Monday, January 20, 2014

Mini-Reviews: Mystery & Suspense Round-Up

I used to be a full-time mystery/suspense reader until I discovered the romance genre in my early twenties and sold my soul to Harlequin.  However, thanks to a new release from the only cozy series I still read, plus my library's upcoming annual literary event (guess who is moderating one of the mystery panels this year?) - means I've spent a good chunk of January tripping over fictional dead bodies.  Here's the rundown:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1250009626/themisaofsupe-20
Follow Her Home by Steph Cha is a debut novel set in Los Angeles and casts a directionless twenty-something Korean American woman, Juniper Song, in the PI role.  One of her best friends is worried that his father is having an affair with a much younger woman who works at his office, and since the last time Daddy had an affair Mommy almost succeeded in killing herself?  He asks Juniper to snoop around.  Naturally, havoc ensues.

This was a pretty solid debut.  I loved that our protagonist was obsessed with Philip Marlowe and still haunted by a tragedy that pertains to her younger sister.  I also thought the author had interesting things to say about the fetishization (is that a word?) of young Asian women.  The suspense thread could have been a little tighter in spots and this is one of those Bad Things Happen To Good Secondary Characters books, so that was kind of a downer.  I've been waffling on my grade, but probably a B-.  The author has another book featuring Juniper slated for an August release and I'm curious to read it.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1608090760/themisaofsupe-20
Yesterday's Echo by Matt Coyle is another debut and one that I highly enjoyed.  Hero was a cop when his wife was found murdered.  He was the prime suspect, but the DA couldn't make it stick - so Rick leaves the force and moves back to his hometown of La Jolla, California to work at a friend's restaurant.  That's where he meets the femme fatale character, a woman who has a bunch of hired goons looking for her.  If you can get past the set-up (given his past I thought Rick's quick and easy trust of the femme fatale strained), this is a great suspense novel.  It twists and turns and kept me guessing all the way up until the end.  Again it's another Bad Things Happen To Good Secondary Characters book, but between the suspense and the great SoCal setting?  I highly recommend it.  Oh, and at the time of this blog post writing?  It's only a $1.99 on KindleMy grade is a B+.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0758285035/themisaofsupe-20
Killing Cupid by Laura Levine is the latest in her Jaine Austen (no relation) series about a freelance writer who keeps stumbling over dead bodies.  This go-around Jaine takes a job writing copy for Joy Amoroso, who claims to run an upscale matchmaking service.  Naturally Joy is pure evil, someone kills her, and since their working relationship was not all champagne and roses, the cops start snooping around Jaine.  This means Jaine starts doing her own snooping and uncovers a whole host of suspects.  Levine used to be a sitcom writer and her books read like it in both good, and bad, ways.  The stories move along at a great clip, there's a lot of humor, and she writes very capable mysteries with enough suspects to keep the reader guessing.  On the downside?  Sometimes that humor can be a tad on the broad side - which it was in this book thanks to a scene involving squirrels (yes, squirrels).  Still, it delivered exactly what I wanted, it was amusing, and the mystery was solid.  Levine is also one of the very few cozy writers who hasn't fallen down the Magical Baking Cupcake Knitting Cats hole and for that reason I think all cozy fans need to be reading her books.  A solid B.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0767921232/themisaofsupe-20
Dating Dead Men by Harley Jane Kozak is the first in a four-book series and was, I'm sorry to say, a hot mess for me.  Our heroine, Wollie Shelley, designs greeting cards and runs a Hallmark-like store.  Then her schizophrenic brother calls from the mental hospital claiming to have witnessed a murder.  When she goes to check up on him, she finds a dead body in the middle of the road, and gets "kidnapped" by a man she only knows as "Doc" who has a pet ferret in his coat pocket.  She doesn't call the police and even after "Doc" lets her go - she continues to help him even though he tells her nothing and the mob is somehow involved.  Oh, and did I mention Wollie is going out with 40 guys in 60 days as part of a pop psychologist's "research" project?  I got 120 pages into the book and just couldn't take it anymore.  There was nothing I liked here, and I mean nothing.  I skimmed my way through the rest of the book, skipping chunks of pages along the way.  Humor is one thing, cozy is another, and I'll even read zany - but when the characters don't behave like rational adults?  I'm out.  Hey, I don't read Janet Evanovich anymore either - so there you go.  My grade is a Big Fat DNF.

9 comments:

Marguerite Kaye said...

I love mysteries, and I love comedy and I love it when they combine in a good series, so I don't know how I've missed the Jaine Austin series. I've just ordered the first, This Pen for Hire, and shifted it to the top of my TBR.

Wendy said...

Marguerite: I always marvel at Levine's talent at giving readers a solid mystery with plenty of suspects/options. I mean, these books are category romance length, and yet I never feel like the mystery takes a backseat to the wacky. There are probably some dated references in the early books now - but they should hold up fairly well I think. This series has been going since the very late 90s, early 00s I believe.

Marguerite Kaye said...

I read This Pen for Hire in a couple of gulps and really enjoyed it. I love that kind of wit and it just whizzed along. Yes, it did have some dated references, but that didn't matter. Thank you for introducing me to Jaine, I'll definitely be going back for more.

Nicole said...

Hey, I like those cat ones! You've reminded me that I'm a bit behind in this series. I should see where I left off and catch up. But yeah, it seems like every cozy has to have a quirky, over-the-top hook. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

nath said...

Interesting round-up. I might have to pick up one or two books on your list, for the simple fact that it doesn't feature any ex-military men!! Yay!

I have Dating Dead Men in my TBR pile. Picked it up at RT I think. Guess there's a reason why it's still in my TBR pile.

Wendy said...

Nicole: There was one where Jane goes to a spa - I think it's been 3 or so books now - that was the first "not OK" one in the series for me. I still think of the recent ones Killer Cruise was my favorite - mostly because you had Jane's parents and Lance (!) spending time together.

Wendy said...

Marguerite: I'm so glad you liked it!

Wendy said...

Nath: LOL - no ex-military. Yeah, Dating Dead Men just didn't work for me. The style, the voice - it just didn't appeal to me. It was "homework reading" for work, so I skimmed through it and feel like getting the gist of the story is enough to power me through our big literary event :)

76113d72-7717-11e3-9ba5-000bcdcb2996 said...

You have some great books here it looks like. I love the suspense genre, I would suggest Playing With Fire by Cassandra Bella. A fantastic read! cassandrabella.net for her info. Best read of my year so far. Yesterday's Echo is in my TBR list already maybe that one is next for me!