All the usual Martha Grimes ingredients are here: precocious and charming children; clever cats and dogs; quirky villages and villagers; memories of WAll the usual Martha Grimes ingredients are here: precocious and charming children; clever cats and dogs; quirky villages and villagers; memories of World War II; quaintly named pubs, of course; in London, Richard Jury, Wiggins, Cyril the Cat, Carole-Ann, and Mrs. Wasserman, and in Long Piddleton, Melrose Plant, Marshall Trueblood, Aunt Agatha, and all the other villagers we've come to know and expect. And, naturally, there is the typical convoluted Grimes plot that bobs and weaves and circles back on itself. In Grimes books, it is always the journey itself that is most satisfying; often, the conclusion is less so. That is the case with this book.
A friend of Jury's in the City of London police asks his assistance in solving a mystery. Some bones have recently been uncovered on the site of a pub, "The Blue Last," that was destroyed in the blitz during World War II. They are the bones of a woman and child. Ostensibly, they are the bones of the daughter of a wealthy family and a child who was the daughter of that family's nanny. Jury's friend, however, believes that the child was actually the daughter of the woman who died there. The nanny, who survived, he believes, substituted her own baby for the baby of the wealthy woman who died. That baby, now grown up, stands to inherit millions upon the death of the family patriarch.
An additional mystery is added to the plot when a man who is close to the family, and who is researching a book about the period in which the pub was destroyed, is murdered. Jury's policeman friend was also a friend of this family and he often visited the man who was murdered. Jury suspects that his murder was somehow related to the book that he was planning to write, but his manuscript and all his notes as well as his laptop were all taken at the time that he was killed. No one seems to know just what was in the book.
Adding even more confusion, the nine-year-old girl who is a ward of the family patriarch believes that someone is trying to kill her, and, indeed, there was a shot fired into the greenhouse while she was there. It's all a real muddle and there don't seem to be any obvious suspects.
Once again, Jury calls upon his friend Melrose Plant to go undercover to help with the investigation. This time he is to pose as the undergardener on the family's estate and gather information as to what's really going on with these people. As usual, Melrose has several scenes with the precocious child on the estate, as well as her friend and his dog, and, as usual, these scenes are a delight.
We also have a subplot with Marshall Trueblood, the Long Piddleton antiques dealer, who believes he may have an authentic Renaissance masterpiece, and persuades Melrose Plant to accompany him to Italy to consult experts who may be able to confirm the artwork's authenticity. Their trip is a lark worthy of Grimes.
One reads Grimes' novels for their settings and their characters and her use of language in describing them. The intricate plots are sometimes difficult to follow, and, as in The Blue Last, the endings are not always satisfying. But her characters have such winning personalities that one keeps coming back for the pleasure of interacting with them once again.
Overall, this was a fun read. I debated about whether I should award it three stars or four stars. In the end, I decided to be generous, even though the cliff-hanging ending truly left me hanging and unsatisfied. I guess I'll just have to read the next book in the series to find out what happened.
A sure way to get V.I. Warshawski's attention is to cast aspersions on the character of her beloved family, especially her adored mother and father anA sure way to get V.I. Warshawski's attention is to cast aspersions on the character of her beloved family, especially her adored mother and father and her favorite cousin, Boom-Boom the hockey player. In Brush Back, all three of these now long-dead loved ones are attacked by a harridan of a former neighbor named Stella Guzzo and that sends V.I. into action.
Stella is the mother of Frank Guzzo, a high school sweetheart of V.I. The mother always hated and was jealous of V.I.'s family who she accused of thinking they were better than anybody else in their South Chicago neighborhood. The fact that they probably were just lent fuel to the flame of her hatred.
Stella was a violent mother who beat her children and she was convicted of beating her daughter, Annie, to death. She spent 25 years in prison for the young woman's murder and, as we enter this story, she's out and causing trouble again, even though she's almost eighty.
Her son, Frank, visits V.I. and asks her to help with his mother's claim for exoneration. Yes, she now claims she didn't kill her daughter. V.I. is very reluctant but feels sorry for her old friend and finally agrees. However, when she goes to interview Stella, things go completely awry. The old woman attacks her physically and afterwards she contacts the media to claim that she has a diary of her daughter's that implicates Boom-Boom in her murder. That, of course, is a challenge that V.I. can't ignore and she is egged on by her goddaughter, Bernie, who is staying with her.
Investigating Stella's claims opens a very unsavory can of worms with the biggest worms being the movers and shakers of Chicago's and Illinois' corrupt politics. Furthermore, those corrupt politicians have links with the Uzbeki Mob which is very active in Chicago and which is utterly ruthless. The chances of V.I. uncovering the truth and getting out alive seem very slim indeed.
The plot of this one is almost too complicated to follow, featuring multi-generational family trees, as well as incestuous connections between politicians and the Mob and Chicago street gangs, all of whom are eager to beat up V.I. There's also a connection to the Cubs and the eventual answer to the mystery is (or was) hidden in the bowels of Wrigley Field.
As a baseball fan, I was delighted with the connections to the game and the fact that most of the chapter titles as well as the title of the book featured baseball terms. A brush back pitch in baseball is designed to get the batter off the plate, make him nervous, and maybe redirect his attention. It's a good metaphor for what V.I.'s enemies try to do to her.
V.I. is getting a bit long in the tooth and maybe slowing down a bit at 50, but she's still the high-energy, sarcastic, smack-talking, working class P.I. that readers have come to know over the years. She takes guff from no one and doesn't hesitate to bend the rules if they get in her way. At the same time, she is loyal to her adoptive family of Mr. Contreras, the two golden retrievers, and her lover, Jake, and maintains her contacts with friends in the media and the police department and a few old friends from the neighborhood.
V.I. is utterly tenacious in her search for the truth, even if she suspects she's not going to be paid to find it. If I were in trouble and needed the help of an investigator, she's the P.I. I would want on my case.
When I last checked in on Arnaldur Indriðason's Icelandic detective series featuring Inspector Erlendur, I was so irritated with his main character thWhen I last checked in on Arnaldur Indriðason's Icelandic detective series featuring Inspector Erlendur, I was so irritated with his main character that I swore off him for a while and considered making it permanent. But then... I had this book on my Kindle and in the interest of clearing my reading queue, I decided to read it. I'm glad I did.
The best thing about the book is that Erlendur doesn't appear in it! That dour, surly, and grim police detective who gives gruff, austere Scandinavian police detectives like Wallander and Hole a bad name, is truly one of the most completely unlikable main characters I've encountered in detective fiction. So, it was a relief not to have to deal with him this time.
We find that Erlendur has gone off on leave, apparently chasing the ghosts that haunt his life, and, instead, we have his colleague Elinborg heading up the investigations.
Now, Elinborg is just about the polar opposite of Erlendur. First of all, she's a woman. She has a stable domestic partnership with her husband and they have three children together. We also learn that they were foster parents to her husband's nephew who has now moved out to be with his natural father. His departure has caused a certain amount of drama since their older son was very close to the boy and he blames his parents for his departure.
Elinborg is a talented amateur chef. In fact, she has already produced one cookbook and is contemplating writing another. She particularly enjoys Indian cuisine and her knowledge of the spices used in such cookery plays a part in solving the central mystery in Outrage. That Elinborg pays close attention to everything at the crime scene including smells, as well as the details reported by witnesses, is, again, a refreshing departure from Erlendur who often jumps to conclusions.
Elinborg is called to the scene of a brutal death. A young man is found in his Reykjavik apartment lying in a pool of blood. His throat has been sliced from ear to ear. His pants are down around his ankles and he is wearing a tee shirt with a San Francisco logo on it. It's a tee shirt that is much too small for him and appears to be a woman's. There are date-rape "roofie" pills found in a jacket pocket and, when the autopsy is performed, they are also found in the man's mouth and throat. There is a used condom nearby and, under the bed, Elinborg finds a shawl. The cashmere shawl smells of tandoori spices and Elinborg follows her nose to find the shawl's owner.
The question is, was there a woman in the apartment at the time of the killing? Was she possibly the victim of date-rape? If so, is there a pattern? Has this man committed such rapes before? In this case, was the victim able to overcome her rapist and kill him? Or was there a third party present who committed the murder or helped her to commit it?
In the insular society of Iceland, rape is considered an extremely shameful crime - for the victim! (Evidently even more so than is the case in this country.) These crimes are often not reported and even if they are reported and a conviction is achieved, the punishment is generally almost negligible, perhaps a year or at most two in prison. Indriðason gives us a lot of background on Icelandic attitudes and the judicial system's handling of these cases. He obviously feels very strongly about the issue.
Elinborg and her associate Sigurdur Oli follow the clues as they lead back to the village where the murder victim was born and grew up. They untangle a whole skein of unsavory memories from that isolated village - memories that no one ever really talks about.
The ultimate solution to the murder is not altogether satisfactory, but at least we have the gratification of knowing that a certain justice has been served and that a serial rapist will rape no more.
An interesting aside to this story was Elinborg's and Sigurdur's ruminations on their colleague, Elendur. Turns out, they don't like him any better than I do!...more
Picking up a book by Sue Grafton is always a relaxing experience. You know you are in the hands of a master, so you can just lean back and let the expPicking up a book by Sue Grafton is always a relaxing experience. You know you are in the hands of a master, so you can just lean back and let the experience of the book flow over you.
X, the 24th in the Kinsey Milhone series, certainly continues the Grafton experience, although this book has a much darker story to tell than many of the others in the series. In this one, Kinsey comes up against a very scary sociopath, who, it turns out, has had a long career of serial murders of young women (of course). His crimes have gone completely undetected, and, even though the villain is identified early in the book, the problem for Kinsey becomes whether or not she can find the evidence to prove his guilt before she becomes his next victim.
Once again, we are back in 1988 and it is interesting to see Kinsey trying to find a payphone to call her landlord Henry or to make other calls. There is now a whole generation of readers who will not even remember such anachronisms, but for those of us who lived through those times, it's just a bit of nostalgia.
In addition to Kinsey's stalking of the sociopath, she has a mystery to solve closer to home. California is in the middle of one of its periodic droughts and water rationing is a very real possibility. Diligent citizens, like Kinsey's landlord Henry Pitts, are making every effort to control their water usage, but in spite of his and Kinsey's efforts, his bills keep rising. He calls in plumbers to check for leaks and to recommend actions and one of them discovers the source of the problem: the next-door neighbors.
An elderly couple has moved in next door after the old neighbors moved to the East. They give the impression that they have bought the house, but a bit of investigation by Kinsey reveals that, in fact, they are squatters. Furthermore, they are stealing Henry's water!
Actually, I found this subplot very entertaining. I always enjoy the Kinsey and Henry interactions. Henry and his whole family are such charming characters.
I have been reading these books since the first one (A is for Alibi) came out in 1982, so Kinsey Millhone is one of my oldest and most enduring literary friends. I always enjoy a visit with her and I read the new books as soon as I can after publication. This one was not the best of the lot, but it rated pretty highly with me. The villain was creepy and scary and, sadly, quite believable, and Kinsey's stubborn determination to bring him to justice was altogether true to the Kinsey Millhone I've come to know over the years.
The ending was frustrating, but, again, it was believable. There was no magic wand waving to make everything fall into place and justice prevail. In this, it was without question true to life. ...more
This sixteenth entry in the "Richard Jury Mysteries" is actually a Melrose Plant mystery. Richard Jury only makes a brief appearance in the story at tThis sixteenth entry in the "Richard Jury Mysteries" is actually a Melrose Plant mystery. Richard Jury only makes a brief appearance in the story at the end of the book during the wrapping up phase.
The hook of the story is that Jury is in Ireland on Scotland Yard business and his friend Melrose, bored with his existence in Northumberland and hoping to get away from Aunt Agatha, decides to rent a house for three months in Cornwall. Of course, there is no easy escape from Agatha and soon she is ensconced in Cornwall as well, staying at a B-and-B and learning the real estate trade from her new friend there.
The house which Melrose has chosen to rent is right out of Rebecca or Jamaica Inn or some other Daphne du Maurier tale. It exudes an air of tragedy, even in the harsh beauty of its surroundings. Melrose wonders from where the feeling of sadness and mystery which surrounds the house emanates. He doesn't have to wonder long.
He soon learns that four years previously two children who lived in the house drowned in the nearby sea. After the horror of this event, their parents moved away, never to return and the house was put up for rent. Even though Commander Brian Macalvie was on the case of the drowned children, it was never really solved. Was it simply an inexplicable accident or was it something more sinister? As we've learned previously, Macalvie never closes a case that he hasn't solved, so he is still looking for answers.
Melrose Plant settles into the Cornwall community for his three-month vacation and begins visiting the pubs and pastry shops and talking with the locals. He is soon engrossed in the tales that he hears of the place and particularly of the family which occupied the house where he is now living and the tragedy that befell them. His avocation as an amateur detective leads him to snoop further.
But soon there are more and newer mysteries to ponder. The half-owner of the local pastry shop, and aunt of a young man who works several jobs around the town and whom Melrose meets and likes, has disappeared without leaving any word for her nephew as to where she was going. At the same time, the murdered body of a young woman is found in a nearby village and Melrose fears at first that it is the missing aunt, but it turns out to be someone else altogether. However, the victim is someone who had had public disagreements with the aunt. Suddenly, the missing person becomes a possible suspect in the murder.
Melrose visits a local hospice where his landlord is presently living. It turns out to be more like an upscale retirement home. The old man, his landlord, is the grandfather of the two children who died. Also, living at the home is the man's long-time chauffeur, who is suffering from AIDS and whose survival prospects are dim. (This book was published in 1999.) But soon even those prospects are ended when the man is shot dead while sitting in his employer's wheelchair. Was the shot to the back truly intended for him or was it a case of mistaken identity?
Well, the bodies continue to drop while Melrose and Macalvie puzzle through the clues and try to determine if there is a connection among all these deaths or are they merely coincidences?
We do get a bit of respite from the doom and gloom of Cornwall when Melrose takes a trip to London and there meets with the artist Bea Slocum with whom he's having a bit of a romance. And I say "Bravo!" to Martha Grimes for actually finally giving him an adult emotional experience. More, please.
Grimes' plots are very loosely constructed and tend to wander here and there. Once again, we get to spend ample time in Long Piddleton, and once again Vivian Rivington is threatening to marry her Italian count. Therefore, it follows as the night does the day that the usual Piddletonian suspects are engaged in their juvenile shenanigans meant to thwart the nuptials. Contrast their silly antics with the grotesque explanation of the two children's deaths which Macalvie finally uncovers. It's enough to make a reader queasy, but that's Grimes for you - from shock to comedy routines to intrigue all within the covers of one book.
Well into Martha Grimes' Richard Jury series, one finds the quality of each individual book sometimes a bit hit or miss. This one was definitely a hitWell into Martha Grimes' Richard Jury series, one finds the quality of each individual book sometimes a bit hit or miss. This one was definitely a hit for me. I enjoyed it quite a lot, even though I suspected pretty early on who the culprit(s) was(were). Or maybe it was because I figured it out pretty early and was able to watch Jury and his friend Melrose Plant struggle to the same conclusion.
It's a somewhat complicated plot with definite noir tendencies. It involves art forgery and theft, the consequences of political murder, the activities of a professional assassin, a couple of murders, and has the usual characters from Northants that we have come to expect and enjoy, as well as the London contingent of Scotland Yard, cats and dogs, Jury's neighbors, and the quirky Cripps family. Yes, all the essential elements are here and Grimes concocts a very tasty dish of them.
Jury, as always, is inexplicably lonely on a Saturday night. Such a handsome, intelligent, lovable man with a killer smile and yet, in Grimes' world, he just can't find anyone to love. Or to love him. Well, fiction is all about the suspension of disbelief, I suppose.
On a Saturday night, Jury takes a ride on a bus and notices a striking blonde woman in a sable coat. She gets on the bus, rides for a while, gets off for a while, then gets on again. When she gets off the second time, Jury decides to follow her. He follows her to an ecclesiastical palace and gardens, but does not follow her into the grounds of the place. The next day he reads in the paper that the murdered body of a blonde woman in a fur coat was found on one of the herb beds in the garden and reproaches himself that he did not continue to follow her.
The murder victim is unidentified and Jury contacts the local policeman in charge to tell him what he observed. He is asked to look at the body to see if it is the woman he saw. She is superficially like that person, but when he looks closer, he is able to see differences. It is not the same person. So, were there two blonde women in fur coats in those gardens the night before?
As usual, even though it isn't technically his case, Superintendent Richard Jury gets involved, and, as usual, he calls on his friend Melrose Plant to do some private investigating for him.
Melrose goes to London and checks into his father's old club where he meets several interesting if ossified old codgers. One of them turns out to be a former art critic. A very famous art critic. Since one of Melrose's assignments from Jury is to buy a painting at a local gallery owned by a family that had its origins in the Soviet Union, where it suffered the murder of the family patriarch, he cultivates a relationship with the critic and asks his help and advice.
It is unclear at first just what this art gallery and the family might have to do with the murdered woman, the theft of a famous Chagall painting from a museum in St. Petersburg, or an eventual second murder that takes place. The plot is made more perplexing because a second blonde woman in sable does turn up and, even though she denies it, Jury knows that she is actually the person that he saw on the bus and followed.
Well, this does all get quite intricate and confusing at times, but Grimes does a good job of blending it together and making sense of it in the end.
My only real qualm with the book was its ending. I found it unsatisfactory, but I wondered if perhaps we were left hanging because this plot is to be picked up in later books? Guess I'll just have to read them to find out.
Harry Bosch, Private Eye??? Really??? No more Detective Three Harry Bosch of the LAPD??? Hard to believe for us long-time readers of the series, but IHarry Bosch, Private Eye??? Really??? No more Detective Three Harry Bosch of the LAPD??? Hard to believe for us long-time readers of the series, but I guess we have to accept it.
After twenty-eight years with the LAPD, Harry Bosch has hung up his shield. In the last book, City of Bones, Harry left his badge and gun and walked out of the police station with the intention of retiring, but I never figured for a moment that it would stick. I felt sure he'd be back in the saddle in the next book. Well, he is, but it's a different horse.
As this book begins, Harry is fifty-two and has been retired for a couple of years, and he's getting a bit antsy. When he left the LAPD, he took some of his case files with him - cold cases that he hadn't been able to solve. They haunt him. His mission in life has always been to be an advocate for the murder victims, to give them a measure of justice. It rankles that in these particular cases he was not able to provide that justice.
One case especially rankles. A young woman named Angella Benton, a production assistant for a movie studio, was murdered four years previously and Bosch is still haunted by the memory of her defiled body lying on the tiles of the entry to her apartment building. Needing something to occupy his mind and his time, he decides to do a re-investigation of the case from the beginning and finally put the murderer away.
This story is told in first person voice, so we are present in Harry's mind, privy to his thoughts, throughout. It's an interesting and somewhat different perspective from the previous books.
As we follow Harry's thought processes, we learn pretty quickly that something doesn't quite add up. Something about the original investigation seems off. He goes to visit one of the cops who ran the investigation after Harry was taken off of it. The former cop is now a paraplegic having been injured in a shootout at a bar that happened just a couple of months after Angella was murdered.
Other coincidences begin to rear their heads. Two million dollars was stolen from the set of a movie that was being produced by the movie studio where Angella had worked. This, too, happened within weeks of her death.
Moreover, an FBI agent who handled financial inquiries and had been checking the serial numbers of the bank notes that were stolen disappeared around that time. She has never been found, either dead or alive.
It's all just too much coincidence and Harry's gut tells him that it really isn't.
As usual, his instincts are correct. He begins to link the various crimes together and eventually finds more than he bargained for. But most importantly in the world of Harry Bosch, he finds some justice for the murdered.
This was a very interesting entry in this series. Getting to see Harry from a different perspective added even more depth to a character who was already fully developed in my mind. He had been sick of the politics and the mind-numbing bureaucratic grind of the police department, but he had done that job for more than 25 years and it was, in many ways, his home. In fact, on many days it seemed like all he had going in his life. Now, he's on the outside looking in, and even though he remains true to his mission, his calling in life, he has to accomplish it without the protection of the badge. It's a strange new world for him. And for us.
One thing Harry hasn't lost is his contacts. There's his former partner Kiz Rider who plays a role in his new investigation. There's Roy Lindell, the FBI agent he had worked with before. And there is his former wife, Eleanor Wish, the former FBI agent who now makes a living gambling in Las Vegas. Harry still cares for her and harbors hopes that he might be able to get back with her. For her part, she seems to be hiding something from him. Harry and we don't learn what it is until the end.
Michael Connelly is just excellent at putting his plots together, tossing out clues along the way, and making us see and empathize with his characters. Not only Harry, but even the minor characters. Maybe more important to these stories, he has a real feel for Los Angeles, for the checkered history of the LAPD, and for the bureaucratic inter-wrangling that goes on between different law enforcement agencies, in this case the FBI and the police.
Lastly, and most importantly, he has a feel for the English language. It is a pleasure to read the words that he writes.
When nine-year-old Laurent Lepage bursts into the bistro in the sleepy little village of Three Pines on a beautiful mid-September afternoon excitedlyWhen nine-year-old Laurent Lepage bursts into the bistro in the sleepy little village of Three Pines on a beautiful mid-September afternoon excitedly telling the patrons there about a huge gun, bigger than a house, that he found in the woods, his listeners smile and shrug it off, assuming that it is just another of Laurent's tall tales. For Laurent is a small boy with an outsized imagination full of aliens and monsters, and when he says that his huge gun has a monster on it, that confirms things for the villagers: Just another of Laurent's tales.
Laurent begs his friend Armand Gamache, the now retired Chief Inspector from the Sûreté, to come and look at the gun, Gamache instead loads the boy and his bicycle into his car and drives him home.
But one person present in the bistro that day to hear Laurent's story knew that he could actually be telling the literal truth. That person would do anything to ensure that this story doesn't get out, that it doesn't get believed. Anything includes killing a nine-year-old child.
One day later Laurent doesn't come home from his day's play and when his parents and other villagers go looking for him, they find his body, along with his bicycle, in a ditch beside the road. It appears that he may have hit a rut in the road and swerved into the ditch where he hit his head on a rock and was instantly killed.
But something about the scene of death does not add up for the eagle-eyed Gamache. There's something about the placement of the body that is wrong.
And where is Laurent's "gun"? His father had carved a limb for him which Laurent's imagination turned into a play gun with which he defended his village. He was never without it when he was out for a day's play, but the "gun" is nowhere to be found.
Once again the villagers fan out to search, this time looking for Laurent's stick, and, finally, deep in the woods, they find it. They find it next to the house-sized gun that Laurent had tried to warn them about. The gun that had the monster on it.
The gun was, in fact, a rocket launcher that had been built back in the '80s for something called the Babylon Project. It was a project of evil intent, which was symbolized by the image of the "Whore of Babylon" etched into the gun's side, that was put together by some rogue weapons designers and a huckster who intended to sell the massive guns to be produced on the world firearms market - sell them to the highest bidder. Before that could happen, though, the huckster was killed in Brussels and the guns, if they ever existed, disappeared.
Once the huge gun, along with Laurent's stick, is found near Three Pines, it is clear that the child's death was no accident. He was murdered to keep him quiet.
Before this murder can be solved, another one occurs. Antoinette Lemaitre of Three Pines was planning to direct a play at the local theatre. It was a play called She Sat Down and Wept by an anonymous author. But it turns out that the author is not really anonymous. His name is John Fleming and he is a notorious serial killer, presently incarcerated in the Special Handling Unit.
Gamache, who knows the evils that Fleming committed, feels intuitively that the two murders are somehow related and that all of this is somehow connected to Fleming. He faces skepticism for his theory from his former Sûreté colleagues. They should know better.
Louise Penny has once again given us a convoluted and thoughtful tale about the nature of evil and of how people choose to face it. We find Gamache chafing a bit under his early retirement and considering offers that he had to return to work. Although this good and decent man is appalled by murder, he is somehow addicted to the solving of these crimes and he's finding it very hard to simply walk away from all that. It is made harder by the fact that his former homicide team, made up of his hand-picked proteges, still turn to him for advice.
I'm betting that Gamache is going to unretire in the next book and return to officially solving crimes once again. But even if he doesn't, there seem to be enough murders happening in his idyllic retirement village to keep him preoccupied and engaged in the detecting game.
Lara McClintoch is the half-owner of an antiques shop in Toronto. One of her customers, an internationally famous architect and world-class jerk, wantLara McClintoch is the half-owner of an antiques shop in Toronto. One of her customers, an internationally famous architect and world-class jerk, wants to hire her to go to Malta to set up his newly built house there. He wants her to oversee the delivery and placement of furniture and see that the house is ready for a big soiree that he's planning to entertain various highly important people.
Lara, with some misgivings, agrees to take the assignment, but when she arrives in Malta, she finds the house still not completed and workmen in a feverish race to get everything done on time.
Soon after she arrives, strange things start happening. She sees a mysterious hooded figure at the edge of the garden at night. Then a cat is murdered and left on the property. The brake lines on the car she had been given to use are cut. And perhaps creepiest of all, an odd and obnoxious man whom she first saw on the plane keeps turning up everywhere she goes in Malta. It seems apparent that someone is trying very hard to scare and/or warn her.
The architect's housekeeper and her husband and son are on hand to assist Lara, but she feels intuitively that something is not as it should be.
Finally, the furniture arrives and Lara notices that one of the pieces is different from the pieces that were chosen back in Toronto. Instead of an armoire, there is a large chest. She opens it up and inside she finds the body of the architect. Someone has put an end to his jerkitude by murdering him. There seems to be no lack of possible suspects, his wife being perhaps first on the list.
The first question to be settled is, where did the murder happen? Was it back in Canada or when the plane had a layover in Rome? It takes a while to settle this question definitively, but in the meantime, the RCMP sends one of their sergeants over to assist in the investigation since the man killed was a Canadian citizen.
The mystery deepens further when the odd man from the plane also turns up dead. Murdered. Is there a connection between the two murders and does it have anything to do with some allegedly lost treasure on Malta that is somehow related to the worship of the Great Goddess?
Complexities and complications abound and red herrings are strewn all over the place, but Lara manages to assist the local Maltese police and the visiting Mountie in their inquiries.
I liked the fact that the author started each chapter with a brief entry that addressed some aspect of the history of the Great Goddess and of Malta, and I liked the character of the feminist Professor Stanhope who was engaged in teaching her students about the Great Goddess. However, I felt that Lyn Hamilton did this character a disservice in the arc of the story that she gave her. She was very stereotypically described as a dried-up spinster who fell madly in love with the first younger guy who showed up and showed an interest in her. That just didn't mesh with her image as an accomplished historian with a deep interest in and understanding of the Goddess culture.
I felt this book was an improvement over the first entry in the archeological mystery series. Lara seemed not quite as ditsy as she was in the first one and her interaction with the visiting Mountie seemed fraught with possibilities. I wonder if we'll meet him again in later books. ...more
Okay, I think I have given this series a fair trial, but I'm finding it very hard to take the main character seriously or to care about what happens tOkay, I think I have given this series a fair trial, but I'm finding it very hard to take the main character seriously or to care about what happens to her. She comes across as a person without normal intelligence and reasoning ability, with more than a dash of petty vengefulness. The stories are about subjects that interest me, but Lara McClintoch as a character is totally off-putting.
McClintoch is half-owner of an antiques shop in Toronto. In addition to being an antiques shop owner, she seems to have a second career as a globe-trotting solver of murder mysteries. Well, doesn't every antiques shop owner?
In The Moche Warrior Lara's nose is severely put out of joint when her ex-husband opens a brand new antique shop just across the street from hers. She's sure that he's doing it just to spite her and she determines that she will have her revenge.
At an auction, when she sees that the ex REALLY wants a particular box, she bids against him and wins the box, even though she has to use her personal credit card to pay for it. She takes the box home, thinking that it is nothing special. It appears to contain reproductions of Moche ceramics, but then someone tries breaking into her shop and part of the contents of the box - a supposedly reproduction Moche vase and a peanut-shaped bead - go missing.
But that is only the beginning. Soon, someone tries to burn down the shop and among the ruins is the body of a man who had been at the auction bidding on some of the same items as Lara. The police suspect Lara and/or her assistant and friend Alex, who was present when the blaze started and who had received a blow to the head which has erased his memory of the events.
Lara belatedly comes to the conclusion that the Moche "reproductions" in her box were actually priceless artifacts from archaeological digs. It is illegal to take such artifacts out of Peru. Has she stumbled into the middle of a art smuggling operation?
Instead of cooperating with the police - even her friend, the Royal Canadian Mountie Rob that we met in the last book - Lara decides to investigate all on her own, because ... of course she does.
Her investigations lead her to New York where she stumbles over another dead body of an antiques dealer. Then she decides she has to go to the source of the mystery and she heads off to Peru, by way of Mexico. She stops in Mexico City to ask for the help of her former lover, a Mexican archaeologist and freedom fighter turned politician. He helps her establish a new identity and sends her to Peru with a letter of introduction to an archaeologist working in the area from which the mysterious artifacts originated.
Arriving in Peru, she is taken on as a part of the archaeological dig team. Soon, there are more dead bodies and more mysteries and Lara is blundering around in the dark looking for clues. It's all very cloak and daggerish. Moreover, it seems that whenever there is a decision to be made, Lara makes the wrong one, and yet somehow, piece by piece, she begins putting together the puzzle and solving the mystery of the Moche artifacts.
The most interesting parts of the book for me were the discussions of Moche culture and some of the aspects of the archaeological dig that rang true. But the character of Lara is just a wet blanket for me. Her case is not helped in the least by the fact that she doesn't understand the proper use of object pronouns. She uses the first person singular pronoun as an object (as in, "She delivered the artifact to Ramon and I.") which just sets my teeth on edge! Why do writers persist in this incorrect usage and why do their editors not correct them?
So, putting aside my dislike of Lara, how shall I rate this book? I do like the story and the archaeological details and the writer's concept for this series, but I find the characters to be such unbelievable cardboard critters that I really think that this will probably serve as the end of my experience in reading the Lara McClintoch Archaeological Mysteries.
My husband and I recently watched the Amazon series Bosch based on Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch books. I thought it was excellent and I highly recomMy husband and I recently watched the Amazon series Bosch based on Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch books. I thought it was excellent and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys that sort of thing. The story told in City of Bones was one of the ones that was dramatized for the television series, but there were differences between what appeared on screen and Connelly's written version. I think I like the book better, although the dramatization was interesting also.
The story begins on New Year's Day when a dog returns to his owner, while they are walking in the Hollywood Hills, carrying a bone he has dug up. His owner is a retired doctor and he recognizes the bone as the humerus of a child. He contacts the police and Harry Bosch, working the holiday, takes the call.
Harry goes to the area and begins the search for other bones. He finds them pretty easily. They are scattered over an area up in the hills. It looks like they have been there for a long time.
Soon the Medical Examiner and anthropologists are on the scene and, in time, it is determined that the bones have been in place since the late '70s or early '80s. Through dogged investigation, Bosch and his partner Jerry Edgar are able to confirm that the bones belong to a child who disappeared in May of 1980. The medical examination of the bones confirms further that the child - a 12-year-old boy - was beaten to death.
Not only was the victim beaten to death but throughout his short life, he had been systematically and cruelly abused. Bosch is deeply affected by this discovery, at least in part because of his own troubled childhood, and he vows to find the perpetrator of this crime and bring him to justice.
As we follow the twists and turns of the investigation, the body count begins to mount. A completely innocent man, who lives in the neighborhood where the child's bones were found, commits suicide because, in the course, of the investigation, an old secret of his is unearthed and it is leaked to a reporter who makes the assumption that he is the guilty person. The resulting notoriety of the media mania is more than the man can take.
On the trail of a potential witness, the police operation attempting to bring the man in for questioning goes horribly awry and a rookie police officer, seeking her own version of glory and heroism, is shot. Harry witnesses what happened, putting him in a difficult position because he knows that the man they were attempting to capture was not resisting and had nothing to do with the shooting. This is made even more difficult by his personal relationship with that police officer and the fact that she dies from her wound. (This was one of the differences between the book and the TV show.)
Through all of this, the mystery just seems to get murkier and it appears that Bosch and his team are not making any headway, but persistence pays off and finally the solution to the mystery comes together, but before the final piece of the puzzle can be put in place, another person is killed.
So, three dead bodies join the bones of the dead child, but, in the end, the stubbornness of Harry Bosch wins the day. Solving murders is a sacred mission for him. It is his religion, and he always holds fast to that. It makes him a very good detective. It also makes him one difficult bugger to work with, even when he isn't deliberately trying to step on people's toes.
The ending of this novel was a bit of a surprise (no spoilers) and it will be interesting to see where the series goes after this. There are twelve more (so far) books in the series, so we know that Harry will be around to entertain us for a while. And that's a good thing. ...more
And here's another of my guilty pleasure reads for the summer - the fifth entry in Carolyn Haines' Sarah Booth Delaney series. It was great fun to reaAnd here's another of my guilty pleasure reads for the summer - the fifth entry in Carolyn Haines' Sarah Booth Delaney series. It was great fun to read and, indeed, may be my favorite in the series so far.
Sarah Booth Delaney's private investigation business in the little delta town of Zinnia, Mississippi, now has an actual business office. She has set up a couple of rooms of her family's plantation home, Dahlia House, as offices for herself and her partner, Tinkie. There's even a place for a receptionist's desk, just in case the business ever grows to the point that it needs one.
Sarah Booth's latest case begins when she is contacted by a nun from New Orleans. The nun is a friend of a woman who is now being held on a warrant from New Orleans in the local Zinnia jail. The woman, Doreen, is a spiritualist and alleged faith healer with a large following in New Orleans. She had a baby who had severe birth defects and the baby has recently died. An autopsy revealed that the cause of death, which was at first thought to be Sudden Infant Death syndrome, had actually been sleeping pills that were put in the baby's formula. The mother has been charged with murder in the case, but the nun doesn't believe she did it and she wants to hire Sarah Booth to establish her innocence.
This creates a bit of a problem for Sarah Booth who has to go to the jail to see Doreen. She had been trying to stay away from the sheriff's office so she wouldn't run into the sheriff, Coleman Peters, for whom she has strong and tender feelings. Problem is Coleman, who reciprocates those feelings, is trying to save his troubled marriage because his deeply troubled wife is pregnant, and he doesn't need to be tempted by Sarah Booth.
Meeting with Doreen does give Sarah Booth and Tinkie the sense that she is most likely innocent of killing her baby, but if she didn't do it, who did? Suspicion settles on the father, but who is that? Doreen refuses to name him.
Doreen is returned to the custody of the New Orleans Police Department and Sarah and Tinkie travel to New Orleans to continue their investigation. They are also (very conveniently) just in time for the Orange and Black Ball, one of the most popular social events of the year. Of course, the two get invited and, of course, just in time, a wealthy suitor from Sarah Booth's past, Hamilton, shows up to escort her to the ball.
In addition to being wealthy and cultured, Hamilton is incredibly handsome and is engaged in trying to make the world a better place. In other words, he is a paragon of virtues. He's also apparently very good in bed, though, naturally, Sarah Booth never gives us the details.
At length, their client, Doreen, is persuaded to give Tinkie and Sarah Booth information about the three men who could possibly be her dead daughter's father. One is a well-known evangelist/faith healer; one is a United States Senator; and one is the financial manager for Doreen's ministry. She had had sex with all three men in an attempt to "heal" them.
The plot becomes very convoluted, with many twists and turns, but I actually figured out pretty early who the culprit was here. That's always satisfying. In the end, Sarah Booth got it, too, and again saved the day.
But she lost Hamilton. And Coleman, at least for now. Coleman ends up taking his mentally deranged wife to a sanatorium in Arizona for the remainder of her pregnancy, so we'll have to wait for the next book to find out how all of that turns out.
Sarah Booth is once again alone at Dahlia House with her nagging ghost, Jitty, who had been the nanny for her great-great-grandmother; her dog, Sweetie Pie; and her horse, Reveler. Will she ever find true love? Probably not for that would put the kibosh on the greater part of the plots of these books.
When it comes to light summer reading, perfect for sweltering days spent in air-conditioned comfort in one's favorite chair, it's hard to beat one ofWhen it comes to light summer reading, perfect for sweltering days spent in air-conditioned comfort in one's favorite chair, it's hard to beat one of Martha Grimes' Richard Jury mysteries. She's up to her usual standard in The Case Has Altered although there were one or two things that annoyed me. But I'll get to those in a moment.
In this fourteenth entry in the series, the mystery involves the murder of two women. One was a guest at a country home of local gentry in the isolated fens. She was the ex-wife of the owner of the estate and a thoroughly self-centered and evil person who was disliked by everyone who knew her. Plenty of possible suspects for her murder.
The second victim, killed a few days after the first, was a barmaid at the pub called "The Case Has Altered" who also worked part time in the kitchen and as a sometimes maid at the estate. She seemed to be a thoroughly inoffensive person, one who would go unnoticed in a crowd, and there doesn't seem to be any obvious motive for her to have been killed.
It turns out that another guest at the estate at the time that the ex-wife was killed was Lady Jennifer Kennington, whom Richard Jury has long carried a torch for, but, being Richard Jury, he's never mentioned it to the object of his affection. Through a convoluted set of circumstances, Lady Kennington becomes the prime suspect in the murders. Superintendent Jury and his friend Melrose Plant begin their independent investigation to try to clear her.
Things do not go well with the investigation. They are unable to come up with any other plausible suspects and eventually Jenny is arrested for the murders. However, the evidence against her is purely circumstantial and at the hearing, the judge decides there is not enough evidence to hold her.
The investigation continues.
Meanwhile, back in Long Piddleton, Melrose's obnoxious Aunt Agatha is pursuing her own case against a local shop owner. She claims to have been attacked by the owner's tiny dog, causing her to trip over the shop's sidewalk display and injure her ankle. She is suing the owner who has no money and who will be bankrupted if she loses.
Since she has no money for a solicitor, the flamboyant local antiques dealer, Marshall Trueblood, takes on her case and represents her at the trial. The trial itself is a hoot and it turns out exactly as any reader in her right mind - and heart - would want it to.
The murder case, too, is eventually resolved, although it is never really clear why Jenny is so secretive. She could have saved herself and everyone else an awful lot of trouble if she had just told the whole truth to begin with. In fact, I find Jenny to be an extremely unlikable character. I think it's time Jury moved on from his infatuation with her.
The character of Lady Jenny Kennington was one of the things that annoyed me about this story. The other was the author's description of the second murder victim - the barmaid/cook's assistant/maid. Every time her name is mentioned, Grimes goes into excruciating detail about how the woman was ugly. She was not attractive to men and so the only way she could ever get one was by falling into bed with them. Which she did. Because she was unattractive and tried to make up for it by being willing. Willing to do anything.
Over and over the author drives home just how plain the woman was. Her plainness did, it is true, have something to do with the resolution of the case, but she didn't have to beat her readers over the head with it in every chapter. Once or twice would have been more than enough. P.D. James would have made the point in one. ...more
Continuing with the Mississippi theme in my summer reading, I turned to Ace Atkins' Southern noir series featuring former Army Ranger, now county sherContinuing with the Mississippi theme in my summer reading, I turned to Ace Atkins' Southern noir series featuring former Army Ranger, now county sheriff, Quinn Colson.
Colson is the sheriff of fictional Tibbehah County in Northeast Mississippi, a place somewhere near Tupelo, birthplace of King Elvis. He heads a seven person police force, aided by his chief deputy, Lillie Virgil. From the county seat of Jericho, they do battle with the forces of evil in Tibbehah County, which seems to be a hotbed of sin and moral turpitude, not to mention political corruption.
Jericho and Tibbehah County are still recovering from a recent killer tornado that came close to leveling the town, but progress is being made, and, in some cases, the new Jericho being built is a great improvement over the old destroyed town.
Much of that improvement has come through the efforts of Johnny Stagg, District Supervisor and local businessman and, not incidentally, redneck crime lord. Stagg is behind much of that aforementioned sin, moral turpitude, and political corruption. But it can't be denied that he has aided in the rebuilding of the town.
Meanwhile, Sheriff Colson and Deputy Virgil are being investigated because of a big shootout that occurred at the end of the last book. (It does pay to read these books in order.) Colson's enemies see this as a chance to either get him out of office or to control him while he's in office, and there's another election coming up. It's all politics, but that doesn't make it any more palatable.
Into this frothy mix of disaster recovery and political intrigue comes news that a very bad guy, leader of a motorcycle club that created havoc in the town thirty years before, is about to be released from federal prison after serving his time. This is especially bad news for Johnny Stagg who sees the man as a mortal enemy and fears that when he returns to town he will try to take over from the current redneck crime lord.
Thirty years before, in 1977, something terrible happened in Jericho. Two young teenage girls were abducted along a county road. One was raped and both of them were shot. The younger of the two died. Law enforcement did not catch the man who did it, but shortly afterward, a black man, a stranger in town who had been living rough in the nearby national forest, was taken up by vigilantes, beaten and lynched. He was unknown. His name was never discovered. The vigilantes had convicted him of the abduction, rape, and murder. Later, the surviving victim saw the man who had actually committed the crime in town. The vigilantes had murdered an innocent man.
At the time of these crimes, the sheriff's office only did a half-hearted investigation, but now, the whole thing has been brought to light again because the surviving victim has talked to Sheriff Colson. He and Deputy Virgil are determined to get to the bottom of these very cold cases.
Johnny Stagg has become one of the most interesting characters in this series. He runs a "family restaurant" with a notorious strip club and truck stop located out back. He's trying to build up a drug pipeline, working with some of the Memphis mafia, and he has his fingers in every pie being baked in Tibbehah County. He's a sleazebag and a small town manipulator, masquerading as just another "good ole boy." He keeps looking for the key that will allow him to lock up control of the sheriff and his staff. If he can find it, he will have a totally free hand in building his crime empire.
Locking up Quinn Colson won't be easy though. He lives by the code he learned as an Army Ranger. He is the epitome of incorruptibility and morality. He has a lot of frustrations with the nuances of police work, but fortunately his excellent deputy has his back there. They make a good team.
Ace Atkins writes very knowledgeably about the area where these stories are set. It's an area I know well and I can attest that the language used by his characters and the opinions and attitudes expressed here are spot on. It all makes for a very noirish mix and an entertaining summer read.
Sarah Booth Delaney lays claim to being a non-traditional Southern woman. She is in her thirties, a time by which any self-respecting Southern Belle wSarah Booth Delaney lays claim to being a non-traditional Southern woman. She is in her thirties, a time by which any self-respecting Southern Belle would be long married and raising a family. This is certainly the path that would have been chosen for her by Jitty, the ghost of her great-great-grandmother's nanny with whom she shares her home, Dahlia House, in Zinnia, Mississippi. Jitty watches over her and bosses and nags her, but Sarah Booth continues to go her own way.
She has eschewed marriage and is trying to establish a private investigation business with her best friend, Tinkie. The aim of the business is to provide enough money to save the family plantation home and support Sarah Booth in the style to which she is accustomed. So, yes, she is a bit non-traditional perhaps, but in one respect she is VERY traditional: She is always called by her double name Sarah Booth, never just Sarah. It's a Southern thang, dontcha know.
Sarah Booth has had some success on the few cases that she's had. She has shown a flair and an instinct for investigating. She will need all of that flair and instinct to bring her latest case to a successful conclusion.
A respected man of the community, a talented blues musician and owner of a blues club in Zinnia, has been brutally murdered in that club late one night. He was stabbed and some money was taken from the till. Later the murder weapon and blood-stained money are found in the motorcycle saddlebags of the club's guitarist and singer, the star attraction who brings the people in. He was also a friend of the man who was killed - a man he had first met when they were both in prison in Michigan.
On the basis of the circumstantial evidence, the guitarist/singer, Scott, is arrested and charged with murder. There is a racial component to the crime since the man who was killed was black and the man charged with the killing is white. This raises specters of past crimes and threatens to tear the little town and the county apart along racial lines.
The murdered man's wife, Ida Mae Keys, is convinced that Scott is not guilty and she hires Sarah Booth to prove it. Sarah Booth and Tinkie soon find that there are multiple complications to the case. The Keyses' grown son, Emanuel, is a highly educated and successful businessman who resented his father because he always felt that he took second place to the music with him. He is also a race warrior who believes in strict separation between black and white.
Two motorcycle-riding thugs who are friends of Scott's are in town and would agree with Emanuel on that point. They spout their racist rhetoric to anyone who will listen. It looks like the two extreme sides may be headed for a clash.
Meanwhile, a psychotic groupie/stalker of Scott's further muddies the waters and makes Sarah Booth's and Tinkie's investigations even more complicated.
The main conundrum, though, is why anyone would have wanted to kill the murdered man. He was highly respected, a man of peace who believed in the power of music to bring people together, but he wasn't a rich man and there doesn't seem to be any obvious reason for wanting him dead. Finally, perhaps two-thirds of the way through the book, Sarah Booth stumbles upon the motive and things begin to come together for the investigators.
As usual in these books, we are treated to some hot and toe-curling sex - at least we are told by Sarah Booth that it was hot and toe-curling. Of course, a lady never reveals the details. This time her partner is Scott, once he is bailed out of jail, of course. Jitty, who is usually quite anxious for Sarah Booth to jump in the sack and get on with producing a Delaney heir, does not approve.
Sarah Booth has another suitor this time, as well; a wealthy Memphis businessman with whom Tinkie and her husband Oscar set her up. He's everything that Jitty would approve of in a suitor, but, in the end, he doesn't ring Sarah Booth's chimes.
Maybe that's because she's really in love with a THIRD man, the local sheriff, Coleman Peters. Unfortunately, Peters is already married and both he and Sarah Booth are much too noble to violate his marriage vows.
Poor Sarah Booth and poor Jitty. It looks like they are never going to get that necessary and fully sanctioned bed partner for Sarah Booth. She may indeed be the end of the line for the Delaneys.
Never mind. There'll always be another mystery to solve. ...more
I've recently been somewhat disappointed by the books that I've read in this series - a series that I have, on the whole, found very enjoyable. So, itI've recently been somewhat disappointed by the books that I've read in this series - a series that I have, on the whole, found very enjoyable. So, it makes me happy to report that I found Rainbow's End to be quite entertaining. Perhaps the summer heat has addled my brain, but I liked it very much.
This book is the thirteenth in the long (and continuing) Inspector Jury series. As in the last book, The Horse You Came In On, we find Jury being persuaded to take a trip to the United States to follow up on potential clues regarding the death of an American who died at Old Sarum in England. The woman was a silversmith from Santa Fe, who created amazing works in silver and turquoise. Her death at first seems to have been from natural causes or an accident, but District Commander Brian Macalvie doesn't think so.
From our previous acquaintance with Macalvie, we KNOW that he's never wrong. His instincts regarding murder are unassailable, and so when he suspects that the supposed natural deaths of three women in three different locations in England are somehow related, Superintendent Jury knows better than to dismiss his theories out of hand.
The investigation reveals that the two other women who died had visited Santa Fe in recent months before their deaths and they could have met the Santa Fe silversmith who died. On this somewhat tenuous lead, Jury finds himself winging his way to New Mexico to follow up on Macalvie's instinctive suspicions.
Meanwhile, back in England, Sgt. Wiggins is in hospital with a mysterious malady related to an electrical experiment and Melrose Plant is assigned to look in on him and to undertake certain inquiries related to the case, as well as a personal inquiry on behalf of his friend, Jury.
While he's laid up, Wiggins is brought books to read, among them Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time in which her detective solves a historical crime while flat on his back in a hospital bed. Inspired, Wiggins decides to try his hand at researching issues related to the three women's deaths in hopes of helping to solve the mystery.
In Santa Fe, Jury seeks out people who knew the dead woman, including the cousin who had gone to England to identify the body. As he talks to these people, he builds an image of a woman who was impractical and rather other-worldly, maybe a bit lazy - totally unlike the 13-year-old sister she left behind.
The sister, Mary Dark Hope, is one of Martha Grimes' typical precocious and quirky children characters. She is completely down-to-earth, practical, and self-sufficient, and, of course, she has a pet. In her case, the pet is a coyote that she raised from a pup. She tells everybody he is part German Shepherd, but nobody is fooled.
The investigation proceeds apace, involving many of our favorite characters from previous books. and slowly all the threads begin to connect, leading to a pretty exciting conclusion.
I was quite taken with Grimes's descriptions of Santa Fe and its crowded restaurants and craft shops along Canyon Road, as well as its people who devote themselves to serving the tourists who flock there. It all sounded spot on to me, an accurate depiction of the Santa Fe and the New Mexico that I remember from visits. She was particularly good at describing the desert and the quality of light that draws so many artists and would-be artists to the area.
All in all, this was a satisfying read. I'm glad to find Grimes on track once more. ...more
This series was recommended to me recently because of my interest in archaeology and my love of reading mystery series. Since this is billed as an arcThis series was recommended to me recently because of my interest in archaeology and my love of reading mystery series. Since this is billed as an archaeological mystery series, it certainly seemed like the perfect fit.
The Xibalba Murders, the first book in the series, seemed especially promising since it is set in Mexico and involves a mystery about a Mayan artifact and archeological dig. I've been fascinated by Mayan history ever since my long ago college days when I did a research paper about that culture for my Cultural Anthropology class. And so, I settled down to read the book with some enthusiasm.
On the whole, I found the book to be mildly entertaining. There were things that I liked about it and things that i didn't like, but considered as a whole, it was okay.
What I liked about it could be summed up as the Mayan aspects. The author names every chapter after a day in the Mayan calendar and she relates the events of that day to the characteristics which the Mayans attributed to the day. That was a clever way of telling the story.
Also, throughout the book, Hamilton gives brief dissertations on various parts of Mayan mythology, especially as it relates to the Hero Twins and their battles with the Lords of Death, rulers of Xibalba, the Mayan underworld. These explanations were to the point and clearly stated, something that can be difficult to accomplish with that very convoluted mythology. They added a lot to the story and made the fascination with the potential of discovering a previously unknown Codex, which is at the center of the plot, more understandable.
The plot itself was pretty interesting. A noted Mexican archeologist is on to what he believes will be a great discovery of a Mayan artifact. For some inexplicable reason (and this was a weakness in the plot), instead of turning to other archeologists for help, he calls his friend Lara McClintoch, an antiques dealer in Toronto, and asks her to come down to help him. McClintoch has just gone though a messy divorce and has had to sell her antiques store and divide the profits with her ex. Now, she is at loose ends and jumps at the chance to go to Mexico, to the little Yucatan town of Merida to aid her friend.
When she gets there, she receives a message from the archaeologist delaying their meeting. Soon the action heats up and dead bodies are appearing around town - the first one discovered by Lara, which in the eyes of the local police, makes her the prime suspect.
Into the mix comes a tall, dark, and handsome British-born archaeologist and his handsome and darker Mexican friend. Lara, of course, is almost immediately besotted with the Brit, which perhaps tells us everything we need to know about her judgment in men since the guy is obviously such a rotter!
Okay, here's a thought. Why do mystery writers with women as their main characters seem to always feel they have to throw in that "tall, dark, and handsome" guy as a romantic interest for the woman? Did Miss Marple ever have a love interest? I don't think so, and yet she managed to solve mysteries just fine. Unlike Lara McClintoch who doesn't really solve the mystery so much as having its solution thrust upon her.
Do you get the idea that i didn't much like Lara? Well, you would be correct in that deduction. She really came across as much too slow-witted to ever be a successful detective. I knew who the culprit(s) was(were) as soon as I met him/her and I found myself wanting to shake Ms. McClintoch as she made bad decisions at every turn. Moreover, Lara often trusts the wrong people and distrusts those she should trust. Not a good recommendation for a "detective."
Well, this was the first in the series and it wasn't uniformly awful, just kind of meh. One of the attractions of reading series is that they often get better after the initial offering, so I think I will probably read a couple more in the series to give it every chance to grow on me. Maybe Lara will wise up a bit by then.
I'm being generous in giving this book three stars. Two-and-a-half would probably be closer to the mark.
I think much of my problem with the book lay wI'm being generous in giving this book three stars. Two-and-a-half would probably be closer to the mark.
I think much of my problem with the book lay with its translation which seemed particularly ungainly and clumsy. So, I guess I'm giving the book the benefit of a doubt in thinking that I might have liked it better if I could have read it in the original Icelandic.
I don't think I would have liked Inspector Erlendur any better though. Really, every time I begin to warm up to the man, he does something stupid and outrageous which just makes me want to punch him in the face. He suddenly gets hostile and angry for no apparent good reason. He is cold toward his adult children who just want him to be a part of their lives. He makes assumptions about people and evidence presented to him on his cases - assumptions which blind him to being able to see clues that are right in front of his face. Frankly, he's not a very good detective and not a very good leader of his team. It's a wonder he ever solves any mystery.
The primary mystery of Arctic Chill involves the death of a child. On a cold January afternoon, the body of a young boy, about 10 years old, is found lying in the garden area outside the apartment building where he lived. The investigation reveals that he has been stabbed. The wound from the murder weapon penetrated his liver and he bled to death. However, he was not stabbed where the body was found. He was attacked elsewhere and apparently tried to make his way home before he collapsed and died.
The murdered boy's mother is Thai and his father Icelandic. The parents are divorced and the boy lived with his mother and older brother. Erlendur immediately assumes that there must have been a racial motive behind the stabbing.
The boy's older brother is a full-blooded Thai, born in Thailand. Following the discovery of his brother's body, the teenage boy cannot be found. A search ensues. Again, Erlendur assumes that he may have been involved in the murder or that he has information about it. Eventually, Erlendur discovers him in a storage building near his mother's flat, but he is in shock and will not speak.
Erlendur and his team interview neighbors, teachers, and classmates of the murdered child, attempting to discover the reason for his death and how it happened. They make little progress.
Meanwhile, Erlendur continues to be preoccupied by another case he is handling. It's a missing person case of the type with which he is obsessed. A woman has disappeared. It is suspected that she may have committed suicide but no trace of her can be found.
In the middle of investigating the murder, Erlendur stumbles upon a possible case of child molestation that happened long ago. The alleged perpetrator was a neighbor of the murdered child and he becomes a potential suspect in the murder case. There is never any satisfactory resolution to this red herring detour.
Yes, there are red herrings and distractions galore here, but it is hard to see how any of them really contribute to the overall plot or the furtherance of the case. In the end, the solution to the mystery is more a matter of the detectives stumbling across the answer rather than actually working it out through deductive reasoning or following the clues.
Again, as it has been throughout this series, Iceland is portrayed as an insular, one might even say closed, society. The population has historically been homogenous to a very high degree. But lately, the country is receiving more immigrants, particularly from Asia, and this is causing stresses and conflicts among some elements of the population. There is considerable exploration of that cultural phenomenon in the book, particularly concerning the trials and barriers faced by the immigrants and the resentment that bubbles up from some of their Icelandic neighbors. It is an old, old story, of course, one that is certainly not unique to Iceland. ...more
Harry Bosch has been with LAPD for twenty-eight years, more than half of those years as a homicide detective. He's now a detective third-grade, whichHarry Bosch has been with LAPD for twenty-eight years, more than half of those years as a homicide detective. He's now a detective third-grade, which means that he is team leader on investigations. In that capacity, he led his two partners in the investigation of the suspicious death of a woman several months ago. The woman's body was discovered by her roommate. She was naked, lying on her bed, posed in a way that would lead one to suppose that she died accidentally during a self-manipulated erotic asphyxiation. Harry has seen a few such deaths and he almost immediately suspects that this one isn't what it appears to be.
In the course of the investigation, it is learned that the woman, who was an aspiring actress, was out with a famous movie director on the night she died. Suspicion falls upon the man. A search warrant is executed and the team goes to search his house, where nothing related to the crime is found. As they are leaving, Harry is standing at the doorway, giving the man a written notification concerning the search and tells him that they are taking nothing away. The man smirkingly admits to Bosch that he killed the woman and tells him he'll never be able to prove it.
And that is all background the the main action in A Darkness More Than Night.
At the time we enter the story, the trial of the killer is beginning and Bosch is part of the prosecutorial team and the chief witness. But it takes the narrative a while to get to that trial.
Instead, it starts by introducing another of Michael Connelly's characters, a former FBI profiler named Terry McCaleb. McCaleb has a new life - a new heart, a new wife, a new daughter who is four months old. He also has a new occupation. He and his partner take out charter fishing groups on his boat. But he misses his old work and when a local policewoman contacts him to take a look at a particularly nasty murder case that she's working, he jumps at the chance to work with her. This does not go down well with McCaleb's wife, Graciela.
Apparently, McCaleb has appeared as the main character in other Connelly books, but I haven't read them, and I was a little disconcerted at having this story told mostly from his viewpoint when I was expecting another Harry Bosch case. Even so, after I made the adjustment in my expectations, I found the tale absorbing, although I never really warmed up much to McCaleb.
Through a set of all-too-convenient (and obviously contrived) circumstances, McCaleb identifies Harry Bosch as the main suspect in the new murder. At the same time, Harry is testifying in the old case and appearing on court television in the high-profile case. Connelly does a workmanlike job of bringing the two plot lines together and eventually connecting them.
Actually, my favorite parts of the book were the courtroom scenes. Connelly has a real flair for writing such scenes, a flair that he exercises fully in his Lincoln Lawyer series. In this book, Bosch's portion of the story takes place, for the most part, in the courtroom, and that is a bonus.
I enjoyed the book throughout, but I found the wrap-up at the end rather ambiguous and confusing. McCaleb goes to Bosch's house and tells him over a beer that Bosch is not his friend anymore. His justification for such a statement - after Bosch had saved his life - was just convoluted and incoherent, not to mention ungrateful. I'm hoping that McCaleb will not be a permanent feature in the Bosch series. ...more
I've read two earlier books in Indriðason 's Inspector Erlendur of Reykjavik series and found them intriguing, if uneven. I was interested to continueI've read two earlier books in Indriðason 's Inspector Erlendur of Reykjavik series and found them intriguing, if uneven. I was interested to continue with the series and see how it develops, but this third book in the series to be translated into English did not show much development at all. Indeed, the recurring characters all seem to have reached a point of stasis.
Inspector Erlendur mopes and dwells upon the dark side of life. He is haunted by the death of his eight-year-old brother in a blizzard when he (Erlendur) was ten. He blames himself and cannot forgive himself and it makes him angry and unable to relate to other people. Including his two grown children.
We again meet his daughter, Eva Lind, who survived the trauma she suffered in the last book when she lost her baby and almost died herself. She is miserable and trying to stay straight and clean of drugs, but it seems to be a losing battle. She is very angry with her father but still seems drawn to him.
Erlendur's two colleagues with whom he works closely seem to have fairly normal lives and try to reach out to Erlendur and offer him some solace, realizing how very alone he is, but he rejects their efforts. Of course.
In this book, Erlendur meets a woman who stirs his interest and he invites her for a meal, but the man is hopeless! He is so socially inept that he cannot even begin to carry on a normal conversation. I see no future in this relationship.
So, no, not a lot of development of characters here.
The story is that a hotel doorman/handyman/Santa has been found murdered in his basement room at the hotel. He was stabbed multiple times and found on his bed with his Santa pants down around his ankles and a condom hanging from his penis. A lover's tryst gone wrong, perhaps?
The investigation reveals that this sad victim had once been a child prodigy, a boy soprano with the voice of an angel. He had even made a couple of records which are now highly prized by collectors of such items. Then his voice changed, his career was over, and he slipped into anonymity.
Inexplicably, Erlendur decides to move into the hotel for the duration of the investigation - maybe because he can't face going home to his lonely apartment. Not that the cold, spare room he is given at the hotel seems any great improvement.
Most of the action of the novel takes place at the hotel as Erlendur and his colleagues investigate hotel staff and guests. This soon gives the novel a decidedly claustrophobic feel - not in a good way at all.
Once again, we meet a collection of Reykjavik's underclass of prostitutes and drug addicts, a world with which Erlendur's daughter is very familiar, but in the end the solution to the mystery is found there at that claustrophobic hotel.
Indriðason's writing shows promise and his characters seem to have plenty of room to grow. I keep hoping that the next book of his that I read will live up to the promise and perhaps begin to show that growth which I expect. It didn't quite happen with this entry. Still, I don't think I'm quite ready to give up on the series yet.
Stanley Hastings is a hoot. This actor/writer/private detective wannabe has failed at just about everything he's tried in life, but with a stay-at-homStanley Hastings is a hoot. This actor/writer/private detective wannabe has failed at just about everything he's tried in life, but with a stay-at-home wife and son to support, he keeps plugging away, trying to earn enough to stay ahead of the debt collectors.
His most steady job is that of sign-up interviewer with an ambulance-chasing law firm. His assignment is to meet with potential clients who have been injured, interview them about what happened, get them to sign a commitment form, and take it all back to his employer, Richard Rosenberg, for a decision about whether he will take the case. His job takes him all over New York, but in this entry to the series, it seems to take him mostly to Harlem, to some very sketchy neighborhoods where he is constantly afraid of being beaten up.
This book was originally published in 1987 and it seems very dated in many ways, in its attitudes but particularly in technology. Stanley carries a beeper by which the law firm pages him when they have someone for him to interview. Then he has to search around for a pay phone where he can call in and find out what the assignment is. By now, that seems almost stone age in its concept.
This time, however, Stanley gets to put his private detective skills to work on behalf of a friend of his wife's. The woman is the mother of one of their son's schoolmates and part of their school carpool. She is in a real mess. She had agreed to help a former friend from college days who had asked her to take her place in an escort service one day because the woman had to go out of town to visit her dying mother. She kept the date for her and ended up being raped and then blackmailed and forced into prostitution. Her pimp has starred her in some porn films, some with her knowledge and some without, and now she is in so deep that she can't get out.
Enter white knight Stanley Hastings.
Stanley goes to see the pimp at his apartment in Harlem and finds him dead with a carving knife stuck in his back. Thinking fast, he calls a friend and has him call the law firm, pretending to be the dead man, and feigning an injury for which he wants the firm to represent him in litigation. The secretary beeps Stanley and sends him to the man's apartment. Now that he has an excuse for being there, he feels he can legitimately call the police and report the death. Smart Stanley!
Unfortunately, the sergeant who is sent to investigate is one who remembers Stanley from a previous case that he had interfered in just a few months before. He is understandably suspicious and Stanley goes high up on his list of possible murder suspects.
After being exhaustively interviewed by the police, Stanley continues to bumble around, trying to help out his client but also trying to clear his name. Those are two ends which may prove mutually exclusive.
Living by his wits and practicing some of his acting skills while dealing with the bad guys, Stanley does manage to extricate himself and his carpool-mate in the end but not before exposing us to many examples of the Hastings quick and inventive humor. Or at least what passes for humor.
That humor is very broad and over-the-top and sometimes downright annoying, but, on the whole, this proved to be a quick and fun read. I think I'll probably be returning to this series from time to time when I want something light that doesn't tax the brain....more
I'm always hesitant to criticize the translation of a book from another language into English. After all, English is not an easy language, and I thinkI'm always hesitant to criticize the translation of a book from another language into English. After all, English is not an easy language, and I think it must be very difficult to convey the meaning of another language into English in a smooth, easy-flowing manner. That being the case, I still must say that I found this particular translation by Ebba Segerberg of Kjell Eriksson's The Cruel Stars of the the Night from Swedish into English to be particularly clunky and stilted. It is likely that it contributed to my overall somewhat negative opinion of the book.
Having recently read and been entertained by Eriksson's first book to be translated into English, The Princess of Burundi, I decided to push ahead with reading this second book in translation (actually the sixth in the series). I found it much less enjoyable.
The plot here was rather confusing. I was well over halfway through the book before I really started to sort it out and make sense of it.
It began with a woman reporting her father, a professor of around seventy years, as missing. We don't really learn too much about the police's response to this report. Presumably, they investigate, but we're given no particulars.
About a month after that disappearance, we have the first of three murders of seventyish men. The other two murders follow within weeks, but at first there doesn't appear to be any connection between the incidents, other than the fact that all three men were bashed on the head with a blunt instrument of some sort. They do not seem to have known each other in life and they all lived quietly and had no obvious enemies.
Meantime, we also get to know more about the woman who had initially reported her father missing - her father who has never turned up. Her name is Laura Hindersten and she seems to be quite crazy. She is obsessed with one of her male co-workers, whom we learn, somewhat belatedly, is married. Laura is determined to have him and vows to get the wife out of the way.
During all this time, the police investigation of the murders is proceeding in a seemingly leisurely fashion. There are no leads and they have little hope of being able to solve the crimes.
Then a former (I think) police official has an epiphany while playing chess. He sees that his opponent is using the strategy from a little known match that only a chess nerd would be familiar with, and, suddenly, he is convinced that the murderer is following the same moves in choosing his victims. He notifies the police of his theory and they take it seriously. It's a weird theory, but the author spends considerable time developing it.
Once again in this book as in the previous one, Inspector Ann Lindell who leads the team at the Uppsala police department's Violent Crimes division seems almost secondary to the story. We learn more about her lonely personal life and are told that she's devoted to her career. Her co-workers are apparently very fond of her and loyal to her, but we don't really know the source of those feelings. Perhaps they were developed in some of the books that have not been translated into English.
In addition to the stilted translation, there are red herrings galore in this book, to the point of their being distracting and ultimately annoying. There are more red herrings than red meat.
The plot develops slowly and methodically. There's nothing wrong with that, but after such a slow buildup, one hopes for a satisfying climax and it just doesn't come. The ending is so ambiguous as to leave us hanging. Is this to be continued in a later book? There's no indication of that, but it would certainly have been good to know exactly what happened to the villain of the piece.
When the woman with whom Richard Jury is engaged in a passionate affair is found dead of a barbiturate overdose in her flat, it seems that Jury's famoWhen the woman with whom Richard Jury is engaged in a passionate affair is found dead of a barbiturate overdose in her flat, it seems that Jury's famously bad luck with women has reached its nadir. Since the death is considered "suspicious," Scotland Yard investigates, and since, because of his relationship with her, Jury is considered a possible suspect, he is suspended from the force. Unable to participate himself, he deploys his friend Melrose Plant to go to the woman's family home in the Lake District and go undercover to find out what he can about their relationships.
The fabulously wealthy Plant impersonates a down-at-heels librarian who hires himself out to the family in order to catalog and organize their library. He is soon discovering all kinds of interesting things about the family.
For one thing, this family seems extraordinarily unlucky. They have suffered four suspicious deaths in a period of five or six years. One was definitely a suicide and the latest one, who is the widow of the suicide, may be also. But the other two deaths were put down as accidents. Melrose suspects something more sinister.
We have most of the usual characters that we've come to care about, but also there are a dismaying number of characters either in or somehow connected to the family and it is hard to keep them all straight. Too, it is hard to get much more than a very passing sense of who they are and what their motives might be.
As usual, we can depend on Grimes giving us charming children characters who are usually much smarter and more accomplished than the adults in their lives. In this instance, we have the teenage son of Jury's dead paramour and an eleven-year-old girl named Millie who has a black cat named Sorcerer. (Yes, we can depend on having a perspicacious animal involved as well.) Grimes clearly has a soft spot for such characters and they are always lovingly drawn.
She also gives us the curmudgeonly patriarch of the family - the one with all the money - who chooses to live in a retirement home rather than with his family, most members of whom he doesn't like much. He does like and value Alex, the paramour's son, and Millie. He has some interesting friends that we get to know at the retirement home, especially one named Lady Cray who plays an important role in the ending, where rough justice is efficiently dispensed.
I do enjoy Grimes' writing. In general, it is very crisp. Her plots flow (seemingly) effortlessly and, based on her output, she seems to have an inexhaustible supply of them.
That being said, I thought this book was just a bit weak. Part of the problem, I think, was the plethora of characters and being unable to really home in on the most important ones. I can usually figure out whodunit from the clues scattered throughout, but I didn't get this one, and even after the denouement, I found it a bit confusing.
Jar City, the first mystery by Icelandic author Arnaldur Indriðason that features Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson of the Reykyavik police, traced the oriJar City, the first mystery by Icelandic author Arnaldur Indriðason that features Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson of the Reykyavik police, traced the origins of a modern-day murder to a heinous crime that occurred some forty years before. The solution to the mystery turned on the idea of Iceland as a very insular society with a shallow genetic pool where most people are at least distantly related.
In this second book in the series, we again get a very cold case - something that occurred during World War II. But was it truly a crime or simply a situation where justice was at last served?
The story begins with the image of a baby gnawing on a human bone. A young medical student had dropped by a children's birthday party to pick up his young brother who was attending. As he sits waiting for the child to be ready to leave, he watches the honoree's younger sister who is gnawing on something that at first appears to be a toy, but, when he gets a closer look, he realizes it is actually a section of a human rib. He alerts the child's mother who asks the baby's brother what he knows about it. He takes them to the place where he picked up the interesting "rock" that he gave his sister to play with, and, there, they find more bones.
The police are called. Inspector Erlendur and his team show up and discover what appears to be a very old burial. They contact an archaeologist who assembles a team and begins to dig to free the bones. It is an excruciatingly slow process, accomplished with small hand tools.
While Erlendur is waiting around at the scene, he receives a cryptic and frantic phone call from his estranged daughter, Eva Lind, asking him to help her, but she hangs up before he can find out where she is. Eva Lind, whom we met in the first novel, is now about seven months pregnant and still a drug addict. She had had a huge fight with her father and left his apartment weeks before and he's had no contact with her since. Now he must try to find her.
Erlendur tracks Eva Lind through some truly awful drug squats with residents that seem barely human. He discovers abused and neglected children along the way and calls social services for them. Finally, on a slim chance, he goes to a maternity home and finds Eva Lind there, passed out and bleeding on the grounds.
She is taken to the hospital, in a coma, and the baby is delivered stillborn. She lingers there between life and death, never waking from the coma, with Erlendur spending as much time as he can by her side.
But back to the old bones. The initial assessment is that they are 60 to 70 years old and Erlendur begins poking into the history of the community where they had been found, trying to find out who might have lived on that site during the period in question. It's a complicated investigation, but, ultimately, he and his team do come up with a name and they uncover a horror.
At this point, the story develops on a parallel course. We learn of the family who lived where the bones were found, two adults and three children, one of them disabled. We also learn, haltingly, of the brutality which the woman and her children endured for years at the hands of the abusive husband and father. Meanwhile, the archaeologists continue their dig and eventually uncover a second set of bones on top of the first. They are the bones of a tiny baby or perhaps fetus.
One of the things pointed out by the story is how little help there was for a brutalized wife during the period when the abuse occurred. When the police actually came to investigate, they would typically ask the woman whether she had been drinking and would end up shaking hands with the husband before they went back to their station. In some places, of course, that attitude hasn't changed much in seventy years.
It's interesting to learn of this dysfunctional family in comparison to Erlendur's own fractured clan. His marriage had been broken when his children were young, and he left them. His ex-wife subsequently refused to allow him any access to the children and poisoned their minds against him, and it seems that Erlendur didn't try very hard to change that. But in this book, we do learn more of his background, his childhood, and why he behaved as he did and why he is such a morose, depressive character.
I thought Indriðason did a very good job of tying all of these disparate plot lines together and showing their interconnectedness. He also used them very skillfully to develop fully realized characters with whom one can begin to empathize. In doing so, he created a very interesting and enjoyable read. ...more
Poke Rafferty is a half Filipino, half Anglo American living in Bangkok. He is a writer, author of a series of travel books with the title Looking forPoke Rafferty is a half Filipino, half Anglo American living in Bangkok. He is a writer, author of a series of travel books with the title Looking for Trouble in... wherever. This is the second book in Timothy Hallinan's series featuring this character.
Poke has put together a family of himself, his fiancee Rose, who is a former go-go dancer, and his newly adopted daughter Miaow, a former street kid. They live together in his apartment and he is looking forward to marrying Rose and living happily ever after.
His idyllic life in interrupted when the cleaning service co-owned by Rose and another woman becomes involved, through no fault of their own, in a counterfeit money scheme. The women find themselves under investigation by local police and a Secret Service Agent who is there because some of the counterfeit money is American. Poke, of course, jumps in to try to help them and gets on the wrong side of the Secret Service Agent.
So far, the plot seemed pretty straightforward, but then it took a radical twist when the long-estranged father whom he thought was dead turns up and contacts Rafferty. Poke has good reason to hate his father and tries to avoid becoming involved with him. But he is kidnapped and brought to meet the man and finds that involvement is impossible to avoid.
The father, Frank Rafferty, has a box full of rubies and fraudulent identity papers, which it turns out that he stole from one of the most dangerous criminals in China. He also has a daughter Ming-Li, Poke's half sister whom he didn't know he had. Soon we learn that that dangerous criminal is hot on Frank's trail. When a man who was a former C.I.A. asset and an acquaintance of Poke's turns up dead, having been gruesomely murdered, it is clear that the gangster will spare no effort to find and recover the items stolen from him and if that means a few more people have to die along the way, he's okay with that.
The plot gets more and more complicated as we learn that the counterfeit money is coming from an operation in North Korea. The repressive regime that runs that country like a Soprano's family business is utterly ruthless in pushing its main export of counterfeit bills.
The Chinese gangster, meanwhile, is determined to get Frank Rafferty and, in pursuit of that aim, he kidnaps Rose, Miaow, and Poke's friend Arthit's wife, Noi. In order to try to recover them, Poke and Arthit, a Bangkok policeman, must use every skill and every asset available to them.
Everything gets very complicated at this point - a little too complicated, actually. Hallinan seems to be straining a bit to keep all of these balls in the air. Perhaps if he could have brought himself to pare down some of the elements, he would have had a better structured, cleaner story.
Still, Hallinan is very good at creating an atmosphere and he brings to life the streets of Bangkok in a very believable way. I've never been there, unfortunately, but he gives us a real feel for the city and its people and especially its climate of frequent rain and hot and humid weather. One can almost feel the rain running down one's back. ...more
Well, in a very, very long series such as Martha Grimes' Richard Jury, I guess we can't expect every entry to be a winner. This one was a bit of a letWell, in a very, very long series such as Martha Grimes' Richard Jury, I guess we can't expect every entry to be a winner. This one was a bit of a letdown, which actually surprised me because it started out as if it would be very entertaining, but somewhere around the two-thirds mark, it seemed to lose its way and the last third really meandered around trying to find that way once again. But it never did. In the end, I would award it two-and-a-half stars, but since I can't do a half-star here, I'll be generous and make it three.
The story briefly is this: Richard Jury is finally getting some well-deserved vacation time. He plans to spend it in the little village of Long Piddleton with his good friend, the fabulously wealthy Melrose Plant. Things look promising as he arrives in town and we get to meet all the Long Piddleton characters we've come to know in earlier books, including the extremely obnoxious and clueless Aunt Agatha, Melrose's aunt, who is suing the local butcher over an accident that she herself caused.
Of course, we strongly suspect from the beginning that Jury's vacation plans will be interrupted by murder and so it happens, in a most unexpected way.
The local antique dealer, Marshall Trueblood, is proudly showing Jury and Plant one of his recent acquisitions, a secretary's desk. When he opens up the desk for their inspection, they discover a dead body.
The dead man is the nephew by marriage of a local extremely wealthy woman. His marriage to the woman's niece was troubled, to say the least, by his constant and varied infidelities. There seems to be a countless number of both local and London women with whom he had affairs. Did one of them kill him? Did the wife finally get fed up and decide to put a permanent end to it all? Would that the solution were that simple!
Jury, of course, as the Scotland Yard man on scene, is expected to head up the investigation, even though that is resented by the local coppers. At length, he makes a connection between the Long Piddleton murder and the murder of a woman called Sadie Diver in London. But is she really Sadie Diver or is she actually the wife of the man who was killed? Is the grieving widow in Long Piddleton actually an imposter? It all gets very complicated and this is where the plot began to lose some steam and some of my interest. It was all so convoluted that I just couldn't keep it straight and I found that even the ending did not really explain things and it left me with more questions than answers. Sigh.
I enjoy this series so much that it's a real disappointment to read an entry where the plot and the characters don't scintillate. Plus, there were things about the writing that annoyed me. For example, the body in the secretary's desk was murdered by being stabbed. There was blood spilled. When Jury went to investigate the place the desk had come from, he found a big bloodstain on the carpet. The removal men who had taken the desk away had evidently never noticed that! Really?
In another place, the writer refers to a cup being "sat" in front of a character. One does not "sat" an object in place - one sets an object in place. I'm sure Martha Grimes knows that, but miscues like that have the capacity to annoy me no end. ...more
After reading Trunk Music, the fifth book in the Harry Bosch series, I was intrigued with the arc that Harry's story seemed to be taking and I couldn'After reading Trunk Music, the fifth book in the Harry Bosch series, I was intrigued with the arc that Harry's story seemed to be taking and I couldn't wait to learn more, so I jumped right into reading number six, Angels Flight.
The title refers to a popular trolley ride, popular both with tourists and with the locals. One late night one of the trolley trains becomes the scene of a crime that will rip Los Angeles apart. A famous civil rights lawyer, who has frequently been successful in suing the city, is shot and killed there. It is believed by the police that the lawyer was the target of the killer, but also dead is a woman, a housekeeper who was on her way home from work.
The lawyer was much hated in the police department and the squad that would normally be assigned to investigate his murder just happens to be the target of his latest suit against the department. That case was to go to trial the following week. It seems very likely that there is a connection. Could a member of the squad have decided to try to forestall the trial by killing the lawyer?
Since there is a conflict of interest with the squad that would normally investigate, Harry Bosch and his team of Kizmin Rider and Jerry Edgar are called in to take over. Because of the sensitivity of the situation, assistance is also requested from the FBI and Agent Lindell whom we remember from Trunk Music is assigned to the case.
Although it seems that the lawyer was the main target, Harry and his team do their due diligence of also investigating the housekeeper's death, but that quickly reaches a dead end (pun intended) and they begin to focus on the lawyer and the upcoming civil suit.
The suit involved the alleged torture of a suspect in the custody of the LAPD. The man was suspected of the abduction of a little girl. While he was in custody, the police allegedly used "enhanced interrogation" techniques, including ramming a pencil into his ear and rupturing his eardrum, to try to get him to confess and tell where the little girl was. But then her body was found, buried on a lot not too far from the suspect's home and he was charged with her murder.
The evidence against him was flimsy and circumstantial at best and the jury was not convinced. He was found not guilty. And after consulting a lawyer and complaining of his treatment while in custody, the suit was filed.
The investigation of the lawyer's murder leads Harry to believe that the key to solving it lies somewhere in that old case and he determines to reopen it, because the murder of the little girl was never solved. The police stopped looking when they arrested their suspect.
Looking at that old case and the evidence that had been amassed by the lawyer shows Harry pretty quickly that, in fact, the suspect in the case WAS innocent. He could not have committed the crime. But as he digs deeper, he encounters a cesspool of pedophilia and abuse of children and he comes to believe that the answer to the question of who killed the child lies much closer to home.
While all of this is happening, Harry's life is falling apart. Again. His one-year-old marriage to Eleanor Wise is dissolving, leaving him both sad and curiously relieved. As ever, he is at odds with his superiors in the department who want nothing more than to put a good face on everything. He's annoying his current partners and he finds himself questioning the motives of an old partner and friend. Just a typical day in the life of Harry Bosch.
Moreover, when he finally solves the mystery at the center of the case - after a few convenient clues tossed his way by a chief in the department and an independent inspector general, both of whom want justice without having their fingerprints on it - he makes one bad decision that almost costs him his life and one that will leave the true resolution of the case forever unknown to the public. Not a particularly satisfying ending for Harry or the reader....more
The bad boy of the LAPD, Hollywood Division, is back on the job in this fifth entry in the Harry Bosch series. We last met Harry in The Last Coyote. HThe bad boy of the LAPD, Hollywood Division, is back on the job in this fifth entry in the Harry Bosch series. We last met Harry in The Last Coyote. He had endured an earthquake that made his house uninhabitable - although he continued to live in it - and he was again under suspicion of having committed grave crimes. After his innocence was proved, he was forced to take leave to recover from stress-related issues. He's now completed that leave and returned to work full time.
He's back at work and with a new and more sympathetic boss, Lieutenant Billets (known, of course, as "Bullets"), but he hasn't had any murder cases. Until now.
It begins with the body of a man, a low level Hollywood film producer, found in the trunk of a Rolls-Royce on the hills above the Hollywood Bowl. He had been shot twice in the head at close range and the murder bore all the signs of a Mafia hit - "trunk music" in the local parlance. Harry and his team of Jerry Edgar and a new detective called Kiz begin working the case and determine that the victim had spent a lot of time in Las Vegas and was a gambler which gives some validation to the idea that his murder might have been related to organized crime.
The organized crime angle is the one they pursue at first, which is a good excuse to send Harry to Las Vegas and give us a glimpse of that glitzy world. Harry follows up leads but begins to feel antsy about it all. He intuits that there is a piece missing from the puzzle, but he can't lay his hands on it.
While in Vegas, he runs into an old girlfriend, Eleanor Wise, the former FBI agent that he had been involved with a few books back. She had gone to prison for crimes related to that case, but now she's out after serving three years, and she's making her way in the world by playing poker. She and Harry are still attracted to each other and basically pick up where they left off.
But back to the case, Harry begins to see a tangle of corruption and collusion involving the police in Vegas and one of the top crime figures in the city, and it seems that his victim back in LA was somehow involved with these figures, but how? What exactly is the connection?
And what about the not so grieving widow? The records of the gated community where she lives show that she was at home on the night that her husband was killed on his way home from Las Vegas, but can those records really be trusted? Her husband was cheating on her in Las Vegas and she seems to have known about it and she appears to be the one who would most benefit from the man's death.
Or would that be the girlfriend, a very young woman who was a dancer at a strip club in Vegas and went by the name of Layla. Harry attempts to locate her but without any success.
Then everything goes pear-shaped when it turns out that there is an FBI undercover operation investigating the same people who are of interest to Harry and the two get all tangled up together. Guess who comes out on the losing end?
Back in Los Angeles, Harry finds he's now the one being investigated and he's been pulled off the case. But when did being removed from a case ever stop Harry from investigating? Solving murders is his calling. It's in his blood and once he's on the case, the only way to really remove him is with a bullet.
This case turns out to be even more complicated than it at first appeared, but we can be sure that, after clearing out all the misdirections, Harry will get his man. Or woman.
It struck me as I was reading that the character of Harry Bosch has evolved and grown. He seems more mature, more responsible in this adventure. Of course, he's never going to resolve his issues with the Internal Affairs Division - the "squints." They are always going to be looking over the shoulder of the bad boy of the LAPD, Hollywood Division.
In the late summer of 2009, D.I. Joe Faraday and his partner, the French anthropologist Gabrielle, are on a birding holiday in the Middle East. It isIn the late summer of 2009, D.I. Joe Faraday and his partner, the French anthropologist Gabrielle, are on a birding holiday in the Middle East. It is one of the happiest times that Faraday can remember.
After a day trip of birding with a young guide, Faraday and Gabrielle are on their way back to their hotel with their guide driving the car. A moment of inattention by the driver leads to a near collision with a big truck and he swerves to avoid the head-on smash. And instead hits a tree. Neither the driver nor Faraday, also in the front seat, had bothered to put on their seat belts. The driver was crushed against the steering wheel and died. Faraday was thrown through the windshield and suffered severe head injuries. Gabrielle, in the back seat and with her seat belt on, suffered only minor injuries.
From that fateful day forward, it seems that Joe Faraday's life is in a downward spiral. He is taken to a hospital which is shortly overwhelmed by those who have been injured in one of Israel's periodic assaults against Gaza. Many of the maimed are children, including a five-year-old girl name Leila. She is severely burned by phosphorus and her survival is in doubt. Gabrielle, spending much of her time at the hospital with Joe, sees the little girl and becomes obsessed with her. She apparently has no family - they may have all been killed in the attack - and Gabrielle wants to become the girl's family.
Eventually, Faraday is cleared to returned to England, but Gabrielle stays on to care for Leila.
Back in England, Faraday is unable to return to work at first, but finally does so. However, he is a changed man and his second-in-command Jimmy Suttle, a detective who was trained by Paul Winter and is still close to him, worries that his boss may no longer be up to the job. That becomes a major concern when an investigation of a house fire discloses four dead bodies, all of whom had been shot and killed before the fire started. Behind the burned house is a recently dug hole that seems to have been hiding something. What? Speculation focuses on a large quantity of cocaine. Faraday and his team are charged with finding the answers.
Meanwhile, Pompey crime lord Bazza Mckenzie, nemesis of the police in general and Faraday in particular, has gone legit - well, mostly anyway. And former D.S. Paul Winter is still working for him but is beginning to have serious second thoughts about the relationship. Although he has been made part of the "family," he is more and more uncomfortable with his role.
McKenzie has ambitions to get into politics. In fact, he has plans to run for mayor of Portsmouth! He's spending his time romancing journalists, trying to publicize himself and his "good works" as a precursor to a mayoral campaign.
But, wait. What about those four dead bodies? What is their connection to McKenzie? What about that big hole behind the house? Who did the presumably large quantity of cocaine that had been buried in the hole belong to? Is it significant that the man who lived in the house was an associate of Bazza McKenzie? And is it significant that that man has now disappeared without a trace, along with the cocaine? All questions that haunt Paul Winter and that impel him to contact Jimmy Suttle for a conversation, possibly aimed at finding a way out of the McKenzie orbit.
All in all, this is a downer of a story, as one of the major characters, Joe Faraday, deteriorates throughout, and as the other major character, Paul Winter, is conflicted and seemingly at a crossroads in his life. By the end of the book, it is still unclear which direction he will take. Meantime, Winter's protege, Sulttle, plays a larger role in this story and seems poised to become a major character when (and if) this series continues.
This book is sort of Phantom of the Opera meets Sherlock Holmes, with the role of Sherlock being played by Arthur Bryant and Dr. Watson by John May. TThis book is sort of Phantom of the Opera meets Sherlock Holmes, with the role of Sherlock being played by Arthur Bryant and Dr. Watson by John May. This was the first in the Bryant and May series featuring the London Police Department's Peculiar Crimes Unit. Some of the crimes here are very peculiar, indeed.
The roots of the mystery are in the World War II period when London is being hit by the Blitz and theater productions are staged with the purpose of keeping the spirits of the populace up. In this instance, the production at the Palace Theatre is a rather risque interpretation of Orpheus in Hades. The theater itself seems to be haunted by a ghostly presence that does not approve and that is attempting to close the show before it opens.
It begins with a dancer in the production being murdered in a particularly cruel way. Her feet are chopped off and thrown away. Two other murders of cast members follow. All are murders that might possibly have been interpreted as accidents, but upon closer scrutiny by members of the PCU are proved to be crimes.
Bryant and May, at this point, are just beginning their careers. They are barely twenty but already display the cranky personalities that they will become well-known for in later years. This is their first case together and we get to be present at the forging of their relationship, a friendship that will last for more than half a century.
Christopher Fowler switches back and forth between the present and the World War II era in the telling of this story, which I found a bit disconcerting at first, but finally I managed to get into the rhythm of the tale. Fowler takes us from the first case of Bryant and May to what appears to be their last.
We find the octogenarian detectives still working at the Peculiar Crimes Unit in the new century. While doing research for his memoirs, Bryant becomes intrigued by some aspect of that old case, the Palace Theatre murders, and begins reinvestigating. In the midst of his inquiries, a bomb explodes at the offices of the PCU one night and the charred remains of an elderly male along with a set of false teeth are discovered. Based on the teeth, the remains are identified as Arthur Bryant.
John May is devastated by the loss of his old friend and determines to find his killer. He discovers his friend's notes of that first case and sees that he was working on them. May comes to believe that the identity of the killer is to be found somewhere in that first case.
This darkly comic and suspenseful novel is an interesting introduction to a new series. The characters of Bryant and May seem a winning combination. Bryant employs unorthodox techniques of investigation based on intuition and on help from spiritualists and others with alternative views of the universe. May represents the logical and dogged nitty gritty police work side of the team. Together they are a formidable investigative duo.
The plot is filled with unexpected twists and with fascinating characters that keep one guessing throughout. The Full Dark House of the Palace Theatre is a creepy place where one would not want to walk alone at night - or even in daytime. It's good that we have the members of the Peculiar Crimes Unit along to keep us safe.