**spoiler alert** I really enjoyed this book. It didn't hurt that it had one of the most beautiful opening paragraphs I can ever remember reading and**spoiler alert** I really enjoyed this book. It didn't hurt that it had one of the most beautiful opening paragraphs I can ever remember reading and some of the loveliest, most descriptive prose I've encountered in a long time. In fact, I was so enamored with the quality of the writing that I forgot to be irritated with the fact that it was written in first person, which is normally something I dislike.
The mystery itself begins interestingly enough: a little girl is found murdered, her body laid out on a sacrificial altar at an archaeological dig in Ireland. Turns out, she's the daughter of a local man who's currently protesting the construction of a major highway that's supposed to cut right through their town, Knocknaree, and the dig site. So the pool of potential suspects is fairly wide.
The twist, as it turns out, is the fact that one of the lead detectives, Rob Ryan, grew up in Knocknaree and was involved in the town's biggest mystery when he was 12 years old: the disappearance of his two childhood friends in the woods next to the town. They have never been found in twenty years and Rob (or Adam, as he was called as a child) can't remember a thing about it. Of course, working on a child murder in the same town where his friends went missing is uncomfortable, and the more time he spends in the town, the more he begins to remember of that last day when he was 12.
The plot, overall, is pretty tightly woven, in my opinion. The author does a good job introducing her characters and various suspects and motives. At one point, you think her father did it, at another, you think it's one of his enemies. And at the same time, she manages to mete out details of her main characters, making them feel more like real, fleshed out people, especially when their dirty little secrets are revealed.
The two biggest weaknesses in the book are: (1) the destruction of the partnership between Rob and his partner, Cassie and (2) the resolution of the murder case. In the first one, French goes through a lot of trouble to establish Rob and Cassie's relationship and to prove that men and women can truly be 'just friends,' then ruins it by having them sleep together. This, of course, destroys the partnership, mostly due to Rob's insecuritites. This disappointed me, since up until then, their interaction had been fun and sparkling. As for the second one, all I can say is, really? I won't reveal who the bad guy is, but suffice it to say, I wanted to roll my eyes. The motive was also a little weak as well.
I had been told by a couple of people that the ending (not so much the solution to the case, but what happens after) was anti-climactic. I disagree. I think it's realistic. Despite the fact that throughout the book, we see glimpses into Rob's memory regarding the day his friends vanished and we're rooting for a resolution, it doesn't happen. Turns out, there's no connection between the cases and the mystery is destined to remain unsolved. Unsatisfying in a way, sure, but refreshing, too, since so many times in real life, we never get the answers we're looking for.
All in all, a great first novel by Tana French....more
**spoiler alert** This latest in the Inspector Lynley series was a real treat. After what, to me, felt like forever since the last installment, Carele**spoiler alert** This latest in the Inspector Lynley series was a real treat. After what, to me, felt like forever since the last installment, Careless in Red, I was really looking forward to this one.
When we last saw Tommy Lynley, he was still reeling from his wife's murder, taking a long walk along the coast to try to work through his grief. At the beginning of this book, we discover that he's back in London, laying low in his home as he tries to decide where to go from here. He still mourns Helen immensely, but he's not quite as fragile as he was, and glimpses of the old Tommy can be seen. He's not quite as shattered, and we get the feeling that he'll be okay.
However, despite the fact that he's back, he's really rather a supporting character in the book. The main character is the new Acting Detective Superintendent, Isabelle Ardery. Ambitious and hard-edged, she comes into the Met looking to gain the job permanently and immediately alienates most of the detectives under her command. She realizes that their loyalty lies with Lynley and, hoping that his endorsement will help her become a permanent fixture, she seeks him out, convincing him to return to the Met to work on the latest case: the murder of a young woman in a cemetery. Of course, we also find out that Isabelle harbors a potentially career-damaging secret, which Tommy eventually susses out and, disappointingly, keeps to himself. (I never really warmed to Ardery in 689 pages.)
The plot of this novel is one of Elizabeth George's best, in my opinion. At first it seems like two stories in one, but anyone who knows George's work knows that eventually, the two seemingly divergent storylines will merge. In this case, the two stories involve the brutal murder of a toddler by three young boys twenty years before and the recent murder of a young woman named Jemima Hastings.
George manages to juggle both a complex plot and myriad characters with her usual aplomb. Her supporting characters are fleshed out and real, and despite the fact that for the first time in 15 Inspector Lynley novels I was able to figure out "whodunit" before the big reveal (I also guessed how the two storylines fit together), I found the whole thing riveting. Once again, George has proven why she is at the top of her genre.
The other familiar characters also get their time in the sun. George deftly manages to include a plausible reason for the appearance of Simon and Deborah St. James, Tommy's closest friends. As for his former partner, Barbara Havers, she struggles to adjust to life under the authority of Isabelle Ardery, who in no uncertain terms tells Barbara she needs to improve her image if she wants to continue at the Met, leading to a couple comical scenes involving a deep discussion about fashion and a frenzied shopping spree with her eight-year-old neighbor, Hadiyyah.
The book ends with both Tommy and Barbara at a personal crossroads: Tommy having just started an affair with his superior officer and Barbara discovering that her neighbor's absentee wife has finally returned, throwing a spanner in their budding friendship.
If I have a beef with the novel - with any of George's novels - it's the way she seems to go out of her way to include at least one annoying American in each book, even in passing. As an American author, it strikes me as odd that she would constantly pick on Americans in her book. In this installment, it's a group of American tourists who accidentally hit one of the wild ponies with their car. But this is a small annoyance and in no way affects my overall enjoyment.
**spoiler alert** Gretchen Lowell is back. And so is her obsession, Det. Archie Sheridan.
Sheridan had been her last victim. Well, until now. Turns out**spoiler alert** Gretchen Lowell is back. And so is her obsession, Det. Archie Sheridan.
Sheridan had been her last victim. Well, until now. Turns out, Gretchen, while being transferred to another facility, escapes and kills a few more people along the way.
The codependent relationship Archie and Gretchen have is really rather disturbing. Archie needs her like he needs all the pills he takes. Gretchen, apparently, needs him too. It's a sick, twisted scenario made even more disturbing by what Archie does after Gretchen escapes.
He knows she'll come after him and he also knows he's dying (all the pills are destroying his liver), so feeling he has nothing to lose, he lets her come for him in order to try to trap her.
Of course, along the way, it turns out that he had had a sexual relationship with her before he'd discovered she was a murderer and that relationship continues after he lets Gretchen take him to a remote hideaway in the mountains. This part rather sickened me a little--the fact that he can't even have sex with his (ex-) wife without thinking about Gretchen. Ick.
Then there's journalist Susan Ward--annoyingly earnest Susan with the turquoise hair and flower power mother who also happens to nurture a crush for poor, fucked up Archie Sheridan. I have not, in two books, warmed to this character. I find her utterly devoid of anything to root for. And just like in the first book, the Big Story she's working on manages to be weaved into the main plot.
The most dissatisfying part of this book for me was the ending. Just when you think Gretchen is going to get hers...well, you can guess. This annoyed me because while I like series with continuing characters, it felt to me that the author deliberately left it the way she did just so she could write a third book.
Still, there was enough dark suspense to make it interesting and that's why I gave it three stars.
Not a bad read, but not as good as the first one in the series, Heartsick....more
This is the second in a series of Constable Ben Cooper novels and my affinity for these books has been pr**spoiler alert** Okay, so I loved this book.
This is the second in a series of Constable Ben Cooper novels and my affinity for these books has been previously well-documented. However, since I started reading the series at book three, I was always a little confused about what DS Diane Fry was holding over Cooper's head. Which, of course, was finally revealed in this book.
Turns out, Cooper's inherent sense of loyalty to his family, friends, and colleagues blows up in his face. His partner, DC Todd Weenink, confides in him that he tampered with evidence in a burglary case. Add to that the fact that Cooper inadvertently comes across a piece of evidence linking Weenink to their current case (and doesn't share it), and Cooper is in potentially very hot and dangerous water.
The case is an interesting one. A young woman is found dead in the center of a Stonehenge-like set of stones known locally as the Nine Virgins (thus the title of the book). Of course, there's more to the case than meets the eye because there was also a previous victim (two, really, as it turns out). There is also a cast of interesting, real, and tragic characters that help flesh out the story, including two nearly codependent Peak Park Rangers, a womanizing police detective, a couple of vagabonds living in a decrepit van, and a desperate farmer on the verge of losing everything.
The result of the police investigation is unexpected; again, things aren't ever what they seem. But the meat of the story is the background of the two leads: DC Cooper and (Acting) DS Fry. For instance, we learn more about Cooper's almost love-hate relationship with his dad and the pressure he still feels to live up to his father's standards even after Joe Cooper's death. We also learn that Fry had had an abortion as a result of a rape-induced pregnancy. Also, the fact that she is searching for her sister is introduced.
The best part to me is the tenuous relationship between Cooper and Fry. It's very contentious, very tense, very reluctant. Cooper wants to befriend her, but he wants to hate her, too. After all, he still resents her a little for getting the promotion he'd hoped to get. Fry, on the other hand, is being driven crazy by her need to understand Cooper. She keeps finding herself asking, "What would Cooper do?" and she hates it. It's no secret their methods are completely different, as are their personalities. But they still tend to complement each other and get the job done.
Having read all the subsequent books (well, the ones available in the US, at least), it was great to be able to put some of the stuff that happens in them between Cooper & Fry in its proper context.
I very much enjoyed this book. Can't wait for the latest book to come to the States....more
I started reading this series at Book Three, though I didn't realize it was a series at the time. I have since read all the way through Book Seven, buI started reading this series at Book Three, though I didn't realize it was a series at the time. I have since read all the way through Book Seven, but had not read Book One or Two until now.
It was interesting to see how the whole series started since I have always been a little at a loss as to why there is such animosity between Cooper and Fry. (Although, frankly, it isn't difficult to see what there is to dislike about Fry. She's a bitch.) It also showed a different side of Cooper, who has been so solid and nice in all the books I've read. He's rarely shown a temper or any of the other extremes of human emotion. He's been even-keeled and dependable and okay, a little prone to fancy and to following his instincts regardless of procedure. But in this book, he runs the gamut of emotions: pettiness, anger, jealousy, despair, pride, self-loathing. He even gets blind drunk, which he hasn't done is subsequent books. I liked seeing that side of Cooper (although I love his character anyway) because it shows him as being "one of us."
As for the plot, well...that was decent, too. A fifteen-year-old girl is found murdered. DC Cooper and DC Fry (who's just been transferred to Edendale from the city) are teamed up to work the case. Each one finds the other a threat and an obstacle to their chance at being promoted to Detective Sergeant. They constantly try to one-up each other (Cooper's better at squash, Fry's better at martial arts) and each finds the other's methods irritating. There seems to be an underlying current of attraction there, though, especially on Fry's part, which she finds maddening (this also rears its ugly head in the sixth and seventh books of the series, when Cooper gets a girlfriend and Diane Fry seems jealous). Fry can't get close to anyone and when she tries to make nice with Cooper, his own petty jealousy gets in the way.
As for the murder inquiry, it's rather standard stuff. Lots of potential suspects, a couple red herrings, dirty family secrets, etc. The actual murderer turns out to be a little surprising, though, even if it does seem a little far-fetched.
Entertaining story, but what I liked most about it was the backstory between Cooper and Fry that I had been missing by having not read ths first book until now. A lot of gaps have been filled for me....more
**spoiler alert** The main problem I had with this book was the payoff. It was too far-fetched and stretched credulity. Normally, this would result in**spoiler alert** The main problem I had with this book was the payoff. It was too far-fetched and stretched credulity. Normally, this would result in a one or two star rating, but I gave it three stars because I simply love DC Cooper.
The story starts out with two separate crimes: (1) a woman (Rose Shepherd) is found dead in her home, shot twice through her bedroom window by a sniper and (2) a mother (Lindsay Mullen) and her two children die in a house fire.
DC Cooper is investigating the first one, DS Fry the second one. Of course, Cooper feels empathy for the victim, as always. What's surprising is the fact the DS Fry seems to feel some for the fire victims as well, which rarely happens. She also feels for the surviving child, a young girl named Luanne, who turns out to be adopted. DS Fry, you see, grew up in foster care and can relate to being unwanted by her real parents. (Sob.)
The death Cooper is investigating, that of Rose Shepherd, is more complicated. The woman was a recluse and finding any clues at all about her life has proven difficult. All he has to go on are a very few eyewitness accounts of people who'd actually met her and the fact that she visited a nearby town, Matlock Bath, a few days before she was murdered.
Diane Fry spends 3/4 of the book convinced the husband torched his house and killed his own family, refusing to see any other option (as usual). Cooper, on the other hand, takes his time before coming to a conclusion. He's more patient and more willing to see the bigger picture than Fry.
As it turns out, the two crimes are related, albeit tangentially. This, however, is the weakness of the book. Turns out Rose Shepherd brokered the illegal adoption of baby Luanne, but that ultimately had nothing to do with why the Mullen family was killed. It really was just a coincidence. There was also a mentally ill brother, a Bulgarian police detective, and a subplot/red herring involving Bulgarian organized crime and baby smuggling. Like I said, far-fetched, esp. for a rural area of England, the Peak District.
What saved the book for me, ultimately, was the personal stuff. DC Cooper has a new girlfriend, Liz Petty, who is a Scenes of Crime Officer (think CSI), which makes me happier than what is healthy, I'm sure. I don't know why I should care, really, but I do. He's also forced by his brother, Matt, to confront the implications of their mother's schizophrenia, which proves difficult for him.
Oh, and DS Fry? She's human after all, since she seems to develop a sort of crush on the Bulgarian police detective that comes to England to lend a hand on the Rose Shepherd case. It's doomed to fail, of course, but it at least shows she's not as cold-hearted as she likes everyone to think she is.
For me, the only real reason I read these books is because I simply adore the character of Det. Constable Ben Cooper. IA good, but not a great, book.
For me, the only real reason I read these books is because I simply adore the character of Det. Constable Ben Cooper. I don't know, maybe I'm just a sucker for small town English boys who like history, are polite to a fault, have a keen sense of justice, recognize their own shortcomings, and have a cat.
If I was going to have an imaginary boyfriend, Ben Cooper would be it.
That being said, the overall story is a pretty good mystery, although, for once, I guessed who the bad guy was before I reached the end, which never happens.
The book begins with Ben Cooper trying to identify some skeletal remains found in the woods and Det. Sergeant Diane Fry (a completely unlikeable and unsympathetic character, in my opinion) reading the transcript of a mysterious phone call describing a potential future murder.
Of course, as it turns out, the two cases merge later in the book. Fry has personal issues (she had a terrible childhood, boo-friggin'-hoo) that are exacerbated by the case, Cooper's frustrated by his inability to break through to Diane, and the reader gets to learn more about cremation than they ever really wanted to.
Oh, and throw in the usual head-butting between Cooper and Fry, a little comic relief from Det. Constable Gavin Murfin, and a rather lame red herring for good measure, and that about wraps it up.
All in all, Booth's Cooper/Fry series is enjoyable, even if the plots are rather implausible at times. This installment was no exception to that. Although, Booth's little details about the local geography are interesting and make me wish I could go there myself, if the places really exist.
I have to admit, though, that I tend to skim past the parts that center around Diane Fry since I dislike her so much. Which of course means about half of each of the books. I keep hoping she'll become less irritating with each subsequent book, but it hasn't happened yet.
**spoiler alert** Thomas Lynley, mired deeply in his grief, comes across the body of a young man at the bottom of a cliff during his hike along the So**spoiler alert** Thomas Lynley, mired deeply in his grief, comes across the body of a young man at the bottom of a cliff during his hike along the South-West Coastal Trail. Soon enough, he gets involved in the investigation into the boy's death, which, of course, has been determined to be a murder.
Enter Ben and Kerra and Daidre and Santo and Dellen and Aldara and Jago and Selevan and Madlyn and Max and Lew and Cadan and Bea and Ray and Pete and Alan and Will and Tammy and yes, Sergeant Havers, too.
The biggest problem I found with this book is, as you may have guessed, there are too many characters. Not all of them are necessary to the plot and many of them are simply there to help Tommy find his way back to his life. To me, Elizabeth George was trying to do too many things at once.
The story was good enough - a young man killed, but not for the reason you think, with suspects aplenty. Who did it? Was it the scorned girlfriend? Her dad? The boy's dad? His sister? The young man who had a thing for the boy's girlfriend? They all had a reason to kill him, of course.
The local Inspector is a hard woman (why are all female cops borderline masculine, huh?) with personal issues that she allows to cloud her judgment. She's in charge and wants things done her way or no way at all. She forces Lynley to become involved in the investigation even though he tries to explain he's not a cop, not anymore at least. He's given it up. She, of course, wants none of it, because she plans to use him to get close to the woman she considers the prime suspect.
In the end, the killer is revealed, but there is no real justice. Tommy is still trying to find a reason to go on, but there are hopeful signs of life. He promises Havers he'll make his way back to London after he's finished his journey up the Cornish coast.
When I saw this book at the store, I was so excited. I had been dying to see what happened to Tommy after the deaths of his wife and son. And while it was great to "see" Tommy again and heartwrenching to discover what he's been going through, the book failed to reach my expectations.
However, to be fair to Ms. George, those expectations were exceedingly high and probably unattainable anyway.
A good book, not a great one, but I still can't wait for the next installment of this terrific series....more