Discussion:
Berlin, Kansas City, and Milburn
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Nyssa
2017-08-17 16:37:14 UTC
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Sort of a mystery tour this time around, so to speak.

First up was Pierre Frei's "Berlin" set in 1945 Berlin soon after
the Allies occupied the city. There's a serial killer strangling
and mutilating blond, blue eyed women in the Onkel Toms Hutte
neighborhood of Berlin. Members of the American military and the
German CID cautiously join forces to find the killer.

This was a depressing book overall. Flashbacks for each victim are
interweave the 1945 portions of the story that tell of her family,
pre-war, and war years. The one common thread is that every one
of them had reason for hope and coming happiness just before the
murderer struck. Talk about a downer!

There was a lot of detail about conditions in Berlin and the
surrounding area throughout the 1930s through the early days
of the Allied occupation. Descriptions of neighborhoods, housing,
furniture, and even kitchen appliances add a lot towards giving
the reader the feel of the time and place.

The reveal of the perp was at lightning speed and there were
many details left unexplained which really bothered me. Clues were
sparse with only one real clue snuck in there to give the reader
or even the characters any help in finding the killer. I also didn't
care for the closing scenes of the book that dealt with some teenage
pranks. No doubt the author was trying to lighten up a bit a the end
after a thoroughly depressing 400+ pages, but it just seemed silly
and out of place.

I'd squeak out a four star rating for this one because I'm a history
buff and really enjoyed the details of life in Berlin before and after
World War II. It's not that the mystery was bad, it was just so
ploddingly depressing.

I really needed some laughs after spending so long in Berlin with a
serial killer, so my next visit was to Kansas City, Missouri, with
"Lady Justice and the Book Club Murders" by Robert Thornhill.
This is part of the Walt Williams Humorous Mystery series, but Mr.
Thornhill doesn't make things too clear about any series order, so
I can't give a number for it. It's somewhere in the middle of a series
that seems to be about sixteen books long.

The main character is a 69 year old who works for a special department
of the city police department as an investigator. (Already I've got a
problem with this premise.) He and his partner are pulled in to help
with the investigation of what turns out to be a serial killer (OH NO,
not again!) who is dubbed "The Librarian" by the media since he leaves
a book with each victim. The reader knows who the killer is from the
beginning, so it's more of a case of being a bystander while the
police scramble to find any clues to lead to the killer rather than
one that you are solving the case along with the detectives to determine
the perp (which is what I prefer in a mystery).

The "humorous mystery" part of the series description might lead
unsuspecting readers (like me) into thinking that a) these were
cozy mysteries and b) that they were supposed to be funny. They
strike out on both IMO. There is too much gory detail for me to
accept this as a cozy plus there are a few slips of language that
might offend some readers. But even worse, the humor is of the
low brow and often off-color variety that simply is not funny to
me. Most of it is provided through a character who is a stand-up
comic, and with material such as he is given in this book, it's
not hard to understand why he's not a star performer.

Two stars for this turkey. I've got several others in the series
in my Kindle library, but they will be saved for a time when I
run out of my other TBR piles...in a few decades or so.

Since my first attempt at a lighter cozy was a failure, I went
for Nancy McGovern's "Death of a Deputy," #2 from her Murder in
Milburn series. I had really enjoyed the first in the series and
had reviewed it with a solid four stars, so I at least had more
hope that this one wouldn't disappoint me.

It was a slow-starter though. The set up for the plot seemed to
take forever with a lot of dialog that seemed simplistic and
a bit inane, but the book ramped up in the second half that made
the wait worthwhile.

The story is set in a small town in Wyoming (is there any other
kind?) where the main character, Nora, has returned to open up a
diner with her best friend. In the first book, the friend is murdered
so the diner has been put on hold due to finances. There are
a LOT of important references to actions and characters from the
first book in this one, so I would strongly suggest that anyone
interested in this book to read the first one before diving in.

The town is having a Viking Festival to bring in tourists. Part
of the entertainment is a local rock band headed by one of the
town's deputies, Wallis, who is discovered dead during the
festival's finale. What follows is a complex set of relationships
that that have a side effect of causing conflicts of interest
in the case with the sheriff who is removed from office temporarily
while a pair of policemen from another city are brought in to
handle the investigation.

Another murder occurs to a person of interest in the case, and it
appears that a cover-up is about to happen when the out-of-town
cops prepare to leave. Nora steps in to see that justice is done
by continuing the investigation in spite of their warnings to back
off.

There are a lot of family relationships, town secrets, and rivalries
going on here that make this a combination of cozy mystery and
sort of a "relationship fiction" (if I may coin the term) that
is going on in parallel with the sorting out of clues.

No gory details, no bad language, and a pretty good mystery once
you get past the slow, dragging start. Another solid four star
ranking. Now if the author could just learn that "I and so-and-so"
is not good grammar along with evening out the pace of the story,
maybe we could be on the way to some five star books in the future.

Nyssa, who is currently reading "High Hand" which is shaping up to
be a nifty little political thriller
Carol Dickinson
2017-08-20 01:13:28 UTC
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Now if the author could just learn that "I and so-and-so"
Post by Nyssa
is not good grammar along with evening out the pace of the story,
maybe we could be on the way to some five star books in the future.
Nyssa, who is currently reading "High Hand" which is shaping up to
be a nifty little political thriller
I like that you could see potential in the writer. Sometimes that first one is a bit "off" but they develop well. I've run into several of those. And I hate finding a good writer but I've tripped into the middle of a series and then going back to the beginning and finding they had "developed" so I have to be patient when I read the earlier ones.

Carol

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