The Black Tower

November 17, 2008

Author: Louis Bayard
Copyright: 2008
Publisher: Twelve

Started: 11/17/08
Completed: 11/23/08

This is a literary, historical, mystery novel set in Paris of the early 1800’s. Bayard wrote Mr. Timothy, another historical mystery and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. So this seemed worth a try.

It centers on Eugène François Vidocq, a figure from French history who had served time in prison but later become the first modern detective. According to Wikipedia, he inspired both Jean Valjean and Javert, the police inspector who pursued Valjean in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables.

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Author: Alexander McCall Smith
Copyright: 2007
Publisher: Pantheon Books

Started: 9/13/08
Completed: 9/18/08

This is another in the venerable “No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” series of gentle mystery novels. these are set in Botswana and feature the clever and philosophical detective Mma Ramotswe who solves mysteries with a combination of determination, observation and homespun wisdom. always a pleasure.

The Gun Seller

August 22, 2008

Author: Hugh Laurie
Copyright: 1996
Publisher: Washington Square Press

Started: 8/22/08
Completed: 8/28/08

Yes, that Hugh Laurie. The star of the TV show House. This book is from the 1990s, though, from a younger Hugh Laurie who was then more a star of British television.

According to the cover, it is a suspense novel and a screwball, British humor-style comedy. But it does have a good hit of action and suspense and mystery. Well done!

Terra Incognita

June 11, 2008

Author: Ruth Downie
Copyright: 2008
Publisher: Bloomsbury

Started: 6/11/08
Completed: 6/16/08

This is a follow-up to a neat little historical novel/mystery that I read last year (maybe earlier?). That one, Medicus, featured a Roman doctor, stationed in Britain who reluctantly solves a murder. It featured great descriptions of life in Roman Britain, strong characters, and a decent mystery.

This book is a worthy successor. It finds the good Doctor headed off to the borderlands and getting more deeply involved with the locals. Good read. Ms. Downie? Write more, please.

Deadly Shoals

March 4, 2008

Author: Joan Struett
Copyright: 2007
Publisher: St. Martin’s Minotaur

Started: 3/4/08
Completed: 3/8/08

This is a mystery set aboard US naval sailing ships in the early 1800s. It’s part of a series — the Wiki Coffin Series — featuring a half-Maori sailor and amateur detective. I’ve read at least one other in this series. It is a fun little series; not perfect but a decent mental palate-cleanser.

Misfortune

February 23, 2008

Author: Wesley Stace
Copyright: 2005
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Started: 2/23/08
Completed: 3/4/08

This is another by Wesley Stace, whose By George I enjoyed so much recently. That book, his second, was good enough that I wanted to try this one, his first. It was worth it. This is quite a book. It seems influenced by the work of Charles Dickens, but takes turns within 19th Century society that Dickens would never have followed.

By George

February 10, 2008

Author: Wesley Stace
Copyright: 2007
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Started: 2/10/08
Completed: 2/19/08

I didn’t know much about this novel going in. It appealed to me on the shelf as different. According to the jacket, it is the story of a ventriloquist’s dummy, as told by that dummy. That seemed worth a look.

It turned out to be a wonderful novel about several generations of a British show-business family. The dummy, George, carries part of the story. The rest is the story of a young man, also named George, who is the grandson of the dummy’s ventriloquist.

The author, Wesley Stace, is also a singer/songwriter who performs as John Wesley Harding. This is his second novel. I enjoyed it so much that I have grabbed the first novel from the library and added it to my reading pile.