The Madness of Crowds – Louise Penny

The setting of the 16th Inspector Gamache book returns to Three Pines. Post-pandemic issues dominate, in particular a repulsive social agenda that promotes mandatory state-sanctioned euthanasia for vulnerable groups. What follows is a debate over free speech and academic freedom, that of course escalates into a cracking good murder mystery: a very enjoyable read.

April in Spain – John Banville

Banville is a superb writer, a Booker Prize winner. This book is a mystery, so the key elements are time (early 1950s) and place (Dublin and Northern Spain). Banville writes beautifully descriptive phrases; a character is described by “petulance was a pastime”. With such good writing, the plot exposition becomes subtle and effortless – very enjoyable.

The Apollo Murders – Chris Hadfield

The accomplished Canadian astronaut has written a very good first novel about Soviet-USA cold war espionage in space in the early 1970s. As you would expect, the story is technically perfect, all about spy satellites and a rocket ship to the moon. Perhaps somewhat surprising, the plot is very good with lots of wicked villains. Very entertaining read.

The Maid – Nita Prose

Molly is a 25-year-old maid at the Regency Grand Hotel where her goal is making the cleaning of guest suites into an act of perfection. When she finds a dead body in a guest suite, her behaviour as a neurodivergent individual together with the manipulative actions of some nasty criminals raises suspicions such that she is accused of murder. Think Amelia Bedelia in a murder mystery. Entirely delightful, highly recommended.

A Marvellous Light – Freya Marske

Imagine you ae a civil servant in Edwardian London (1908) and are suddenly and unexpectedly assigned to a new position in the Office of Special Domestic Affairs and Complaints, where your role is to be a liaison to magicians. What a wonderful premise for a first novel about a muggle learning that magic exists. And there is a cracking good mystery about a lost document, curses and spells, and even an enchanted malevolent maze! Overall, very entertaining.

The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections – Eva Jurczyk

A rare book collection at a University Library become a vehicle for prestige, resulting in cut-throat politics in academia. And when a rare book goes missing, the plot thickens to become an intriguing mystery. The politics of gender, academic rivalries, suspicions, and the uncomfortable relationship with donors are all described perfectly.

When The Stars Go Dark -Paula McLain

Anna is a police detective who flees San Francisco for Mendocino due to a personal tragedy where she becomes involved in a missing person investigation. What distinguishes this novel from most police procedural stories is the impeccable research. The context for missing persons: fleeing an abusive situation, or an abduction? This is a very fine book, to be expected by the author of The Paris Wife and Circling The Sun.

Mirrrorland – Carole Johnstone

 A psychological thriller that reminds me of Gone Girl. Two estranged identical twin sisters are living with repressed memories that have been replaced by childhood imagination. There is a sinister gothic family home in Edinburgh, a missing person, and many devious plot twists driven in part by clues from a mysterious source. What is real and what is imagined? Overall, a deeply satisfying story.

The Man Who Died Twice – Richard Osman

Another delightful Thursday Murder Club mystery: Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron, and Ibrahim investigate missing diamonds and then several murders. As before, this is a warm and clever story, in large part about friendships. It is also deeply philosophical about aging – a real pleasure to read.