Most homicide detectives appreciate a no-brainer case, the kind where they are called in, it's easy to see who was killed and why, and thi...moreRATING: 3.25
Most homicide detectives appreciate a no-brainer case, the kind where they are called in, it's easy to see who was killed and why, and things just sort themselves out from there. The killing at the home of Judge Cato Laird's home seems to fit into this description at first; the judge's wife, Elise, interrupted a burglar and shot him in self defense. But when Detective Duncan Hatcher starts looking into the killing in more detail, he begins to wonder. The dead man was a complete loser with no prior robbery attempts; there's no definitive evidence that shows that he was threatening Elise before she shot him.
The investigation is complicated by some personal elements. Duncan had a showdown with Judge Laird in the courtroom and faced contempt of court charges. And at a social event, he meets Elise and finds himself attracted to her in an almost obsessive way. He fights the attraction, but finds himself curiously unable to resist her, which threatens his professional integrity. As the investigation moves forward, Elise approaches Duncan privately and tells him that her husband is trying to kill her. That doesn't seem very likely, as the judge seems completely enamored of his wife. Elise is rather elusive about providing any rationale for her accusations, and Duncan doesn't believe what she has to say. It's impossible to tell if she is a woman in deep trouble or a con artist, and she doesn't help herself or the story by not being more forthcoming.
At times, the plot verges on being over the top, particularly in the scenes involving Duncan and Elise. However, some of the other characters were very well drawn and interesting. Duncan's partner, Dee Dee, was a great character; I'd like to see her running her own investigation without worrying about dealing with Duncan's issues. Cato Laird was devious in some very sublimated ways, which led to some excellent interactions. But (and this is VERY silly), I wondered why almost all of the bad guys in the book had names with double letters--Morris, Trotter, Rollins, Bonnet, Ballew. This naming pattern actually was a distraction for me!
For some reason, I had labeled Sandra Brown as an author writing to the masses, creating some kind of romantic froth that would appeal to the lowest common denominator. I could not have been more wrong. Certainly, RICHOCHET has its romantic and sexual elements (far too many for my taste); but the book is also well plotted, suspenseful and offers some very surprising twists. Overall, the book was slightly above average. If the conclusion had been more plausible, I'd be giving RICHOCHET a higher recommendation.
All Mortal Flesh is the fifth in the series featuring Reverend Clare Fergusson and Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne which is set in the small...moreRATING: 1.5
All Mortal Flesh is the fifth in the series featuring Reverend Clare Fergusson and Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne which is set in the small upstate town of Millers Kill, New York. The basic premise of all of these books is that the reverend and the police chief have fallen in love with one another. Although they have not consummated their relationship, they are emotionally intimate. The issue is that Russ is a married man. Over the course of these five books, Clare and Russ struggle to balance their feelings against what is appropriate, both as a clergy woman and as a husband. They've finally come to the conclusion that they can't continue in this way and agree that they will no longer see each other.
Russ has told his wife about his "affair"; and they have separated. As a result, Russ is living at his mother's house. Imagine how he feels when he learns that someone has broken in to his home and murdered his wife, Linda. The guilt that he experiences is beyond imagining. He berates himself for having betrayed his loyal wife of 25 years. Despite himself, the only person that he wants to talk to and to have him comfort him is Clare. Any time that they connect with one another only leads to more complications, especially since Russ is the most viable suspect for Linda's murder. It's heartbreaking that they are beyond the point where being together makes any sense, which causes both of them untold misery.
Clare takes it upon herself to try to clear Russ's name, and that is where the book goes into a severe downward spiral. I had enough difficulty accepting the circumstances of Russ and Clare's relationship; having Clare be the initiator of the investigation was too much to swallow. She always has logical reasons for meddling, but the fact is that she is not a law enforcement professional, nor is she objective about the situation. The point where the book went off the rails for me was when everything having to do with Linda's murder is shown to be in error. And the melodramatic ending, which I think many will view as surprising in a good way, wrapped up way too conveniently and not very believably, with a bizarre series of events culminating in a jaw-dropping finale.
In addition to a plot that was out of control, the book was filled with unlikable characters. Other than some of the church and police support staff, there were quite a few shrill females. One was a state investigator assigned to take over the case since Russ was a suspect. She was completely inflexible and vindictive. Another was a new deacon who was sent to assist Clare. She was quite insensitive and seemed to be looking to find Clare doing something wrong. Linda and her sister were somewhat bubble-headed and vengeful. And the one thing that I find very strange in this as well as the first book in the series is that Clare is not depicted as being particularly religious. About the only thing that she does that is remotely connected to her ministry is to go visit shut-ins.
As you can see, I did not like this book at all. The plot was ludicrous and I could only tolerate a few of the characters. However, when I brought up this author's name on an online mystery discussion group that I belong to, I found that the overwhelming majority of people love this author and all of her books. Those who have read All Mortal Flesh gave it an extremely high rating. I'm sure that many of the readers ILAM will totally disagree with my opinion of this book, while others will think I'm right on the money. Vive la difference! (less)
There's something about a UK countryside setting that just demands that there be horses and a group of hunters. In your mind's eye, can't y...moreRATING: 2.5
There's something about a UK countryside setting that just demands that there be horses and a group of hunters. In your mind's eye, can't you see the rolling hills and fields with fine steeds galloping, tails pluming in the wind? Certainly, the one thing that you don't expect is that this vision would include murder. But while animal behaviorist Gideon Blake is helping ex-jockey Damien Daniels prepare his horse for a local hunt, Daniels is shot out of his saddle. He leaves behind a young wife and son, a sister, and parents who can't cope with their grief.
As a friend of the family, Gideon takes it upon himself to figure out why Damien was targeted. A series of break-ins leads him to believe that the murderer is searching for some important information. When Gideon finds a list of numbers, he begins to put things together, which endangers himself and those around him.
As the book progresses and the incidents escalate, Gideon becomes a one-man investigation team. And therein lies the problem with the book. Certainly, it is normal to be curious about mysterious events. However, it is completely foolhardy to take matters into one's own hands and not inform the police when dangerous situations arise, when evidence is uncovered, when people are being hurt all around you. Gideon moved from a character that had some interesting aspects, such as his innate ability to work with animals, to someone who I wanted to stick my spurs into. Over and over again, he finds himself in jeopardy and over and over again, he deals with things on his own. Theoretically, he is protecting the Daniels' family by not involving the police; in reality, he is bungling about making things worse for everybody.
Stacey does a good job of describing the process of the hunt, and I found the details of how Gideon worked with problem horses fascinating. However, most of the characters were flat and never came to life; and the villain was obvious five furlongs away. By the end of the book, I was completely irritated with Gideon which negatively colored my whole perception of the book. If he had called in the police and been involved in the investigation as a concerned civilian, I would have liked the book far more. (less)
had an impressive debut with Officer Down, which won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel. With the current trend in crime fiction of writin...moreRATIG: 3.0
had an impressive debut with Officer Down, which won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel. With the current trend in crime fiction of writing series, one might have expected her second book to continue where the first left off. However, Schwegel has chosen to take the stand-alone route. Although Probable Cause is a police procedural, it is not connected to the first book at all.
Officer Ray Weiss is a rookie cop in Chicago District 20 who is following in the footsteps of his father who is a lieutenant in that district. In order to be accepted onto the team, Weiss must undergo an initiation to test his mettle. His task is to break into a jewelry store and steal a ring for his partner's wife. Things rapidly go wrong from the start of the break-in; not only does he muck up the actual stealing of the ring, but he trips over the corpse of the jewelry store owner. It is easy enough for Ray and his comrades to cover up the robbery crime. Almost immediately, one of the owner's fellow Lithuanians is arrested for the murder. Ray is sure that the wrong man is in jail. How does he go about proving that to be true when his every move threatens to unveil the actions of his teammates during this and other initiations? Although he is working with a member of the force who believes that Ray is on the right track, he deliberately misinforms her in order to protect his fellow officers.
Probable Cause was a difficult book for me to like because my own code of ethics interfered with my ability to empathize with the protagonist. From the moment that the initiation was conceived, I found myself judging the officers involved. How tragic is it that the men and women who are sworn to uphold the law are committing crimes in order to be accepted by their brethren? Even when Weiss was trying to prove the accused did not commit the murder, he took the path of least resistance. It wasn't that he was passionate about seeing right done. Instead, he attempted to uncover the truth in a way that would not cause any hassle for his fellow officers. How can he tell the authorities that his best friend planted evidence? Or that he deliberately lied on the robbery report?
Shwegel does a good job of sketching out Weiss's moral dilemma, but the fact is that he does not have any morality to speak of. Although Ray faces significant danger as he proceeds with the investigation, possibly from his own co-workers, it never felt like he was motivated by the ultimate goal of finding truth and dispensing justice or that he would take a stand on the side of right instead of convenience. And that was the fatal flaw in the book for me.
If you are an avid mystery reader, you have probably become overexposed to books that feature a serial killer. The only way that these kind...moreRATING: 2.5
If you are an avid mystery reader, you have probably become overexposed to books that feature a serial killer. The only way that these kinds of books can seem fresh is to have the perpetrator be unusual in some way. The hook in The Boy with Perfect Hands is that the murderer is a lover of Chopin, who stages most of the killings to occur at 3:03 a.m., when a certain Chopin nocturne is scheduled to play on a local classical station. The other unusual aspect is that the killer alternates between older men and attractive young women who have the look of a fairy-tale princess. Neither of these were enough to make the book stand out from its brothers and sisters on the shelves.
Elizabeth Hewitt is a State Special Agent in Illinois who is investigating these cases. She’s an interesting character, feisty, intelligent, a little jaded and acerbic, extremely outspoken. She uses some unique methods, such as reenacting the murders herself so that she can interpret them more accurately. She knows there’s a link among the victims, but it takes her a while to make the connection to the musical aspect of the crime. That discovery drives her to the radio station; but she doesn’t feel that the logical suspect, who is rather a devious sort, is really the one who committed the crimes. Her attention to detail is what finally enables her to solve the case.
The main problem I had with the book was with its structure. Within the 316 pages of the book, there were 108 chapters, many of them one or two pages in length. Obviously, that led to a disruption in the flow of the narrative since there were so many breaking points. Furthermore, as the book progresses, Rusch begins to alternate chapters between the serial killer, who has a rather bombastic, descriptive style, and Hewitt, who is quite straightforward. I found trying to switch between these two voices so frequently to be a completely jarring experience. In addition, the final climactic scene was incredibly implausible, with about half of the book’s characters showing up at a remote scene for no reason that I could discern.
The first book in this series, For Edgar, debuted to wide acclaim. Unfortunately, The Boy with Perfect Hands failed to deliver on the promise exhibited there. (less)