Copyright © 1998 Henrietta W. Hay
Shhh! It's Mystery Time . . .
November 13, 1998
The election is over and it's time to lighten up a little. What better
to think about on Friday the 13th than mysteries? Not real ones, of
course, but the kind that a lot of us read with our feet up and our
brains in neutral. Mysteries are comforting.
I still read and report mostly on mysteries written by women. I have
had a fair amount of static from male readers who claim I am
prejudiced. Not so. This is not to say they are better or worse.
There is simply a difference in style. Our worlds are skewed in slightly
different directions. I'll bet I could read a good mystery with no
author listed, and tell you whether a man or a woman wrote it.
Most mysteries have characters and situations that might be real. But
there are some writers, like Sparkle Hayter, who are having fun and
blast off into the realm of crazy imagination. As I write, I am in the
middle of her latest, and trying to figure out just how Robin Hudson is
going to get out of trouble this time. Robin is Hayter's invention, a
pure New Yorker who is a television producer. In "The Last Manly
Man," Hayter does a very clever satire on testosterone filled males and
overly radical feminists, and tosses in a bunch of libidinous chimps
nobody ever heard of. If it sounds weird, it is. It's fun, but Sparkle
is not for everybody.
Annabel and Mackensie Smith, that brainy pair of Washington
sophisticates, are back in Margaret Truman's "Murder in the House."
Annabel is an art curator with her own gallery and Mac teaches law at
Georgetown University. Maybe Margaret Truman couldn't play the piano
well enough to get a good review when her dad was president, but she
does know how to write a good mystery yarn. And she knows
Washington. This book involves the murder of a Congressman about to
become Secretary of State, and a gang of vicious Russian thugs who want
to restore Communism to Russia. This is a good one if you like
Janet Evanovich in "Four to Score" she continues the zany adventures of
Stephanie Plum, bail bondswoman. She believes in the "let's have fun"
school of mysteries, but makes sense in the end. Her Hungarian Grandma
Mazur packs a Glock and is always looking for a little action. Her
friends include Sally Sweet, a 6' cross-dressing drag queen and Lula,
the 250-pound ex-hooker who works for Steph's boss, Cousin Vinnie. She
is Jersey born and bred and loves it. "When you live in Jersey a
beach isn't enough. People have energy in Jersey. They need things to
do. They need a beach with a boardwalk. . . Life doesn't get better
than this. "
J. A. Jance's Sheriff Joanna Brady of Cochise County in southern
Arizona is one of my favorites. In "Skeleton Canyon" she hunts for the
killer of a beautiful teenage girl. Joanna herself, her 9 year old
daughter, her friend Butch, and all the other characters, except for
the bad guys, are very likable people. Her love is for quite a
different part of our country than the Jersey shore. "Overhead, the
stars shone like glittering diamonds against a velvet sky. The starlight
was so bright that the mountains, rocks, and trees around her emerged
from the gloom.
Diane Mott Davidson, our Colorado author who lives in Evergreen has a
new book, 'The Grilling Season. If you can get through one of her
books without gaining five pounds, you are strong-willed. Diane can't
write a paragraph without mentioning food, and she includes lots of
recipes. In this one Goldie Schulz, caterer, is hired to host a
hockey party to celebrate the Avalanche winning Stanley Cup. As usual
in Aspen Meadows, Colorado, murder and mayhem follow.
A good author I had not read before is Beverly Connor and the book is
"Dressed to Die." Lindsay Chamberlain is an archaeologist with the
University of Georgia. Artifacts brought by her brother have been
stolen, including a 40 year old skeleton fully dressed. We have
academic politics, bad guys and good characterization. It's a good,
Sorry, I can't answer the phone right now. I have to find out what
happened when they put the mysterious gas in the air conditioners at the
feminists convention in "The Last Manly Man."