Book Bingo Four: A book more than 500 pages, a book with themes of culture, and a book with a mystery.

 

 

AWW-2018-badge-roseIn my fourth book bingo, I have three books to include and link back to. At this stage, I have almost completed the fifth column on the square, with the final square needing a foreign translated book – yet to be decided. The others are all a little bit spaced out randomly at this stage, but for the most part, shouldn’t be too hard to fill. Whilst I was aiming to fill all of the squares with Australian women authors, with the exception of the translated novel and a novel by an Australian man, I have decided to fill them with what fits with any book as I read them.

Miss Lily 1So, for this week, I have three to report on. There is one that I have known will fit since signing up to this challenge, so let’s start there – A book with more than 500 pages. There are a few that fit into this category, but I chose Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies by Jackie French for this square. Set during the turbulent years of the First World War, Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies is the story of Sophie Higgs, an Australian from a wealthy family, learning ways of engaging men and the upper class of pre-war British society, a society that will come to change in the years of war that will soon plague Europe and the world. As with many of Jackie’s books, it tells the lesser known history, the stories of women – in all walks of life –  whose stories have been overlooked when recording history. It is a touching and emotional story full of ups and downs and gut punches that you don’t see coming, yet they work with the story, and the theme of the untold of casualties of war.

sealwomanAt the end of the second, is a book with themes of culture – The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson. The Sealwoman’s Gift tells the story of Icelanders taken into slavery by Barbary pirates in 1627, ripped away from what they know and transplanted – as all slaves were – into an alien culture where they are forced to adapt and assimilate. Ásta, the main character, struggles with her old identity and her new one, and the forced separation of her family. From Iceland to Algiers and back to Iceland, the differing cultures are referred to, and the uniting feature of story-telling of cultures shines through.

OLMEC_B_SMLFinally, my third square for this week is the fifteenth square, a book with a mystery. For this one, I read Olmec Obituary by L.J.M. Owen, the first in the Dr Elizabeth Pimms series. It has a mystery – an ancient mystery. It’s cases so cold, only a trained archaeologist-cum-librarian can solve them. It is an excellent book with mysterious colleagues who show nothing but hatred, family secrets and ancient mysteries, where people want to cover up the truth. It is a great start to the series, and though the ending leaves a few unanswered questions, I am hoping these will be picked up throughout the series. The main character is well established, and it is a decent read with a good pace that keeps things interesting, going back and forth to build the mystery of the past and finally reveal what happened.

As I go through this book bingo, I am marking the squares off that are easily completed first or that are fairly broad and open, and leaving the more challenging ones for now, until I come across something that fits them.

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Olmec Obituary by L.J.M. Owen

OLMEC_B_SML.jpegTitle: Olmec Obituary

Author: L.J.M. Owen

Genre: Crime/Mystery

Publisher: Echo

Published: August 2016

Format: Paperback

Pages: 342

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: Archaeologist Dr Elizabeth Pimms thoroughly enjoys digging up old skeletons.

But when she is called home from Egypt after a family loss, she has to sacrifice her passions for the sake of those around her.

Attempting to settle into her new role as a librarian, while also missing her boyfriend, Elizabeth is distracted from her woes by a new mystery: a royal Olmec cemetery, discovered deep in the Mexican jungle, with a 3000-year-old ballplayer who just might be a woman.

She soon discovers there are more skeletons to deal with than those covered in dirt and dust.

Suitable for readers young and old, Olmec Obituary is the first novel in a delightful cosy crime series: Dr Pimms, Intermillennial Sleuth. Really cold cases.

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseElizabeth is having the time of her life in Egypt, delving into tombs, uncovering new secrets, and searching for the women of antiquity amongst all the evidence of male rulers. When family tragedy strikes, Elizabeth is summoned home, and must give up her archaeology career for the stability of one in the National Library of Australia (referred to as the Mahony Griffin Library in the book) and support her family. In pain, and curious as to a fellow librarian’s behaviour towards her, Elizabeth finds herself volunteering to help uncover the secrets of a three-thousand-year-old Olmec cemetery. But all is not what it seems, and there are more than just bone-related secrets to uncover. What is the head of the project, Dr. Carl Schmidt up to, and why? Who is he covering for? And why does Mai hate her so much? Back at home, Elizabeth is grappling with younger siblings and grandparents who need her to work to support them, but also need her to help around the house and be there for them. Between work, and her family, Elizabeth hopes she can solve the mystery of the Olmec women, and prove to the university and library what has really been happening – and perhaps even why.

The first in what I am sure will be a wonderful new cosy crime series with cases so cold, nobody is left to speak for the dead but archaeologists and historians, Olmec Obituary brings a new sleuth to life, who deals in cases so cold, finding a witness would require a time machine. However, without one, Elizabeth settles on solving the crimes and mysteries of the past from the future, using her skills as an archaeologist, and with the help of Alice, a PhD candidate, and friends who study ancient languages, will make discoveries that will alter perceptions and cause Elizabeth to look to her family, and uncover more than just the skeletons at work. Olmec Obituary introduces us to a cast of characters who are unique and diverse, to a family with Welsh, Chinese and French heritage, with a female led cast of characters, with female-centric narratives driving the story, both the story of the Olmec burial and Elizabeth’s story, where she comes up against sexism in her voluntary position, and an unexpected altercation with a library employee she has never met – Mai – and who gives no indication as to why she has decided to hate Elizabeth – something I am intrigued by and look forward to finding out. I was just as surprised as Elizabeth at the instant hatred – it added another mystery to the story as I wondered what the hatred was about. It added a layer to the story and characters that contributed to the mystery.

Not only is the story-line compelling and interesting, Olmec Obituary’s diverse cast of characters, and female-led story brings a new voice to Australian literature in the last few years, offering up something meaty and intriguing for new readers who want their women doing new and interesting things, and seeking diversity. Combined, these work, and Elizabeth’s love life is present too, but already established and not at the forefront of the plot, which makes for exciting reading. As stubborn as she is, Elizabeth still has weaknesses and flaws that she tries to keep guarded and hidden, but it is these flaws that make her an intriguing character to read about.

The genre of cosy mystery, where the murder happens off page, without gratuitous violence and sex is becoming a favourite – and in this genre, all my current favourite authors are Australian women writers, with one being a British male – Vaseem Khan, author of the Baby Ganesh Investigation series. My other favourites which are by Australian women are:

LJM Owen, Dr Pimms, Intermillennial Sleuth

Sulari Gentill, The Rowland Sinclair Mysteries – and the series that got me into this genre.

Kerry Greenwood, Phryne Fisher Mysteries

Janine Beacham – Rose Raventhorpe Investigates.

So, in my vast collection, Elizabeth is in good company, and she is an intriguing character, much like Rowly, Rose, Phryne and Inspector Chopra and his baby elephant. Where Rowly has his artist friends, and Phryne has trusty maid Dot, and Rose, the Silvercrest Butlers, and Chopra has a baby elephant, Elizabeth’s companions are her cats, named for Egyptian gods and goddesses, who are there when Elizabeth is working at home, always watching, and always faithful.

This is a great start to what I am sure will be an engaging and educational series. Elizabeth looks to be a character whose secrets will be revealed across the series and watching this happen will be intriguing. I liked the way Olmec Obituary ended with a touch of a mystery to come and be resolved, whilst wrapping up key aspects of the main plot and revealing characters for who they truly are not the facade that they put on for everyone else.

A great read, and I can’t wait to get stuck into book two.

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