Will Trent, agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (and one of my favorite Karin Slaughter creations), to a duty that no agent wants. Meanwhile, his boss, Amanda Wagner, seems determined to keep him away from the case of a missing girl. Amanda is nothing if good at keeping secrets, and Will has just about had enough, but of course that doesn’t stop Amanda from doing her best to close him out. Amanda Wagner is one of the most infuriating characters in this series, but in Criminal, we get a look into what made her who she is, and it was absolutely fascinating. Amanda became a cop in mid-seventies Atlanta, and it wasn’t a good time for women in general, much less women in the boys’ club that was law enforcement. Mostly relegated to secretarial work, women had to put up with near constant verbal abuse, and sometimes physical abuse, and were never taken seriously as investigators. In fact, according to the author, during her research she found out that many calls were made claiming that women were stealing squad cars, because the thought of a woman being a cop just didn’t enter anyone’s mind. The narrative of Criminal goes back and forth between 1975 and present day, and the bodies are piling up. Prostitutes are being killed in horrible ways, and Will is connected to the case very intimately.
I am a huge fan of this series, and it just keeps getting better. Criminal is Amanda and Will’s story, and it’s a surprising one. The author paints a very sympathetic portrait of a character who, so far, has not garnered much sympathy. Her attachment to Will is explained, and her tumultuous beginning in law enforcement is nothing short of fascinating. Will is just as frustrating as always (but you can’t help but ove him), and his tragic past is also explored here. Sara Linton has a hand in Trent’s emotional progress, and their romance is very tender and sweet. However, Ms. Slaughter is no stranger to darkness, and Criminal is one of her darkest books yet. The crimes are unspeakable, and sometimes difficult to read, but there is never anything gratuitous about these stories, and they only serve to highlight the humanity of her protagonists, as they fight to stop the most gruesome of criminals. If you love crime novels with characters you’ll fall in love with and stories that will keep you riveted, start with Blindsighted and work your way through. You won’t regret it!(less)
In six months, earth is going to be hit with an asteroid, estimated to destroy over half of the population of Earth, and Detective Hank Palace thinks he’s probably the only cop left that cares anything about solving cases. Concord, New Hampshire has come to be called “Hanger Town” in reference to the overwhelming suicide of choice of its citizens. When he’s called to the scene of a man that has supposedly hung himself in a McDonald’s bathroom, something just doesn’t look right, and Hank Palace is determined to get to the bottom of it. They’re still not sure where the asteroid will land, but justice must still be served, right?
End of the world scenarios in fiction aren’t hard to come by recently, but out of all of them, the asteroid/meteor/large thing falling out of the sky is one that fascinates me more than others. I imagine getting the news that in a year, or maybe six months, something big is gonna hit, and I’m in the blast zone. Would I go on with life as usual, or would I throw caution to the wind and live out the rest of the days like there’s no tomorrow (which may or may not be true)? Hank Palace is one of the ones who decide to go on as usual, doing his job, and doing it to the best of his ability. All Hank ever wanted to be is a cop, and he pursues this case with a single minded doggedness that is almost unheard of in these strange new times of self-indulgence and wild abandon. He does his job in spite of the quiet snickers and not so subtle ribbing from his colleagues, as things begin to crumble around him. The story is told by Hank, and we follow him as he navigates the trail of the victim, a quiet, socially awkward insurance man. As Hank puts together the clues, following strict procedure, he stumbles onto something much more than a mere hanging, and the body count begins to rise.
The Last Policeman is much more than a police procedural or a pre-apocalyptic scenario. It’s a study of a man determined to do the right thing as society crumbles and hope begins to crumble with it. Hank reminded me a bit of Marge Gunderson, the indomitable police chief in Fargo, and as the case unfolds, so does Hank, and so do the little ins and outs of Concord and its inhabitants. Things in this book are so subtle and understated that the bits of violence can be jarring, even though the violence is never over the top. I think Hank was as surprised about it as I was, yet he perseveres with dignity, and even a bit of off kilter grace. I suspect part of what drives Hank in his investigation is that he sees a bit of himself in the victim, and following through is really the only choice he has. Ben Winters’ writing is nuanced, lovely, sometimes poignant, and a pure pleasure to read. I hope that The Last Policeman gets the attention that it deserves, because it’s a hell of a book and about as close to perfect as it gets for me. I hear that it will be a trilogy, and I can’t wait for the next one!(less)
A seedy Las Vegas motel room. A councilman’s son has jumped to his death from a balcony at L.A.’s Chateau Marmont. Or has he? That’s what Harry Bosch and his partner are tasked with finding out. Normally Harry is closing cases in the Open and Unsolved unit, so when Harry is requested by the councilman (and bitter rival) himself, Irvin Irving, he’s shocked and immediately suspicious of Irving’s motives. Sniffing out “high jingo” (political hoops and motivations) almost immediately, Harry is determined to get to the truth of the matter. Added to his worries are DNA results on a 20 year old case that put an eight year old at the scene of the crime. An eight year old who grew up to be a convicted rapist…
The Drop is the 17th (the 15th just featuring Harry) novel in the Harry Bosch series, and it’s no less fascinating than its predecessors. Harry is as determined and stalwart as usual, although an attraction to a therapist provides a bit of distraction from his worries, and some hope for Harry in the romance department. I always root for Harry to find someone, and he’s been more unlucky than not. Since the mother of his 15 year old daughter, Maddie, was killed, he hasn’t really given much thought to romance, so it’s time that he got back in the game. Maddie is even orchestrating ways for her dad to spend time with the new woman, much to Harry’s amusement. Speaking of Maddie, she’s a delight, and has expressed her interest in becoming a cop, just like her dad. Maybe there will be a Maddie spin-off in the works? Here’s hoping, but I digress… Harry’s got plenty on his plate, and his simpering partner, Detective Chu, had me wishing Harry would give him a good slap. Seriously, the man got on my nerves. The challenges of the two cases at hand have Harry seriously considering retirement, but a twist puts him back on track. The political ins and outs of the George Irving case are fascinating, the cold case is heartbreaking, and as usual with this series, I was riveted. After 17 books, I’m still wild about Harry, and would recommend this series to any mystery/crime lover.(less)
Looking to settle down with a nice, gentle mystery, maybe about quilting, or something along those lines? Well, that’s not gonna happen with Last Call For the Living. Not by a longshot. Strap yourself in and get ready for a bumpy ride into the dark, Georgia woods with some of the nastiest characters I’ve come across in a long time. Young bank teller Charlie Colquitt was opening the bank with his manager on a normal Saturday morning, when hell burst through the door, killing his manager and taking him hostage. Hell, in this case, goes by the name of Hobe Hicklin, member of the Aryan Brotherhood, fresh off a long stretch in prison, and on the run from the partners that he decided to double cross out of the heist, and their take of the cash. Along with his junkie girlfriend, Hummingbird, Hicklin takes Charlie to a cottage in the woods to hide out and catch his breath. This is where things get really rough…
All Charlie can think about is going to school and building rockets. Somewhat of a savant, socially awkward, fiercely loved by his damaged and protective mother, Charlie is terrified when he’s taken hostage by Hicklin, but in the midst of the abuse that he suffers at the hands of Hicklin (and the pitiful, broken Hummingbird), something else begins to happen. Hicklin isn’t sure at all why he took Charlie hostage, but years of crime, prison, scoring quick cash, and doling out the abuse that was also heaped on him as a child have taken their toll, and you can sense the weariness in Hicklin, even if he is akin to a coiled snake, always just about to strike. The law is racing to find Hicklin and Co., in the form of Sheriff Tommy Lang and GBI agent Sallie Crews, but it’s not the law he’s worried about, it’s his former partners, and fellow AB members, that give him pause, because they’ll be out for blood (and they give Hicklin a run for his money in the mean department.) Make no mistake, Hobe Hicklin is a nasty, mean, no good son of a bitch, so how in the heck did I start to feel a glimmer of sympathy for this man by the end of this book?? I’m gonna chalk that up to Peter Farris’ talent as a writer, and he has plenty of it. I thought I knew where this book was going, and it surprised me at nearly every turn. Speaking of surprises: in addition to the tight, no-nonsense writing and pacing that doesn’t let up, there’s a scene in this book that I can only describe as awesome (in the classic sense.) I’ll just say that it involves a church revival, rattle snakes, and a shoot-out, and leave it at that. It’s amazing, and it left me with my jaw hanging open, blinking in shock. This whole book (in particular that scene) just screams “big-screen”, but I digress… It’s not for the faint of heart, though, and the terms “gritty”, “visceral”, and “raw” definitely come to mind. If you’re looking for a book that will shock you out of your current “book rut”, or a suspense novel that is just straight up made of awesome, look no further than Last Call For the Living!(less)
A garden is being brought back to its Elizabethan splendor by a group of horticulturists, botanists and volunteers in the English countryside, and Louisa Trevelyan loves her days coaxing new growth out of the ground and unearthing old delights from the original garden, but is still haunted by a devastating event nearly 20 years ago. Paul Seaforth is sent to Kelstice Lodge to volunteer in the garden until the murder trial of his childhood friend, where he will serve as the star witness. Louisa is shocked when she sees Paul for the first time, since he is the doppelganger of the man she was obsessed with 20 years ago. Their lives will entwine in ways they never could have imagined, and each of their secrets will lead to shocking revelations.
I advise you to seek out a quiet and comfortable space when you start The Dark Rose, because you won’t be getting up for a while. The novel follows three separate timelines; the present, Louisa’s story, which begins 20 years ago (in 1989), and Paul’s story, which begins when he’s a young boy and comes full circle in present day. In spite of their 20 year age difference, Paul and Louisa are both victims of co-dependent relationships, although for very different reasons. Paul’s childhood friend, Daniel, was his protector against other boys who would have otherwise bullied him relentlessly. Bookish and shy, when Paul discovers Daniel’s weakness, he’s determined to protect him in his own way. Both have lost parents (Daniel’s mother and Paul’s father), and they naturally fall into a friendship. Things begin to escalate, however, when Daniel and his father begin to involve Paul in increasingly criminal activity, which culminates in the murder that Paul witnesses. Louisa’s obsession with rock singer Adam Glasslake is explored to heartbreaking effect. If you’ve ever loved someone just a little more than they love you, you’ll feel Louisa’s pain, even as you cringe at some of the lengths she goes to in order to keep a hold (however tenuous) on the handsome, brooding Adam. The author seamlessly weaves both stories together and I found myself glued to the pages, wanting to know what happened next. The atmospheric writing, taut characterizations, flawless pacing, and an unlikely, yet sweet, romance, will have you riveted, and there are some jaw droppers that I honestly didn’t see coming. Paul and Julia’s pasts, and futures, will come together in a shocking climax that will leave you breathless. Fans of flawless psychological suspense won’t want to pass this one up, and it will also appeal to fans of Tana French. The Dark Rose is absolutely not to be missed!(less)
Gina Moretti, aka Angel Dare, is a retired porn star who has since started her own agency, Daring Angels, for other girls in the biz. She helps them navigate the, er, ins and outs of an industry that can sometimes take advantage of the unwary and considers herself something of a protector of her girls. One day, Angel gets a call from an old friend, Sam Hammer, who she has worked with extensively in the past and trusts, to boot. He’s doing a shoot with handsome young up and comer Jesse Black and wants Angel to take the place of the girl that bailed on them. Angel isn’t really up for doing more work in front of the camera, but Sam is one of her oldest and dearest friends, and besides, it doesn’t hurt that Sam mentions that Jesse has a bit of a crush on Angel. She figures, what the hell, a decent payday and a box cover ego boost couldn’t hurt. She has no idea what hell is waiting for her at that ‘shoot’.
When she arrives at the mansion where the scene is to be filmed, she gets an odd feeling as soon as she walks in the door and when she’s soon tied down and repeatedly questioned about money and a girl named Zandora Dior, she thinks things can’t get much worse. Turns out they can. Raped and beaten to within an inch of her life, she’s thrown in the trunk of a car, shot, and left for dead.
Jesse Black must have been a terrible shot, because he only managed to land one bullet in the barrage that he fired at Angel before locking her in that trunk. Eventually, terrified and in pain, she escapes from the trunk and makes her way to a phone, where she calls her new security guy, Lalo Malloy. When Malloy finds her, Angel is a mess, and she needs stitches. When he finds out she’s called an ambulance, he lets her in on the news that if she goes to a hospital, she’ll be arrested for the murder of Sam Hammer. Just when she thought things couldn’t get worse…
I’ve had Money Shot sitting on the shelf for a while now, and having heard wonderful things about it, finally dug in. I really wished I hadn’t waited so long to get to this one. This is Christa Faust’s first title for Hard Case Crime and boy is it a doozy. Told in Angel’s voice, Money Shot is a look into a legitimate industry that can sometimes hide darker ventures, such as human trafficking. As Angel and Malloy follow the clues, and the trail of a girl called Zandora Dior, they’re led to the doorstep of some very bad people who consider human life to be very cheap, and disposable.
There’s a heartbreaking story here, and Faust doesn’t flinch in her telling, but it’s not gratuitous, and if anything, it’s a story that needs to be told, because it’s grounded very firmly in reality. In her portrayal of the porn industry, Faust is pragmatic and realistic without being seamy and actually treats her subject matter and characters with plenty of heart and compassion. Angel is one tough lady, but she also goes through a very real crisis of self when everything she loves is taken from her. Where do you go and what do you do when you have absolutely nothing left to lose? Angel will show you in this grim, dirty, and sometimes oddly endearing story. Angel’s story, incidentally, continues in Choke Hold, also from Hard Case Crime.(less)
Two years after a fire took the life of his young son,Henning Juul is back on the job as an investigative journalist. To his chagrin,he’s thrust into the murder of a beautiful young college student. Immediately,her Muslin boyfriend is suspected and jailed,but Henning is not so sure of the young man’s guilt. Suspecting more may be in play,he begins questioning friends and fellow students of the victim,and soon discovers there’s much more to this story than meets the eye. When his own life is threatened,that stakes are raised even higher,and Henning is in a race against time to find the killer,before the killer finds him.
When I first started Burned,it took me a bit to get used to the pacing and spare prose,but it didn’t take long,and soon,I was immersed in the story. Henning Juul is wounded and (literally) scarred,and his instincts aren’t unlike a seasoned detective’s. He’s still haunted daily by his son’s death and finds himself immersed in nightmares on an almost nightly basis. Turns out,this case is just the thing he needs to pull himself up out of his depression,even if there is some danger to his life. The chapters are short,and the author keeps you guessing about whodunit all the way through. The only quibble I have is a minor one. During a few of the passages involving the two main investigating officers,the male officer’s sexual preoccupation with his female partner is fairly blunt and distracting,but I almost had to think this might have something to do with the translation (which can’t be an easy endeavor in any language.) Like I said,very minor,but it did pull me out of the narrative for a bit. Otherwise,I really enjoyed this book. A likeable,if wounded,protagonist made this a good read,and if you like an intriguing mystery that doesn’t waste time on florid prose,you’ll enjoy Burned!(less)