August Murders: Reading Sanctum Potpourri #7

Reading Sanctum: Potpourri is one of our continuing features of quick cut book reviews to help you find some otherwise innocuous books that might have escaped your attention. As a huge library/book reader geek, I love sharing stories about the books I am reading. So if you love books like I love books, then you just might love this post, too. This month, we lead with murder mysteries.

There are numerous murder mysteries that are released annually. In fact I would say that murder mysteries are among the most widely enjoyed book genres. I’m not trying to poo-poo any other genre. Readers of this blog know that Horror is my major joy, and I identify as a hard-core dyed in the wool horror-geek, but horror is more of a specialized audience whereas many different types of readers enjoy mysteries.

Dog Days of Voodoo is a pretty rough read. I was expecting a cozy murder mystery with a New Orleans backdrop and a voodoo subplot. Instead I got a scattered plot that involved mystery and intrigue, but only in the most superficial and ancillary way. I hate to be snarky, but I don’t believe that the writer, G. A. Chase, had a very clear idea as to what he wanted to say about New Orleans, voodoo, or even murder.

The characters are uninteresting, self-absorbed, and flat. The story that involves some supernatural elements, would have been scary in more capable hands. I read the entire story, but it was a mostly joyless experience. I’ve read worse, but I don’t want you to take the two-star rating as any sort of a recommendation. It is not. I just know that some writers live and die by the rating and I can tell that this writer was trying (he’s an “established” writer with other writing credits), so I refuse to be heartless.

Good try.

It has been an exceptionally long time since I read a Mary Higgins Clark novel, but I’ve Got My Eyes on You grabbed me from the start and reminded me why I used to love her. The story was like putting on a comfortable sweater on a chill night, sitting by the fireplace reading a mystery novel. I think I could have read the book in two sittings, but I wanted to savor the experience by extending it.

The murderer was not surprising, but again it felt comfortable, familiar. I had not read this book before, but I think many of her books are thematically similar. I would love to read more from her, specifically her earlier books. I would love to know if they are as good as I remember. (I used to buy Clark books for my sister, Dee, as her birthday is so close to Christmas no one bothered to give her anything for her birthday.)

Good book, but I figured out the mystery rather easily.

I think I read this for the first time, ten to fifteen years ago. Cornwell was doing an interview on one of the news shows, Dateline, or some such. She was communicating a compelling argument, about the real Jack the Ripper, such that I bought her book. It is extraordinarily dry. However, her arguments are exceedingly convincing. She writes about watermarks on paper and makes it fascinating. This is NOT for everyone, but if you are interested in the science of forensics, this might be for you. If you are intrigued by Jack the Ripper and his pathology, this might be for you, as well.

I “enjoyed” this book, as much as one can enjoy the horrifying subject matter. It is a difficult read for people that are sensitive to graphic violence because Cornwell is graphic about the crime scenes left behind. She makes an argument that Jack the Ripper never stopped killing; he became more careful, and that he left England for New York where he continued his killing. She even names the killer and why she believes so strongly that she is correct. She makes compelling arguments; so compelling in fact that she convinced me.

The Outsider is a novel that begins like a police procedural. A horrible murder has been committed and witnesses are being interviewed by the police, while an arrest is occurring. Evidence is discussed while the grisly elements of the crime are set before the reader, but the accused has an irrefutable alibi.

There’s a very special alchemy that draws us into Stephen King’s work. It is initiated when you start to think what the heck (or if you’re like me WTF!) is going on here, because there’s no way it’s possible that this story could work, there’s no way that this could happen, except it is and it does. There’s real investigative work here, but because it’s King there is a strong supernatural pall that hangs over this book.

You have some crazy strong characters here (what else would you expect with King), and they are not all cuddly, lovable, and heroic. These characters are human and flawed, even damned unlikable because most of us hate moral certitude, because damn it, I’M HUMAN AND FLAWED AND RARELY MORALLY CERTAIN. After the first 200 pages, I thought I knew where this story was going and boy was, I wrong.

A character is killed off and I was shocked because I thought it was the heart of the novel, but King changes it up and brings in a new heart and just continues to build a riveting story. This is not a perfect book. It probably is too long and King concentrates on a few characters to the detriment of others. I would have liked to know more about Terry Maitland’s daughters, but you still get a really great story mashup. This is one of the best I’ve read this year, so I give this, 5 Grey Geeks.

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