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A Bed of Scorpions by Judith Flanders
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A Bed of Scorpions (2015)

by Judith Flanders

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I think I would still classify this as a cozy mystery, but it's one of the best I've ever read. I would absolutely read a book about the main character's life, even without the mystery.

The book is written in the first person, which isn't always my favorite, but it felt very natural here. Our narrator is Sam, a woman who works in publishing for a small publishing house in London. She's normal and mildly sarcastic, three-dimensional without any forced quirkiness. I drink three very large cups of coffee first thing in the morning, and sometimes, if I'm feeling I need to make a special gesture toward nutrition and health, I eat a banana. Jake does cereal-ish things which I refuse to get involved in.
In other words, I get this woman, and am pretty sure we would be friends in real life.
There are plenty of British-isms (toast soldiers!), which was a bonus for me, especially as they felt natural in the character's voice. There's also a fair amount of realistic background about art and publishing, which lent the whole book an authentic tone. In fact, the whole story seemed more realistic than most mysteries; it seemed entirely plausible that she might inadvertently stumble into this situation that might or might not present, well, a murder mystery.

Pick this up if you're a book nerd who likes mysteries. It's that simple. ( )
  BraveNewBks | Aug 8, 2017 |
The mysterious death of an art gallery owner follows the unearthing of the skeletal remains of the missing collage artist whose work is about to be shown at the Tate. The next discovered body is that of the Gallery's restorer.....

An attempted murder of a publisher/editor who accidentally discovers that the publisher's colophon (logo on the spine of a bookcover) used in one of the collages could not possibly have been from when the artist was alive.....

Very interesting once I got into the story... I liked the characters, I liked the story, I liked the art world & publishing details...

I did take exception to the following: "One area I'd like to explore is the future of reproductions in books. Given the spread of images online, and the cost of printing, the question, why illustrate book s at all, is an obvious one. If the author can say, 'Vermeer's Music Lesson', and the reader can look at it online, spending money printing it, or spending money paying a permission fee to the owner of the picture, is surely becoming pointless. Just what is the future of this kind of publishing?"

Personally, I borrow, peruse, & purchase Art Books for the Color Art Illustrations..... I am not going to bother w/ any type of book that points me to a web page in order to view the illustrations..... Why would I (or for that matter anyone else) want to stop in the middle of what I am reading, put down the book, go to the pc, turn it on, and search images to find what I was reading about?

Eye-Roll! ( )
  Auntie-Nanuuq | Jan 8, 2017 |
Judith Flanders is best known for her exceptional non-fiction (micro-history, mainly) but a couple of years ago she dipped her toe into mystery with A Murder of Magpies and it was very good but maybe a little bit chaotic. I think her sophomore offering, A Bed of Scorpions is better.

My preference might have to do with the plot: Sam's old-flame-turned-good-friend owns a prestigious art gallery and I've been attracted by all things art lately. Aidan finds his partner dead in his office of an apparent suicide but with no reason to kill himself. It might also have to do with Sam and Jake's chemistry; it's there, you can feel the pull, you know it's simmering just beneath the surface, but it's not being rushed.

The murder plotting was another skilfully plotted crime; Flanders lead me down the path (Sam and I both), only to make me do a forehead slap at the end. What's more, the clues were all there from the beginning so all points to Flanders.

Whatever the reason, I found the story smoothly paced, exciting, and the dialogue witty. I like all the characters and that almost never happens. I love the dynamic between Sam and her mother Helena and the scene at the dinner party was priceless.

This is a cozy for grown-ups with a strong female lead and I'm really looking forward to the third book out next year. ( )
  murderbydeath | Oct 13, 2016 |
I really enjoyed Judith Flanders' first Samantha Clair mystery, A Murder of Magpies, and I'm happy to say that my enjoyment increased to love with her second book. Everything seems to sparkle in A Bed of Scorpions. Samantha Clair is sarcastic, cynical, and has a ready repertoire of information culled from all the reading she's done. Not all of you may like sarcastic wit, but I love it when it's done well-- and it is here. Sam's got a tough act to follow-- her maternal unit is not only the perfect mother, perfect guest, and perfect hostess, she's also the perfect high-powered lawyer. Watching Sam deal with her mother is part of the fun of this book (and thankfully Helena isn't nearly as abrasive as she was in the first book). Also... promise not to tell... this snarky editor who usually has her nose buried in a book has a secret heart of gold, and she's very capable of doing what's best, even if it's at her own cost.

Sam's other relationships-- with ex-flame Aidan, new flame Jake, and her reclusive upstairs neighbor Mr. Rudiger-- also sparkle, as does the mystery. I did pick up a couple of crumbs as I read. For instance, I thought the identity of the main "bad guy" was way too simple, but I hadn't picked all the black hats out of the lineup. I also didn't do a very good job in deducing their motivations.

In many ways, I think Flanders' mysteries are perfect for book lovers. Why? Because one of the very best parts of the book is Samantha's wonderful insider's look at the world of publishing. (In fact her knowledge of publishing helps solve the crime.) As she's trying to solve the mystery, Sam also manages to explain many little ins and outs of publishing, which is bound to thrill the book lovers amongst us.

Do you have to start with the first book in the series? Not really, but I hope you do simply because I've enjoyed both of them so much. An extra little bonus is that I realized this time around that I've also read some of Judith Flanders' non-fiction (Consuming Passions, The Victorian House, and The Making of Home) and enjoyed that as well, so... if you're in the mood for some facts after enjoying this banquet of mayhem, I suggest you try those as well! ( )
  cathyskye | Feb 23, 2016 |
The narrator of this cozy mystery claims that, "I've always got by on not discussing anything important, while chattering frivolously and amusingly about everything that isn't. It works for me. I think."

Well, it doesn't work for me. If she were a real person, I would find her tedious and not worth socializing with. As the protagonist and "sleuth" of a light mystery, it is worse: she wastes the reader's time and too often derails the narrative with her charmless asides. Not recommended. ( )
  librarianarpita | Jan 2, 2016 |
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For Frank Wynne
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The summer was rumbling on the way the summer usually does in publishing, and I was ready to murder someone.
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