Monday, April 6, 2015

Three Favorite Mystery Novels of All Time

Sharon Long joins us today with a rundown of her three favorite novels of all time: Rebecca by Daphne de Maurier, Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane and The Vanishing by Wendy Webb. 

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

My favorite classic Gothic mystery is Rebecca.  The book starts with the famous opening lines - Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.  This is a story about the second Mrs. De Winter (as we never learn her first name) reminiscing about her past and living at Manderley, the estate of Maxim de Winter.  However, life is not easy for Mrs. de Winter as she is repeatedly reminded of and compared to the first Mrs. de Winter, Rebecca, who died less than a year ago.  One of the truly great characters in this novel is Mrs. Danvers, the housekeeper who was the maid for Rebecca's family when she was born.  Mrs. Danvers is obsessed with Rebecca and does mean and mischief things to the new Mrs. de Winter. The reader only learns about Rebecca through the eyes of those who love her and the inquest into her suspicious death.  This novel is full of surprises as we learn more about Rebecca, her secrets and her death.  
One of the reasons I love this book and have recommended to everyone and anyone is because of when this book was published which was in 1938.  It is amazing to me how Daphne leads the reader down one path and quickly changes directions.  As a reader, you do not know what is going to happen next until the author is ready to let you know.  The writing is terrific, the characters amazing and as you read it, you also think about Manderley.  The movie Rebecca directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1940 is one of the best adaptations of a book to a movie.   I tell everyone read the book and see the movie, but it must be the original version in black and white.  The actress who plays Mrs. Danvers in the movie is chilling.  By the way, I am not alone in my love of Rebecca as this book has never gone out of print.  

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
This story is about a U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels and his new partner who go to Shutter Island where Ashecliffe Hospital for the criminally insane is located.  They go to investigate the disappearance of a patient who has escaped from a locked cell and apparently has left the island as well.  The partner has come to Shutter Island to avenge the death of his wife who was murdered by one of the inmates.  During this novel, Teddy becomes increasing paranoid, fearful and unsure of reality.  This story has twists and turns and the ending was a complete shock to me personally.
The reason I love this book is because even though I read it several years ago, the ending has stayed with me.  The writing is wonderful, very unusual characters and a great setting.  I mean seriously - a hospital for the criminally insane on a island!  It doesn't get much better than that.  This was also a movie, however, in my opinion the movie falls short of the novel.  The movie does not have the feeling of fear and uncertainty like the novel.  I recommend only the book to people and tell them to skip the movie. Even though I have read other Dennis Lehane novels, this is by far my favorite

The Vanishing by Wendy Webb
Julia, the main character, goes to Havenwood to be the assistant to Amaris Sinclair, a horror novelist.  When she arrives at the estate, she begins to suspect that there are sinister things going on at Havenwood.  The world believes Amaris is dead and as Julia befriends the novelist, she learns more about her own family tree.  Havenwood has a past including a murder and spirits who still linger in the halls.  Drew McCullough, a descendant of the owner of Havenwood, and Julia work together to try and solve the mansion's mysteries. Havenwood, the mansion itself, is another major character in this novel. The last couple of pages in this book are truly spine-tingling.

I loved this book for so many reasons; it was mesmerizing and I read it in a day.  The writing is descriptive and I pictured myself there at Havenwood and could literally see all of the characters clearly in my mind.  At one point in the story there is a blizzard and I could feel the snow and the wind blowing as I read.  There are a couple of scenes where I had goose bumps and could feel Julia's fear.  I've never read another book which I personally felt so much of what Julia was going through. Wendy is one of my newest favorite authors and this is her third novel and published in 2014.  Each of her books gets better and better and thankfully she will be publishing her fourth novel soon. If you love gothic mysteries with ghosts - this is one not to be missed.  

Sharon recently reviewed Before I Go to Sleep and Girl on a Train

1 comment:

  1. I wholeheartedly agree that these 3 books are excellent. I would definitely also put them in my top list of all time. I liked the movie Shutter Island, though. I do have to agree that it didn't hold a candle to the book. They really never do.