Monday, July 11, 2011

Dying to get away?

Travel can be a thrilling experience, unless your final destination is murder. I particularly enjoy reading murder mysteries, and now that summer is here, I find myself thinking of another great love of mine – travel.  So, why not combine the two and read some excellent mysteries that can help me quench my thirst for adventure? 

One of my favorite authors to recommend, Kathy Reichs, satisfies both of these needs with her popular series about the world-renowned, globe-trotting forensic anthropologist, Temperance Brennan. If the name sounds familiar, it may interest you to know that Reichs is also a producer for the popular TV show, Bones, and has described the main character of the show as a younger version of the character in her books. In the books, Temperance is a divorced recovering alcoholic with a grown daughter. Instead of working for the Jeffersonian Institute (like the character in the show), Temperance divides her time between her duties as a professor at the University of North Carolina, her position as a forensic anthropologist for the Laboratoire de Medecine Legale in Montreal, and occasional assignments with other agencies that need her expertise to identify remains whose flesh is too degraded for a regular coroner to obtain evidence.

For example in Fatal Voyage, Temperance joins the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DMORT) when an airplane crashes and the badly burned and fragmented remains of the victims need to be identified.  During the course of the investigation, Temperance discovers a body part that cannot be connected to any of the passengers or the crew aboard the plane, and her resulting investigation with her partner and love-interest from Montreal, Andrew Ryan, uncovers another mystery.  Several books later, Grave Secrets, brings Temperance all the way to Guatemala to a mass grave in the village of Chupan Ya to excavate the remains of the victims of genocide.  During the excavation she becomes involved in an investigation into the disappearance of several girls from Guatemala City and the murder of a young archaeologist.  In Cross Bones, Temperance travels halfway across the world to Israel and the Holy Land in her quest to solve the murder of an orthodox Jew in Montreal, and when an ancient skeleton is added into the mix, the mystery and the danger for Temperance and her partner heats up again.  Finally, in Reichs’ most recent book, Spider Bones, Temperance returns to North America when she investigates a bizarre drowning death in Hemmingford, Quebec.  The victim turns out to be an American soldier, John Lowery, who was originally thought to have died in a Huey crash in Vietnam.  The confusion over the identity of Lowery brings Temperance to Hawaii to the headquarters of JPAC, the U.S. military's Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, where she discovers Lowery’s dog tags with the body of another soldier, sparking further questions into the incident in Vietnam. Meanwhile, Temperance is again asked by a local official, this time Honolulu’s medical examiner, for help. The remains of the Honolulu decedent turn out to be those of an adolescent boy who may have been the victim of a shark attack or murder. Soon Temperance realizes that someone doesn’t want her to discover the truth about one of the victims, and she has to solve the mystery before someone buries her, and the truth, forever.  In conclusion, throughout her many novels, Kathy Reichs uses her real-life expertise as a forensic anthropologist to craft unique, factually accurate stories as she develops multi-faceted characters, describes diverse settings, and weaves complex plots with well-thought out conclusions.  Unlike some authors, Reichs creates a completely new story with each subsequent book.

But what if you’re not into the nitty-gritty details of forensics and science?  For those who are interested in mysteries that are a little less graphic, or who just want a lighter read, two other authors, Maggie Sefton and Anthony Eglin, might be just what the doctor ordered.  Eglin’s mystery series will appeal to gardeners who have always wanted to travel to England.  The first book in the series, The Blue Rose, introduces Alex and Kate Shepherd, the proud new owners of a small nineteenth-century country house located in the village of Steeple Tarrant in Wiltshire, England. Called The Parsonage, the house is charming, but it’s the old garden that enchants Kate, and it is during her efforts to restore the overgrown garden to its former glory that she discovers an amazing blue rose. Immediately aware of the rarity of her find and its value, she and her husband engage the expert advice of Lawrence Kingston, a retired professor of botany and an expert on roses.  However, despite their efforts at secrecy word soon gets out about their discovery of their rare horticultural find.  Just as they’re discovering the origin of the blue rose they begin to realize that there are those who would stop at nothing to possess the blue rose, even if they have to resort to murder to get it.  As the body count starts rising, Kate and Alex begin to realize that the blue rose may be hiding other dangers.  Whether you’re a rose enthusiast or not, the mystery of The Blue Rose will be sure to captivate you!

Finally, for those who prefer knitting to gardening, Maggie Sefton’s mystery series about a Washington, D.C. based CPA named Kelly Flynn will be a good fit.  In the first book of the series, Knit One, Kill Two, the death of Kelly’s last living relative and mother-figure, her beloved Aunt Helen, brings her to Fort Connor, Colorado.  Not long after her arrival, Kelly discovers some puzzling information that leads her to embark on a mission to solve a murder and catch a killer.  With a little help from her newfound friends from the yarn shop next door, the House of Lambspun, Kelly unravels the mystery as she learns a thing or two about knitting, fun and friendship.  Well-written, with a cast of interesting characters, murders to solve, tales of friendship and a little bit of romance, each book in the series is entertaining and worth the read.  As an added bonus, each every book features a recipe and a pattern discussed in the novel. 

So, whether you’re destined for an exotic vacation, or a down-to-earth stay-cation, this summer don’t forget to pack a good read!

Other Recommended titles
By Maggie Sefton:

By Anthony Eglin:


  1. Lenee Bookhardt7/18/2011 9:53 PM

    I enjoy a good murder mystery, but since it isn't the genre that I usually head toward, I am sometimes apprehensive of selecting a book to read. I'll admit to reading books that have an interesting cover or seems somewhat witty, but rarely hear from anyone about interesting murder mystery reads.

    I now have a growing collection to read thanks to this blog. :) T

  2. T - I'm so glad that you found these recommendations helpful! I also thought of a few more that you might enjoy:

    1. For the travel enthusiast - Donna Leon's series about Italian Commissario of Police, Guido Brunetti (book one is Death at La Fenice).

    2. For the forensics lover - Jefferson Bass's series about Dr. Bill Brockton, the founder of the Body Farm at the University of Tennessee (book one is Carved in Bone).

    3. For the craft lover - Betty Hetchman's crochet mystery series about super sleuth Molly Pink (book one is Hooked on Murder).

  3. James W. Harris7/29/2011 3:55 PM

    Regarding crime novels, I'm glad that the library has a large collection of books by Jim Thompson, certainly one of the greatest and most praised crime/noir writers of the century.

    Written mostly in the 1950s and 1960s, they are bleak, grim and violent, dealing with dark themes and psychopathic characters.

    His writing is extremely mixed. He wrote over 30 novels, and some are masterpieces, some are subpar. I’m so hooked on him that I want to read them all, but if I had started with some of the lesser works, I’m not sure I’d have continued reading. So keep this in mind if you’re not familiar with him.

    Among his best, in my opinion, are the following, all available at the Bartow Library:

    * The Killer Inside Me

    * Pop. 1280

    * The Grifters

    * After Dark, My Sweet

    * A Hell of a Woman

    * Savage Night