Welcome to Part Five of 15 Years of Mysteries! In 2008, my local library moved to a new location and the Mystery Book Club moved along with it. Since the move closed the library for two weeks in January, the club did not meet that month. Fittingly, when we resumed in February, the club read a book with an apt title and a story set in Syracuse.
February 2008 selection
Origin by Diana Abu-Jabar
Synopsis: Lena is a fingerprint expert at a crime lab in the city of Syracuse. She is drawn into a case involving a series of crib deaths—indistinguishable from SIDS except for the fevered testimony of one distraught mother with connections in high places.
Thoughts: A chilling read, but well worth it. The story is inspired by a well-known true crime case Central New York residents would be familiar with, but this mystery takes its own course and is quite original. I did a full review of this book for my blog in 2012.
March 2008 selection
Aunt Dimity: Snowbound by Nancy Atherton
Synopsis: Lori Shepherd and the phantom Aunt Dimity have become one of the mystery genre’s most celebrated detective duos. In this 9th novel, a blizzard forces Lori to take shelter in Ladythorne Abbey, where a prized heirloom leads to murder.
Thoughts: This is a light cozy mystery about a stolen jewel, not a murder mystery.
April 2008 selection
Final Jeopardy by Linda Fairstein
Synopsis: Alex Cooper awakens one morning to news of her own brutal murder. Soon, Manhattan’s top sex-crimes prosecutor discovers that the actual victim is film star Isabella Lascar, who had sought refuge at Alex’s private retreat. Now Alex must find the killer before another victim surfaces. 1st book in the long running series.
Thoughts: The initial premise of the book is very similar to the classic Vera Caspary novel, Laura, but this story makes use of the author’s real-life experiences in and out of the courtroom to great effect.
May 2008 selection
The Silver Pigs by Lindsay Davis
Synopsis: Rome. AD 70. Private eye Marcus Didius Falco stumbles onto a highly profitable, if highly illegal, trade in silver ingots or pigs. Falco finds the start of a murderous trail that leads far beyond the seven hills.
Thoughts: Keeping the characters straight in this one can be a challenge (for some) due to the nature of naming conventions in ancient Rome. I enjoyed this one.
June 2008 selection
Rubicon by Steven Saylor
Synopsis: As Caesar marches on Rome and panic erupts in the city, Gordianus the Finder discovers the body of Pompey’s favorite cousin. Now, Pompey exacts a terrible price, Gordanius must find the killer or sacrifice his own son-in-law to service in Pompey’s legions, and certain death. 6th in the Roma Sub Rosa series.
Thoughts: Totally did not see the solution to the crime coming, but it was fairly presented. A very clever tale that breathes life into the history of Ancient Rome.
July 2008 selection
Rosemary Remembered by Susan Wittig Albert
Synopsis: China finds a woman with an unsettling resemblance to her murdered in a pick-up truck. The local police discover the woman’s fiancé is on the lam in Mexico City and focus on him as the main suspect. Meanwhile, China takes the advice of a psychic and finds the killer closer to home. 4th in the China Bayles series.
Thoughts: Another enjoyable cozy, prefect for summer reading.
August 2008 selection
Break No Bones by Kathy Reichs
Synopsis: The inspiration for the hit Fox series Bones! Forensic anthropologist Tempe Brennan is stuck teaching at a lackluster archeology field school in the ruins of a Native American burial ground on the Charleston shore, but when she stumbles upon a fresh skeleton, her old friend Emma Rousseau, the local coroner, persuades Tempe to stay on and help with the investigation.
Thoughts: The details of the case were quite interesting and the mystery is gripping. But once again, jumping into the middle of a series, I found it a challenge to grasp the character’s personal life – how is it that she works part-time in North Carolina and part-time in Quebec?! Still this is a book that very much entices you to read them all – preferably in order.
September 2008 selection
Dark Horse by Mike Langan
Synopsis: Nicky Rigopoulos is a slick personal injury lawyer who sells out his clients to finance his campaign for state court judge in Syracuse, NY. When his law partner is murdered, Nicky finds himself the target of a police investigation.
Thoughts: We read this one in advance of the author coming to speak at the library. It was a fun read that makes good use of local landmarks. I should note that this book has been recently re-issued under a new title: Grave Injuries. I also did a full review of this book for my blog in 2013.
October 2008 selection
The Husband by Dean Koontz
Synopsis: On an ordinary day, Mitchell Rafferty answers his cell phone. “We have your wife. You can get her back for two million cash.” The caller is deadly serious and doesn’t care that Mitch runs a small two-man landscaping operation and has no way of raising such a vast sum. He’s confident that Mitch will find a way.
Thoughts: Horror master Koontz pens a more conventional suspense thriller with this title, but like many of his horror books, it’s an intense read.
November 2008 selection
Tourist Season by Carl Hiaasen
Synopsis: The only trace of the first victim was his Shriner’s fez washed up on the Miami Beach. The second victim, the head of the city’s chamber of commerce, was found dead with a toy alligator lodged in his throat. And that was just the beginning …
Thoughts: Madcap fun.
December 2008 selection
Weep No More My Lady by Mary Higgins Clark
Synopsis: Elizabeth Lange checks into the ultimate California spa to uncover the dark truth behind her beloved sister’s plunge off a Manhattan penthouse balcony.
Thoughts: One of Clark’s best page turners.
And those were the selections for 2008. Another mixed bag of mystery treats.
As an addendum, I should note a curious phenomenon I’ve seen over the years. Mysteries set in ancient Rome do not circulate well at my local library. In fact, historical mysteries set in an era prior to the Victorian Age do very poorly and have been – gasp – withdrawn from the collection with a few exceptions. I cannot explain this dire streak. The above selections for May and June were some of my favorite, memorable reads.
In 2004, I began a book discussion group focused on the mystery genre. In the 15 years since, the Mystery Book Club has read more than 150 mysteries, suspense thrillers, and a few true crime tales. Follow along as I take you through the years in a look back at “15 Years of Mysteries.” Stay tuned for part six.