I don't often read debut novels, but Margaret Mizushima's "Killing Trail" (Crooked Lane 2015), set in rural Colorado, main character a K-9 officer, anI don't often read debut novels, but Margaret Mizushima's "Killing Trail" (Crooked Lane 2015), set in rural Colorado, main character a K-9 officer, and sufficient murder and mayhem for my thriller appetite, caught my attention. It only added to my excitement that it's recommended for those who love CJ Box (writes the Joe Pickett series based in the backwoods of Wyoming). "Killing Trail" is the story of a young officer, Mattie Cobb, and her K-9 partner, Robo. They are both new to their jobs, just out of the training academy, and faced with what turns out to be one of the biggest cases her small town of Timber Creek has ever faced. While Mattie tries to unravel the clues, she fights internal battles against her inability to trust rooted in her foster care upbringing.
The plot's pace is just north of fast enough: Nothing gets boring, but I have time to breath. The characters are all interesting, with hints at what they will become as the series develops. Mizushima's voice sounds a lot like Tony Hillerman's daughter Anne (who took over writing her father's mystery series featuring Navajo police officers Chee and Leaphorn) with simple sentences and never a word I needed a dictionary to decode. Sometimes the dialogue goes one sentence too far, dipping into actual conversation rather than the truncated approach used in novels, but it does flesh out the characters well as moral, honest, and hard-working.
I should disclose: Any story starring a dog starts with five stars from me. My only concern will be if the human parts detract from what otherwise would be a great story. Robert Crais set the bar high with Maggie in "Suspect" (the sequel is due out any day--I can't wait). This book lost one star only because the author is still figuring out who she is and how she writes. Overall a great start and I'll definitely read more of this series....more
Ingrid Thoft's latest in her Fina Ludlow series, 'Brutality', is superb. It's the story of Liz Barone, aging college soccer star who suffers from migrIngrid Thoft's latest in her Fina Ludlow series, 'Brutality', is superb. It's the story of Liz Barone, aging college soccer star who suffers from migraines and other mental problems stemming from her hard-charging days as a collegiate sports super star. Before she can get her lawsuit against her alma mater launched, she is murdered. Private Investigator Fina Ludlow is brought in to bring the guilty party to justice. It doesn't take long for Fina to find out there's a lot more behind this brutal murder than appears.
I've never read this author before, but several characteristics grabbed my attention immediately. First was Thoft's syntax. At first, the awkwardness of the tightly structured sentences that overflowed with lots of information but little emotion pushed me away from Fina Ludlow. It didn't take long before I realized this was a true reflection of Fina--tight and controlled, but chock full of so much more. She's the only daughter of a controlling highly-successful lawyer father and the sibling to two brothers who dutifully followed in Daddy's footsteps. Rather than become yet another lawyer in the family empire--what her father expected--this gorgeous, sexy woman applies her razor-sharp intellect to unravel evidence as an investigator. Don't expect the hard-charging, tough-as-nails investigator that so often people thrillers. Fina is classy, cultivated, calm, empathetic, and human in both her thoughts and actions.
Another thing I like about Fina--though it makes me wince at times--is she has incredibly thick skin. I enjoyed reading how she invariably parried rudeness with humor. Here's one example as a security guy manning the entrance to a scientific lab ignores Fina's repeated efforts to question him:
"Through the metal detector, take the elevator to the eighth floor," he gestured [after ignoring all of Fina's questions].
"Let's stay in touch, Louis," Fina said...:
Because the story is predominantly told through Fina's eyes, we the reader get to know her quite well--what she eats, her repressed emotions and subconscious reactions, why she does pretty much everything, how she makes decisions and choices. The more I know, the more I liked this moral, kind-but-tough woman who despite everything finds it's important to be true to her word and protect those unable to do that for themselves. In so many ways, Fina reminds me of Taylor Stevens' Vanessa Michael Munroe. Both are unusual female protagonists who dominate their novels.
That's it. If you like strong female action-oriented protagonists, don't miss this novel....more
Maggie Shayne's fourth novel in her Brown and DeLuca series,'Deadly Obsession', is a pleasant surprise. When I selected this book from the Amazon VineMaggie Shayne's fourth novel in her Brown and DeLuca series,'Deadly Obsession', is a pleasant surprise. When I selected this book from the Amazon Vine list, I didn't know Shayne was an NYT Best Selling Author of Paranormal, that her publisher was Harlequin, or that she has over fifty novels to her credit including several wildly popular romance series. I picked her because the heroine of 'Deadly Obsession' sounds like the type of kick-a** female protagonist I like to read.
'Deadly Obsession' is the story of a crazed, blonde bombshell with a temper who takes out love's rejections by burning stuff down. When an inferno she sets to get back at her latest lover threatens to kill two children, Detective Mason Brown rescues them and garners the fatal attraction of this woman. Like flipping a switch, she turns her attention to Brown and will do anything to remove the people Brown loves from his life so the two of them can be together. Brown spends the rest of the book trying to stop her while rescuing everyone who's important to him.
The plot might sound simplistic, like the Harlequin Romantic thriller it is, but there's so much more going on. A rich backstory gives a depth to the characters and twists to the plot. Yes, there are references to the three earlier books, but this one easily stands on its own. And Rachel DeLuca--the female lead--is fascinating. She was blind for most of her life, now sighted, and has a 6th sense that almost never lets her down.
Mason Brown--the male lead--is gorgeous, dimpled, with a solid moral core. He took over raising his two nephews when fate mandated it without a second thought. He's good-tempered, kind, with a rock-solid sense of humor he injects in any situation. Really, he's too perfect for me, but with girlfriend Rachel, he becomes complex and full-voiced.
Overall, a fast-paced read that wouldn't let me stop until I was done. I recommend it even for non-romantic genre readers (like me)....more
Allison Brennan has written over twenty thrillers and I've read a lot of them. Her latest--'Compulsion' (Minotaur Books 2015)--is her best, again. InvAllison Brennan has written over twenty thrillers and I've read a lot of them. Her latest--'Compulsion' (Minotaur Books 2015)--is her best, again. Investigative reporter Maxine Revere believes that the serial killer on trial for four murders is actually responsible for at least five more, but no one believes her. Here we have a fairly typical story of one person raging against a storm, standing tall despite a tidal wave of adversity. But before predictability can jell, the plot takes a dramatic turn and becomes something else entirely.
From that moment on, I couldn't stop reading.
The heroine, Max, carries the story. Most of the main characters are likeable, but flat--they serve their purpose as pawns in the story. Max, though, is different. She is driven, a successful journalist with a boat load of confidence and a track record that makes people listen. She teeters on the edge of being too self-centered to be likable. She has no humility about her superhuman abilities, rather like the neurosurgeon who performs surgeries no one else can, accepts them as her due. But her hubris is tempered by a solid moral compass that points to justice for the little guy. In this story, it is an older retired couple who have disappeared while on vacation. They are forgotten by law enforcement, but not their children. They can't move on, their lives frozen in time, their world dissolving, friends and jobs all secondary to the desperate search for what happened to their parents. When Max offers to help, she is not only is a chance to solve the mystery, but save their lives.
This is a gripping story with a non-stop action. I highly recommend it for those who enjoy plot-driven stories with strong characters.
Saul Black's 'The Killing Lessons' (St. Martin's Press 2015) might be the typical story of a psychocrazy killer if it weren't for Black's mesmerizingSaul Black's 'The Killing Lessons' (St. Martin's Press 2015) might be the typical story of a psychocrazy killer if it weren't for Black's mesmerizing insights into the mind of both the killer, the victim, the survivors, and those who attempt to bring some form of justice to the chaos. For three years, damaged San Francisco homicide detective Valerie Hart obsesses over stopping the horrific torture and murder spree that spans the Western half of the country. As it threatens to destroy her sanity and her life, she begins to lose hope that she can unravel the murderers crimes, but if she can't, she doubts her mind will survive.
The story is non-stop violence from the mental images Black draws of the bloody debauchery to the searing hunt for the madman whose childhood cauldron of broken lessons left no room for humanity--all tied together by non-stop inner monologue of not just the killer, but his hunters and victims. Read this one sentence, the rambling inner thoughts of a desperate captive awaiting her death, chock full of detail, emotion, reflection, and meaning:
"When she thought of her room at Oxford, the walls of books with spines cracked in testimony to dogged engagement, when she thought of how clearly she'd sensed the scale of the imaginative relationship--what the reading life demanded (which was, in the end, to keep finding room for everything human, no matter how ugly or beautiful or strange)--it was as if she'd turned her back on her child."
The only break readers get from the mesmerizingly deadly story are the quirky personal habits of Hart. Consider these:
* she wakes up to poetry instead of music * she tells herself--Not today. She can quit being a cop anytime she wants to. Just not today.
In all, a riveting drama that you won't be able to forget. Highly recommended for anyone with a strong stomach....more
Keith McCafferty's 'Crazy Mountain Kiss' (Viking 2015) is as much about the glorious wild Montana setting as it is about the dead girl found stuffed iKeith McCafferty's 'Crazy Mountain Kiss' (Viking 2015) is as much about the glorious wild Montana setting as it is about the dead girl found stuffed in a rustic cabin chimney. At the core of the murder mystery are the people who call these remote mountains and streams home and accept a life dependent on the whims of nature. Sean Stranahan, star of McCafferty's four-book series, is an eclectic small-town detective that doesn't look for clients and takes only those with interesting cases. This one--a wealthy sixteen-year-old cowgirl who disappeared without a trace to be found four months later in the tattered remains of the clothes she went missing in--leads down paths he never expected to results he didn't want to find. He spends half the book collecting seemingly disconnected clues that are then tied together into a satisfying conclusion, made more difficult because the girl's family has secrets they don't give up willingly. Along the way are trucks, dogs, broken hearts, and unrequited loves that add spice to the plot.
Sean Stranahan is unlike any character I've met. I might compare him to Lee Child's Jack Reacher, but only because of Stranahan's nomadic free spirit and moral tenacity for following clues. Stranahan lives in a teepee, is an artist, and loves fly fishing. He accepts people at face value, is non-judgmental, but can read between the lines of their hidden, unspoken thoughts. Everything he does is colored by the Montana landscape, its geography, and the people who call this tough habitat home.
This is the type of story I love--honest people, solid morals, flawed but forgiving, made stronger by failure, toughened by a life spent struggling to survive off land that is ruled by Nature. I fell in love with this sub-genre with Tony Hillerman's eighteen-volume Navajo series, and then CJ Box's twenty-volume Joe Pickett series set in Wyoming. McCafferty is an excellent addition to my reading list....more