Last week Criminal Element unveiled its new look. Its had a significant digital facelift. During the transition, the site was on hold and not publishing new content. Meanwhile, reviewers were still busily reviewing. As a result, there is a lot of brand new content on the site.
Included in this new plethora of all things bookishly criminal are three new reviews by yours truly, which I’m highlighting today. I include a link that’ll take you to my full review if you’re interested in reading more.
#1 The Paris Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal
A traditional historical mystery set in France and England during WWII. A good read for those who prefer their fiction without sex, excessive violence, or cruelty. The Paris Spy was nominated for an Agatha Award in the Best Historical Fiction category. I was sent a review copy.
The beginning of my review: The Paris Spy is the first Maggie Hope Mystery I’ve read, and when friends found out I was reading it, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of them who told me they love this series. I’ve come across the series in bookstores and libraries, but you know what they say about too many books and too little time. I’m thrilled to have finally picked up an entry. My self-imposed rule about needing to start a series with book one has gone by the wayside in recent years either because I’ve mellowed or because writers like Elia MacNeal have become more skilled at writing series novels that can hold their own as one-offs. Continuing reading my review over on Criminal Element –>
#2 Tornado Weather by Deborah E. Kennedy
Set in a small Indiana town that’s seen better days, this novel is an excellent read for those who like stories told from a variety of perspectives. It’s full of contemporary social and political issues, characters that ring true, and captivating writing. Tornado Weather was nominated for an Edgar Award in the Best First Novel category. I was sent a review copy of this one, too.
The beginning of my review: Tornado Weather is a difficult book to classify. Sure, there is a crime or two—but is it really a mystery? It’s a novel that I find myself wondering how I’d attempt to sell it if I were still a bookseller. Would I recommend it to mystery readers or literary fiction readers? It would definitely appeal to segments of both, especially those interested in contemporary social issues. Continue reading my review over on Criminal Element –>
#3 Dark Chapter by Winnie M. Li
This is another novel that isn’t easy to categorize. It’s a groundbreaking novel in that it doesn’t simply contain a rape, as so many mystery novels do, it dissects what happened leading up to, during, and after the assault, from the initial moments to the courtroom and beyond. It’s one the most realistic stories I’ve read about what people really do, think, and say in traumatic situations — things that make no sense when you’re trying to explain them later to others who operate within systems that are based on reason applied after the fact (police, the legal system). It also details the experience a victim of sexual assault may go through and the maddening lack of resources. And it is so much more, too, showing how and why one young man becomes a rapist and how the threat of sexual assault and its reality keeps women from living full lives. I got this one from the library.
The beginning of my review: It’s a good thing Dark Chapter was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best First Novel because I don’t think I would have come across it otherwise, which would be a shame because this book deserves a wide readership. It’s an excellent novel, suspenseful and full of tension. Rape is rather common in the mystery genre, but this is the first mystery novel I’ve read that focuses on the atrocity so intensely—why it happens, how it happens, and its aftermath—from both the victim’s and the perpetrator’s perspectives. Winnie M. Li is a writer with talent and compassion.
The story revolves around two main characters: Vivian and Johnny. The novel is broken into five parts. Rather than using chapters within these parts, each section tells Vivian’s and Johnny’s stories from alternating perspectives with only a line break separating their two experiences. Some of these sections are a few pages long, others are just a couple paragraphs or a few lines. This makes for a page-turning structure and a fast read. Continuing reading my review over on Criminal Element –>
Do any of these appeal to you? Let me know what you think if you read one. And let me know if you have an absolutely FAVORITE mystery novel that I should read.