Meet Cliff Janeway, the crime-busting book lover

bookedtodieFlipper and BookMoocher friend Triccie recommended John Dunning’s Cliff Janeway series to me when we were raiding the Book Sale warehouse last year, but it slipped my mind until I got a copy of Booked to Die that my mom brought home from the states, among the load of books she bought from the estate sales she went to.

I was finally able to read it  (and a couple of other books) while I was getting my hair rebonded (the best reading time I’ve had in months!) a couple of weeks ago.

Booked to Die (Book #89 of 2009) is the first book in the Cliff Janeway “Bookman” mystery series by John Dunning. In this book, Cliff Janeway is a homicide detective investigating the murder of a bookscout in his home turf: Denver, Colorado, and the prime suspect is a longtime nemesis whose face he is itching to rearrange. He takes matters into his own hands, and it causes him to lose his badge.

Cliff Janeway is, in all aspects, one tough cookie, but he also happens to be a hard-core bibliophile, an avid collector of first-editions whose apartment could easily pass for an annex of the Denver Public Library.

Finding himself without a job, Cliff Janeway takes on a new career, and does something he has always dreamed of doing: putting up his own antiquarian bookshop: Twice Told Books.

Janeway appears to have settled into a more peaceful life, but as several rare (and outrageously expensive) books turn up, the body count in the local book trade rises, and Janeway’s cop instincts bring him on the trail of a murderer who will kill for a good book.

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Sleuthing in the dark

From Charlie’s Point of View by Richard Scrimger

Book #28 for 2009

I had high hopes for this book because it had such an original premise: the Stocking Bandit has been on an ATM robbing rampage, and Charlie’s dad has been arrested because the police are convinced he is behind the crime.

As if that isn’t enough for a kid to deal with, Charlie happens to be blind. With the help of his friends, Charlie must find the real Stocking Bandit — and fast!– before it’s too late for his dad.

As YA books go, it’s a good blend of relevant themes, such as dealing with a disability, friendship, family, and bullying, but the multiplicity of themes also works against the book, as it draws the story away from the mystery. As a whodunit, it doesn’t quite take off because it tries to tackle so many themes that only bog down the book.

It takes forever to before the action and the actual sleuthing starts, and while the main premise of the book is a blind sleuth (which, to me is so cool), the actual sleuthing isn’t all done by Charlie. I understand that he needs his friends to act as his seeing guides, but they end up stealing a lot of the thunder. The book is entitled From Charlie’s Point of View, and yet the story’s point of view (the persona) shifts to his friends Bernadette and Lewis every few chapters and it annoyed me because I think it leaves the main character, Charlie, short-changed.

The book design is thoughtful; I think the braille patterns and the blank spreads signifying Charlie’s blindness were great details, but it takes more than that to hold a reader’s attention.

This is the second book I’ve read in Dutton’s Sleuth line — the first was Lulu Dark Can See Through Walls, which was average — and I’m getting quite disappointed. I think I’ll pass the next time I come across another title from this series.

***
My copy: hardcover with dust jacket, P50 from the Fully Booked sale table, now on my BookMooch inventory.

My rating: 2/5 stars

Before The 39 Clues…

… there was a little book entitled The Westing Game. And although they were written 20 years apart, The Westing Game still trumps The 39 Clues big-time.

 

(I wasn’t able to finish the book I am reading (From Charlie’s Point of View) because I was busy sorting books and squee-ing because of my latest book hoard, so let me share one of my favorite books instead.)

Winner of the 1979 Newbery Medal, Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game is a book I’ve read more times than I can count — I remember a few times I actually read it twice in one day. I’ve also run through 4 different editions of the book — mass market, Puffin Modern Classic, trade paperback, and finally, a hardcover I found at Book Sale last year. It’s original, intelligent and entertaining, and a brilliant whodunit to boot!

Sixteen different people — of different ethnicities, and of no apparent relationship to one another except that all of them either live or work in the same apartment building — are summoned for the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will.

All 16 of them are surprised to find out they are heirs to the Westing fortune — Sam Westing is the founder of Westingtown, Wisconsin, and owner of Westing Paper Products. The catch? The will is a contest: one of the heirs has murdered Sam Westing, and whoever finds the culprit will be the heir to strike it rich.

The heirs are a crazy and spirited bunch, among them:

James Shin Hoo, owner of a Chinese restaurant, also an inventor;
Madame Sun Lin Hoo, Shin Hoo’s wife, imported from China;
Doug Hoo, a track and field athlete;
Christos Theodorakis, a kid confined to his wheelchair and an avid birdwatcher;
Theo Theodorakis, Chris’ brother, a high school student, pal of Doug Hoo;
Dr. Jake Wexler, podiatrist;
Grace Windsor Wexler, Dr. Wexler’s idle wife;
Turtle Wexler, the Wexlers’ smart aleck younger daughter;
Angela Wexler, the Wexler family beauty, engaged to be married to
Dr. Denton Deere, an intern;
Flora Baumbach, a dressmaker;
Alexander McSouthers, the apartment’s doorman;
Josie-Jo Ford, a judge;
Berthe Crow, the cleaning lady;
Otis Amber, the messenger;
and Sydelle Pulaski, a secretary.
The characters are full of little quirks that make them all interesting and endearing, and they plod through blizzards, burglaries and bombings in deciphering the clues to get the family fortune. I also like that the female characters in the book are feisty and liberated (or gain liberation along the way). Turtle Wexler rocks!

What’s fun about this book is that it will keep you guessing, with a variety of imaginative puzzles you can solve together with and the characters… and then wham! Revelations throughout the book will make you doubt your original guess. And just when you’re ready to give your final answer… bam! Raskin turns everything around with a twisty plot!

I am getting worked up just talking about it, hahaha. I just love this book :)

***
My copy: hardcover with dust jacket, plus a trade paperback for lending and rereading

My rating: 5/5 stars

Clue: 15 Whodunits to Solve in 15 Minutes by Vicki Cameron

I found this on the sale rack at National back in January, and it was screaming to be mine for only P95. Based on the popular game, Clue, this book is an anthology of short mysteries surrounding the death of Mr. Boddy (always the victim, of course) played out in different scenarios.

It’s great to see the game in action throughout the book, with all the characters brought to life. Mrs. White is the long-suffering matron housekeeper, Mrs. Peacock is the wealthy lady who’s inherited her numerous dead husbands’ estates; Ms. Scarlett is Mrs. Peacock’s flighty but foxy daughter; Rev. Green is the holier-than-thou crook who clearly doesn’t practice what he preaches; Professor Plum is the deadbeat intellectual who’s been laid off from his job at the museum; and Col. Mustard is the retired military man whose medals were never received out of any true valor.

And of course, Mr. Boddy manages to get himself killed every single time, by one of the usual suspects, with the usual weapons (knife, candlestick, rope, revolver, leadpipe, wrench).

I liked the idea of the book, and the quirky characters, but it leaves a lot more to be desired as a mystery anthology.

First off, the characters just kill Mr. Boddy out of whim. I mean, of course I’m not expecting a long, drawn-out motive, but well, all fifteen stories have the characters killing Mr. Boddy because he knows something about the murderer that’s not supposed to be out in the open, or something to that effect. And then when people discover the body, they’re all like, “Oh, he’s dead,” like it was the most normal thing in the world, and say “Let’s go have coffee” or some other inane remark.

The stories aren’t well-developed, and you really don’t end up solving the whodunit (other than randomly guessing at who the murderer is).The evidence presented to lead up to actually solving the whodunit is severely lacking, and when you read the solution, the story draws on pulling out unknown information out of thin air, and there you have it, you have a murderer.

Sigh, good whodunits are really hard to find.

***
My copy: paperback, on my shelf

My rating: 2/5 stars