Tag Archives: humor

Steven Axelrod — Nantucket Counterfeit

The book is a cross between a cozy mystery and a police procedural. Henry Kennis, Police Chief of Nantucket, is trying to solve the murder of Horst Refn, Artistic Director of the Nantucket Theater Lab. The crime follows the plot of the play the Theater Lab is working on, so of course, the author of the play is a person of interest. But the suspects are numerous, almost everyone who knew or worked with Refn. It appears he’s been scamming half the island. Even Kennis’s girlfriend Jane is identified by a witness as leaving the scene of the crime.

Kennis is a likable, easygoing detective who leads us down several wrong paths before landing the killer. The story is told with wit and warmth, and the setting of Nantucket takes me back to my visits to the island (although it seems a lot more crowded than 30 or so years ago).

Definitely a fun read.

Lee Child — The Midnight Line: A Jack Reacher Novel

A few days ago I watched a video of Stephen King interviewing Lee Child. Two of my favorite authors talking about writing—I loved it. In the interview, Lee Child talked about his lack of plotting. He said he asks a question at the beginning of the book and answers it by the end.

A friend had dropped off a copy of Child’s The Midnight Line and it was at the bottom of my “to read” pile next to my bed. I moved it to the top of the pile and quickly consumed it. I found that not only is there an unanswered question at the beginning, but there are more questions cropping up throughout the book. Each question needs to be answered, not necessarily in the order they appear in the story. The original question is answered long before the end of the book, but there are so many more that need answers, which kept me reading to the end.

In The Midnight Line Reacher finds a woman’s West Point class ring in a pawn shop in Wisconsin. His curiosity about why someone would pawn a ring that is so difficult to earn leads him to track her down and find out why. Reacher smells trouble and in his usual vigilante style sets out to solve the mystery and save the damsel in distress. His trek takes him through South Dakota into a sparsely populated corner of Wyoming.

Pronghorn in Wyoming

I read some reviews on Amazon and found a number who were not happy with this book. (Many more gave it high ratings.) The low raters all seemed to think it didn’t have enough action and violence. To me, there is much more to a Reacher novel than violence, and this one had plenty of action even though he wasn’t killing a lot of people.

I find Child’s unique writing style fascinating. I’m not sure I can describe it. Rhythmic, quick, and precise are words that come to mind. This book has an underlying theme about the current opiate addiction crisis and the government’s poor treatment of veterans. He gives in-depth pictures of characters and lets us follow Reacher’s calculation and planning. We even get a look at the possible thoughts and behaviors of addicts. Child took me on a journey through the back-country of Southern Wyoming.

The book has all of my three H’s—head, heart, and humor. I feel he’s an excellent writer and storyteller. He doesn’t follow the rules, but that makes the reading more interesting. You never know what to expect.

Robert Crais — The Wanted

Devon Conner’s teenage son Tyson has run off and she’s worried that he’s into something illegal with new friends that she doesn’t approve of. She hires Elvis Cole to find him and to find out what kind of trouble he’s in. Cole finds that Tyson and his friends have been robbing homes of the very rich around Los Angeles. When Tyson’s friend Alec is murdered, Tyson and friend Amber don’t believe it. They continue to live the high life and hide from his mother.

Not only does Crais write good plots, he writes with humor and his characters are always interesting. Elvis Cole and his sidekick muscle Joe Pike have been around for many of Crais’s novels, yet they haven’t become boring. The young thieves in The Wanted have individual and credible personalities. Even the bad guys who are killing people have interests other than murder.

I’ve given up on many of the prolific authors who write series novels, but not Robert Crais. He still holds my attention.

M.C. Beaton — Death of an Honest Man

Scottish Police Sergeant Hamish Macbeth is an offbeat character, and so are all the others in this murder mystery. Even a wildcat is a character in the story. A newcomer insults all the people he comes into contact with, so when his body turns up in the heath bog, Hamish’s list of suspects includes most everyone in the area.

This is a fun read full of unbelievable happenings and Hamish breaking the rules again and again. He also manages to lose every assistant his superiors send him—some to become chefs and sheep herders, one to marriage.

I will look for more of Beaton’s books.

John Keyse-Walker — Beach, Breeze, Bloodshed

BVI Constable Teddy Creque is called on to capture a shark that has attacked and killed a woman off Virgin Gorda. But sharks don’t usually attack humans unless they are dead or wounded, and Teddy sees a cut on the woman’s neck that doesn’t appear to be caused by shark’s teeth.

The story unfolds around unique characters, including a brilliant boy who almost never speaks, a parrot who repeats everything he hears, a Russian ex-spy, “De White Rasta” Teddy’s cohort from the previous story, and various other fascinating participants.

bananaquits
Bananaquits

For me, the setting draws me back to the islands. I can picture the people, the shops and houses, the tropical flowers, the warm humid air, the beautiful clear water—even the birds are familiar. I haven’t seen or heard of a bananaquit since I lived in the Bahamas where they would join me for breakfast on the veranda, stealing my food.

I also appreciate that the author didn’t drag us through the protagonist’s depression as many crime novels do. Teddy apparently went through a period of moping over his mistakes and his affair with a not-so-nice woman between novels. But he mostly has his act together by the time this story happens, although he doubts his policing skills from time to time.

Keyse-Walker’s second novel is as engaging as his first. He again captures the spirit of Caribbean island life. This time on Virgin Gorda, a tiny bit faster-paced than Anegada where his first book took place, due to more people, more tourists, etc.

I’m delighted that I went back for seconds.

Joanne Harris — Different Class

Something bad happened at St. Oswald’s boys’ school twenty-four years ago. What was it and who was responsible? Different Class is a British literary, psychological suspense story, which takes place in 1981 and 2005. This novel reveals many secrets slowly. More than once, you think you know what happened, only to find out you’re wrong.

Roy Straightly has been the school’s Latin master for thirty years. One of his least favorite students from 1981 returns to the school as headmaster to bring the old institution into the 21st century. Straightly resists in every possible way.

The point of view in 2005 is mostly Straightly’s, and we see the events of 1981 mainly through a journal of an unknown student. The novel started a bit slow, and I almost stopped reading. But the unanswered questions and suspense kept me reading, and the more I read, the more I enjoyed it. In addition to the twists and turns and suspense, Harris throws in dark humor, murder, and underlying themes about class differences, friendships,  revenge, and acceptance of others.

A very good read.

Tim Dorsey — Clownfish Blues

The protagonist of Dorsey’s twenty-plus books is Serge Storms, a psychotic serial killer who thinks up unique ways to punish or kill people who are hurting others. Coleman is a drugged-out sidekick to tea-totaling Serge. Clownfish Blues main plot (if it has one) revolves around the Florida lottery.

Dorsey skips between places, events, times, and people, so you don’t know where the story is going. Sometimes he seems to throw in characters from previous novels just for the sake of mentioning them, not to advance the story. Serge is unbelievable, Coleman is getting boring in his drunken stupor, the plots are thin, but Dorsey makes me laugh.

His stories are an exaggerated view of reality in Florida. The highways and byways visited by Serge and Coleman are real or based on real places. I enjoy the tours around the state.

So even though there are many things about Dorsey’s writing that I wouldn’t put up with from other authors, I enjoy his weird tales. As I said, he makes me laugh.

Carl Hiaasen — Tourist Season

Carl Hiaasen writes black humor about Florida. Tourist Season is one of his earlier books written in 1986.

It’s obvious to me that Hiaasen loves Florida but not necessarily the developers and the tourists. The villain in Tourist Season, Skip Wiley, is a columnist for the Miami Sun who feels the same as the author about Florida, but more vehemently. He goes over the edge of sanity and forms a rag-tag band of terrorists made up of crazy Cuban, a Seminole, and a black ex-football player. They commit kidnappings, bombings, and murder to create headlines that will send the tourists and developers back north and leave Florida to the wildlife.

Brian Keyes is a reporter turned private investigator. He is hired to find a couple of missing persons (kidnapped and disposed of by the terrorists), then hired by the editor of the Sun to find Wiley, and finally hired as a bodyguard for the Orange Bowl queen.

The book is filled with murder, mayhem, and lots of humor. I thoroughly enjoy reading Hiaasen.

Dennis Lehane — Since We Fell

I met Dennis Lehane once at a book signing in Boston and I’ve seen him on television a few times. He seems like an easygoing likeable person with a twinkle of humor in his eyes. But Lehane writes dark stories. His characters are twisted. He examines his characters minds good and bad—their delights, doubts, and demons. Great stuff!

The first part of Since We Fell follows Rachel Childs from a childhood with a dominating mother and no father, through a successful career as a journalist in Boston and an unsuccessful marriage, to a breakdown on camera in Haiti while covering the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. Her husband leaves her, she’s fired from her job, and she becomes a virtual shut-in.

Enter second husband, Brian Delacroix, who understands her (unlike first husband), treats her with loving kindness, and helps her overcome her phobias. Perfect husband…or is he?

The story is filled with questions, conspiracies, murder, and surprises. Is it a psychological thriller, a literary novel, crime novel, or something that doesn’t fall into any genre or category? It fits all three of my classifications of head, heart, and even some humor.

Charles River, Boston
Charles River, Boston

The setting is mostly in Boston, my favorite city in the world. It made me feel at home.

In my opinion, Dennis Lehane is one of the today’s best authors.

Alexander McCall Smith — Precious and Grace

I’m not sure The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series of novels fits in any genre—maybe cozy mystery. If you are tired of reading fast-paced thrillers, this book will slow you down. It’s a relaxing pleasant read.

The protagonist, Mma Precious Ramotswe, owner and founder of the detective agency in Gaborone, Botswana, has a unique personality unlike any I’ve encountered in other novels or in real life. She sees the positive in life and in the people around her, overlooking others faults and misbehaviors, especially those of her “partner,” Mma Grace Makutsi. Even though Mma Ramotswe owns the agency and hired Mma Makutsi as a secretary, Grace self-promoted herself to assistant detective and now co-director, even insinuating to a client that she started the business. Unlike Precious, Grace is not tolerant of others real or perceived faults. But Precious doesn’t like to argue; she would rather relax with a cup of tea.

The plot revolves around a Canadian woman who was born in Botswana and left when she was eight years old. She wants to reconnect with her past and is looking for the house she lived in and the woman who cared for her as a child. This is difficult because the Canadian only has a very old fuzzy photo and Gaborone has grown and changed much in thirty years. No crime involved there, but there are subplots.

A part-time assistant of Mma Ramotswe, Mr. Polopetsi, becomes involved in a pyramid scheme. Precious takes it upon herself to unwind Mr. Polopetsi from the tangle into which he’s naively fallen. And there is also a stray dog who keeps showing up that Precious feels needs a home.

As I said in the beginning, this is not a fast-paced thriller. This is a gentle, people oriented, relaxing novel.