Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Is it a strange tale or a mystery?

We're working on our next Writers' Mill Journal - volume 4, 2015 coming soon! But click on the image to learn aboutVolume 3. It's a collection of writings from our local writers' community, and any sales benefit our local library so...if you like what you see from the link, please buy copies for all your friends!

Like all "random" anthologies, our journal contains entries in multiple genres, from poetry for kids to scary horror stories for uncles and aunts (well, maybe not too scary - it's still PG13), and I get the joy of making sure all the entries end up in the right place. This year "It's a Mystery" had so many entries we had to start splitting them up. Some went into the "Kids' Corner." Several book excerpts landed in "Book-It." One mystery whose answer lay under the bed was assigned to "Under the Bed." And the rest were split between Mysteries and Strange Tales. But what's the difference between a mystery and a strange tale?

For our purposes, we decided it hinges on clues. If clues are important, the story's a mystery. If strange events predominate, we'll call it a strange tale.

All of which leads nicely into my reviews of recently read books, many of which were mysterious or strange, and none of which had their reviews posted because I was too busy working on the journal. Today I take a break while other editors read, so grab a coffee and see what you think:

Space Monsters by Peter Joseph Swanson is definitely a strange tale. Combining real history of the early '80s with a genuine feel for the obsessions of university students and teens enjoying their first clear tastes of freedom, the author creates a novel where monsters, real, imagined, science fictional, historical, twisted and natural all work together in a thoroughly weird, convincing and absorbing narrative. Enjoy this odd dark read with some oddly dark five-star coffee.

Portrait of Ignatius Jones by Peter David Shapiro is similarly strange, starting with an evocatively scary Victorian scene, then moving forward to a woman haunted by a painting, and that scary intersection of psychic power with human greed in the present day. There's a great female protagonist as the mystery deepens, and I'd love to read more books about her. Meanwhile, this is one to enjoy with a rich complex four star cup of coffee.

Dead Market by Gary Starta is harder to classify. There's definitely a mystery, with clues. There are bad buys with plans. And there might be a scientific explanation for it all. But it's also very definitely strange. I think I'll have to call it a strange mystery, blending medical discoveries, police detection, and something suspiciously like vampires - very cool. Enjoy with a dark five star coffee.

The Ghosts of Petroglyph Canyon by Christopher Cloud is a children's mystery, with some intriguingly strange overtones. But this time the clues are the thing, so I'll definitely call it mystery. Imagine Enid Blyton's Famous Five on a New Mexico Ranch, protecting a heritage while their uncle prays for rain, and you'll get the picture. It's fast, fun, and a nice blend of action and information for middle-grade readers. Enjoy with some bright lively easy-drinking two-star coffee.

Indemnity Only by Sara Paretsky is a clue-driven mystery with a cool female protagonist. I know it's the beginning of a series, and I plan to read more, if I can only find the time. It's set in Chicago, which to me means Harry Dresden, and the mystery has the same sense of bad news growing worse. But the story's entirely believable, modern-day, with no paranormality. And the protagonist is a determined young woman, getting no younger, balancing check-books, lives and loves with the needs of others. There are some seriously dark scenes, so enjoy a dark five-star coffee with it.

Then there's Death by Coffee by Alex Erickson, first in a new mystery series, so it must be a mystery. It's set in a bookstore/coffeeshop, so it's bound to appeal to me. Hapless coffee-pourer Krissy proves an even more hapless solver of mysteries, but the case is closed by the time the last door closes, and the bookstore's still open so all's well. Plus the detective is really handsome. Enjoy this one with some lively, easy-drinking two-star coffee, and don't forget to visit your local bookstore.

That's all my mysteries and strange tales for the last two weeks. I'll post more reviews as soon as I escape from editing again.

2 comments:

Jeanette Andersen said...

Hmmm, could it be both? Sounds great and would like to read it.

Toinette Thomas said...

This sounds like a cool project. I like your definitions of mysteries and strange tales.