British Mysteries from Book to Screen

Today’s post comes to us from our Deputy Director Deb, who loves a good mystery!

Many devoted mystery readers began with Agatha Christie’s classic golden age mysteries featuring Miss Jane Marple and Hercule Poirot. I certainly did! These distinctly British offerings are a perfect gateway into the world of mysteries. And like so many other British mysteries, they have been made into marvelous television series, which you can watch using the library’s new streaming video service, Acorn TV. Or you can download the books in e-book or e-audio from the library’s website.

Here are some suggestions to get you started.

Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple are both well represented on Acorn TV and in our e-book and e-audiobook collections. Consider reading or listening to Murder on the Orient Express, The ABC Murders or The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Check out Acorn TV and watch Marple, Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime, The Agatha Christie Hour and Agatha Christie’s Poirot. Also try Christie’s classic locked-room mystery, And Then There Were None, considered to be the world’s best-selling mystery, available in e-book and e-audio and on Acorn.

The Agatha Raisin series by M.C. Beaton features a middle-aged woman who sells her London PR firm and moves to the country (the Cotswolds, to be precise), where, in true amateur detective fashion, she encounters—and solves– murders galore! Try the first book in the series, Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death, available in both audio and ebook. Or read any of the others—like so many long-running mystery series, it isn’t necessary to read them in order. Then watch Agatha Raisin on Acorn, a top pick for fans of cozy British mysteries.

One of my favorite village cozy series, also by M.C. Beaton, features the unambitious and charming policeman Hamish Macbeth who patrols the village of Lochdubh in the Scottish Highlands. I have listened to all of them on audio. The reader, Graeme Malcolm, imbues the audiobooks with such charm and personality that I’m betting you, too, will be hooked! We have more than a dozen titles available on e-audio, including Death of an Honest Man and  Death of a Gossip. Then check out Hamish Macbeth on Acorn.

The Phryne Fisher series by Kerry Greenwood, featuring a glamorous private detective in 1920s Melbourne, is actually Australian, but close enough to fit in with our British theme. The supremely independent Miss Fisher has class, sass and the means to pull it all off! Try Cocaine Blues, the first in the series, or The Spotted Dog. The clothes alone make the series worth watching Miss Fisher on Acorn!

Ann Cleeves’ series featuring Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope is considerably darker than the other series in this post. DCI Stanhope is a solitary, obsessed, caustic, brilliant investigator near the end of her career working in northern England. Try listening to the first in the series, The Crow Trap, or read The Seagull. And be sure to watch Vera on Acorn TV.

Set in Ireland, the long-running Jack Taylor series by Ken Bruen has been thrilling readers (and now TV fans) for years. Taylor is a classic ex-cop turned seedy private eye prowling the underbelly of Galway. Try e-book or e-audio  Galway Girl or e-audio Purgatory and check out Jack Taylor on Acorn.

The Easter-Passover Connection

During the next week many people will celebrate the Jewish holiday of Passover (April 8-16) or the Christian holiday of Easter (April 12). Some will celebrate both, some neither. Either way, they are both prominent holidays on the calendar, and have more in common than you may have thought.

Both holidays fall on different dates every year, although they always fall in the springtime, and the dates often overlap. Do you know how the dates for each holiday are determined? Passover is a fixed date on the Jewish calendar, the 15th day in the month of Nisan. The Jewish calendar follows the cycles of the moon, while the Gregorian calendar (the most widely-used) is a solar calendar, using the Earth’s orbit around the sun as its measure of time.

This explains a little of why Passover begins on a different date on the traditional Gregorian calendar each year, but why Easter? You have to dig into history a bit to understand the connection. Historically,  the events of Holy Week (the week leading up to Easter Sunday) are are believed to have taken place place during Passover, a holiday which predated the birth of Christ by many centuries. Some theologians and historians have theorized that Christ was actually sharing a Passover meal with his disciples at what became known as the “last supper”.

So we know both holidays historically took place near each other on the calendar, but it wasn’t until the 4th century that things got standardized. Jewish scholars assigned Passover a fixed date  – the 15th of Nisan – on their calendar, and the Christian Council of Nicaea decreed that Easter would be observed on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox. Then there’s Orthodox Easter, which goes by the Julian calendar (differing from the Gregorian calendar by 13 days). It can all get pretty confusing!

Need to convert dates from one calendar to another? Click here.

Whether you’re a religious observer, or just in it for the chocolate eggs,  here are some fiction finds to kick back with during this holiday season:

Passover:

The Dinner Party by Brenda Janowitz. After Sylvia Gold discovers that her daughter has invited the very wealthy parents of her boyfriend for Seder, she agonizes over making the right impression, but when old memories and grievances surface, she learns the importance of acceptance.

All Other Nights by Dara Horn. How is tonight different from all other nights? For Jacob Rappaport, a Jewish soldier in the Union army, it is a question his commanders have answered for him: on Passover in 1862 he is ordered to murder his own uncle, who is plotting to assassinate President Lincoln.

Sunday the Rabbi Stayed Home by Harry Kemelman. Rabbi David Small uncovers a Passover plot than undeniably raises more than Four Questions — threatening to ruin not only his holiday Seder but his role as leader of Bernard’s Crossing’s Jewish community.

 

Easter:

The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny. When the charming, seemingly idyllic town of Three Pines is rocked by a killing during an impromptu Easter séance at a local haunted house, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is confronted by a web of baffling questions as he searches for a killer.

Easter Bunny Murder by Leslie Meier. Spring has sprung in Tinker’s Cove, and Lucy Stone has a mile-long to-do list from painting eggs with her grandson, to preparing the perfect Easter feast, to reviving her garden after a long, cold winter. She hardly has time to search for a killer with a deadly case of spring fever.

Alibis & Angels by Olivia Matthews. With the Lenten season fast approaching, Sister Louise “Lou” LaSalle looks forward to a final day of indulgence before giving up her favorite sweets. But one Briar Coast resident won’t get the chance to repent. Opal Lorrie, the mayor’s director of finance, just turned up dead in the parking lot of the Board of Ed.

Sample Some Tasty “Cozy Mysteries”

The words “cozy” and “mystery” may not seem to go together at first glance, but with the growing popularity of the mystery novel subgenre,  they somehow do. What makes a mystery “cozy”? They are usually set in small towns, with amateur or atypical sleuths solving the crimes, and Angela Lansbury in Murder She Wrotethere isn’t a lot of swearing, gore, or sex. Think “Murder, She Wrote” with a hundred different themes.

The theme of the series is usually evident in the series name and the often-punny book titles. There seems to be a theme for every interest: Knitting (Dyeing Wishes : A Haunted Yarn Shop Mystery), Gardening (Harvest of Murder : A Gardening Mystery), Books & Reading (If Books Could Kill: A Bibliophile Mystery), and of course, Cats (Paws and Effect : A Magical Cats Mystery). But one of the biggest themes is Food.

We’ve assembled some mysteries sure to appeal to the Foodie and Amateur Detective in you!

Goldy Bear MysteriesCatering to Nobody by Diane Mott Davidson by Diane Mott Davidson. This series follows caterer Goldy as she solves murders and tries to keep her fledgling business afloat. Catering is a risky business indeed!

Hannah Swensen MysteriesThe Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke by Joanne Fluke. Hannah Swensen is a cookie baker whose gingersnaps are almost as tart as her mouth and whose penchant for solving crime definitely stirs things up.

Bakeshop MysteriesMeet Your Baker by Ellie Alexander by Ellie Alexander. Welcome to Torte – a small-town family bakeshop where the coffee is hot, the muffins are fresh, and the cakes are definitely to die for.

Comfort Food MysteriesDo or Diner by Christine Wenger by Christine Wenger. Trixie Matkowski  agrees to take over her aunt’s diner in upstate New York, and is looking forward to the small town atmosphere she knew as a child…. until murder is on the menu.

Tea Shop MysteriesShades of Earl Grey by Laura Childs by Laura Childs. Theodosia Browning is the  owner of Charleston, South Carolina’s  Indigo Tea Shop, where a mystery is always brewing…

Cheese Shop MysteriesThe Long Quiche Goodbye by Avery Aames by Avery Aames. Charlotte Bessette runs Fromagerie Bessette, or as it’s more commonly known by the residents of small-town Providence, Ohio – the Cheese Shop. Another small town with a large number recipes to make and murders to solve.

 

A Delicious Mystery Series

I recently stumbled on the Verlaque and Bonnet mysteries by M.L. Longworth. These delectable stories are set in Aix-en-Provence and begin with Death at the Château Bremont.

Death at the Château Bremont‘s description says “Antoine Verlaque, the handsome chief magistrate of Aix and his sometimes love interest, law professor Marine Bonnet, investigate the death of a local French nobleman who fell from the family Chateau in charming and historic Aix-en-Provence.”

Simple, non? Well, that one-sentence blurb does not even begin to cover the colorful world waiting for you within its pages. Not only do you get a good mystery, the descriptions of the town and countryside are a virtual tour of Provence. Longworth, who has lived there since 1997, obviously loves her adopted home.

And the food! As the characters eat and drink their way though the story, I often became more engrossed in their meals than in their sleuthing. They partake of fine wines and cheeses. They visit vineyards and cafes.  They meet friends for scrumptious dinners at small restaurants owned by skilled chefs. I was completely consumed by lifestyle envy.

The story is liberally sprinkled with passages such as this:

He tore open the cannele and bit into the soft inner cake made of rum and vanilla. Crusty and caramelized on the outside and soft and gooey on the inside, it was perfect.

The mystery floats in the background as the characters sit in cafes consuming fine French food and debating the merits of various wines. Verlaque often despairs of Marine. He is a gourmet and she will eat anything! Still, they enjoy an on-again, off-again love affair amid some meals that made me want to pack and move to France.

There are currently six books in this cozy mystery series. Warning: They are not only a good read, they will make you hungry!

Murder in the Rue Dumas

Death in the Vines

Murder on the Île Sordou

The Mystery of the Lost Cézanne

The Curse of La Fontaine

What is the Next Book in This Series?

whats-nextIt is extremely frustrating to read a book only to discover it is part of a series, and there is no clear list of reading order. While some series are loosely tied together and allow for skipping around and reading out of order, others can only be fully enjoyed when read in order. To help ease your frustration, I am going to share the tools that I use to help determine the correct reading order. There are several routes to find the answer to this question, some are simple and easy, others require a little work.

The first way to find the answer of reading order is to find the author’s website. Many internet savvy authors, or their publishers, maintain websites with series listings in order and, in the case of multiple series, the suggested reading order for everything. Not all authors do this, but some have very helpful lists to help out their readers. Many include printable lists so you can easily keep track of titles you have read and what you should read next.

Some examples of authors that offer comprehensive lists or tools on their websites to find the reading order include Nora Roberts, Gail Carriger, James Patterson, Janet Evanovich, Charlaine Harris, and many more. I highly suggest checking with the author’s website first before branching out and trying other avenues, because who better to explain the best reading order than the person that wrote them?

goodrdsIf the author fails you, do not lose heart! My second choice for series order, and further reading suggestions, is Goodreads. If you search for a book title, Goodreads will give you a wonderful amount of information. On the book’s page you can follow links to the author page or a list of book in that series (both published and sometimes books that have not been released yet) in order. The bonus is you get suggestions for books that might appeal to you because some authors list what they are currently reading or their own recommendations. For instance, on the author page for one of my current favorites, Maria V. Snyder, you can see her books listed by series, in order, and what she is currently reading.

There are also a few websites dedicated to helping readers find the next book in a series, or the complete reading order of any given series.  One website that I often use is well titled as: Book Series in Order which you can search by author or character name.  Order of Books is a second site that can help you find the reading order of different authors and series. This site allows you to search by author or main character. If you are looking specifically for children’s series check out Juvenile Series and Sequels, and if you need young adult series listings I would suggest using Series and Sequels. whats-next-in-series1

If  you still are not sure about the series order of the books you are reading or want to read, please stop in and visit our Welcome Desk or give  the library a call. We are here to help.