I don’t really care Whodunnit. Have I said that before? I never see mysteries as something I’m reading for the puzzle or the solution. For me, it’s all about the craic. It’s about the gossip from the secondary characters and the set-pieces and the colourful back-drops and unique atmosphere of each series. I love seeing our heroes jumping through the emotional and adventurous hoops and I love a series that’s about a world and a milieu that I want to return to again and again.
This week I returned to Florida with Gladdy Gold and her elderly friends in Rita Lakin’s ‘Getting Old is the Best Revenge.’ It’s only the second in the set, and it’s five years since I read the first – but it was still like going back and being greeted by old friends. This one is substantially about a bingo cruise that the ladies go on, and about a series of related murders that leads to a messy and quite frightening climax aboard a luxury liner. Imagine a perfect blend of ‘Murder, She Wrote’, ‘The Golden Girls’ and ‘Love Boat’ – and make it just a bit camper – and you’ve got it.
Then I read ‘Who Do, Voodoo?’ by Rochelle Staab – which has been waiting TBR for ages – since 2011 and my last trip to the US. It’s the first in a magic-based series set in Hollywood – and it’s pretty good. It suffers a little from needing to establish its world and quite a large cast of characters and by the end I didn’t feel quite at home yet with our primary cast. I’m sure by Book 2 (2 and 3 are already out!) the whole thing will have bedded in. It seemed to take itself a little more seriously than the other mysteries I read this week and, while that’s no bad thing, ‘Who Do, Voodoo?’ – for all its amusing title - came across a little more earnest than I’d have preferred.
Midweek, I went back in time – to the Sixties and a book I’ve meant to read for ages – ‘The Cat Who Could Read Backwards’, which was the first in the famous series about Koko the clever Siamese by Lilian Jackson Braun. It’s a series that arguably sets the tone for all the Cosy Mysteries that came after – and it’s a delightful read. Slightly edgier than I expected, perhaps – with a very keen eye for satire (especially of the foibles of the art scene.) It’s quite a short, taut example of the genre – very deftly-woven, and with a host of larger than life characters (I loved the butch lady welder artist! And the prissy and vicious critic at the heart of the drama.) And the cat at the centre of the book is beautifully observed. There are twenty eight sequels to read..! I hope they’re all as good as this one.
Lastly, this week, I’ve read the first in a series that isn’t really ‘mystery’ at all – though it does have quite a bit of crimey-wimey and extremely dodgy secret stuff going down – and it finishes with a brilliantly funny adventuresome set-piece in a Bible-based Crazy Golf park in the middle of a lightning storm. Hope Ramsay’s ‘Welcome to Last Chance’ is classified as a romance (and there is, admittedly, a believably red hot romance centre stage throughout) – but it’s really about a town and an ensemble cast. It’s a town in the South as observed by the well-informed ladies who flock to the Cut n’ Curl Beauty Shop. It was the perfect way to round off my week of reading – with some country and western singing, suspected murders, and breathless moonlight flitting. It reminded me very much not just of ‘Steel Magnolias’ but also Adriana Trigiana’s (much-missed – nothing since has been as funny) series about Big Stone Gap.
And now – with the weekend looming – I’m onto a library-based mystery called ‘Books Can Be Deceiving’ and I’ve another of Miranda James’ cat mysteries lined up – and the amazing Nick sent me Gladys Mitchell, Georgette Heyer and Nancy Spain in a mysterious parcel that was the best single piece of post of the week.
I am awash with mysteriousness here in the sultry warmth of wet August in South Manchester. I hope you’re all well..?