Angela Doubleday is an older movie star who has been leading a life of seclusion for a decade. Paparazzi Nina Zero has stationed herself on a hill abo...moreAngela Doubleday is an older movie star who has been leading a life of seclusion for a decade. Paparazzi Nina Zero has stationed herself on a hill about Doubleday's home, hoping to catch a shot of the star leaving her house. Such a photo could easily be worth $50,000 or more to the tabloids. She is assaulted by a man who destroys her camera and knocks her unconscious. When she revives, Doubleday's estate is burning. She is seen leaving the scene, and the police assume that she is an arsonist. It's not easy to protest your innocence when you've served time for manslaughter and are on parole. As a matter of fact, the cops often have it in for you, looking to catch you in the most minor misdemeanor and nail your hide. At least, that's how it feels to Nina, and especially as she deals with a pigheaded, alcoholic arson detective by the name of Ted Claymore. He's definitely got it in for Nina, going so far as to try to plant evidence that will get her put away for a long time.
Nina desperately needs to prove her innocence. There's no way she wants to return to life in a cell. Accompanied by a stray toothless Rottweiler that has adopted her, she goes into full investigative mode. When human remains are found in the ashes, there's a possibility of a murder indictment in addition to the arson. Dental records point to Doubleday as the victim. She had named 2 people as beneficiaries of her estate: her chauffeur and presumed lover, Troy Davies, was to receive a small portion of her bequest and her niece, Arlanda Cortes, would receive the rest. Would either of them have tried to hasten Doubleday's demise? Or was it one of the other suspicious characters Nina has run up against?
Eversz has created a unique and enduring character in Nina. She is achingly lonely and wary of connecting with others. Her relationship with the Rott, "Baby", is the most healthy interaction she's had in years. Also particularly well drawn is Terry Graves, Nina's parole officer. She is completely burned out after dealing with her overwhelming case load and has no faith that any one of them will ever be able to make it in the outside world. There's an unspoken feeling that she believes in Nina in spite of herself, but she's always ready to give up on her when the situation sours. And with Nina, that is a common event. During the course of the book, she's the subject of four separate investigations, enough to try the patience of even the most empathetic parole officer.
The Nina Zero series has become one of my favorites, and I eagerly anticipate each new release. BURNING GARBO is the third book in the series, and the most serious of the bunch. Eversz shows us what life is like for an ex-con, but leavens the narrative with enough humor so that the portrayal is not grim. Nina is by no means perfect, but she really tries to live life in a good way. The reader leaves each of the books with a tentative feeling of hope, hope that somehow this woman who has been through so much will make it.
The "mean streets" have shifted over a continent to Birmingham in the United Kingdom in this debut novel by John Dalton. The world that Da...moreRATING: 3.25
The "mean streets" have shifted over a continent to Birmingham in the United Kingdom in this debut novel by John Dalton. The world that Dalton portrays is a dark one, full of amoral, immoral, barely moral characters. Gritty and realistic, it's not a place for the timid.
The book opens with something that appears to be a scam that goes out of control, ending with the murder of a prostitute by the name of Claudette. The expectation might be that nobody will care about her death, but that is untrue. Her mother, Bertha Turton, feels compelled not to let her daughter's death be unavenged. To that end, she hires a PI named Des McGinlay to find out who killed Claudette. Des is pretty much a deadbeat himself who's subject to behaving irrationally at times and currently wrestling with the fact that he's been dumped by his girlfriend and can't let go of the relationship. In fact, he may lose his license as a result of his latest rage episode where he smashed her car's windshield to smithereens.
The investigation takes us into the lives of an assortment of lowlifes: drug dealers, addicts, pimps, heavies. When the fact that there are some photos of the victim surfaces, the violence escalates and another woman ends up dead and others endangered. At the root of all evil is an underworld leader by the name of Felix Randall. When Des begins playing with the big boys, he finds that he may have bitten off more than he can chew. And that includes Bertha, who has many of the same charms as her daughter did.
Dalton excels at creating a noir atmosphere, peopled with some of the most undesirable characters you could imagine. In fact, the only person in the book who was in the least law-abiding was the detective inspector who Des sometimes provided with evidence and sought assistance from. Other than that, all of the characters are deeply flawed and essentially unlikable, although well drawn.
Dalton puts us squarely in the Birmingham scene through the vividly described setting and his use of dialog. However, the one real problem I had with the book was in his attempt at reproducing the speech of some of the Jamaican characters. I was completely lost at sentences like: "But she wasn' s'pose fi be out on the game….Back-a-yard dem have bleedin tin hut wid tea chest fi sit pon." I found myself having to read these several times in order to figure out what was being said.
Dalton does a good job of portraying a place where corruption rules and hope is an elusive fantasy. It looks like fans of noir have a new author to keep an eye on.
The English village of Castlemere is being rocked to its roots by a series of deaths. In the first, Detective Inspector Alan Clarke is a victim of a h...moreThe English village of Castlemere is being rocked to its roots by a series of deaths. In the first, Detective Inspector Alan Clarke is a victim of a hit-and-run. Also gravely wounded is Detective Sergeant Cal Donovan. Donovan is convinced that this was no accident but rather a cold-blooded murder planned by mobster type Jack Carney and he becomes obsessed with trying to pin the crime on Carney. Detective Chief Inspector Frank Shapiro finds a replacement for Clarke from a neighboring precinct, Liz Graham. The dynamics of the relationship between Graham and Donovan are difficult, but they ultimately end up respecting one another.
Shortly after Graham assumes her new duties, a young nurse, Kerry Page, is brutally killed by a shotgun blast to the head. Has she been killed by her husband who was at the scene? Or by Carney who may mistaken her for her husband? Before the answer can be determined, a respected female surgeon, Maggie Board, is also shotgunned. It appears that a serial killer is at work which is reinforced by the murder of an anesthesiologist who also worked with Page and Board.
As Graham and Donovan investigate the hospital records, they uncover the perpetrator (a little too easily). It would have been easy to make this person evil incarnate, but that was not the case. The person had a warped justification for the acts that were performed, one which the reader had to agree with.
The book comes to a rousing climax, and Graham and Shapiro puzzle over some of the decisions that were made to reach resolution. Bannister did an exceptional job of characterization, and the plot was well developed. This was a one-sitting book, and one which I heartily recommend. (less)
The snow is falling heavily on the hills of the Peak District. The beauty of the scene is deceptive, as the area is truly a killing field....moreRATING: 4.5
The snow is falling heavily on the hills of the Peak District. The beauty of the scene is deceptive, as the area is truly a killing field. During World War II, at least 30 airplanes crashed here, and their remains have been left to this day as a silent memorial. And now, suffering and alone, Marie Tennant is lying in the hills, her body not to be discovered until the drifts begin to melt. However, the timetable is moved up when a group of air cadets come across a dead baby underneath one of the wrecked planes.
At very nearly the same time, another man has been killed and left in a pile of snow along a roadside. A snowplow uncovers his body, but the man is not a local and no one is able to identify him. The police in the area are working under tremendous pressure; shorthanded, they are barely able to keep up with the most urgent of their cases. It seems that the whole area is in the midst of a crime wave. Detective Sergeant Diane Fry is running the detective squad, and she is often frustrated by her subordinates, in particular, Detective Constable Ben Cooper who just doesn't seem to apply himself to what Diane has identified as priorities. At the moment, Ben has been distracted by a request from a young Canadian woman who has come to the area to clear the name of her grandfather, who was the pilot of one of the planes that crashed in the Peak District and has been accused of deserting his crew. Initially, no one is willing to help Alison Morrissey—after all, it has been 57 years since the crash of the Lancaster bomber known as "Sugar Uncle Victor", coincidentally the plane where the baby's body was found. But Ben is caught up by the mystery and investigates on his own time.
As each of the main cases is investigated, it becomes clear that there are links between them. Booth does an exceptional job of showing the relevancy of the past to the present, in a plot that is perfectly constructed. At the same time, he's built a cast that is as solid and as human as they come. Introduced in BLACK DOG, Diane Fry and Ben Cooper continue to have a prickly relationship. Fry is an outsider to the area, whereas Ben has lived there all his life. Most of the time, they clash; however, there are a few moments where they do take care of each other in spite of their less-than-warm feelings about one another. Conflict is to be expected between a woman who is a control freak and a man who is subject to "flights of fancy".
BLOOD ON THE TONGUE is the third book the series. Booth is a top-notch writer who balances a complex plot with a perfectly rendered setting and true-to-life characters. One of the great pleasures of being a mystery reader is to discover an author such as Booth and to await his next book, knowing that it will likely be his best. Until the one after that….
It's supposed to be a pleasurable day for Katy Madika. She has a new camera and she's gone to the Hull (UK) town center to take some photo...moreRATING: 4.75
It's supposed to be a pleasurable day for Katy Madika. She has a new camera and she's gone to the Hull (UK) town center to take some photographs. She randomly selects her subjects, this one because of a certain turn to their mouth, that one because of the hook of the nose. As she's composing her shots, she is totally unaware that a crime is in progress, that in fact, the man she is shooting with her camera is about to be murdered. She snaps several shots, and the killer sees her. He chases Katy and snatches her camera. However, she has stupidly removed the disc with the pictures on it. By doing so, she has inadvertently placed her entire family in terrible danger, far more than she can conceive. The fact of the matter is, Katy is in a mixed marriage; and the killer is a white supremacist. When Katy realizes her mistake, she confides in her best friend, Eve, at her cyber café. It's telling that she doesn't feel that she can confide in her husband. One of Eve's employees, Stone Lewis, overhears the conversation and becomes involved in trying to help Katy.
Katy's situation is just the tip of the iceberg. There's a group of skinheads living in the Hull area. They've set up a web site and are recruiting members to assist them in racial terrorism activities. Gaz, Mort and Ginner prowl the area looking for vulnerable targets, such as a young black man who has been working with a white teacher or any of a number of people, including Stone's aunt, who are involved in mixed race relationships. This little trio is responsible for terrorizing the entire area. When they get involved with the killer that Katy photographed, the entire situation escalates from isolated incidents to a planned campaign of ethnic cleansing on a much broader scale.
WHITE SKIN MAN is an incredible book, powerful and absorbing. Its racial theme is disturbing. The horror builds page by page as the reader anticipates what this band of misfits is going to do to its next victims. Baker has done some astonishing work in the development of the characters. First of all, there's Stone Lewis, who is autistic and learning how to function in a world that he doesn't quite understand. One of the secondary characters, Heartbreak, steals the page every time he's on it. Even one of the skinheads, Mort, is sympathetically portrayed. Although his principles are reprehensible, he cares for his housebound and disabled mother without complaint.
WHITE SKIN MAN receives my highest recommendation. It hit me hard when I read it, and it's stayed with me ever since. A wow book for me.
Dr. Peter Zak is a forensic neuropsychologist at the Pearce Psychiatric Institute. He's always been fascinated by studying the brain, and o...moreRATING: 3.5
Dr. Peter Zak is a forensic neuropsychologist at the Pearce Psychiatric Institute. He's always been fascinated by studying the brain, and often works in the area of dementia, especially interesting to him since his father was a victim of Alzheimer's. At the Institute, he is supervising a post doctoral candidate by the name of Emily Ryan who was working part time on a fellowship. Emily also has another job at an MRI facility called University Medical Imaging (UMI) which is doing leading-edge work on the brain, and particularly working with victims of a disease known as Lewy body dementia.
Emily is an attractive young woman who behaves in a very seductive manner to the males around her, and Peter finds he is not immune to her charms, in spite of the fact that he is happily involved in a relationship with an investigator by the name of Anne Squires. Emily is being stalked, and Peter finds himself feeling very protective of her, to the point where he is having difficulty maintaining his clinical distance. As the narrative continues, she faces other dangers; and Peter begins to suspect that she may have set up the situations herself since she has a strong need to be the center of attention, which sometimes interferes with her ability to work effectively with her patients.
At the same time, the activities at the MRI center don't seem quite kosher. Annie's uncle is sent there after he exhibits signs of dementia and has a rather unpleasant MRI experience. Afterwards, his health deteriorates rapidly and the center is in a hurry to harvest his brain. As a result, Peter decides to have an MRI done. Although that goes smoothly, the results of the test are unexpected and lead him to face personal fears about his own mental health.
The suspense builds as the stalking incidents escalate. When one of the doctors at UMI is killed in a bizarre accident involving the MRI equipment, it opens the door for an investigation which shows several suspicious patient deaths, which Annie and Peter proceed to investigate. Was the death an accident? Did Emily cause it through carelessness with the equipment? Or perhaps the head of the center, a man with an unparalleled ego, felt threatened by his peer and murdered him.
Ephron really excels at planting the seeds of doubt about the actions of several of the characters. I was never sure until late in the book whether Emily was guilty or not. However, the ending was very close to over the top, and some of the characters became caricatures—you could almost hear one of them cackling. In spite of that, I enjoyed the book and the information on the study of dementia. It was not overly technical, and the suspense element was very strong. Fans of the medical thriller will enjoy Ephron's work.
There's not much crime to speak of in the small town of Versailles (Ver-SALES), Maine. The chief of police, Ben Truman, is only 24 years old. He had b...moreThere's not much crime to speak of in the small town of Versailles (Ver-SALES), Maine. The chief of police, Ben Truman, is only 24 years old. He had been studying for his doctorate in history and returned home when his mother developed Alzheimer's. He eventually inherited the police chief job from his father. When Ben discovers the decomposing body of a prominent prosecutor from the Boston district attorney's office in a local cabin, life changes dramatically. Ben has never had to investigate anything more serious than the occasional case of vandalism. Even as he tries to assess the crime scene, he is blundering about and missing key pieces of evidence, which is pointed out to him by a retired homicide detective by the name of John Kelly. Although the case has been taken over by the Boston police, Ben feels that since this murder occurred on his home turf, he should be a part of the investigation. They just barely tolerate his intervention, keeping him at the edges of the case. But Ben made one smart move by deputizing Kelly, and he helps steer Ben through the investigation.
The dead prosecutor had been looking at some gangland activity in the Mission Flats area of Boston. Mission Flats is a hotbed of drug dealing, and the police quickly name Harold Braxton, drug runner and head of the Mission Posse, as the killer. As the hunt for Braxton broadens, the trail leads to two unsolved cases from years before. Sometimes working with the men of the Boston department and sometimes against them, Ben doggedly pursues the leads. It's a compelling and complex investigation which leads to a resolution that is like a punch to the gut, one of the most surprisingly effective conclusions I've seen in a crime novel.
The book is beautifully written, with an involving plot and textured characterization. All of the character portrayals were multi-layered; but unfortunately, I found a lot of inconsistency in the characters throughout the book. For example, Ben is depicted as being quite naïve, almost like a hayseed, and then expresses observations about life that sound like those of a much more seasoned and mature man. The prime suspect, Harold Braxton, is presented as the devil's agent and moves to something far more noble than would be supported in his role of gang leader.
After I finished reading the book and starting analyzing my reaction to it, the strangest thing happened. I was originally extremely impressed with this debut novel and had assigned it a rating of 4.5 on a 5.0 scale. But something kept nagging at me, the feeling that I had been taken for a ride. I finally realized that I felt deceived by the narrator. The book was told from the point of view of Ben. I'm sure you've heard of the concept of the "unreliable narrator", where you cannot trust what the narrator is telling you because he has colored it from his own viewpoint and is not necessarily presenting information objectively. However, in this case Landay didn't play fair at all in how Ben narrated the story. He deliberately didn't tell the truth about what he saw and knew and left out vitally important details. The author didn't seem to choose this approach to advance the book, but rather to misguide the reader and build a totally "surprising" ending. It's true that I was surprised; but upon reflection, I felt cheated as well. My rating of the book moved from 4.5 to 2.5. Landay has the raw talent, but the execution was flawed. (less)
An accomplished and noted suspense writer, Jeffery Deaver is best known for his thrillers and Lincoln Rhyme series. It may come as a surpri...moreRATING: 3.5
An accomplished and noted suspense writer, Jeffery Deaver is best known for his thrillers and Lincoln Rhyme series. It may come as a surprise to many of his fans to discover that he is also a very talented short story writer. For the first time, Deaver's best stories have been collected in an anthology called TWISTED, an apt title if there ever was one! As an extra bonus for Rhyme fans, Deaver has written an original Lincoln Rhyme story just for this volume.
The first story in the book, "Without Jonathon", concludes with an unexpected and clever plot twist, and that is typically the case for each of the 16 stories in this collection. My favorite is "The Weekender" which is told from the point of view of a man robbing a drugstore with his friend, who irrationally shoots some of the people in the store. They take one of the customers hostage, who proceeds to play some mind games with one of his captors. There's a nice contrast between the civilized yet conniving persona of the hostage and the sensitive but violent robber who really wants to live a normal life, the possibility of which the hostage dangles before him. It's not evident until the final page of the story whether either one of them can trust the other.
Normally, I'm not a fan of short stories; but this collection definitely held my interest due to a wide variety of themes, settings and ingenious plotting. I did discover that I had to spread my reading out over several sessions, as I found myself anticipating the clever twist or double cross that was typical of the stories. Although always well done, the expectation of the plot twist lessened my enjoyment when reading stories in sequence.
I particularly liked Deaver's Introduction in which he explains his fascination with the short story form and how it compares to the writing of a novel. As a boy, he was drawn to reading and writing and invariably wrote short stories for his writing assignments at school. As an adult, he finds himself challenged by the constraints of the form, ultimately delighting in being freed of some of the strict conventions of novel writing. I've never read any of Deaver's books, but on the basis of his writing ability in this collection I am convinced me that I need to address this oversight soon.
Formerly a police officer with the NYPD, African American Mali Anderson was fired for punching out a racist cop in the first book of this s...moreRATING: 3.5
Formerly a police officer with the NYPD, African American Mali Anderson was fired for punching out a racist cop in the first book of this series. NO TIME TO DIE is the third book, and Mail is preparing to enter a social work doctoral program. She has no intention of returning to the police, in spite of the fact that that her job may be offered to her again as a settlement in the lawsuit she filed as a result of the incident. Since the man she is dating, Tad Honeywell, is a homicide detective, she is still in the world of the cop in spite of herself. When one of her good friends, Claudine Hastings, is brutally murdered, she is pulled into investigating, although Tad is officially in charge and wary of Mali's involvement.
Mali is certain that the killer is Claudine's ex-husband, James, who is a slime of the lowest order. He is a vengeful man who has mistreated several of the women in their Harlem neighborhood and has a hatred for Mali based on her relationship with his ex-wife. Mali's feelings about James really color her objectivity, and she is forced to adjust her belief about James' guilt when the clues point elsewhere. The true killer is revealed early on, and several of the chapters of the book are told from his point of view. He is a truly tortured man (nicknamed "Ache") whose abusive childhood at the hands of an uncaring mother has led him to a deranged view of himself and others.
Mali is a target of both of these men. She is a strong and intelligent woman, but she is no match for their special brand of horror. Her passion and caring made her stand out from the rest of the characters, who were flat on the page, several verging on caricature. James, Claudine's ex-husband, is completely evil and lacking any positive qualities. Surprisingly, the serial killer, Ache, was even more of a caricature, which is a handicap to the story because much of the book was told from his point of view. Somehow, the sad events of his youth and mistreatment at the hands of his mother never felt real. His mother came across as more comical than frightening, which was certainly not the author's intention. Even the good guy, Tad, is one dimensional, exceptionally good looking and sensitive and oh so unreal!
As in Edwards' first book, IF I SHOULD DIE, the stand-out element is her depiction of the Harlem setting. Although the area is sadly falling into decline, Mali sees it with a lover's eye. She lives with her father, a jazz musician, and has a finely tuned sense of its past history and greatness. Harlem is the place where she lives and loves and is more of a character than any of the people in the narrative. Although the book itself was just average, there was the potential for so much more. Edwards' prose is beautiful, but the predictable plot and lack of depth in characterization ultimately disappoint.
If you grew up in Needles, California (also known as "the Back Door to Hell") and your mother was the local character, hugely overweight an...moreRATING: 3.5
If you grew up in Needles, California (also known as "the Back Door to Hell") and your mother was the local character, hugely overweight and always cold, prowling the streets wearing wool sweaters and heavy socks and your father operated the Come to Jesus Dairy Barn, you too might run away from home at the age of 14. That's what John Ray Mooney did, landing in LA, home of celebrity, wealth and glamour. Only he's not a glamour guy and has to resort to criminal activities to get by. He doesn't do anything terribly dangerous, mostly shoplifting and boosting cars. He lives a decent life for a long time, until he hooks up with Angel Flesch, who contributes to his downfall rapidly with her demands for the affluent life. John Ray ends up in Folsom, in debt to Big Odie and being pursued by the big man and his Sons of Satan for an unpaid debt upon his release.
Desperate, he plans to rob the bank on the peninsula of Coronado, California, which is interrupted by the opportunity to mug a wealthy prince who has come into the bank for a cash advance. Only it turns out that he's not a prince at all, although everyone believes him to be Prince Seri Hassan Bandapanang bin Mohammed of the Asian island of Yip. The real Prince of Yip resides at the bottom of an outhouse, while the pretender, Billy Ho, is living his life.
Everyone wants a piece of the "prince". As time goes on, his assumed identity is unmasked. But he's now got a group of people around him who are planning a big heist on the bank where he and Mooney met. There's the security guard at the bank, a sexy woman who is desperate for money to save her fledgling business and a naïve firefighter from New Mexico who gets hooked up with the group. There are schemes and schemes within schemes, with another element of danger introduced by the security force from Yip who are trying to find the prince. The Yip Royal Guard is led by a man with an inner ear balance problem which leads to him tipping over frequently and consisting of Asians who have been overexposed to American TV.
What could have been a standard plot involving a group of wacky people all double crossing one another turns into something different in Brewer's capable hands. Whether in his standalones or the Bubba Mabry series, Brewer always goes beyond the predictable. He does not know the meaning of "pat resolution", and always concludes his books in a way that the reader doesn't expect, but that is totally believable. There are lots of laugh-out-loud moments, but the humor is never at the expense of any of the characters.
Brewer has released two standalone works in 2003, FOOL'S PARADISE and BULLETS. I hope this means that more people will be exposed to his wonderful wit and terrific writing. He deserves a lot more recognition with readers than he has received to date.
There are certain parts of the central and midwestern United States that are subject to exceptionally volatile weather. Just as other area...moreRATING: 3.25
There are certain parts of the central and midwestern United States that are subject to exceptionally volatile weather. Just as other areas of the country have spring, summer, winter and fall, these sections have tornado season. Watching a tornado is an exciting experience, and there is a cadre of people who track them and chase them. These storm chasers spend hours determining which storms to chase and put themselves in danger while pursuing their quest.
Charlie Grove is the police chief of the small town of Promise, Oklahoma. This part of the country, as well as northern Texas, spawns a lot of storms during tornado season. At times, the stronger storms have caused human deaths in addition to the catastrophic destruction of property. When Charlie checks into the deaths of the Peppers family, he makes a horrifying discovery—they have not been killed by the tornado but by a person who has used the tornado to cover the murders. As Charlie investigates further, he finds other prior deaths which have been attributed to a twister but have actually been homicides, each with its own grisly calling card of a tooth removed and replaced with another person's tooth.
What kind of person would be able to time and track a tornado and cover his tracks in such a way? There are many possible suspects, including Charlie's own father, a man who abused him horribly as a child and set a fire to his home that scarred Charlie for life. Charlie is still emotionally scarred, and he sometimes neglects his own child, Sophie, although he loves her. He's even opened himself up to a new relationship with Dr. Willa Bellman, a tornado-chasing scientist.
The book certainly had its exciting moments, although I found some of the storm-related terminology daunting. There were more red herrings in this book than a fish factory, and the resolution was a bit far-fetched and melodramatic. I felt that the author tried to manipulate the reader emotionally, particularly when describing Charlie being abused as a child, Willa's poverty-stricken childhood and his own benign neglect of his daughter. I just didn’t connect with any of the characters, other than possibly Sophie.
DARKNESS PEERING was the first book by Alice Blanchard, and one which I felt was extraordinary with rich characterization, poetic descriptions and a well-developed plot. As a result, I anxiously awaited her sophomore effort, hoping that the ample talent that she demonstrated in the first book would continue to flourish. However, I was disappointed to find that THE BREATHTAKER didn't come close to matching the accomplishments of the earlier book. DARKNESS PEERING was a work that had strong emotional resonance. In BREATHTAKER, Blanchard aims to achieve that but misses, as demonstrated in a revelatory scene about Charlie's youth that should have come to an emotional climax but instead played out curiously flat and unconvincing.
If you're a fan of thrillers, then you should enjoy this book. My disappointment stems from the fact that I expected it to be something more, based on my enjoyment of DARKNESS PEERING.
Hans Arbogast is a 28-year-old traveling salesman who lives up to all of the stereotypes associated with that profession. Whenever he is on...moreRATING: 3.5
Hans Arbogast is a 28-year-old traveling salesman who lives up to all of the stereotypes associated with that profession. Whenever he is on the road, he takes advantage of every opportunity he finds to engage in casual sex, despite the fact that he is married. In September of 1953, he picks up a female hitchhiker by the name of Marie Gurth. As they travel through the Black Forest, they stop to eat and find they can easily communicate with one another. As they continue, the inevitable happens and they stop in a wooded area to engage in "rough" sex, with Marie demanding that Hans increase the violence of the act. At the conclusion of their second round of intercourse, Hans finds that Marie is no longer moving. In fact, she is dead. In a panic, he takes her body and hides it in a blackberry patch in a remote area.
A few days later, Hans feels remorse and informs the police about Marie's death. He is immediately suspected of having murdered her. The attorney who represents him during his trial makes a very bad mistake by not challenging the testimony of an expert forensic pathologist who has drawn several erroneous conclusions that don't even match up to the results of the autopsy, forming his opinion merely by looking at photographs and not the actual body. As a result, Arbogast is imprisoned.
It is 14 years later before someone takes an interest in what happened with Arbogast and is able to reopen the case. It would appear that the first trial was a complete travesty. The problem that Hans' new lawyer, Dr. Angsar Klein, has now is finding another forensic expert willing to contradict the testimony of the first expert. Eventually, he is able to convince Dr. Katja Lavans to review the evidence. She travels from East Germany to testify in the second trial. As the result of an encounter that she has with Arbogast, the reader is left to wonder whether he is as innocent as everyone is proclaiming.
THE ARBOGAST CASE is based on an actual criminal case which caused an uproar in the German press. Although the book was slow paced and at times overly detailed, it remained an engrossing read. The first half of the book detailed Hans Arbogast's incarceration, the impact on a human being of being detained in a place with no stimulation, his decline into less than what he had been. The second half of the book covered the retrial, and a sense of tension remained throughout. I wished that some more focus had been placed on Arbogast's transition back into a civilized life.
The language of the book was eloquent, all the more amazing since it was translated from the German. The legal aspects of the book are very interesting to those coming from a different governmental system. The depiction of postwar Germany and its political environment is equally intriguing. A solidly engaging read that doesn't go for the gimmick.
It's been 5 years since the death of his wife and young son, but Terry Orr is still obsessed with finding Raymond Weisz, the man he believes was respo...moreIt's been 5 years since the death of his wife and young son, but Terry Orr is still obsessed with finding Raymond Weisz, the man he believes was responsible for their death. That obsession is always beneath the surface, even as Terry tries to move on with his life and put the past behind him. Terry is raising his precocious 15-year-old daughter, Bella, on his own and has moved toward being a better parent than he was in the first several years after the incident.
As the book opens, a local restaurateur and good friend by the name of Leo Mallard dies. His last request is that Terry find his former wife Loretta, who he feels has cheated him out of a lot of money. Terry; his girflfriend Julie Gaida; Bella; and their family friend, Dennis Diddio, go to New Orleans to attend Leo's funeral. Out of the blue, Terry receives a fax that Raymond Weisz's mother has died. He immediately flies back to New York, feeling certain that Raymond will attend his mother's funeral and that he can confront the man who has ruined his life. His obsession is so great that he does not realize that he has again let down those who care about him—Julie, with whom he is beginning to open up; Bella; Diddio and not least of all, Leo, whose funeral he does not attend.
Just as it seems that Terry is going to follow the exact same path he has for the past 5 years and continue to be consumed by the past, he is faced with a startling revelation, one that changes everything that he has thought and believed to be true about his life and the lives of his loved ones. How he handles this new information leads to a riveting portrayal of a man whose entire belief system has to change.
Although less eloquently written than the first 2 books in the series, TRIBECA BLUES is much stronger in terms of plot and characterization than the earlier books. Terry has grown beyond his all-consuming fixation and seems willing to accept the help that he needs to face the future with optimism.
There are a few sub-plots which felt tacked on to make the plot more complex, including tracking down some money transactions involving Leo and his ex-wife Loretta. In my opinion, these threads distracted from the main narrative, which was very strongly delivered. In particular, the final resolution of the Weisz showdown was extremely powerful. As always, Fusilli masterfully describes the New York setting, its residents still shaken by the events of 9/11.
At the end, it is suggested that maybe now Terry can become a "real" private investigator. It will be interesting to see if Fusilli takes the character in that direction after having spent 3 books in dealing with the family deaths and finding Weisz. Whichever way he goes, I'll be right there with him. (less)
Set in North London, LAST BOAT TO CAMDEN TOWN is the second book in the series featuring Detective Inspector Christy Kennedy. As the book opens, a lon...moreSet in North London, LAST BOAT TO CAMDEN TOWN is the second book in the series featuring Detective Inspector Christy Kennedy. As the book opens, a longboat is leaving the port in Camden Town when one of the workers hears a loud splash. When he returns to the scene later, he discovers the body of a young doctor named Eddie Berry. Eddie is devoted to his family and has done a superb job at the hospital where he works, with the exception of one incident involving a misdiagnosis which led to death. Did that death prey on his mind so much that it would lead him to commit suicide?
The investigation leads Kennedy and his team into the lives of Berry’s young family. Kennedy is convinced that Berry would never have left his wife, Sheila, and their son willingly, as they had a strong, loving relationship. He also ventures into the background of the wrongly diagnosed patient, Susanne Collins, and finds enough anger about what happened to Susanne to begin to wonder if a family member may have taken vengeance on Dr. Berry. Then again, he’s not exactly getting straight answers from the hospital staff about what happened to Collins either.
Kennedy is presented as a mild-mannered, gentle man who works with the men reporting to him as a corroborative team. He is painted as being different from the typical detective inspector, without the aggression typical of that position and rather oversensitive in his reactions to the aftereffects of a crime. In my view, this severely diminished the character. He came across as having no backbone and did not show the kind of leadership skills necessary to inspire action. The same was true in his personal life. He meets a spirited journalist by the name of ann rea and finds himself falling in love with her. She attempts to maintain the façade that they are “just friends”. Kennedy never takes any initiative in the relationship and waits for ann rea to make all the moves. At the same time, he confides all the details of the investigation to her. The whole thing drove me to distraction, starting with the artifice of the lack of punctuation for her name.
Generally speaking, police procedurals have a bit of an edge. LAST BOAT TO CAMDEN TOWN was almost a cozy, no true grit to speak of. Between the blandness of the lead character and the predictable plot, I found that the book was just not my cup of tea.