Category Archives: From Mystery Maven Marilyln

MINING MARILYN’S MYSTERY “OLDIES”: LINDSEY DAVIS

Mining Marilyn Brooks’ popular blog, Marilyn’s Mystery Reads, for some of her past reviews yielded another gem:   Lindsay Davis.  As a longtime fan of novels taking place in ancient Greece and Rome, I was, for some time, very much caught up by Davis’ host of mysteries featuring “detective” Marcus Didius Falco (of which there are 20).  Davis’ books are well-written, featuring inventive situations, engaging characters, and good, solid suspense.  Somehow, though, I missed the fact that she eventually provided Falco and wife Helena Justina with an adoptive daughter who is carrying on in the family tradition–so glad to have a new “old” favorite to follow.  She reviewed this one in March of 2014.

THE IDES OF APRIL  – by Lindsey Davis

                                             A Review by Marilyn Brooks

 “The glory that was Greece, and the grandeur that was Rome” are the lines that Edgar Allan Poe wrote in 1845.  There is grandeur in Lindsey Davis’ The Ides of April, and there are also appealing characters, great writing, and a terrific plot.

Flavia Albia, the heroine of the story, is a private informer, what today we would call a private eye.  She is the adopted daughter of the well-known Roman informer Marcus Didius Falco.  Abandoned as an infant, Flavia knows nothing of her biological family.  Marcus and his wife Helena Justina found her wandering the streets of Londinium, Britannia, and brought her to civilization, to Rome.  Flavia is now twenty-nine, a full Roman citizen, a widow, and following in her father’s business.

What brings Flavia into the case at the center of the book is the tragic death of a three-year-old boy who was run over by a builder’s cart.  Flavia is hired by the owner of the building company to thwart the boy’s mother’s demand for compensatory payment.  Although unsympathetic to the owner Salvidia, a female informer can’t be too choosy when it comes to jobs, so Flavia takes the case.

After doing so, she reads a notice asking any witnesses to the accident to come forward.  Intrigued, Flavia goes to the Temple of Ceres, the headquarters of Manlius Faustus, the aedile (magistrate) for this area of Rome, to get more information.  Not having any luck at the Temple, she goes to his office where she meets Andronicus, the aedile’s clerk, and sexual sparks fly between them.  Andronicus tells her the aedile won’t assist her, but he lets her know that he’ll keep his eyes open to try to help.

Not having gained any insight into the case and disliking her client more and more, Flavia returns to the construction company to tell Salvidia that she is quitting.  When she gets there, she is told by the woman’s servant that Salvidia is dead, having come home from the market, gone to bed, and then stopped breathing.  Looking at the corpse, the only unusual thing the informer can see is a slight scratch on one of her arms, certainly nothing to cause death.

At Salvidia’s funeral the next day, Flavia meets the deceased’s neighbor, an elderly woman who concludes their conversation by saying, “You do what you can for her, dearie,” a statement Flavia interprets as the neighbor thinking that Savlidia died under suspicious circumstances.  And the following day, the neighbor is dead.

The writing in The Ides of April is excellent, always told in Flavia’s voice.  She can be empathic, as when she meets the family of another possible murder victim.  “Lupus the oyster-shucker would not easily be forgotten; I thought never,” she says to herself as she sees the family’s grief.  She can also be wry.  “…and (the man) could only come if his son was not using the false leg that day.  Assume I’m joking, if that comforts you.”

The Ides of April is the first in the Flavia Albia series.  The Marcus Falco series by this author is twenty novels long, and I’m hoping for at least that many for Flavia.  She’s a delight.  Hopefully, she’ll keep poking her nose into Rome’s secrets.

You can read more about Lindsey Davis at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads blog at her web site

Our MYSTERY MAVEN Marilyn Brooks

I’ve always been a reader and, starting with Nancy Drew (my favorite, of course), I became a mystery fan.  I think I find mysteries so satisfying because there’s a definite plot to follow, a storyline that has to make sense to be successful.  And, of course, there’s always the fun of trying to guess the ending.  My blog, published every Saturday,  can be found at www.marilynsmysteryreads.com.

MINING MARILYN’S MYSTERY “OLDIES” – DAVID MCCALLUM

Mining Marilyn Brooks’ popular blog, Marilyn’s Mystery Reads, for some of her past reviews, yielded another gem, this one from a more recent past and featuring none other than Illya Kuryakin!  

A NOTE FROM EDITOR SUE (Who Couldn’t Resist…)

Yes, it’s THAT David McCallum, “Dr. Ducky” on the popular TV show, NCIS.  But I’ve never actually got into NCIS–I was a Man from U.N.C.L.E. fanatic.   For me, it was all about Illya Kuryakin.  So smart.  So smooth. So…totally cool.  

Many years later, as an adult drama teacher in New York, I was traipsing the hallway connecting The Chapin School’s two buildings. A gathering of the parents of students accepted for the following year was in progress in the multi-purpose room, but one father seemed to be significantly more interested in the Lower School art work that covered the hallway.   He was crouched in front of an array of 3D pieces featuring fantastic flowers. As I approached, the man stood up and turned.   And I stopped–one foot frozen, I believe, in the air.  “Oh, my God…Illya Kuryakin…” I burbled.  “I wore black turtlenecks for years because of you…”  Oh, my God–I couldn’t believe it had fallen out of my mouth.  But, luckily,  McCallum laughed, graciously….just as graciously as he gave of his time to drama and speech events for the next many years.   A very gracious man indeed.

I had no idea he had begun writing mysteries and look forward to this treat.  And if you haven’t discovered it either, I suspect you will too. Thank you, Marilyn!

ONCE A CROOKED MAN by David McCallum: Book Review

Once a Crooked Man is a terrific read.  Starting with an overheard conversation outside the Fiery Dragon Chinese restaurant in New York City, traveling to South America and London and back again to Manhattan with corpses everywhere, David McCallum will have you hooked all the way.

It all begins when Carter Allinson II stops by a Starbucks in New York City and shares a table with a beautiful young woman.  Fiona Walker comes from a wealthy family, and shortly after their meeting the couple become engaged and Carter is welcomed into Fiona’s father’s investment firm.  As a college student Carter had supported himself by a little drug dealing, but with his upcoming wedding he wants to leave that behind him.

Not so fast, says gangster Sal Bruschetti, head of the organization that has been supplying Carter.  You don’t need to be doing any more minor-league dealing, but we need you for another reason.  We’ll be investing money with your father-in-law’s firm, and you’ll be handling all the investments in legitimate ways.  Otherwise, we’ll let the Walkers know about your history.  Carter doesn’t see that he has a choice in the matter, and so begins the long-term relationship between Carter and the three Bruschetti brothers.

None of this has anything to do with Harry Murphy, a fairly successful actor who works in television, on Broadway, and does voiceovers for commercials.  He’s on a Manhattan street when he has an immediate need for a bathroom.  Spotting the Fiery Dragon, he walks in on the Bruschettis in the midst of a “business” talk.  They order him out, but his need is so great that he decides to use the alley outside the building to relieve himself.  Thus he can’t help overhearing their conversation concerning a man in London that the trio is going to have killed.

The plot of Once a Crooked Man is a great one.  Ever impetuous, when Harry learns what the brothers have planned he decides to fly to England and warn the victim.  Once there, there’s no controlling the events that follow.  But Harry is a resourceful man with many talents.  Sometimes he’s a step ahead of the Bruschettis, sometimes a step behind, but he’s always in the midst of the action.

All the characters in this novel are terrific.  I was constantly surprised by the twists and turns the book took because of the things the individuals said and the ways they responded to events.  Carter, Harry, the British detective Lizzie Carswell, and Sal, Enzo, and Max Bruschetti are wonderfully drawn.  The plot goes from one cliffhanger to another, keeping the reader totally engaged up to the last page.

You may remember David McCallum from his many roles, starting with The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and continuing to the present in NCIS.  Now he is an author as well.  Let’s hope for many more books from this talented man.

You can read about David McCallum at various sites on the web.

Click (on the green) to check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads  where Marilyn posts new reviews every Saturday.  And be sure to leave a comment in the box below so we know you’re out there and reading!

Our MYSTERY MAVEN Marilyn Brooks

I’ve always been a reader and, starting with Nancy Drew (my favorite, of course), I became a mystery fan.  I think I find mysteries so satisfying because there’s a definite plot to follow, a storyline that has to make sense to be successful.  And, of course, there’s always the fun of trying to guess the ending!

 

 

APRIL’S MYSTERY MAVEN MARILYN: ONE PERFECT LIE

ONE PERFECT LIE

I really don’t know how Lisa Scottoline keeps writing one excellent mystery after another, but she does.  Her latest had me completely fooled until the author revealed the secret she’d kept for more than a third of the book.

One Perfect Lie opens with Chris Brennan interviewing for a position at the high school in Central Valley, Pennsylvania.  He’s made it his business to know exactly the type of substitute teacher the school administration wants, and he presents himself accordingly.  He’s observed the male high school staff and is dressed the way they are in what might be termed “school casual;” he’s even had his hair cut locally so that nothing about him will stand out or seem unusual.

His resumé is perfect, and the reasons he gives for the many moves he’s made in his life ring true.  It also helps that the school needs a substitute Government teacher at once, as the regular teacher left suddenly due to a family emergency.  Chris gives the principal, the only member of the school’s administration he hasn’t met previously, all the answers she wants and needs to hear, and so, he gets the job.  Then he thinks to himself, “It was time to set (the) plan in motion, commencing with step one.”

Step one is finding out about renting a truck from a local man who’s not too fussy about legalities.  The man assumes the vehicle is needed for a move, but Chris knows that the available twelve footer is the perfect size for transporting an ANFO bomb, an explosive with ingredients that are easy and safe to assemble.

During his first class Chris sets out to win over all the students, especially the boys.  He’s already deciding who the leaders and who the followers are, and he’s narrowed down the ones he’s interested in to just a handful.  He plans to cull the handful even more until he finds the perfect boy.  Between his teaching assignment and agreeing to be the assistant coach of the school’s baseball team, he expects to find just the right one; he’s in a hurry because the bombing is only six days away.

Lisa Scottoline is a master storyteller.  She brings to life the three teenagers in whom Chris shows the most interest.  There’s Evan Kostis, the handsome, smart student from a wealthy but unhappy family; there’s Raz Samatov, bereft over the recent death of his father; there’s Jordan Larkin, whose single mother is guilty over how much time she needs to work in order to provide for the two of them.  So what exactly does Chris want from the boy he decides to choose?

All of these characters, and many more equally well done and believable, inhabit the pages of One Perfect Lie.  Ms. Scottoline has written one more thriller that will keep you guessing until the end.

You can read more about Scottoline at: https://scottoline.com/

AND check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at:  marilynsmysteryreads.com  

Our MYSTERY MAVEN Marilyn Brooks

I’ve always been a reader and, starting with Nancy Drew (my favorite, of course), I became a mystery fan.  I think I find mysteries so satisfying because there’s a definite plot to follow, a storyline that has to make sense to be successful.  And, of course, there’s always the fun of trying to guess the ending!

 

 

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