Indelible is book #4 in the ever-painful Grant County series. As in its predecessors, the characters continue to be their own worst enemies and the deIndelible is book #4 in the ever-painful Grant County series. As in its predecessors, the characters continue to be their own worst enemies and the decisions their author has them make (e.g., Jeffrey going to the cave so he can get some peace, only to realize it's a tomb--let alone an active crime scene) defy anything resembling adult logic.
The one saving grace here was the alternation between the hostage situation at the sheriff's office alternating with scenes and a sidebar mystery unfolding over the course of a long-ago trip early in Jeffrey and Sara's courtship when Jeffrey had the bright idea to take Sara to the beach via his hometown (and scene of his oh-so checkered past) of Sylacauga, Georgia. This was an interesting choice in that it takes what might otherwise be just too unbearable to continue (e.g., a possibly-pregnant Lena who remains in her physically-abusive relationship with college student Ethan when--even she, at her most oblivious--is able to compare him to the heartless gunmen who may work their way through the school children on a class trip, civilian staff, and officers unfortunate enough to have shown up to work on time that morning).
Finally, if you're going to set a story in a college town, please consult with folks about how things work. Case in point, it is not professors who make dormitory housing assignments for students. It's an admittedly modest detail, but just one more bit of goofiness in a train wreck of a series. ...more
Rounding up, again, from a 2 1/2 star rating. Oodles of unpleasant things happening in this town, semi-oblivious parents (that is, if they're not theRounding up, again, from a 2 1/2 star rating. Oodles of unpleasant things happening in this town, semi-oblivious parents (that is, if they're not the abusers themselves), and a high creep factor. The newbie to town, supposedly from "up North" (book is set outside Atlanta, GA) who called a soda "Co-Cola" was a decidedly false note. (Of course, perhaps it was an early clue to the fact that this individual was misrepresenting herself?) The Lena Adams situation is definitely no-fun, and I hope she manages to dig herself out (vs. drinking herself further in). It's definitely a wait-and-see series....more
I'm rounding up from 2 1/2 stars as this is a new series which came highly rated by both my mother and sister, so I really want to enjoy them. The levI'm rounding up from 2 1/2 stars as this is a new series which came highly rated by both my mother and sister, so I really want to enjoy them. The level of violence against women as well as the overwhelming sense of victimization here (admittedly, perhaps I'm overinterpreting), suggests to me that this series may be a bit of a long haul--esp. as I received 12 of them for the holidays. That said, I'll keep an open mind and keep reading. ...more
Initially lured by the book's attractive cover, with its well-composed photograph, mix of cool (as in temperature) colors and desire to sort out justInitially lured by the book's attractive cover, with its well-composed photograph, mix of cool (as in temperature) colors and desire to sort out just what was going on in the scene depicted, what I most enjoyed about James Ziskin's Styx & Stone was the opportunity to ponder what New York City must have been like--socially, architecturally, physically--in the waning days of January 1960.
The action of the novel centers on the fact that mid-twenties Ellie Stone is called home to NYC when her father, a respected (if not liked) Professor of Italian at Columbia University and expert on the works of Dante Alighieri, lies in a coma after having been bludgeoned in what is believed to be a robbery gone wrong. Ellie, the last surviving child in her family and something of an independent spirit with a healthy disdain for social expectations, hypocrisy, and the dog eat dog nature of academe, unsettles those around her by bluntly posing the penetrating questions those investigating the case have yet to entertain. The story has an awful lot going on, including: a missing book manuscript, a grade-grubbing graduate student, bitter academicians jockeying for position, what would today be identified as identity theft, loneliness and loss.
The story is told in an interesting mix of first-person narration juxtaposed against dialogue and short flashbacks told in the form of dialogue and exchanges the reader witnesses instead of having the narrator characterize them in hindsight. I found it well written, and I was interested to see how Ellie came across given that she was written by a male. It seemed to work well, esp. given the fact that Ellie was a bit emotionally adrift given her personal circumstances.
Where the story was most successful was in rendering all the sorts of period-specific details and circumstances that would have constrained the conversations, actions, and interactions depicted throughout the book (e.g., elevator operators, calling up to announce apartment house visitors, household wiring and circuitry, race relations, class differences, gendering of everything from cocktail selections to occupational possibilities). It really felt like a novel more about time and place than a mystery. Some of the details of the case were patently obvious, but I figured they were really jut the backdrop against which the author played with the setting and era. Can you really imagine solving a murder in 2014 without the benefits of CODIS, cell phones, and the internet? Having to make a trip to the New York Public Library to go through the telephone directories presents a powerful opportunity to reflect back on what those two lions guarding the entry meant to you, the reader, when you first encountered them, for instance. The only real shortcoming, to my mind, was the fact that the specifics of why Abraham Stone had withdrawn his affection and regard from his daughter was withheld until less than 15 pages from book's end--and only tossed in almost as an afterthought. While seemingly trivial, this detail was pretty darn important given that it was a defining part of their father-daughter dynamic and will doubtless have long-term implications in future books in what is intended as a multiple installment series. I want to be able to trust my narrator, and this felt a bit dishonest to me. Not so dishonest that I won't read Ziskin's follow-up, but just that I'll now be a bit more skeptical myself....more
Pinot Envy, a mystery by Edward Finstein, a noted wine expert, appraiser, guide, and teacher, is a disappointing first outing. The basic concept is quPinot Envy, a mystery by Edward Finstein, a noted wine expert, appraiser, guide, and teacher, is a disappointing first outing. The basic concept is quite clever: a double magnum of Grand Cru burgundy once owned by Napoleon Bonaparte has been stolen from a Napa Valley vintner's vault. In need of a major cash infusion Woodrow "Woody" Robins, a San Francisco-based wine guru, is called in to investigate. So far, so good.
Where things begin to fray is with our incompetent and unsympathetic antihero. Woody is an utterly incompetent investigator, and not in a fun, "and hijinx ensued" Stephanie Plum sort of way. Instead, he is neurotic, obtuse, overly prone to tears, has way too many "daddy issues" that he transfers to people around him, and seems utterly devoid of common sense. It's the last item that truly annoyed this mystery fan. For instance, he's linked a suspect to a major east coast crime syndicate and when his not ready for prime time stakeout and eavesdropping falls apart he races back to his car, sits there shaking utterly paralyzed by the fact that those bad guys might have hurt him. Shocker! From the start, Woody's efforts are stymied by his inability to recall even the most basic of details relayed only a day prior after "misplacing" his tape recorder. Likewise, when heading off on multiple trips to investigate possible tunnels in an area, it never occurred to him to bring a flashlight. Seriously?!
A second major shortcoming is how unsophisticated the story's execution is. It felt like a pastiche of elements handled successfully in other hands (e.g., locked room mystery, details withheld by narrator, "big reveal" with all suspects on hand) but not in Finstein's. And for anyone who reads a lot of mysteries, the assorted outcomes and resolutions were utterly predictable. Just as problematic, the book's editor and/or copyreader seemed to have been asleep at the switch. The book contained spelling errors (e.g., Karmann Guia, p. 56), grammatical errors aplenty, and simple usage/word choice errors (e.g., "Linda Grable, husband of the late Winston Grable, oil tycoon!," p. 106) suggesting that it was rushed to publication when it would have merited from additional workshopping, rewriting and heavy editing.
One of the first rules of writing is "Write what you know." For that reason alone, Pinot Envy should have been a winner. I sincerely hope that Finstein finds a better writing support team of beta readers, editors, and advisors, as I am confident that he has loads of great industry and wine history insights to share further down the line....more
This ranking is curved upward from a 3/12 star rating based on my appreciation for the difficulties involved in keeping the structure, pace, and detaiThis ranking is curved upward from a 3/12 star rating based on my appreciation for the difficulties involved in keeping the structure, pace, and details varied from book to book in such a long-running series as the Eve Dallas "In Death" mysteries. In this particular outing, the guilty party is known to Lt. Dallas and reader alike roughly two-thirds of the way through the book. The remaining one-third is dedicated to the strategies involved in wrangling warrants and support from the assorted parties necessary to gather the evidence to take it from circumstantial to demonstrated fact. The level of evil wrought by an unearned sense of entitlement was well handled here, and made the story quite interesting. The fact that the victims were all the best in their fields suggested to me quite early in the book that either Eve or Roarke would need to serve as bait in order to resolve the case. That Roarke tipped to it sooner than Eve was highly entertaining--as was the fact that he couldn't even stay mad at her when the penny finally drops and she eagerly leaps into the fray. A solid outing for the pair, in my estimation....more
On balance, I would rate Robb's Delusion in Death at 3 1/2 stars. It's book #35 in the series and, despite being so far in, Robb has still reserved loOn balance, I would rate Robb's Delusion in Death at 3 1/2 stars. It's book #35 in the series and, despite being so far in, Robb has still reserved loads of backstory (i.e., the contextual details for how the world came to be as it is) to dole out in the course of police procedurals and the unfolding of Lt. Eve Dallas' personal story.
The thing I most enjoy about this series is its world building and near-future allure. Specifically, the action is set in 2060 and parts of the universe are extremely familiar whereas a good many others represent a world utterly changed socially, politically, and technologically. Most interesting to me has been the specter of the Urban Wars--a global collapse that brought down civil rule of law and took years to quell. That said, Delusion in Death sees Lt. Dallas investigating and solving a series of terrifying biological attacks that have people in contained spaces killing one another within a matter of moments with whatever materials are at hand. These attacks appear to be making use of a compound whose effects were last seen during the reign of the Red Horse (think Horsemen of the Apocalypse) sect.
Ironically, both the story's strongest and weakest elements are the connection between the 2060 attacks and this cult tracing back to the Urban Wars. In addition, the implication that the future version of the Dept. of Homeland Security both knew of and, until recently, was in possession of the architect of the deadly formula being released in seemingly random NYC bars and restaurants, provides an unsettling element that could easily span another several dozen or so books. By the time the perpetrators and their motivations are sorted, they're not particularly fascinating in and of themselves--which makes the net effect of such weakly-motivated actions all that much more frightening.
I thought the manner in which the case is resolved represented a good bit of maturation on the part of this prolific writer. There is a particular scene, roughly some 40 page's from book's close, where I thought, "Gee, this is where she typically ends the story. Something else is going to happen and it's not quite this tidy." The "something else" wasn't explained fully, and whether that's an instance of writerly cop out or the author holding details in reserve for future use remains to be seen. Either way, it was a welcome variation from the sometimes all too tidy resolution of such cases....more
First there was the Icove case (cf. Origin in Death, "In Death" #21), then journalist Nadine Furst turned the case (and a reluctant Eve, who broke theFirst there was the Icove case (cf. Origin in Death, "In Death" #21), then journalist Nadine Furst turned the case (and a reluctant Eve, who broke the case) into a best selling book. In Celebrity in Death Hollywood has come to town and is making a feature movie of the case. Beyond the general weirdness of actors who look troublingly similar to herself, Peabody, Roarke, Mira and all her friends and co-workers, Eve is reluctant to visit the set, assist with any of the movie promotion, give an interview for the DVD (or whatever they use in 2060) special features track. Her reasons are several: (1) she's Eve and it's not about fame it's about doing the job, (2) a new body count starts piling up in association with the nearly-completed film, and (3) there's that small niggling fact that she let one of the clones escape back when the case was actually unfolding. That third angle will doubtless be worried in a future book, and Eve doesn't give it much attention here. Instead, she's got her hands full with a bunch of actors and their on- and offstage drama.
As a story, it was interesting, the pacing was quick, and the obligatory Eve-Roarke fight/misunderstanding was largely omitted. Hooray! Oh and the ridiculous sex scenes were limited to two and a good bit less laugh-out-loud preposterous (I hesitate to say "overblown" for obvious reasons) than is the norm. Bravo!
Just a thought, Ms. Robb: If I were wearing what Eve describes as "ankle breaker" shoes and, fearing for my friend's life running down the street on a not too cool day, instead of working up blisters and ruining the oh so expensive shoes, I'd take them off. And quite honestly, Nadine's savvy enough that she should have taken them off, too. Or at least taken them off when she finally got to her destination....more
A so-so effort in what, I am confident, was supposed to have represented some sort of emotional turning point for NYPSD Lt. Eve Dallas was--unfortunatA so-so effort in what, I am confident, was supposed to have represented some sort of emotional turning point for NYPSD Lt. Eve Dallas was--unfortunately--a largely lackluster entry in what is occasionally an all too formulaic series. On the plus side, when the shit gets real sometimes even the toughest girl just needs her cat.
A few words about the title. If one excludes the "filler" entries in Robb's "In Death" series, this is the 33rd entry. That said, breaking from the "X in Death" norm merited something really inspired. This simply wasn't it. Instead, it was like Sue Grafton inserting Milhone Phones It In between T is for Trespass and U is for Undertow.
Much here was well beyond improbable, but I don't want to spoil any of the plotlines. So as to end on a slightly more positive note, there were only three ridiculous sex scenes in the novel. And by ridiculous, I mean such inanity as "And rode, rode, rode him like a stallion under the whip" (p. 340). Gah.
Not your best effort, Ms. Robb, but thanks for at least giving Galahad a couple of good scenes. ...more
Lt. Renee Oberman, head of Illicits at NYPSD's Central Division is a seriously crooked cop. Moreover, we learn this after a vulnerable Peabody is trapLt. Renee Oberman, head of Illicits at NYPSD's Central Division is a seriously crooked cop. Moreover, we learn this after a vulnerable Peabody is trapped in a shower stall from which she overhears a conversation that its speakers, only inches away, would kill her if they knew she was hearing. The mystery starts with a bang and the bulk of the action is spent documenting the extent of Oberman's deed without involving too many of the usual insiders (e.g., Internal Affairs, Accounting, Evidence, etc.) until the extent of Oberman's network is clear. And just to make it extra special challenging, Oberman has her sights on Commander Whitney's chair and is herself the daughter of much loved Commander St. Oberman, retired.
It's a fun read in which Eve gets to rant a lot and have a nice punching match at book's end with her "wrong cop" counterpart. It ends predictably, if not amusingly, when there's some hairpulling involved. To quote Eve, the latter "...really demeaned the moment" (p. 375)....more
I wanted a good bit more on the science/computer science of precisely how the hit worked but, other than that, this was a relatively satisfying sci fiI wanted a good bit more on the science/computer science of precisely how the hit worked but, other than that, this was a relatively satisfying sci fi/mystery read. ...more
I am rounding up from 3 1/2 stars to four for several reasons that will make sense to folks who follow this series, most notably: (1) for the absenceI am rounding up from 3 1/2 stars to four for several reasons that will make sense to folks who follow this series, most notably: (1) for the absence of the usual oh so contrived and readily resolved Eve-Roarke conflict, (2) for Eve's ability to quickly draw parallels between the unfolding case and the murder of Summerset's daughter years ago, and therefore refraining from their usual verbal sparring (which gets quite old after a while and doesn't reflect well on Eve), (3) for the fact that Robb didn't need to walk us through every single step of the grisly murders but could supply details through ancillary developments (e.g., the video made during Deena MacMaster's murder), (4) for Mrs. MacMasters' expression of unconsolable rage at the perceived lack of progress in solving the case and the fact that Eve let it go (in past books she'd have needed to have some snarky comeback), (5) the fact that Eve is growing/maturing but not losing her rough edges that make her both who she is and such an effective cop, (6) for giving us a really feisty but believeable elderly female character in the form of Mrs. Mimoto. Most of all, of course, I found the sad fact of the power that parents hold--for good or ill--of constructing their children's reality to have been handled in an interesting and convincing manner. We never fully comprehend how the killer made the leap from revenge for a mother "done wrong" to having no qualms whatsoever about the actions he was willing to take to even the score. That, too, was handled well as there certainly can be no pat solution to a case such as this. The case was compelling and the often so very over the top "love scenes" (think bodice ripper on steroids) were thankfully minimized in this outing. Hooray and keep up the good work, Ms. Robb....more
The mystery revolves around a stolen painting, thought to be a heretofore unknown 1910 painting of Lenin by Modigliani. The players include, among othThe mystery revolves around a stolen painting, thought to be a heretofore unknown 1910 painting of Lenin by Modigliani. The players include, among others, elderly Russian ex pats whose parents were once socially and politically connected, middle-aged Russians trying to rebuild their finances after the collapse of the USSR, clannish Serbs looking for revenge, assorted Paris flics, a member of the country's stolen art squad, a printer working with other protestors trying to protect their neighborhood from redevelopment, the usual suspects (e.g., Aimee, her childhood editor friend Martine, Aimee's bichon Miles Davis, her concierge, commissaire godfather Morbier, and Rene's computer protege Saj), a highly-competent intern named Maxence, and the always present specter of Aimee's fugitive mother. There's plenty of running around--most of which makes sense, but a fair few scenes which will have readers shaking their head asking, "And in what alternate universe did that sound like a good idea?!" It's wearing a bit thin at this point--esp. as there were three notable instances in which Aimee might easily have been killed.
That said, I'm somewhat torn about how to rate and review Murder below Montparnasse, book 13 in the Aimee Leduc series. On the one hand, I thoroughly enjoyed the amount of time devoted to Rene who, at book's open, has been lured away from the firm to an IPO start-up in Silicon Valley (N.B.: the book is set in 1998). I must admit to being a good bit mystified by his naivite regarding the circumstances of his employment. Perhaps he was so eager to leave Leduc Detective Agency, where he was so ill-used by his business partner Aimee, that he jumped at such a seemingly too good to be true offer while having done next to no research on any aspects of day-to-day life in California. (In some regards, I suppose, this was a nice parallel to tourists' stereotyped notions of what life is actually like in Paris, so perhaps I need to not weigh that oversight so heavily against the otherwise scrupulously detail-focused Rene who I otherwise so admire.)
Aimee remains her socially bumbling self throughout the book. In fact, I often picture her as a Parisian Lucille Ball, only dressed in bits and pieces of second-hand couture. And finally, my reaction to the Big Surprise at book's end was precisely one of Aimee's favorite lines: Desolee! Plus, it was so heavily telegraphed that it wasn't really much of a surprise when finally confirmed. And the manner in which it unfolded was equally clumsy. *Sigh* I can well appreciate that it's tough to carry a story through so many books, and to retain readers' interest along the way, but I am seriously worried that our dear Aimee may be about to jump the shark.
So Undead and Underwater is actually a set of three semi-random novellas. The first, Super, Girl! is a funny tale of the head of Human Resources who iSo Undead and Underwater is actually a set of three semi-random novellas. The first, Super, Girl! is a funny tale of the head of Human Resources who is unable to get to work on time, misses tons of meetings, takes more than her fair share of "sick days," etc. etc. because she's a super hero off fighting crime on the way to work, in the midst of the workday, and whenever the need arises. Overall it was silly, but had some great lines. Case in point: "God is dead! Only the IT department can help you now" (p. 79). The second novella, Undead and Underwater pulls in Betsy Taylor (queen of the vampires from Davidson's "Undead and..." series) and marine biologist/mermaid Dr. Fred Blim. Loads of fun, sarcasm, and slamming of Boston tourons to be had here. And finally, Incomer, builds on the world of the Wyndham Werewolves. It contained one of the funniest sex scenes I've ever read in my life. Words we can all live by, to be sure: "There is no need to harm bacon, ever!" (p. 289). All told, these are an enjoyable quick morsel of escapism--probably best appreciated by those already familiar with Davidson's series, but certainly a decent intro and teaser to enter those worlds for any who might stumble upon this volume without that prior background....more