Fifty-Four Pigs – Philipp Schott

Mystery-crime stories are influenced markedly by context (time and place) and the “amateur sleuth” (think Miss Marple and Jessica Fletcher) is a special genre. This intriguing first novel is about a crime-solving veterinarian in Manitoba who uses logic and his dog Pippin’s remarkable nose to investigate when a swine barn explodes, revealing a murder victim. Totally charming.

The Employees – Olga Ravn

This is a fascinating and original story. The Six Thousand spaceship has both a human and humanoid crew. The ship removes strange objects from the planet New Discovery. The story is told as a series of statements, like an HR debrief. Is this part of an investigation? What causes tension among the humanoids? Is this an existential nightmare? Much is left to our imaginations; very entertaining.

Something To Hide – Elizabeth George

The latest Inspector Lynley book is, as always, a joy to read. Barbara Havers is reasonably well-behaved although considerable attention is given to her appalling diet! Lynley has issues in his personal relationships which reveal much about his personality. This long book (1263 pages as an e-book) has only one murder, so considerable attention is focussed on the context: female genital mutilation in London.

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.