Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Death Loves a Messy Desk by Mary Jane Maffini

Oh my gosh! I came onto my site to do my review and the author herself left a comment on my last post! Okay, I know authors are just people like everyone else not royalty or something but I find it exciting that she'd be nice enough to leave a comment on my blog. 

Death Loves a Messy Desk was every bit as good as The Cluttered Corpse. I don't know how authors do it but some are just able to make their characters so likeable that I just want more and more stories about them just so you can spend time with them. Throughout this book Charlotte is also trying to train her two dachshunds, Sweet Marie and Truffle, so that they can become therapy dogs visiting nursing homes and hospitals. Her training sessions are really interesting to read about.  

In this book Charlotte Adams is hired to help with a desk in an office that is out of control. On her initial visit she comes close to a head on collision in the driveway of the office building when a driver is speeding in the wrong direction directly towards her.  She finds the woman in the SUV is the owner of the desk that needs tidying up. She's told her services aren't needed, but that evening on the news she sees the woman who was driving the SUV in a news story about a man found dead in the trunk of his car. She's sure it must be the missing desk owner. 

Of course now Charlotte can't help herself, she just has to find this woman. The book is a series of her being welcome in this office and being forbidden to come near the building. Her friend the Police Detective Pepper knows something, she can tell by the look on her face. But the only way Charlotte can find anything out is  by snooping. No one will give her information. 

The book takes twists and turns and there is one amazing car/truck race through a suburban neighbourhood with a surprising ending. 

I never would have figured out the answer. I love the way we are fed bits of information that lead us to conclusions and just when we think we have it we are given another clue that contradicts our assumptions. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book too and stayed up way to late at night reading. Unfortunately the 4th book in the series hasn't been written yet. I hope there is a 4th book. 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Cluttered Corpse by Mary Jane Maffini

Interestingly enough all of the cosy mysteries that I love have been written by women. It's amazing how far we have come. I was just thinking, Mary Anne Evans (22 November 1819 – 22 December 1880) published her work under the pen name George Elliott because she felt that her work would be taken more seriously if people thought it was written by a man. This was the case in the mid 1800's in Britain. 

160 years later I'm not only finding good books written by women but books written by Canadian women. Two of my favourite Canadian authors live in the same city I grew up in, Ottawa, Ontario. 

Mary Jane Maffini has 3 mystery series. This is the second book in the Charlotte Adams series. Again I ordered the 3rd before finishing the second because I enjoyed it so much. 

For this series Mary Jane has used the fictional town of Woodbridge, New York. Charlotte Adams is a professional organizer who has returned to her hometown to live where she still has ongoing friendships with friends from high school, some quite interesting to say the least. 

In this book Charlotte is hired to help a woman organize her stuffed animal collection which has gotten beyond out of control. The second time she goes to meet with her she finds her in the middle of the street crying out "I murdered him!" A teenager who had been playing tricks on her was found dead at the bottom of the stairs in her house. It could easily have been an accident as the stuffed toys had not only taken over 3 upstairs rooms but the stairs as well. He could have easily tripped. 

But we all know that if someone confesses to murder right at the beginning of a book that that's not whodunit. 

I've seen comments complaining that it's not realistic for someone to get involved with the problems of someone she's only met once. My feeling is that this is fiction and I don't care if she's never met the alleged killer. It's the mystery of the story that intrigues me. We are given clues throughout the book. There are various scenarios presented that could be the possible answer. In the end the answer is very unexpected. 

I love how a book climaxes at the end like that and you can't put it down. It's like having tree sap on your fingers and the book just won't let go. 

I highly recommend Mary Jane Maffini's books. 

Tippy Toe Murder by Leslie Meier

I was given this book by a friend. Before I reached the end I knew that I had to read the whole series. I checked which ones my library has and I've ordered the missing ones used from Abes Books.

Our heroine, Lucy Stone, is the mother of 3 children and very pregnant with her fourth. Her two daughters, ages 7 and 4 are getting ready to perform in a ballet recital. There is a retired dance teacher in town who is living a quiet life, following a pretty strict routine every day. So when she suddenly disappears and leaves her Golden Retriever running loose people are quite concerned that she may have had an accident in the woods or been attacked. A thorough search by police turn up nothing. The police conclude that she has simply gone on vacation without telling anyone. But why would she abandon her dog? Why would she leave right before the dance recital? The dance instructor was one of her star pupils.

Meanwhile there is a cantakerous old man who runs a hardware store in town. His prices are much higher than at other stores but his store is more convenient so people will shop there if they don't feel like travelling to the larger area of stores. This man is the patriarch of the richest and most powerful family in town. When he is found dead suspicion rests on Fanny who has been an underpaid, faithful lone clerk in his store for years. Her fingerprints are found on the murder weapon.

Lucy knows in her bones that Fanny didn't do it and sets out to figure out who did. A lot of people had a vested interest in his estate.

I love the way the plot twists and how the two seemingly completely different mysteries end up converging near the end of the book.

the curious Incident of the dog in the night-time by Mark Haddon

Whenever I mention the book House Rules to people they ask if me I've read this book by Mark Haddon. So I decided to get it from the library. It is also a book about a boy with Asperger's Syndrome. It's another interesting look into the mind of an Autistic. Christopher seems to be lower functioning than Jacob in House Rules. He attends a special school and can't go further than the corner store by himself whereas Jacob functioned in a normal school setting and seemed somewhat more able to function in the world at large. However Christopher appears to have an even higher IQ than Jacob. His references to Science and Maths made no sense to me at all. Of course those are my worst subjects so even long division throws me *LOL* This book is written as if it is Christopher writing it. I found it a bit more difficult to read because Mark Haddon is British and it takes some time getting around the everyday words that Brits use as compared to what we use.

Christopher discovers the body of his neighbour's poodle stabbed - killed - with a garden fork and he is determined to play detective and figure out who killed the dog. His teacher suggests that he write a diary which will become a detective book. It's difficult for him because he wants to interview people, like the neighbour next door, but he doesn't know her and therefore she is a stranger and he has been told not to talk to strangers.

It's an interesting read because of the way he views the world, the way he organizes his thoughts and the way he interprets things. He comes to the conclusion that his father killed the dog and that frightens him. He thinks his father is a murderer and will murder him too. Therefore he decides to run away to London to live with his mother. His journey is frightening to him, when things get too overwhelming he closes his eyes and puts his head down and groans. I understand this. My son groans when he is nervous although he doesn't shut himself off like Christopher does.

Even though he is frightened he comes up with some unique ways to protect his psyche.. like hiding on a luggage rack to get away from a policeman and the crowds on the train. He does manage to ask the right questions and be able to deduce how to get to the right trains that will take him where he needs to go.

I found myself feeling very hyper while reading this book. It was better if I made sure I didn't read it right before bedtime. It was so well written that I really could identify with Christopher and that left me feeling anxious as well.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

House Rules by Jodi Picoult

I loved this book. It was recommended to me by someone who knows that I have a son with Aspergers Syndrome. Jodi's portrayal of what her characters life is like seems very well researched.

Jacob is 18 years old and his obsession is forensic science. He has an extremely high IQ but his Aspergers makes life difficult for him. His favorite show is CrimeBusters and he watches it every day at 4:30. He writes notes as he watches, he knows which episode numbers relate to what case and everything that happened on the show. And yet he watches them over and over and takes notes each time. He doesn't quite grasp the fact that the show will always end the same way. 

When his tutor is murdered Jacob is arrested and put in jail. Anyone who knows anything about Aspergers knows that went over like a lead balloon and caused a reversion in his behaviours. 

This book was difficult to read. My son is not like Jacob. No two Asperger individuals will be alike. My son doesn't have a high IQ but unlike Jacob he does have a driver's license. Of course we had to wait until he was 20 before we felt it was safe for him to learn to drive. He has had his license for almost 10 years now and no accidents. In many ways he functions better day to day than Jacob but the similarities, the problems socially, misreading cues, etc. are all too familiar to me. 

It's my hope that people who don't know about this Syndrome will read the book and it will become better known. It's an "invisible disorder". People who meet my son think he is shy or eccentric but other than that "normal" in their view of normal.