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Archive for the ‘Mystery’ Category

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Title: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Author: Stieg Larsson

Published: 2008

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Rating: 4 of 5

Much has been written about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, especially now that it is available in paperback and the follow-up book, The Girl Who Played with Fire has been released.  I’ll keep my synopsis short and sweet:  This book follows Mikael Blomkvist, a magazine editor, and Lisbeth Salander, a rough-around-the-edges private investigator, as they dig into a decades-old missing woman mystery and a corporate fraud scheme.

My mother-in-law first mentioned this book to me months ago.  I added the title to my list and then promptly forgot about it.  Soon though, I started seeing the book everywhere – in blog posts, on bestseller lists, in articles anticipating Fire‘s release.  I bumped it to the top of my list and waited in a (long) line to get a copy from my library.

I now understand the buzz.  This book was pure page-turning entertainment – I felt physical pain whenever I had to set it down to do annoying things like eat, shower, and go to work.  Fortunately, it was also a fast read, so I was able to speed through it and return to normal life fairly quickly.

Set in Sweden, Dragon Tattoo introduced me to an area of the world I’ve never visited before in books.  One of my dearest friends grew up in Sweden and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the country (particularly the interesting food) while comparing it to the things she has shared about her childhood.  This book was certainly not a travelogue, but the occasional descriptions of the countryside and the small towns in which it was set made me want to make Sweden my next vacation destination.

In fact, this book was an absolute thriller, with some mystery thrown in for good measure.  I didn’t know much about the book when I started reading (having scrupulously avoided reviews to avoid spoilers), but the translated Swedish title should have tipped me off:  Men Who Hate Women.  Normally, I don’t do well with books containing lots of violence or brutality, especially against women.  To be honest, there were parts that were difficult for me to read (or even skim) due to the graphic descriptions.  But I was so gripped by the plot that I was able to push through those sections and still enjoy the book.

If you haven’t read this one yet, I would definitely recommend it with one caveat:  Please start it early in a weekend.  I’d hate for you to have to use a sick day at work so you can stay home to finish it!  Myself, I’m looking forward to reading Fire.  While I’m waiting in my second library line to get it (139 people long!), I’ll keep myself occupied by deciding where to put the Dragon Tattoo tattoo that I won from Books on the Nightstand!

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Don’t take my word for it.  Check out what others are saying about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo:

1 More Chapter – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

All About {n} – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

The Book Lady’s Blog – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Books on the Nightstand – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo — what are you waiting for?

Literary License –The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (a review)

The Literate Housewife Review – #186 ~ The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Old Musty Books – Stieg Larsson: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

S. Krishna’s Books – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson

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Drood

Title: Drood

Author: Dan Simmons

Published: 2009

Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction

Rating: 2 of 5

I feel I should begin this post with a caveat.  Anyone who knows my reading habits well knows that I am a very serious Charles Dickens fan.  As far as I’m concerned, he is the standard to which all other authors are compared.  One of my best days while studying in London was the day I visited his house (now a museum) and spent the afternoon gaping at his belongings.  So.  Take this under advisement when considering my thoughts about Drood.

Several months ago, I read an article about two new books that attempted to address the many lingering questions behind Dickens’ unfinished The Mystery of Edwin Drood.  Intrigued, I decided to re-read The Mystery of Edwin Drood and then read the new books to see how they did in solving the real mystery of Edwin Drood.

Drood is narrated by Wilkie Collins (of The Woman in White fame), Dickens’ crony and relative by marriage.  At its core, Drood is a historical thriller set in the last five years of Dickens’ life.  Collins reveals the mysterious character of Drood who haunts Dickens and influences his personal and career decisions.  Full of jealousy and opium, slums and literature, it becomes a wild ride through London’s forgotten tunnels and a bizarre, occultish underworld.

I rated the first book, The Last Dickens, a 1.5 of 5 because the story was thin and the writing needed some serious editing help.  I’m giving Drood slightly more, only because the writing was actually quite well done.  The story and the characters, however, made me want to abandon the book about 300 pages into the tome.  (Yes, tome.  This book was 777 pages long – about 400 pages too many.)

This book should have been titled ‘Collins,’ because it was almost entirely about him, his struggles with opium addiction, and his own growing obsession with Drood and Dickens.  Dickens himself flits in and out of the story and Drood…  Well, Drood becomes a primary character in several occult-centered scenes that I found deeply disturbing and overly done.  I could go on about everything I disliked about this book, but I’ll keep this short:

It was unnecessarily long.  The story repeatedly started and sputtered out for the first 400 pages.  Many of the plot elements were contrived and ridiculous to the point of outright laughter.  And most importantly – the ending, which was the sole chance the book had at redeeming itself, was so dissatisfying that I slammed my book shut in anger.

I imagine that fans of the thriller genre would really enjoy this book.  And people who have less emotional attachment might not feel as cheated as I did by this book.  But for me, I still consider the mystery of Edwin Drood to be fixedly unsolved.

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Don’t take my word for it.  Check out what others are saying about Drood:

Allison’s Attic – “DROOD” on the Early Bird Blog Tour

Blacklin’s Reading Room Reviews & More – My Dear Wilkie

Book Chatter and Other Stuff – Review: Drood

Booking Mama – Review: DROOD & Giveaway (includes a clip of Simmons reading from the book)

Bookish Ruth – Book Review: Drood by Dan Simmons

Bookpage – Simmons imagines the spark behind Dickens’ unfinished work

Book Reviews by Bobbie – Book Review of ‘Drood: A Novel (ARC)’

A Bookworm’s World – Drood – Dan Simmons

A Girl Walks Into a Bookstore – Review: Drood, by Dan Simmons

Heidenkind’s Hideaway – Drood

The Independent – Drood, by Dan Simmons & The Last Dickens, by Matthew Pearl

Jenn’s Bookshelf – Review, Giveaway & Blog Tour-Drood, by Dan Simmons

LA Times – ‘Drood’ by Dan Simmons and ‘The Last Dickens’ by Matthew Pearl

My Friend Amy – Blog Tour: Drood by Dan Simmons and a Giveaway! (complete with a personal sketch from Simmons himself)

Old Musty Books – Dan Simmons: Drood A Novel

Perry Web – Drood

The Tome Traveller’s Weblog – Review AND Giveaway: Drood by Dan Simmons

The Washington Post – A Long-Winded Rival to Dickens

We Be Reading – Early Review: Drood

Write for a Reader – Review: Drood

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The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

Title: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

Author: Alexander McCall Smith

Published: 1998

Genre: Mystery, Fiction

Rating: 3.5 of 5

Using her inheritance, Mma Precious Ramotswe established the only female-owned detective agency in Botswana – the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.  Business is initially slow, but soon she has a nice flow of cases to which she applies her critical thinking and memory skills.  In this first novel in the series, Mma Ramotswe tackles various mysteries including missing husbands, suspicious lawsuits, and a kidnapping.

It felt like I was seeing books from this series all over the place, so when I noticed the first one on my mom’s bookshelf, I quickly borrowed it.  I was expecting a true mystery novel and was surprised to find something more like a collection of loosely connected mini-mysteries.  In addition, I was expecting a rather fluffy read, but found that this author was not afraid to tackle some heavier issues including spousal abuse, death, and witchcraft.

My mom told me I would love Mma Ramotswe and how right she was.  Precious was spunky, funny, and strong – characteristics I love in a female protagonist!  I laughed aloud multiple times in the book, and even shoved the following hysterical passage into my husband’s hands:

Now constipation was quite a different matter.  It would be dreadful for the whole world to know about troubles of that nature.  She felt terribly sorry for people who suffered from constipation, and she knew that there were many who did.  There were probably enough of them to form a political party – with a chance of government perhaps – but what would such a party do if it was in power?  Nothing, she imagined.  It would try to pass legislation, but would fail.

Get it?  Try to pass?  Oh, it just kills me!  Please don’t misunderstand though – Mma Ramotswe’s wry perspectives do extend beyond potty humor.  In fact, everything and everyone she encounters is subjected to her unique and entertaining observations.

While I certainly enjoyed this read and would recommend it as a nice alternative to the summery chick lit that is starting to pop up around the pool, I don’t feel invested enough to seek out the second book of the series.  I may pick it up eventually, but I think one installment of Mma Ramotswe’s matter-of-factness will keep me satisfied for awhile.

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Don’t take my word for it.  Check out what others are saying about The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency:

Book Club Girl – Literary Adaptation Smackdown on TV Tonight (shows the trailer for HBO’s TV series based on the book series – makes me want to sign up for HBO!)

Bart’s Bookshelf – No1 Ladies’ Detective Agency ~ Alexander McCall Smith

Grasping for the Wind – Book Review: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

The Guardian – No 1 Ladies’ Detective writes a cookbook (a soon-to-be published cookbook will feature Mma Ramotswe’s favorite dishes and proceeds will go to ‘good causes’ in Botswana)

Maw Books Blog – The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

Rat’s Reading – The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency / Alexander McCall Smith

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