A Better Quality of Murder: An Inspector Ben Ross Mystery by Ann Granger

An historical mystery novel is not hard to come by, but one that I truly enjoy is rare indeed! I’ve been so interested in the crimes of Victorian England lately and this book was truly a standout in its category. I loved it and can’t wait to read all in the series!

I believe the previous books are actually “Lizzie Martin Mysteries” but in this one she has become Mrs. Elizabeth Martin Ross, wife of Inspector Ben Ross. I think I’d be happy to read mysteries from either of these characters’ perspectives, or split between the two as this was.

Either way, I must remember the name Ann Granger because I will be reading her again!

Wordwatching by Alex Horne

It was a fun book with a fun concept (lover of words with a sense of humour wants to get his own made-up words into the dictionary, thus obtaining the ultimate nerdy immortality) and I would recommend it to a friend.
It’s strange that there would be “spoilers” in a humourous memoir like this, but you may not want to read any further if you like to be surprised. Otherwise, hit the jump for more.

My main criticisms are that I felt lied to a number of times in the book (he’d assert something as fact and then later admit that it was made up) and that the whole thing seemed too forced. I love making up words as well, but the words he made up served no other purpose than getting into the dictionary. Usually when a word is created, it’s because someone felt the need to express something for which they could find no satisfying word in existence, and when it catches on it’s because other people heard it and loved it and wanted to use it too. The words Alex Horne created were meant to trick people into thinking they’d always been around. Did he need another slang word for money? No, he created one precisely because there are so many words like it already in use, he thought it’d be easy to slip one in.

The only one of his neologisms that has a unique definition is “pratdigger” (a person who acts as a magnet for annoying people and tends to bring loads of them to parties–“I like Charlene, she seems nice, but those friends of hers are all dicks.” “Yeah, she’s a bit of a pratdigger.”) except that it’s not his word! It’s an 18th century word meaning “pickpocket” (a meaning I believe should be revived). I think his most successful words are “wordwatching” and “verbal gardening,” neither of which he mentions as intentional neologisms. Perhaps they weren’t his?

Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman

This book was…I can’t really find words for it. It’s mislabelled as a “mystery” but it’s no more a mystery than The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-time was. It’s about a young boy’s misguided attempt to solve a very real crime. The boy’s intentions are noble and honest but he misses so much of what’s really happening around him. The book is masterfully written, a perfect capture of an eleven-year-old who is trying to figure out what it means to be grown while still very much a child himself.

He doesn’t seem to be able tot tell what its real and what is a game, particularly when it comes to the violence in other young people. I fell in love completely with this child and his story and the end broke my heart in two and made my cry.

The Sherlockian by Graham Moore

Sigh. I don’t know. I was so excited by this book that I kept my library copy long after the seven-day loan period (it was taking me a while to read it, not because it wasn’t fast-paced, but simply because I was busy) and when I finally realized I had to return it I used the Chapters gift card I had received for my birthday to order it online. In fact, I was so excited to read the ending that I even downloaded the lending copy of the eBook from the library, even though I hate reading on a screen.

A Holly Jolly Murder: A Claire Malloy Mystery, by Joan Hess

I gave this book more than enough chances to wow me. I started it, set it aside, plugged along a little more, read something else, came back to it, all the time hoping to at least finish it despite the fact that I was clearly bored. The premise was cozy enough: a book shop owner gets roped into helping a bunch of neo-Druids solve a murder at Christmas time. I expected the Druid characters to be delightfully weird for weird’s sake–like how they’d be portrayed by the writers of Law & Order or any other fuddy duddy show on NBC (which, don’t get me wrong, I love nearly universally)–and they were, but that wasn’t why I eventually stopped reading.

The main character, who it seems has her own series, is unreadable. And by that I don’t mean the colloquial “I can’t get a read on her motives,” I mean I cannot read about this character for an entire book! She runs a bookshop and yet closes it several times a day to run the most trivial of errands, then wonders why she has no customers! It’s the week before Christmas and there are days she only makes seventeen dollars in sales all day! Then she complains about the financial difficulties of being a single mother! She has no employees (hence the frequent closing of the store based on her own schedule for the day) but when her teenaged daughter is desperate for work she never suggests she come to the shop! Honestly, how on earth could she afford a can of tuna, let alone her store rent and home mortgage? It boggles the mind.

Beyond that the rest of the book just wasn’t very good. The author doesn’t do even a passable job of explaining why any of the characters would be investigating the murder in the first place, why they would consistently withhold information from the police, or why Claire would feel any loyalty to any of them (She doesn’t know them!). It seems like the fact that a total stranger has been accused (rightly?) of killing another total stranger is of far more importance to her than, say, the fact that her own daughter has not only been fired but is being sued, or the fact that her boyfriend is skipping Christmas to spend more time with his ex-wife (this story line is treated as though Claire is being “an irrational female” who is over-reacting, which I found particularly implausible).

Okay, bottom line: No more Claire Malloy mysteries!