First Sentence: It was two in the morning in Oxfordshire, England, when the call came through from America that woke Clarence Watson, the porter at DeFirst Sentence: It was two in the morning in Oxfordshire, England, when the call came through from America that woke Clarence Watson, the porter at Deniston Hall.
WWII Army commando and intelligence officer veteran, Ben Reese is a widower and archivist at a small public college in Ohio. While visiting England, his friend, Richard West, head of the English Department, does of a heart attack. Or did he? After a second death, a robbery and an attempt on his own life, Ben needs to find out who has a secret worth killing for.
Ms. Wright’s first book includes a cast of characters, which I liked, and a small portent, not so much. Her writing is filled with wonderful descriptions which both provide the larger sense of place and the small details provide information on the role of an archivist and glimpses into the personalities of the characters. Her observation as to how idiosyncratic habits provide an insight and details of a person’s character leads to interesting introspection for the reader.
It is refreshing to have a mystery with an academic setting where the protagonist is actually qualified to investigate a murder. Wright is very good at providing the backstory and complexity for each character, such as the contrast between the face the victim presents to most of the world yet how he really felt and was inside. On the downside is that Ben occasionally seems arrogant and the sheriff, Chester, whom I like as he is described as someone to whom the truth and facts are important, appears stereotypically less educated than the academics.
There is a wonderful quality to Ms. Wright’s writing. It is layered, includes passages which caused me to stop and think, and includes wonderful, subtle humor through both the author’s voice and in the actual dialogue. She does get just a bit, subtly preachy at times, but not in an annoying way and the occasions are brief.
There was a bit of a problem for me with the plot in that a set up to a major scene was too obvious and the final scene was too long and felt as though it had lost its way. However, taken against the strengths of the book, the strengths win and I’m anxious to read another in this series.
First Sentence: If you’re a corpse, you should get your name in the paper.
Reporter Chris Turley dreams of receiving a Pulitzer, as his father did. HeFirst Sentence: If you’re a corpse, you should get your name in the paper.
Reporter Chris Turley dreams of receiving a Pulitzer, as his father did. He receives a call to meet an unidentified source claiming to have a big story. Rather than meet his contact, an office building explodes across from the site and his saving five victims makes him a hero and puts him, and his story, on the front page. A second call follows and a second major headline. But then there’s a body and Chris realizes he’s being led down a path marked by violence caused by his source.
David Rosenfelt writes a series of light legal mysteries I quite enjoy. He has a wonderful voice using humor based on situation and dialogue which is natural and unforced. I had great hopes when I started this book, but they were quickly dashed.
The plot is formulaic and over-the-top predictable. For a reporter, the character couldn’t write; his news stories were ones no publisher would permit. I kept checking the copyright date to see whether this was something the author had written years ago but was only being released now. No such luck.
There was little enough development of the protagonist’s character and none of the villain’s so I never really cared about them. About half-way through, I no longer cared about the story either, but I pushed on. The sentences are short and with no real flow to the dialogue. The suspense was good except you never once doubted that the good guys would be fine in the end and the bad guys not. I will give credit for a very good twist.
My suggestion is to pass on this book but do try Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter series instead.
DOWN TO THE WIRE (Thriller/Journ-Chris Turley-New Jersey-Cont) – NR Rosenfelt, David - Standalone Minotaur Books, 2010, US Hardcover – ISBN: 9780312373948 ...more
An unconscious woman, found in a hospital parking lot, awakens to find she has no memory. Released to soFirst Sentence: A young woman opened her eyes.
An unconscious woman, found in a hospital parking lot, awakens to find she has no memory. Released to social services, she is placed in a hostel and befriended and named “Rose” by Ada Shaftsbury; a good soul with a large personality and a penchant for shoplifting. The Bath police have their own problems with the apparent suicides of an elderly farmer by shotgun and a woman off a roof. But were they suicides and how do they link to Rose, whom Ada is pushing the police to find after she’s not seen her for two weeks. It’s up to DS Peter Diamond to figure it out.
There is nothing better than a book that not only has an intriguing beginning but also causes you to wonder what you’d do in a similar situation.
An unusual facet to this story is that Diamond doesn’t begin to play a major role until quite a ways into the story, but what a dynamic, and flawed, character he is. I enjoy the relationship he has with his wife, Stephanie, and their cat, Raffles. At the same time, he is not an easy person for others to deal with, particularly Detective Inspector Julie Hargreaves. Diamond respects her, but releases his frustration publicly on her and it is through his imperfections and some of their interchanges that we get to know Diamond better. Ada, with all her faults, is a pivotal character and often allows Lovesey to exhibit his delightfully dry humor…”While her old man was refusing to admit to anything, she was singing like the three tenors.”
What I most appreciate, however, is the plotting. It takes you down interesting, unexpected roads where you learn about everything from film shooting schedules, ancient English history and detectorology and treasure troves. The inclusion and care of such details is only one element that sets Lovesey apart as a writer. I particularly like that DS Diamond investigates the case by looking for evidence, doing the research, working his team and following the clues rather than working from assumption. There are good climatic twists and a very well done ending. I am delighted that there are many more books in the series waiting for me to read.
First Sentence: Tom glanced behind him and saw the man coming out of the Green Cage, heading his way.
Tom Ripley has little money left and is very disFirst Sentence: Tom glanced behind him and saw the man coming out of the Green Cage, heading his way.
Tom Ripley has little money left and is very dissatisfied with his life. He also keeps expecting to be arrested for the various frauds he has perpetrated. An offer travel to Italy, all expenses paid, by the father of Dickie Greenleaf comes as a perfect solution. All Tom has to do is convenience Dickie to return to the US and his ailing mother. But Dickie isn’t interesting in going back and the longer Tom is in Italy the more he envies Dickie’s money and persona until that envy grows into violent actions.
Every now and then, you come across a book where you can see and appreciate the quality of the author’s writing, but you don’t particularly care for the book. This is one of those times.
The story revolves around Tom Ripley. He is described as “innocent and clean-minded.” He is clearly a virgin and may, or may not, be gay but still has a prepubescent boy’s view of sex as being “icky”. No matter what else he may be, Tom Ripley is a textbook sociopath and Highsmith does an excellent job of portraying it. The complete disdain with which she conveys Tom’s feeling toward Dickie’s friend, Marge, is exceedingly well done. There is a very good conveyance of Tom’s fear as well as very good suspense. As a character study, I felt the writing was excellent.
Evaluating the book as a mystery, however, is where the flaws appear. While Tom’s character is as dimensional as it can be, I found the other characters very one dimensional and completely undeveloped. I do question, although could be wrong, about one of the forensic elements but do find it very hard to accept that no one really saw the similarities between Tom and Dickie or did a more thorough investigation. The situation with the letter to the father and the will would have been highly suspect to me unless the family really didn’t care. As a mystery, there were just too many parts of the book that did not hold together.
“Ripley” was a fascinating book from the prospective of a book which has gained regard as a “classic,” but not one I would re-read or like well enough to read the follow-up books.
First Sentence: In the large upstairs room at the pub called the Duke of Cornwall’s Own, a local band, the Tin Miners were playing to an enthusiasticFirst Sentence: In the large upstairs room at the pub called the Duke of Cornwall’s Own, a local band, the Tin Miners were playing to an enthusiastic audience.
Musician Ringan Laine and theater producer Penny Wintercraft-Hawkes are looking forward to a rare vacation off together. Plans change when Ringan’s sister, whose mother-in-law needs her, asks to send him her 14-year-old daughter, Rebecca, a violin prodigy. Staying with Gowan, a musician friend in Cornwall, seemed like a good idea until Penny has a vision of a man dying and Becca starts sleep-walking. What are the forces from the past and beyond the grave influencing these two women?
Books that include a cast of characters and a map are such a treat. It is even better that Ms. Grabien’s characters are distinct and strong I didn’t need reminding of them, but it’s still a lovely thing to have.
The recurring characters of Ringlan and Penny are now old friends to me, but the author doesn’t assume they are known to every reader. New readers will have no problem learning who they are and uncovering their backstory. I think that is such an important thing for an author to do. The new characters are interesting, and fully dimensional. There is one character, Gowan, you start by liking but the shine dims a bit; for another, Lucy, the reverse is true. It is very well done. Lucy is a particularly interesting character as she is a researcher and a true skeptic—something you don’t usually see in a book with paranormal elements. She is very believable and adds the perfect balance to the story.
Ms. Grabian’s powers of description not only create a sense of place by showing us around Cornwall, but provided us a sense of the characters through their personal environments. When including old documents, I appreciate her leaving them in the appropriate Old English and Victorian spelling and grammar. She trusts the ability of her audience, which is wonderful.
Each of Ms. Grabian’s “Haunted Ballad” books is based on an actual old ballad, with a verse from the ballad at the beginning of each chapter. From that, she constructs a story each with a unique use of the paranormal element and a solidly constructed plot. Just when you think you’ve found a hole, she closes it. The characters ask the questions you mentally ask, and she answers them. The tension and suspense increase at a steady rate but without ever crossing over into graphic horror. The result is even more frightening than if she had, and then she adds excellent twists.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and closed it without identifying any flaws in its construction. The only question for potential readers is whether they enjoy books with a paranormal theme. If the answer is yes, I highly recommend “New-Slain Knight”.
First Sentence: Exmoor dripped with dirty bracken, rough, colorless grass, prickly gorse, and last year’s heather, so black it looked as if wet fire hFirst Sentence: Exmoor dripped with dirty bracken, rough, colorless grass, prickly gorse, and last year’s heather, so black it looked as if wet fire had swept across the landscape, taking the trees with it and leaving the moor cold and exposed to face the winter unprotected.
Sociopath Arnold Avery raped and murdered children; he admitted to six whose bodies were found. One who was not found was Billy Peters. The impact severely affected his family. Eighteen years later, his nephew, 12-year-old Steven Lamb believes if he can find Billy’s body, it will bring the family back together. Spending his spare time digging holes in the moor bring Steven to the point of writing the imprisoned Avery in an attempt to figure out what will convenience the killer to provide the location.
The very opening of the book creates a sense of place and an atmosphere which is both gloomy and compelling.
There are no perfect characters here; only human ones. Steven’s gram has become embittered and closed off following the disappearance of her son, Billy. Steven’s mother; closed off from her mother’s affection has a string of failed relationships. “Uncle” Jake”; one of Steven’s mom’s men, provides Steven with the outward displays of love and understanding but is only around for short periods of time. Steven’s friend Lewis who realizes Steven is the smarter of them but needs to dominate the relationship. Steven is by no means perfect. He’s a shy boy, afraid of confrontation, and knows his mother prefers his younger brother, yet he constantly strives for the thing we all want; love and acceptance.
Avery, the imprisoned murderer is as far from perfect as one can get but is the person with whom Steven must form some level of a relationship in order to gain what he needs. Through Bauer, we understand how dangerous and impaired is Avery without her having to indulge in graphic detail. In fact, in some ways, the hints and inferences are even more effective than detail would be.
What is particularly wonderful about Bauer’s writing is that the characters alive and understandable; she shows us Steven becoming more mature in his thinking and reasoning, yet still as a 12-year-old-boy. At one point, she talks about Steven’s comprehension of Avery being a sociopath, of the insignificance of one person to the whole of the universe and that asking Avery for help is akin to asking the Devil for mercy. This is sophisticated stuff for a young boy, but it works through our understanding of Steven’s need. She is also one of those wonderful authors who can take an inanimate object and make it not only an important element, but almost a character in the story.
Bauer does write dialogue well, although there’s not a lot of it as the book is written narrative. She does often exhibit an wonderful turn of phrase…” Avery adapted so fast, he’d have blown a hole straight through Darwinism.” While I’m one who really likes dialogue, the narrative, written in third person, past tense, works here mainly because of the quality of her writing. This is not an action-packed, rapid-fire action novel. The melancholy of the story’s opening sets the pace, but never did I find the book to drag. There is excellent suspense. At time she lets it build and then backs it down. It then starts to build again, slowly and relentlessly to an intense transition from where Steven was courting the Devil, to where he has fully awakened and I found myself almost catching my breath.
The one real flaw for me is a dependence on some rather large coincidences. Otherwise, the book would have earned top marks from me. Still, it was very close and one of the best reads I’ve had in awhile and I can certain see why it won the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) Golden Dagger Award for 2010. There is no question that Ms. Bauer’s next book, “Darkside”, will be on my reading list.
First sentence: The black death didn’t get to Alaska until November.
Old Sam, a tribal leader and surrogate father to PI Kate Shugak, has died. He hasFirst sentence: The black death didn’t get to Alaska until November.
Old Sam, a tribal leader and surrogate father to PI Kate Shugak, has died. He has made Kate his executor and primary heir but some of his bequests come as a surprise. Kate hadn’t known how much land Sam owned, including a homestead within gold-mining country. Then there’s the letter simply saying, “Find my father,” and how does this tie to a missing Russian icon which was a tribal artifact? Kate doesn’t know but something thinks she does as they keep trying to kill her. In the meantime, Kate’s lover, Sgt. Jim Chopak, has been summoned home for his father’s funeral. The relationship between him and his mother has always been chilly, but never more so than now that his father bequeathed Jim his locked writing box in which he finds a photograph of his mother and someone Jim has never before seen.
It is nice to see Ms. Stabenow returning to a more serious style. Not that her trademark humor is not longer apparent—it is—but this story is more layered, complex and a bit more serious than previous, recent entries.
Maps are a useful and wonderful way to provide the reader with a sense of location and perspective; I’m glad they are there. Complimenting them is an incredible ability to create a sense of places and people through Ms. Stabenow’s vivid descriptions. “..Kate almost stumbled over a pair of porcelain dogs guarding a high, round, spindle-legged table covered with china figurines dressed like characters out of the Angelique novels.” Okay, I’ll admit being partial to that particular description as I loved the “Angelique” books. The scene of Kate’s wolf/dog Mutt interacting with wild wolves against the snow under a full moon becomes one you are not reading, but seeing.
Characters come to life as well: “Judge Singh…had such immense dignity that she always seemed to be attired in her robes…” “At the desk sat Jane Silver, who looked like she out to be hunched over a steaming cauldron chatting in chorus with the other two weird sisters.” The people and relationships are real, including Kate’s relationship with Mutt, which adds, funny, touching and fearful moments to the story. The inclusion of a surprising and unexpected character only adds to the story.
The story itself is very good and very much about relationships. They really are the point from which the various lines of the story evolve. It’s not a perfect story. At times, it felt as if there was one thread too many and it bogged down. I found myself wanted to skip portions, although I didn’t, but it did feel overly long; too many scenes with Mutt, not enough “mystery” or flow to the story as I’d have hoped. Perhaps it’s just a case of my expecting more from an author who is so good.
Don’t misunderstand; I enjoyed the book very much for its characters, humor, sense of people and place, and tense scenes of strength and determination to survive. Although the plot could have been a little tighter, I’ll be right there read to buy the next book in the Shugak series.
First sentence: The Marshal’s memory of the scene that night remained vivid in every detail.
What really goes on behind the walls of Palazo Ulderighi?First sentence: The Marshal’s memory of the scene that night remained vivid in every detail.
What really goes on behind the walls of Palazo Ulderighi? We begin with the Marshal looking down on a body in a courtyard. We are taken back to a body found in a gun room. The question is whether these were suicides, accidents or murders.
Without the need of a prologue, Nabb draws us straight into the story with a scene that is visually compelling, emotionally evocative and mysteriously intriguing.
The Marshal is a character I so appreciate. He is not physically handsome, nor is he a senior officer. He is self-depreciating and cannot go into the sun without sunglasses. He is not verbal, although sometimes he thinks he is. He is sensitive to the atmosphere around him and highly observant, even without realizing it. In this book, Guarnaccia feels he is faced with the conflict of doing what is right versus doing what is expected in order to keep his position and ensure the security of his family. I very much appreciated the explanation of the relationship Guarnaccia has with his Captain, and that not even the two men fully understand it.
Nabb skillfully points out the subtle demonstrations of class snobbery and makes fascinating observations Florence as opposed to Venice; both in the character of the people and their homes.
The story has a strong and very effective plot, but it is the Marshal who drives the story. That’s not to say he’s alone. Nabb has provided a fascinating, diverse group of secondary characters I found very involving.
Ms Nabb has a style which is unique. While her books are police procedurals, they are really character studies and I find them fascinating. It is not always easy to understand and follow the path down which she takes us, but it is so worthwhile in the end.
First Sentence: Lian Kilbranish looked down at the lump of flesh curled in front of him on the cement floor.
Boston attorney Scott Finn is hired by DevFirst Sentence: Lian Kilbranish looked down at the lump of flesh curled in front of him on the cement floor.
Boston attorney Scott Finn is hired by Devon Malley, a repeat offender, to defend him against charges of theft at a high-end clothing store. What Finn ends up with is taking care of Malley’s 14-year old daughter, involvement in a 1990 art heist from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, criminals, police agencies and a member of the IRA.
Let me start with the things I did like about this book, as it won’t take very long. The description of Isabella Stewart Gardner, her museum and now she created it was excellent. I hadn’t realized that much of the financing for the IRA (Irish Republican Army) came from stealing valuable art and ransoming it back. I particularly enjoyed the characters of Sally, the thief’s 14-year-old daughter, as well as Lissie and Kos, both of whom work with Finn.
Unfortunately, there were many things I did not like about the book. Other than the description of the museum, there was very little sense of place. The story could have been set in any city. We were given area names and economic strata, but there was no read sense of Boston. For other than those mentioned previously, there was very little character development. There were good guys and bad guys and other guys but most were quite forgettable. Other than knowing Finn grew up in “the system,” I had no real feel for him as a character and certainly no affinity was created. Even the dialogue was indistinguishable, one character to the next.
As to the story, it is not really a legal thriller. A couple visits to the jail and a couple short courtroom scenes does not a legal thriller make. The story, and even the dialogue, was very predictable. A considerable part of the story was told in the past. Unfortunately, that was more interesting than the present. Only in the last approximately 50 pages did the story become gripping. There is an interesting twist at the very end, but I was left feeling that Hosp didn’t really finish the story, even knowing the missing object are, in reality, never found.
I did finish this book but was certainly not impressed by it. I doubt I’ll be reading more by Mr. Hosp.
First Sentence: Kathy’s blood was no longer fresh on my hands and after 9/11 people seemed to stop taking notice.
It has been six years since Moe workFirst Sentence: Kathy’s blood was no longer fresh on my hands and after 9/11 people seemed to stop taking notice.
It has been six years since Moe worked his last case; the case that created an estrangement from his daughter, Sarah. When Sarah asks him to find 11-year-old Sashi Bluntstone, an art prodigy who has been missing for three weeks, he can’t refuse her. What he didn’t expect were the dark secrets and betrayals hidden in that world of apparent refinement.
Coleman’s background in philosophy and poetry are clearly reflected in his writing. The story’s opening conveys the mood of the story while providing back-story to new readers. Achieving both, without bogging down the story’s beginning, is only one example of Coleman’s talent. His style and imagery is one which both tells a good story, but makes you stop and think about what he’s saying…”There are lies to hate and lies to adore. Even now, seeing it clearly maybe for the very first time, Coney Island was a lie I adored.”
The strong sense of place nearly becomes extra character and the dialogue brings the characters to life. Moe is a character I particularly like. He is not perfect, has known and contributed to tragedy, is definitely not a super-PI, but he is intelligent, determined and has a wry sense of humor. He has an overriding morality and ethical core along with a certain vulnerability. It is for others who are vulnerable that he does his job; not for the money.
The book is very well plotted and engrossing. Exposing the dark side of the art world is fascinating as is the reminder that we should all “Beware the innocent monster” as the one we don’t suspect is the one who is often most dangerous.
Although there is certainly a case to be solved, the story is very much about Moe. Many of the issues in his life are, if not resolved, at least confronted, acknowledged and accepted. This feels to be a pivotal book in a series one should read in order from the beginning. I look forward to seeing where the series goes from here.
First Sentence: Two people, a man and a woman, are walking along a hospital corridor.
A team of archeologists studying coastal erosion uncover a numberFirst Sentence: Two people, a man and a woman, are walking along a hospital corridor.
A team of archeologists studying coastal erosion uncover a number of skeletons neatly placed within a cleft of a cliff. Archeologist and forensic expert Ruth Galloway is brought in to work with DCI Harry Nelson, to determine the age and identity of the remains. The more they discover, the less someone wants them to find and others die trying to keep secrets buried.
Every now and then there is a review which I find difficult to write; this is one. Let me start with all that I found very well done:
I love the illustration at the beginning of the book. I admit to being a map person so anything which provide a prospective as to the settings, I appreciate. Additionally, Ms. Griffiths’ descriptions are wonderful a establishing a sense of place and enhancing the action of the story. She describes both the tension of driving in a heavy snowstorm as well as the beauty it creates with equal skill.
History is a driving thread through the plot of the story. I particularly appreciate her perspective of someone in the present being unable to comprehend the fear of those living in vulnerable areas during the war. One can empathize, but never really understand without having the experience.
The mystery itself is very good. While you, as reader, know some of the events have a direct impact on the story, it’s Ms. Griffiths’ ability to bring together a lot of small pieces into solving the complete puzzle that is admirable. There is heart-pounding suspense, surprises, twists and an ending which was wonderfully set up but not contrived.
The characters themselves are complex, interesting and very realistically human. There is a wonderful diversity among them and I’ve certainly come to have my favorites. Relationships are complicated; and nowhere is that point made more clear than in this series.
The aspect of the book with which I had reservations, and thus dropped my rating from “VG,” is based on the relationship between two of the characters. It is my personal view only. Yet because it is such a significant part of the series and accounts for a considerable portion of each story, it’s not something I can ignore. The event is a moral decision, not one of legality, and while I realize may this may seem silly, being the characters are fictional, but it is just not something acceptable to me. Had an event which occurred in the first book of the series not reoccurred, I am certain I would feel differently. However, that was not the choice made by the author. That’s fine, it is her choice, but it is one that clearly impacts the way I feel about the book.
So, the big question is: Will I continue with the series? Yes, I shall. For as much as I am uncomfortable with the relationship, I have to believe the author has a purpose for making this, and other, relationships such a focus of the books. That, the quality of the writing, and the author’s ability to create a compelling mystery is enough to bring me back—for now.
First Sentence: Dr. Siri lay beneath the grimy mesh of the mosquito net watching the lizard’s third attempt.
Dr. Siri and Dturi have been sent to a “guFirst Sentence: Dr. Siri lay beneath the grimy mesh of the mosquito net watching the lizard’s third attempt.
Dr. Siri and Dturi have been sent to a “guest house” at revolutionary headquarters in the mountains of Huaphan province to attend a seminar intended to provide them with an ‘enlightened” understanding of the Marxist-Leninist system. What they did not expect was for an arm to be discovered rising out of a concrete path. The arm was attached to the body of a man who’d been encased in the concrete while still alive. Siri also did not expect, at 73, to find himself dancing to disco music only he could hear, nor for the Russian to whom Siri and Dturi reported back in Vientiane to ship their mortuary assistant, Geung off to Xieng Ngeim without their knowing.
It is always a pleasure to be back with Dr. Siri and friends. They truly are some of my favorite characters and it was particularly nice to learn more of mortuary assistant Geung’s background. Cotterill worked in an interesting point through Siri’s friend, Dr. Santiago who believes in shamans and the spirit world, that some form of shamanism is common to most cultures of the world outside those of European origin. Points such as that remind us the world is one filled with diverse philosophies and beliefs beyond our own; one of the gifts of reading.
Cotterill’s writing is filled with wonderful dialogue and humor, yet he also makes me think. Rather than the supernatural element being for the sake of fantasy, Cotteriall uses it to serious purpose—to make a point such as the impact of war on its innocent victims; those who just happen to live in the wrong place. He also makes us aware that bigotry exists in every country.
The story is one of relationships and loyalty. The mystery is an intriguing blend of the mystical and the plain, old ferreting out information. The book is an absolutely wonderful read.
First Sentence: Doreen Ferenc slipped her nightgown over her head and let it fall the length of her body and gently settle onto her shoulders.
Joe GuntFirst Sentence: Doreen Ferenc slipped her nightgown over her head and let it fall the length of her body and gently settle onto her shoulders.
Joe Gunther and the VBI (Vermont Bureau of Investigation) are dealing with three very unusual cases; an apparent rape and death, an apparent suicide and an apparent fatal car accident. Each death was a murder. There doesn’t seem to be any connection between the three victims except for a drop of still-liquid blood left on or near each victim. With help from advanced scientific analysis, a link between the victims is found, but no one knew how personal the case would become.
A new Archer Mayor book always jumps toward the top of my to-be-read pile and always justifies it’s having so done. In other words, Mayor writes really good books.
There are a couple things in particular that always impress me; his sense of place and his ability to convey the characters. Those may not seem as important to some as the plot, but to me, they are essential as they add richness and veracity to the story. Mayor’s wonderful descriptions set the scene, such as in the first sentence of this book, and take you to the location of the story, “…missed in with the snow-covered tree branches overhead were broad swatches of bright green leaves—a beautiful and rare New England postcard.” Characters aren’t described so much by physical description, although some is provided, but by their characters…”Willy, also a combat vet, although carrying more baggage than most…”
The motive behind the plot of “Red Herring” is one I would never have guessed and it definitely kept me turning the pages. I was disappointed by a couple coincidences and some of the scientific information, while fascinating, did slow down the story a bit, but at no point did I consider skimming or stopping. I had to see where the story was going, how they were going to find the killer and learn the motive. The thing, for which I was not fully prepared, was the ending.
What can I tell you? This is Mayor’s 21st Gunther book. As long as he keeps writing them, I’ll keep reading and recommending them. May there be many more books to come.
First Sentence: On a bright, unseasonably warm afternoon in early December, Brandon Trescott walked out of the spa at the Chatham Bars Inn on Cape CodFirst Sentence: On a bright, unseasonably warm afternoon in early December, Brandon Trescott walked out of the spa at the Chatham Bars Inn on Cape Cod and got into a taxi.
Eleven years ago, Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro found kidnapped Amanda McCredy and, following the law, returned her to her neglectful mother. Now, at 16, Amanda has disappeared again and her aunt re-hires Kenzie and Gennaro to find her. A missing-person case quickly escalates to one involving identity theft, drugs, a priceless cross, Russian gangsters and a threat on Patrick’s family.
It is very nice to have back the characters that brought Lehane to forefront of mystery writing. It is also nice that their lives have evolved and that they are parents of a quite realistic, four-year old daughter. I enjoyed having back Bubba, one of the best psychotic sidekicks ever, but his role felt a bit as though it was playing homage to Robert B. Parker’s characters of Hawk to Susan; protector but not participant. While Amanda had dimension and strength, others seemed flat and bordering on stereotypical.
Lehane does have a great voice which carries over to a natural ear for dialogue and his evocative descriptions set the mood and sense of place…”The trees were bare…, and cold air off the ocean hunted the gaps in my clothes.” The plot was page-turning with some very well-done, unexpected twists, climax felt over the top, and I did like the ending. Lehane does again address the struggle between doing what is legally correct versus morally correct and who has the right to make that decision.
Reading this book was interesting. When I read “A Drink Before the War,” the first book in the series, it was coup de foudre; that lightning strike you may experience when meeting someone wonderful for the first time. Eleven years on, the lightning bolt is gone, but there is still enough of a tingle to say I did enjoy the book.
First Sentence: Vish Puri, founder and managing director of Most Private Investigators Ltd., sat alone in a room in a guesthouse in Defense Colony, soFirst Sentence: Vish Puri, founder and managing director of Most Private Investigators Ltd., sat alone in a room in a guesthouse in Defense Colony, south elhi, devouring a dozen green chili pakoras* from a greasy takeout box.
Private Investigator Vish Puri has his hands full. An honest and respected public litigator has been accused of murdering his maidservant. The police say they have witnesses of him dumping the body. Puri must prove the man’s innocence and find the real killer. A second case has Puri investigating a potential bridegroom. The bride’s father is certain there is something his daughter’s fiancée is hiding. And who attempted to kill Puri while he was on his own rooftop?
Puri is often compared by others to Sherlock Holmes but he also reminds me of Hercule Poiroit, albeit with a larger spirit. He also made me think, a bit, of Louise Penny’s Gamache because of his four rules of detection. All together, he is a very likable, appealing character. He’s not perfect, fortunately, as he has an intense fear of flying.
Puri is supported by a fascinating team of operatives, each with their own background. Best of all is Mummy, his mother, who conducts her own investigation and has the experience for so doing. No amateurs here.
It is fascinating to look at an entirely different culture. One forgets how old a civilization is India yet it a culture in transition. There is a bit of a moral and/or cautionary tale for Westerners here. The gap between the wealthy and the poor is huge. The old jobs for the individual and the poor are disappearing. The Indian court and justice system is a shamble. Bribery is the way in which much gets done. ”How can India reach superpower status with all the corruption around.” Yet Puri also observes that Krishna stated “The discharge of one’s moral duty supersedes all other pursuits, whether spiritual or material.”.
The three mysteries within the story are very well done. There is nothing obvious about them and the investigation is done through following the clues and investigative procedure. I like that. The writing is first rate; not a portent or cliff hanger in sight.
This was a very enjoyable book and one I probably would not have picked up had it not been a selection of my mystery readers’ group. I would read more in the series and would definitely recommend “The Case of the Missing Servant.”
First Sentence: 20 July – The woman in the red T-shirt lay on the sharp gray rocks far below; distant and tiny, like a small fish caught in the teethFirst Sentence: 20 July – The woman in the red T-shirt lay on the sharp gray rocks far below; distant and tiny, like a small fish caught in the teeth of some gigantic sea creature.
Murder past and present. In renovating Chadleigh Hall, a former girl’s boarding school, a secret room has been found holding a secret of its own; the skeletal remains of a woman tied to a chair. Was the murder related to the school or older and associated with the town’s history of causing ships to wreck on its coast, murdering survivors and plundering the ships contents? And how, if at all, does this relate to the woman’s body dragged from the sea who had been pushed from a nearby cliff?
In a few words, Ellis conveys the horror the victim would have experienced of being walled in a room and left to die. Ellis’ descriptions, whether of such terror or of living in a village where most everyone could walk to work, is part of her appeal. She is a wonderfully visual writer, whether it is of places, situations or people.
Regarding people, she has created a diverse and interesting cast of principal characters. Gerry Heffernan, the boss, is somewhat old-fashioned in his views on women and technology while being an experienced cop who leads his team. Wesley Peterson is the intellect, somewhat put down for his education, dealing with racism due to his color, but respected by his boss. In every ointment comes a fly in the shape of DC Steve Carstairs who is bigoted, sexist, lazy and not overly bright. He is offset by Rachael and Trish, the very capable women on the force. It’s the wonderful, diverse ensemble cast rounded out with non-police characters which gives a very real feeling to the story.
And what a good story it is. The plot is very well done. There are several threads which intersect, and very effective plot twists which never feel contrived. With each thread, I wanted to know more while being unable to predict where the story was going and certainly didn’t predict the resolutions presented. I did enjoy the nod to the movie “Charade.”
Ellis has become a favorite author of mine. Her books have never disappointed me, and “The Skeleton Room” stands well among them. They are more than a standard police procedural, blending the personal lives of the characters, archeology, English history and murder.
First Sentence: The woman walked quietly into the empty campo.
Comm. Guido Brunetti is in a difficult position. It is his job to uphold the law. HoweveFirst Sentence: The woman walked quietly into the empty campo.
Comm. Guido Brunetti is in a difficult position. It is his job to uphold the law. However, his wife, Professor Paola Brunetti, wants to stop a local travel agency from running sex tours for men. She demonstrates her cause by vandalizing the agency. With added pressure from above to solve a robbery and murder with possible Mafia connections, Brunetti is concerned both about his relationship with his wife and his career.
A book that starts without a prologue but with an unexpected, intriguing opening will always capture my interest and Leon wrote a great first chapter with “Fatal Remedies.” But there are so many things to which I look forward, and enjoy, from Leon.
Her characters are wonderful. Brunetti has a very normal family with normal conflicts, even when they are demonstrated in not-so-normal ways. I appreciate his seeming pragmatism and understanding that his job is to uphold the law, which is not always just. The wonderful, smart and enigmatic Signorina Elettra is endlessly fascinating, for Brunetti as well as for the reader.
Leon creates a rich sense of place through sensory descriptions of sight, sound and particularly, smell. She also uses humor and introspection well…”There are days when I think everything’s getting worse, then there are days when I know they are. But then the sun comes out and I change my mind.”
In spite of the light moments, Leon always reminds us that this is a true police procedural in which there is violence and tragedy. Well done, Ms. Leon.
First Sentence: The shadows crept into Jack Montfort’s small office, filling the corners with a comfortable dimness.
DI’s Duncan Kincaid and Gemma JoneFirst Sentence: The shadows crept into Jack Montfort’s small office, filling the corners with a comfortable dimness.
DI’s Duncan Kincaid and Gemma Jones travel to Glastonbury, England after a call from Duncan’s architect cousin, Jack Montfort. It appears that Jack may be a conduit via automatic writing, for a medieval monk who wants Jack to find a missing relic. Duncan is not the only one who knows about Jack’s unasked for link to the past. Anglican priest and Jack’s lover, Winnie; Nick, a handsome, young bookstore clerk; Faith, the very pregnant, psychically-sensitive runaway; Garnet, the reclusive, new-age potter, and Simon, a Church-scholar with his own secrets, all join with Jack to uncover what is happening. An attempted murder and an actual murder blend the paranormal with police procedure.
Crombie certainly knows how to capture your attention and draw you straight into the story. From the very first page, Crombie creates a delicious sense of menace and foreboding; a sense of something supernatural at work. This is wonderfully offset by the everyday, very real concerns in Gemma’s and Duncan’s lives and their ever-evolving relationship.
We are well introduced to the cast of characters, learning who they are and how they interconnect. They were rather fascinating and unusual for a mystery. Certainly, they all had pasts and elements of those pasts they wanted to keep from being revealed. However, it was refreshing that there wasn’t an obvious villain in the group. That made the final resolution even more effective when it was revealed.
The history was fascinating and well imparted, from the furnishing in one character’s home to information on the Abbey. Crombie’s descriptions are wonderful. She is an author who paints with words and, in this case, sent me straight to the internet looking for more information. I particularly loved the role music played in the story including Gemma’s reaction to music and the conveyance of when music touches your soul, as well as learning that the word 'enchantment' is derived from the work chant as it was believe music was the strongest magic.
On the other side, I did feel there were some dubious bits of information concerned religion, old and new, and pottery. There were also a couple significant coincidences and a few threads left hanging. I enjoyed the paranormal element but might have found it more interesting to have a non-paranormal resolution.
In summary, we have a story a bit heavy on the paranormal but a captivating plot, lots of viable suspects and excellent plot twists. All in all, it worked for me. ...more
First sentence: “I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that … that thing over there, that statue or whatever you want to call it, is what the CrimiFirst sentence: “I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that … that thing over there, that statue or whatever you want to call it, is what the Criminal Code calls a disgusting object.”
Canadian lawyer Arthur Beauchamp is 60 years old, married to the country’s only Green Party MP, who is twenty years’ his junior. Arthur wants nothing more than to retire on his farm on Garibaldi Island in Vancouver. Instead, he ends up becoming the lawyer for the family of Abzal Ehrzan, a man accused of killing six Bashystani cabinet ministers visiting Ottawa regarding a deal on the Bashistan oil fields.
I’m afraid this book lost me after 12 chapters. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the protagonist; I did. Arthur Beauchamp is a character who appealed to me from the very beginning. I liked the characters’ introspective observations about himself, his younger wife and her still much younger staff.
The author’s voice is one I always enjoy. He employs a wonderful use of vocabulary even though I found myself reading with the book in one hand and a dictionary in the other. The wry humor…””Farewell Reception,” the embossed card read, an oxymoronic keepsake.” often made me laugh.
There were two main reasons why I stopped reading. The first was redundancy--I don’t know how many times, in those first 12 chapters, we were told about Arthur’s divorce, descent into alcohol and the writing of his memories. The second reason was that the plot, as far as I read, rather plodded along without going anywhere particularly interesting. Add to those the fact the book is supposed to be a satirical look at Canadian politics. Not being Canadian, I know almost nothing about their politics so the satire was lost on me. That being said, I find myself intrigued by Mr. Deverell and would consider trying a different book by him ["April Fool" has been recommended].
First Sentence: In 1976 America was just coming out of a protracted depression called the Vietnam War, but back then I was still in the middle of mineFirst Sentence: In 1976 America was just coming out of a protracted depression called the Vietnam War, but back then I was still in the middle of mine.
Homicide Detective Shane Scully was abandoned as an infant and grew up in the system. The only person who ever tried to give him some sense of being cared for was Walter “Pop” Dix, executive director of Huntington House. When Shane is told Pop committed suicide and specifically asked that Shane be a pallbearer, it doesn’t make sense. Shane hadn’t seen Pop in years. When the other five pallbearers, all associated with Huntington House, convince Shane that Pop wouldn’t have committed suicide, and unofficial murder investigation, with a very unofficial team, begins.
As much as I’ve enjoyed Cannell’s television shows over the years, I’d never read one of his books. It seems I’d have been better staying with television.
On the positive side, Cannell does create an interesting cast of characters, providing background and dimension to each one, including the cat. He doesn’t assume you’ve read previous books in the series, which I appreciated. He links the characters by a common thread but doesn’t quite tie off all the ends, which I didn’t mind. I did appreciate not having Scully being infallible or supermacho, although there was macho there, such as being able to have sex after virtually no sleep for an extended period of time and having been beaten to a pulp. However, for the most part, his female characters are strong and very capable, which I also appreciated. Cannell’s writing can be characterized by short chapters that are very visual and action-packed.
On the downside, there are massive coincidences, an entire chapter of portents—those of you who’ve followed my reviews know how I despise portents—and some actions by the protagonist that were completely unbelievable. There points where the plot progression was so deliberately telegraphed it made it predictable.
I didn’t hate the book but even among airport books there are levels; those you deliberately take with you and those you’re stuck buying at the airport news shop of lack of choice. This is the latter but still an entertaining read to keep one occupied for a few hours.
First Sentence: Crashing dark cords smothered the cell phone’s impertinent chirp, but the ringtone was “Ride of the Valkyries,” so it penetrated, andFirst Sentence: Crashing dark cords smothered the cell phone’s impertinent chirp, but the ringtone was “Ride of the Valkyries,” so it penetrated, and I stopped.
PI Lydia Chin has been kidnapped. Her sometimes partner and friend who wishes he were more, has 12 hours before the kidnapper will kill Lydia. Bill is lead on a desperate chase through New York City following obscure clues and being chased by the police who set it up to appear Bill murdered a Chinese prostitute. He is also slowed down by the Chinese criminal who believes the same thing. Fortunately, Bill does have the help of Lydia’s techno-whiz cousin, Linus, his girlfriend Trella, and Lydia’s best friend, Detective Mary Kee.
Let me start by declaring myself to normally being a huge fan of S.J. Rozan. However, I shall admit, this book let me down.
Those of us who follow the series knew it was Bill’s turn to take the lead and there were some interesting supporting characters, particularly Linus and Trella. One of the most delightful characters of the series was completely missing from the story except in reference. However, my biggest issue with the book overall had to do with characters. There was no character development. Once again, an author based the book on the assumption that readers had read previous books in the series, which I feel is such a mistake. The entire premise of the story is built on Bill’s search for Lydia yet there is little explanation, beyond the fact they are occasional partners, giving a new reader an understanding of the real depth of the relationships. This is true of all the relationships; what background is given is glancing at best.
The story is fully plot driven. It starts off high energy and, with a 12-hour clock running, never takes a break. It is exciting and suspenseful but almost too much so. The technological information is fascinating but did seem a bit too easy. The very clever use of Twitter and Facebook demonstrates just how powerful and ubiquitous they have become and how hard it can be for those not technology-focused to be left behind the curve. However, the ease and speed at which much of the information Bill and his team were able to obtain did stretch credulity quite a bit.
Having read all of Ms. Rozan’s books, I know how good her writing can be. I can understand an author wanting to try something new, but this almost had an action comic feel about it. If you’re looking for a non-stop, beat-the-clock, distracting airplane book to leave behind at the end of the trip, this would satisfy that need. For me, I shall hope Ms. Rozan returns to the quality of some of her previous books for her next one.
First Sentence: i should start by telling you my name, although it’s not really important.
Psychiatrist Joe O’Laughlin is trying to deal with having PaFirst Sentence: i should start by telling you my name, although it’s not really important.
Psychiatrist Joe O’Laughlin is trying to deal with having Parkinson’s disease, being separated from his wife and only seeing his daughter part time. When his daughter’s best friend is accused of murdering her father, a former police detective, Joe can’t ignore his daughter’s plea to help.
I’ll admit I’m always excited when a new Robotham book comes out and, once again, he delivers. From the very powerful and disturbing prologue to the nail-biting ending, I was completely absorbed.
One thing I really appreciate is that, although this is the fourth book in the series, he doesn’t assume you’ve read any of the previous books. Without burdening the plot or slowing down the story, within a very short period the author does an excellent job of providing a comprehensive back story on the characters. You never feel as though you’ve missed something. The portrayal of a couple who are amicably yet needfully separated is effective without being maudlin.
I don’t know how accurate the psychiatry aspects are; it does seem Joe is, at time, a bit too insightful for belief, but it works and provides some interesting observations. Having recently served on a criminal-case jury; albeit not a murder, I found his comments on juries fascinating as well as the demonstration that, with motivation, anyone can be pushed to violence.
It’s the balance of introspection and suspense that brings me back to Robotham every time. The plot is complex, twisty and fast-paced. I liked that all the clues were there to identify the killer--yet I didn’t--and that justice prevailed. If you’ve not yet discovered him, Robotham is an author I definitely recommend trying.
First Sentence: Under a choking black fog, in which the air itself seemed composed of ash from the winter coal fires, a battered ten-year-old Austin TFirst Sentence: Under a choking black fog, in which the air itself seemed composed of ash from the winter coal fires, a battered ten-year-old Austin Tilley lorry rumbled and bounced along Westferry Road on the south-eastern edge of London’s Isle of Dogs.
Folklorist, singer and restoration consultant Ringan Laine has been hired by his partner Penny’s brother and sister-in-law. They are building a large Elizabethan-style home on the Isle of Dogs next to the Thames. Ringan’s first visit to the site makes him uncomfortable and second visit progresses to voices and visions. From there, things become rapidly worse as Penny fears she may lose Ringan forever to the past.
Having enjoyed the previous three books in this series, I selected this as my Halloween read for this year and am so glad I did. Grabien seamlessly blends the real and the paranormal; what is with what might be, and it works. This isn’t icky, creepy stuff, but scary in the anticipation of what might happen. It is also not formulaic. I so appreciate that each book in the series handles the paranormal aspect in a different manner. That, alone, adds to the suspense.
One need not worry about starting this series at the beginning. Grabien establishes the background and history of previous paranormal experiences easily within the plot without slowing down the story. The dialogue is a little stiff at times, but the stories really are plot driven.
And a good plot it is. It’s not silly, fluffy or over the top. It starts out innocently enough and then builds. It is also the perfect balance of music, history, mystery and the paranormal; each of which I love and sent me to the internet after finishing the book. It delights me to learn new things and when I can’t easily tell what is factual and what is fictional because the story is so well done, it all seems true.
I found “Cruel Sister” completely engrossing; as in I read it straight through in 4 hours because I couldn’t bear to put it down. There is one more book in the “Haunted Ballad” series, which I shall definitely read. Hopefully one day, there will be more.
Deputy Sheriff Barry Clayton, had been a city police officer but moved back to small North Carolina townFirst Sentence: “You want to borrow a casket?”
Deputy Sheriff Barry Clayton, had been a city police officer but moved back to small North Carolina town in which his family runs a funeral parlor. Working for the sheriff’s department and helping with the family business can lead to interesting situations such as loaning a casket to the Jaycees for a Halloween haunted house and having it ending up with containing a murdered body. Complicating Barry’s case is the question whether the victim was the one actually intended and having his reporter ex-wife return to town.
It is always a pleasure to read a new book by Mark de Castrique. He brings us into this small North Carolina town, not so much by detailed descriptions of the environs, but by conveying the closeness of the town’s citizens but also with the reality of the town’s politics and insularity. His dialogue is excellent, including humor—“As he left the diner, I saw the press corps following after him like a gaggle of geese, honking “Sheriff” with every step.” and the use of colloquialisms—“In here we’re two size-ten shoes in a size-four shoebox.”—add contrast to the serious elements of the plot.
The characters are representative of all those you find in any town, but are far from being stereotypical. Sheriff Tommy Lee Wadkins is a man who has seen too much violence and knows you have to have humor, particularly when situations may be serious, to survive. Barry is dedicated to his family, loyal to his friends, but he’s not perfect. He makes costly mistakes during the investigation and realizes the impact of them. That makes him more realistic than the usual ‘perfect’ detective.
The story draws you in from its seemingly light beginning but turns quickly to dark with the first murder. Yes, first; there is more than one murder, but the story is neither noir nor serial killer in approach. Instead, it is a very well done police procedural. The plot is full of twists, interspersed with humor, suspense, and tragedy; with a shocking climax and affirming ending; as is life. That is one of the appeals of de Castrique’s writing to me; they are a reminder that life is filled with twists and tragedy, yet also with hope and that it is important to always remember that which is most important
I was happy to read that de Castrique has many more investigations in mind for Barry. I look forward to reading each one of them.
First Sentence: The last time I'd eaten at the Water Grill I sat across the table from a client who had coldly and calculatedly murdered his wife andFirst Sentence: The last time I'd eaten at the Water Grill I sat across the table from a client who had coldly and calculatedly murdered his wife and her lover, shooting both of them in the face.
Jason Jessup has spent the last 24 years in prison, convicted for kidnapping and murdering a 12-year-old girl. New DNA evidence has won him a new trial, but the LA DA's office can not use one of their own to prosecute the case. Instead, they hire defense attorney Mickey Haller to switch sides. Mickey agrees to prosecute the case as long as he runs the case with his ex-wife Maggie McPherson as 2nd chair and LAPD Det. Harry Bosch as investigator.
You can never go wrong with a book written by Connelly, and this is one of his better books. From the very beginning, you are involved and want to keep reading to the last page. It really is a legal thriller.
The story is much more plot-driven, than character-driven. Certainly there are details of each character's personal life--it wouldn't be realistic without them--but the story focuses on the case. While that did mean there was less character development than I'd have liked, it made sense with the trajectory of the story. To do otherwise, may have bogged things down.
The drama is split between the investigation and the courtroom. And drama there is. Connelly creates an excellent sense of tension without ever going over the top. When there is threat, it feels real. When there is emotion; that too is realistic.
The courtroom scenes were ones I found fascinating. From pre-trial, to dealing with the political and media pressures, jury selection, and legal maneuvers, having just served on a criminal-trial jury, it all seemed very real to me. The ending was not as satisfying as I might have wished, but it was more realistic than a more classic ending.
One element I did find disconcerting was the alternating voices. I do wish it had all been done in third person, but understood why it was not. However, it was a bit confusing at times.
I've always said there is nothing wrong with a "Good" book. This was more than "Good" but still falls in that range. It is a four-hour, straight-through, airplane read, and that is not meant to be a disparaging term. It does mean it's a book in which one becomes so engrossed, you can tune out everything else around you, go for the ride, and finally breathe at the end, looking around you to remember where you really are. In other words; I really enjoyed reading it!
First Sentence: There weren’t many times that Bruno Courréges disliked his job, but today was one of them.
Truffles are big business in France. When itFirst Sentence: There weren’t many times that Bruno Courréges disliked his job, but today was one of them.
Truffles are big business in France. When it is suspected that someone is replacing high-quality truffles with cheaper Chinese truffles, Bruno is asked to do an informal investigation. With a heinous murder and attacks on Vietnamese merchants, things become serious, and dangerous, very quickly.
Any impression of this being light, cozy series is completely dispelled by this book. It is, in fact, a strong, complex, compelling police procedural with a protagonist who has become one of my favorites.
Although Bruno is the focal character, it is his relationships with friends and associates that add layers and texture. Bruno is his town’s only policeman. This makes him an integral part of the community while helping maintain its structure. He is intelligent, analytical and a by-the book policeman without being rigid. He has a history, doesn’t shy from violence, dresses as Pare Noel and teaches rugby and tennis to the kids. In other words, he is well rounded, interesting and realistic.
Walker, with a deft hand, starts with bucolic descriptions which set the scene and provide sense of place. Throughout there are mouth-watering descriptions of food and its part in a tradition which touches the heart. The use of French expressions lends veracity while their translation prevents readers from feeling excluded.
The plot builds and weaves in a way that kept me going. It started off seemingly simple, yet escalated quickly as does the motive behind the crimes. Again, anything but a cozy; yet an interesting look into the politics and issues of France; one of the reasons I am attracted to books set outside the US.
As always, I recommend starting the series at the beginning and not being put off by either the title or cover of the first book, “Bruno, Chief of Police.” Walker is a very good writer; Bruno a very good policeman in a series that improves with each entry.
First Sentence: Detective Sergeant Emmanuel Cooper switched off the engine and looked out through the dirty windscreen.
Detective Sergeant Emmanuel CooFirst Sentence: Detective Sergeant Emmanuel Cooper switched off the engine and looked out through the dirty windscreen.
Detective Sergeant Emmanuel Cooper is sent from Johannesburg to Jacob's Rest after a call comes in reporting a possible murder. What he finds is the body of the town’s Afrikaner police captain, William Pretorius, and a confrontation with his volatile family. Members of the powerful Security Branch also arrive and push Cooper out, leaving his to investigate a peeping tom case unsolved by the dead chief. Clues and determination lead Cooper to Pretorius secrets and the motive for his death.
“A Beautiful Place to Die” gives a stark portrayal of South Africa during apartheid and the Immorality Act banning sexual conduct between whites and nonwhites. Although I was able to look the terms up, a glossary might have been helpful for those of us not as familiar with the history and terminology.
Cooper makes a sympathetic protagonist with shades of Charles Todd’s Ian Rutledge character. While it’s an interesting homage, it also felt like a cheap, and not very satisfying, way of telling us about Cooper’s background. We do learn, though other means, some of this background throughout the story, but much remains vague about him. However, all the characters seemed stereotypical, from the Jewish doctor and his wife, to the enigmatic Zulu constable, to the storm trooper Security Branch and on. There was very little dimension to the majority of the characters.
The plot conveys how unjust and brutal living was under apartheid. While interesting and educational, it’s not enough to make the book work. The mystery itself, and its investigation, became almost secondary. It did have a number of well-executed twists and revelations, along with suspense and some brutality. I did identify one villain early but not another. However, my largest complaint was that, although realistic, I found the ending unsatisfying.
I certainly don’t regret having read this book. It was interesting and I did learn from it. However, I don’t believe this is a series with which I shall continue. ...more
First Sentence: Some nights, Corcoran O’Connor dreams his father’s death.
Max Cavanagh owns several mines, one of which is being studied by the DepartmFirst Sentence: Some nights, Corcoran O’Connor dreams his father’s death.
Max Cavanagh owns several mines, one of which is being studied by the Department of Energy as a possible site to store nuclear waste. In addition to protests causing Cavanagh worry, his sister, Lauren, has gone missing. Cork, hired to find her, does so but she is not alone. He locates her body in, what had been a closed off section of the mine, among five skeletons. The five skeletons are those of women known as “The Vanishings” who had disappeared decades ago, and two of the bodies contain bullets fired from the gun of Cork’s late father.
Recently, I was involved in a discussion of prologues and how many of us are either annoyed by them or ignore them completely. It takes a writer as skilled as Krueger to write a prologue which contains an important thread which runs through the story. This is not a prologue to ignore.
Krueger has become one of my favorite authors. His skill with description take what could be a fairly ordinary scene, but instead comes alive with clear, visual images. We are able to go where the author takes us and be a part of that which is described to us. Even from those scenes where we might prefer to look away, we can’t. That doesn’t mean he is graphically violent; he’s not. It is more that we feel the emotion of the scene and, thereby, understand it.
Because I read first for character is another reason why Krueger’s writing appeals to me. He creates dimensional, interesting, relatable characters. I’ll admit I wasn’t particularly happy with the events of the previous book, “Heaven’s Keep,” but the transition to this book has been very effectively and tastefully handled and I now understand the purpose of those events. Cork’s heritage is half Irish, responsible for his impatience and occasional anger, and half Ojibwa, which connects him to the people on the reservation, Indian history, and my favorite character Henry Meloux. It also provides the link to the mystical element in each book.
Before you walk away saying “I don’t like woo-woo,” wait. Mysticism and the spirit world are part of the Indian culture. They are also part--along with several other themes including that of what do we really know of our parents and the definition of evil--of what takes this book, and this series, beyond the normal and elevates it into something that makes you stop, think and consider.
Krueger is a very fine author who knows how to create characters, write dialogue, set a scene and, most of all, develop a plot. The story continually builds upon itself. It’s a twisty road filled complete with suspense, emotion and startling revelations. I despise the cliché of “If you’ve not read this author yet, read him now,” yet that is the way I feel. Even if you don’t, be assured I shall be reading his next book as soon as it comes out.
First Sentence: We all make mistakes, all of the time.
In 1997, Brighton was on the hunt for a serial, stranger rapist. The perpetrator was never caughFirst Sentence: We all make mistakes, all of the time.
In 1997, Brighton was on the hunt for a serial, stranger rapist. The perpetrator was never caught but the rapes suddenly stopped. Twelve years later, stranger rapes are happening again. The common thread is shoes; the victims all share a love for expensive, designer shoes which are used in their rape and taken from them. DS Roy Grace leads the team hunting down “The Shoe Man,” while awaiting the birth of his first child and still trying to solve the disappearance ten years ago of his first wife, Sandy.
What has happened to Peter James? I very much liked his first four books but suddenly, with his last book, found myself skimming through it, being bored. I had so hoped this sixth entry would return me to the author I originally enjoyed. It didn’t.
Hook/Tension: The book starts off very well. One skill Mr. James has not lost is the ability to create tension and suspense and convey fear. That did hold true throughout the book.
Setting/Sense of Place/Dialogue: Where was this book set? I had to keep reminding myself that James is a British author as the sense of place was so weak. The story could have been set in any city. While I wasn't looking for characters speaking in Cockney, only the occasionally British expression kept me on track. The dialogue, however, was not bad as it flowed well.
Characters/Character Development: There were a lot of characters. This would be natural for a major police investigation. We are told who they are and, perhaps, their attribute or failing, but we never get to know most of them. The majority of characters are one-dimensional. Even Grace; aside from repeated reminders of how much in love he is with his new wife, we see very little depth to his character. For all of Grace’s declarations of love for Cleo, women are not well treated by the author. None of them, including Cleo, are very interesting or intellectually appealing as characters although one of the victims was wonderfully gutsy. For the suspects, however, we are shown what has caused them to be as they are; I did find that a strong point of the book. It is not an easy thing for an author to turn a suspect of a vile and violent crime into a somewhat sympathetic character.
Plot/Flow/Quality of Writing/Originality: Considering stranger rape is very rare in itself, the odds of more than one man with the same fetish operating at the same time are incredibly low. While it did add to the suspense and made for an interesting ending, it also raised the implausibility level to a point which diminished the plot. A device I’m seeing more frequently is that of dual time periods. There is a time when that works. In this case, I felt it more bloated the story to the point where I nearly stopped reading. It’s enough to read about numerous rapes during one time period; doubling that number became repetitive rather than suspenseful. The same is true of the secondary story line regarding the disappeared first wife. It doesn’t go anywhere or enhance the story in any way. Rather, it’s the massive imperfection on someone’s face at which you can’t help but look but it serves no purpose. The chapters are short, the time changes frequently as does the point of view, all of which leads to a choppy, fragmented read with no flow.
Originality: This is a story which has been told before. There was no real originality to the plot, but there were some interesting bits. I did appreciate the good detail of procedural investigation and the handling of rape victims and appreciated Grace’s awareness of the impact of rape on its victims.
The opening sentence begins with “We all make mistakes…” This book, in my view, was one of them. It wasn’t a complete disaster. I did finish it, albeit with difficulty, and there were some good points to it. Unfortunately these were overwhelmed by its weaknesses. Had the book been at least 200 pages shorter, focused only on the present with references to the events of the past, had fewer and better developed characters and a strong sense of place it might have stood with James earlier books. However, this being the second of his books I’ve found very disappointing, it will probably be the last of his I read.
First Sentence: With regard to your apprehension of the hired assassin operating in the King’s Cross area, this so-called ‘King’s Cross Executioner’ cFirst Sentence: With regard to your apprehension of the hired assassin operating in the King’s Cross area, this so-called ‘King’s Cross Executioner’ chap, thank you for acting so quickly on the matter, although it’s a pity he subsequently managed to give you the slip.
A killer known as Mr. Fox has been captured by Detectives Arthur Bryant and John May, but escaped, murdering one of their colleagues in the process. A body has been discovered in a station of London’s Underground. Was Mr. Fox the killer or does the Peculiar Crimes Unit have another killer on their hands.
Okay, I’ll start right out by admitting I love Bryant and May. In them, Fowler has created two of the most appealing characters being written today. And it is truly Fowler’s excellent writing and voice which brings them, and the story, to life.
I have always appreciated books which include a cast of characters. Fowler found a particularly clever way of incorporating his cast of principal characters into the story as a staff roster. In this book, he provides a description of Bryant which truly does give “some measure of the man,” and I love his Bryant’s habit of reciting dictionary definitions.
Bryant and May, while being the central characters, are not alone but supported by a host of secondary characters each given distinct backgrounds, characteristics and contributions to the story. With each book, we learn more of each character’s background and personalities. But beyond the central characters, it is a rare author who can make one feel an element of sympathy for a series killer, but Fowler manages so to do.
There is wonderful humor balanced by touching poignancy. There is a balance of historical information—the London Underground system—with very contemporary references—the use of a flash mob as a distraction. It is the inclusion of small details about which one normally doesn’t think; such as the inclusion as to why escalators are always breaking down and the comparison between actors and serial killers, which I appreciate.
This is a book where one should have read the previous books in the series. Doing so would be no great burden as all the Bryant and May stories are so well done and delightful to read. I should hate to see this series end so, please, give them a try, spread the word and enjoy Bryant and May. “On the Loose” is another excellent addition to the series.