Sunday 12 March 2017

A couple of crime titles

Two crime books to review today. First up, To Helvetica and Back by Paige Shelton.

Clare Henry lives and works in Star City which is a winter ski resort in the mountains in Utah. Along with her grandfather, Chester, she run a business mending typewriters and restoring old books. A friend and neighbour, Mirabelle, brings her antique typewriter into the shop for Clare to mend the L, which doesn't work. A man they later refer to as 'leather-man', because of his clothes, comes into the shop and demands to be given said typewriter. He gets very angry when Clare refuses point blank to hand it over. Next day the man's dead body is discovered in the alley behind her shop. Because Clare had worked late that night and fallen asleep in the shop she finds she's a suspect... not good when your best friend, Jodie, is a police woman. It's up to Clare to try to establish her innocence by discovering what secrets an old typewriter holds that are worth killing for.

Paige Shelton is a new author to me, I don't think I'd even noticed the author on Goodreads. Then a friend whose whose opinion I trust recommended To Helvetica and Back and I'm so glad she did because I really enjoyed it. It was quirky and fun and the Utah setting attracted me as it's not generally a place where books are set. (Well, there must be a few but they're not so noticeable here in the UK.) There's a bit of history about the mining in the area, a bit of geology, a little bit of romance, and a good mystery, the background to which kept my interest well. I also liked the restoring of rare books angle and details about how it's all done. There's one more book in this series, Bookman Dead Style, which I'll read but I also downloaded to my Kindle, The Cracked Spine: A Scottish Bookshop Mystery by the same author. Books and Scotland... what's not to love about that?

Lastly, The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny, book five in the Armand Gamache series.

Chief Inspector Gamache and his team are called in when a body is discovered in the bistro in the village of Three Pines in rural Quebec. The dead man has been bludgeoned to death but no one has any idea who he is or how he came to be there. Gabri and Olivier, the gay couple who run the bistro, certainly have no idea. Gamache has no clue where to start with solving this murder but slowly he begins to realise that several of the villagers are holding something back, keeping secrets. People he thought he knew, considered friends, are perhaps not what he thought they were. But could they be murderers?

This is my favourite Gamache book so far, and that's not to denigrate the first four books either. This one was just a bit special. The cast is the usual one of Gamache's team, Beauvoir, Lacoste and a new young chap, Morin, and the various villagers we've come to know, husband and wife artists Peter and Clara, Gabri and Olivier who own the bistro, book shop owner, Myrna, eccentric Ruth and her duck, Rosa, and so on. A couple of new families have moved into the village so they add to the mix... and suspects. What's interesting about this book is the complicated plot. Who was the dead man? What's his story? Gamache really struggles to find answers. There are literary connections, cold war connections, Gamache even ends up on Queen Charlotte Island off the coast of British Colombia at one point. I felt Louise Pennty created a wierdness about the story that was almost supernatural, the creepy atmosphere quite got to me but I loved it. It's full of secrets and hidden histories and motives... so many layers. I hadn't a clue who the culprit was until the end. And the writing, well that was just sublime. I wish I could have given it more than five out of five on Goodreads. LOL

Both these books qualify for the Where are you Reading? challenge that's being hosted by Book Dragon's Lair. To Helvetica and Back under 'U' for Utah and The Brutal Telling under 'Q' for Quebec. Two quite difficult letters covered there. I'm still eyeing up that X though...



DesLily said...

these both sound good. But the Louise Penny one sounds better! lol I've never read her and come to think of it I don't think I've ever come across any of her books at the thrift stores... hmmm. I am reading rather slowly right now, I think it's because I am doing a bit of cleaning in the apartment and getting ready for a short visit from Cathy this week. She is coming down for her friends funeral, who passed the same way Thom did. I'm not sure I would believe this in a book but it's happened in real life! Anyway...looks like a 2 book month *sigh*...

Kay said...

I've not read any of Paige Shelton's books as yet, but she's on my list. Especially the one set in Scotland. Cathy (Kittling) really speaks well of her and is a good friend. Ah, yes, you have so much more, more, more coming in Louise Penny's series. THE BRUTAL TELLING is kind of the beginning of a fantastic story arc. The next one is BURY YOUR DEAD and I loved that one. Well, I love all of them. Enjoy!

BooksPlease said...

I haven't heard of Paige Shelton's books before, but they do sound interesting - and quirky. I have heard of Louise Penny but have never read any of her books. It really is a case of too many books and not enough time and can I really add these authors' books to my TBR list??? I shall have to live to be at least 100! LOL

Penny O'Neill said...

To Helvetica and Back sounds like one I would enjoy. On my list now, Cath, and I thank you.
I've never gotten into Louise Penny, even after we read the first one for our book group. I think it must have been a mood I was in and will make another attempt.

Cath said...

Pat: Yes, on balance, the Louise Penny is the better book. A lot more complicated in its plot. Sorry to hear about Cathy's friend and how he or she died but I hope you enjoy her visit anyway.

Kay: I'm quite eager to read the book set in Scotland too. Yes, I saw on Goodreads that Cathy reads the author's books as well.

LOL... I kind of gathered that about the Gamache books. Somehow The Brutal Telling felt like the beginning of something rather than a standalone book. I will certainly enjoy.

Margaret: The Paige Shelton book is a cosy mystery, so yes, quirky. To be honest I'm not a huge cosy reader, I sort of occupy the middle ground with crime books, not mad about really gritty ones but read the odd one. I do think you would really like Louise Penny's books but understand completely about the tbr list.

Penny: My pleasure. Well, not every author is for everyone. Speaking for myself I seem to be the only crime reader on the planet who doesn't care for the Maisie Dobbs books. LOL... it happens.

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

Hi Cath,

Like Margaret, I am so afraid to add any more books to my Goodreads 'Want To Read' list, as I shall never get to read even a small percentage of them at this rate!

For some reason though, I have two of Louise Penny's books already marked, including the first book in the 'Gamache' series, so maybe that is an omen. Although as Louise is now up to book 13 in the series (you are still some way back on book 5), I get this nagging feeling that this is another author I shall have to admire from afar!!

I do enjoy reading about a good crime / thriller though, so thanks for sharing :)


Cath said...

Yvonne: It's quite a problem as we get older... deciding whether or not to add yet more books to the 'want to read' list. I should really go through my shelf on Goodreads and delete a load... ones that sounded good at the time which I'm never going to get to.

Yes, I'm quite a way back on Louise Penny's books. I knew I was a couple of books behind but didn't realise it was *seven*. Gosh. I plan to catch up on them though.

Have a good weekend!