OCTOBER FIELD OF MYSTERY: NORTHERN SPY

Sometimes you hit a dud, a book that nobody in the book group finds particularly good or interesting, and that pretty much happened in the Field of Mystery Group with our most recent selection, Solitude Creek, by Jeffrey Deaver (for some reason, I found it nearly impossible to get the name of that book right; you would not believe some of the things I called it, entirely innocently).  We still managed to have a lively discussion of the book and what its flaws were, and then when the time came for us to decide on the book for October, we were surprisingly united in our first round choice of Northern Spy, by Flynn Berry.  We will be meeting on October 1, and copies of the book were put on hold and are already coming in to the library.

The book is set in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in the present time.  Though the Good Friday Peace Accords of the 1990’s stopped a great deal of the sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, the IRA is still around and still a problem.  Our protagonist, Tessa, is a new mother working as a producer for the BBC.  When the IRA commits a robbery and there’s a shot of a young woman putting on a mask just before the robbery, the police think it’s Tessa’s sister, and she does resemble Tessa’s sister, but Tessa is confident they’re wrong.  Her sister is against violence and besides, she was on holiday when the robbery took place.  As she digs into the facts of the case, trying to prove her sister’s innocence, Tessa finds herself torn between conflicting loyalties, struggling with her sense of right and wrong, and her desperate need to protect her family, including her baby.

This should be an exciting read and an interesting discussion.  Come and get the book out from the library and then join us on October 1 for discussion and refreshments.

FEAR IS THE ENEMY: FIELD OF MYSTERY’S SEPTEMBER SELECTION, SOLITUDE CREEK

The Field of Mystery Book Group had another interesting discussion on Saturday, especially considering that the group was pretty divided on one of the most important elements of our August book, The Book of Cold Cases.  Whether you liked the supernatural element or not (and it was a really significant supernatural element, with a real haunting and a ghost who makes the climax happen), there was plenty to talk about, including how the book could have been written without the ghosts.  After the discussion, we chose our book for our September meeting (which will be on the 10th rather than the 3rd, so we don’t run into Labor Day Weekend): Solitude Creek, by Jeffrey Deaver.

Surprisingly, the group hasn’t read Deaver before, even though he is a prolific mystery/thriller writer who has written numerous series of books and has been nominated for many mystery awards, including a lifetime achievement award from the Boucheron convention and eight Edgar awards. Solitude Creek stars one of his series characters, Kathryn Dance.

At a concert, someone shouts “Fire” and the people panic, rushing for the exits, which are blocked.  Some people are trampled to death.  It turns out there was never any fire; someone deliberately set up the people to panic and die.  

Kathryn Dance is a brilliant investigator with the California Bureau of Investigations, and as she starts looking into this case, she discovers the perpetrator is a person obsessed with using people’s fears to kill them.  He’s just getting started with the concert, and Kathryn realizes that he’s going to go for bigger and more dramatic killings unless she can stop him first.

Copies of the book will be available at the Circulation Desk of the Field Library.  Join us for our usual scintillating discussion, and, of course, coffee and donuts, on September 10 from 10:30 to 12:00.

AUGUST FIELD OF MYSTERY: THE BOOK OF COLD CASES

The Field of Mystery Book Group had an especially stimulating discussion on Saturday of The Long Call, as is often the case when we have a book that some people really like and some people don’t.  There was plenty of interesting material to talk about with this book, and at least some of us will probably be looking for more books by Ann Cleeves.  Then we had a really easy time picking the book we’re going to be reading for August, which is The Book of Cold Cases, by Simone St. James (as an aside, I’m a little surprised we didn’t pick The Verifiers, which was another of the choices and one of the more intriguing possibilities – probably I’ll read it myself soon).

Years before, two men in the same area by similar means and with similar cryptic notes left on their bodies. Beth Greer, a rich and eccentric woman, was seen leaving the scene of one of the murders, and was charged with the crimes, but acquitted (shades of Lizzie Borden).  No one else was ever caught and charged.  Beth went back to her family mansion to live more or less as a recluse.

Shea is working as a receptionist by day, and running a true crime website by night.  Her choice of hobby is a little odd, given that she’s the victim of an attempted kidnapping by a man who’s coming up for parole soon.  Chance brings her into contact with Beth, and, not expecting any kind of response, she asks if she can interview Beth.  To Shea’s great surprise, Beth agrees, but on her terms: in her home, when she chooses.  Shea’s torn between delight that she might be getting the scoop of her life, and worry that she might be getting manipulated by a sociopath.  

Copies of the book will be available at the Circulation Desk shortly, and we’ll be meeting on August 6 at 10:30 (refreshments served!) for a discussion.  Join us if you can.

THE LONG CALL: JULY SELECTION FOR FIELD OF MYSTERY

After an invigorating discussion of our June selection, My Sweet Girl, which many of the members of the group didn’t particularly like, the Field of Mystery Group had little trouble selecting our book for July, which is The Long Call, by Ann Cleeves.

Ann Cleeves is a name familiar to mystery readers; she already has two excellent series, the Vera Stanhope series and the Shetland series, both of which have already been made into television programs.  The Long Call marks the beginning of a third series, this one based on the Two Rivers area of Devon, England.

Detective Matthew Venn grew up in a tightly knit, closed minded strict evangelical community in North Devon, and left it when he became an adult, losing his family as well as his community.  When he returns to his former home for his father’s funeral, he feels decidedly unwelcome,   While he’s leaving the funeral, he gets a call from his team that a body has washed up on the shore, a man with an albatross tattoo, clearly murdered.  

To solve the case, Matthew has to dig deeply into the home he left behind and the lives and secrets of the people he thought he knew.  His former life and his present life collide in painful, revealing, ways.

Copies of the book will be available at the Circulation Desk.  Come and join us on July 9 at 10:30 for what should be an interesting discussion (they’re always interesting discussions, whether we like the book or not), and coffee and refreshments.

FIELD OF MYSTERY FOR JUNE: MY SWEET GIRL

You don’t need to agree on all aspects of a book to have a good discussion.  The Field of Mystery Group had some major disagreements about certain aspects of our May book, Razorblade Tears, but we had a wide-ranging and fascinating discussion about the themes and characters of the book nonetheless.  And we managed to choose our book for June, which is My Sweet Girl by Amanda Jayatissa.

Talk about an intriguing premise and opening!  Paloma, the protagonist of My Sweet Girl, is a young woman who was adopted from a Sri Lankan orphanage as a child, and brought up with the best of everything.  When we meet her, for some reason she has been cut off from her adoptive parents’ money, and is trying to find a way to pay off her roommate, who is blackmailing her about something to do with her past in Sri Lanka.  She comes home to discover her roommate dead in a pool of blood.  When the police arrive on the scene, not only is the roommate’s body not there, nor is there any evidence of any murder, but there’s no evidence he was ever there in the first place.  Is Paloma’s secret safe, now that her would-be blackmailer is dead?  Or is she in more trouble than ever from whoever killed her roommate?  And what’s that secret she’s so terrified that anyone else will discover, and what, exactly, happened between her and her adoptive parents to make them cut her off?  

Copies of the book are already available at the Field Library circulation desk.  Join us when we meet on Saturday, June 4, at 10:30 (later than our usual meeting time) to discuss what promises to be a fun read.

MAY FIELD OF MYSTERY: RAZORBLADE TEARS

Saturday the Field of Mystery Book group got together to discuss April’s book, The Keeper of Lost Causes, by Jussi Adler-Olson.  While we all liked certain aspects of the book, we had a lively discussion about the aspects of the book different members found problematic.  At our previous meeting, in March, we chose the book for the month of May, since the next meeting will be coming up quickly.  The book is Razorblade Tears, by S. A. Cosby, and copies are already available at the circulation desk.

Razorblade Tears is by the author of the excellent Blacktop Wasteland. Two men, both former convicts, one white, one black, have nothing in common except their gay sons, who are married to each other.  Neither father was terribly accepting of his son’s sexual identity, but when those sons are murdered, the two men find themselves working together to face their prejudices and avenge their sons, trying to do better for their sons after their deaths than the men were able to do when they were still alive.  Cosby’s a great writer of action and suspense, and his characters in Blacktop Wasteland were vivid and unforgettable, so we have every reason to expect an excellent read from this book.

We’ll be meeting on May 7 from 10 a.m. till 11:30.  You can come and pick up a copy of the book at the Circulation Desk now, and we look forward to getting together and discussing the book then.

APRIL FIELD OF MYSTERY: THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES

The Field of Mystery Book Group met on Saturday (our largest attendance to date!), and discussed our March book, No One Will Miss Her.  It was a great discussion since we were almost perfectly divided between those who enjoyed the book as a fairly light entertaining read and those who really disliked the book and found it repetitive and/or unbelievable.  One thing I love about this group is that we can and do disagree about literature without becoming argumentative or nasty to each other.   

We had a tough time deciding on our next book, but ended up choosing The Keeper of Lost Causes, by Jussi Adler Olsen.  Copies of the book are available at the Circulation Desk and will be ready for us to meet and discuss on April 23, 2022 (later than our usual date because I’ll be out of town on our usual date).

The Keeper of Lost Causes is the first book in the Department Q series.  Anyone who has read my blog knows about my love of Nordic Noir (for want of a better term), so I’m delighted we’re going to read a book by one of the best selling Nordic mystery writers, set in Copenhagen, if for no other reason than to give us a taste of the sub-genre.

Carl Mork, the protagonist of the book, used to be a great detective, but that was before the nearly-career-ending injury that left him physically and emotionally damaged and killed some of his colleagues. He’s been “promoted” to Department Q, which he discovers is a cold case department where he’s virtually the only officer.  The higher ups are hoping he can finish out his time on the force there, without causing himself or anyone else any trouble.

However, Carl finds himself getting interested in one of the cold cases, the disappearance five years earlier of a female politician.  There were no leads, the case was more or less given up on, everyone assuming that the politician is dead.  Carl doesn’t believe that, and it turns out he’s right: the politician is alive.  How long she’s going to continue to be alive, and where she’s been all this time is another question, and one Carl has to solve quickly.

It should be a good read, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the other members of the group respond to it, and what kind of good discussion we’re going to have about this one.  Come and join us if you can.

FIELD OF MYSTERY FOR MARCH: NO ONE WILL MISS HER

After a rousing discussion about Victorians’ attitudes toward death and class and other fascinating issues raised by our February book, Inspector of the Dead, the Field of Mystery Group turned to the difficult question of what book we’re going to read for our March 5 meeting. 

After two rounds of voting, we agreed on the Edgar Award nominated book, No One Will Miss Her, by Kat Rosenfield.  Copies of the book will be available at the Circulation Desk presently.

No One Will Miss Her takes place in rural Maine, a small town where everybody knows everybody else’s business and a man who moves there and lives there for forty years is still considered a newcomer.  The book begins with a fire in the local junkyard, which leads to the discovery of the body of Lizzie Oulette, the town reject.  Her probably abusive husband has vanished as well, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find out what happened, except that things aren’t necessarily what they seem.  The book is narrated by different characters, including Lizzie from beyond the grave (an interesting perspective on events), and the case turns on the interesting relationship between Lizzie the outcast and the woman who rents Lizzie’s house for a vacation home.  That woman, Adrienne Richards, seems to be everything Lizzie is not: successful, beautiful, married, a well-known social influencer.  Did she have anything to do with Lizzie’s death?  How?

Join us on March 5 for what should be a fascinating discussion of an intriguing mystery, a different take on the trope of the missing girl.

GOING AFTER VICTORIA: INSPECTOR OF THE DEAD, FEBRUARY’S FIELD OF MYSTERY SELECTION

A book that some people really like and other people dislike is an excellent book group book. I know I’ve said this before, but conflict makes for good discussions, and good discussions are the heart blood of book groups.  So when the Field of Mystery Book Group met to discuss 1222 this past Saturday, we had a divided group and a very lively discussion, including the issue of whether people want to be able to guess the criminal from the clues in the book or whether they just want to be along for the ride (for the record, I’m in the former group), and even some discussion of group dynamics and the extent to which The Lord of the Flies is an accurate depiction of human behavior.

After all that, it was surprisingly easy to choose our book for February, 2022, which is Inspector of the Dead by David Morrell.  Copies of the book will be available at the Field Library Circulation Desk.

Inspector of the Dead is a historical mystery, set in Victorian England, and featuring a real life character (and I mean that in every sense of the word), Thomas de Quincy, as the primary investigator, with help from his daughter, Emily, and two friends of theirs in Scotland Yard.  In 1855, the Crimean War is blazing and English commanders are losing battles due to their incompetence.  Public disaffection with the war and with the government itself is rising, and now there’s a killer going after high ranking members of the British aristocracy.  As if that weren’t bad enough, the killer leaves names of people who have attempted to assassinate Queen Victoria in the past with the bodies of his victims.  It becomes disturbingly clear that his ultimate goal is to kill the queen herself, if de Quincy and his companions don’t stop him.

A historical mystery can be great fun, especially when the author mixes real life people in with the fictional characters.  Join us for what promises to be a fun read and a lively discussion on February 12 at the Field Library.

FIELD OF MYSTERY APPROACHES THE NEW YEAR WITH A BANG: 1222

The Field of Mystery Book Club, meeting for the last time in 2021 on Saturday, had a rousing discussion about our December selection, The Devotion of Suspect X, by Keigo Higashino.  We were delighted by the intricacies of the plot, discussed our mixed feelings about whether the crime in this case (or crimes, as it turned out) should be solved or whether the character(s) should get away with murder, and wondered whether Ishigma was a decent math teacher or not (we concluded he probably wasn’t).  The battle of wits intrigued us all, regardless of our feelings for some of the other characters.  Then, when it came time to choose our selection for January, we had no trouble at all making the selection (on the first vote!): 1222 by Anne Holt.

You could think of this book as a sort of Norwegian And Then There Were None.  The story begins with a train derailment in winter in northern Norway, in the middle of a blizzard.  The passengers leave the train to stay, temporarily, in an old hotel that’s all but abandoned, with only a skeleton crew of staff staying there. Among the passengers is one Hanne Wilhelmsen, a former police officer, now confined to a wheelchair after a gunshot wound, and it turns out to be fortuitous that someone as sharp as Hanne is among them, because almost immediately one of the passengers dies in the hotel.  Hanne starts looking into the death, and another person dies.  Everyone’s still stuck in the hotel due to the blizzard, and it’s beginning to seem like a death trap, where time is running out.

Copies of the book are available at The Field Library circulation desk, so come in and pick yours up and then get ready for what should be a dynamic read and a fascinating discussion when we have our first meeting in 2022 on January 8 at the library.