Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Mystery Triple Header

A trio of serviceable mysteries. Perfect for vacation reading.

Cause for Concern
by Margaret Yorke
3 stars

Did I already read this? I don't think so. I get the distinct impression that I watched it as a movie. And yet I don't find any movie attributions on the Internet. Wonder if somebody stole the story? It sure was familiar.

Martin Trent is an icky guy. He's a drunk and user of people. He lives with his mother whom he beats on a regular basis. The neighbors are antsy, but decide to keep their own counsel.

Many characters are introduced in the first half of the book, with their lives intersecting in various ways. Of course Adam Wilson, arriving from out of town to do "research" must somehow play a role in the ultimate reveal, but what could it be? Yeah, I kind of figured it out, but it was cool the way the characters came and went, saw things, didn't see things, like a puzzle fitting together.

Bonus points for a real edge of your seat high speed chase scene. It is no small feat to be able to write about a car chase in a way that has the reader breathless.

Ms. Yorke is apparently quite prolific, so I'll revisit her in the future.

Death at Rainy Mountain
by Mardi Oakley Medawar
3 stars

Mardi Oakley Medawar was recommended to me by a follower. Thank you.

It's summer, 1866, and the separate bands of the Kiowa Nation gather at the sacred Rainy Mountain to elect a successor to Little Bluff, the recently deceased principal chief. The election process comes to a halt when the nephew of one candidate is accused of killing the nephew of another. Uh oh.

Tay-bodal, a healer, is the main character and he is recruited to find the truth about the murder. I loved Tay-bodal. He is a total nerd. As such, he isn't all that popular with his fellow tribesmen and women. Doesn't get invited to the cool parties and is considered to be a goof. However, the medicine he practices is quite effective as he is always keen to learn new techniques and clamp down on superstition, so when somebody is ill, he's there man.

Here's how he describes himself:

"Not to make a meal of it, I was a loner. Generally considered a man of no consequence. Even my name, Tay-bodal, is less than awe-inspiring. Literally translated my name means, Meat Carrier (the hind-end portion of the buffalo , no less)."

Now, that quote shows another reason I liked this book. Sure, it is about Native Americans during the 19th century, but the author did not paint them as simple beings. The writing, the thoughts, the actions, are all human being appropriate. Sheesh. Just because the Native American culture was foreign to white folks doesn't mean they were morons. Here's another quote:

"But Kicking Bird was about as comforting, about as malleable, as dried tree sap..."

I got a nice lesson in cultures clashing too. The action moves to a military encampment and the soldiers are just as baffled and foolish regarding Native American ways as the reverse.

One caveat. If I read another one of Ms. Medwar's books, I'll create a character scorecard. I confess to getting quite confused by the different names and relationships so when the mystery was revealed (in a speech by Tay-bodal that was quite reminiscent of Agatha Christie) I had a hard time figuring out who did what to whom. Lesson learned.

by R.D. Zimmerman
3 stars

Todd Mills, investigative reporter for local news station WLAK, is about to get tangled up in more than he bargained for. His life is already complicated. He's having an affair with a homicide detective who just told him they should "take a break to see other people." Don't you hate that?

But then Todd is called to the scene of a nasty murder of a 17 year old boy. A boy with whom Todd was personally acquainted. And finally, mega movie star, Tim Chase, is visiting town to make a film and has, for reasons which are unclear, decided to give Todd an exclusive interview.

Ready? Here's the kicker. How about we toss in homosexuality, homophobia, and all the complications that brings with it. Because Todd and his boyfriend, Steve Rawlins just so happen to have met with the victim when they visited a local youth shelter for gay and lesbian teenagers. And what of Tim Chase? Well, it seems that the media is just as interested in his sexual orientation as they are with his acting abilities. 

Even though the book is over ten years old, not much progress has been made in acceptance of homosexuality and the struggles of the individuals involved are real and poignant. It certainly affirmed my notion that being a celebrity, well, it kind of sucks. Tim Chase has to sneak around to avoid stalkers with cameras and has to be on guard lest whatever rumors surface undermine his career.

The victim found himself in Minneapolis after being thrown out of his house when his parents discovered he was gay. Ish. How could a parent do that?

Great characters, good writing. I saw the ending coming, but that's OK. It's the journey that matters, right?

As a side note, I found this book quite by chance. I went to the library and said "I will check out the very last book in the mystery section without even looking at it and see what I get." I got lucky and will likely read more by this author.


  1. I really must make an effort to get to my library (it is so damn inconveniently located - seriously - it is on the wrong side of a very busy street, and can only be accessed by taking one's life into one's own hands while attempting to cross the street, either on foot or by car; I literally waited in the turn lane for 6 minutes once in an attempt to get to the library). I like your method for selecting the last book!

    -Dr. Liz, who is on a YA dystopian fiction binge (no Hunger Games, thankyouverymuch) at the moment

  2. 3 pretty good, not breathtaking, but somewhat fun mysteries in one review must be a record. Sometimes it's good to just grab a crapshoot of a book and see what happens. My book sale is coming up in about 3 weeks. Maybe I'll just do some crapshoot grabbing and see what happens.

  3. It sounds like three pleasant reads! Have you read anything by Jo Nesbo? He writes some pretty suspenseful, gritty thrillers.