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Summer 2023 Recap

Brook and Sarah return from a summer break with an update on their summer reading.


In a Dark, Dark Wood (2018) Ruth Ware

A is for Alibi (1982) Sue Grafton

B is for Burglar (1985) Sue Grafton

Murder in Mesopotamia (1936) Agatha Christie

Cat Among the Pigeons (1959) Agatha Christie

Life of Crime: Detecting the History of Mysteries and their Creators (2022) Martin Edwards

Warrior Girl Unearthed (2023) Angeline Boulley

The Cameo’s Secret (2023) Brook Peterson

Mystery of Mysteries: The Life and Death of Edgar Allan Poe (2023) Mark Dawidziak

Edgar Allan Poe’s Obituary by Rufus Griswold

Murder Your Employer (2023) Rupert Holmes

The Christie Curse (2013) Victoria Abbot

Stalking Jack the Ripper (2016) Kerri Maniscalo and James Patterson

4:50 from Paddington (1957) Agatha Christie

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This transcript is generated by a computer and there may be some mis-spellings and strange punctuation. We try to catch these before posting, but some things slip through.

SarahWelcome to Clued in Mystery. I’m Sarah.
BrookAnd I’m Brook and we both love mystery.
SarahHi Brook!
BrookHi Sarah! I’m so excited to be talking to you again!
SarahI know it feels like it’s been so long.
BrookI know! Did you have a good summer break?
SarahI did thank you. And what about you? Did you get to read a lot?
BrookI did a lot of reading and a lot of soaking up a lot of hot, hot sun. So, it was definitely the summer vibes here.
SarahPerfect. So let’s talk about what we’ve been reading.
SarahWhy don’t I get us started. I don’t remember the order that we talked about the books when we originally shared our reading lists. So, this is in no particular order. But I’m going to start with Warrior Girl Unearthed, which is a YA novel by Angeline Boulley. And this was the second book that I’ve read by her, and I think it was her second her second release. And I I definitely enjoyed it. I did find though that the mystery wasn’t quite as gripping as her first book, Firekeeper’s Daughter but it was definitely worth it to read and I do hope that she continues to write in this community. Both books take place in this same place but about a decade apart. And so, it was interesting to see you know how some of the characters in the first book had grown and what had happened to them since that but this book was really focused on a whole different set of characters.
BrookInteresting. Yeah, that seems like ah, a cool way to run a series with you have that long time span. It’d be kind of interesting to see like you say what happened to characters. So um, that sounds great. And again I think the same, I’m not sure what order I talked about things but my first one that I will recap is my nonfiction pick which was Mystery of Mysteries: The Life and Death of Edgar Allan Poe by Mark Dawidziak. And this was a great dual timeline rendition of Poe’s life. I’m not sure I’ve read a lot like this like. So they had the one timeline that was just a straight biography, chronological I should say, and then the other one was sort of a um zoom in of the last days of Poe’s life because that’s the crux of this is how and why did he die. That’s such a mystery. And I said when I presented the book that Dawidziak was wanting to pose the um idea that the stereotype of Poe that we’ve always held is this dreary miserable alcoholic is all wrong and that this is in large part because his archnemesis Rufus Griswold is the one who wrote his first obituary just a few days after his death. So um, he spends a large part of the book talking about this discrepancy and I’m not completely swayed.
BrookI think that what he says about Poe is true that his innate personality was probably quite fun and outgoing and and quirky but um, his writing really does support the fact that he has this other side of him too. And I think that it’s probably a nature-nurture situation his life circumstances really shaped the way that his life went um, you know he had a lot of sadness a lot of death. So, I think that they’re both true and in fact I think that makes me love him even more because that’s. What we want in literature is this light and dark push and pull but the real crux of the book is this like why and how did Poe die and I am so interested in the author’s um, theory which is tuberculosis. We know that Poe had a lot of people in his family die of tuberculosis. It was a you know epidemic at that point in history. But what I didn’t know was there is a latent form of the disease, a chronic latent version, not the acute version that we most identify with tuberculosis. and it can actually cause mental health issues and some underlying health conditions that could perhaps explain some of Poe’s erratic behavior and strange decision making processes throughout his life in the end. We’ll never know of course why he died and that is um, enduring as well because it reminds us that some mysteries aren’t meant to be Solved. So I highly recommend this one if you are a Poe fan like I am.
SarahThat sounds like it was a great read, Brook, and I don’t think I realized that his obituary was written by his archnemesis as you described him. What a fascinating piece of history.
BrookExactly and it really can explain a lot of why the community the larger community got an idea of Poe that stuck. So um, yeah, it was really worth ah, a worthwhile read.
SarahAnd did the book explain why that was the person who wrote his obituary?
BrookWell, he was very popular as well as a publisher and critic as Poe was and I think honestly he jumped at the chance because he really did hate Edgar Allan Poe so it was a very pointed pointed decision.
SarahWow. Okay I’m going to have to go and read if nothing else read the obituary and just see what an enemy can do.
BrookThat’s a great idea. Maybe we’ll post it as well in the show notes.
SarahThat’s a terrific idea. I also read, well I didn’t get through it, a nonfiction. My intention was to read all of The Life of Crime by Martin Edwards, which is really a history of crime writing and it’s such a good book and it’s so well researched and there’s so much detail that you know I found myself taking notes and really wishing actually that I had a physical copy. I only had um, an electronic copy from from the library. But. I’m going to pick up a physical copy because I think I want my own that I can leave my own sticky notes in and you know I’ve I’ve got some ideas I think for some future episodes and certainly we can use the research and references in it when we’re when we’re doing our um deep dives and to ah into different authors and different genres because it was just it. It’s a really fantastic read and um, yeah I need to I think I need to have it in my hands. And I need to have my own copy. I can’t rely on the library’s copy.
BrookI feel that way too whenever I have one of those really meaty nonfictions. It’s like I just have to own it and mark it up and like you say sticky note it. Um, and I can’t wait to find out all the good details you’re going to pull out of it for future episode ideas, Sarah.
BrookThe next on my list I was calling it “Instagram made me do it” because it was one of those that I kept seeing the cover over and over and it lured me in and this is Murder Your Employer by Rupert Holmes. It’s a brand new release, 2023. And the setup is that there is this McMasters Conservatory for the Applied Arts where students go to school to learn how to quote unquote delete their most deserving victim. Um. I loved this book. It was so different. So unique. Um I’m really hoping that someone picks it up to make it a television series I just keeping my fingers crossed because this dark university atmosphere I think it’s just begging to be visually adapted. Um, so this is a very tongue in cheek I was saying Lemony Snicket for adults kind of a story where their classes are based around how to you know, do car chases and how how to ah poison someone and the PE is all about like breaking and entering and it’s just really great.
BrookSo, we see in the first part of the book, the crimes being reverse engineered because the student’s thesis is to plan this perfect crime and they have all these professors with different backgrounds and specialties that are helping them come up with all the the perfect scenarios. And then the second half of the book we follow those characters out into the world where they attempt to pull off their murders and complete their thesis. And ah without giving anything away some succeed and some do not but I highly recommend it. It’s It’s just a really cool take on the mystery genre and um. It is being billed as book One. So, I’m assuming this is going to be a series.
SarahOh, that sounds that sounds really great, Brook. Um I’ll have to I’ll have to look for a copy and and check it out. There were a couple of authors that I wanted to read some of their backlists and one of those was Ruth Ware. So, last year we did The Woman in Cabin 10 as our first “what would you do?” episode and that was the first of Ruth Ware’s books that I had ever read. And so I thought well you know. I enjoyed that I should read another of hers and so I started with In a Dark Dark Wood, which um I believe was her first book. I thought it was really good. It has you know an author as the main character I’m not going to say a sleuth because she’s not well I guess there’s there’s definitely a mystery, but it’s not like a classic mystery. Um, but you know it’s former friends who have gathered in a in a remote cabin and there’s lots of manipulation and secrets. I do think I preferred The Woman in Cabin 10, and I don’t know I don’t know why. Um, but yeah, there was something about this one that maybe just felt a little bit too unrealistic. I don’t know. But I will definitely read some more by Ruth Ware because it was it was highly entertaining and and I really did enjoy it.
BrookWhat format did you read this one?
SarahI listened to it.
BrookAnd do you agree? Do you love her narrator?
SarahYes, absolutely. I think she does a really great job.
BrookThat’s great I’m glad you enjoyed it and I think that I agree with your um with your rating there. The next one on my list is I was billing it. A cozy read as a cozy author and it’s The Christie Curse by. Victoria Abbott. It’s a little older. It came out in 2013 and it’s the first in her Book Collector series. This was a great setup. Her main character’s name is Jordan Kelly and I liked how original this character was because she comes from a crime family. So um, she has this secret that she needs to keep she uses a different surname so that people aren’t familiar with the fact that she’s the niece of these guys who are all in professional crime. But she has these built in heavies or people to help her do some of the nefarious stuff so that’s a cool, um, a cool aspect of the story. She’s hired as a researcher by this rich old woman to find this rumored play that Agatha Christie supposedly wrote during the eleven days when she was missing. Um, the mystery plot is pretty good. It drags some in the middle. But um I think my biggest critique. Is that the mystery doesn’t hinge around the play and Agatha’s disappearance enough and we’ve talked about this before it’s a pet peeve of mine if an author’s going to use a a famous author’s name or um situation in the title or premise that you really have to lean heavily on it and I think that there were a lot of opportunities to make this so much about Christie’s disappearance and and this play which really drew me in and it it didn’t quite get there for me. It was really great writing she’s ah she writes well and I really liked this character in the the whole family that she’s from so I would give it another go and Book 2 is Sayers Swindle with references to the great Dorothy Sayers so maybe I’ll have a report on that one in the future.
SarahThat’s such an interesting premise, both the idea of someone who comes from a crime family. And then layered on with Agatha Christie’s life or or her disappearance. I agree with you I think when a um author is using someone else’s name to draw in readers, you really are setting up an expectation that that is going to be a key part of the book. So, I can see how that would have been disappointing to to not have as much of that as as you were hoping for.
BrookYeah, exactly.
SarahSo I read actually ended up reading two books by Agatha Christie this summer. The one that I talked about in our um. Summer reading list episode was Murder in Mesopotamia and I have really mixed feelings about this book. It is definitely of its time in how some of the characters are described um, particularly at the beginning and so that kind of made it difficult for me to get into the book. But there were references to some of her other novels and some of the other crimes that um Hercule Poirot had been involved in so I I liked that and I really liked that the narrator was a woman, which I think that might have been the first of her books that I’ve read where um where I’ve noticed that um and you know that just reminded me of how Agatha Christie didn’t really stick to strict conventions in her writing right?
SarahShe explored a lot of different ways of telling her stories and I really like that about her. But yeah, this is probably one of probably my least favorite of her books that that I’ve read so because I was not so pleased with that I picked up. Cat Among the Pigeons, which is probably one of my favorite of her books that I’ve read so it was a nice balance. And this one is set largely at a prestigious girls school. Someone’s looking for some missing jewels and will kill to find them. The book did have a lot of characters including Poirot, but he only appears really towards the last third of the book and that’s not the first time that I’ve seen her doing that. So. It’s you know, billed is a Poirot mystery but he is not the key character of the book, which again I think is really interesting in the way that she approached her her stories.
BrookYeah, fascinating. It’s interesting to me that you had that comparison the one that you didn’t so much like and the one that you did. And I think because exactly what you said that she would play with different ways of telling stories. We really will have in the huge Christie canon ones that we like and ones that we don’t like. Where there’s other authors, and Ruth Ware is a great example for me personally, like I pretty much know if I pick it up because she has a very typical way to tell a story and I kind of know what I’m going to get but with Christie she can write a thriller she can write um, a puzzle mystery and she’ll tell the puzzle mystery in a different way every time and very interesting. And to stay on the Agatha Christie topic, I also read one of her titles this time. And I read 4:50 to Paddington. I as well had a wonderful experience with this one. I think this might be my favorite non- thriller Christie novel, because I tend to really love her thrillers. And Then There Were None as an example, that’s what I would call a thriller. But I loved this puzzle mystery. This is a Miss Marple mystery and I hadn’t read much Miss Marple, mostly just watched. But I just really loved the way she told this story and I also found a new favorite Christie character in Lucy Eyelesbarrow. So Lucy Eyelesbarrow is this like most sought after housekeeper. You can kind of think like Mary Poppins but not a nanny a housekeeper. She’s practically perfect in every way, she can do it all. She keeps the houses running just like at 100 percent. She can cook, she can clean, like everything’s perfect when Lucy Eyelesbarrow’s there. So Marple hires her to go to work in this manor house that’s you know the one in question where the murders happened, right. So that Eyelesbarrow can be her intel and then she tells everyone that Miss Marple is her elderly aunt living in the nearby village and they can get together and share information. It was really, really well done. And I’m wondering actually if Agatha Christie was perhaps setting herself up to have this potential new main character sleuth. Because I think Lucy really could have carried a series. She had this great reason to be in different homes and she was you know like I say is this super smart, super ingenious, capable person and I think she could have been ah a main character sleuth a sort of Miss Marble/Tuppence mashup. But, it was a great mystery of course and Miss Marple does, I will admit, kind of put things together in a fairly miraculous way at the end, but they do that and we don’t mind. It was a fun read.
SarahOh, that sounds fun. Yeah, I haven’t I haven’t read that one. So maybe I’ll add that to my to read soon list as well. I know that Sue Grafton is one of your favorites, Brook, and after reading A is for Alibi, I know why. Because I thought it was very good. And in fact, I as soon as I finished that started reading B is for Burglar. And I had to stop myself from continuing down the list because I knew that there were others that I needed to read this summer. So I found Kinsey Milhone to be very relatable and I think this is maybe going to be one of those series that I turn to when I’m looking for almost a comfort read. So, you know it’s it. Both books were, you know, she’s investigating crimes. But just told in a way that was very I don’t know it probably sounds weird to say ah but like kind of like I was in a warm blanket. It just was very, and maybe because they’re set in the in the 1980 s the early nineteen eighty s because that’s when they these two books were published, and you just sort of get this totally different feel of what life was like ah what life was like then.
BrookYeah, and she has a very easy way of writing it just feels like you’re having a conversation with someone. So, I see what you mean about like a comfort read because um, not at all to say that the mysteries aren’t challenging and um, absorbing but. They’re just so easy to read So I’m so glad that you enjoyed it.
SarahWell and I don’t know why it took me so long to pick up a Sue Grafton um because obviously she’s been around for a while and and um, yeah, she’s just one of those those authors that I knew I should read um and I’m really glad now that I’ve done.
BrookAwesome! Well this one I was calling “from my physical tbr stack that’s beginning to topple”. It was a paperback titled Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco and this is a James Patterson imprint he did a YA I’m not sure if the YA line is still going, but this is from 2016 and um I mentioned that there was a little cringey-ness from the cover of this because it’s definitely a YA romance feel, but here we are talking about Jack the Ripper. But here’s the deal. We still don’t know who Jack the Ripper was and what if he was this Ted Bundy or H.H. Holmes kind of guy who was known to be extremely handsome and charming and quite honestly someone that women would easily fall for. So yes, the idea of romance with Jack the Ripper is ah very uncomfortable. It’s also viable I think.
BrookI enjoyed the historical accuracy of the story and she also put period photographs in the book which I think ah is probably a YA aspect of the of the paperback. Maniscalco followed the timeline of the actual cases really well so that you know, gave it some validity. Our sleuth, Audrey Rose Wadsworth, is an apprentice to her uncle who is a doctor and early medical examiner and so this is what puts her in contact with the case.
BrookShe did a great job of making every male character in the story seem guilty at one point or another. She hooked me in and I could fall for each of them, and especially the lead character’s love interest. You know he seems like he’s the the Ripper character, but of course he’s not. And the book is a great setup for the two of them to continue solving mysteries together. One of my favorite things about the book is it explains who the Ripper was you know they discover who the bad guy is but it also explains why it could never come to light for the public. So, I liked this um, imagining that it was known but it just simply couldn’t be revealed because it would be so damaging. So it was it was fun I I don’t think it would be a series that I continue just because it’s just not really my vibe. The YA romance slash suspense. But um, but it was fun.
SarahAnd how did how did it work because I think we talked about this in our reading list episode about the YA slash Jack the ripper combination. Like did that feel okay?
BrookIt did it did work, I mean they’re older. That’s the other thing is like you know she this Audrey is on the verge of being considered a spinster so she’s you know what would that be in those days. She was probably a whopping 23 or something but she’s considered an adult in her time period. So, I think that helped but I think it’s still an age group of characters that would be interesting to why a readers so it worked.
SarahIt’s interesting you say that because I’m just thinking about the YA book that I read over the summer, the one by Angeline Boulley, in her second book the characters were a little bit younger than in the first book. So they were you know 14/15 I think rather than 16, 17, 18 in her first book and I think maybe that was one of the reasons that I didn’t feel I enjoyed it quite as much as as the first book was that the characters were just a little bit younger.
BrookYeah, I think that that whole YA category is really. It’s really tricky to get the subject matter and the age of the characters right? And the wrong combination can can sour it one way or the other.
SarahSo I have a final book on my list and that was your book, Brook The Cameo’s Secret. So, it’s middle grade which is even younger than YA and I don’t read a lot of that because my my reader at home isn’t quite there yet. We’re still reading a lot of the early readers. But I think it was a really interesting progression to see kind of the difference between those books. The early reader books. Um, where my son is and YA, which I absolutely love. And you know see that kind of middle ground with with middle grade. Um I loved how much was going on in poor Jessi’s life
SarahNew school, mean girls, her parents splitting up, a boy that was crushing on her, and this mystery and it just you know she had a lot on her little shoulders. But you did such a great job of capturing the big feelings that accompany that age. And I really loved the voice that you gave Jessi it was yeah it was great. So I hope that there’s going to be another featuring Jessi and her and her friend, Ian, right?
BrookYeah Ian. Thanks, Sarah. This has been ah a book that means a lot to me so it’s so fun to have it out in the world. And I appreciate you saying that you liked the voice because that is a challenge for me I think it’s more natural for me to write from an adult voice and so um, so this was a challenge but one that I really enjoyed.
SarahBrook it sounds like we both had a great time reading this summer. And now it’s time to get back into reading for the show.
BrookI know I’m excited I have missed this and I’m ready to tackle some really fun topics and get back in the swing of things.
BrookAnd we want to hear what you read this summer reach out to us and let us know. But for now. Thank you for joining us on Clued in Mystery. I’m Brook.
SarahAnd I’m Sarah, and we both love mystery.