Friday, December 29, 2017

The Alphabet Now Ends at Y

I'm so sad to share sad news at what is considered a festive time of year, but Coffee Light and mystery fans throughout the world are mourning tonight. Our beloved Sue Grafton, author of the Kinsey Millhone mystery series died in California yesterday.

I've read every book in the series, excepting the latest one, Y is for Yesterday and I was hoping to begin it in the next week. I started with A is for Alibi, published in 1982 and thirty-five years later I was still reading. Over the decades Kinsey, a private investigator in the mythical southern California town of Santa Theresa, came to be a trusted acquaintance. When I came upon a new volume in the series I could trust I would find one of my favorite investigators embarking on a complex and interesting mystery adventure. This consistency of plot and character is what kept me and millions of other readers enthralled with Sue Grafton's writing.

 Sue Grafton never wanted a ghost writer for her work and now there will be no "Z." As her daughter, Jamie Clark wrote, "the alphabet now ends at Y."  Farewell, Kinsey and farewell, Sue Grafton. The world is a sadder place tonight.   

Thursday, September 28, 2017

I Never Thought I'd Fall in Love Again...

But I'm in love and I'm not hiding it.
At 67 I believed that my falling in love days were over and done. But after finishing Rather Be the Devil, Ian Rankin's latest mystery novel, I realized that I was in love and had been in love for years. Of all the men and detectives, I'd fallen for John Rebus, the very human hero of these novels.
Yes, Rebus is "seeing someone," may start smoking again at any second, lives 3,000 miles away in Scotland and perhaps the biggest impediment to our relationship, is a fictional character. But in this latest novel, dark and brooding as ever, he is very real to me, and his intelligence and sense of fairness drew me to him in this book, as in every past novel. In Rather Be the Devil Rebus has just retired from the Edinburgh police force, but not surprisingly is drawn back into an unsolved murder case from the 1970s.
In an era where corruption and power are part of every day discussion Rather Be the Devil looks at these issues through the lens of a mystery novel. As someone who has crossed over to retirement, I enjoyed seeing these issues through Rebus' cynical and experienced lens and the twists of the plot and the characters kept me reading.   
My dear Rebus, I'm glad your retirement was brief. I bet I'm not the only reader who waits eagerly for your next adventure when you'll once again be a part of my life.   

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Dry

Most of the Northern Hemisphere is shutting down for the summer. It's the end of the school year, the beginning of vacation season and most of the dreams people are dreaming include sand, waves and drinks with little umbrellas. But here at Coffee Light, we're not like most of the world. We're back from our way too-long hiatus with one of the best (mystery) novels I've read in a long time. It's not cozy in any way and there are no drinks with little umbrellas.

Jane Harper's debut novel, The Dry, takes place in a small town in Australia, that has suffered a devastating drought. People's tempers are at the edge and when Luke Hadler and his family are found murdered on their farm, the assumption is that Luke had come to the edge and crossed over it. But like so much in Kiewarra, things are not what they seem.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk left Kiewarra twenty years past, but has returned at the request of Luke Hadler's father to look into the murders. Though Falk's specialty is financial misdoings, he returns and begins to not only investigate what happened to his closest boyhood friend and his family, but other secrets of the town.

The Dry is dark, somber, sad and captivating. Aaron Falk takes his place in my pantheon of favorite detectives, flawed and human and tremendously engaging. For those of us waiting for his next appearance, Force of Nature is scheduled for publication in Australia -- may need to schedule a trip there -- in September.

For mystery fans who like their stories noir The Dry is a definite must read. Grab an iced coffee and settle down on a shaded porch. You're in for a great read. 
I'm not sure what my schedule will be, but I guarantee you that I'll be back (more than once) this summer. Happy reading! 


Thursday, September 29, 2016

Happy National Coffee Day

In order to celebrate National Coffee Day -- yes, there is a day to fete le café -- I'm leaving the land of noir and stopping by the cozy mysteries. I'm inspired to take this departure by Cleo Coyle's very fun and very quirky Coffeehouse Mystery series. The series takes place in a landmark coffeehouse in Greenwich Village. The series focuses around amateur sleuths in some of the wittiest titled -- and most fun -- mysteries on the shelves. The website is also delightful and you will find great recipes. In the interest in truth in blogging I need to add that I have yet to try the recipes in the interest of continuing to fit in my present wardrobe. They look that delicious.

I found one other title that also had a coffee focus. I haven't read it, it also looks like great fun. It's  Death by Coffee by Alex Erickson. It's the first in the Bookstore Café mystery series and I'm going to search for the other titles. I've developed an affection for the titles of cozy mystery novels. I love my dark and brooding noir mysteries, but the cozies definitely have more fun titles.

 A cat, coffee and a mystery! It doesn't get much better for fun reading.
Is anyone a fan of cozy mystery novels, as well as the more somber noir mysteries? What authors are your favorites?

Now I'm going to settle in for some reading on this first chilly night of autumn. Since this post of Coffee Noir talked about cozies I'm going to turn everything upside down and have a cup of mint tea. It's a wild night here in New York.

So many mystery novels and so little time! Thanks so much for visiting.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Can You Just Jump in?

Pardon me for composing a title that ends in a preposition, but that question seemed to be the clearest way to introduce this post's topic. Can you start reading a mystery series in the middle of the series? I had the good fortune to spend time yesterday with two former colleagues who happily remain friends. They are also mystery fans and as so often happened during my years working with reading friends, the topic turned to our latest reads. I mentioned  Cara Black's Murder on the Quai, which is number 16 in this very enjoyable series set in Paris. I offered to give my copy to my friend and she asked a good question, "Do I need to start at the beginning of the series, or can I just jump in?"

A lively discussion followed. We thought one could jump into Sue Grafton's Alphabet Series, but would caution against that for Ian Rankin's outstanding Scottish series. And, yes, a post on Ian Rankin is long, long overdue.

Also long overdue is a post on a mystery novel that begins one of my all-time favorite mystery series. I found C.J. Sansom's Dissolution in a bookstore in Notting Hill in 2005. I started reading in the bookstore and kept reading as I flew home across the Atlantic. I'm a fan of all things Tudor and besides being a complex and interesting mystery, it's an extraordinary historical novel. There are six books in the series which focuses on life in Tudor England. We meet the human, vulnerable and brilliant lawyer Matthew Shardlake, and follow him through the reign of Henry VIII. Each book builds on the one before and it would be a difficult series to jump into somewhere in the middle. The series is at most times dark, violent, sad, and yet always interesting.

When I first thought of writing a mystery novel blog I thought I would begin with a post on Dissolution. Like so many things in life I was sidetracked, but am happy to feature one of my favorite novels. If you're familiar with this series, you're a fortunate reader. If you're about to start reading it, you're in for a treat. The title refers to the Dissolution of the Monasteries, that took place under the reign of Henry VIII. 

So many books to read and so many books to write about and so, so little time! As ever, thanks for visiting and happy reading! 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Gone to Nantucket in My Mind

One might think I'd never go into a bookstore or library again. I've got shelves of unread books and probably an unequal number waiting on my iPad. I'm circling new books in the New York Times Book Review every week and it's highly unlikely I will run out of books to read in this lifetime, however long it may be. But like a moth to light, I'm drawn to anywhere there may be books. I love looking at the shelves, never knowing what treasure I may find.

During tonight's bookstore visit -- thankfully there's still one in walking distance -- I made my way to the mystery section. I thoroughly enjoyed Heart of Ice, set in Mackinac Island, and had summer resorts on my mind. I was drawn to Francine Mathews' Death in the Off-Season. This is the first volume in the series set on Nantucket Island, featuring police officer Meredith "Merry" Folger. I did a quick flip through the first chapter and read the copy on the back cover, and yes, added this series to my endless "to-read" list.

 I find books and mystery series everywhere. I'm always on the lookout for a new series and the thought of five, ten or twenty volumes with the same main characters -- if I'm especially fortunate -- is a great prize.  How do you find new mysteries? Reviews? Blogs? Word of mouth and recommendations from friends? Coffee Light would love to know.

It's hot, hot, hot in New York City this week. One of my favorite activities is to sit in a cool corner with an iced coffee and a good mystery. So many mysteries and so little time!

Thanks for visiting. Keep cool and keep reading! 

Monday, July 4, 2016

Mackinac Island Mysteries

Happy Fourth of July, dear mystery readers!
I had the good fortune to travel to Mackinac Island, MI last week. It's a small, but beautiful island set in Lake Huron and it was definitely a good visit. Some of the most fabulous scenery imaginable, good food, good company and a visit to a wonderful bookstore, The Island Bookstore. There are stores on Mackinaw Island and just across the ferry in Mackinaw City. I spent time with the staff discussing mysteries set in Mackinaw Island and found a trove of books I hope to read.


My take away book and fabulous plane reading was  Heart of Ice, by PJ Parrish. It's the latest in the Louis Kincaid series. It kept me reading throughout a long, long delay in Detroit Airport, which is one of my gauges of a book that holds my interest. Private detective Louis Kincaid returns to Mackinaw -- great description of the island -- and becomes entwined in a decades old murder. There are twists, turns and some dark family secrets. Yes, this is often the premise of a mystery novel, but Louis is an interesting and engaging character, totally believable. I also enjoyed getting to know the other characters and seeing life on the island for the year round residents. I enjoyed it very much and though the other volumes aren't set on Mackinaw I look forward to catching up with the entire series and spending more time with Louis Kincaid. 
Another series on my reading list is written by Peter Marabell. Mackinac Island is the setting for Murder at Cherokee Point and Murder on Lake Street. Devils are Here is set in Petoskey, across the Straits of Mackinaw and down the highway. Peter Marabell is a historian who "retired" to Mackinac, and in his retirement runs a business and writes mysteries. I'm looking forward to starting his series with Murder at Cherokee Point. Cherokee Point is fictional, but I'm sure it will keep my memories of Mackinac happily stirred. 
Many thanks to my new friends at The Island Bookstore for great recommendations, good conversation and many happy hours of reading past and to come.  Wishes for a wonderful Fourth and happy hours of reading. 
So many mysteries, so little time!