Europa Blues (Dahl)

I read Dahl’s Misterioso a few years ago and was hypnotized by it. For me, Dahl is in Mankell’s neighborhood yet he seems mostly undiscovered here in the United States. So when I found this book during a visit to Israel, I was excited and thought it might provide some relief from the Israeli fiction, history, and politics I’d been reading.

Shortly after the plane took off, I found I was wrong. One of the victims, the one that didn’t fit the pattern, was a concentration camp survivor. Still, Dahl’s prose was enough to make me read on. Part of it is that there’s a great ensemble of policemen in the Intercrime Unit. Certainly, there is one detective at the center, but he spends less time in the spotlight here than he did in Misterioso.

As the plot unravels and comes to its necessary climax, Dahl takes us to a place that I hope is fictional. Like Mankell, he does not limit his genre to ‘just’ a mystery. It is a vehicle for social commentary and, in this case, he refuses to allow Sweden to forget or erase its past. Individuals and countries may try to re-invent themselves, but they can not and should not try to bury the past.

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The Man Who Wanted to Know (Mishani)

This is my second Mishani mystery. I like his work – his flair for complex endings. I also think he creates effective and balanced female characters.

(Sorry there’s not more. I finished it on a trip and left it behind.)

The Missing File (Mishani)

This is a tense novel, in part because it’s partly about the act of writing a mystery by an author who specializes in detective literature. I turned the pages because I was really hoping that I wasn’t right about the whodunit, and I wasn’t (I rarely am) The resolution of the story is disturbing on several levels, because of the assumptions that I made, because of the assumptions the police make, and because of what started the whole problem in the first place.

I think, though, that I am more likely to remember the wrong path I traveled than the details of the ending. Mishani has created a red herring for the ages.

Bury Your Dead (Penny)

I read the first two of Penny’s mysteries in order, but then skipped ahead because I found a used copy of this one. I regret it a little because I think there’s one prior to this that informs a subplot here. Does anyone know? But this one was a step up from the previous two which I thought were quite good. Penny, perhaps because she’s grown confident because of the success of her earlier books, delves into Canadian history and politics here. They are essential to the plot (in ways that made me wish I understood them better) and make the story take on an impressive level of depth in the way Mankell did in his Wallender series.

Really good stuff. I have one more used one to read, but perhaps I should go back to reading them in order.

The Raphael Affair (Pears)

I’ve always liked stories – fiction and non-fiction – about art-related mysteries. I’m not sure there’s enough of them to call it a genre. So when I heard about Pears, I decided to give one a try. It was fine, entertaining at times. The plot was incredibly slow until everything got explained with a lengthy exposition at the end – deus ex machina supreme. I think I picked his first one, so maybe they get better. I’ll let you tell me.

Still Life (Penny)

Although it has some predictable elements – the lovable rogue cop, the clueless (almost unbelievably so) rookie, the unnecessary and unrealistically violent ending – this is an outstanding first Chief Gamache mystery. It took me some time, but I think I figured out what makes it so different and so good. It’s the minor characters. Instead of just focusing on the cop and his (of course, his) team as well as the antagonist, Penny develops a wide range of supporting characters. It is impressive that she took the time to do so because I don’t think she can return to them for the next installment, can she? I will miss them.

Penny creates one of the most memorable images I’ve ever encountered. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it will stay with me in the same way as the image Myla Goldberg creates in the storage area in Bee Season.

The title is perfect. The characters – almost all of them – are incredibly human. A Fatal Grace will be next.

A Little Yellow Dog (Mosley)

Every once in a while, I need a mystery. After spending a great deal of time with Scandanavian ones, I’ve decided to try a few American ones. Mosley is a master. Unlike in his later works, the social commentary is more subtle here. It’s about Easy Rawlins and the life he’s trying to make for himself. I’m always terrible at mysteries because I can’t track who did what to whom, so I often just go along for the ride. And this is a good one.