Book: The Miracle at Speedy Motors

I’m prepared to read just about anything Alexander McCall Smith writes. This whole series is charming–enchanting, even.

The story this time centers a great deal around the office, with her secretary, or “Associate Detective” as she has become getting involved a great deal along with her fiance.

I’m not one to tell much of the story, but Precious Ramotswe finds herself solving things in very unexpected ways, even when she’s intending to do something quite different.

All I can say about the whole series is, “What’s not to like?”

Book: Hounded to Death

I like Rita Mae Brown, and especially the mysteries that involve Sneaky Pie Brown. This was my first time reading from her series written around fox hunting.

I guess I’m a cat person much more than a dog person, but I never really warmed up to the background in fox hunting. It just doesn’t resonate with me. In addition, the animals are less involved than they are in the books with Sneaky Pie.

Nonetheless I still detect the skill of the other books, even though I didn’t warm to the background. Rita Mae Brown can paint the background and characters that draw you in with relatively few words. You quickly feel like you know the characters and you actually care what happens to them.

I rate the book a three for myself, but I’m betting most mystery readers will rate it higher than that.

Book: Hand of Evil

I’m back to J. A. Jance again with this fascinating novel of suspense and mystery. I like Jance’s characters and her ability to keep the suspense going whilst keeping you involved with those characters. The mystery is good, though I guessed most of it a bit too early for my test. I might well credit that to chance, however, because I don’t do that so frequently with her books.

In Hand of Evil, Ali Reynolds finds herself drawn into multiple cases of extreme evil, with one case distracting her from the other. It’s not her intention to get into police business, but she does. Along the way she finds herself falling in love, largely unaware.

This was my first Ali Reynolds book, and I need to go back and read something earlier. I’m also looking forward to the new Joanna Brady mystery, Damage Control, scheduled for August 1, 2008.

Book: Body Movers

I could just rate this one a three, and let it go at that, but then I might be unfair to the author.  You see, the book is well written, but unfortunately had the bad luck to hit too many of my pet peeves, not about writing, but about people.  I just plain didn’t like the characters all that much, and sometimes I really don’t enjoy reading books about people I truly would not care to meet.

Basically, I felt that the action started slowly.  The first half of the book kept me busy disliking the major characters.  It got better toward the end, but I never did warm up to the people. Carlotta Wren’s parents have abandoned her and her younger brother, whom she has raised.  He’s pretty much a 19 year old obnoxious ingrate, and spends his time messing up her life.

She, of course, being his sister, continues to put up with all this and kind of babies him along, while being threatened by various loan sharks and other unsavory characters.  She is, nonetheless, the most likable character in the book.

The mystery is good, but it seems to me that the folks in the story solve it rather accidentally, which didn’t exactly excite me.

If you don’t have the same pet peeves as I do, you may well like this, because the story and the characters are built up quite well.  I do like the technique by which we become acquainted with each person and learn more of the background.  Because of those factors, I will certainly read another book in this series at some point.  I’m just not in a hurry.

Book: Cat’s Eyewitness

OK, here I am with another book with [tag]cats[/tag] in it, and another one in a series I’ve already written some about, a [tag]Mrs. Murphy Mystery[/tag]. My most recent entry was on reading The Tail of the Tip-Off, which I rated a 4. [tag]Rita Mae Brown[/tag] and [tag]Sneaky Pie Brown[/tag] are just too good not to keep on reading.

I’m getting into more contemporary times with “Harry” Harristeen now having resigned from the post office, and wondering what to do next. The kind of touch and go romance between her and Fair continues, as do her friendly collisions with the sheriff who thinks she’s going to get herself killed. As usual, by listening to their fellow creatures, the animals get ahead of the game and let the reader in on the action just a bit ahead of time.

In this case I suspected, but did not know who was actually responsible, and I missed a key point of evidence that would have confirmed the bad guy to me. The clues are all there if you read carefully and don’t assume anything that isn’t explicitly stated.

The mystery centers around a monastery, which seems an unusual setting for a murder mystery, but it turns out that the brothers are people too, with all of the potential for trouble that means in their lives. The story comes complete with a weeping statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary!

As it says on the cover, “it takes a cat to write the purr-fect mystery”–excessively cute, yes, but true and forgiven.

Again, my rating is a 4 out of 5.

Book: The Cat’s Pajamas

From a book I liked, I turn to a book that I didn’t. This was my first book by Gilbert Morris, and I had high hopes because there is a silhouette of a cat on the cover, and it says it’s “a feline mystery by Gilbert Morris. Further I quickly discovered that it’s a Christian book, and I like to find good Christian fiction.

To start out with, there was very little feline mystery involved. I’ve encountered books in which the cats were present as characters, but weren’t consciously contributing to the solution of the mystery, though they might do so accidentally. Other books have the cats talk and actively and consciously work to solve the mystery. Suspension of disbelief is then the name of the game. This is the first time I’ve encountered felines in the story who were apparently conscious and discussing the situation, but were nonetheless largely irrelevant. It’s a story, and there are cats, but the cats are barely in the story.

Then there’s the Christian angle. I like a book in which Christian characters live out Christian principles and confess that they’re Christians while living a Christian life. I dislike recognizing the clear “conversion target” in the first chapter. And I didn’t do that in this book, because he didn’t “get converted” in the book, but he is working on it. Not only that, there are several more that everyone is working on. There are Hollywood types who are totally amoral, or perhaps immoral, which the author informs us through a character, is worse. There are corrupt small town politicians.

In general there’s an implausible background (and note that I live very near the scene of the action), very few clues provided for a solution of the mystery, and then suddenly the cat pulls out something that . . . solves the mystery entirely without any need for further detective work. That’s it. Basically everyone flails around until someone finds the one thing that totally solves the mystery, even without any other clues.

To put it bluntly, I haven’t disliked a book this much in a long time. I’ll rate it 2 out of 5, because I did finish reading it, though I was tempted to quit. Gilbert Morris is a bestselling author, so I assume my dislike is my own idiosyncrasy, but there it is!

Book: The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers

One shouldn’t really complain about how much mystery there is in this series, since it’s pure, light fun all the way, but it does seem that we’re getting more and more personality and less and less mystery even within that formula. It’s also too soon for me to be writing notes on another book in this series, but it showed up at the library, so here goes.

Basically these are still light bedtime reading, and as such they work for me, but earlier books had much greater suspense and mystery, while the last couple have tended to slow down. At this point, I read just because I like the characters and the setting and I can manage the light reading time to keep up with their lives, but it would be nice to see Qwill and Koko in a bit more trouble, the kind of trouble that I might have to wonder how they’d get out of.

In any case, we have good characters, we have cats, and we have good background, so I’ll go on reading. Much of what I wrote about The Cat Who Dropped a Bombshell still applies, so having done my complaining, it’s on to the next book.

Book: The Tail of the Tip-Off

I previously wrote about Claws and Effect, and though I’ve read a couple of other books in this series I hadn’t posted anything about them. So I thought I’d write a few notes on another in this series.

I want to warn you right off that this is a series in which the animals can talk, or perhaps better communicate with one another, even carrying on fairly sophisticated conversations. The humans (stupid us!) can’t understand them, though they can understand the humans. Some folks don’t like this sort of thing. I’m willing to suspend my disbelief that much, especially since the animals generally behave appropriately for their species.

We’re again in Crozet, Virginia (where else?) and someone has died in a very mysterious way. I found pretty much all aspects of the murder better than the average for this series. The method is intriguing and the motivation works for me.

I always enjoy the assortment of small town characters, and I don’t suppose I’ve mentioned more than a dozen times or so in various entries on this blog that I am a major pushover for books featuring cats. The main dog character is not bad either, but I have a soft spot for cats.

The ever curious Mary Minor “Harry” Harristeen is up to all her usual antics, regularly getting herself in considerable trouble. She always show so much more intelligence in finding clues than in comprehending the fact that some people may not be too happy she’s trailing them.

This is another light reading book; excellent mystery, but generally not requiring you to be in study mode when you read it.

Numerical rating: 4.