Category Archives: McTiernan, Dervla

2023 Reading Journal: Books 3, 4, 6 & 11

Every year I make a (very quiet, very private) resolution to post about every book that I read. I promptly (sometimes within hours) abandon this notion, because I read so much that a full blown post for each book is a completely unattainable goal. This also presupposes that I have enough to say about every book I read that I could even write a full-blown review. This is simply not the case – I enjoy most of the books I read, but just because I enjoy a book doesn’t mean I have a lot to say about it.

This year, I thought to myself “there is no rule that you have to do a full-blown review for every single book you read.” So, I’m giving myself permission to knock off several books in a post, with a few quick words about each book.

The Bullet that MissedThe Bullet that Missed
by Richard Osman
Rating: ★★★★
Series: The Thursday Murder Club #3
Publication Date: September 15, 2022
Genre: mystery: modern (1980-present)
Pages: 413
ReRead?: No

It is an ordinary Thursday, and things should finally be returning to normal.

Except trouble is never far away where the Thursday Murder Club are concerned. A local news legend is on the hunt for a sensational headline, and soon the gang are hot on the trail of two murders, ten years apart.

To make matters worse, a new nemesis pays Elizabeth a visit, presenting her with a deadly mission: kill or be killed...

While Elizabeth grapples with her conscience (and a gun), the gang and their unlikely new friends (including TV stars, money launderers and ex-KGB colonels) unravel a new mystery. But can they catch the culprit and save Elizabeth before the murderer strikes again?

It’s always fun to spend some time with Joyce and the Thursday Murder Club gang, and this third book in the series was no exception. I’d had the book on hold since before it was released, and it finally came up for me so I read it right away. The circle keeps widening and the hi-jinks (and danger) never end.  This is basically Scooby Doo with old people (I would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for those meddling pensioners!) and I will read this series forever.

Lavender HouseLavender House
by Lev AC Rosen
Rating: ★★★★½
Series: Andy Mills #1
Publication Date: October 18, 2022
Genre: mystery: modern (1980-present)
Pages: 274
ReRead?: No

Lavender House, 1952: the family seat of recently deceased matriarch Irene Lamontaine, head of the famous Lamontaine soap empire. Irene’s recipes for her signature scents are a well guarded secret—but it's not the only one behind these gates. This estate offers a unique freedom, where none of the residents or staff hide who they are. But to keep their secret, they've needed to keep others out. And now they're worried they're keeping a murderer in.

Irene’s widow hires Evander Mills to uncover the truth behind her mysterious death. Andy, recently fired from the San Francisco police after being caught in a raid on a gay bar, is happy to accept—his calendar is wide open. And his secret is the kind of secret the Lamontaines understand.

Andy had never imagined a world like Lavender House. He's seduced by the safety and freedom found behind its gates, where a queer family lives honestly and openly. But that honesty doesn't extend to everything, and he quickly finds himself a pawn in a family game of old money, subterfuge, and jealousy—and Irene’s death is only the beginning.

When your existence is a crime, everything you do is criminal, and the gates of Lavender House can’t lock out the real world forever. Running a soap empire can be a dirty business.

Lavender House got all kinds of buzz when it was released. I would describe it as a queer historical noir set in 1950’s San Francisco. If that appeals to you, well, come sit next to me, because my immediate response was “yes, please,” and it didn’t disappoint. I really enjoyed this book – and it was my favorite of the year (so far) until I read:

The ScholarThe Scholar
by Dervla McTiernan
Rating: ★★★★★
Series: Cormac Reilly #2
Publication Date: May 14, 2019
Genre: mystery: modern (1980-present)
Pages: 400
ReRead?: No

From the author of The Ruin comes a compulsive new crime thriller set in the fiercely competitive, cutthroat world of research and academia, where the brightest minds will stop at nothing to succeed.

When Dr. Emma Sweeney stumbles across the victim of a hit-and-run outside Galway University early one morning, she calls her boyfriend, Detective Cormac Reilly, bringing him first to the scene of a murder that would otherwise never have been assigned to him. The dead girl is carrying an ID that will put this crime at the center of a scandal--her card identifies her as Carline Darcy, heir apparent to Darcy Therapeutics, Ireland's most successful pharmaceutical company. Darcy Therapeutics has a finger in every pie, from sponsoring university research facilities to funding political parties to philanthropy--it has even funded Emma's own ground-breaking research.

As the murder investigation twists in unexpected ways and Cormac's running of the case comes under scrutiny from the department and his colleagues, he is forced to question himself and the beliefs that he has long held as truths. Who really is Emma? And who is Carline Darcy?

I don’t think I’ve been this enthusiastic about a series since I read The Blackhouse, book one in Peter May’s Lewis Trilogy, set on the Isle of Lewis off Scotland. This is the second in McTiernan’s Cormac Reilly series, set in Galway, Ireland. I read the first in series last year, The Ruin, and liked it a lot, but The Scholar blew me away. I’ve already put all of her other available books on hold at my library. Great characters, great setting and a dynamite plot.

The Madness of CrowdsThe Madness of Crowds
by Louise Penny
Rating: ★★★½
Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #17
Publication Date: August 24, 2021
Genre: mystery: modern (1980-present)
Pages: 436
ReRead?: No

Time and again, as the New Year approaches, that charge is leveled against Armand Gamache.

It starts innocently enough.

While the residents of the Québec village of Three Pines take advantage of the deep snow to ski and toboggan, to drink hot chocolate in the bistro and share meals together, the Chief Inspector finds his holiday with his family interrupted by a simple request.

He’s asked to provide security for what promises to be a non-event. A visiting Professor of Statistics will be giving a lecture at the nearby university.

While he is perplexed as to why the head of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec would be assigned this task, it sounds easy enough. That is until Gamache starts looking into Professor Abigail Robinson and discovers an agenda so repulsive he begs the university to cancel the lecture.

They refuse, citing academic freedom, and accuse Gamache of censorship and intellectual cowardice. Before long, Professor Robinson’s views start seeping into conversations. Spreading and infecting. So that truth and fact, reality and delusion are so confused it’s near impossible to tell them apart.

Discussions become debates, debates become arguments, which turn into fights. As sides are declared, a madness takes hold.

Abigail Robinson promises that, if they follow her, ça va bien aller. All will be well. But not, Gamache and his team know, for everyone.

When a murder is committed it falls to Armand Gamache, his second-in-command Jean-Guy Beauvoir, and their team to investigate the crime as well as this extraordinary popular delusion.

And the madness of crowds.

I’m a huge fan of the Chief Inspector Gamache series, but I have to admit that this installment left me cold, and not because the whole thing is set during a snowstorm. I didn’t like the basis of the plot and I thought that the investigation itself was sort of plodding. Not Penny’s best work, but finishing it means that I’m only one behind and will be caught up once I read 2022’s A World of Curiosities.