What’s New?

A few days ago, a friend asked me what was new in mystery – now that I have a blog and all.  So I thought I’d share a few new (or new to me) mysteries that I plan to read – any you may want to check out.

photoIce Cold speaks to me — largely because it deals with cold war/Russian intrigue, but also because it consists of several short stories, a format that fits better with my short attention span in summer months.  And I typically enjoy recommendations by the Mystery Writers of America group.




photoThe True American by Anand G is on my kindle, next in line.  I heard the author interviewed — well part of the interview anyway — by Tom Ashbrook, on NPR’s On Point.  He struck me as so intelligent.  Then, a few days later, a friend told me about this book interview she heard with Tom Ashbrook that inspired a church in Normal, IL and it happened to be the interview I partially heard about The True American.  Then I saw the book on the shelves at Barnes & Noble and the cover art was really cool.  So three messages from the universe, and I’m in.  It isn’t a straight up mystery, rather it is a non-fiction account of a murder, but I still find the theme of exploring the American “dream” from different perspectives intriguing.

photoI’m going to give Nancy Atherton’s Aunt Dimity series a try and although AD and the Lost Prince isn’t the most recent in the series, I liked the onion-domed church on the cover.  So, yes, I am a sucker for cover art.  The series seems to fall into the “cozy” fireside category — not one that I am typically too fond of — but I hope it will make a nice poolside read and segue from the darker, Scandinavian fare I’ve been reading lately.

I’ll keep you posted . . . and let me know what you’re planning to read this summer.


Back to Rebus

Oregon TreesI’d like to talk more about Ian Rankin’s universe, and Inspector John Rebus.  I’m likely to review one (or several) of his books more specifically, but as the series has gotten me through a tough couple of months, I thought I’d encourage people to pick up a Rebus book.  Here’s a little background.

John Rebus works for the Lothian and Borders police force and is based in Edinburgh, Scotland.  His rank, for the most part, is Detective Inspector (DI), although the books flash back to his time as a Detective Constable (DC) and Detective Sergeant (DS).  When Rebus “un-retires” in the more recent books, he is classified back as a DS, and though he isn’t otherwise demoted throughout the books, he is frequently exiled or given junk assignments as penance for coloring outside the lines.

Rebus drinks a lot or a ton, depending on the cases he is investigating and the state of his personal life (which is either circling the drain or clogging it).  Actually, I’m exagerrating.  He has the occasional and seemingly enjoyable fling, and has a less than completely broken relationship with his daughter, Sammy.

As I read this back, Rebus’ life seems pretty depressing but the books do not have a depressing tone.  Sure, they deal with the underbelly of Edinburgh (and at times, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Firth and all points north).  I have never read books that involve more tenements and dive bars.  Which raises a point about vernacular — does tenement mean the same thing in Scotland as it does here?  To me, a tenement is a dirty, unsafe, crowded, dilapidated apartment complex that few would choose to enter and none would opt to inhabit.  Rankin however uses tenement to describe almost every living space that isn’t a stand-alone house.  Rebus’ own complex (in the posh Marchmont area) is frequently described as a tenement.  So, tangent over but keep in mind some “lost in translation” cultural elements exist in the books.

Rankin does an excellent job of weaving Scotland’s history into the stories, and allows it to smack against modern Scotland (replete with building explosions, the ever-present “independence” issues, and environmental concerns).  After reading even a few of the books, you’ll likely be able to describe the layout Ox bar (Rebus’ favorite hangout) and  pick out St. Leonard’s (Rebus’ station)  on a map.  You’ll be able to visualize a stroll through the Meadows, New Town and Old Town areas of Edinburgh.  In short, Rankin richly describes Rebus’ world and plops us squarely in it.

Aside from encouraging Scotland tourism (which, oddly, these somewhat dark crime novels really do), the Rebus books offer a level of comfort and encouragement.  No, they aren’t your typical “cozy mysteries”.  Though they are often set in smaller towns or the countryside of Scotland, they don’t have that rector catches the town gossip poisoning her neighbors at the church bake sale quality. They are comfortable in the predictability of Rebus’ unpredictability.  After a time, you’ll learn that Rebus zigs when others zag, he drinks when he is upset, happy, content, he looks for connections when others see none, he relentlessly pursues the truth.  His world is also sprinkled with familiar characters, including:

  • DS Siobhan Clarke (pronounced shiv-AWN) – Rebus’ younger colleague and protege with whom he has no romantic relationship
  • Samantha (Sammy) Rebus – Rebus’ daughter
  • Patience Aitken – a doctor and Rebus’ on-again, off-again lover
  • Gill Templer – Rebus’ ex-flame and eventual boss
  • Jack Morton – Rebus’ former partner and colleague who helps Rebus stop drinking and smoking (for a time)
  • Big Ger Cafferty – Edinburgh crime boss and Rebus’ nemesis

There is a level of comfort in continuing story lines and knowing that Rebus is likely to veer off task at some point.  And, as evidenced by my own scatological order in reading the Rebus books, it is not critical that you start with the first and proceed to the last.  You’ll get enough background in each book to understand the players.

As for the encouragement part, well, Rebus is tenacious.  He may drink himself silly but hangover and all, he will proceed the following day.  He is flawed and far from perfect, but he has a drive and a code, often sacrificing in order to adhere to them.

So here’s to ya, Rebus and carry on.  Happy reading.


photoSo here’s the deal.  I’ll be writing about books — my favorites have always been mysteries of any sort (classic, spy thriller, crime, suspense), and Russian fiction.  Even better when the two combine.

But, I’ll likely throw in a bit more about movies, TV shows, and life in general.  I’ll nag my friends and family to contribute guest content.  I’ll try very hard not to be boring.

On my radar screen these days have been Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus books.  Don’t ask me why I’m so late to pick up on this series, but I am, and I also only just discovered that Rebus has been brought to life on the small screen.  (Maybe the ersatz title for my blog will be “annie’s got no clue”, but I’ll cop to it and hopefully we can get a clue together. )

photoBack to Rebus, a Scottish cop, a predictably flawed, wonderfully layered guide through Edinburgh’s low life and social elite — equal opportunity criminals in Rankin’s world.  I started with the latest Rebus books — Saints of the Shadow Bible and Standing in Another Man’s Grave (again, I don’t know why I am reading the books in reverse order).  In these books, Rankin collides Rebus’  seasoned, slightly grizzled world with that of another Scottish police officer, Malcolm Fox.  Fox, a bit-player in Rebus’ world is the marquee player in Rankin’s “Complaints” series, examining the Scottish police force through the eyes of a complaints (internal affairs) officer.  Though I’ve yet to read any of the Fox books, I’m wondering whether Rankin has succeeded in creating his own “Marvel universe” — a cast of characters each embodying his or her worlds, who sometimes meet and work together (or at cross purposes), who share common landmarks (Scotland, greater Edinburgh) and cultural references (the Lothian and Borders police force, whiskey, football, Scottish independence).  I hope so.

Happy reading.