Summer Reading List – Mysteries by different authors, reviewed
by Olive Mullet
These mysteries are not tied to a series (not necessary to have read the rest in the series) but are set in the same place with the same detective (Donna Leon’s Venetian mysteries with Commissario Brunetti). If you want to
continue with the other two writers, Linwood Barclay has two series: Promise Falls and No Time for Goodbye. And Jonathan Coe also has a follow-up book to The Winshaw Legacy called Number 11.
Donna Leon’s Earthly Remain will certainly entertain those readers of her Venetian mysteries with Commissario Brunetti solving the crime. Newcomers to Leon’s world will get an insider’s view of one island in particular in the Laguna. Brunetti through his own strange behavior finds himself in a hospital and discovers he has the potential for a heart attack due to exhaustion — with the doctor recommending two weeks’ removal from his job. Brunetti ends up on one of the islands where his wife Paula has family connections. An island fisherman Davide, in charge of the family villa, not only teaches Brunetti how to improve his rowing but most significantly shows how angry he is about his beloved bees’ dying because of the Laguna’s pollution. The consequences of Davide’s anger and the mystery of a savage burn on his back become what Brunetti is compelled to solve. Leon draws this world so completely as she does the characters who at the end lie and cheat as we get closer to the actual crime.
Linwood Barclay’s Trust Your Eyes is distinct as a suspense thriller mystery without a detective. There are three separate narratives that converge at the manic end. First there are two brothers, schizophrenic Thomas, brilliant in his memorizing of more and more streets in the world’s big cities, and his political illustrator older brother Ray who comes home for their father’s funeral. Thomas’ refusal to go to his father’s funeral initially infuriates Ray but finally becomes part of the mystery. With Thomas’ seeing a suffocation in a window in NYC and Ray’s checking it out, they both become targets. The second story is of a young woman becoming a blackmailer for much needed money from her lesbian politically-connected lover. And for the third story add a campaign manager willing to do anything to keep his candidate clear of scandal, a dirty ex-cop called upon to do the dirty work and an ex-Olympic gymnast and now killer for hire—and we do have trouble.
Although Jonathan Coe’s The Winshaw Legacy Or What a Carve-up was published in 1994 and is set in Thatcher England, it has currency today for its satire. It slowly becomes evident this is not just a mystery but a murder mystery. And although Michael is a has-been author who spends his time zoning out on a film he saw as a child, he is out-of-the-blue commissioned to do a history of a rich but corrupt family, the Winshaws. The one hiring him is a female family member institutionalized by her older brother whom she accuses of killing the
younger brother whose plane crashed in Germany in WWII. The thriving family members are into every known horrible business like arms dealing and mass chicken farming. You may not want to eat chicken after that description. And you may not want to ride the London Underground after the most hilarious section in the book about a ride from hell. It does take a while to get into this mystery but the ending is fast and furious and very good.