Posts Tagged ‘murder mysteries’

In Left at Oz, a profusion of flowers at a farmhouse represents Dorothy’s Oz. — Photo by Pat Bean

It’s All About the Tiny Details

I just started reading Left at Oz, a Jennie Connors cozy mystery by Sandra Carey Cody. It was a free Kindle book, and since the title intrigued me, I downloaded it.

Occasionally I’ll read a book and never really understand what, if anything, the title has to do with the story. For some as yet unknown reason, this bothers me. But I knew before I had read half a dozen pages why this book had been named.

Jennie, the protagonist of the book, was following directions to find her lost car, and one of those directions, given to her in an anonymous phone call, was to turn left at Oz. As a fan of L. Frank Baum, she immediately recognized Oz when she came upon it after passing a gray and dusty landscape. Oz was represented by a white farmhouse surrounded by a profusion of brightly colored flowers.

Clever, I thought. And my writing brain wondered how Sandra had come up with such an idea, especially after finding her car with a dead body in it. Perhaps while taking a shower, or a walk, or as often happens to me simply through my fingers as I type on my keyboard. Such little details are what makes reading, or watching a movie, delightfully enjoyable for me.

My wandering-wondering brain than jumped to Death on the Nile, a movie featuring Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot that I recently watched, and which is based on Agatha Christie’s book of the same name.

Long an Agatha fan, I knew to watch for unexpected and trivial clues as a way to identify the killer. One of my goals in reading murder mysteries is to figure out who done it before the killer is revealed. In this case, one of the clues was simply a missing tube of red paint. I don’t think I’m giving much away as it happens early on, and it takes a lot of other details to make the connection to the killer.

The clue was something totally different in the 1978 movie version of Death on the Nile, in which Peter Ustinov played Hercule Poirot. That version also starred Maggie Smith, Angela Lansbury, Bette Davis, Mia Farrow and David Niven — of whom I’m sure many younger readers are asking: “Who were they?”

Other than the primary setting – a boat floating down the Nile River – the two movies are quite different. I enjoyed them both, but Ustinov was my favorite Poirot. And because I watched closely for insignificant details, I successfully figured out who the killer was before the end of both movies.

Meanwhile, I’m still trying to figure out who done it as I continue to read Left at Oz, which I think must be a clue in itself. Or perhaps it’s just a red herring. I’m not far enough along in the book to decide.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited) and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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“Flowers are those little colorful beacons of the sun from which we get sunshine when dark somber skies blanket our thoughts.” – Dodinsky

Travels With Maggie

Echinacea, or purple cone flowers. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Echinacea is more than a pretty flower. It’s also a popular herbal health supplements. My fictional friend, China Bayles, or her creator Susan Wittig Albert, could tell you a lot more about it. In fact they probably do in one of Albert’s cozy mysteries, which I’ve been reading the past year.

China gave up her depressing life as a former criminal defense lawyer to run a quaint herbal boutique in the fictional town of Pecan Springs. The rural city is located in the Edwards Plateau landscape not too far from Austin, where for one reason or another, China’s always getting involved with dead bodies.

I read Albert’s books because I’ve come to know and care about her characters, because I love her descriptions of the hill-country landscape, and because she’s more into the who-done-it genre of Agatha Christie than the detailed blood and gore of so many of today’s murder mysteries.

I want to be able to figure out who the murderer is in a mystery book before I’m told, and to do so without upchucking my lunch.


This bee was enjoying the echinacea as much as me. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I also read Albert’s books – the current one being No. 13, “Dead Man’s Bones” – because plants fascinate me, and I want to learn all about them and their names.

But this day, one in which I was working in the entrance kiosk at Lake Walcott State Park, where I’m a volunteer campground host, I was simply into the purple cone flower’s beauty.

Echinacea plants were blooming all around me. They were at their peak, deep pink in color with petals all still attached – and I wasn’t the only one attracted to them.

Bees were busy exploring their tastiness while I drank in their beauty. The bees were particularly interested in the flower’s large cone, so much so that they ignored my presence when I got close to them with my camera.

I think I got some pretty good shots? What do you think?

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