College Campus Cozy Mystery

Review: And Then There Were None

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And Then There Were None
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

5 stars to Agatha Christie‘s And Then There Were None. This is the book that started my absolute love of the mystery genre. I was addicted and must have read it 3 or 4 times over the course of the year. Between the poem, the deserted island, the plot twist, the count-down, the pure clandestine suspense… it couldn’t get any better.


Story

Ten people receive a mystery letter from someone they don’t know that indicates they should come to a remote island. Why would they go????? After arriving, they try to figure out the connection between all of them while waiting for their mysterious host. After coming across a cute little poem about how ten little indians die, they decide they will wait it out until the next morning when the ferry comes back to take them home. But it will never come! Each guest suddenly dies matching the line from the poem… resulting in alliances and mistrust. Pure fun.

In a masterful conclusion, the reader understands all the connections, learns why the killer chose them to die and develops a very distinct opinion on who was right and who was wrong in this story.

Amazing!


Strengths

1. Plot – can you get any better than telling the reader that 10 people will die and then guessing the order and the weapon?
2. Characters – All walks of life, all personalities. You’ll love some and hate some.


Weaknesses

1. Only that there wasn’t a follow-up…


Final Thoughts

If you are a mystery fan, you must read this. If you’ve never read Agatha Christie, this must be your first – before you tackle Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot. You must understand the master before getting hooked on any specific protagonist in one of her other series.
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Review: The Turn of the Screw

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The Turn of the Screw
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Perhaps America’s greatest writer from our Realistic period, James’s ghost story sets itself above all the rest — and he has a lot to choose from. Consider this story a nanny’s mind game – but who is in control?

I studied James in my college years, even dedicating an entire semester to several of his works as one of my independent studies in my English major. Something about the way James told stories spoke to me, and I felt a connection to him as a person and as a writer. Many of his works annoyed me (The Golden Bowl, ugh!) but I still appreciated them. With Turn of the Screw, it was a master class in so many ways.

The plot is still open to interpetation: who is telling the truth? who is alive? who is actually sane?

All the same, the story is quite simple but oh so complex. It’s a study of intense psychology where the reader has to determine who is playing this game and who is merely a pawn.

If you like a bit of paranormal, and you are comfortable with a variety of impulse interpretations, you can learn a lot about how to draw in an audience from this book and James himself.

It’s more of a long short story, or a short novella, probably readable in one sitting over a few hours. It’s a good escape from today’s literature with a balance between flowery writing and direct plot and character development.

Take a chance. You will definitely have strong opinions.

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Review: Catering to Nobody

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Catering to Nobody
Catering to Nobody by Diane Mott Davidson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Diane Mott Davidson‘s “Goldy Bear/Schultz” series was one of the first cozy books I began reading. I started with Lilian Jackson Braun‘s “Cat Who” series and found myself intrigued by the genre. As I began doing background research, I realized it all stemmed from my early love of Agatha Christie back in school days.

The Goldy series was a fun read that created a world of characters I enjoyed learning about. Understanding the relationship between the protagonist sleuth and the local police detectives, I quickly fell in line with loving this series. In this first book, the author draws you in and leaves you wanting more providing just enough quirky settings. I think it’s a good approach to have two best friends both recently divorced from the same man — the conflict setup is perfect. As the series continues, more characters appear and the stories get stronger.

Cozy readers will like this series!
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Review: The Da Vinci Code

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The Da Vinci Code
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

5 stars to Dan Brown‘s The Da Vinci Code. Most folks have seen the movie and probably not read the book. What a loss for them!

I had never heard of Dan Brown before. I heard about the movie being made of the book and how it was coming out relatively soon. I looked it up and saw it had the “treasure-hunter” thrill appeal and decided to read the book before the movie could come out and warp my interpretation. So glad I did!

It’s addicting. Growing up Catholic, I knew most of the religious detail, but once it weaved it art, literature, history and philosophy, I was just enamored with the story. Could it really be true? Maybe I’m related to Adam and Eve too! Ok, let’s not get too crazy…

Magnificent story-telling. Quick adventure. Beautiful scenes and images. Brown exhibit’s intensely good control weaving back and forth between each of the plots, sub-plots and mini-plots. It’s as realistic of a treasure hunt as one can get if you are not an adventurer, archaeologist or exhibition-junkie.

But what took it to the next level for me was the amount of detail included for every component. It’s the intricate of the intricate, relying on pure puzzles to move the story forward. Each new puzzle creates its own spark of drama directing readers to challenge what they do and do not know about Jesus, Mary Magdalene, languages, culture, locations, etc.

It hits so many different waves of appeal that I felt it was at the top of its game. And it probably only edged out Angels & Demons because of how tight this story was. Definitely a must-read for the genre, for Brown and before watching the movie adaption.
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Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

5 stars to Stieg Larsson‘s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. You heard all the hype about the author who died and his books weren’t published. You heard that they were translated into English. You heard they were great and both Sweden and Hollywood were making a movie of it. Well, it’s all true. So is the fact that this is a must read for every mystery fan!


Story

So many plots, so little time. Basically, the primary plot is about a missing girl. A relative wants to find out what happened that mysterious day decades ago. Enter a flawed newspaper report. Enter a troubled hacker. Enter a few romances. Mischief. Confusion. Alliances. Enemies. And none of that includes the rather extensive family of the missing girl — some who believe she died, some who couldn’t even care more.

The story weaves in and out telling the various plights of the hacker, the newspaper man and the family with secrets. It comes together in an explosive way — every plot twist imaginable all combined into one. The description of the death scenes are so vivid that feel like you are there! By the end, I wanted to meet these people… and so will you.


Strengths

1. The characters are just a force not to be reckoned with. You will have strong feelings towards ALL of them.
2. The plot and the way in which Larsson weaves the sub-plots together. It’s genius and it’s captivating.


Weaknesses

1. Really none… it’s not for the easy reader or one who wants a straightforward, simple story. You have to want the complexity.


Final Thoughts

Get it now. Don’t watch the movie. Maybe learn Swedish so you can read the story in it’s written language. But to be honest, the translation hardly misses a beat.

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Review: The Eight

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The Eight
The Eight by Katherine Neville

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4 stars to Katherine Neville‘s The Eight. I stumbled upon this one by hearing about book #2’s release and had to start first from the beginning. I’m so glad I did.

Characters are well developed. Plot is intricate. Suspense is on target. Story-telling and narration are rich. I want a third book in the series!

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Review: The Fire

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The Fire
The Fire by Katherine Neville

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Almost as good as the first one! Definitely a good follow-up. I love the Neville’s style — and the way in which the world is turned upside down.

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