Readers offer mysteries for your reading pleasure


I love a good mystery. I've written two columns on mysteries this year and received several recommendations from readers who also like this genre. Here are some gems that you might enjoy.

Sue Osterman enjoyed "The Reaper" by Peter Lovesey (2003). Reverend Otis Joy, a handsome priest who is also a wickedly intelligent serial killer, manages to earn a great deal of the reader's sympathy while dramatically whittling down his flock in the English village of Foxford. Sue comments that this book is a fun read because as the bodies begin to pile up, the reader is the only one who knows what's happening. There's no mystery involved -- what holds the reader's attention is the lasting question: will he be caught? Along the way, the author plants deceptive clues and raises false hopes about Reverend Joy's fate. Lovesey is also the author of the Peter Diamond mysteries, the Sergeant Cribb mysteries and the Bertie, Prince of Wales novels.

"A Death in Vienna" by Frank Tallis (2006), a clever "locked room" mystery with a truly ingenious solution was another favorite of Sue Osterman. Max Liebermann, a contemporary of Freud, is at the forefront of psychoanalysis, practicing the controversial new science with all the skill of a master detective. Max's best friend and confidante is Detective Oskar Reinhardt, who often calls on Max for his expert opinion. Max's superior powers of observation and his expertise in diseases of the mind make him an excellent amateur sleuth. Oskar presents his friend with a case involving a beautiful young medium who is found dead in her sitting room. She was apparently shot, but no bullet or exit wound was found. All signs point to a supernatural killer, but Liebermann, the scientist, is not so easily convinced. Set at the turn of the 20th century, Tallis depicts his large cast of characters with flair, and includes pointed social commentary about the political situation in Vienna, the role of women during the era, and the anti-Semitism that was poisoning the atmosphere in Austria. The book has a cliffhanger ending which will entice readers to stay tuned for the next installment in this series.

To learn more about Turkey, Dorothy Knudson recommends British author Barbara Nadel's 13-book series about ?áetin ƒ?kmen, a chain-smoking and hard-drinking detective on the Istanbul police force. "Belshazzar's Daughter" (1999) is the first book in the series. The city of Istanbul provides a rich background for an engaging plot and a cast of remarkably well developed, colorful characters.

Mark Koonz recommends Johan Theorin's "Echoes from the Dead" (2008) winner of Sweden's Best First Crime Novel Award. The story takes place many years after a woman's young son disappeared from their home on an island. The passing years did not bring peace to her, because she didn't know what happened - was he murdered or did he get lost? Was he dead or alive, and how could she know for sure? Her father, a retired sea captain, has devoted his time to searching for clues and thinks he has found something important. As the story proceeds, the reader is in for many surprises.

"Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter: A Novel" by Tom Franklin (2010) was recommended by Debbe Rush. The novel revolves around two men, Larry Ott and Silas "32" Jones, who were friends for a short time during their childhoods in the late 1970's in rural Mississippi. Silas went on to become a high school baseball star while Larry was relegated to "weirdo" status as an odd duck. Larry's status went from harmless to dangerous when he picked up a girl for a drive-in movie date, and she was never seen again. More than twenty years have passed. Silas has returned as a constable. He and Larry have no reason to cross paths until another girl disappears and Larry is blamed again. The two men who once called each other friend are forced to confront the past they've buried and ignored for decades.

Mark Mill's debut novel, "Amagansett" (2005) was recommended by Joanne Wertz and Roxanne Jensen. The novel begins with two fishermen finding the body of a beautiful woman tangled in their net off Amagansett, Long Island. Both deny recognizing her, but one of them, Conrad Labarde, is lying. Was she murdered, or was this just an unfortunate drowning? The autopsy report raises the possibility of murder and Deputy Tom Hollis uncovers Labarde's history with the dead woman. Both Hollis and Conrad Labarde are determined to find the killer. Hollis because he needs to salvage his reputation after a scandal drove him from the New York Police Force; Conrad because he and Lillian had been having an affair. Set in 1947, the murder reveals the discord between the rich who summer at beachfront houses and the men who live and work at the shore.

Our 13-year-old grandson, Connor Chochrek, recommends "And Then There Was One" by Patricia Gussin (2010). Katie and Scott Monroe have identical triplet daughters, Sammie, Alex, and Jackie. This picture-perfect family shatters when the girls go to a movie and only one of them, Jackie, emerges from the theater. What happened to her sisters? The parents struggle to cope as Jackie suffers from survivor's guilt. Gussin, a family physician, does an excellent job portraying a family under stress. Readers plunge into the middle of the action immediately and are kept on the edge of their seats as false leads and multiple suspects muddle the search.

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