As I mentioned in my previous post, each week of the course focuses on a different genre, with one title being assigned for the entire class to read and another title picked out individually by each student. For mystery week, our assigned reading was Alan Bradley's The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (2009), which is the first installment of the Flavia de Luce Series. The quirky, inquisitive and poison enthusiast 11-year-old that is the protagonist Flavia de Luce is really what makes the first book so enjoyable, and no doubt the rest of the "cozy mystery" series as well. It's worth noting that I listened to the audiobook version of this title, and I think it was the narration that really captured Flavia's character and made me want to read the rest of the series.
But enough about young Flavia - I'd rather talk about the mystery book I selected to read: the late Robert B. Parker's first book in the Spenser Series, The Godwulf Manuscript (1973). Below is my review.
I give this book:
Written and set in the 1970s, the first installment of the Spenser Series is as clever, nuanced and exciting as the ex-cop turned private eye that the series is named for. When Spenser is called in to a Boston university to investigate the theft of a medieval manuscript, his attention quickly turns toward the politically-radical college student shot dead in his apartment.
All clues point to the deceased’s girlfriend, but she insists she’s been set up. Spenser’s gut says she’s telling the truth, and that the murder and the missing manuscript are connected – but how? When the Mob tells Spenser the manuscript will be returned if he backs off the case, the gritty investigator knows he’s on the right path to solving the murder – even if he has to take a few bullets himself in the process.
Between quoting classic literature, chugging down bourbon, cooking gourmet meals, and casually seducing women with his mysterious charm, Spenser's character is intriguing and one-of-a-kind. It appears to be what has kept the series going for more than 40 books, thanks in part to author Ace Atkins who picked up the series after Parker's death in 2010. Parker's use of humor, dialog and vivid description make you feel as if you are in the '70s, bell-bottomed denim and all!
If like me, you haven't done much mystery reading, I highly suggest you start sleuthing around the genre, you never know what you might discover – maybe your next great read!