Review of The Man With a Load of Mischief by Martha Grimes (1981) (Richard Jury Series)

 Bottom line: A pleasant and intriguing read with a few murders thrown in for good measure.

Rating: Recommended

Blurb:

At the Man with a Load of Mischief, they found the dead body stuck in a keg of beer. At the Jack and Hammer, another body was stuck out on the beam of the pub’s sign, replacing the mechanical man who kept the time. Two pubs. Two murders. One Scotland Yard inspector called in to help. Detective Chief Inspector Richard Jury arrives in Long Piddleton and finds everyone in the postcard village looking outside of town for the killer. Except for one Melrose Plant. A keen observer of human nature, he points Jury in the right direction: into the darkest parts of his neighbors’ hearts…

Review:

Just a few weeks ago I was complaining about not being able to find new-to-me cozy mystery series to get lost in. Well, of course the next day I picked up an older book that I had gotten last year at my neighborhood’s community book swap, and found just that. The Richard Jury series by Martha Grimes has about two dozen books, and I’m looking forward to working my way through them. Some may quibble with my including this as a cozy, since the lead character works for the police, but the setting, atmosphere, and lack of CSI type talk make me feel ok about sticking this in with the cozies.

I had a few minor complaints, as I usually do, the biggest one being that I didn’t feel like the partnership between Richard Jury and Melrose Plant, who are being established as the crime fighting duo who go on to work together throughout the series, was explained or explored very well. The men seemed almost to be the same person. I would have like to see more differentiation, and a more solid foundation of their relationship established.

That being said, that was my main complaint. It met all my other criteria for a good cozy mystery, and the characters were well drawn and intriguing enough that I’m hoping to learn more about them as the series progresses.

One thing I will say is that I found this to be a fairly light read – the best way I can explain this is to compare it to something like Louise Penny’s mystery series, which always leaves me a touch hesitant to get into the next book. Not because I am afraid the quality will be lacking, but because reading those books is an emotional investment. There are some deep tragedies and pain explored (not even necessarily related to the crime being investigated) that, frankly, I just don’t always have the energy to tackle. I can’t speak to the rest of thisseries, since I’ve only read the first (though I have the second waitlisted at the library), but The Man With a Load of Mischief was exactly what I was looking for when I started searching for new cozies a few weeks ago – an entertaining read that wasn’t too draining mentally.

PS – this was set around Christmastime in a small English village (though the Christmas parts are very minor), so it may be fun to earmark to read around then.

I know I’m late to the party since this was first published in 1981, so have any of you read the Richard Jury series? What did you think?

Get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

10 books I’ve carried with me

This post originally came from a Facebook meme that’s been going around: name 10 books that have you’ve carried with you and don’t take too long to think about it. Normally I ignore stuff like this (“If you don’t forward this post, you’re a terrorist!” “If you don’t copy  and paste this post, I’m going to unfriend you!”), but it’s about books, so I couldn’t resist. It was a good exercise and I tried to follow the instructiosn by not thinking too much about it, so I missed The Giver, but other than that I haven’t thought of any other books that I would’ve added to the list. Apologies to my Facebook friends, who will have already seen the list.

If you are interested in seeing how the masses responded, Facebook has compiled the data here. There are some great books on the list, and the only one that gave me pause was Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but since my first and favorite way to experience that story is via the radio drama, I don’t really think of it as a “book”.

So here’s my list, alphabetical by author (because picking 10 was hard enough, and I sure as heck wasn’t able to rank them!). One thing that helped me narrow down the list was thinking about which books I have physically carried with me over the years and miles, and which books continue to survive my frequent library purges.
1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – le sigh. (Amazon, Barnes and Noble)

2. Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth Bailey – since I’ve had the privilege of living in cultures very similar to the one Jesus inhabited, I’ve long felt that the western world misses out on alot of the cultural context of the Old and New Testaments. This book gives some great context for Jesus’s life. (Amazon, Barnes and Noble)

3. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – such a great story about the power of books and the dangers of censorship. (Amazon, Barnes and Noble)

4. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie – this represents the entire Christie oeuvre, which has given me hours and hours of reading pleasure. (Amazon, Barnes and Noble)

5. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George – this is a great children’s survival story which not only features a non-male, non-white main character (gasp!) but handles incredibly adult themes very deftly and in an age-appropriate manner. This is definitely due for a reread. (Amazon, Barnes and Noble)

6. The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis – this again stands for the whole Chronicles of Narnia series, and is probably my favorite of the bunch, though the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a very close second. (Amazon, Barnes and Noble)

7. 1984 by George Orwell – this book has stayed with me since I snitched it from my older brother’s assigned reading list in high school. (Amazon, Barnes and Noble)

8. Harry Potter by JK Rowling – such a fun story! (Amazon, Barnes and Noble)

9. Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers – possibly my favorite book of all time. Layers upon layers of depth, and I discover something new about the book or myself everytime I read it. (Amazon, Barnes and Noble)

10. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkein – what can I say? The fantasy by which all fantasy is measured. (Amazon, Barnes and Noble)

What about you? What 10 books would make your list?

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

Review of Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters (1975) (Amelia Peabody #1)

Bottom line: A fun Victorian cozy set on the banks of the Nile

Rating: Recommended

Blurb:

Set in 1884, this is the first installment in what has become a beloved bestselling series. At thirty-two, strong-willed Amelia Peabody, a self-proclaimed spinster, decides to use her ample inheritance to indulge her passion, Egyptology. On her way to Egypt, Amelia encounters a young woman named Evelyn Barton-Forbes. The two become fast friends and travel on together, encountering mysteries, missing mummies, and Radcliffe Emerson, a dashing and opinionated archaeologist who doesn’t need a woman’s help — or so he thinks.

Review:

Elizabeth Peters might be the author that I find most hit-or-miss. A few moves ago, someone at our local library had a thing for her writing and they had stocked maybe a dozen or more of her books. I read several, as they are mostly light mysteries with some romance thrown in. Longtime readers know by now that I love books that give a good sense of local ambience, especially if they’re set in exotic locations. This series is set in Egypt in the late 1800s. She has a couple of other series, and some standalone novels. Her strengths are ambience, archeology (the author had a Ph.D in Egyptology), and voice – although mystery authors seem bound by law to make their characters “quirky”, I often find hers genuinely amusing. I think some of her weaknesses are plot – the mystery part of the novel is often the weakest piece, and voice.

But wait! I just said voice was one of her strengths! This is why I find her to be so hit or miss. If she’s just focused on telling the story, I think that comes across and her characters are fun and charming and all the rest of it. When she’s making her points (she was a Feminist with a capital F), I find that the characters and story suffer – when I as a reader start rolling my eyes going, “I get it, women are equal to or greater than men, just get on with the book!” that pulls me out of my flow of reading and generally irritates me. To be fair, anything that pulls me out of the flow of reading is going to irritate me (you can ask my husband).

So some of her books are cozy mysteries at their best – light, fun, and interesting – and some of her books feel stilted, forced, and repetitive. Though I have read several in the Peabody series (by the way, if there are any series authors out there, please, please, PLEASE list the order of your books somewhere on the actual book! I hate having to dig through every novel on the shelf to try to arrange by publication date so I can find the first in the series. Even with a smart phone it’s not always easy to find quickly on the internet. Anyways, I digress…), I had never read this first one until a recent recommendation by a friend. It’s by far my favorite by Peters. If you’re interested in trying her writing, this one certainly gets my top recommendation.

Get it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Review of A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny (2007) (Three Pines Mysteries #2)

Bottom line: A strong continuation of a very good series.

Rating: Recommended

Blurb:

CC de Poitiers managed to alienate everyone in the hamlet of Three Pines, right up to the moment she died. When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache begins his investigation, it seems like an impossible murder: CC was electrocuted on a frozen lake, in front of the entire town, during the annual curling tournament. With compassion and courage, Gamache digs beneath the idyllic surface of village life to find long buried secrets, while his own enemies threaten to bring something even more chilling than the bitter winter winds to Three Pines.

Review:

I went into this book expecting it the all-too-common sophomore slump – a great debut followed by a much less than stellar number two. I was pleased to discover that I enjoyed this one almost as much as the first book. I was even more pleased when I picked it up at the library in November, knowing only that it was the second book in the Inspector Gamache series (see a quick review of the first here) and discovered that it was set during Christmas. Yay!

I would definitely recommend that you read Still Life first, as many of those characters reoccur here. There were still the frequent POV changes that irked me from the first book, and several times she wrote scenes to be intentionally misleading or used words like “the object” to keep the suspense up, which I hate (though this may have been magnified since I had just read Dan Brown’s Inferno), but overall it was a very good mystery. She wove some trouble into Gamache’s life in such a way as to leave me dying to get my hands on the next seven or so books to see how that will resolve itself.

There was also an underlying theme of how brokenness can be passed down through the generations – something that I’ve been thinking a lot about as I’m finishing up my first year as a parent. Nothing will make you more aware of your own faults than raising a child and wanting desperately not to screw up too badly.

But anyways, it was very good, and I can see that I’m going to have to continue haunting my library’s on hold section as I work my way through the series. The depictions of village Christmas life were a charming backdrop to the murder – so get in the holiday spirit and read about a murder!

Get it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Have you read any Louise Penny? What did you think?

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Review of A Rumpole Christmas by John Mortimer (2009) (Rumpole series)

Bottom line: A fun holiday read with a little murder, theft and blackmail thrown in here and there.

Rating: Recommended

Blurb:

Of the late Sir John Mortimer’s many beloved characters, it is widely agreed that Horace Rumpole was his greatest fictional creation. Here, collected in book form for the first time, are five delightful tales that capture the beleagured barrister at his grumpy, yet warm-hearted best.

Rumpole isn’t particularly fond of Christmas Day-he finds it has a horrible habit of dragging on as She Who Must Be Obeyed leads him through the usual rituals. But at least the criminal fraternity rarely takes a holiday. Whether it’s a suspicious Father Christmas, or an unseasonably nasty murder trial, there’s always something wonderfully unlawful to liven up Rumpole’s dull holiday plans.

Review:

This is a collection of short stories set over the Christmas holidays. It is very light in tone and feels like you’re sitting down over a glass of the horrible wine Rumpole drinks while he tells you these stories in his own, slightly meandering way. It is a fun read to get you in the mood for the holidays – especially if you prefer you holiday spirit with a little crime and mayhem on the side. It’s very short, and could easily be read in an evening – cup of tea and Christmas cookies optional. 

Get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Review of The Anatomist’s Wife by Anna Lee Huber (2012) (Lady Darby Mysteries #1)

Bottom line: A powerful mystery with a great new detective.

Rating: Recommended

Blurb:

Scotland, 1830. Following the death of her husband, Lady Darby has taken refuge at her sister’s estate, finding solace in her passion for painting. But when her hosts throw a house party for the cream of London society, Kiera is unable to hide from the ire of those who believe her to be as unnatural as her husband, an anatomist who used her artistic talents to suit his own macabre purposes.

Kiera wants to put her past aside, but when one of the house guests is murdered, her brother-in-law asks her to utilize her knowledge of human anatomy to aid the insufferable Sebastian Gage—a fellow guest with some experience as an inquiry agent. While Gage is clearly more competent than she first assumed, Kiera isn’t about to let her guard down as accusations and rumors swirl.

When Kiera and Gage’s search leads them to even more gruesome discoveries, a series of disturbing notes urges Lady Darby to give up the inquiry. But Kiera is determined to both protect her family and prove her innocence, even as she risks becoming the next victim…

Review:

This was one of those books where I finished it and had the awesome-new-author-discovery jitters. The more I look back on it, I’m able to think more analytically about it and figure out what I liked and what I didn’t like and so on, but not many books actually make me giddy with joy when I’m done with them. So, as I do my review, keep that in mind.

First my complaints – I didn’t really like the male lead, and didn’t think he was extraordinarily well handled. We get interesting hints about him, that he pretends to be shallow and pretentious, but underneath is a serious and intelligent detective, but we’re only told the former for a few pages in the beginning, and suddenly he’s the latter, with no hints as to why he would pretend otherwise in the first place. Also, I’m not crazy about the “reformed rake” style hero (or in this case “could-possibly-reform-in-the-future-for-the-right-woman rake”). My other annoyance was that this novel takes place in high society in 1830, where apparently everyone cheats on their spouses with hardly any consequences, or batted eyelashes. Perhaps that’s true to the time, I’m not a historian, but it did irritate me.

Apart from those things, I loved it. This might be one of the few novels where I’ve seen angst well handled, and certainly one of the very few novels written in recent times where this is the case. The heroine is both strong and suffering from things in her past. Her level of angst over it, as well as society’s reaction seemed very believable considering the novel’s time and place.  Remember that these were things no one would have been able to see on TV and therefore become desensitized to. (If my wording here seems more awkward than usual, it’s because I’m trying to avoid spoilers, even little ones, as is my policy.)

The murder plot/discovery was very good, as were the pace, supporting characters (for the most part), and setting. I thought the author did an excellent job conveying the time period and location without overdoing it. There were several interesting facts dropped about oil painting in that time, but again, you never felt like you were listening to an info dump. She also conveyed what was necessary about clothing to help you picture the scene without making my eyes glaze over about corsets and petticoats and whatever else people wore back then (I’m even less of a fashionista than I am a historian).

However, despite really loving Kiera, the main character, the best part of this book, in my humble opinion, was how well the author handled Kiera’s emotions after the murder takes place. Authors all too often seem to err either on the side of “character barely affected by gruesome murder” or “character overly affected by murder of someone she barely knows and spends the whole book fainting and throwing up.” The horror Kiera feels at what is a particularly terrible murder is extremely well depicted. Though I have read far more graphic and violent murders, I was drawn in to all the pain and injustice that accompanied this one, much more than in other mysteries I’ve read. Reading about Kiera’s feelings seemed to echo and magnify my own in a powerful way. So, consider yourself warned.

Clearly, as you can see by how much I had to say about this book, it was one that really did affect me, and I mean that in a good way (I’ve got book two on hold at the library). If you are at all interested in historical mysteries – or willing to try them – this one is well worth the read.

Get it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Review of Whiskey Sour: A Jack Daniels Mystery (2004) by J.A. Konrath (Jack Daniels Mysteries #1)

Bottom line: Definitely worth a read for hard boiled fans who don’t mind a little cliché and dose of humor in their gruesome detective stories.

Rating: Recommended

Blurb:

Lieutenant Jacqueline ‘Jack’ Daniels is having a bad week. Her live-in boyfriend has left her for his personal trainer, chronic insomnia has caused her to max out her credit cards with late-night home shopping purchases, and a frightening killer who calls himself ‘The Gingerbread Man’ is dumping mutilated bodies in her district. Between avoiding the FBI and its moronic profiling computer, joining a dating service, mixing it up with street thugs, and parrying the advances of an uncouth PI, Jack and her binge-eating partner, Herb, must catch the maniac before he kills again….and Jack is next on his murder list. Whiskey Sour is full of laugh-out-loud humor and edge-of-your-seat suspense, and it introduces a fun, fully drawn heroine in the grand tradition of Kinsey Millhone, Stephanie Plum, and Kay Scarpetta.

Review:

This book was recommended to me years ago, but I put off reading it because I was afraid it would be too gory for me. Make no mistake, this book certainly has its disgusting and violent moments, but for me the light tone interspersed throughout the book (it works better than it sounds like it would) helped me stomach the bad moments. It was suspenseful, interesting, and well written. There were several clichés throughout, but I genuinely liked the main character. It is difficult to create a tough-as-nails female cop/detective that is also feminine (in the “feels like a woman” sense, not necessarily the “pink high heels” sense) and realistic, not to mention likeable, but Konrath has managed that with Jack Daniels.

Two things that annoyed me the were the way over the top incompetent and cardboard FBI agents and the bad guy’s giggling. Other than that it was a very strong read – I will certainly be reading more of the series when I have the time.

 Get it! Amazon, Barnes & Noble

What did you think? I know the series has been around for almost a decade now – have any of you read it?

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

Review of by Cape Refuge (2002) by Terri Blackstock (Cape Refuge Series #1)

Bottom line: A realistic mystery that is well worth reading.

Rating: Recommended

Blurb:

Mystery and suspense combine in this first book in an exciting new 4-book series by best-selling author Terri Blackstock. Thelma and Wayne Owens run a bed and breakfast in Cape Refuge, Georgia. They minister to the seamen on the nearby docks and prisoners just out of nearby jails, holding services in an old warehouse and taking many of the ‘down-and-outers’ into their home. They have two daughters: the dutiful Morgan who is married to Jonathan, a fisherman, and helps them out at the B & B, and Blair, the still-single town librarian, who would be beautiful if it weren’t for the serious scar on the side of her face.

After a heated, public argument with his in-laws, Jonathan discovers Thelma and Wayne murdered in the warehouse where they held their church services. Considered the prime suspect, Jonathan is arrested. Grief-stricken, Morgan and Blair launch their own investigation to help Matthew Cade, the town’s young police chief, find the real killer. Shady characters and a raft of suspects keep the plot twisting and the suspense building as we learn not only who murdered Thelma and Wayne, but also the secrets about their family’s past and the true reason for Blair’s disfigurement.

Review:

It has been a while since I’ve started a mystery that compelled me to finish it. Despite having some characters that irritated me, and the frequent point of view changes between five or so main characters, I found myself really caring about them, and rooting for them all the way through (even the ones I occasionally wanted to shake – Jonathan, I’m looking at you here.) I thought the book could have done with some slimming down in spots – there were a couple of places it seemed like the characters should have caught on well before they did.

But overall, as I said, I found it compelling. It was a frighteningly believable story, and I found myself suffering with the helplessness of the main characters as it feels like all is crashing down around them. What do you do when it seems like everyone is against you? In a small, isolated town, where only a few people are in power and they all know each other, that can create a dangerous dynamic.

I also liked how the author was able to create scenarios with tension and danger, without relying on completely implausible set ups, such as a middle aged woman singlehandedly barging in to a biker bar to confront the bad guy who could eat her for lunch. (Side note: on kboards, a forum I sometimes hang out on, I learned about an acronym for just such heroines – TSTL, or Too Stupid To Live. I thought that was hilarious.)

It features Christian themes pretty heavily throughout, but it was done in a way that made sense in the story – in fact I thought that part was exceptionally well handled. So, apart from a few quibbles with the pacing and one or two of the characters being annoying (though in a very realistic way, which was perhaps why I found them so annoying – these are people that would irritate me in real life, too) it was a very enjoyable read. Well, enjoyable in the traditional mystery sense of “I need to figure out who did it and what is going to happen to the characters now!”

Get it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Mystery Series Roundup

We have moved recently, and I have been a little disappointed with my new library. For one, the online e-book lending system has been upgraded since I used it last and I can’t figure out how to browse for Kindle books. It’s very unwieldy. For another, they put all their fiction in one category. ONE. That means mysteries are next to literary fiction, romance next to sci fi, all lumped into one big heap. Of course it’s neatly organized alphabetically by author, but one of the great pleasures of the library is browsing. I find it far too overwhelming to do so when you have such a large and varied selection of books. However, the redeeming feature I’ve discovered is the online hold feature. Essentially you get to shop for books online, for free, and they collect them and put them on a shelf at the front of the library for you. It’s wonderful. I came home with 11 books the last time, many of them first in a mystery series. So here are three that I’ve recently read or reread, and I hope you can find a new-to-you series to enjoy.

How do you like your mysteries? Intensity varies from low (over-easy) to high-ish (over-hard).

Over-easy: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (1998) (series by the same name) Alexander McCall Smith Amazon, Barnes & Noble

I’ve read the first eight or so of these mysteries, and they’re just lovely. Set in Botswana, the pace is slow and rambling, like a story shared by an old friend on a back porch with iced tea. Though there is sadness in the books, the intensity level is very low. The mysteries investigated have more to do with everyday problems than murder and the books themselves are more about the characters than the investigations. A pleasant lazy Sunday afternoon read.

Blurb of first book:

This first novel in Alexander McCall Smith’s widely acclaimed The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series tells the story of the delightfully cunning and enormously engaging Precious Ramotswe, who is drawn to her profession to “help people with problems in their lives.” Immediately upon setting up shop in a small storefront in Gaborone, she is hired to track down a missing husband, uncover a con man, and follow a wayward daughter. But the case that tugs at her heart, and lands her in danger, is a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by witchdoctors.

Over-medium: Still Life (2005) (Chief Inspector Gamache series) Louise PennyAmazon, Barnes & Noble

This was a new read for me. It had been recommended by a few different people and I finally got around to reading it. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will definitely be reading the rest of the series. Two things I wasn’t crazy about were 1) there are a lot of characters introduced pretty quickly and 2) the point of view shifts pretty quickly and seemingly randomly. But those were fairly minor annoyances. The setting was great – a small town in Quebec, the characters were very good, and the murder itself was cleverly plotted. Her detective was interesting without being forcibly quirky and I can’t wait to learn more about him.

Blurb of first book:

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montréal and yet a world away. Jane Neal, a long-time resident of Three Pines, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it’s a tragic hunting accident and nothing more but Gamache smells something foul this holiday season…and is soon certain that Jane died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.

Over-hard: Track of the Cat (1993) (Anna Pigeon series) Nevada Barr Amazon, Barnes & Noble

I’ve read perhaps six or seven of this series. Each murder mystery is set in a national park, and investigated by Park Ranger Anna Pigeon. I give high marks to Barr for creating a complex main character – Anna is middle aged, stubborn, occasionally bad-tempered, and very capable – and for setting – I love the idea of using national parks as a background. Although I wouldn’t say the first book, Track of the Cat, is particularly grueling, some of her stories can be very violent and graphic. I have avoided Hard Truth, my “local” national park mystery because of fairly consist reviews saying how graphic the content matter (child abuse). Winter Study was also fairly gritty. That being said, I have continued to read books in this series. If you’re looking for an intense, page-turning mystery with great settings and interesting characters ,this just might be the series for you.

Blurb of first book:

Patrolling the remote West Texas backcountry, Anna’s first job as a national park ranger is marred by violence she thought she had left behind: the brutal death of a fellow ranger. When the cause of death is chalked up to a mountain lion attack, Anna’s rage knows no bounds. It’s up to her to save the protected cats from the politics and prejudices of the locals – and prove the kill was the work of a species far less rare.

 

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

Castle TV Series

Bottom line: A murder mystery TV series with great characters, acting, and storylines.

Rating: Strongly Recommended

Castle is my favorite TV show. Maybe of all time, but definitely my favorite currently running show. It’s a murder mystery that features Detective Kate Beckett and her crew, who have been told to bring a writer, Richard Castle, along with them in the course of their investigations, so that he can gather information to write a series of books.

I only tried it because it stars Nathan Fillion, who was the male lead in the tragically short lived TV series Firefly. Castle is fantastically good. It’s one of those rare shows where everything comes together: the writing, characters, casting, acting, plots, etc. are all just incredibly well done. They even managed to handle the sexual tension (it’s TV, therefore there must be sexual tension) well. I stopped watching Bones because at the end of every season, there would be this huge “will they/won’t they” cliffhanger, and then when they started the next season they just pretended the last episode hadn’t happened. After 5-6 seasons like that, I just got fed up. I’m not a huge TV watcher in general, but any time the writers start to obviously manipulate the audience, I lose interest instantly (this annoys my husband – we’ll be invested maybe a couple of seasons deep and all of a sudden, I’m done.). I want to be thinking about the story and the characters, not be wondering about how the writers are going to yank my chain next. Anyways, in Castle the relationship between the male and female lead feels natural, and progresses and regresses (for the vast majority) according to believable events within the context of the show. As the characters are the main draw for me, this is even more important than usual. And ALL the characters are great, even the supporting cast – they feel realistic and interact well and are basically the kinds of people that you wish you could go hang out with.

The only downside for me is that sometimes you get an incredibly intense, edge-of-your-seat, gruesome show, and sometimes you get a fun, lighthearted show, and you never know which you’re going to get. Although I think in general that’s a good thing (keeps it fresh), it is the reason I stopped watching about a year ago when I was pregnant and tired and stressed out and couldn’t handle anything even remotely intense. I haven’t managed to get caught up yet, but I will.

Get the first season: Amazon, Barnes & Noble.

Side Note: As an interesting promotional tactic, the powers that be have created the Nikki Heat books that are supposedly written by the character Richard Castle (the Amazon author page even shows Nathan Fillion). They’re actually not bad mysteries. The writing style is a little more sensationalized and occasionally cheesy than I would typically go for, but it’s a fun extension of the Castle world. This is one of the incredibly rare times when I’ll tell you to watch the TV show first, but there it is. I’ve read the first two Nikki Heat books and enjoyed them. I don’t know yet if I’ll read the others – my “to be read” list has become quite enormously high again – but not because I don’t think I wouldn’t like them. Do be aware, especially if you typically read cozies, that these are fairly intense and PG-13-y.

Get the first book, Heat Wave: Amazon, Barnes & Noble.

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.