28 February 2011

Book reviews: 3 mysteries and 1 self help

Recently I was reading about doing synopsi (is that the plural of synopsis?) for books and they said it is good practice to take books you've read and do a synopsis as a practice exercise. Since I thought I'd try to blog reviews of books I'm reading this year, I will try a few abbreviated synopsi with my two cents at the end.

Desert Lost, by Betty Webb
Private detective Lena Jones is at a trailer park trying to catch some graffiti artists when she discovers the body of a woman who appears to be from one of the polygamist compounds, but those are a couple hours away. It's not Lena's case but she gets pulled in when she goes to help her best friend pick up some escapees from the northern Arizona polygamist camp, but it's a trap. They escape but with more questions than answers. Lena wants to know why threats are escalating and who killed the dead woman before things turn deadly.

DG: While this was a pretty standard detective story, I was intrigued to learn about the atmosphere of the polygamist world. Lena is a detective with some unusual flaws and a childhood shooting which has left her with memory gaps. It will be interesting to see how this personal side of her unfolds in the books to come.

The Rosewood Casket, Sharyn McCrumb.
The four distant and very different Stargill brothers are called back to their mountain farm home in Appalachia to see to their dying father. He was a hard unemotional man, but they obey his wishes to build him a casket. The men awaken to their mountain roots and skeletons start tumbling out of their father's closet. It's time for the ghosts of the past to come to light, so they can rest.

DG: This book is high on atmosphere of the Appalachia mountain living and including a couple characters who have the "sight" for things unseen. It is strong on character development and an intriguing family mystery to be solved. For me, maybe too much history as the author couches the atmosphere around Daniel Boone. My significant other read this and liked that aspect of the book, so that is about taste not about the writing.

Whose Body? Dorothy L. Sayers
Lord Peter Whimsey is summoned by his mother the Duchess to help the architect who is working on the church. Apparently, a dead man has turned up in the little architect's bath. Whimsey is delighted by such an intriguing set of events and involves his valet, and his friend from Scotland Yard in discovering who this dead body is and how it came to be in a stranger's bathtub.

DG: This is a great light read. Sayers was a contemporary and friend of CS Lewis, an Oxford graduate, a believer and scholar. She's had a lot of influence in the mystery realm even though that wasn't her first calling. This story is from the 1920s and you do have to work a little to get into the language and slang of the day, but if you can do it, you'll enjoy Lord Peter. I don't know how many books she wrote of Lord Peter as a rich, idle, amateur sleuth, but there are a great number.

Murder at the National Cathedral, Margaret Truman
Mackenzie Smith marries his long time sweetheart Annabell in Washington D.C.'s National Cathedral, but the priest that conducts the ceremony ends up murdered a short time later. Mac steps out of teaching law to advise the Cathedral on legal matters around the murder, but he soon finds himself caught up in the investigation as much more than an advisor. Threats on he and Annabel on their honeymoon in London eventually lead to clues much closer to home.

DG: While I enjoyed this story, I was somewhat distracted by the lag in technology. It was published in 1990, so there are no mentions of cellphones (it would have been early days in that,) there are answering machines, etc. I felt that Mac and Annabell were a little passive in discovering the mystery, even though they do indeed get it sorted out. It made me worried that my own WIP (work in progress) is too passive which just leads to another re-write and I don't really want to go there right now.

12 'Christian' Beliefs That Can Drive You Crazy: Relief From False Assumptions
by Henry Cloud, and John Townsend
Christian advice sometimes well meaning leads to a trail of hurt and failure. This book debunks some phrases and jargon that gets thrown around in Christian circles that often harms the hearer more than it helps.

DG: This book takes some common phrases we throw around and examines them a little more closely and provides scripture to back up their expanded or opposed views. It's a book for people who are within in the church or who have left after feeling harmed by the church, but at it's heart it is just solid advice for those who haven't found help in catch phrases.


  1. When I get back into reading, I think I might be interested in getting into mysteries, so I may reference this later.

    A few years ago around the same time there was a raid on an FLDS compound in Texas I read up on that group. I assume the FLDS are who Desert Lost is about. It sounds like prison to everyone involved besides the handful of men who have risen to power through questionable means. So sad.

  2. Anonymous9:49 PM

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    State of Alabama – Board of Pardons & Parole