Sunday, January 06, 2008

Murder Mysteries

When I wrote about the choices for the free book from newbooks magazine Nan asked if the Oscar Wilde book is a mystery, and if so is it the first in a series? She also asked about The Oxford Murders - is that a mystery or a true account?

Oscar Wilde and The Candlelight Murders by Gyles Brandreth features, as you would expect, Oscar Wilde, the celebrated playwright, poet and wit. It’s set in London, Paris and Edinburgh at the end of the nineteenth century. When a series of brutal murders takes place Wilde is determined to solve the murders. Newbooks reports that it is “the first in a series of classic English murder mysteries in the tradition of Conan Doyle and Dorothy L Sayers. The reviewer writes: “This book is fun; it is a literary confection with a chewy centre.” That makes it sound like a sweet – a caramel maybe. Well, the first chapter is inviting enough for me to decide this is the one I want to read first.

The Oxford Murders is by Guillermo Martinez. This is also a mystery novel set in Oxford concerning the murder first of an old lady who once helped to decipher the Enigma Code, then of other seemingly unconnected murders, accompanied by cryptic notes and coded messages. They are investigated by Arthur Seldom, a leading mathematician, who has written a best seller about serial killers and the parallels between investigation into their crimes and certain mathematical theorems. This sounds complicated but intriguing. It’s my second choice and one I’ll look at in future.

As Nan said The Coroner's Lunch is an intriguing title. She wonders how do those folks face a meal after doing their work? I can’t imagine it despite watching so many post mortems on TV shows like ‘Silent Witness’ and ‘Waking the Dead’. I certainly don't have the stomach for the job! Well, The Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill is also a crime mystery novel. It is set in Laos in 1976 when the Communists have just taken over. Dr Siri Paiboun, a Paris-trained doctor remains in the country after others have fled and he is appointed state coroner, even though he has no training, experience, and equipment and doesn’t want the job. The wife of a party leader is found dead and then the bodies of tortured Vietnamese soldiers start coming to the surface of a lake. Siri has to investigate. The reviewer in newbooks writes: “the doctor enlists old friends, village shamans, forest spirits, dream visits from the dead – and even the occasional bit of medical deduction - to solve the crimes.” I can’t see why it’s called The Coroner’s Lunch from the extract in the magazine, but it did make me want to read more; another book to add to the list of books to read, based on what I’ve read so far, for example this is part of the conversation between the Judge and the Coroner:

“'And what do you put the loss of blood down to?’ Judge Haeng asked.

Siri wondered more than once whether he was deliberately being asked trick questions to establish the state of his mind. ‘Well.’ He considered it for a moment. ‘The body’s inability to keep it in?’ The little judge hemmed and looked back down at the report. He wasn’t bright enough for sarcasm. ‘Of course, the fact that the poor man’s legs had been cut off above the knees might have had something to do with it. It’s all in the report.”

2 comments:

jenclair said...

Both Oscar Wilde and the Candlelight Murders and The Oxford Murders sound good to me!

Nan - said...

Aren't you just so nice to take the time to answer all my questions! I want to read each one. Thank you so much.