Out for a night on the town with gringo hotel manager Kurt Rucker, Detective Emilia Cruz Encinos is witness to an arson attack, which is initially bel...moreOut for a night on the town with gringo hotel manager Kurt Rucker, Detective Emilia Cruz Encinos is witness to an arson attack, which is initially believed to be an assassination attempt on Acapulco’s popular female mayor.
The attack triggers political repercussions, particularly aimed at the Mexican Army. But Emilia and her reluctant temporary partner Franco Silvio soon realize there are other possibilities and this pits them against their new lieutenant and the police/political hierarchy.
Away from the glitz of tourist Acapulco, Detective Cruz is a beacon of hope for the oppressed in the “real” community of the poor where corruption and skullduggery make justice a foreign concept. This is demonstrated by her concerns for her family and neighbors and, especially, the city’s many missing women who she refuses to forget. Her search for one such neighborhood girl is an important subplot in this novel.
Though Emilia must deal with the prejudice of men—both among her colleagues and on the street—she refuses to be intimidated and presses for what she believes to be right, even if it means threats to her life and job. Franco, who minces no words in regard to his opinion on the place of women, does offer some support and protection when it counts.
Emilia is an admirable character. Brave and dedicated, but human enough to show us her fear and self-doubt about her ability to do the job and also the trepidation of a relationship with a gringo. I was introduced to her in Made in Acapulco, Amato’s earlier collection of short stories featuring the detective. Needless to say, I’m now a fan and eager to read more of her adventures.
This is the second in the series, but it isn’t necessary to have read the other book to enjoy this one. (less)
In real life, police seldom have the benefit of being able to concentrate on one case at a time. F. M. Meredith realistically depicts this in her myst...moreIn real life, police seldom have the benefit of being able to concentrate on one case at a time. F. M. Meredith realistically depicts this in her mystery series.
Her cops in this particular book are dealing with the body of an elderly man found washed up on a beach, a serial rapist whose attacks appear to be escalating, plus an assortment of drug deals, auto accidents and other minor incidents. At the same time, the officers have the normal run of family concerns, love interests and adjustments to a new chief of police.
If all that isn’t enough to keep them on their toes, Meredith throws in an earthquake to add a bit more tension.
This is the 10th in the Rocky Bluff PD series, but it isn’t necessary to have read the preceding books to enjoy this fast-paced, well-plotted addition. I’d be willing to wager if you haven’t read the earlier books, this one will incline you to seek them out. (less)
A jail break is engineered by a secret society intent on meting out what its members consider fitting punishment for vicious criminals. Among the esca...moreA jail break is engineered by a secret society intent on meting out what its members consider fitting punishment for vicious criminals. Among the escapees is a plant who is to target the criminals for recapture by the group.
But mistakes are made from the start and Jack the Ripper, who has been held in an underground torture chamber, is loosed to wreak havoc again in London.
Among those on the trail of the escapees are Detective Inspector Walter Gray and Sgt. Nevil Hammersmith. Gray, distracted by the impending birth of his first child and fears of fatherhood, makes an error which puts his life in jeopardy. And poor Nevil, who in earlier books had been beaten, poisoned and frozen, suffers another serious injury.
While the previous books in the series were police procedurals and mysteries, this one is more of a chase novel. It retains the atmospheric quality and tension of the earlier entries in the series as well as good characterization and pacing. However, Gray and Hammersmith seemed to lack the skill in detection possessed in the earlier books and I found the portrayal of Jack the Ripper a bit over the top. It also seemed too much was left unresolved at the end of the novel, though some of those issues may be worked out in future novels.
I considered The Black Country among the best of its genre I’d read in 2013. Unfortunately, I can’t work up as much enthusiasm for this one.
Hoban’s biography is an eye-opening look at the life and work of one of the premier realist artists of modern times.
Freud discouraged most attempts at...moreHoban’s biography is an eye-opening look at the life and work of one of the premier realist artists of modern times.
Freud discouraged most attempts at biography during his lifetime. The frankness of family members, friends and possibly even a few enemies interviewed by Hoban discloses a man driven by an obsessive creativity as analytic as the mental probing of his grandfather, Sigmund Freud.
Like many artists, Lucian Freud began drawing at an early age. Though he was admitted to the Central Arts and Crafts School in London at the young age of 16, he lasted only one term, preferring to find his way with a teacher of his own choosing.
Lucian’s talent was nurtured by his father, Ernst, who gave up his own desire to paint in favor of the “more pragmatic” profession of architecture, as well as his grandfather, who gave him materials and was “marvelously understanding and amused” by the boy’s interest in art.
Touching on speculation Freud may have had Asperger’s syndrome, Hoban suggests his realism may not have been an aesthetic choice but rather an instinctive strategy for coping with the behavioral tic. She also sees this as a possible link to his addiction to women, gambling and other foibles as well as his difficulty in relating to his lovers and children, other than as models.
She also relates his long relationship with Francis Bacon. Given Freud’s stubborn independence, in some ways it seems surprising how quickly he abandoned his original graphically-based technique for the later impasto style under the influence of Bacon.
It was only late in life that he achieved financial success and an international reputation, both thanks to association with William Aquavella, a New York-based dealer, who even went to the extreme of paying off a hefty gambling debt.
The artist, who continued to paint up till his death at 88, married twice, had numerous lovers and fathered at least 14 children in addition to creating a remarkable collection of paintings and etchings. Not a bad legacy for any artist. (less)
Just beginning her career as a homicide detective, Ellie Hatcher and her brother Jess are among joggers who discover the mutilated body of a young col...moreJust beginning her career as a homicide detective, Ellie Hatcher and her brother Jess are among joggers who discover the mutilated body of a young college student.
Hatcher and her partner J. J. Rogan are assigned the case. They discover the girl had been on spring break with two friends from the Midwest and separated from them at a trendy club. It isn’t long before the last man the victim was with becomes the prime suspect.
Despite compelling evidence and the certainty of her colleagues and the prosecutor’s office, Ellie begins to have doubts when a call from the father of another murder victim gets her looking into some cold cases with striking similarities to this one.
Her newness on the job, sex and lack of sympathy from the lieutenant and other members of the squad make it difficult to convince anyone other than Rogan, who has her back because that’s what he believes partners should do. It takes more murders and the unraveling of a complex web of clues to break through the wall of doubt.
This is the second of the Ellie Hatcher a series but it’s not necessary to have read the previous book to enjoy this one. Burke’s sure characterization, smart dialogue and gripping plot will inspire you to seek out others in the series. As I’ve said before, Ellie Hatcher is a smart, sassy and competent protagonist and one you’re sure to want to spend time with again. (less)
There’s a sameness to many serial killer novels. Stephan Talty’s Hangman is something a bit different.
When Marcus Flynn, convicted as the Hangman of t...moreThere’s a sameness to many serial killer novels. Stephan Talty’s Hangman is something a bit different.
When Marcus Flynn, convicted as the Hangman of the title, escapes from prison, everybody wants him—dead. Chief Albert Perelli gives Detective Absalom Kearney a different assignment. She’s to determine what Flynn will do and where he’ll go if he eludes the search team. Though he alludes to her as his best detective and speaks respectively of her father, who preceded her on the job, Abbie suspects she doesn’t have the full confidence of the chief.
Assisted by Billy Raymond, a black detective with a solid reputation, and promised all the resources she needs, Abbie begins with a visit to the prison and the inmate’s psychiatrist. She’s barely begun when word is received the Hangman has claimed another victim.
The Hangman’s preferred victims are young, brunette girls from Buffalo’s wealthier North district. As days pass and another girl is kidnapped, Abbie, law enforcement and the city’s populace grow in frustration. Despite fears of the cost and the fact the idea angers her boyfriend, Abbie feels compelled to enlist the help of the Network, an alliance of cops, ex-cops and other elements operating outside officialdom.
Abbie is an engaging protagonist. Aside from her viewpoint, Talty lets us see things through the eyes of the killer and his victims, which lends a fuller perspective to the story.
Things move along at a fast pace with plenty of twists and a final surprise that caught me off-guard. The setting is a bit different, too—the environs of Buffalo, N.Y., the author’s home turf.
This is the second in the Absalom Kearney series. I haven’t read the first, but now it’s on my “must” list. (less)
“More than fifty years after his first New Yorker check, he was still happily amazed that he could make a living this way, that his boyhood plan to ri...more“More than fifty years after his first New Yorker check, he was still happily amazed that he could make a living this way, that his boyhood plan to ride ‘a thin pencil line out of Shillington, out of time altogether, into an infinity of unseen and even unborn hearts’ had succeeded quite so brilliantly.”
Pennsylvania-born John Updike was a man who found no greater joy in life than in the sheer act of writing.
Adam Begley’s comprehensive and sympathetic study of Updike’s life makes that abundantly clear. In a comment to friends about literary prizes, Updike said, “Being a writer at all is the prize.”
Begley has amassed a wonderful array of documentation on Updike’s journey as a man and writer, a journey that leaves the world a legacy of stories and poetry to enjoy.
Early influenced by his ambitious mother, who predicted her son was “going to fly,” Updike did transcend his small-town roots, though he never completely abandoned them or the values of his conservative upbringing. In fact, his blatantly autobiographical writing style thrives on nostalgia. Even in the period when he was recording fictionalized versions of his marital infidelities, his characters are haunted by guilt imposed by the religious faith he never abandoned.
Begley traces his journey from the boy dreaming of being a cartoonist to Harvard, on to the early success at the New Yorker and then the flight away from the city with the decision to become a freelance writer and novelist.
In addition to the many interviews with people close to Updike, Begley’s detailed look at the books, stories and poetry provides a penetrating look at what made the man tick and what will make his work endure. (less)
Can a person be induced under hypnosis to commit a crime?
That question was at the heart of a 19th century murder trial in Paris and its resolution sea...moreCan a person be induced under hypnosis to commit a crime?
That question was at the heart of a 19th century murder trial in Paris and its resolution sealed the fate of the defendants.
Toussaint-Augustin Gouffe, a widowed legal official with a taste for amorous adventures, was lured by the promise of a liaison with an attractive young woman to an apartment where he was murdered on July 26, 1889.
Gabrielle Bompard, the woman in question, was the 20-year-old mistress of Michel Eyraud, a brutal conman twice her age who had recently lost his job with a trading firm on suspicion of stealing funds.
Though disappointed the victim was carrying less cash than anticipated, they proceeded with their premeditated plan of stuffing the body into a large trunk. The trunk was later dumped on a riverbank near Lyon. By the time the body was discovered, it had decomposed to a state of being nearly unrecognizable and the killers had fled the country.
Dogged perseverance by Marie-Francois Goron, chief of Surete, and elementary forms of forensics led to identification of the body and the tracking down of the killers. Gabrielle’s defense claims she was overly susceptible to hypnosis and the influence of her lover made the trial an historical spectacle pitting two schools of thought against one another.
Whether she was as innocent of duplicity as claimed or not, doubt did spare the woman dubbed “the Little Demon” by the press from the guillotine.
Levingston, a respected journalist, has woven a well researched tale of murder, insights on the subject of hypnotism and the intricacies of the French legal system. Well told and recommended.
A promiscuous young woman is brutally beaten to death in her cottage and another woman covered with the victim’s blood is found in her car at the bott...moreA promiscuous young woman is brutally beaten to death in her cottage and another woman covered with the victim’s blood is found in her car at the bottom of a nearby quarry.
The obvious conclusion based on preliminary evidence is the woman in the car killed the other in a violent rage over a suspected affair with her husband and then committed suicide in remorse.
Obvious, but inconclusive as new facts surface.
Detective Chief Inspector Louisa Smith, leading her first major investigation, must utilize all the resources of her team in sorting out the obvious from the positive. Her job is immediately made more difficult by the assignment of a DI with whom she has a past and her attraction to her analyst.
As Smith and her team sift the evidence, links between the two women are confirmed. But the murder victim also is believed to have had affairs with an organized crime figure who owns the property where she lived, the man’s artist daughter and assorted other persons of both sexes.
Haynes, a police intelligence analyst, gives readers an inside look at the workings of a British investigative team, complete with witness statements, time-line charts and other pertinent reports. But these technical details in no way interfere with the build up of suspense, plot twists and other complexities of a good crime novel. The characters are well drawn and engaging, the plot compelling and satisfying. (less)
Retired and now working as a civilian in an Edinburgh cold case unit, former detective inspector John Rebus encounters a woman who believes her daught...moreRetired and now working as a civilian in an Edinburgh cold case unit, former detective inspector John Rebus encounters a woman who believes her daughter was one of a number of victims of a serial killer, all of whom disappeared on the same stretch of highway in the north.
Older, fatter, smoking and drinking no less when he’s not working or listening to music, Rebus has been contemplating the possibility of rejoining the force now that the retirement age limit has been amended. The woman and her story intrigue him. The latest missing person is the 15-year-old daughter of a woman in a relationship with criminal connections.
Rebus uncovers enough to convince former colleague DI Siobhan Clarke and her boss the cases are related and gets himself attached to their investigation.
As a civilian, Rebus has no authority but also no restrictions keeping him from applying his normal unorthodox methods to the case. Needless to say, his disdain for authority and his tactics land him in trouble and again under scrutiny by Complaints and his old enemy, Malcolm Fox.
Rebus goes off on his own along the highways and byways of northern Scotland, interviewing an assortment of people and assessing the significance of a photograph sent to family of the missing persons until he sorts it all out for the by-the-book coppers.
A suspenseful addition to the Rebus series. Here’s hoping he does go back to the force and Rankin treats us to more of his adventures. (less)
Emeline Margulies is a young woman whose ear is attuned to the voice of God. Sometimes she isn’t sure she’s heard right, but she continues to have fai...moreEmeline Margulies is a young woman whose ear is attuned to the voice of God. Sometimes she isn’t sure she’s heard right, but she continues to have faith.
Set in the 1950s in rural western Pennsylvania, the plot pits Emeline against arrogant tormentors who view her as only a commodity. Even Deet, the sole member of the Hardgrave family to show her kindness and help, has his own agenda.
Shortly after heeding the voice and marrying Angus Hardgrave to escape a stalking rapist her faith is tested as never before. Angus is brutal and demanding. He seizes her bank account and property and conspires to engage in dog-fighting and moon-shining with her stalker.
Angus, a man more than twice her age and with an evil reputation, is also moving to the direction of a voice—one definitely not divine. The voice he obeys spews hatred, selfishness and prescriptions for violence.
Emeline proves a brave woman, capable of enduring more than expected in this gritty novel with characters reminiscent of Faulkner. This is not a work for those offended by violence and harsh language. But if you’re willing to look beyond those obstacles you’ll find it an engrossing and memorable story.
The conflict between good and evil is never clear-cut, but in this novel it is absolute. (less)
Just completed a re-read of James Lee Burke’s first published novel, Half of Paradise. Though he was only in his twenties when it came out in 1965, th...moreJust completed a re-read of James Lee Burke’s first published novel, Half of Paradise. Though he was only in his twenties when it came out in 1965, the signs of his genius were already apparent.
It’s a tale of three men whose actions and circumstances and the nature of the U.S. criminal justice system doom them to a certain fate. Avery Broussard, the last of a prominent family, is an alcoholic whose bad judgment leads him to prison. Toussaint Boudreaux, an African American, is a longshoreman and prize fighter who falls down on his luck after breaking a hand in a match. And J. P. Winfield is a country musician who becomes hooked on drugs.
It’s not a joyful read. But Burke’s descriptive poetry, character development, and empathy for the lot of the common man are all there, along with many of his now familiar themes. There’s even a Robicheaux in the book, though it’s not Dave. (less)
Two traffic officers called to a remote location in northern Wales on what they assume to be a routine matter are brutally murdered. The killer leaves...moreTwo traffic officers called to a remote location in northern Wales on what they assume to be a routine matter are brutally murdered. The killer leaves investigators two puzzling messages—lyrics to a song and the numeral four.
Detective Inspector Ian Drake, the lead investigator, recognizes the lyrics as from the Pretenders song “Brass in Pocket” but is initially as confused by the messages as are his associates.
Before they’ve begun to deal with this case, a politician is murdered on the summit of Mount Snowdon and the killer leaves more inscrutable messages. As clues accumulate, Drake begins to see a pattern with the series of numbers, 1-9-7-9. But does it point to a year, or something else? Several suspects are considered, though motive remains enigmatic. As Drake gets closer to an answer, the killer threatens his family.
In Drake Puleston has created a complex, yet very human character. Afflicted with Obsession-Compulsive Disorder, Drake is driven to find answers despite pressures of job and family. He solves Sodoku puzzles to help him focus and gain control. The recounting of his rituals may annoy some readers but it also illustrates the difficulty under which he functions.
In addition to his job and the investigation, Drake is dealing with problems at home. His wife is demanding he seek counseling for his OCD, his father is ill with cancer, his mother is having difficulty coping and he’s at odds with his sister. His occasional annoyance with Detective Sergeant Caren Waits and other members of his team seemed natural for the man. I found the characters well drawn, the flow of the story smooth and the solution evaded me till near the end.
This is the first in the Drake series and I think it will be interesting to see how the characters evolve in future. (less)
Sisters Linda and Sara Almquist find themselves in danger from villains who have united in a common cause—silencing the two women for good.
Linda, asso...moreSisters Linda and Sara Almquist find themselves in danger from villains who have united in a common cause—silencing the two women for good.
Linda, associate dean of a pain management facility, is scheduled to testify in court against her former boss, Dr. Abel Raines and Sara, an epidemiologist, is the person who fingered drug czar James Mazzone, in an earlier police investigation.
With Mazzone a suspect in the murder of one of the chief investigators from that case, authorities persuade Sara to join a USAID team in Bolivia as a safety measure. It isn’t long before both sisters realize they are in jeopardy.
In a plot that switches back and forth between the urbanity of Albuquerque and the primitive extremes of Bolivia, Gregor hitches up the tension with gun battles, academic jealousy, deceit and cryptic crossword messages. Neither sister is certain who to trust and Sara even has doubts about the attractive man assigned to protect her.
It helps to have read the previous books in this series, though it isn’t necessary in order to follow the action.
Fans of suspense, unique locations, science and even romance will find something to like in this novel. (less)