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N/A "I Got the Horse Right Here"; John McEvoy's PHOTO FINISH 0 1
PHOTO FINISH is set in the world of horse racing, and its characters are the owners, trainers, grooms, veterinarians, bettors, and jockeys associated with the sport.  It is a fast-paced mystery in which the suspense does not build over whodunit but rather who is likely to do it. And to whom? Who will perpetrate a crime and who will be the victim--perhaps even a beautiful horse with the ugly name of Plotkin (there is much humor in this mystery). The focus will be on a female jockey who has come from Ireland to race in Chicago and will also race in Saratoga Springs.
N/A A Conversation with Mary Reed and Eric Mayer about FIVE FOR SILVER, Number Five in the JOHN, THE LORD CHAMBERLAIN Series 0 2
The setting for FIVE FOR SILVER is Constantinople in the Sixth Century during what is known as the Justinian Plague, which some see as an early manifestation of the Black (bubonic) Plague of the 14th Century.  Because I had written a book with sections on the Black Plague (TO BLIGHT WITH PLAGUE: STUDIES IN A LITERARY THEME0, I chose this of the ten-book series to discuss with authors Mary Reed and Eric Mayer. 

Click on this title and at the next window, click on Postings.
N/A A Conversation With Triss Stein About Her Erica Donato Mystery Series 0 1
The first two books in Triss Stein's Erica Donato series features a young widow responsible for supporting--financially and emotionally--her young adolescent daughter Chris. To this end Erica goes to college intending to qualify as a secondary school teacher.  With the encouragement of her professors and with a growing love of research and scholarship, Erica earns graduate fellowships and works toward a PhD. To supplement her income Erica works in an historical museum. In Brooklyn Bones, a long-hidden corpse is discovered behind a wall in the house Erica is having renovated.  Chris's personal dismay draws her mother into discovering who the dead young woman is and how she got there.  In Brooklyn Graves Erica is hired to guide an art expert through  Brooklyn's Green-Wood cemetary and finds herself investigating the theft of a valuable window in a mausoleum and, once again, a murder. Through all of her endeavors to solve crimes, Erica must also deal with Chris's adolescent angst and her own concerns about keeping her job.

Click on this title and at the next window ignore Subtopics and click on Postings.  At the end of the two abstracts, click on Read more. . . to access the essay if you do not care to read the abstracts themselves.
N/A A Mystery and a Mural in Warren Easley's MATTERS OF DOUBT 0 0
This is the first of two essays on Easley's book.  It focuses on Easley's characters, whose colorful and entertaining features add to an intricate plot that will keep the reader guessing until almost the last page.  These characters also reflect various themes in the book, which illustrate that there are many matters of doubt confronting the protagonist, Cal Claxton, who is drawn at first unwillingly into the role of investigator.  The second essay, to be entitled "Nature and Civilization in Warren Easley's MATTERS OF DOUBT, will focus on the theme of the confrontation between the natural and so-called civilized world and will reveal that this conflict generates its own doubts.
N/A An Ape in Velvet: The Straight Edge Razor from Poe to Mosley 0 1
This will be a the first of a five part essay on five mysteries in which shaving and a straight edge razor are important images. The  first part will be on E. A. Poe's "Murders in the Rue Morgue."  The second will discuss Eric Ambler's Journey into Fear.  The third discussion will be on Peter Hoeg's The Lady and the Ape; Hoeg is a Danish writer well-known for his mystery Smilla's Sense of Snow. The fourth analysis will be of Ed McBain's Ice, part of his 87th Precinct series.  Finally, Walter Mosley's Devil in a Blue Dress, the first in his Easy Rawlins series, will conclude the essay.
N/A Blogs and Mystery: Reading Michael Kahn's THE FLINCH FACTOR 0 1
THE FLINCH FACTOR is the eighth book in Michael Kahn's Rachel Gold mystery series.  Rachel is a layer and in this book a widow grieving for her husband Jonathan, dead for four years. She is committed to being a good mother to her young son and nurturing step-mother to Jonathan's daughters.  She is also committed to helping clients in need even though they cannot pay her and her need for income is pressing.  In THE FLINCH FACTOR two seemingly unrelated cases Rachel takes on prove to be surprisingly related.  And they raise ethical questions that in no way detract from the excitement and suspense Kahn delivers. This mystery is not only exciting but also very entertaining, because Kahn can be a very funny writer.
N/A Colin Dexter: The Next-to-Last Inspector Morse Novel 0 1
Colin Dexter claims to have intended to bring his extremely popular Inspector Morse series to an end with the twelfth book in the series, DEATH IS NOW MY NEIGHBOR, but he gave in to his readers' dismay by writing one more, THE REMORSEFUL DAY.  The reason Dexter gave for ending the series was that he was running out of ideas for plots, for the puzzles Inspector Morse equated with the crimes he investigated.  An examination of the twelfth book, however, suggests a deeper reason for the series' and Morse's end. 
N/A Dennis Palumbo's Night Terrors 0 1

  That Dennis Palumbo’s Night Terrors is a page turner is hardly surprising, for so were his first two Daniel Rinaldi books, Mirror Image and Fever Dream.  What is particularly striking about N.T. is the number of narrative lines Palumbo can keep going at the same time without the reader having trouble following them.  There is the story of the retired FBI profiler, who has over the years had so much consistent contact with evil as he studies serial killers that the sum total of his experience is itself a trauma and he suffers from night terrors, which Palumbo differentiates from nightmares.  There is also the puzzling fact that a young, obviously disturbed, man confesses to a gruesome murder his mother is sure he didn’t commit, killing and dismembering the body of a man he claims to have chosen at random. 

    And, of course, there is what might be called the central story, of a killer who seems determined to kill everyone associated with the conviction of a serial killer whose death in prison leads to the killer’s own rampage. He is working off a list of such persons as the judge, the prosecuting attorney, the profiler, the defense attorney. And none of the investigators know who is on that list that they might not have thought of.  That neither the investigators nor the reader can arrive at the underlying motive for these calculated executions heightens the novel’s suspense, and the killer remains almost a spectral figure. And to make matters worse, there are many jurisdictional conflicts, not only the local police vs. FBI operatives, but among the different police investigators, who are working out of three separate states.  So much supposed cooperation among law enforcement agencies can compromise the investigation.

    To have read the previous Rinaldi books is also to see changes in Rinaldi himself.  A psychotherapist who serves as a consultant to law enforcement, he is drawn into the plight of the retired profiler, who doesn’t want any therapy Rinaldi can offer. It is because of some notoriety the therapist has gained as an aid to criminal investigations that he is  called upon to accompany the police and the young man to locate the body of the dismembered victim.  Rinaldi is a specialist in treating trauma, but relatively little in Night Terrors takes place in his office.  Instead, the psychotherapist takes some pretty foolhardy risks, and he’s hurt more than once—to the dismay of those who care about him.

    But to counter this veritable shift in his roles, Palumbo reveals more about Rinaldi himself than can be found in earlier books. As committed as he is to his patients, Rinaldi is reluctant to make permanent commitments to another person, in this case the woman with whom he has a brief affair in this book.  Rinaldi also has his own unresolved traumas, one that happened in the past, another during the investigation in N.T.  He also suffers from an almost free-floating guilt, and one wonders if this has anything to with his self-description as a lapsed Catholic who yet remembers all the dates of important holidays. Rinaldi’s strong sense of his ethnic identity as an Italian-American gets more attention in NT than in the earlier books.  He is irked when another Italian-American presumes a bond between them that does not exist.  His exchanges with a distant cousin, Angela, who can help him gather information, are complicated by the fact that no matter how delicious the pasta sauce she makes from an old Tuscan recipe, he cannot bear to sit down with her objectionable racist husband.  The first of his immediate family to go to college, a success as a psychotherapist, Rinaldi can drive through the neighborhoods of a changing Pittsburgh and mark these changes because he does not observe them from the outside.  

    Palumbo is apparently not yet ready to make Rinaldi’s awareness of himself as an Italian-American the core of a plot in which conflicts arising from his identity direct Rinaldi’s actions and feelings.  But who knows, Palumbo may be moving toward that direction.


 

    


 

N/A Doing the Right Thing: Frederick Ramsay's DROWNING BARBIE 0 1
In the most recent of his Ike Schwartz series, Frederick Ramsay has written a highly entertaining, often amusing novel which, however, addresses a serious question.  By what kind of ethic does or should any particular investigator--Ike is the elected sheriff of a small town in Virginia--do his or her work.  Do ends justify means?  The question itself is hardly new, but some mystery writers provide characters who would vigorously affirm that ends justify means.  Ramsay and his character Ike are not among them.
N/A From Watson to Mouse: The Metamorphosis of the Detective's "Sidekick" 2 0
In her book TALKING ABOUT DETECTIVE FICTION, renowned mystery writer P. D. James looks at what she views as the disappearance of characters typified by Arthur Conan Doyle's Dr. Watson, the sidekick who in some way is different from the chief inspector, Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse series is being perpetuated, at least on Blritish TV, by less brilliant and less idiosyncratic Lewis.  Ruth Rendell's Inspector Wexford retires and the more conservative Michael Burden is given his position in the Kingsmarkam police. Burden and Lewis had helped Wexford or  Morse by aiding in the investigation, becoming the confidant of their superior officers, and, to quote James, the "reader becomes involved in the sergeant's different domestic background and different view of the job itself."  But James has omitted what is perhaps an equally significant but more ominous development in crime fiction. The main character and chief investigator often has as a "sidekick" not his  next-in-command but as an aid and even companion a psychopath or near-psychopath without whom the detective could not survive in the criminal world he opposes.  This development is marked in American mysteries, perhaps as a continuation of the hardboiled tradition. In short, what happens in crime fiction when, symbolically, Moriarty becomes more useful to Holmes than Watson was? 

I am indebted to Warren Easley, author of what will be the Cal Claxton mysteries (the first will be released in September 2013), published by Poisoned Pen Press, for stimulating exchanges we have had on this recent development in crime fiction.  More important, he has influenced my consideration of the three characters who will be the basis of this essay: Robert Parker's Hawk; Walter Mosely's Mouse; and James Lee Burke's Clete Purcell.  I began by focusing on the similarities in these characters and as a result of Easley's imput have placed more weight on differences.  He was particularly influential in how I began to trace such differences through Burke's development of Clete Purcell. 
     
The posting on this topic will be a three-part essay, with, as usual, abstracts that will guide you through the sections of these essays, but in this case only one abstract to allow you to decide if you want to proceed to the essays themselves. Click on the title above to bring you to the abstract and the essay itself. You can access the essay by clicking on "Read more...." 
N/A Nature and Civilization in Warren Easley's MATTERS OF DOUBT 0 1
This is the second essay on Matters of Doubt, the first in the planned three book Cal Claxton mysteries.  See the first essay on Easley's book among the postings on The Literary Mystery:  A Mural and a Mystery in Matters of Doubt.

Postings

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N/A A Mystery and a Mural in Warren Easley's MATTERS OF DOUBT Barbara Leavy
Abstract 1

After Cal Claxton's wife commits suicide, he gives up his job in Los Angeles as a lead prosecutor and moves to a small community in Oregon, near Portland.  With his pension and the small income from a law practice he has set up, he expects to find peace and many opportunities for fly fishing, an activity he treasures.  But his peace is disturbed and his time is consumed when he is drawn into investigating the death of a woman found at the bottom of a reservoir after being missing for eight years.  Her son, part of Portland's homeless citizens but called Picasso because of his talent as a mural painter, appeals to Cal for help. Cal had moved to Oregon with many doubts he would have to resolve about his previous life. But now  he will try to defend Picasso even thought he at times seriously doubts that Picasso is innocent of the murder of his mother's lover, who he is convinced killed her.

Abstract 2

Warren Easley's book is a fast-paced mystery with an intricate plot.  But for those readers who recognize that its themes allow for another way of reading MATTERS OF DOUBT, these themes are both thought-provoking and complex.  This first of a two-part critical essay will look at some of these: the vagaries and weaknesses in the criminal law system; the commitment to a cause that can stand in the way of one party in a relationship committing  to another person; the significance of art for society;   the lack of adequate health care for the poor and homeless; and the values attached to what is called the American Dream. .  These themes have to do with with the content of the book.  With regard to form, it explores the difference to an author who writes a standalone mystery as opposed to a series, in this case Easley's three Cal Claxton novels, the second of which will appear in----.   Read More...
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N/A "I Got the Horse Right Here"; John McEvoy's PHOTO FINISH Barbara Leavy
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Abstract 2

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N/A Art and Ethics in Paul Levine's FALSE DAWN Barbara Leavy
Abstracts

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N/A Doubling and Splitting in the Fiction of Charlotte Hinger Barbara Leavy
The abstracts for this essay will be found at the beginning of the essay itself.  Read More...
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