Peter Lovesey – The Last Detective (1991, Soho Press, Inc., United Kingdom)
Not to be confused with the “other” Last Detective, “Dangerous” Davies of the novels by Leslie Thomas (perhaps more familiar to many as a TV series), this is Peter Lovesey’s Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond, who shuns late-Eighties/early-Nineties’ computer technology and developments in forensic science in favour of kicking it old-school by knocking on doors and relentless questioning. When a woman is found dead in a lake near the city of Bath, Diamond leads the investigation with characteristic (and occasionally humorous) aplomb, bulldozing his way through clues, suspects, and his subordinates alike. Initially, I wasn’t certain about the character of Diamond – quite frankly, he came across as a total boor and I prefer that even the most unlikeable characters should have some redeeming quality – but over the course of the novel, the development of this tough, flawed gumshoe gave me more than enough reason to keep reading. The POV switches in the novel’s six parts also gave me pause, at first, but they are actually quite effective when all is said and done. I’m curious to see what Lovesey has done with the other novels in this lengthy series (16 books so far).
Amy Stewart – Girl Waits With Gun (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – Boston, 2015)
Go look this one up at your local library or the nearest bookstore. Amy Stewart’s Girl Waits With Gun. I’ll be here until you get back.
Okay, do you have a copy in your hands? This is why you have to read it NOW: Stewart takes the true story of historical figure of Constance Kopp, one of America’s first female crime fighters, and runs with it, producing a brilliantly creative, fun, and beautifully written (fictionalized) tale of a woman who doesn’t quite fit into the time she lives in, yet makes the best of her situation to get herself and her sisters out of a serious muddle, as well as help others less fortunate. In this first book of the series (yay! It’s a series!), Constance and her sisters inadvertently attract the sinister attention of Henry Kaufman, a powerful factory owner – and things are complicated when it is discovered that Kaufman is involved in many more criminal acts. Terrified for her family’s safety, Constance reluctantly seeks the help of the police, and together with kindly, overworked Sheriff Heath, this fierce, driven woman goes to war. Some books you savour, some you devour – this definitely fit into the latter category for me. I could barely get anything else done while I was reading it, I was so invested in Constance’s story. Perfect pacing, careful research, and just the right amount of heartwarming humour further solidified it for me – I can’t recommend Girl Waits With Gun enough.
Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d – Alan Bradley (2016, Doubleday Canada)
The eighth book in the Flavia de Luce mystery series packs a right-between-the-eyes knockout punch – and no, I won’t spoil it for you, other than to say this is an even bigger deal than her temporary “exile” in Canada, where she attended a private boarding school, solved a weird murder involving a body stuffed up a chimney, and learned more about her family’s connection to a secret organization which I shouldn’t discuss further. (Go get book seven, As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, and read it right now. It’s a ragged and uneven go, but it serves as a decent set up for the new book). In Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d, Flavia returns home to her beloved Buckshaw just before Christmas, to find that her father is ill and the household is unsettled and cold. The accidental finding of the body of a wood carver while running an errand cheers Flavia up immensely, as she goes to great lengths and concocts elaborate lies to uncover the murderer. Despite remaining endearingly irrepressible, Flavia is definitely taking on a more mature, experienced voice (if that can even be possible) as the series develops and she approaches her teenage years.
What are you reading this weekend?