Friday, November 17, 2006

Your Five Best

Lisa Horton

Lisa Horton loves English mysteries, partly because the "crimes seem to be more civilized than their American counterparts," she said. "I especially love English mysteries with female detectives, and I seem to gravitate towards female authors. What I do not enjoy are what I call the bon-bon mysteries." These Five Favorite Mysteries are the "cream of the crop."

"Pardonable Lies" by Jacqueline Winspear.

In this third in a series, Maisie Dobbs, a "psychologist and investigator" in 1930s London, must search for information on a pilot shot down behind enemy lines during World War I.

Complexities of the story include Maisie's own memories as a wartime nurse, the pilot's social class and a family's secrets.

"The Beekeeper's Apprentice" by Laurie King.

The first, and best, of a series of Sherlock Holmes pastiches by King. Fifteen-year-old Mary Russell meets Holmes where Conan Doyle left him, retired with his bees on the Sussex Downs in the early years of World War I, and becomes his apprentice.

The story is told from the decidedly feminist viewpoint of this very intelligent, headstrong and thoroughly charming young American girl.

"Garnethill" by Denise Mina.

Maureen O'Donnell isn't stupid, she's just crazy, so when she breaks off with her married lover and then finds him dead in her own apartment, she knows she is the likely suspect.

Maureen's history of mental health problems and severely dysfunctional family might seem a disadvantage, but she uses what she knows to solve the crime. OK, this is technically Scottish, not English, but it's great anyway.

"The Sculptress" by Minette Walters.

Best selling authoress Roz Leigh accepts a commission to write about convicted double ax murderer Olive Martin, and soon believes that justice may not have been served.

This extremely well-written story of greed, passion and human weakness won the 1994 Edgar Award for best mystery novel.

"Grasshopper" by Barbara Vine.

Really more of a suspense novel than a mystery, "Grasshopper" refers to the tall and dangerous high voltage power pylons. Clodagh Brown is a young woman with a fear of enclosed spaces and a love of heights.

Vine (aka Ruth Rendell) is strong on characterization, and does great work with Clodagh and her friends, a group of outsiders obsessed with climbing everything tall in their urban environment.

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