Category: Staff Recommendations

Manheim Community Library staff members review their favorite books:

Mystery Series: Harriet Engle, a Staff Assistant at the Manheim Community Library, is an avid reader of several authors who write murder mystery series. Look for her weekly reviews highlighting each of these series.

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Mystery Series Reviews | Postmortem

POSTMORTEM
Patricia Daniels Cornwell, Kay Scarpetta #1

Postmortem by Patricia D Cornwell cover

This series takes us back to the United States, specifically, Richmond, Virginia. Dr. Kay Scarpetta had just been appointed as the Chief Medical Examiner (CME) for the State of Virginia just two years earlier. The call that came in at 2:33 on an early Saturday morning was letting her know that there was a fourth murder that, as chief and due to the nature of the first three incidents, she needed to be involved. Sergeant Pete Marino was on the other end of the line. He was condescending and perhaps a little begrudgingly helpful.

Ms. Cornwell begins this series on a fast paced note, giving the reader a quick rundown of the main players: Dr. Scarpetta, Sergeant Marino, and Dr. Scarpetta’s ten-year-old niece, Lucy, visiting from Florida. The stage is set for both accomplishments and regrets to build up in Dr. Scarpetta’s life – accomplishments in that horrific crimes are solved and regrets for how her position as CME impacts her relationship with Lucy.

This fourth incident was stacking up to being very similar to the first three. Of course, murder is never pleasant, and this one is no exception. The victims were women, married, professionals. This most recent victim’s husband had been out of town. The perpetrator found a way through the bathroom window. In a terrifyingly short time, multiple lives were drastically and forever changed.

This series is fast-paced and can be considered as “thriller” material. It includes medical information and descriptions, along with forensic details, and the partnering with law enforcement. As with the other series that I have reviewed, you, the reader, have the opportunity to follow the lives of the main characters, their passions, joys, foibles, and vulnerabilities.

Up next:  The Track of the Cat by Nevada Barr

Harriet Engle, a Staff Assistant at the Manheim Community Library, is an avid reader of several authors who write murder mystery series. Look for her weekly reviews highlighting each of these series.

Note: If you decide to start one of the series being reviewed and wish to read the next in the series, go to www.fantasticfiction.com, type in the author, and scroll down to see which book was written next under that series. The Manheim Community Library may not have the book you want, but staff will be happy to order it for you from another library.

You can also find and request the next book in the series right from the LSLC catalog. Search the book you have just read from the search bar at the top right of manheimlibrary.org. Click on the title to open up the book information and then scroll down to the section marked “Series”. At a glance, you can see the series and where the book you searched is in the series. For series of more than 14 titles, click on the button below that says “See Full Series”. To request another title from this section, just click on the cover and it will take you to the screen to request a copy from the Library System of Lancaster County to be delivered to Manheim Community Library (or another library in the LSLC.)

 (If you do not see the full description that includes the “Series” section, you can also click on the book cover. This will bring you to a screen with a blue header and the book cover. Click on the link for Series and it will bring you to a list of all the books in that series. You will need to go back to the catalog to search and request it this way, though.)

Mystery Series Reviews | The Mysterious Affair at Styles Court

THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES
Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot #1

The Mysterious Affair at Styles book cover

Back in England, Agatha Christie introduces Hercule Poirot, the indomitable detective from Belgium, along with detective-in-training, Arthur Hastings in The Mysterious Affair at Styles. It is unclear exactly the time period in which Ms. Christie begins her tales involving Poirot, but it seems to be the in the time of the Great War, for some talk of war filters through, and Hastings is on leave from his military duties.

Hastings narrates the story. He is invited to spend leave at his friend’s estate, Styles Court, near Essex, England, which he does so excitedly. He has not seen his friend, John Cavendish, for many years, and both Hastings and Cavendish have much to tell of their lives. It turns out that John’s widowed mother, Emily, recently married a much younger man, Alfred Inglethorp, who is both disliked and distrusted by the others in the family, all of whom reside at Styles Court.

Emily Inglethorp suddenly dies an unexpected and rather unpleasant, and perhaps suspicious, death. Hastings is aware of the little community of Belgians nearby, in which Hercule Poirot resides. He asks for and receives permission to have Poirot take a look at the situation (the family hopes to keep both the police and press uninvolved). Poirot and his “little grey cells” work diligently to determine who did what and when with the resulting back and forth (he did it; no, he did it; well, maybe she did it) until Poirot gathers everyone together and reveals his findings and, yes, surprising conclusions. An interesting thread throughout is how Hastings fumbles with his own sleuthing skills, or lack thereof, and how he vacillates between doubt of Poirot’s skills and admiration for Poirot’s uncanny abilities of deduction.

Up next: Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell

Note: If you decide to start one of the series being reviewed and wish to read the next in the series, go to www.fantasticfiction.com, type in the author, and scroll down to see which book was written next under that series. The Manheim Community Library may not have the book you want, but staff will be happy to order it for you from another library.

You can also find and request the next book in the series right from the LSLC catalog. Search the book you have just read from the search bar at the top right of manheimlibrary.org. Click on the title to open up the book information and then scroll down to the section marked “Series”. At a glance, you can see the series and where the book you searched is in the series. For series of more than 14 titles, click on the button below that says “See Full Series”. To request another title from this section, just click on the cover and it will take you to the screen to request a copy from the Library System of Lancaster County to be delivered to Manheim Community Library (or another library in the LSLC.)

 (If you do not see the full description that includes the “Series” section, you can also click on the book cover. This will bring you to a screen with a blue header and the book cover. Click on the link for Series and it will bring you to a list of all the books in that series. You will need to go back to the catalog to search and request it this way, though.)

Harriet Engle, a Staff Assistant at the Manheim Community Library, is an avid reader of several authors who write murder mystery series. Look for her weekly reviews highlighting each of these series.

Mystery Series Reviews | Open Season

OPEN SEASON
C. J. Box, #1

Open Season - C J Box coverWe come back to the United States with this review of Open Season, the first in C. J. Box’s series featuring Joe Pickett, the newly hired Wyoming State Game Warden. Joe Pickett replaces the outgoing Game Warden, Vern Dunnegan, and must work with the incompetent County Sheriff, O. R. “Bud” Barnum. Joe’s wife, Marybeth, is pregnant with their third child. Their two daughters, Sheridan and Lucy, are seven and three years old, respectively. Also part of the family is eight-year-old Maxine, Joe’s yellow Labrador.

The setting is the State of Wyoming, Twelve Sleep County, the town of Saddlestring, the surrounding Bighorns, and the Twelve Sleep River flowing through town. The Picketts live about eight miles outside of town. It is Wild West action situated late in the 20th century, and the entire Pickett family shares in the grandeur of the mountains and forests of Wyoming and the life and troubles of a state game warden.

The first book in this series begins with the sound of a bullet hitting flesh. The gun is fired by a poacher, Ote Keeley, whose rationale is, “There’s more animals in Wyoming than people.” Joe begins to write him up for poaching, Ote goes off the deep end, and Joe finds himself staring down the barrel of his own service revolver. It is action, murder, threats, tragedy, protection of an endangered species, and some wrongs made right. It is the beginning of Joe’s life as a Wyoming State Game Warden.

Up next: The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

Harriet Engle, a Staff Assistant at the Manheim Community Library, is an avid reader of several authors who write murder mystery series. Look for her weekly reviews highlighting each of these series.

Mystery Series Reviews | The Face of a Stranger

THE FACE OF A STRANGER
Anne Perry, #1

The Face of a Stranger - Anne Perry - coverAnne Perry’s William Monk series takes us across to London, England, in 1856. William Monk is a detective with the city police who wakes up in a hospital, does not know who he is, where he is, where he came from, what he did, and how he got to where he is. He is told that he had an accident and struck his head (among other injuries), resulting in amnesia. His boss, Superintendent Runcorn, visits him in the hospital and tells him his name and occupation, which, of course, mean nothing to Monk. Instead, it raises more questions. He is to take time off to recover and report to work as soon as possible.

At his room in the boarding house with Mrs. Worley, he finds tailor-made clothes in his closet, clothes a cut above what a policeman would wear. Back at work, in a mental fog and emotional upheaval, Monk begins investigating the murder of Joscelin Grey, all the while trying to piece together his life. From a few comments from others in the department, he learns that he is a good detective. From their body language, however, he learns he is feared by most. During the investigation process, Monk meets and interviews Hester Latterly, a nurse returning from the Crimea war zone, and her sister and brother-in-law. Miss Latterly becomes an integral player in this series.

This series offers a great deal of history, a good description about how the upper class lives, and the roles of both the men and women occupying the wealthy circles. Ms. Perry paints excellent pictures of the city streets, the modes of transportation, the clothes worn, and the tensions between what women can and cannot do, what they want to do, and the social mores that govern the lives of both men and women. Ms. Perry also is very adept at describing body language, helping the reader envision the emotions of the characters.

Take a turn through the streets of London as the plot in this mystery takes its own surprising and nail-biting twists and turns.

Up next:  Open Season by C. J. Box.

Harriet Engle, a Staff Assistant at the Manheim Community Library, is an avid reader of several authors who write murder mystery series. Look for her weekly reviews highlighting each of these series.

Mystery Series Reviews | The Cat Who Could Read Backwards

THE CAT WHO COULD READ BACKWARDS
Lilian Jackson Braun, #1

Just as writers have their style, readers have their preferences. Some readers like to read fiction, some non-fiction. Some enjoy romance novels, others prefer murder mysteries. Just as both fiction and nonfiction abound in variety, so is the variety of readers.

Several authors have written series that combine murder, mystery, intrigue, some humor, and a little romance, which allows readers to witness the evolving events and personalities of the characters. Add to that mix a good dose of history, and the plot thickens.

One of my favorite authors is Lilian Jackson Braun, who has written more than three dozen whimsical mysteries about a newspaper journalist and two Seal Point Siamese cats he adopted – KoKo and Yum Yum. In the first book of this series, The Cat Who Could Read Backwards, Ms. Braun begins the journey of James McKenzie Qwilleran, who writes a newspaper column focusing on special events in the city of Chicago. Jim, also known as “Qwill,” was a very successful crime reporter before he fell into difficult times. As he regains his feet and begins a new position, he is given assignments not of crime but what he deems to be “fluff.” His first assignment is to do a human-interest story about artists, particularly an artist named Cal Halapay. Little does he know that as he delves into interviews and journalistic footwork for this assignment, murder and crime can drop into and from anywhere. And, little does he know that two very precocious cats will become his trusty sidekicks who serve him well as he unearths clues to solving the crimes.

Start your adventure with The Cat Who Could Read Backwards and follow Qwill, KoKo, and later Yum Yum through big city crimes in Chicago to crimes of a small town “400 miles north of everywhere.”

Next up:  Anne Perry’s novel featuring William Monk in The Face of a Stranger.

Harriet Engle, a Staff Assistant at the Manheim Community Library, is an avid reader of several authors who write murder mystery series. Look for her weekly reviews highlighting each of these series.