book with a few scenes buried in between telling us about the protagonist’s (Susan Ryeland’s) life while editing it.

They pull you into the story ‘Magpie Murders’ which is set in a small town in England with the book’s protagonist – Atticus Pund who solves mysteries in picturesque villages in England, like the series Midsomer Murders.

Well you  read all the way through the book in the book and get to the end and realize at the same time as Susan Ryeland that you are missing the last few chapters. By this point – Atticus Pund tells you he knows who the killer is and then there is no more.

This wouldn’t be much of a problem except, the fictional  author Alan Conway dies accidentally by falling off a tower of his home. Of course, people begin to think it may not have been an accident and Susan Ryeland, the fictional editor,  is pulled into the real time mystery because this could make or break her career.

This leaves the reader with lots of questions, who killed Alan Conway and also how does Magpie Murders end – who killed the victim in the book? By then, if Alan Conway had been a real person and alive, I might have killed him for not giving us the ending of his book.

There are lots of suspects in both stories, lots of twists and turns, and a little romance.
I hope this didn’t confuse you. It makes total sense while you are reading it. I do hope it makes you want to read the book. You will see that it is a big book and that may have been why it took me so long to read .  No matter how long it takes you, it is well worth it.
Woman In Window Book

My current book is ‘Woman in the Window’. I am about half way through it and will review it later. What are you currently reading? How is your writing project going? What keeps you moving forward. Would love to know. Please feel free to comment.

If you are a local Iowa writer and looking for a writer’s group, check out both Iowa Romance Novelists and Sisters in Crime – Iowa on Facebook. Hope to see you at our next meeting – February is the 3rd Saturday at  10:00 AM at the Pleasant Hill library for IRN and 3:00 PM at Café Diem in Ankeny for Sisters in Crime – Iowa.

Planning to write about my writing space next month.

Until next time,

Virginia

 

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Sacrifice – S.J. Bolton

There are maybe five authors I read that I can’t wait for their next book. Whenever I find a new author to add to that list, I get excited. S.J. Bolton is one of them. Awakening was the first S.J. Bolton novel I’d ever read. It involved snakes. Lots of snakes and a female protagonist who as a veterinarian, gets pulled into helping investigate the deaths because she is one of the few people who is an expert on poisonous snakes. The story starts when she is called to the neighbors to get a poisonous snake out of a babies crib. Within a short time, several residents die and there are a few close calls. The snakes involved in the deaths are not from the area.  It was a mystery with a little paranormal twist and I loved it.

I finally found the first book – Sacrifice. It too is a mystery with a dash of paranormal story line. This one has a female protagonist who is a medical doctor who delivers babies at the local hospital on the Shetland Islands.

It starts out with her digging a grave for her horse and finding a body. At first they think it is an archaeological burial because the body had been buried in peat that causes it to be more preserved than you would expect with a normal burial. When she finds an engraved wedding ring, she suspects the body is more recent. The story goes into a local legend about an all male race of trolls with special abilities. The mothers are, of course, sacrificed for the cause but no one will believe her. It looks like all the prominent men in the area are involved, including the police and her own father-in-law and husband.  Ms. Bolton weaves the story line in a way that you believe.

Bolton is great at pacing. She tells just enough to reel you in and when it gets to the scary stuff she draws it out just enough to make you suffer. Because you never know exactly what is happening, I would call her books more mystery than horror. There is always a puzzle to piece together right to the very end.

There are a couple more for me to read and with my pile of to-be-read growing steadily, I wouldn’t be surprised if she gets another out before I get her current stuff read.  If you like your mysteries with a little bump in the night, you need to check out S.J. Bolton.

 
 

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Agatha Trivia

‘A Murder is Announced’ Trivia

Just finished reading ‘A Murder is Announced’ last night and I would like to review but because it is a book my local chapter of Sisters in Crime is discussing, I don’t want to review it until those followers have read it.

Still I thought it might be kind of fun to do a Trivia quiz for the meeting. I am going to post the quiz here and find out just how many of our members read my blog. Granted, I am not giving the answers but anyone who reads this will have a chance to find the answers before our meeting later this month. Anyone else is welcome to play along as well. After our meeting, the third Saturday of the month, I will post the answers for anyone interested.

  1. ‘A Murder is Announced’ was Agatha’s ________ book published?
  2. Inspector ________________ worked on this case with Miss Marple’s      help.
  3. Names of the lesbian couple in this story _____________________
    and _____________________.
  4. Name of the vicarage cat ________________________________.
  5. What was the time that the murder was supposed to take place?      ____________
  6. What was the name of Bunny’s Birthday cake?      __________________________
  7. Who did Agatha model Miss Marple after?      ______________________________
  8. AT the Bochercon World Mystery Convention in May _________ she was      named Mystery Writer of the Century and the Poirot books Mystery Series of the Century.
  9. What cozy mystery convention features the Agatha award? __________________
  10. Was Agatha a cat lover or a dog lover?    _________________________________

Again, have a happy 4th and enjoy the fireworks – along with a good book.

Virginia

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2011 in Mystery Novels

 

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4th of July 2011

I have been counting down the days to another long weekend. It seems that there are too few of them.  I am planning to work on characters for my
current work in progress. Trying to get to the point where I can actually start writing when I have my week of vacation starting on the 9th.

When I write, I like to have a bit of an outline without filling in all the gaps. Not knowing everything seems to make the whole process more fun but I do need to have some direction. Developing characters is one way I work on developing my story. It’s more than deciding what they look like. It’s about discovering who they are and what they would do. Creating a past that will help determine the character’s present and future. It’s like meeting someone new and sitting down for a chat but this character isn’t afraid to tell me everything. The more I know, the more I can predict how this character would react if dropped into different situations.  Someone who has a fear of the dark is not going to wander off into the woods alone at night unless they have no other choice. If the reader is aware of the character’s fear it makes them want to stay with the story to find out what happens.

It’s easy to make the protagonist too much like yourself. You know what you would do in a given situation but the character is not you so you have to create someone who would react differently than you would as the writer. You have to decide what the character wants most, what they are most afraid of, what their goals are, and what motivates them. Do they have flaws and what are they? What is their background? Where do they come from? What have they done? What has happened to them to make them into the person they are now?

Because your story has to have more than one person you have to populate your book with several characters. Some are major characters, some minor, and some who just walk-on to the story. It is also easy to create a flawless character. Everyone has flaws.

No one likes a perfect person, they’re not interesting. To shake it up a little, even your good guy has to have some faults. The same can be said for
the antagonist, he can’t be all evil. He has to have something good about him; otherwise you end up working with paper doll characters. They need a little more depth. By creating fully developed characters you make them three dimensional. You make them people want to read about and spend some time with.

 

I always turn to books as references while writing. The books I am using currently to develop my characters are ‘Plot versus Character’
by Jeff Gerke and ’45 Master Characters – Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters’ by Victoria Lynn Schmidt. I plan to write a review about my reference books at another time so won’t go into detail for now. Besides the weekend is wasting away as I blog so need to get back to my project.

 

Currently I am reading ‘A Murder is Announced’ by Agatha Christy. It is a book my Sister’s in Crime group is reading to discuss at our July Meeting. Now that I am further into the book, I am enjoying immersing myself into that time period. If you haven’t read Agatha’s novels, it’s never
too late to start. Would love to hear about your writing process, I am truly interested in that aspect of writing. How do you create your characters? Do you use detailed information or do you just have them fully developed in your head?  What are you reading right now? Feel free to comment and share. There is nothing better than visiting with writers and readers.

Hope you all have a happy and safe 4th. Spend some of it outside away from your computer. As writers you can’t expect to write about life unless you experience some of it.

Virginia

 
 

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