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Archive for the ‘England’ Category

Detective Inspector Annie Cabbot gets a case in which a man is found hanging from a tree. There are no signs of a struggle and by all appearances, it is suicide. When she learns that his name is Mark Hardcastle and he directs plays at a local theatre, she pays a visit and learns that Hardcastle has a boyfriend, Laurence Silbert. Silbert is the next stop on her quest for information and when no one answers the doorbell, Annie becomes skeptical. She breaks in and calls Silbert’s name. When still no answer, she and Winsome Jackman begin a search and find Silbert’s beaten body. At this point, Annie’s boss, Detective Superintendent Gervaise, suggests they call Detective Chief Inspector Banks home from his holiday.

Of course, what for all intents and purposes begins to look like a jealous lover’s murder/suicide, to Banks’ imaginative mind there are sinister doings. I won’t spoil the intrigue by describing these sinister doings, though.

I picked up All the Colours of Darkness, written in 2008, at Warwick’s Albert Wisner Public Library’s Friends bookstore and although it’s signed and normally I’d keep it, I think I’m going to re-donate it and let someone else get some reading pleasure. As always, Robinson’s DCI Banks books are great reading. In this particular book he does not deal with a cold case alongside a current one, which he has in many previous books.

There is intrigue, suspense, espionage, action. Of course, there’s Banks’ extensive and variable taste in music, some of which I want to write down. (Has anyone compiled a list of his music, similar to Michael Connelly’s Bosch CD?…actually there is, so click here.)

Other reviews here include: When the Music’s Over, In the Dark Places, Children of the Revolution, and Before the Poison.

I just received my copy of Robinson’s latest book, Sleeping in the Ground, which I can’t wait to read. It will be great vacation reading.

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Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner picks up where her debut novel Missing, Presumed leaves off. Manon Bradshaw has adopted twelve year old Fly (from the previous book) and moved back to Huntingdon, living with her sister and nephew Solly. When a finance executive is stabbed to death in a local park, Fly is charged with the murder, even though there is no evidence to support the charge. He was seen walking in the park at the time of the murder and his footprint was found in some blood on the ground.

Manon, five months pregnant, is obviously beside herself, bemoaning the move which was theoretically to benefit Fly by getting him out of his old neighborhood. Barred from participating in the murder investigation, she of course, does so anyway, along with hired attorney Mark Talbot.

There are a lot (a lot) of twists and turns in Persons Unknown, that’s for sure. And it is a good read. However, it is short on solving the mystery and long on Manon’s bemoaning her fate: single, pregnant, tired, not keeping Fly safe in his new environment…and the list goes on. So, here you have the plusses and minuses. Do what you will.

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Lorna Belling has issues. Her husband, Colin, is abusive. Her only hope is her lover, Greg, who assures her he will divorce his wife and take Lorna away from Colin.

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Meanwhile she’s selling everything of value to squirrel away money to move to Australia where her sister lives, just in case. However, some guy she wants to sell her car to keeps saying he’s transferred the money through Paypal but she hasn’t received it. He keeps threatening to reveal her love affair to her husband if she doesn’t turn over the car or refund his money.

But the worst…looking at one of her beauty parlor customer’s vacation photos, she recognizes Greg and a woman, presumably his wife, lovingly looking into each other’s eyes. Realizing Greg has been lying about everything including his name, Lorna vows to ruin him. While waiting in the bathtub at their hideaway for their next tryst, she’s thinking of revenge. When he walks in she screams her intention. In a fit of rage he bashes her head against the bathtub wall, causing her to become unconscious, blood spurting everywhere. Unsure if Lorna is dead, he flees. Returning later to a corpse, he plots to incriminate Colin.

The question, not answered until the very end, is “Who is the murderer?”

Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, assigned to the case, appoints a young protege, Guy Batchelor, as Senior Investigating Officer partly because it will be good experience for Batchelor and partly because Grace will be in Germany meeting Bruno, the 10 year old son he never knew he had from his first marriage.

Need You Dead by Peter James, the thirteenth Roy Grace book after Love You Dead (all the titles in the series contain the word ‘Dead’), packs a punch. Suspects and red herrings abound and Grace, Batchelor and the investigative team follow the plentiful leads. Grace’s attention alternates between the case and the psychological impact on Bruno of his mother’s suicide and his subsequent move to England. This British police procedural has action, car chases, gory deaths and more. Something for every mystery fan.

Need You Dead is totally satisfying, although I do have one small criticism. The narrative glosses over how the murderer and Lorna originally met.  James ranks with other British mystery writers such as  Ian Rankin, Colin Dexter and Peter Robinson (although Need You Dead has no cold case component to it). If you’re already a Roy Grace fan or you’re looking for a new mystery series, try the Roy Grace series. At 13 books, it won’t be hard to start at the beginning and work your way through them. However, Need You Dead, stands pretty well on its own.

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Edith Hind is missing. There is blood in her apartment and according to Will Carter, her boyfriend, the apartment door was open when he came home. Based on the evidence, the Cambridgeshire police deem it a ‘high risk misper’. Detective Sergeant Manon Bradshaw is on the case along with Detective Inspector Harriet Harper, and Detective Constables Davy Walker, Kim Delaney, Nigel Williams, Colin Brierly and newbie Stuart.

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Everyone knows that the first 72 hours after a crime or abduction are the most critical. Unfortunately, there is little in the way of new evidence as the hours, days and weeks progress. The police are stumped.

When a young man, Taylor Dent, is found murdered and his time of death coincides with Edie’s disappearance, Manon has the feeling that the two incidents are related. However, it’s a stretch…virtually impossible to link the two.

Susie Steiner has scripted an immensely enjoyable, mystifying mystery that is fast paced, thoughtful and well written. Missing, Presumed is a good police procedural with an equal amount of pavement pounding, forensics, hunches and team updates.

The cast of characters is totally believable, each having his/her own crosses to bear. Steiner skillfully addresses Manon’s ‘unattached at age 39’ trauma and her exploits in online dating. In some ways she reminds me of a younger version of divorced Detective Inspector Hazel Micallef in Inger Ash Wolfe’s Canadian mysteries. The fact that these detectives are ‘human’ gives the story a sense of reality.

I wouldn’t be upset if a follow up to Missing, Presumed is published one of these days. I’d like to follow this group of policemen and women for a while and watch them change and adapt.

If you’re in the mood for something a little different, Missing, Presumed is worthwhile.

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Former police officer Carol Jordan is pulled over for drunk driving, despite being on a deserted country road, less than a mile from her house. Having no one else to bail her out, she calls Tony Hill, psychologist, friend, once very close friend. Driving her home, he decides an intervention is needed, as many of Jordan’s former colleagues are concerned about her drinking. He indicates that he’s staying the night, and to make sure she doesn’t take another drink, he empties her cabinets without even asking.

Simultaneous to this incident, John Brandon and several other high ranking officials have decided that an overriding Murder Investigating Team is needed, covering several precincts which don’t have much expertise in investigating murders. And who better to lead the charge than Jordan. However, that means doing something about her drunk driving arrest. Jordan’s choice is essentially accept the new position, come out of retirement and get her arrest expunged or face the consequences of losing her license. What choices is there, really?SplinterTheSilence

Jordan recruits her select team, many of whom have worked for her before, such as Stacey Chen (master at the computer), Paula McIntyre (interviewer extraordinaire) and Tony. She and Tony also decide the team needs something to whet their teeth and suggests they look at the recent apparent suicide of an outspoken feminist who died of carbon monoxide poisoning in her garage. Beside her was a book a poetry. Something just doesn’t feel right to Tony and Carol has learned to trust Tony’s instincts.

Despite the fact that this is an ongoing series and I hadn’t read any of the previous books, Splinter the Silence was totally enjoyable. You know that I like mysteries where the characters have a life and tend to grow over the course of the series and you can feel that in Splinter the Silence.

There’s certainly death in this book but it’s not gruesome and it’s not the point of the story, which is catching the killer. And of course in this day and age, computers are a main mechanism in identifying and locating people. The ending is both happy and sad (hey, that’s life). There are enough twists and turns to satisfy all mystery readers.

I like Val McDermid’s books and Splinter the Silence is no exception.

 

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InTheDarkPlacesPeter Robinson’s Inspector Banks series never fails to please and In the Dark Places is no exception. Two events form the basis for this exciting, past paced novel. Financial wiz-kid turned ‘weekend farmer’ John Beddoes has just come home from a Mexico vacation to find his expensive tractor stolen. There seems to have been a rash of robberies in the area; farm equipment, farm animals, etc. Simultaneous to this, injured war veteran Terry Gilchrist is out walking his dog Peaches by an abandoned airfield when she scoots under the chain link fence and bounds into the hangar. No amount of whistling and calling will bring her back so Gilchrist is forced to find the hole in the fence, crawl through and search for Peaches. What he finds in addition is something that looks like blood. So he calls the police. Two days later when a lorry carrying stillborn sheep destined for incineration drives over a cliff and human remains are found in the cargo, there is no doubt that the crimes are related.

Banks, returning from a vacation of his own in Umbria with the lovely Oriana, and crew get involved in both crimes. When it turns out to be human blood in the hangar, now it’s murder. In the Dark Places probes the meat slaughtering industry, especially the unlicensed abattoirs that might sell to local restaurants. It will clearly stop your digestive juices from flowing and possibly make you consider becoming a vegetarian.

The Banks team are all familiar characters and it’s almost as if you can visualize them…maybe you can if you watch the BBC series on Mystery. They have have distinct personalities. There is a little love interest with Winsome and there’s always the push and pull between Annie Cabbot and Banks, which is much different than in the TV series. There’s not much going on with Banks’ family, his son and daughter, only honorable mention, so to speak, although other books have concentrated more on them. And there are no cold cases in this story, while there have been in the past. Music always plays a role in an Inspector Banks book and true to form, it does in this as well.

In the Dark Places is an all around good read. A fine continuation of a fine series.

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DarknessDarknessWell, it seems like I’ve just become a fan of British mysteries. Not the Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes variety. I like some of the modern mystery writers like Peter Robinson and now John Harvey. Unfortunately, I’ve started at the end because Darkness, Darkness is the last book in the Charlie Resnick series.

In 2014, Jenny Hardwick’s body has been found under a porch foundation. She had disappeared in November 1984, in the midst of the Coal Miners’ Strike in Great Britain. While she was vocally pro-strike, her husband Barry, a miner, was anti to the point of working during the strike…a scab. While back then the reason for Jenny’s disappearance was uncertain, it was assumed she ran off with a man to start a new life, leaving Barry and her three children behind. The investigation at the time led to no conclusions.

With the reappearance of Jenny’s body, the case needs to be reopened. Resnick, who was redundant, but came back to the police on a part time basis, is asked to help Catherine Njoroge, a young, very Black detective with the investigation (several strikes against her). Don’t make anything big out of it. No one wants to bring up police issues from the strike.

Knowing very little about the Coal Miners’ Strike did not, in any way, detract from this book. But Harvey does supply a bibliography for those interested in learning more about it. Not knowing the back story also did not detract from it. Darkness, Darkness flips back and forth between Jenny’s life leading up to her disappearance and the investigation of her murder.  It also flips between Resnick’s current and immediate past lives, the flipping being somewhat abrupt but not confusingly so.

In some ways, Resnick reminds me of Peter Robinson’s Inspector Alan Banks, possibly because they both have lives outside of the police force, they both like music, they both plod along until they get to the answer. In addition, many of Robinson’s stories are cold cases, which apparently I like….a lot!!!! (Yes, I did watch Cold Case when it was on TV.)

Begun in 1988, the Resnick series has 12 novels, 16 short stories and two television adaptations (you bet I’m going to try and find the TV adaptations). While I’m not going to go back to the beginning (you’d understand why if you saw my library reserve list), I will keep an eye out for more John Harvey mysteries. I’m suggesting you do the same.

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Vertigo42There’s comfort food such as chicken soup when you’re feeling ill or hot apple pie with ice cream when you’re sad or hot chocolate on a cold night. What about the concept of a comfort book? Sort of like a best friend who you may see once every two or three years, but every time you meet it feels like yesterday. So, what about a comfort book?  It’s been four years since Martha Grimes wrote her last Richard Jury mystery, The Black Cat, but now we have a new one, Vertigo 42 and it’s like old friends coming back to visit. The old crew is back.

Like all Jury mysteries, it contains dogs, children, and his friends Carole-anne Palutski, Melrose Plant, Marshall Trueblood, Vivian Rivington and Diane Demorney, as well as Plant’s aunt Agatha. They seem to have been relegated to the backseat though, having much smaller roles than I remember in previous books. However, Jury’s Sergeant Wiggins seems a little smarter than he did four years ago.

Twenty two years ago a young girl was attending a party, fell into an empty in-ground swimming pool and died. Seventeen years ago, the hostess of the above party fell down a flight of stairs and died. Presently, a young woman fell out of a tower and died. Are all of these incidents related? Even though Superintendent Jury is on vacation, he gets involved in the investigation.

As are all Richard Jury books, Vertigo 42 is a satisfying read. The title is taken from a bar atop a building in London, a slight deviation from the pub-originated titles of the previous books, but still somewhat related.

I will say that the story was a little obtuse, hard to follow the connection at times. Also, in previous books Jury interacted with young children and dogs, whereas this book merely talks about them. I miss that. There was a certain satisfaction that came from these interactions. It put a smile on my face.

One thing I found fascinating (which I don’t remember thinking about before) was that a female author has created a male character that notices things a woman would notice. Grimes’ description of clothing and rooms, wallpaper, furniture is certainly not how this man would describe them. I didn’t mind this…I just noticed it.

Don’t get me wrong. I really liked Vertigo 42 and am still a Richard Jury fan, but something just seemed absent from this outing.

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