Thursday, July 24, 2008

Winter Study, by Nevada Barr

National Park Ranger Anna Pigeon is back in Michigan's Isle Royale National Park, as part of a team studying wolves and moose (but especially wolves). The team consists of scientists from around the country as well as a thoroughly unlikeable Homeland Security Agent. Wolves, especially, appear to be acting strangely, and old legends about mythical creatures nudge into Anna's consciousness as she desperately seeks the answers to grisly deaths while facing death herself.

The wildlife and nature's beauty are characters in the mystery. And creation of complex, deep characters is one of Barr's talents. The plot is smart and complex enough to be interesting but not so much so that it completely takes over the setting and characters, and their integral part in the events and outcome. A few of the graphic descriptions are not for the faint of heart but there are not a great number of them.

If you like nature, or delving into the motivations of human beings and the intricacies of human nature, you'll like all the Anna Pigeon mysteries.

Zapped, by Carol HIggins Clark

If you're looking for a light, quick, easy read in a cozy mystery, give this one a try. Regan and Jack Reilly are caught up in murder and mayhem again. The scene is New York--in a blackout. The newlywed couple has purchased the loft apartment next to theirs and are combining the two into one. Burglary of the new loft, a madwoman who picks up blond young men only to give them knockout drops and brand "I am a snake" onto their arms is loose in the city, ...well, you get the idea. Clark's usual cast of wacky characters and impossible coincidences can be found in this book. If you can just let go of the improbabilities and have fun with it this is a quick, fun way to spend a few hours.

Book of Old Houses, by Sarah Graves

This latest in the "Home Repair is Homicide" series finds Jacobia wrapped up in mystery and murder surrounding an old book that "washes" out in her cellar. It isn't just an old book, it's a book with names of the owners of the house--and it includes her name! (And did I mention that the names appear to be written in blood?)

While dealing with a housekeeper who is upset over Jake's father proposing to her, a son who is just back from alcohol rehab, and an old Maine house that constantly needs repairs, Jake and her best friend Ellie search for answers.

Graves' mysteries are a comfortable mix of "cozy" charm, home repair hints, and suspense. They aren't too gruesome, but don't make light of murder and danger. The characters are likeable and it's easy to feel a kinship to them. You need not read the series in order, but you'll feel a little more "at home" with the background of previous books in the series.