About the Whodunit Book Club

Whodunit Book Club has met in its present location for almost seventeen years! If you would like to join us, our meetings are held on the last Tuesday of every month (except December).
We meet at the Chapters Store located at 41 MicMac Blvd., Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Phone (902) 466-1640

Monday, December 3, 2007

"A Cup of Christmas Tea" by Tom Hegg

Every year I read this poem by Tom Hegg.
It epitomizes the true meaning of Christmas and so I wanted to
share it with my book club friends.
"A Cup of Christmas Tea" by Tom Hegg

Short stories vs. novels

In my own personal library, I have several short story anthologies. Some of my favorites being: "The best British mysteries", "The Mysterious Press anniversary anthology", "Ellery Queen's mystery magazine: the first 50 years".
Do you enjoy reading mystery fiction in a short story format?
How does your enjoyment of these stories differ from your enjoyment of reading a full length novel?
Do you think short story authors have to be more or less 'skilled' than novel writers?
They have less time to develop their idea and they have to grab your attention immediately and hold it. Some authors can master both formats, but some excel at one or the other.
Do you have any anthologies that you remember as being particularly good? I'd love to hear your recommendations! What is your favorite mystery or suspense short story?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

November 27th Whodunit Meeting

Nineteen members showed up for the last meeting of 2007.
Question posed: When reading mystery fiction do you like to play sleuth and figure out 'Whodunit'? Or... do you like an ending twist and/or surprise?
When answering this question several members 'confessed' to reading the end of the book on occasion. Shock! Horror! I guess you can glean that I have never and would NEVER do that.
Also, the issue of "Whydunits" came up again. Novels where you know from the outset who committed the crime. The suspense is WHY the act was perpetrated. They are definitely my favorites. Ruth Rendell was mentioned as being the Queen of the Whydunit.
Book under discussion: "Most Wanted" by Michele Martinez.
The consensus seemed to be that it was not a great book. A legal thriller with little character development and low on 'thrills'. The sequel to this title "Finishing School" was not one most of us would follow up, though there were a few who showed interest.
Discussion brought up the use of the uneducated jargon used in Chapter 5. Many including myself thought that this detracted from the novel. I was on the point of shelving the book after reading this chapter. It seemed contrived, and derogatory.
The character of Bernadette, supposedly a strong character, showed a remarkable misjudgment of character in Rommie.
With rampant corruption, the only 'clean' characters were Melanie and Dan.
What are your thoughts? Would you read the sequel?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"So many books, so little time"

A Whodunit member made a comment which I would like to explore further.
She said, "I read the first line of the book and it just grabbed me."
Alternately a co-worker of mine usually reads the first paragraph. From this she decides whether or not this is a book for her.
I usually do not read any of the text before choosing a book.
I do however read the back cover and/or the jacket 'blurb'. That combined with the jacket itself are often instrumental in my choice.
Once I am familiar with an author and know that I like him or her, then I need no further enticement. The author's name alone will make the choice for me.

"So many books, so little time"
How do you choose your next title?
Is it the first line, the first paragraph, the first page?

October's 'Whodunit' meeting

Just back from Chapters, Dartmouth and another great Whodunit Book Club meeting.
My impression was that most of the club enjoyed last month's selection "Chemistry of Death" by Simon Beckett. There was much lively discussion. Would this book make a good movie? Who would you cast as Hunter? Will you read the sequel "Written in bone"?

We discussed books into films and visa versa.
Most agreed that they would prefer to read the book first before watching the film, due to the fact that the film often disappoints.
Part of the reason for this is the constricting time frame of the movie.
How can they tell the whole story well in 2 hours?
A good reminder from a Whodunit member:
The film is only one person's interpretation of the original work.

Alternatively, I believe that books into TV mini-series, or series usually are more successful and true to the original work.
For instance, I cannot imagine anyone better to be Detective Morse that the late, great John Thaw.

I look forward to reading comments from Whodunit members as well as anyone else who happens to stumble upon this blog...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Is fiction ever really unique?

I recently read the new novel by Chelsea Cain entitled "Heart Sick".
After reading this novel I went on to read several reviews of the title. Some reviewers seemed to think less of it because it reminded them so much of Thomas Harris' Hannibal Lecter novels. They felt that the author leaned too heavily on the plot style and method of Harris. True, there were similarities. However, is fiction ever completely unique? When you read a specific genre, whether it be mystery, fantasy or romance you are going to encounter similar themes and devices. The sadistic serial killer is just another example. Despite some bad press I enjoyed the novel. You can read my review in November's Gumshoe Review.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Whodunit? or Whydunit?

Most readers of mystery and detective fiction are familiar with the Whodunit concept. A crime is committed and we the reader are given the task of deciphering WHO it was. A tried and true formula for many happy hours of reading.
Some of my personal favorites have been Whydunits.
The author shares the crime with the reader from the start and we follow the psychology of the protagonist as to why he/she committed the crime (the back story) as well as the procedures that the law enforcement agencies utilize to catch the criminal.
Some excellent examples of Whydunits are:
"A judgement in stone" by Ruth Rendell
"Clean cut" by Theresa Monsour
The movie "Fracture" starring Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling is an example of a Whydunit on film. The watcher knows who committed the crime, but is compelled to see if the police and lawyers can prove his guilt in the face of his genius.

Please share your favorite titles whether they be Whodunits or Whydunits.

Mystery Fiction featuring animals

For those who enjoy animal mysteries, here is a list of animal mysteries from Mystery Readers International

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

How important is the setting of the novel?

Further discussion on a topic raised at the Whodunit Bookclub.
Is the setting of the novel you are reading important to you?
I always find that the if the setting is one I am familiar with or comfortable with, then I get more enjoyment from the novel. For instance I love books that are set in the United Kingdom, Canada or the Eastern seaboard of the United States and I will choose those titles first over others with settings that are more foreign to me personally.
For instance, I avoid settings in the Orient, Southwestern U.S., and South America. That is just a personal quirk of mine, and not a reflection on my feelings toward those places. That is not to say that I NEVER read books with those settings, but that they are not my first choice.
When I am reading a good book, I immerse myself in it. If it is a place that I like, I find the immersion less painful which in turn increases my pleasure in reading the novel.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Do you feel you MUST read a series in order?

I belong to an awesome book club called "Whodunit".
The book club most often chooses the first book in a series as their selection.
However, some feel that this is not the best way of choosing because the first book in a series is very often the first novel by the author.
They think that the first novel does not adequately reflect the author's talent because the author has not had a chance to hone his/her skills.
Conversely, many will NOT read a novel if it is a sequel to others in a series. They want to read the series in chronological order. I am one of those people. Perhaps it is the cataloger in me... that need for order. Also, my favorite novels are character driven and I want to learn about the protagonists in the sequence in which it happens.
I can think of examples to support both arguments. (using some of my favorite authors of course)
The reknowned Scottish novelist Ian Rankin's first Rebus novel, "Knots and Crosses" was far from my favorite of his. I fear that many who read this novel would not pursue reading Ian Rankin. What a shame that would be!
Another example is Deborah Crombie's series featuring Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James. The first novel in the series is not her best. That being said, every subsequent book in the series just gets better and better.
Then there are those superb novelists whose first novels are so well written, that the first in the series is something to be savored. For example, Louise Penny's series featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache begins with "Still Life". This novel was a multi award-winning title and it deserved every accolade it has received.
Also, Stephen Booth's Ben Cooper/Diane Fry mysteries began as page-turners and the quality never lessens as the series progresses.

What are your thoughts?

For more information and series listings visit my website.