THE DEAD DETECTIVE AGENCY by Peg Herring

Young secretary Tori Van Camp wakes one morning on a luxurious ocean liner where she is offered whatever a person might desire: food, clothes, recreation, and the companionship of congenial people. But Tori has no memory of booking a cruise. What she does have is a vivid recollection of being shot point blank in the chest.

I am rather taken by the idea of death being on a luxury cruise.  Just think, you can eat all you want and never gain weight.  New clothes for every meal and activity.  I could get used to that.   But drat, it is really just an interim place, to give the newly dead a chance to regain their equilibrium before moving on to whatever is next.  Gradually, the memories of the person’s life fade and become unimportant, allowing them the ability to boogie on down the road.

But Tori can’t let go of her old life and her memories, because she has no idea why someone would kill her.  She is determined to go back and find out.  It’s not against the rules, going back.  But you have to get permission.  And it is better if you go with an experienced traveler.  She is assigned a detective, a man who refuses to let go of his old life, and has returned many times to do some detective work for people who want answers to various questions concerning their lives.  Tori insists on going with him, and together they set off to find the reason she bit the Big One.

Not the most rigorous of mysteries, but lots of fun, because, really, how often do you come across a dead detective, hopping from person to person in order to get from place to place?  Kind of like Uber for the Formerly Alive.  One time, our detective, having run out of human taxis, had to take a cockroach.  Talk about cramped.

BLACK TIDE by Peter Temple

This is the second in the Jack Irish  series, and is an excellent Australian conspiracy-theory thriller with well-written characters and a genuine sense of place. This is the second Peter Temple novel to star slightly shady lawyer Jack Irish.   The first in the series is Bad Debts, which I rattled on about here.  The book is slightly overstuffed with an A-plot involving a disappeared ne’er-do-well son, a B-plot involving Irish’s gangsterish racetrack buddies, a C-plot involving his longtime pub group picking a new team to follow after their old one moved and even a D-plot with Irish finding love again after his reporter girlfriend from the first book moves away (much like the football team).

OK, so I stole that precis from a review on Goodreads.  I have to admit to getting tired of coming up with my own plot descriptions.

Irish is a likable fellow, who decides to look for the disappeared son of an old friend of his deceased father.  The guy lent his feckless son $65,000.  ha.  Yeah, parents can be so clueless.  He needs the money or will lose his house.  Well, now the son has disappeared, without a trace as they say.  Irish wants to help the older man because he knew and was friends with his father.

OK, the usual.  Bodies.  Complications.  Slightly on the gravel edge of legal activities.  All the good stuff.  Great read.  Definitely one of my favorite authors.

THE BARRY ISLAND MURDERS by Andrew Peters

A cutesy cozy, small collection of murder mysteries,  using the vehicle of an old, irascible retired cop,   Chief Superintendent Williams (the semi-legendary “Williams Of The Yard”) who has sold the serialization rights to his memoirs, and is dictating them to a reporter from a leading national newspaper.

It is humorous, a little precious at times, but entertaining, and the mysteries are not bad at all.  I am not much of a fan of short stories, so although I enjoyed this book, I do prefer one longer novel-length story, so that colored my over-all appreciation.

But really, it is just the thing for when you want something light an non-taxing to the brain right before you fall asleep.

BAD DEBTS by Peter Temple

This is the first in the Jack Irish series.   Set mainly in Melbourne, once a criminal lawyer, John (Jack) Irish is now making his way out of a dark period of life that he drifted into after the death of his second wife who died at the hands of an unhappy client. Trying to deal with his pain, Jack drowned his sorrows in alcohol and became a collector of “serious debts,” as well as a gambler betting on the ponies. He does some odd work for a couple of men in the horse racing business. (I lifted that plot description in its entirety from a review on Goodreads.  I have no shame.)

I am becoming fascinated with the current trend for damaged yet lovable protagonist detective types.  Ain’t nobody mentally healthy anymore?  If you read enough crime fiction, you will be convinced that everyone in the murder-solving business is flawed, impaired and just generally messed up.  Well, OK, this isn’t exactly a recent book, it was written in 1996,  but you know what I mean.

It is a wonderfully crafted typical crime fiction piece.  The protagonist, said ex-criminal lawyer who is now learning cabinet making,  is drawn into an investigation involving high-level corruption, dark sexual secrets, hinky property deals and murder. We have  hit men after him, shady ex-policemen at every turn, and a rising body count.  And a possible romantic relationship.  What’s not to like?

The bad debt of the title refers to a former client who was convicted for a hit and run death, nothing Irish could do to keep him out of jail as he confessed to it, served time in prison, and when he got out, tried to contact Irish and when our boy finally got back to him, he was found murdered.  That made Irish start to poke into the old investigation of the matter to find that his now deceased client may have been set up for the hit, and he feels he owes his client a full investigation to exonerate him.

Good start.  I plan on reading the next in the series very soon.

 

AN IRON ROSE by Peter Temple

Another former law enforcement person — in Australia — who has left the force and is now a ….. wait for it ……. blacksmith in some tiny back of beyond town.  Let me see — there was one who was a falconer,  and one who was …. oh crumb, I forget.  But they never seem to just leave the force and get a job as a bartender or truck driver.  They all seem to take up some nifty occupation.

What I did know was that all the self-respect that I had lost with one bad judgment had been slowly given back to me by my ordinary life in my father’s house.  A simple life in a simple weatherboard house.  Working with my father’s tools in my father’s workshop.

Well, Mac Faraday, our smithy,  is called on by the grandson of his older friend, to find the man hanging in his barn.  Mac is sure that the guy is not the suicide type, and gets to sniffing around, although the local police do seem to be doing a good job.

What comes to light is a girls reform school, yeah, way out here in the boonies, that is still in operation.  When a skeleton is found in an abandoned mine shaft, things start to fizz around.  What could be the connection between the suicide of an old man and the body in a mine shaft.

Mac is a smart guy, and persistent, and after poking around, stirs the interest of some darker forces.  This is never a good thing.

“Have you noticed,’ she said, ‘that evil people have a kind of force about them?  A kind of independence?  It’s a very powerful thing to have.  It’s a stillness, an absence of doubt, an indifference to the world.  It draws people to them.  the moral vacuum sucks people in.  The weak go to the strong.”

I like this writer, I like his style, I like his characters and his plots. I have a couple more of his books to read.  But if you want to know what I thought of a couple of his other books, just put in Peter Temple in the search box.  I am too lazy to give you links today.  Some days are like that.  Some days you can just click, and other days you have to do a little work.

 

NIGHT WATCHMAN by Tony Dunbar

This is the 8th in the Tubby Dubonnet mystery series.  Tubby is a lawyer  working and living in The Big Crawfish, AKA New Orleans, who seems to have enough time on his hands to investigate an old cold case.  In fact, it isn’t so much a cold case as it is a nothing case.  Back when he was a kid, he saw a young war protester  get murdered in the French Quarter, it has haunted him all these years, and for some reason, he starts to investigate it.  As in all the Tubby Dubonnet stories, he gets himself involved in police corruption, government messes, and people with secrets.

The title comes from a mysterious person who seems to be helping fate along.

“I remember hearing he drowned in Katrina.”  “Yeah, but he had some help.  Don’t you know that the Night Watchman got him?”

Lots of great characters, a decent mystery.  What I like about mystery series is you get to know the several main characters, and you feel like, “Hey,  hi!   Haven’t seen you in a while.  How’re you doing?”  So, yeah.  Another fine offering.  I got no complaints.

“Take one cup of Raymond Chandler, one cup of Tennessee Williams, add a quart of salty humor, and you will get something resembling Dunbar’s crazy mixture of crime and offbeat comedy.” – Baltimore Sun

If you want to see what else is in the series, just put in Tony Dunbar in the search window and you will get the list of the others in the series that I have read.

 

 

THE CUCKOO’S CALLING by Robert Galbraith

Why were you born when the snow was falling?
You should have come to the cuckoo’s calling,
Or when grapes are green in the cluster,
Or, at least, when lithe swallows muster
For their far off flying
From summer dying.
Why did you die when the lambs were cropping?
You should have died at the apples’ dropping,
When the grasshopper comes to trouble,
And the wheat-fields are sodden stubble,
And all winds go sighing
For sweet things dying.
              Christina G. Rossetti,  “A Dirge”
I really like literary allusions.  Adds a touch of highbrow-ness to what would otherwise be a typical genre detective novel.  And of course, you know who Robert Galbraith is, right?  That is the pseudonym for …… ta dah …..  J. K. Rowling.
Really good book, good mystery.  Did you expect less from the redoubtable Mz. Rowling?  Of course not.   After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.
His last temp secretary/receptionist left, and into his life walked Robin Ellacott, temping only temporarily until she found a real job.   What a surprise both were to each other, as he whipped open the door to rush out just as she was about to knock.  Turns out she is a treasure, I tell you, a treasure.  She is clever and resourceful, and has always secretly wanted to work as a detective, so this job is just the ticket.  Except that Strike has no money, and can only find money to pay for one more week of temp service.  And then, in walks a client … well, talk about fictional good luck!  It seems that his sister,  the famous supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but her brother refuses to believe that.
So it is a lot of fun, the world of the rich and famous and sometimes stupid, the world of designers, and ambition, and …. oh, never mind.  It is a murder mystery.  Go enjoy it.
I think Rawlings suffers from being Rawlings in that her critics tend to do too much comparison.  Some people don’t like her writing style.  For me, it was fine.  It was a British detective fiction; I guess I expect the characters to all sound like they just stepped out of an Austin novel.