Game of Mirrors by Andrea Camilleri

Game

A couple of years ago I stumbled onto this wonderful series thanks to my library’s audiobook collection. It was one of those, “Come on Overdrive, just have something good available now. I need a book for the drive tomorrow” moments. Those moments don’t always produce memorable results…Not so that time. I immediately fell in love with the Montalbano series and have kept up ever since.

Inspector Salvo Montalbano is a smart Sicilian cop in the fictional Vigata, with wry sense of humor and a somewhat rag-tag crew of people around him that he often enjoys messing with. Many might want to pigeonhole the mysteries as somewhat cozy, but they often confront many real social and political issues that your average cozy doesn’t touch. Montalbano gets results, but his methods aren’t always conventional or even strictly legal. He’s a smart ass with a heart of gold who gets the job done.  You can’t help love him for it.

Another things that sets the series apart is the language. Camilleri interweaves a whole heap of Italian and the Sicilian dialect into his books without leaving English speakers behind. I credit Camilleri (and Donna Leon’s Guido Brunetti Series) with the wee grasp I have of Italian because he makes is natural and easy.

However, this is the first book in the series that I have read as opposed to listening to and there was a huge difference. Grover Gardner narrates the audiobooks and he pronounces all of the Sicilian that doesn’t roll off of your tongue easily. As I was reading this, I heard his voice in my head and would have been lost a few times if I hadn’t already heard him say some words in the prior books. I can’t think of another series or even standalone that I would suggest audio versions more strongly.

If you’re like me and have a yen for Italy, a sarcastic sense of humor, and like your mysteries served with a side of well hidden social commentary….check out Inspector Montalbano. You can start anywhere, but I always try to start series at the beginning for the full experience.

 

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The Paris Homicide Series by Frédérique Molay

 

Paris Homicide

I love the gritty psychologically driven Scandinavian crime novels and they led me to reach out for a broader view of European Crime.  Let me tell you, it isn’t all gritty, but that doesn’t mean you have Ms. Marple in the library sipping tea either.

Paris, oohhh, Paris, with the tragic history and all of those romantic spots…Just like any modern city, there are murders there too, fictional and otherwise. In comes, Frédérique Molay, and her creation, Chief of Police Nico Sirsky.

The three part (so far) Paris Homicide series has opened my eyes not only to real-life Paris, but to the interesting way that La Crim’ investigates murder. I say interesting, because the mechanisms and procedures are different from what we are used to here and that adds to the intrigue of the plots for non-native readers.

The plots kept me reading as well. The 7th Woman features a killer of women, Crossing the Line starts with a freaky message secreted away in an odd body part, and City of Blood plays havoc with modern art at the site of a former massive slaughter-house with is now Parc de La Villtte, a world-class cultural center.

Nico Sirsky is different in that he isn’t really some tragically flawed alcoholic with decades of self-imposed wreckage behind him. He has a past just like we all do, the same with sad events, but it doesn’t define him like many fictional crime fighters. He is a good compassionate guy, who is very good at his job, with a teenage son, and a relationship in bloom. He’s multi-dimensional not for his bad habits, but because one can relate to him.  He’s a shift from the norm and really a breath of fresh air because of that.

So, if you want to see more of Paris and how they fight crime, not be afraid of turning the lights out at night, and yet still want some murder in your reading….check out Frédérique Molay, and her work, The Paris Homicide Series.

Check out the review at The Bowed Bookshelf

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The Doll by Taylor Stevens

the doll

The Doll by Taylor Stevens (Book 3 in the Vanessa Michael Monroe series)

I spend quite a bit of time on the Amazon Kindle forums helping people out with their issues and often that means looking at a book’s product page to see if there are compatibility issues, page numbers, etc. Nine times out of ten, I end up looking at really random books that I would never read and make me laugh. (Sometimes the titles give way more info than the poor Kindle user wants to, I’m sure)  Early last year, someone had a problem with borrowing the second book  book in this series, The Innocent, from the library. The synopsis grabbed me, so I grabbed the first book and never looked back.

Vanessa Michael Monroe, AKA Michael, is damaged and yet her strength and ability to carve a life out of her unique skills makes her a really strong female protagonist. She’s multi-lingual, an intimidating fighter and never fails to get the job done, no matter what the obstacle. She is the person you call when all normal channels are useless. She finds the information or the person gone missing in conditions that are unimaginable to us mere mortals. Yet, her past haunts her so much that you can see her fragility and desire for normal things that most of us take for granted. The juxtaposition is what draws me to the books again and again.

The Doll made my skin crawl a bit. The bad guy isn’t your everyday flesh peddler, he makes his captives to order…into living dolls which seemed so much more grotesque in my mind than a normal kidnapping. The Doll Maker may have bitten off more than he could chew when his henchmen grabbed Michael.

Even faster paced than the first two in the series, The Doll kept me at the edge of my seat with the twists and turns. It was one of those “Just let me finish this chapter and I’ll go do the dishes” books. Problem was…I couldn’t hold myself to just one more chapter.

Taylor Stevens herself has one of the most interesting backstory, check it out at Taylor Stevens Books.

 

The Doll by Taylor Stevens

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (June 4, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0307888789
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307888785

This book was given to me by the great folks at Read it Forward.

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A New Birth of Freedom: The Translator by Robert G. Pielke

TheTranslator

This is the second book in the wonderfully fun trilogy so be sure to check out my review for A New Birth of Freedom: The Visitor.

Time travel is messy when you really start to ponder it. You can’t change the past so much that you end up not being born because then you wouldn’t be there to travel back and make that change. Then there is the scary possibility that you change something bad and end up creating a whole new (and bigger) problem.

Time travel is also incredibly hard to write. The author has to explain those possible paradoxes and pitfalls without confusing the reader and getting so muddled that the prose ends up like a dog chasing his tail.

Big Note Here: You really must read the first book, The Visitor, before reading this one or you will be dazed and confused. Some books in a series stand alone, not this alternate history/sci-fi baby.

The Translator- When we last left, our somewhat fearless time traveler, Edwin Blair, had managed to bring Lee and Lincoln together to capture the Pests instead of fighting the battle at Gettysburg that we all know. Problem is Blair doesn’t know what to do from here.  He knows that some of the nasty Pests have to be left alive, but how? And just how are he and Lincoln supposed to calm the outrage, fear, and newly invigorated rebellion of the South? Blair is also dealing with a fading memory because of all of the changes he has caused and the headaches are nightmares.

Pielke does a great job of steering both his characters and the reader through the perils of time travel and once again leaves me dying to read the next book.

If you love the Civil War, enjoy alternate history, and are open to a quirky dash of time travel, The New Birth of Freedom is definitely  worth checking out.

A New Birth of Freedom: The Translator by Robert G. Pielke

  • Paperback: 394 pages
  • Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press (2012)
  • ISBN-10: 1611605423
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611605426

 

I was thrilled to get this book by being part of the Tribute Books Tour.

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The Dark Monk by Oliver Pötzsch

The Dark Monk

Last year, I really enjoyed Pötzsch’s first book in this series, The Hangman’s Daughter. The setting was interesting, Germany in 1660. The characters were different; how many Hangmen have you ever read about? The mystery of the missing children, while a teeny tiny bit formulaic, was full of twists and turns. The whole package left me eager to read the upcoming sequel.

Enter The Dark Monk.

The hangman, Jakob Kuisl, takes a backseat for a majority of this book and lets his daughter, Magdalena and the town doctor Simon take most of the limelight and risk. A priest is found dead;  Simon and Kuisl don’t think that it was natural causes and then they stumble into an ancient crypt under the church. Simon soon thinks he is hot on the trail of the lost treasure of the Templars, Magdalena gets a marriage proposal from a big city hangman before she gets kidnapped, and Jakob has his hands full with Johann Lechner, the town clerk, and a whole mess of bandits.

I don’t think that I would be giving away too much if I mentioned that there is one seriously bad and messed up monk involved. Also, the dead priest has a beautiful wealthy sister that is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery and manages to make Magdalena jealous.

Much like the first book, the time period and characters were interesting, however, the plot was reminiscent of the puzzling quests of Dan Brown. I liked it, but (Yes there is the big BUT) it read really, really slow for me. This baby is 512 pages long and I felt each and every page. It took a good long time to even get the story moving and then the characters seemed a wee bit slow on the uptake.

Did The Dark Monk suffer from the Sophomore curse? I think it did, but it was still nice to see the characters develop and I already have the next book in the series, The Beggar King, on my wishlist. (slated for January 2013)

 The Dark Monk by Oliver Potzsch

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (June 12, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0547807686
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547807683
This book was sent to me by BzzAgent. If you have never heard of it, go check it out. They send you products and you spread the bzz honestly.