mystery, crime, and the end of the world is at hand!

After recent events, one might be tempted to ponder the natures of faith, freedom, and free will. But beneath any deeds, whether good or evil, lie people trapped by others' dreams and aspirations, real lives informed by cultures and belief, real crimes, real criminals too, and real victims. As troubles loom, it might be well to pray that we be neither doers nor followers of evil. And as Shakespeare wrote, may each of us "to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man" woman or child.

It seemed oddly ironic -- as French detectives seek crime's perpetrators and the faithful, of more than one religious leaning, see the ending of days -- that I should be reading and reviewing a story set in the 17th century, about a monk learning the arts of alchemy and truth. His antagonist, perhaps insane, is sure the world will end soon, and that he's called to act, in ways likewise insane,to bring that end about. But Pilgrim of Love by Charles Davis is no heavy treatise or world-weary mystery. It's a wonderfully atmospheric, evocative, and frequently hilarious tale, set on Mont St Michel where the sands and tides are a mystery all to themselves. It's thought-provoking, an authentic, fascinating and cool mystery like Name of the Rose crossed with the Da Vinci Code. And I didn't even know until the end that it's the second in a series. Great characters, great language, and a highly recommended novel; enjoy with some elegant complex four-star coffee.

The Haunting at Ocean House by Christopher Geoffrey McPherson is the 5th (maybe the last?) in the James Murray Mysteries Series. It has its own magical/mythical undercurrents as James (and his fictional alter-ego) investigate fake seances and find themselves involved in very real dangers. It's also another pleasingly atmospheric novel, evoking the early days of modern Los Angeles when railway stations finally combined in one gorgeous building, big bands played, and the other world was all the rage. Enjoy with some more satisfyingly complex four-star coffee, and read the whole set.

In a similar vein is the not-yet-released Detective Fiction by William Wells. This time the protagonist is a former Chicago detective, now retired to Southern Florida, and his alter ego is the protagonist of books written by a very successful friend. Will the fictional detective be able to help the real in solving his crime? Or perhaps real life is fiction too, at least in the telling, just as twisted and changed as stories told over the bar at the Drunken Parrot. The novel is thoroughly enjoyable, told in an irreverent first-person narrative with pleasantly chatty humor and style. Enjoy with some well-balanced, full-flavored three-star coffee.

Engaged in Danger (Jamie Quinn Mysteries Book 4) by Barbara Venkataraman is another first-person tale of detection, this time told from the point of view of Jamie, small-town small-practice lawyer with a seriously big-town, high-profile case threatening to fall into her lap. Unfortunately this happens just as her boyfriend goes out of town. And dangers abound. So does good-humored dialog from all the familiar characters. Enjoy this fast read with some lively easy-drinking two-star coffee.


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