Genre: Mystery

Benchmark Title: Dennis Lehane Darkness, Take My Hand

NOTES on Discussion (11.25.08) GENRE:MYSTERY

DISCLAIMER: It is very difficult to moderate a discussion and write the notes. The person who was to take notes can no longer attend, and I did not ask for a volunteer at this meeting—in the future I shall ask someone else to take some notes during the discussion.

Darkness Take My Hand

Difficult read, very challenging—not many had read dark, noir mystery before

Evoked emotions of fear, loss, some readers afraid to go to bed found it scary, haunting, gross, dark, shock & appalled by violence, psychological drama, fast-paced, realistic setting, rough language, written well (thoughtful, literary quality, metaphorical language), realistic storyline, Man’s book, page-turner, thriller—psychological & action combo, gritty reality

Topics: Mafia, True Crime, Serial Killers, vulnerable & powerless,

Characters not interesting to one reader, characters everything to some others—compelling

Pace is very much a part of the appeal—so much so that you can argue that this is more of a thriller than a mystery—although this is a PI detective story with the detectives following procedure to get to the solution—in some ways also a police procedural and like the mystery prescription—justice is served…a dark painful justice but it happens.

APPEAL FACTORS: STORYINE—Realistic; Characterization (especially relationships between 2 main protagonists & neighborhood friends), witty dialog; Setting (local & realistic); Pace; Quality of writing

Note: #2 in series—Recommended that you read this series in order if relationships are an appeal factor for the reader. First is A Drink Before the War.

Mystery Genre: Second Title


Hopefully, everyone will comment on their books in the Wiki—here are some Appeal reactions from my notes:

Eileen: Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs. slow-paced, predictable, Maisie Dobbs’ past & personality revealed slowly throughout book Cozy, sweet British series Other comments: Not your usual mystery—would appeal to those who like the PostWWI England setting. Character of Maisie is fascinating and fresh—it is her story that compelled one reader to finish the whole series. Not a fast-paced mystery—but a thoughtful coming-of-age tale in many ways with some disturbing visions of WWI. Recommend audio.

Jan: John Harvey’s Cold Light Charlie Resnick series—England Good writer, older police detective, loner, POV of main character plus others good secondary characters, gritty suspense, excellent stylist, storyteller Appeal: Character, setting

Tricia: Ariana Franklin’s The Mistress of the Art of Death Main character is strong female but reluctant investigator in middle ages Birth of forensic science Appeal: Characters, Setting

Laurie King’s The Beekeeper’s Apprentice Fresh take on Sherlock Holmes, strong female character, relationship Character development

Michelle: Judy Blundell’s What I saw and How I lied YA post WWII Frame—glamorous like Kennedys Pacing—not fast, great tension, many mysteries Character—Evie is compelling main character Unresolved ending—can be interpreted many ways—good book discussion

Cleo Coyle’s Expresso Shot Cozy, romantic, read for characters

Shelley: Elizabeth George’s Careless in Red Setting of Cornwall Character Same appeal as Martha Grimes Insp. Jury series

Rebecca Stott’s Ghostwalk Supernatural more than a mystery

Mary: Linda Greenlaw’s Slipknot First mystery from NF writer Audio Big city detective goes to small Maine town, Police procedural Maybe a cozy, sets up for a continuing series leaving a few unanswered character questions Appeal: Character, setting

Tatjana: P.D. James Cover Her Face First in Adam Dagliesh series Slowly paced Multiple POV Appeal: Character

Nanci: James Patterson’s Along Came A Spider #1 in series Fast-paced, disappointed in this as a 2nd read More a thriller than a mystery although the Alex Cross series is a police procedural in its frame.

Mentioned Douglas Clegg’s Mordred, Bastard Sonfirst in a trilogy (Arthurian Fantasy)

Second Titles

Mistress of the Art of Death – Ariana Franklin

Four children of the Cambridge Fens have either disappeared or been found dead. Locals have incriminated their Jewish neighbors and Henry the II has cloistered them in his castle. Because Henry wants the Jews to be able to pay him taxes and because he doesn’t like angry locals protesting at his gates, he calls on Simon of Naples and a doctor of the budding forensic sciences, Adelia Aguilar to investigate the crimes.

Appeal Factors: STORY LINE, CHARACTERIZATION, FRAME Intelligent, passionate and a little stubborn, it’s hard not to like Adelia, the reluctant protagonist. The rest of Franklin’s cast of characters, which is a little long, invoke fairly strong reactions either good or bad. The setting, particularly the river and fenland, is an integral part of the story. Franklin’s recreation of 12th Century Cambridge was so eerie and creepy it seemed like the perfect place for murder and intrigue. The description of early forensic science was also fascinating. Perfect for someone who likes historical fiction/mysteries.

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

This book is the opposite of the Dennis Lehane’s, Darkness, Take My Hand. It would appeal to the reader who likes cozies, a clear delineation of good and bad, and a much slower pace.

Appeal Factors: Pacing; Characterization; Story line; Frame I would suggest this book to the reader who enjoys a slow unfolding mystery – a cozy with clear lines between good and bad. Maisie Dobbs, the protagonist, is a former WWI nurse turned private investigator. Readers will be attracted to her intelligent, thoughtful character, and many will continue to read the series as much for the mystery as for an update into Maisie’s life. Set in London after WWI.

Slipknot, by Linda Greenlaw.

A first novel that feels as though it’s setting you up for a series. The leading character, Jane Bunker, is a former Florida big city detective. She is in a new job as an insurance investigator in her birthplace off the coast of Maine. When the body of the “town drunk” washes ashore, all think it is an accident except for Jane, and she can’t leave her former profession aside. Many readers will like the Maine setting and townie characters. Some are suspicious, others know her family history – something she has come back to discover. She doesn’t, though, but is right about the foul play. There’s a fish processing plant, a town debate over wind power, the requisite town coffee shop, and nosy landlords.

Author Elizabaeth George returns to the saga of her principal character, Sir Thomas Lynley, former Chief Inspector (CID) of Scotland Yard who has gone off on a grief-stricken walking trip around the coast of Southern Cornwall in the wake of the death of his wife and unborn child. On the 43rd day of his walk, a now disheveled Lynley comes upon the body of a young climber who has fallen to his death. When police discover that the equipment of the fallen climber has been tampered with, Lynley gets caught up in the murder investigation. New Scotland Yard sends Lynley’s former colleague and foil Barbara Havers to help with the case. The victim is a handsome teenage lothario named Santo Kerne. He had many enemies in the small coastal Cornish town. The investigation of his murder is intricate and in keeping with George’s standards. While plot, language and setting are all superbly rendered it is the focus on the characters that makes this novel so satisfying. As a sequel, devotees of George are well familiar with the complex main character Lynley. But the introduction of new female character immediately a suspect is revealed slowly. Her story is interwoven with new characters who are introduced. Intriguing details about surfing on the Cornwall coast (who would have known?) and a history of the “travelers” or tinkers who ply the roads of England make this complex novel very satisfying. George is an accomplished artist and has jokingly been referred to as one of the best British mystery writers (even though she is an American).

John Harvey ~ Cold Light, Book 6 in the Charlie Resnick mystery series

Charlie Resnick, widower, cat owner and Police Detective in Nottingham, England, is trying to resolve multiple crimes in the days before and after Christmas: the beating/robbery of a cabbie and finding a missing woman before it is too late.

Appeal Factors ~ Character, Story and Setting The Nottingham setting is every bit as cold, lonely and gritty as Lehane’s Boston. You can feel the dampness, loneliness and poverty. Charlie is a dedicated detective, loyal to his work and determined to solve his cases with empathy as well as justice. Harvey provides insights to several characters, both police and civilian. The pace is moderate, picking up as the crimes and tension escalate throughout the story.

Genre: Mystery 

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