The horrific murder of a woman in Manhattan resembles the MO of a serial killer in upstate NY: female, multiple fractures to the arms post-mortem. But...moreThe horrific murder of a woman in Manhattan resembles the MO of a serial killer in upstate NY: female, multiple fractures to the arms post-mortem. But, the killer, Anthony Amaro, was tried, convicted and has been incarcerated for the past eighteen years. Is there a new killer out there or did they imprison the wrong man?
Alafair Burke's fifth book in the Ellie Hatcher series has adopted a different format for this story. She has Ellie Hatcher and her partner, JJ Rogen, as part of a "fresh look" team that reassesses Amaro's investigation and subsequent conviction. Burke also introduces attorney Carrie Blank, half-sister of one the women murdered years ago. Carrie is hired by the power-hungry celebrity lawyer representing Amaro to help prove the police forced an innocent man to confess. Both Carrie and Ellie have personal misgivings as to why each of them was chosen to investigate the murders. Ellie recognizes that if Amaro was wrongfully convicted, the police are at fault. Carrie's employer is banking on a conspiracy that will bring her more fame on Fox-like news stations and subsequent wealth when Amaro sues.
As each team tries to get to the bottom of what really happened eighteen years ago, Ellie finds that the case is placing a strain on her relationship with ADA Max Donovan, and Carrie starts to wonder why she was chosen to represent her half-sister's murderer. Looking at the big picture, Ellie wants justice for the dead women, but deep down she does not want to uncover a glaring law enforcement blunder. Carrie wants to clear her half-sister's reputation as a prostitute but feels traitorous representing the man who supposedly broke both her wrists and buried her in the park like the other women.
I have always like Burke's clear, intelligent, yet unpretentious, storytelling. Her last book, Never Tell, illustrated a more intimate, deeper level of writing with her characters that I liked. All Day and A Night shows me that Burke is continuing to delve more deeply into her characters' personal lives and personalities. Having two strong, opposing women as main characters was an appealing change. And as they both begin to peel back the layers of these murders, the reader realizes that the answers are not straight-forward and the truth is going to be painful.
It is a great book for Alafair Burke fans and mystery readers alike. And, as long as Burke keeps writing, I will continue to faithfully read her work.
The curator of the Edgar Allen Poe museum in Virginia is found sadistically murdered and headless. The next month, a tortured and flayed corpse is dis...more The curator of the Edgar Allen Poe museum in Virginia is found sadistically murdered and headless. The next month, a tortured and flayed corpse is discovered in Trondheim, Norway, her death similar to that of the curator. Five hundred years before, a mendicant monk wrote a book, bound in human skin, detailing his obsession of human anatomy, grave robbing, and murder. Somehow these events share a connection, and detectives from the two countries combine efforts to find the present day murderer.
Where Monsters Dwell is an intense, violent debut novel out of Norway that easily weaves the three stories so that the reader is successfully left guessing until it’s brutal ending. He has also created memorable characters, each personality enriched with their own history, strengths, shortcomings, and quirks. The ancient monk, his childhood spent digging up graves and selling the corpses, travels from town to town--collecting skin. Felicia Stone, a sharp, thorough detective from Virginia can never forget the murder scene in the museum. Police inspector Odd Singsaker of Norway, recovering from brain surgery, daily battles amnesia subsequent to his operation. Siri Holm, the new librarian is messy, lascivious, and likes to play her trumpet in the nude. And the heartbroken widow Jon Vatten, who I perceived to be the main character, is easily one of the most tragic characters ever.
However interesting and wicked the story may be, its narration is unusual. Felicia remains in Virginia trying to solve the curator’s murder and does not join Odd until the last quarter of the book. Odd, whose post-surgical character traits remind me of Jim Thompson’s Inspector Varra series, does not even come into the story until page 95. The story, instead, revolves around Jon and his painful life. I am not saying this is unsatisfactory, just unusual.
There are many elements of the story that are well done and clever, but sometimes the inexperience of the debut writer will pop up. After discovering the body of a minor character that has committed suicide, the detectives and Siri cheerfully go out for pancakes. Felicia and Odd’s last scene is a bit clunky. But, overall, it is a fantastic first book with clever twists and a shocking revelation in the last chapter.
I hear that this is the first of a series with Odd Singsaker and I will definitely check this out after the next book is translated into English.
For a book that starts with the sentence “Alex is in heaven”, the recently translated novel, Alex, by French author Pierre Lemaitre quickly descends i...moreFor a book that starts with the sentence “Alex is in heaven”, the recently translated novel, Alex, by French author Pierre Lemaitre quickly descends into a nightmarish hell for the young woman in the title. While walking home one night after dinner, Alex is kidnapped by a stranger who beats her, calls her a whore, strips her naked and then crams her into a tiny wooden cage suspended from the ceiling of cold, damp warehouse. When she begs “why me?” the man simply stares at her and responds, “Because you are you”.
Commandant Camille Verhoeven is called in to investigate the kidnapping. For him, this case is incredibly painful as his pregnant wife was kidnapped and murdered four years ago. Preferring to work only the non-violent criminal division for the past four years, the lonely Camille finds himself drawn back into his previous line of work, especially with his former team members Louis and Armand. Despite his extensive education, multi-lingual background and family money, Louis is a humble man. Armand, however, proudly wears his second-hand clothing like trophies while he borrows pens, cigarettes, newspapers, and never pays his part for any restaurant bill. At five foot eleven inches, Camille is the size of a thirteen year-old, but has a colossal temper and razor sharp tongue that can slice even the largest of men into cowering wimps.
Each day, the stranger brings Alex with a handful of dog kibble and a small bottle of water. He lowers her cage so he can take a picture of her with his cell phone, tells her he is going to watch her die, and then leaves. Beaten, filthy and starving, Alex is forcibly curled into a constant fetal position that cramps her muscles while the rough wooden cage cuts into her skin. Then, the rats start to converge. These chapters with Alex are brutal, intense, horrifying, and definitely not for the squeamish.
For the first third of the book, Alex keeps wondering “why me?” And then, at this point, there is a huge twist that makes the reader start asking “why?” It is an astounding jaw-dropper that very few readers will see coming. And that is only one of the mind-blowing twists of many in this ingeniously written tale of conflict and revenge. To divulge anything that happens after the first chapter would ruin the experience for other readers. But, be prepared for a book full of clever, inspired curveballs that culminates with a well-planned, and satisfying, sucker punch. Although this book is heartbreaking, it is an incredible read.
Apparently, this is the first book of a trilogy and if the following books are anywhere near as phenomenal as Alex, I will certainly be the first in line to buy them. I highly recommend this book. (less)
Everyone wants to wish Archie a happy birthday. His kids, his ex-wife and her new boyfriend have barely finished singing happy birthday to him when th...moreEveryone wants to wish Archie a happy birthday. His kids, his ex-wife and her new boyfriend have barely finished singing happy birthday to him when the festivities are interrupted. Archie is called in to investigate the dead body found in the bathroom of the The Gold Dust Meridian. Still wearing his party hat, Archie realizes the body is a DEA agent and the undercover contact for the son of one of the largest drug dealers in the Pacific Northwest. The son, Leo Reynolds, just happens to be the boyfriend of Archie’s reporter friend Susan.
There goes the party.
The DEA have been working to bust Leo’s father, Jack Reynolds, for years and Leo tells Archie he is close to getting some big names for them. Then, Leo disappears. Susan is frantic, or pissed, she can’t decide which, when she is invited to an exclusive masquerade party at Jack Reynolds’ island home. Archie is also invited and attends, but wakes up the next morning in the mud with a concussion, still wearing his tuxedo, remembering very little, and a dead body has turned up in the lake near Reynolds’ island
That was some party.
Footage from the security cameras shows what happened that night and it shouldn’t surprise any reader of the Chelsea Cain series: Gretchen is back. And she is just as psychotic as we remember. But, was she responsible for the dead girl in the lake? Archie knows Gretchen’s handiwork when he sees it, and this doesn’t have her usual tortured and slashed-to-death motif.
Just seeing on Gretchen on the security footage stimulates Archie’s constant and sub-therapeutic cravings for her. Their mutual obsession for one another is toxic. Archie’s marriage was destroyed, and after Gretchen tortured him in her basement for ten days he was left a scarred man with an addiction for pills…and Gretchen. In a few flashbacks to their sexual interludes before she was arrested for the Beauty Killer murders, the reader sees that Gretchen is in charge and she likes it kinky.
Oh, and Gretchen has a major surprise for Archie on his birthday
I really enjoyed this book in the Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell series. Archie is emotionally flayed wide open for the reader. All his flaws and weaknesses come to light and he takes responsibility for them, especially to his wife and co-workers. And Gretchen, the urban Ninja, always three steps ahead of Archie and a total sociopath, appears to recognize the change in Archie. But is it something she will tolerate for very long?
Don’t be silly, darling. The party is just getting started. (less)
James Thompson’s latest addition to the Inspector Vaara series, Helsinki Blood, starts the story only a few weeks following the end of his last novel,...moreJames Thompson’s latest addition to the Inspector Vaara series, Helsinki Blood, starts the story only a few weeks following the end of his last novel, Helsinki White. While that last novel left Vaara and his team financially wealthy, they are physically and psychologically bankrupt: Vaara has sustained two crippling gunshot wounds, Detective Sargent Milo Nieminen has lost the use of his right hand, Vaara’s wife, Kate, while suffering from PTSD as a result of shooting a man with a sawed-off has abandoned Vaara and their daughter. Only the ironically named sociopath and thug, Sweetness, appears unaffected. Vaara, former police hero at the beginning of the series had become nothing more than a dispassionate and violent dirty cop lacking a moral compass.
And where Helsinki White showed how far Vaara had plummeted with his unscrupulous strategies to bring criminals to justice, Helsinki Blood illustrates his tortuous climb towards redemption. He wants back his dignity and integrity, but most of all he wants his wife to come back home so they can be a family again. Obviously it will not be easy. After a brick comes crashing through his window, a message referring to the money he stole penned upon it, Vaara realizes he, his friends, and family are still in danger.
Up against corrupt members of the Finnish government and untouchable Russian diplomats, Vaara and his team are forced to continue using their illegal black ops methods. Despite the team’s earlier efforts, women are still being kidnapped and forced into prostitution. And when an Estonian woman asks him to find her missing daughter with Down Syndrome, Vaara recognizes an opportunity to “become a white knight” and salvage his reputation, as well as his marriage.
Wounded and limping, abandoned by Kate and now a single parent, Vaara relies on his team, Sweetness’ girlfriend Jenna and Milo’s cousin Mirjami, who is in love with Vaara. As a group, they plot and drink (quite a lot) and Vaara must dodge the daily advances from Mirjami; a character I started to really dislike because of her disrespect for Vaara’s marriage.
While there is an action-packed and rather complex story concerning the corruption in Helsinki, I felt that it was actually background for Vaara’s much needed soul-searching. And I appreciated that. The last novel had me wondering if the series would continue with Vaara as the sociopathic rogue he had become. His character was usually a loyal and loving family man, a hero cop that saves children and immigrants, as well as an officer who would sometimes break a criminal’s fingers while arresting them. He has always been flawed, but the last book made him amoral and truly unlikable.
To sum up, this book illustrates the human Vaara, his imperfections, and his active endeavors to “become the white knight” again. If he happens to threaten some pimps or bust the teeth of the guy who threw a brick through his window, so be it. His intentions are in the right place this time. And I will continue to follow him with next book and the next. (less)
After reading her thriller, The Stranger You Seek, by Amanda Kyle Williams I was hoping she would continue with a series. The main reason? Her lead ch...moreAfter reading her thriller, The Stranger You Seek, by Amanda Kyle Williams I was hoping she would continue with a series. The main reason? Her lead character, Keye Street. A PI working out of Atlanta, carrying lots of baggage, wonderfully flawed, tough and independent, Street is a welcome addition to the growing roster of women in the mystery/thriller genre. And with Williams' second novel, Stranger in The Room, readers see that Street will be around for awhile.
Street is a Chinese-American raised in Atlanta by Caucasian parents after the murder of her grandparents; a horrifying experience she witnessed and still remembers. Highly intelligent with a PhD, Street worked as a profiler for the Bureau until her self-destructive addiction to alcohol destroyed her career. Now four years clean, the recovering Street runs a detective agency with her computer genius co-worker, Neil. With the addition of her sexy best friend, now lover, Lieutenant Aaron Rauser of the APD, Street's life, while not perfect, is starting to improve.
One night, her cousin Miki, a talented photographer, also with self-destructive tendencies, calls in a panic. She saw a man wearing a mask hiding and waiting for her in her living room. The police find nothing and she needs Street's help, and support, to prove she's not just a crazy drugged out freak with a mental health history looking for attention. Growing up with Miki, Street knows she can be melodramatic, but she is willing to help out family.
When Rauser is called in after a thirteen year-old boy is found strangled to death, he also asks for Street's assistance. Her talent as a profiler has helped the Atlanta PD immensely in the past, most recently with the Wishbone Killer. After an elderly man is discovered murdered and grotesquely displayed in Miki's house, Street begins to think all three incidents are related. But how? And, why?
Because the APD does not pay her bills, Street and Neil take a case from a previous client and travel outside of Atlanta to discover why a dead woman's urn contains dry cement and not her ashes. They stumble upon a grisly secret that is based on real events from a few years ago.
Street misses her former job, she still feels the thrill of putting together the evidence to puzzle out a mystery. She also misses the thrill of alcohol coursing through her body and she has stubbornly avoided her AA meetings for two years. Her mind, constantly brainstorming, works overtime to help Rauser and Miki, and abstain from alcohol.
Williams has created in Street a compelling and likable heroine with a wicked sense of humor and tough as nails attitude. She's flawed, funny, intelligent, independent and has a cat named White Trash. Her boyfriend, Rauser, is smart, sensitive, professional, and hot. They make a great combination solving murders and as a couple. And Williams paces her mystery well with intriguing twists and macabre breakthroughs.
One does not need to read The Stranger You Seek before picking up this novel, but it is also a great mystery which also shows the evolving relationship of Rauser and Street from friends to lovers. I know Williams has already started her third Street novel, and I will definitely be in line to buy it(less)
In the beginning of Tana French's newest novel, Broken Harbour, the reader is told that this book, this case, will not end on a happy note. We are inf...moreIn the beginning of Tana French's newest novel, Broken Harbour, the reader is told that this book, this case, will not end on a happy note. We are informed that this textbook homicide is not the "dream case" Detective Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy of the Dublin Garda imagined it should have been. With that warning, so begins one of French's most psychologically complex, and tragic, mysteries yet.
Kennedy and his young trainee of two weeks, Detective Richie Curran, are sent to a new luxary housing development outside of Dublin to investigate the deaths of the Spain family. The dad, Pat, and the two children are dead; mother, Jenny, is undergoing surgery after being viciously stabbed. The development is in the village of Broken Harbour, now called Brianstown, and it holds deeply personal memories for Kennedy. His family used to vacation there every summer, the "happiest two weeks" of the year, until the death of his mother when he was fifteen. But, instead of the sleepy vacation hollow he remembers, it has become a ghost town of half-built homes abandoned by developers when the economy crashed.
The Spains were the perfect family. Pat and Jenny, once high school sweethearts, married and had two beautiful children; Pat had the perfect job, Jenny enjoyed buying the latest in fashion, they took extravagant vacations, owned two cars. Everything was perfect. Until the crash. Pat lost his job, they had to sell the SUV, and it turns out their dream home was shoddily put together by developers looking to cash in on the housing bubble. And Pat is starting to see signs of a predatory animal threatening his family.
Kennedy and Curran soon find that someone had been stalking the Spains, breaking into their house, even setting up camp in one of the abandoned homes next to theirs. When they catch the stalker and find enough evidence to convict him, they are congratulated for a job well done, shoulders are clapped, hands are shaken. Kennedy is impressed by Curran, he feels he's more than just a mentor to the young detective, that they have a partnership that can last for years and it's a feel good moment for the team; but the book is barely halfway finished. Like a Greek tragedy, the reader recognizes that this is the pride that goeth before the fall, this is the hubris of the tragic hero who must go undergo a change in fortune to achieve revelation.
As in her previous books, French has populated this story with characters that are more complex, and fragile, than they appear. Her characters are compelling and fascinating, making their fates that much more painful. Kennedy looks at everything as "black and white", but human nature is never that way, he should know this from his own life: his mother committed suicide and his sister, Dina, is "crazy as a bag of cats". The Spains may have appeared perfect couple to their friends and family, but why are Pat and the kids dead and Jenny mutilated? And why does the house have holes in the walls and baby monitors scattered throughout? Curran is the best partner Kennedy has ever had, but why does he feel the man is custody is not the murderer, and what does the young detective base this on? And why does Kennedy ignore the subtle, persistent alarms going off in his head.
Psychologically charged, beautifully and hauntingly written, Broken Harbour is an excellent police procedural that examines the frailty of the human condition and our painful submission to the unpredictability of our environment. Rigid and flawed thinking leads us down the slippery slope that proves, despite our best intentions, people are sometimes "no good at life". (less)
Having read, and loved, the first two books in the Inspector Vaara series, by James Thompson, I was excited to receive a copy of the latest book, "Hel...moreHaving read, and loved, the first two books in the Inspector Vaara series, by James Thompson, I was excited to receive a copy of the latest book, "Helsinki White". Inspector Vaara is a complex, fascinating character; a stoic man of principle, married to an American ex-pat, living and working in the harsh winter environment of Finland. The political atmosphere rivals that of the elements. Finland is experiencing an onslaught of immigrants from Somalia, the Arab nations, and muslims. And this predominantly insular nation finds itself needing police enforcement to curb the angry, sometimes violent, manifests against these immigrants.
And that is why I liked the character of Inspector Vaara. In the first 2 books he solved the heinous murders of Somalians and saved a school of children from a psycho with a gun. He's a national hero; not an angel, by no means, but a decent cop and loving family man. Until this book.
A new father, recently diagnosed with a benign brain tumor, Vaara is offered a dream job running a black ops unit to fight human trafficking. He can't resist. He and his partner, Milo, a talented computer hack, and a two-fisted civilian goon strangely named "Sweetness" make up the unit. They break into the homes of criminals, steal their money and drugs, bug their phones and computer software, leave incriminating evidence, share the profits with the their police commissioner and Vaara goes home to change his daughter's diapers. His unit is quite effective but he has become, as his wife succinctly points out, a dirty cop.
This new Vaara, commiting crimes to fight crime, is acceptable until he has his brain surgery. It unfortunately leaves him emotionally and empathetically vacant. He is unable to feel love or happiness for his family and must practice smiling in front of a mirror to maintain any pretense of the former Vaara. When Sweetness pounds a dealer until he is bloody and his teeth are on the ground, Vaara feels no revulsion. And he definitely feels no remorse for the increasingly criminal behavior of his unit. The man has lost his moral compass and this vacant shell with antisocial tendancies is what makes him intolerable to the reader.
Yes, there are times he has doubt about his actions and lack of emotion, but it is fleeting and superficial. He can tell his wife the bloody details of everything the unit does and she even benefits from the outcome, but he can't tell her the surgery has left him joyless and indifferent. If Vaara was truly torn by the political violence in his country and the reprehensible acts commited by his team, his character would be sympathetic and flawed. "Helsinki White" makes him a sociopath.
Thompson's comprehension that Finns no longer "hate in silence" and have become a nation of social and political xenophobes is the background of his novels, especially this one. His adopted country's aggressive stance against immigration mirrors that of America, including even the existence of a growing political party that unfortunately resembles the Teabaggers. This element fleshes out the story significantly, it helps the reader understand why a good cop would want to fight against this growing tide of racial hatred. But it does not justify why a national hero and loving family man becomes a morally repugnant rogue with a badge.
I know the series will continue and I want to read the next book, I need to see if Vaara realizes what he has lost and if he will rectify his actions. He may be able to fight the criminal element, but I would rather he not be part of the problem. (less)
The police in London are discovering the tortured and brutally maimed bodies of pedophiles: a priest, a family man, and a societal introvert, all seem...moreThe police in London are discovering the tortured and brutally maimed bodies of pedophiles: a priest, a family man, and a societal introvert, all seemingly unrelated in life. Are these acts of vengeance? Thrill seekers? Sadists? And, as the police are questioning even themselves, should the killer be arrested, or given a medal? Detective Constable Maeve Kerrigan, a female junior detective in a male-dominated field of work, believes that no matter how heinous the crime, no one deserves the horrific deaths she is investigating. And, no one should be allowed to take the law into their own hands.
Working with a new partner, Detective Investigator Josh Derwent, a chauvinist bastard who flaunts his seniority by telling Maeve "just stay out of my way and watch and learn", ramps up her stress level. Aggressive, rude, humorless, and a bad driver, Derwent prefers Maeve not think or make a move without his approval. Supposedly he is an accomplished detective, but it is hard to get past his personal drawbacks and see this. Also working in the Serious Crimes unit with Maeve is her lover, DC Rob Langton, a man she cannot, for many reasons, make a commitment to. His easy-going personality and dedication to Maeve help balance out the inconsiderate Derwent.
As Maeve tracks down the serial killer, another twist in the mystery is revealed: the teenage daughter of London's most notorious gangster is missing. Working on this angle of the case, Maeve realizes that the teenager is not the only woman to have disappeared. The magnitude of the case expands exponentially. And Maeve's co-workers, Derwent, her boss Superintendent Godley, Rob, and the only other female DC on the squad, Liv Bowen, all start to reveal facets previously concealed to her. Just when you think Derwent couldn't be more of twit, we see a different side. Her usually composed boss is not entirely immutable. Rob can lose his cool, especially when it comes to Maeve. And, if this series continues, I hope DC Bowen has a larger role; she was a welcome shift away from all the testosterone.
The story is well written with multiple twists, misleads, and a few distractions thrown in to purposefully sidetrack the reader. "The Reckoning" is a perfect title for this book. It's not only the criminals who receive their retribution, the victims find recompense, and Maeve and her co-workers all have their moment of reckoning. And this being the second book with DC Kerrigan, the reader can see how her character has grown, become more experienced with her line of work. However, as she still has to fight for recognition as an officer who just happens to be a woman, I don't understand why, at time, the author has Maeve unbutton her shirt in order to accomplish her work.
For new readers, this can be a stand alone novel. The last book with DC Kerrigan, "The Burning", was written from the different perspectives of Maeve and another character, with a short chapter told from Rob's point of view. This book is narrated by Maeve until close to the end when, perhaps unnecessarily, Rob takes over for two chapters. A narration by Maeve could have easily recounted the entire story. But, I like the author and the way she writes an intricate police procedural with good pacing and I hope DC Maeve Kerrigan has another book in the future.(less)