A Pitying of Doves

A Pitying of Doves (Birder Murder Mystery #2)A Pitying of Doves by Steve Burrows

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This isn’t a bad book, but I’ve had it out on Interlibrary Loan twice now and kept it overdue quite a few weeks, and I just am not getting this read. I’m a backyard birdwatcher, so I like that angle, but I really wanted to like this series more. If I could keep it out, or if it were much cheaper as a e-book, I would probably finish this eventually and it might even get more stars. For now, though, the characters are not engaging me. And prose like this is not helping: “At times, she had the air of an art school teacher about her, though with Carrie Pritchard’s voluptuous figure leaning over their shoulders, Lindy was sure any teenage boys in her class would have considerably more on their minds than chairascuro [sic].” The misspelling aside, seriously, who thinks like that? It doesn’t help me get into their heads. So if the price comes down, I might give it another chance, but for now there are too many other things I’d rather be doing.

Book description: Why would a killer ignore expensive jewellery and take a pair of turtledoves as the only bounty? This is only one of the questions that piques Chief Inspector Domenic Jejeune’s interest after a senior attaché with the Mexican Consulate is found murdered alongside the director of a local bird sanctuary. The fact that the director’s death has opened up a full-time research position studying birds hasn’t eluded Jejeune either. Could this be the escape from policing that the celebrated detective has been seeking? Even if it is, Jejeune knows he owes it to the victims to solve the case first. But a trail that weaves from embittered aviary owners to suspicious bird sculptors only seems to be leading him farther from the truth. Meanwhile, Jejeune is discovering that diplomatic co-operation and diplomatic pressure go hand in hand. With two careers hanging in the balance, the stakes have never been higher for Inspector Jejeune. And this time, even bringing a killer to justice may not provide the closure he’s looking for.

State of Wonder

State of WonderState of Wonder by Ann Patchett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3 stars, but the more I think about it, the more I wonder why? It was okay – exotic setting, some interesting characters, some moral dilemmas, and basically well-written prose, but on the whole I was really underwhelmed by this novel. Her depiction of Minnesota had me wondering what century she was writing about. She kept extolling the “prairie” as the characters drive from the Twin Cities airport to Eden Prairie. Huh? I drive there quite regularly and it is not even remotely rural. Her depiction of the Amazon was evocative, though I can’t judge her accuracy. The science was extremely dodgy, I didn’t care about any of the characters, despite this being a book about a great adventure, nothing happened. The characters don’t grow, they don’t make any better choices at the end of the book, and I had guessed the end of the book. There was nothing that even remotely elicited a “state of wonder” for this reader. I still want to read Bel Canto, but except for that, I would not be reading any more by this author.

Description: Dr. Marina Singh, a research scientist with a Minnesota pharmaceutical company, is sent to Brazil to track down her former mentor, Dr. Annick Swenson, who seems to have all but disappeared in the Amazon while working on what is destined to be an extremely valuable new drug. Not only does no one know where Dr. Swenson is, but the last person who was sent to find her, Marina’s research partner, has been reported as dead of a fever. Marina embarks on an odyssey into the insect-infested jungle in hopes of finding her former mentor as well as answers to several troubling questions about her friend’s death, the state of her company’s research, and her own past.

A Siege of Bitterns

A Siege of Bitterns (Birder Murder Mystery #1)A Siege of Bitterns by Steve Burrows
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m probably over-rating this, but I think it’s a mystery series with some real potential. The author (and the detective inspector) both have an encyclopedic knowledge of birds that goes beyond your casual backyard bird watcher like me, but it’s what attracted me to read this book. There were wonderful descriptions of the marsh and habitat. I would have liked a little more back-story on what makes our inspector so brooding. Characterization, in general, was a little lacking, but in a series, this has room to grow and develop. The plot was complex enough with plenty of possible suspects. I picked out the murderer very early on, but I think it was just luck, not a failure of the book.

Book description: Inspector Domenic Jejeune’s success has made him a poster boy for the U.K. police service. The problem is Jejeune doesn’t really want to be a detective at all; he much prefers watching birds. Recently reassigned to the small Norfolk town of Saltmarsh, located in the heart of Britain’s premier birding country, Jejeune’s two worlds collide when he investigates the grisly murder of a prominent ecological activist. His ambitious police superintendent foresees a blaze of welcome publicity, but she begins to have her doubts when Jejeune’s most promising theory involves a feud over birdwatching lists. A second murder only complicates matters. To unravel this mystery, Jejeune must deal with unwelcome public acclaim, the mistrust of colleagues, and his own insecurities. In the case of the Saltmarsh birder murders, the victims may not be the only casualties.

Santa Clawed

Santa Clawed (Mrs. Murphy, #17)Santa Clawed by Rita Mae Brown

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 It’s cute, it’s cozy, it’s Christmas. Actions of the animals are not really believable, and the mystery is easily figured out before the end. Nothing too taxing on the brain at a busy time of year! This is one of those series that I have fallen behind on, and plan to start over from the beginning. Not really great books, but if you like corgis and cats being heroes and other talking animals, and are in the mood for fluff, it has enough mystery and quirky characters to be entertaining.

Book Description: As Harry well knows, there’s hardly a place on earth cozier than Crozet, Virginia, at Christmastime. Snowflakes, carolers, it’s all picture-perfect until Harry and her husband, Fair, find the tree they’ve chosen grimly decorated with a corpse. The tree farm is run by the Brothers of Love, a semimonastic organization whose members live atop the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains. Now, as the season grows merrier, a murderer is growing bolder. One by one, prominent men of Crozet are being crossed off Christmas shopping lists and added to the morgue. And if Harry and her four-legged helpers aren’t very good–and very careful–this Christmas will be her last.

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The Other Typist

The Other TypistThe Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Finally, a book to get me out of my book slump. Well narrated, Gretchen Mol kept my interest. On the surface, this is the story of a rather sheltered woman (orphan raised by nuns) who develops almost an obsession in her friendship with an exotic and beautiful woman who joins the typists at the police station. But before too long, the listener will realize that Ruth is a very unreliable narrator. Just who is she? Who is Odalie? There is something very unsettling about her obsession. I won’t say more, except that my face to face book club had a lot to say about this book, and there were at least three different interpretations of the ending. The book has been criticized for its ambiguity, but I think that is one of the strengths of a good psychological novel. This will undoubtedly be made into a movie, and it will be interesting to see what they do with it.

Book Description: Confessions are Rose Baker’s job. A typist for the New York City Police Department, she sits in judgment like a high priestess. Criminals come before her to admit their transgressions, and, with a few strokes of the keys before her, she seals their fate. But while she may hear about shootings, knifings, and crimes of passion, as soon as she leaves the room, she reverts to a dignified and proper lady. Until Odalie joins the typing pool. As Rose quickly falls under the stylish, coquettish Odalie’s spell, she is lured into a sparkling underworld of speakeasies and jazz. And what starts as simple fascination turns into an obsession from which she may never recover.

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The Land of Dreams

The Land of DreamsThe Land of Dreams by Vidar Sundstøl
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The first book in the “Minnesota” trilogy, this won the Riverton Prize for best Norwegian crime novel in 2008 and was named by Dagbladet as one of the top twenty-five Norwegian crime novels of all time. My three-star rating probably reflects my fatigue for current reading projects and book club books, and it’s time to read something just for fun! Although written by a Norwegian, the author spent two years living on the North Shore of Lake Superior. This is a brilliant evocation of the people, history and culture of the area. So 5 stars for atmosphere. The style I think is typically Scandinavian – spare, dark, and haunting. It’s as much a psychological study as it is a murder mystery. The pace drags and gets bogged down in details from time to time. If you don’t live in Minnesota, the details of history and geography could be boring. We learn far more about Lance and his conflicted life than anything to do with the murder. And, as the final line shows (“This is just the beginning, he thought.”), nothing is resolved by the end of the book. If you really, really like atmospheric noir and conflicted narrators, this is probably a great book and you’ll go on to read the other two. I want something different now.

Book Description: The grandson of Norwegian immigrants, Lance Hansen is a U.S. Forest Service officer and has a nearly all-consuming passion for local genealogy and history. But his quiet routines are shattered one morning when he comes upon a Norwegian tourist brutally murdered near a stone cross on the shore of Lake Superior. Another Norwegian man is nearby; covered in blood and staring out across the lake, he can only utter the word kjærlighet. Love. FBI agent Bob Lecuyer is assigned to the case, as is Norwegian detective Eirik Nyland, who is immediately flown in from Oslo. As the investigation progresses, Lance begins to make shocking discoveries—including one that involves the murder of an Ojibwe man on the very same site more than one hundred years ago. As Lance digs into two murders separated by a century, he finds the clues may in fact lead toward someone much closer to home than he could have imagined.

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Raven Black

Raven Black (Shetland, #1)Raven Black by Ann Cleeves
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Originally intended to be a quartet, there are now 6 in the series. 3.5 stars and I can’t quite round up to 4, but I’ll continue with the series. The setting is interesting, though I didn’t feel like I saw enough of it. It has been made into a TV show in Britain, and I think seeing the locale would help a lot. Like most of the main characters, I felt like an outsider looking in. I liked the shifting points of view – it helped keep the suspense. Everyone seemed unreliable and a possible suspect. All except the old man, Magnus, who had been already convicted in the minds of the townspeople. I also did not feel like I knew much about the inspector, Jimmy Perez, by the end. So there is plenty more to be learned in the rest of the series. It definitely shows promise.

Book description: Raven Black begins on New Year’s Eve with a lonely outcast named Magnus Tait, who stays home waiting for visitors who never come. But the next morning the body of a murdered teenage girl is discovered nearby, and suspicion falls on Magnus. Inspector Jimmy Perez enters an investigative maze that leads deeper into the past of the Shetland Islands than anyone wants to go.