Monday, June 9, 2014

Summer reading: mysteries

Summer reading lists are proliferating in various media, reminding us that it's the season to carve out time for alluring new titles as well as classics you've been waiting to get around to. Here are some recommendations from my recent delvings in the ever-updated offerings of detective fiction from Daedalus.
The Diviner's Tale by Bradford Morrow. I feel so enriched by having read this novel about a single mother coming to grips with her psychic gifts. Morrow is a poet, and his metaphors are exquisite, as well as his ability to create compelling characters and a fictional landscape in which you feel wholly immersed. I have some of his earlier novels in my library, and now can't wait to make time to have a crack at them.
"Very much in the chilling, deeply-felt vein of Hawthorne. But its style and intelligence makes it a cut above genre fiction....Mesmerising."
—The Independent 
"Morrow...elicits frissons with gossamer descriptions of still moments that will have some readers drawing a sharp breath, as if they've heard a strange noise in the house....Subtle, distinctive and well-wrought."—Washington Post
Summer is the ideal interlude in which to embark on mystery series, and if you haven't made the acquaintance of Donna Leon's Commissario Guido Brunetti, now's the time! Brunetti does his sleuthing in the magical city of Venice, where the Silver Dagger winner is a longtime resident, so there's oodles of local color. German television has produced 18 Commissario Brunetti scripts (would that we were so lucky). Sylvia Poggioli did a lovely profile of Leon on NPR; there's an audio version and a transcript with photos here, as well as two excerpts to give you the flavor of Leon's writing. We try to keep several of her titles in stock whenever possible.
Leon herself recommends the popular series by Andrea Camilleri, whose police inspector Salvo Montalbano dwells in a sun-baked town in Sicily. He's a favorite at Daedalus too, and we have a specially chosen quintet of titles to get you started (and keep you satisfied): The Shape of Water; The Terracotta Dog; The Snack Thief; The Voice of the Violin; and Excursion to Tindari.
Saying that ''Camilleri's style suits his hero … a Sicilian with a great sense of humour,'' Britain's Daily Telegraph named him as one of the 50 crime writers ''to read before you die.'' Placing him alongside Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, Patricia Highsmith, Georges Simenon, et al., they said that ''the real subject of Camilleri's books is the state of Sicily but his characters are vivid ones and their dilemmas eternal ones.''
One final note: if you're looking for samples from the golden age of British mystery writing, have a go at two Gervaise Fen bagatelles by Edmund Crispin (a.k.a. Oxford don Bruce Montgomery): The Case of the Gilded Fly and The Moving Toyshop. They come in handsome editions and are intelligent, literary, and amusing. Here's a little snippet from Gilded Fly:
Donald Fellowes, when he appeared, proved to be only partially recovered from the evening's carouse. The process of being sick had relieved the anaesthesia of his nerves, but the alcohol still crawled and sang and buzzed in his veins, and as a consequence he was feeling not only depressed but actively ill. "Now, you sheepshead," said Fen, who had completely taken charge of the situation,  "what have you got to say for yourself?" This unorthodox question had the effect of rattling Donald. He mumbled to himself.
"Are you sorry Yseut is dead?" Fen continued, and added in a painfully audible aside to Nigel: "This is the psychological method of detection."
Donald was roused. "Psychological nonsense," he said. "If you want to know, I feel only relieved, not sorry. You needn't suppose I killed her because of that. I have an alibi," he concluded, with something of the pride of a small child showing a favourite picture-book to a recalcitrant adult visitor.
See many new, discounted arrivals here! The Summer Specials catalog includes books, music, DVDs, & more.


  1. Thank you for these wonderful suggestions! I agree! Summer is the ideal time to set some moments aside to devour some great British mysteries! I do believe I'll begin with The Diviner's Tale. Sounds excellent.

  2. Thank you for the recommendations! I only pick up mysteries ever so often, but frequently enjoy them when I do.

    I also agree that summer is the time to do what I call "fluff" reading, books that don't require a lot of attention or revisiting. Perhaps that is why mysteries aren't my go-to, since they need a bit more attention.