At evening when the lamp is lit,
Around the fire my parents sit;
They sit at home and talk and sing,
and do not play at anything.
Now, with my little gun, I crawl
All in the dark along the wall,
And follow round the forrest track
Away behind the sofa back.
There, in the night, where none can spy,
All in my hunter's camp I lie,
And play at books that I have read
Till it is time to go to bed.
These are the hills, these are the woods,
These are my starry solitudes;
And there the river by whose brink
The roaring lions come to drink.
I see the others far away
As if in firelit camp they lay,
And I, like to an Indian scout,
Around their party prowled about.
So, when my nurse comes in for me,
Home I return from the sea,
And go to bed with backward looks
At my dear land of Story-books.
- Robert Louis Stevenson -
When I am ready to read a good mystery there is nothing like a warm, quiet comfortable room, plenty of time, and a blazing fire in the fireplace.
Very subtly the author feeds you with all the information needed to solve the mystery. The novel is very enjoyable off-beat and interesting! I have excerpted some of his asides; they provide a most interesting atmosphere.
"This was my first view of Gould, the cop, in his world. It looked like the place where pre-World War II wooden office furniture and old manila file folders go to die, but he obviously made an effort at neatness and order in his personal portion of it. The top of his desk was clear except for an ashtray, a yellow lined pad, a black rotary-dial telephone, and on the right side four or five of those legal-sized manila folders lined up flat and overlapping, apparently so that he could readily leaf into anyone of them.
I had a quick flash of him as a kid. Every day, before he went off to school, his bed would be made and his collection of Dick Tracy comic books would be neatly stacked in his bookshelves beside his Hardy Boy books and the textbooks he had saved because they had been his favorites in past school years."
"There’s that stuff you read about the babies. How they’ve got it made inside the womb. Then They’re expelled into a completely different world, and its a hell of a shock to them.
And here’s where the stuff you read leaves off and I begin.
Probably they hate it at first.
But pretty quickly they figure out that its not so bad, after all. In fact, they’ve got it made. They’re king of the world. They squall and somebody jumps. They shit and somebody jumps. The whole world exists for them. Period.
Somewhere along the way, though, they get off that idea. They find out that, in fact, the world doesn’t exist for them at all; the truth is that they’re a very small cog in it, and the best thing they can do is to learn how to fit in with all the other little cogs and help make the big machine keep on creaking along.
Most of them make the transition okay.
But I wonder if, once in a while, one of them doesn’t.
Mom and dad were nice, ordinary, loving, standard people with ordinary faults. Mom wasn’t much of a cook, and she tried too hard to be one. Dad mechanically was a dolt. Mom thought masturbation was the chief evil of the world. Dad thought voting republican was."
"‘Visual clutter,’ some people called them, but to me they had always been a symbol of the lifeblood of this roaring, rambunctious, often obnoxious, but ever-fascinating city.
I’d arrive at the airport, coming home from some impressive place, and be depressed at getting back to Houston with its unbearable seasonless weather, freeways designed by and for stagecoach drivers, world-class potholes, no monuments except for the Astrodome, creeks that were ‘bayous,’ funny-looking buildings, politicians who were too inept even to be corrupt, etc., etc.
Then I’d get on the freeway and there’d be all the signs, like frozen fireworks, celebrating being alive and being tough, and staying that way, Boom, Bust, or what the hell.
And I’d stop being depressed and start thinking about what these energetic masses of bright and glittering signs really represented and made possible: the Alley Theatre; the Astrodome; the masses of green, green foilage of the magnolias and oaks and pines and oleanders and crape myrtles; the Galeria; Memorial Park; the huge and sprawling Medical Center; the chillingly beautiful Transco Tower; River Oaks; and on and on and on.
And I’d be so glad to be home that I’d promise myself that I wouldn’t bitch about Houston any more - at least not for a while."
All of the Dick Francis mysteries are marvelously engaging. He seldom uses the same detective twice. Almost all of his mysteries revolve around the world of horse racing, the author himself having been a professional jockey in his younger years. But you need not have any interest in horse racing to enjoy his mysteries.
If you like Sue Grafton mysteries you will likely enjoy Elizabeth Pincus mysteries. Both detectives are single females who live in small quarters and highly value thrift and frugality. Grafton's Kinsey Millhone is divorced. Nell Fury is a Lesbian. Both detectives live and work in California.
"Sure it’s all right." Mason said. He handed Carmen Monterrey three folded dollar bills. "Here," he said. "Give her a good reading."
Carmen Monterrey slipped the money down the front of her blouse, moved into the vacant seat opposite Della Street, said, "Let me have your hand."
For several moments she studied Della Street’s hands, then she said, "You work. You have a very important position. No?"
"That depends what you mean by important," Della Street said modestly.
"You love your work," she said, "but perhaps that is because you love someone who is connected with your work."
She raised her eyebrows.
Della Street, suddenly embarrassed, said, "Well, after all…"
Carmen Monterrey glanced comprehensively at Perry Mason. "Oh," she said, and then added quickly. "You have such a great loyalty to your work. Perhaps that is because the man you work for is a big man, a noble man. He inspires confidence."
Mason gravely peeled off another dollar bill and handed it to Carmen Monterrey. "You’re doing fine," he said.
These Mysteries are in the famous Perry Mason Series.
As a child, Jane had been intrigued by the deep closets and locked cupboards in her grandparents' home in Dorchester. It was funny, but just recently she'd remembered a tree-covered footpath in Lyme Regis, the town on the Southwestern coast of England where she'd grown up. Beside the path ran a high stone wall covered in thick vines. Late one afternoon, while she was playing with a friend, she'd discovered a small wooden door behind some vines. She'd become almost obsessed by where it might lead, yet she never found out. Even now, she could see it vividly in her mind's eye. Low to the ground. A rounded arch at the top. A child's door catching and holding fast a child's imagination.
Years later, she'd asked friends and family, but no one knew what she was talking about. It was strange, but for the last few nights, that door, and the secret that lay behind it, had found its way into her dreams. In a way, that image had never left her consciousness. Even though Jane couldn't explain it, she felt this youthful rembrance had formed the basis for all of her adult curosity.
…."Now here is a matter that intrigues me. It occurred to me in church, actually. I show my face from time to time, the annual City service, you know. I thought that when I had a spare moment I’d follow it up. It’s about the Creed."
Dalgliesh was adept at concealing surprise. He asked gravely, Which one, Sir Alred?"
"Is there more than one?"
"Good God! Well, take any one. They’re much the same, I suppose. How did they start? I mean, who wrote them?"
Dalgliesh, intrigued, was tempted to ask whether Sir Alred had discussed this question with his son, but prudence prevailed. He said, "I think a theologian would be more useful to you than I am, Sir Alred."
You’re a parson’s son, aren’t you? I thought you’d know. I haven’t the time to go asking around."
Dalgliesh’s mind spun back to his father’s study at the Norfolk rectory, to facts either learned or picked up from browsing in his father’s library, to words he seldom spoke now but which seemed to have lodged in his mind since childhood. He said, "The Nicene Creed was formulated by the Council of Nicea in the fourth century." The date inexplicably came to mind. "I think it was 325. The Emperor Constantine called the Council to settle the belief of the Church and deal with the Arian Heresy."
"Why doesn’t the Church bring it up to date? We don’t look to the fourth century for our understanding of medicine or science or the nature of the universe. I don’t look to the fourth century when I run my companies. Why look to 325 for our understanding of God?
Dalgleish said, "You’d prefer a Creed for the twenty-first century?" He was tempted to ask whether Sir Alred had it in mind to write one. Instead he said, "I doubt whether any new council in a divided Christendom would arrive at a consensus. The Church no doubt takes the view that the bishops at Nicea were divinely inspired."
"It was a council of men, wasn’t it? Powerful men. They brought to it their private agendas, their prejudices, their rivalries. Essentially it was about power, who gets it, who yields it. You’ve sat on enough committees, you know how they work. Ever known one that was divinely inspired?"
John Lutz has little gems of rye humor scattered throughout this novel:
"Now I know you don’t much like Ray," he said, "but he does need help and he’s family."
"He is not of the family of man," Nudger said.
Effie Prang said, "You can’t even count on your spouse."
Nudger wasn’t sure about that. He’d discovered after the divorce that he could count on Eileen to make him miserable.
Ray’s bed had been stripped of its sheet; suggesting that it was his biannual wash day.
Nudger had been beat up. This didn’t deter him from making inquiries at shops.
"Maybe the people in the shops are afraid of you, "Claudia suggested, "considering you look like a goon who isn’t too good at the protection racket.
Ray was a formidable combination: a welfare cheat who talked like a Republican.
Lutz's plots are very original; the number of plot twists ample; good characterization; well integrated story lines; they are a fun read.
If you like very non-formula mysteries you will enjoy this one!
These three mysteries are centered on the sleuthing of Honey Huckleberry from Fort Worth, Texas. It is best to read these in order.
He started to laugh, then broke down, shaking and sobbing. I didn't understand why an offer of clothes should have that effect on him, but then I hadn't spent two days on the road, running away from parents who wanted to commit me to a psychiatric hospital to a stranger who might or might not take me in. And I hadn't been sixteen in nearly thirty years, but I remembered, dimly, that emotionally, sixteen was like walking over a spension bridge in a high wind, and if you were gay on top of it, those winds could reach hurricane velocity. Whatever the trigger, he had earned his tears.
"An old bullet? And what test did you perform that determined the age of that bullet?"
"The victim was killed with a thirty-eight semiautomatic."
"That doesn't answer my question. How did you decide the twenty-two was an old bullet?"
"Your Honor," Pearsall said, "this is, like, way beyond my direct."
She grinned at him. "Is that, like, an objection?" If so it's over-ruled. Answer the question, detective. How did you determine the age of the twenty-two-calliber bullet?"
"It was an assumption," he said, with heavy sarcasm. "Based on the fact that the holes in the victim were made by a thirty-eight."
"But detective," I said reasonably, "for all you know, the victim could've fired that twenty-two-caliber bulet at my client that very night and then she fired back at him in self-defense."
"We didn't find a tewnty-two-caliber weapon," he said.
"You didn't find a thirty-eight either," I reminded him. But I'm a sport. I'll spot you the thirty-eight if you'll give me my twenty-two."
He lolled his head toward the D.A. with a look of disgust. This time the kid responded. "Objection. Argumentative."
"Yes, Mr. Rios," the judge said. "That one I would save for the jury."
As one of the most highly praised writers in mystery fiction, he is part of a breed of writers who have broken through customary limits of the mystery genre. His work is erudite and literary but he is not out to impress and dazzle the reader with his cleverness. His writing is straight forward and he weaves an absorbing story.
Michael Nava is a five-time winner of the Lambda Award for best mystery.
A fat woman with extensive make-up came in carrying an animal that looked like a fluffy rat. She was wearing a fur coat, though when I’d come in a half hour ago the temperature at the Century Club had been eighty-seven. Her hair in its natural state was probably brown turning gray. In its present state, however, it was the color of a lemon, and stiff with hair spray so thick that you could cut yourself on the curls. She spoke inaudibly to one of the switchboard operators, then took up a seat with the fluffy rat on her lap, and gazed at the room before her the way Marie Antoinette must have gazed at the crowds in Paris. The small white animal wiggled out of her lap and waded through the pale green carpet and stood in front of me and began to yap. It was a persistent high yap that had the same metronomic quality that the ladies of the switchboard displayed.
"Oh, Beenie," the fat blonde said, "stop that noise right now."
Beenie paid her no heed at all.
"He won’t hurt you," the blonde said.
"That’s for sure," I said.
The blonde looked startled. "Well he won’t. He’s usually very good with strangers."
The yaps continued. It was a piercing sound. Even the two switchboard receptionists turned glazed eyes toward the sound.
"What kind of a rat is this?" I said politely.
"Rat?" The blonde’s voice went up an octave in the middle. Not easy to do in a one syllable word. "Oh, I’m sorry," I said. "Of course he’s not a rat. Guinea pig maybe?"
"You f-----g creep," the blonde said.
Since Richard Stevenson is my favorite mystery author, I am going to provide a short excerpt from each of his novels:
What were they up to? Stuart Blount had a reputation around town as a high-toned wheeler-dealer--suburban real estate, shopping malls, cozy connections with the politically well placed. And while I supposed there were jurisdictions in the State of New York where you could still get a murder fixed, I doubted Albany County was one of them. In the thirties, I gussed, but not in 1979. Maybe the Blounts held a genuine abiding faith in their son's innocence and were confident that, with a nudge from them here and there up the line, justice would triumph. It was a topic they didn't seem to want to go into.
I said, "Have you already done a deal with the DA, or what? I like to know what I'm getting into. I've got a license to keep."
Jane Blount's eyes flashed and she sucked furiously on her cigarete. Her husband sighed deeply. They were taking some unaccustomed abuse from me, and I guessed I knew why.
Mr. Strachey, "It's all being worked out with the appropriate authorities, believe me it is. What we're counting on, you see, is that a, ah, prison sentence can be avoided -- that some alternative approach to William's rehabilitation can be worked out -- if you get my drift."
I didn't. "Are you talking about a tour in the Peace Corps, or what? Fill me in. What's new on the correctional front?"
"I can tell you this much, Mr. Strachey. Judge Feeney has already been consulted, and he has given his blessings to the program we have in mind, as has the district attorney. Does that reassure you?"
Killer Feeney. Maybe he was going to allow the Blounts to have their son hanged at home, from the family chandelier.
I said, "If your son is innocent, isn't all this dealing a little premature?"
Blount squeezed his eyes shut for a long moment. Then, deciding I was probably worth all of this, he opened them and gazed at me wearily. "Let me explain. I'm a realist, Mr Strachey. In my business I have to be. I know what the evidence against William is. It's all been laid out for me. No, I don't believe that my son killed a man. William is troubled, yes, but I can't accept for a minute the notion that William would take a human life. It's just that the situation is -- rather an intractable one, wouldn't you say? Jay Tarbell has gone over the evidence with me, and he's given his opinion, which is not favorable. Jane and I have been over it and over it, and we're simply doing what we think we must do."
"Hang on a minute", I yelled into the mouthpeice. "I can't make out what you are saying."
"I'll hold, of course, Mr. Strachey."
I set the swet-slick receiver on my desk, reached around, and whacked the top of the clanking and gurgling air conditioner with a slat from the wooden swivel chair that had collapsed back in January. The only effect was a slight shift by the machine in its rotten moorings. The 200-pound Airtemp now threatened to plummet out the window onto Central Avenue two stories below, chrushing the shins of the winos who lounged in my entryway. I reached down and yanked out the plug. A distant thunk was followed by a diminishing whine, a sputtering sound, and then hot wet silence.
"Sorry", I said into the phone again, "but I couldn't hear you over the racket my pilot was making up on the helipad. You were saying..."
While Timmy slid behind the front wheel of the T-bird, I removed the two hundred feet of nylon rope from the trunk, looped one end around the car's bumper, and tied it in a sheep shank. The other end I dragged through the snowy darkness of Flo's backyard and ran it around the two main supporting posts of Flo's old three-story back porch. I pulled the rope taut, tied it, and truged back to Timmy.
"What if somebody drives up the alley? There are garages back here."
"Then don't wait. Go."
He bent down and rested his head against the steering wheel. "This is a crime and probably a mortal sin. I can't believe I am doing this." He was genuinely distressed.
"Do you want me to do it? I'm Presbyterian. I could do it myself and still get out to the front door in time."
He stared glumly at the windshield and thought this over. "No. Go ahead. The worst that can happen is I'll burn in hellfire for eternity."
"If that happens, thanks for the favor. I guess I'll owe you one."
His shoulders shook with a little laugh, or sob, and he said, "Okay. Three minutes." We checked our watches.
I almost asked John Rutka if somebody had shot him in the foot -- I knew plenty of people who'd have loved to -- but before I could, he gave me a look of astonishment and said, "I've been shot. One of them actually shot me."
"Somebody shot you in the foot?"
"One of them tried to kill him", Eddie Sandifer said, "but they only got him in the foot."
... We all peered down at the foot as if it might add something on its own behalf. I'd walked over to Albany Med from Crow Street to visit yet another dying friend when I ran into Rutka and Sandifer, and we were in the parking lot outside the E.R., standing in vapors rising from the tarmac after an early evening thunderstorm. Everybody looked purple under the arc lamps, spooky in the urban miasma. Ambulances coasted in and out through mist, the Tuesday night torn and traumatized delivered as swiftlly and silently as Fed-Exed envelopes. Somebody was probably working on a way to fax them in.
On Sunday morning, cool and rainy, Timmy had gone out and come back with bagels and the Times, and the kitchen was an aromatic Malabar Coast as he prepared his masala tea. Perhaps on that day in Visakhapatnam, twenty-six years after Timmy's Peace Corps leave-taking, an American ritual he had left behnd was being reenacted similarly -- a middle-aged Indian was sitting and picking the lint off his socks or whatever. I preferred what Timothy had brought home to what I imagined he had left behind. But my imagination in these matters was limited, as I was reminded whenever Timothy's Peace Corp's crowd got together and conversed in the patois of their exotic youth with its references to chicken sexing and blood meal, and place names that sounded like long, quick combinations of vowels, consonants and simmering lentils...
I said to Timmy, "I've got it."
"It'?" He was absorbed in the Times crossword puzzle, and I know I would have access to only about a tenth of his brain until he had either completed the puzzle or, after inner pain, made the mature decision to put the puzzle aside unfinished and resume his life.
I think I know why Paul died."
He looked at me interestedly across the dining room table, his pencil still poised. "Why?"
He had lit a citronella candle to keep the bugs away, and it's light flickered across his fine-featured Irish mug in his suddenly brighter eyes. He seemed almost possessed by this sudden notion, which to me felt vaguely but surely like trouble.
I said, "Hey, Timothy. I'm the detective, and you're the pragmatic but idealistically motivated social engineer. Remember?"
This didn't seem to register. "I'll hire you," he said, "and I'll take time off from work - the Assembly is in the August doldrums now - and I'll help you out. Anyway, Don, you're - 'between projects' is the euphemism, I believe. It's something we can do together"...
I thought this over, but not for long. "Timothy, I don't know. Your impulse is worthy. It's your decent heart asserting itself. But as for our working together, that sounds risky. Often you don't like the way I operate. My methods have sometimes left you despondent. Outraged, even. The whole thing could become...awkward."
"This is screwy. This is nuts. This has to be some kind of pathetic, sick joke!" Maynard Sudbury unexpectedly blurted out. Timothy Calahan and I stared at Maynard as he stared down with a look of shock and bewilderment at one particular panel in the AIDS Memorial quilt. "Jim Suter is not dead," Maynard said, gawking. "I don’t think he’s even sick. I saw him in Mexico not more than two weeks ago."
"First-rate mystery, ably ploted and beautifully written." -- Los Angeles Times
"Miss Tey's style and her knack for creating bizarre characters are among the best in the field." -- The New Yorker
"The unalloyed pleasure of watching a really cultivated mind in action! Buy and cherish!" -- Boston Sunday Globe."
"Permanaent classics in the detective field...no superlatives are adequate." --The New York Times.
"The writing is really first class -- a continual delignt." -- The Times Literary Supplement, London
"Mystery writing at its very finest." --St. Louis Post-Dispatch
I think she is also first rate in creating an atmosphere that you can visualize, feel and smell:
And in less than half an hour he came on it. He came on it without warning, across a great waste of wet green grass that in summer-time must be starred with flowers. There had been no visible reason why the long levels of grassy land should not go on for ever to the horizon; it was all part ot this flat grey endless world of bog. He had been prepared to go on walking to the horizon, so that he was startled to find that the horizon was ten miles out at sea. There it lay in front of him, The Atlantic; and if it was not beautiful it was, nevertheless, impressive in its sweep and simplicity. The green water, dirty and ragged, roared on the beach and broke in a flash of white that was vicious. To the right and left, as far as the eye could see, were the long lines of breaking water and the pale sands. There was nothing else in all the world but the green torn sea and the sands....... So sudden had been the presence of the sea, and its rage and extent so overwhelming, that he had hung there motionless for several minutes before realizing that there were the sands that had brought him to the fringe of the western world in March. These were the singing sands. Nothing sang today but the wind and the Atlantic. Together they made a Wagnerian tumult that buffeted one almost physically as did the gale and the spray. The whole world was one mad uproar of grey-green and white and wild noise.
Winner of Edgar award in 1996 as best first novel.
"You don't seem too shaken up, seeing your buddy lying here dead." Romero said nothing, didn't even flinch. There was a remarkable calmness about him that was almost erie. "I asked you a question, Danny Boy." "No Sir. You made a statement."
The six mysteries listed above are from Zubro's Paul Turner series. Turner is a police detective who solves cases while attempting to raise two teenaged sons.
The eight mysteries listed below are from Zubro's Tom and Scott series. Scott Carpenter, a major league basebal player, and his longtime companion, high school teacher, Tom Mason are the amateur detectives.