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Friday, November 04, 2011

As a Mystery Lover

I am interested in this book:

The First DetectiveJames Morton
The First Detective: The Life and Revolutionary Times of Vidocq: Criminal, Spy, and Private Eye (2004; Overlook Press 2011) is an entertaining biography of the inspiration for both Gaboriau's Lecoq and Poe's Dupin. Eugene-François Vidocq (1775-1857) led an amazingly complicated life. His adventurous "career" began with ripping off his parents and going on the lam, although his mother repeatedly bailed him out and followed him around France. Vidocq enlisted in the French army at an early age, where he engaged in many a fencing duel before deserting. His military career was typified by repeated enlistments and desertions. Frequently imprisoned, he demonstrated his innate abilities by quickly adapting to the prison power structure, while also acting as a snitch. Vidocq was also a talented escape artist; when the authorities managed to catch him, they had a difficult time holding onto him. When Vidocq tried to go straight, he had to fend off his former associates, but also found jobs for many of them as police or private detectives. Ultimately, his fame rests on his dual role as founder of the Brigade de Sûreté (undercover police detective force) in 1811 and as creator of the first private detective agency (Bureau des Renseignements) in 1833, as well as inspiring Poe, Gaboriau, and other authors. His 1827 ghost-written autobiography and other memoirs are unreliable, but Morton has sorted through the historical records and provides a densely detailed account, with interesting asides reminding us of the wild and crazy criminality and chaos of Vidocq's time. Footnotes abound in this relatively brief and highly readable biography.  (via SYKM newsletter)

And as a Historical Mystery lover, I was saddened to learn that there will be no more in The Mistress of the Art of Death series featuring Adelia Aguilar.

Ariana Franklin's (Diana Norman)  obituary.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

The Law of Angels by Cassandra Clark

The Law of Angels  is the third book I've read in this medieval mystery series, and Cassandra Clark has created another vivid view of the events of 1385.  Tying together the strands of her story with the historical events, Clark manages to involve the reader in the life of Sister Hildegaard as she attempts to protect two young charges from the danger that threatens them , and at the same time, give insight into the political issues of the time.

Historical novels always intrigue me because I love reading about what might have happened to individuals in the midst of another historical era. Cassandra Clark's Sister Hildegaard series provides interesting mysteries and characters that continue to develop as they  face the difficulties of the 14th century--the personal (even if fictitious) touch.  Some elements  that interested me concerned the Miracle or Mystery Plays of the time, Wycliff's Bible, the papal schism, and of course, there are still the after-effects of Wat Tyler's murder and the John of Gaunt/ Richard II political turmoil.

Thumbs up.

Other Reviews/opinions:  Genre Go Round, anyone else?

Fiction.  Historical Mystery.  2011.  368 pages.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

A Dead Man's Tale by James D. Doss

A Dead Man's Tale is one of the strangest mysteries I've read.  It is part of a series that I'd never heard of, but will investigate again.

Charlie Moon (all seven feet of him) is a Ute rancher whose household includes his eccentric Aunt Daisy Perika (also a Ute Indian, shaman, and possibly, a witch).  On a normal, run-of-the-mill day, "...Daisy would commit a fresh outrage sufficient to shock a deranged Nazi storm trooper."  An outrageous old woman, Daisy insinuates her way into quite a few things she shouldn't.  She also has an occasional visit from a raucous crow who might be the deceased Debra Darkwing, an old friend.

The plot centers on millionaire Samuel Reed's remembering of a future (?) that entails his own murder.  This unusual ability may have a lot to do with his success on Wall Street.  Samuel gives Charlie Moon and Moon's best friend Police Chief Scott Parrish the date and time of his murder and makes a wager that the two can't keep him alive.  It is a bet that Samuel Reed wants to lose.

It takes a little while to adjust to the manner in which the tale is told.  Doss sometimes goes over the top, but overall, I really enjoyed the bizarre and unorthodox story, the quirky characters, and the wisecracking.

Recently, I read Nymeth's post On Ambivalence (something I often feel about a book), and this novel fits that description.  Doss may go a bit too far at times, but there was plenty that kept me involved and amused, and Aunt Daisy is worth disregarding any flaws.

Other Opinions:  The Cataloger's Reading List,  Murder by Type, My Favorite Mystery  

Fiction.  Mystery.   2010.  296 pages.