Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Maine Mystery Round-Up!

I recently stumbled across a trio of mystery series, all set in Maine. What could be cozier on a winter's evening than a cup of tea and mystery novel set in one of my favorite states? All three writers are about as different as they could be. Let me start with my favorite of the three:
The Gray Whale Inn series by Karen MacInerney

This enjoyable series is set on Cranberry Island, one of the places on my Maine bucket list. These are definitely "cozies", mysteries that are not into scariness or grisly details (think Miss Marple.) Innkeeper Natalie Barnes juggles guests, cooking, island community life and the occasional murder with great aplomb and verve. While not contenders for the Nobel prize for literature these entertaining books are nonetheless well-written, with good plots, charming characters and great descriptions of life on a small island. There are even terrific looking recipes at the back of each book: I am a fan!

The Home Repair is Homicide books by Sarah Graves are set in Eastport, Maine. I stumbled into this lengthy series at book 11, and had to backtrack a bit, although it was not hard to slip into the series midway. Graves is an excellent writer, with a real talent for noticing local color and writing description. I read about five of these books before my enthusiasm began flagging, due in part to the high body count and a little too much violence. That's a purely personal taste: I can take some scary, but a little brutality goes a long way in my opinion. I will start up again with these books again eventually, and if you have a thicker skin than I do (as is likely) I heartily recommend them! An unique twist is that instead of recipes, home repair tips are included.

Well-known seafaring life writer Linda Greenlaw has turned her hand to fiction, with this fairly recent series of mysteries set way up near the Canadian border. I am a big fan of Greenlaw's nonfiction and was excited to get my hands on Slipknot. However, I am sorry to say I found it disappointing. Greenlaw's clipped straightforward style which works beautifully when she is writing about real life events does not translate well to fiction. She has a hard time with both description and characterisation and also, sequencing. Several times I had to re-read passages to understand what was happening. And the plot, once revealed, was extremely shaky. I forced myself to keep reading to the unsatisfying conclusion of this book, and I have not yet run out and gotten the other one in the series. Which might be miles I have to admit this is a somewhat unfair review from reading just one book. Let me know if you've read them and what you think? I admire Greenlaw's other work very much, so would be happy to have another opinion on her fiction!

An enjoyable note to all three series is that each features a seasoned, strong, sassy woman as the main character! I like this new tide of middle-aged heroines.

1 comment:

Alexandra Tyng said...

Thank you for the book reviews!