My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This was interesting in that it was like a round robin story but with 26 of the mystery genre's top authors. Each author has one or two chapters to call their own in this novel (word of warning to whom that matters it's a mix of third person and first person it).
It opens with the half botched execution of Rosemary Thomas, wealthy museum curator whose husband, the philandering, art smuggling Christopher, was found dead in an Iron Maiden Rosemary had sent back to Germany. The story then backs up to see the events leading up to Christopher's death which frankly failed to grab me. John Nunn (the cop investigating the case) comes to believe he made an error and feels she's innocent. And a ton hinges on the judge and DA wanting to look tough on crime in an election year so Rosemary, trying to prove that money didn't matter, gets railroaded and all of her appeals somehow exhausted in just a few years and is put to death in California (seems very unlikely and sort of bothered me).
The story got a bit more interesting at the 10th anniversary of her execution and her equally wealthy friend brings all the actors together (with Nunn's help) to try to prove that the real killer is among them. The actual end takes on an eye rolling Hollywood quality that a few days later I can barely remember it.
It was an interesting idea and it's well written but it didn't really grab me.
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Smoke and Ashes by Abir Mukherjee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Unfortunately I've not read the first two in this series, hadn't heard of it but saw this one on the library's new book shelf. I might have to run down the first two. I enjoyed this. Unlike many mysteries, it didn't really give any of the back story from the first two books so I'm not sure how the point of view character, Sam Wyndham, ended up a detective in 1920s Calcutta nor how he ended up an opium addict (though one suspects his injuries in WWI had something to do with it). His partner is Surendranath Banjaree, a young Indian police man who they call Surrender-Not because they can't pronounce his name.
That leads into an observation about own voices. That name, Wyndham's occasionally unkind thoughts about the Indians (especially Gandhi's followers), and some other issues work with an own voices author where they would have been taken very different by one who isn't. While uncomfortable, this would have been true to form for a 1920s British man living in India (which is sometimes a dicey thing when writing historical fiction, things that would have been normal then are viewed as racist now and much of modern sensibilities would never have crossed anyone's mind back then).
It opens with Sam being rousted from an opium den so not to get caught up in a raid and he stumbles over a dead man with his eyes sliced out and stabbed in either side of his chest. To Sam's surprise no reports are made of the murder. He and Surrender-Not are assigned to deal with Das and Bose (two of Gandhi's followers, a real life national heroes) whose non-violent protests in the city might screw up the crown Prince's visit.
To be honest, that went on a little long for me (that was part of the reason I didn't go to the five stars for this) and it's obvious that the author wanted this history known (as well it should be) but it was a bit of a distraction from the mystery (though ties back in at the end).
Then a nurse ends up killed in the same way as the man from the opium den and Sam and Surrender-Not have to find her killer all the while dealing with the unexpected interference from Section H, the clandestine military group who have no trouble torturing Sam by locking him up until he's in the middle of withdrawal which brings up another problem for Sam. He can no longer pretend he's in control of his addiction. His need to get high keeps getting worse.
They have to find the killer fast because it might be the death of a prince or of the Indian protest leaders or both if they don't.
Sam is an interesting multifaceted character and I really enjoyed him. Surrender-Not too (it's first person Sam so we don't get to know him well but Sam is sympathetic to the fact that being a policeman and serving the British has isolated Surrender-Not from his friends and family). I plan on reading more of this series.
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