On a cold Sunday morning, art gallery owner Egon Wallin is found hanging from a gate on the ring wall of Visby, Sweden’s best preserved medieval town...moreOn a cold Sunday morning, art gallery owner Egon Wallin is found hanging from a gate on the ring wall of Visby, Sweden’s best preserved medieval town on the island of Gotland.
The murder of the prominent art dealer shocks residents of the town and perplexes police who see no apparent motive. The mystery deepens as investigators discover Wallin, to the surprise of his wife and employees, has sold the gallery, filed for divorce and was planning a move to Stockholm. A hoard of stolen artworks in his storage rooms adds to the puzzle.
Tension mounts as the killer stalks other potential victims and steals one of the most famous paintings in Sweden, making his escape on ice skates.
Just as you think you know where the plot is headed, Jungstedt throws in another surprise and a reason to keep turning pages. The conclusion neatly wraps things up in a satisfying manner.
In addition to the central mystery, the novel explores the complicated relationships between Detective Superintendent Anders Knutas and his friend journalist Johan Berg, Knutas and his colleague Detective Inspector Karin Jacobsson, Berg and his lover Emma Winarve.
This is actually the fourth in Jungstedt’s series but only the second of 10 novels to be translated for American readers. It’s unclear why the publisher hasn’t done them in order, which might have made some things more clear to readers.
If you’re a fan of Nordic Noir, this is an interesting addition to the list of authors to watch. (less)
Pigeon fancier Ruben Nilsson finds the strange bird of the title and takes it into his dovecote, unleashing a pandemic that threatens inhabitants of t...morePigeon fancier Ruben Nilsson finds the strange bird of the title and takes it into his dovecote, unleashing a pandemic that threatens inhabitants of the Swedish island province of Gotland.
As the ailing Ruben is spreading the mysterious disease to his friends and neighbors, police discover the body of a murdered man on an abandoned farm. The victim is a foreigner with no identity papers. An empty birdcage in the victim’s car is the first clue to the source of the killing flu.
Detective Inspector Maria Wern, the single mother of two children, is assigned the murder case. As the investigation is barely begun, her young son falls ill at soccer camp and is quarantined with other children and adults. Jansson skillfully portrays the very human reaction of a woman coping with the twin difficulties of a demanding job and the welfare of her children.
Since this is both a mystery and a medical thriller, the two are connected. The mystery aspect is suspenseful enough to keep a reader turning pages, but the medical emergency and the reaction of personnel and the community is the stronger part of the story. The most frightening consideration is that a medical emergency of this kind can happen. Jannson is a nurse, which lends authenticity to the story.
This is the first in the Maria Wern series available in English. There were places where I found the translation a bit wooden. Still, if you like Nordic noir, I’d recommended giving this series a look. (less)
Newly appointed judge Sir Oliver Rathbone is elected to preside over the controversial trial of a charismatic minister accused of defrauding his flock...moreNewly appointed judge Sir Oliver Rathbone is elected to preside over the controversial trial of a charismatic minister accused of defrauding his flock.
At first it seems Abel Taft is guilty as charged. Then his associate Robertson Drew is called as witness and devastates the testimony of Taft’s accusers, including Rathbone’s friend Hester Monk who initiated the investigation.
Rathbone believes Taft to be guilty, though as judge his role is to be impartial and assure justice prevails. But justice is not clearly black and white, having many shades that are not always readily apparent.
After moral soul-searching, Rathbone takes the risky step of providing the prosecutor with evidence that changes the course of the trial and calls the judge’s impartiality into serious question. With the apparent suicide of Taft and the murders of his wife and daughters, Rathbone finds himself charged with having perverted the course of justice.
Hester and her detective husband William Monk are thrust into a race to save their friend from disgrace and prison.
Though the suspense is there, this latest in the Monk series is as much a psychological moral study as it is a mystery and there’s no question Rathbone is the main player in this story.
Anne Perry has a knack for putting us into Victorian England and this is a clever and engrossing addition to the series. A few questions are left unresolved. Is there a secret motivation for Justice Ingram York, who early on invites Rathbone to dinner and then presides over Rathbone’s trial? And what of York’s wife, Beata, who attracts Rathbone’s attention and figures in his thoughts through out the story? I’m wondering is Perry hinting of their reappearance in a novel yet to come? (less)
What’s an alcoholic do when a new acquaintance suddenly dies under mysterious circumstances?
If he’s Bruce Kohler, he gets sober.
The two men met when t...moreWhat’s an alcoholic do when a new acquaintance suddenly dies under mysterious circumstances?
If he’s Bruce Kohler, he gets sober.
The two men met when they awoke in adjoining beds at a detox center in the Bowery. Godfrey Kettleworth III had an arrogant nature which didn’t endear him to others in the facility—he had the chutzpah to call himself God. But Bruce took an immediate liking to the man.
Normally, Bruce would need no prodding to have another drink. But he’s shocked enough by the death of his new friend to realize he can’t get drunk and unravel the mystery behind the death of God.
Bruce teams up with his longtime friend, Jimmy, another recovering alcoholic who is a computer maven, and Jimmy’s girlfriend, Barbara, a codependent counselor with a knack for digging into problems. Their immediate focus is on the victim’s family, particularly a couple nasty guys reeking with greed who despised God and seem to have a lot of secrets.
Bruce stumbles over another body early in the story. Since this is an elderly man with health problems it doesn’t rate a second look at the time. But, as more bodies start piling up, the story takes another twist and before long Barbara finds herself in danger and Bruce is the only one she can call for help.
Elizabeth Zelvin, a psychotherapist who has directed alcoholism treatment programs, has written an entertaining mystery which is sure to have readers seeking out more of the Bruce Kohler series. (less)
Magdalena, the hangman’s daughter, and her husband, Simon, join a pilgrimage to Andechs Monastery, intent on giving thanks their children survived a s...moreMagdalena, the hangman’s daughter, and her husband, Simon, join a pilgrimage to Andechs Monastery, intent on giving thanks their children survived a serious bout of illness.
Their goal is interrupted when Simon, a doctor, discovers what had been dismissed as an accidental death was actually murder. Another murder and the disappearance of the abbot’s brother results in the arrest of an old friend of Jacob Kuisl, the hangman.
Summoned to the scene, Kuisl joins Magdalena and Simon in investigating strange activities at the monastery. Suspicion of witchcraft, worry about Kuisl’s ailing wife at home, and a mysterious epidemic complicate their efforts. Scheming monks, devious public officials and a human-like automata add to their problems.
I admire Potzsch’s skill in bring the era alive with all its stench and sores. Characterization is good, there’s plenty of action and the mystery kept me turning pages. One thing that did give me pause, though, was believing Kuisl would leave his seriously ill wife on behalf of a man he hadn’t seen for 30 years. The bonds of friendship can be strong, but I felt this was stretching it a bit far.
Despite this, I enjoyed the story. I’ve not read others in the series. I’m now adding them to my ever-increasing TBR list. (less)
Retired Air Force investigator Greg McKenzie can’t refuse when his best friend asks him to investigate the alleged suicide of his son, though he’s unc...moreRetired Air Force investigator Greg McKenzie can’t refuse when his best friend asks him to investigate the alleged suicide of his son, though he’s uncertain how it might be handled if the result proves it to be true.
Police contend the son, a design engineer, took his own life out of remorse after a structural defect resulted in the deaths of guests at the opening of a luxury condominium in Florida.
Greg and his wife, Jill, are an engaging couple it would be a delight to know. Their honesty and dedication to clearing the reputation of their friend’s son lands them in a heap of trouble—both with scoundrels and the police—as they go about asking questions and probing in touchy places.
They soon discover chicanery on the part of the developer and his minions, an inspector who’s willing to look the other way and even the influence of Mafia goons. Convincing hard-headed local police, however, is another matter.
This is an entertaining second entry in the Greg McKenzie series, cleverly plotted with good characterization and dialogue. There’s a nice twist at the end, too. (less)
In the wake of a freak spring snowstorm, Inspector Walter Day and Sergeant Nevil Hammersmith of Victorian London’s Murder Squad arrive at an isolated...moreIn the wake of a freak spring snowstorm, Inspector Walter Day and Sergeant Nevil Hammersmith of Victorian London’s Murder Squad arrive at an isolated mining village in the English Midlands and the reader is immediately plunged into a gripping mystery.
They’ve been summoned by the village constable who, though reluctant to admit it, finds the disappearance of a father, mother and child beyond the scope of his abilities. The trio has gone missing, leaving behind three other children in the care of a housekeeper and a concerned school mistress.
Day and Hammersmith have only two days in which to solve the crime (if it is, indeed, a crime) and the storm is only the first of their obstacles. There’s the superstitious resistance of the innkeeper, the strange behavior of the other children, the suspicious motivation of another stranger to the village who seems most intent on finding the missing child, and another stranger, an American armed with a rifle who seems to be stalking everyone. There’s also the fact the entire village has been undermined and the ground has a tendency to sink beneath one’s feet when least expected. And an epidemic has decimated half the village.
There’s a subplot concerning Day’s worry about his pregnant wife, which makes him even more human and realistic. Despite their difference in station, Day is also sympathetic to his associate, Hammersmith, a characteristic sometimes missing in this type of story.
Solid characterization, good plotting, plenty of surprises, an evocative setting—what’s not to like? As a lover of period mysteries, this second in Grecian’s Murder Squad series was a treat for me and I’m in search of its predecessor which I haven’t read. (less)
This is the first in a series featuring Kat Everitt, a media specialist at a small Pennsylvania college, who uses handwriting analysis to solve crimes...moreThis is the first in a series featuring Kat Everitt, a media specialist at a small Pennsylvania college, who uses handwriting analysis to solve crimes—that is, when she’s not busy deciding which pair of designer shoes to don next.
Kat is an engaging character and her quirks make her a most human protagonist. A retired police officer’s daughter, she’s visiting a chemistry professor friend in his lab when another is murdered. Proximity and her analytic skill make her a thorn in the side of Burrows, her father’s old partner, and Nick, a mysterious “specialist” recruited to help the investigation, as they struggle to keep her from becoming the next victim.
A fast-paced cozy with a side dish of humor and romance. (less)
If you’ve read any of the previous Joe Hannibal novels, you know he’s a man with the courage and tenacity of a bulldog. He’s also compassionate to a f...moreIf you’ve read any of the previous Joe Hannibal novels, you know he’s a man with the courage and tenacity of a bulldog. He’s also compassionate to a fault when it comes to the downtrodden or afflicted.
Those qualities quickly come to the fore when a mysterious blonde shows up at No Name Bay, befriends Abby’s 13-year-old son, Dusty, and then is brutally murdered shortly after asking Joe to be her chaperone for a meeting with a man she speculated “might turn difficult.”
Authorities (and Joe) soon discover the victim had been using an assumed name and her roommate back in Colorado discloses she was hiding out from a powerful, wealthy man after a broken affair. There are questions about this scenario, though, and it isn’t long before Hannibal—out of a sense of a debt owed to his would-be employer—joins the law in looking for answers.
At the root of the mystery is a fabled blade—the knife carried by Jim Bowie in his last stand at the Alamo—which assures a host of trouble and danger for Hannibal and his associates.
Be prepared for colorful characters, lots of action and surprises in this 30th anniversary novel in the Joe Hannibal series. If you’ve read any of the Hannibal books before, you know what to expect. If not, you’re in for a treat. Highly recommended. (less)
Michael Ellis, a Canadian police officer on vacation in Havana, seeks solace in Hemingway’s favorite bar after his wife abandons him and flies home. H...moreMichael Ellis, a Canadian police officer on vacation in Havana, seeks solace in Hemingway’s favorite bar after his wife abandons him and flies home. His night on the town turns into a nightmare when he awakes to find himself accused of the rape and murder of a Cuban beggar boy.
Inspector Ricardo Ramirez, head of the Havana Major Crimes Unit, has only 72 hours to secure an indictment. But he and his team are convinced all the forensic evidence points to Ellis, who suffered a blackout and is unable to come up with a suitable defense. Allowed to make one call, Ellis contacts his superiors who dispatch Celia Jones, departmental lawyer and a former negotiator with the RCMP, to intercede on his behalf.
The novel teems with secrets. Ramirez suffers what he believe to be dementia-induced hallucinations and fears he is dying. Ellis is unable to confront what really happened the night he was disfigured by a knife and his partner was killed. Jones is struggling with fears arising from her failure in a negotiation effort that ended her police career.
You’ll be so absorbed in the characters and their dilemmas it may take you a while to see the title’s apt connection to the opera of the same name. And, as fascinating as the characters may be, Blair provides an interesting glimpse into the realities of law and life in Castro’s Cuba.
This is the first of a projected series featuring Ramirez. While I found him and his beat worthy, I hope she’ll also consider other adventures featuring Celia Jones, who did as fine a job of detecting as did her Cuban associates. (less)
A confession alerts a Catholic priest to the repetition of a crime that already has him concerned.
An arsonist is targeting churches in his community a...moreA confession alerts a Catholic priest to the repetition of a crime that already has him concerned.
An arsonist is targeting churches in his community and church law prevents Father Frank DeLuca from alerting police. But that doesn’t mean he can’t seek other means of action—even if it puts him on a collision course with a series of dangerous characters and subject to violence.
The fires up to this point have all been at Baptist churches in his small Texas community. Still, Father Frank is ecumenical in his desire to help those who have suffered loss and dedicated in his effort to identify the perpetrator. On top of this problem, he’s irked by a mysterious stranger who is approaching the town youth with questions about drugs.
Concerned for all the youth of the community, Father Frank is already busy setting up a basketball league, caring for his flock and supporting the efforts of some parishioners who have formed a teen chorus.
In many respects, Father Frank reminded me of G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown, though Callan’s creation is a more modern and athletic person, likeable and even human enough to be closely tempted to fisticuffs on a couple occasions.
A cozy read with an engaging cast of characters and a few surprising plot twists along the way. (less)