Mysteries! There’s something about them that pulls readers in. Maybe it’s the puzzling out alongside the protagonist. Maybe it’s the urge to learn new stuff like what IS an undetectable poison. Maybe mysteries appeal because you get a two-fer (or more): the traditional structure of a novel with its plot and then the crime that interferes with the character’s lives and must be resolved to re-establish the status quo.
The range of mystery sub-genres means there is likely something for anyone who likes mysteries. You can get a cozy (off-screen murder) with an amateur sleuth that often offers something else like recipes or knitting patterns all the way to police procedurals that give all the gory detail one would want along with info about how professionals solve crimes.
Today, we offer reviews of mysteries with humor.
Sharon’s Pick: MURDER SHE TYPED by Sylvia Selfman
Murder She Typed, an Izzy Greene Senior Snoops Mystery is the first in this delightful new series. The book sort of fits a category I like to call “crone lit”, literature featuring “women of a certain age”. Not that Izzly likes being a “woman of a certain age” which creates its own hilarious moments.
Izzy is writing a book. Or is she? She joins a retirement-crowd writer’s group seeking inspiration and motivation to finish her novel, but despite encouragement from her teacher and some classmates, she struggles with finishing anything, even short stories. She is self-deprecatory but essentially has a good sense of self which is needed as she becomes embroiled in crime.
The cast of characters includes her smart-mouthed friend who challenges Izzy to be better, but supports her when she can’t. The writing group is filled with seniors’ humor and stereotypes that work well in this context (Early Bird dinner specials, seeking free stuff, and so on). Oh, and the senior dating scene provides lots of humor and angst for Izzy and friends.
All seems to be going well until one of the writing group members dies. Or is she dead? And is someone coming after Izzy because she investigates in her haphazard way? Or is she just being paranoid? Certainly the police don’t help, so Izzy, reluctantly solves the crime.
One problem with many cozy mysteries is that some things an amateur detective does defies rational thought, and this book is guilty of the same. Sometimes, too, she puts things together rather quickly from sparse clues, another flaw in many cozies.
Izzy takes risks, given all that befalls her, that sometimes don’t make sense. If you think someone is out to kill you, why would you agree to meet in a dark and secluded area? If you suspend disbelief, and just go with it, you can enjoy the fun of the mystery, but don’t expect to learn how to really solve crimes!
If you like your murders with humor, this new series of Senior Snoops Mysteries might be your poison.
Kathy’s Pick: JUST ADD WATER – the Hetta Coffey Mysteries by Jinx Schwartz
I needed a distraction this long, looonnggg weekend. On the advice of one of my writeonsisters, I downloaded the first book of Jinx Schwartz’s Hetta Coffey series, Just Add Water. My nose didn’t come up from my iPad except for certain life maintenance issues – food, water, wine, and bathroom breaks.
Having just now finished the sixth book of the series, JUST NEEDS KILLIN’, I can truly say my weekend was hot, steamy, funny, relaxing, and a jolly romp. I suspended my disbelief and just went with it. Don’t be impressed – the six books are fast, easy, and move quickly.
Hetta Coffey has a snazzy yacht and she’s not afraid to use it. She’s a thirty-something single engineer, low on love and luck, high on libido. Her BFF Jan is the beauty, she is the brawn. Together they make some alcohol-fueled fun, get into scrapes, and flirt, drink, and swear like sailors. The one-liner’s’ll kill ya.
These are two Texas gems who grab life by the cajones and pull. Their menfolk, when they finally find and commit to them, are not amused. Hetta and Jan go off on their romps willy-nilly like silly twits and always come up smelling like roses – and are always rescued by a man who turns out to be a good guy – or is he?
We start out with Hetta, recently back from a two-year jaunt in Tokyo, where she was engaged to a man who turned out to be a criminal. Somehow he ends up face down in her hot tub in her renovated house in Oakland. The hijinks spring from there.
You’re pulled in by the strong females, the dog, the house, and the idea of starting over. Hetta somehow buys a boat. Not a boat, a yacht. An expensive, top of the line, luxury yacht. She has no experience and is completely, blissfully unaware of what’s ahead. She sells her house after her dog dies (the only real slice of life), moves on board and promptly takes the vessel down to Mexico.
We have murder, suspense, drug-running, a bird that does tricks, murder (did I say that already?), a beheading or two, sunken ships, pirates, Saudi princes, scads of money being spent, nuclear rods, winery business, kidnappings, wine, gin, beer, bloody marys, crates of champagne, what we suspect is an undercover agent or two, (but we never find out) and wine (did I say that already?) an iguana, a crazy aunt, and finally a new dog.
That’s just for starters.
The last book was a bit disappointing, in that Hetta, who I had thought a nice, strong female who may not follow the rules, at least had some integrity. She did the wrong thing for the right reason, using the-end-justified-the-means-mentality. But in the first few pages, we discover she wants to kill someone. Really kill them. Then she and Jan have plans to take some of the goods from a sunken treasure galleon for their own gain, even when they are on a junket run by Jan’s boyfriend to recover the lost treasure – lost by his own ancestors! In the end they don’t rob the entire thing, but do manage to creep away with a few treasures in secret. Disappointing.
What we have here are six books that are pure and simple beach reads. Nothing too taxing, scary, or contemplative. Just right for a long, hot weekend. Take them all, as I did, and drop everything else in your life (sometimes you just have to stop the world and get off), or take them bits and pieces at a time, and enjoy the ride.
As for me, I’ll stay a landlubber, thank you very much. It’s safer.