Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Five: Mystery Edition

Pretty much anyone who knows me or has read this blog for a few minutes knows how much I love mysteries. I was never into the whole romance scene, the bodice-rippers (or bosom-rippers as Ann-Marie calls them, which is awesome and much more apropos.) I always have, starting as a little girl with the Bobbsey Twins, the Boxcar Children, and Nancy Drew. Fortunately, both my girls seem to love them too. Darren bought them some DVDs called, "Country Mouse, City Mouse" that they absolutely adore. They're about a country mouse and a city mouse (really?!?) who travel around the world solving mysteries. The other day Lucy said, "I just love these. I want to watch mysteries all the time. I think I'll call these Elaine's and my, "Country Mouse City Mouse NCIS."

If I'm going to cover such an extensive and fascinating topic as mysteries on the blog, I'm going to have to split it between books and movies. I hope at this point I'm not just talking to myself because I actually love getting book and movie recommendations off other people's blogs. Today I'll just do books and save movies for another day when I don't have much to say. goes:

Top 5 Favorite Mystery Authors (in no particular order)

1. Agatha Christie. I have to list her. She's the queen. And if you haven't read her books, you really should. The first one I ever read was "Pocketful of Rye" when I was 10 years old. I was hooked. My personal recommendations: "Nemesis," "By the Pricking of My Thumbs," "The Pale Horse," "The Crooked House."

2. P.D. James. The current queen. She's close to 90 I believe and just released another novel on Tuesday. Her tortured police inspector/poet Adam Dalgliesh has been solving murders since the 60s. My personal favorite is "Original Sin" (since it takes place in a publishing house, natch). Also worth picking up are the few Cordelia Gray novels.

3. Barbara Vine/Ruth Rendell. If you're not familiar, that's actually the same person. Under her real name, Ruth Rendell, she mostly writes police procedurals--the excellent Inspector Wexford series. However, writing under her pseudonym, Barbara Vine, she is stellar. The best. In fact, her books are so good, I order them from so I can get them six months earlier than they're available in the U.S. The BV novels are more psychological in nature. She also takes a topic of interest and does loads of research on it, which I love. For example, "The Blood Doctor"--the story of an MP in the House of Lords, Martin Nanther, at the turn of the 21st century as his position as a hereditary peer is being abolished in Parliament. He is writing a biography of his great-great grandfather who was the physician to Queen Victoria and who did a lifelong study of hemophilia. In addition, Martin's wife continues to be unable to carry a child to term and continually has miscarriages. My personal favorites, in addition to "The Blood Doctor" (and this was extremely hard to narrow down): "A Dark-Adapted Eye," "The Brimstone Wedding," and "Anna's Book."

4. Elizabeth George (not to be confused with the Bible study lady): EG is an American who writes British mysteries--the Lynley/Havers series. She has written probably 12-14 of them, each between 600-800 pages long. Then she leaves you hanging and makes you wait 2-3 years until the next novel. Near the end of my pregnancy with Lucy I could rarely sleep, so Darren kept buying me more EG mysteries--most of which I finished in about a 6-week period. He would routinely get up around 3 a.m. and come into the baby's nursery where I would be sitting in the glider, reading Lynley and Havers. Some, of course, are better than others--I started with the 5th in the series, "For the Sake of Elena," because I picked it up at a used book sale--but I recommend starting at the beginning to get the entire thread.

I saved my favorite for last:

5. Anne George: Anne George wrote eight mysteries, comprising the Southern Sisters series. They are, flat out, the funniest books I've ever read. The mysteries are quite good, but nothing mind-bending. However, I reread this entire series at least once a year just because they're so much fun. The main characters are Patricia Anne (the narrator), a retired English teacher, and her crazy sister, Mary Alice, who has been married and widowed three times by men each twenty-eight years older than she is and incredibly wealthy. They are lifelong residents of Birmingham, AL. There are a whole host of supporting characters who appear throughout the books and about whom you always want to know what happens. I lent them to my dad who returned them later with the comment, "I laughed like a fool." It's not imperative to read them in order, but it's much more fun. The first one is "Murder on a Girls' Night Out."

I'll leave you with an excerpt to whet your appetite. Mary Alice has just bought a country/line-dancing nightclub called "The Skoot-n-Boot." Unfortunately before she could open for business, the previous owner was found in the bar's wishing well with his throat cut. Here, the sheriff is questioning Mary Alice, Patricia Anne, and Henry Lamont, the bar's cook:

“Bonnie could tell you more about that. Bonnie Blue Butler.”

The sheriff looked up from his notes. “We’ve already called her. She’ll be in soon.”

“Interesting name, “ I said.

“She swears she was conceived during the burning-Atlanta scene in Gone With the Wind. Must have had a tremendous effect on her parents,” Henry laughed. “May be true.”

Casablanca caused one of my kids,” Mary Alice said. “You know, when she’s getting on the plane and looking back at Humphrey Bogart. That just does me in. Late movie one night.”

Sheriff Reuse cleared his throat loudly. We all looked at him. “Please. I’d like to continue.”

“Go ahead,” Sister said, having a hard time getting off the subject. “The other two were just vacations or carelessness or something.”

A good disciplinarian, the sheriff used the old schoolteacher trick of being totally quiet and still for just a moment too long. None of us moved.

“Mr. Lamont,” he said, “do you know of anything unusual that has happened here in the last few weeks? An argument Mr. Meadows might have had with someone? Anything that comes to mind?”

A dead body in the well, I thought. That’s pretty unusual. But I kept my mouth shut.


Happy mystery reading!


Ann-Marie said...

Oh, heavens. Did I really say bosom-rippers? You know me, I think I know what I'm saying, least it proves I'm not adopted, since Mom does it all the time.

Well, you put me to shame. I love mysteries, too. I grew up on Mom's Victoria Holt's and Dick Francis', so how could I not? But I've not read ANY of these authors. I'm going online RIGHT NOW to reserve some from the library! Thanks for the list.

Alice said...

They're all English except for Anne George. I lent a few of those to your mom, and I think she really liked them. I mean, how could you not? :-)

Victoria Holt...ahh, I'd forgotten about her. She was sort of combo mystery/bosom ripper.

Mae said...

I've never read Anne George before. I'll be going to the library here to see if they have any.

I also have read most of Victoria Holt and Dick Francis books. Also like Phyllis Whitney books.

I guess you have read the Mitford Series. These books are so good, even if they aren't mystery books.

Alysa has gotten me reading the YaYa Books.

Beck said...

I was reading your list, nodding and smiling - and then got to Anne George. I've never heard of her and I'm SO excited! Hooray, a new mystery writer to read!

Alice said...

I hope everyone enjoys AG as much as I do. She is like, mystery comfort food. Probably fried chicken.