I used to read mysteries from time to time... it was the genre I preferred for 'light' reading, as opposed to the brain heavy stuff I love when I have no other preoccupations, or the thriller/suspense stuff I choose when I have emotional freedom, but not extra brain power. I've begun though, reading mysteries with a new eye.
In February, I read two Iain Pears Art Mysteries (and enjoyed them a lot) but that was background on ART THIEVES for my trilogy. At the end of February, it was suggested my voice fit very well with cozy mysteries and I began to explore the genre.
You know my FAVORITE thing about this? I have read a couple books by people I KNOW, and that is a totally exhilarating, impressive experience—to read a published book by someone I know.
I fessed up to being a lousy liar yesterday, right? I mean... I can NOT say stuff, but I don't tell anyone anything that is NOT TRUE. I just had to get that off my chest, because what I have to say might sound like sucking up.
THE PEOPLE I KNOW WRITE BETTER BOOKS THAN THE PEOPLE I DON'T. There. I've said it. Oh, I know. There are some darned impressive writers out there, but among the mysteries I've read in trying to figure out the ins and outs of WRITING ONE, I've decided I know some impressive people.
Brief reviews from people I don't know:
I began with two Kate Collins novels—both flower based, and I loved certain aspects of them. They were witty, light... My only real complaint was some use of stereotypes—there was a 'sex trade' story involving Chinese women who'd been 'stolen' which for starters, was incongruent enough early on that it was obviously related to the deaths, and frankly... not a light enough option to be treated lightly. I mean I don't think it was intentionally distasteful, but my feminist edges have been too sharply filed for this to belong in a cozy. It's NOT FUNNY, and though it wasn't exactly presented as funny, it WAS presented as characature. The other one I had fewer issues with, but there was still some leaning on stereotypes. What I liked best was the friendships the MC had with the women who worked with her.
The one I am in the middle of 'Snow Place to Die' also has a couple stereotypes—an Asian businesswoman who is ALL BUSINESS and the couple black characters fall neatly into boxes.
I have one in my stack upstairs that looks more promising... The Scent of Murder by Barbara Block, but then... the Collins ones looked impressive up front, too...
But among people I KNOW...
The first I read was a sneak peak that I possibly can't mention by a certain somebody who has helped me a lot. Her characters are FANTASTIC, her humor, fabulous, and the story wonderful... but I will save it for the book release.
The actual reviews for today are two books: A Real Basket Case by Beth Groundwater and The Prairie Grass Murders by Patricia Stoltey. They aren't 'as cozy'... but they were GREAT examples of mystery writing. So here goes:
A Real Basket Case by Beth Groundwater
[I've only had a few interactions with Beth, but she was among the first authors I began watching, as when I started this networking thing last May, so was promoting her newly released book, and she is very nice]
Claire Hanover is approaching a midlife crisis with an overworked (always absent) husband and an annoying paunch to her belly. She decides aerobics with friends might slim her (and attract the hubby's interest) but is tempted into getting a massage (at her home) by her hot instructor and massage therapist. During their first massage session, as she lays there in her underwear, he is shot in her home, and her husband is blamed...
It was sassy, periodically naughty, but only in a PG way, and a very fun read.
The Prairie Grass Murders by Patricia Stoltey (who also writes a lovely blog
[note, Pat sent this to me because she is a nice lady and I had mentioned that I was reading some mysteries, but I haven't paid for ANY of these (most are library lends), and I ALWAYS call it as I see it... that is sort of me—you know... naked.]
I loved this story, primarily for the characters—they were smart. There was a stupid mistake or two, but they were of the variety people really make when pressed and stressed. Neither fell into stereotypes, though they maintained enough features for their 'kind of character' to be realistic. I loved the relationship between the two because of the balance. Sylvia is an important and respected judge, but she is also the 'little sister' so they struggle with the dynamic a little, each resenting any reining in the other tries to do.
I enjoyed too, the struggle to free themselves from their 'Norwegian sensibilities'. My maternal line goes back to Norway, and this small town could have sat on the Iowa/Minnesota border and included my extended family, so it was just a nice perk.
Pat's writing isn't as 'cozy', but on the other hand, the mystery is tighter—it wasn't 'light' but neither was it horribly gory, and it was far more realistic, so I think it would appeal to both cozy readers and more traditional mystery readers.
Either this genre has seriously improved in the last decade, or I just hit a couple clinks from the older list of people I don't know... who knows, maybe since I am reading from the library, the really GOOD older ones wear out.
But I think it's more likely that I've just met the really impressive people, so if you TOO want to be impressive, an important first step is to be my friend.
That's my story and I'm sticking with it!
AND THIS JUST IN: For writers ready for some feedback, there is a contest giving away some GREAT prizes, including critiques, and lunch with some big wigs. Check it out. http://sarahwithachance.blogspot.com/2010/04/something-fun-and-celebratory.html