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Archive for the ‘Murder’ Category

Eight years ago Telly Ray Nash took a baseball bat to his father’s head, killing him. True the elder Nash was running after Telly and his younger sister, Sharlah, wielding a knife. True he had just fatally slashed Telly’s mother with that same knife. It was an instance of fight or flight and the two young children had no where to go, so Telly defended himself and his sister the best way he knew how.

The orphans were separated, Telly bouncing around foster homes until Frank and Sandra Duvall took him in and tried to get him ready for adulthood. Sharlah fared somewhat better, finally settling in with Pierce Quincy and Rainie, a retired FBI profiler and a retired police officer, respectively. They want to adopt Sharlah and become a true family, which she is OK with.

Their separate lives converged when Telly was filmed shooting out the security camera in a local convenience store, the site of a double murder. When the police arrive at the Duvall’s looking for Telly, they find Frank and Sandra shot dead. Telly is the likely suspect.

The manhunt for Telly involves profilers, trackers, and multiple police agencies. Of course, all is not what it seems. There are secrets that need to be told in order to identify the murderer.

The action starts in chapter one and continues throughout the book. Right Behind You grabs and keeps your attention. Of course, you are pulling for Sharlah and Telly. The twists and turns keep you guessing. And you’ll absolutely fall in love with Luka, Sharlah’s dog, also a retired police officer.

I read Lisa Gardner’s Crash and Burn and Catch Me. I really liked Crash and Burn. As I said in my review of it, “…Gardner weaves a great story and that is what makes you want to keep reading. Readers will immediately take to the characters. They’ll get caught up in their lives. They’ll want to unravel the mystery.” This holds true for Right Behind You as well.

There is a reason Lisa Gardner is a best selling author and Right Behind You is one of the reasons.

 

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Giambanco’s debut, Blood and Bone, is an awkward but readable mystery. It begins with twelve year old Alice Madison running away from home. Cut to twenty years later, Madison is a homicide detective called to the scene of the brutal murder of Matthew Duncan. A relative newbie to homicide, she is lead on the case which after several days is going nowhere.

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Two ancillary stories which will impact the current include ruthless murderer, John Cameron whose life she saved from a gangland cartel slaying eighteen months earlier and Jerry Linquist who maintains his innocence of the brutal murder of his wife for which he is incarcerated.

The ensemble cast of Madison’s partner, Kevin Brown, medical examiner Dr. Fellman, Crime Scene Investigator Amy Sorenson and District Attorney Sarah Klein. There are several romantic interests as well.

The reason that I said ‘awkward’ in the beginning is because the language used is somewhat awkward, especially when Giambanco refers to people. The use of language wasn’t smooth. It was choppy.  The plot moved slowly in the beginning and picked up as the story progressed. However, there was a leap between the final scenes of the investigation and the conclusion, the ‘who done it’ if you will. Again, that left out clue was the basis for the solution.

Maybe as Giambanco continues to write, the flow to her books will improve. As with many mysteries, while I wouldn’t seek out Blood and Bone, I wouldn’t pass it by either if it crossed my desk.

 

 

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As Detective Inspector John Rebus, retired, talks to his medical examiner girlfriend, Deborah Quant, over dinner in the Caledonian Hotel restaurant, he recalls the murder there, over thirty years ago, of a young woman, Maria Turquand. The killer was never caught. With nothing but time on his hands, Rebus decides to investigate the case, imploring his former coworker, Siobhan Clarke to  bring him the cold case files.

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The day after Rebus chats with police officer, Robert Chatham, who years previously spearheaded a review of the case when new evidence was introduced, said Officer Chatham’s dead body was found washed up on shore, Rebus surmises it has something to do with his cold case.

How this cold case can be made to intersect with Clarke’s new assault and battery case perpetrated against known gangster Darryl Christie, only an experienced mystery writer such as Rankin can achieve.

Rather Be the Devil reunites Rebus with his co-workers, Clarke and Malcolm Fox. In addition, he meets up with his ‘friendly enemies’, Christie and Big Ger Cafferty. I haven’t read any of Rankin’s previous novels, so I was unfamiliar with the history of Rebus and his cohorts. While such knowledge wasn’t necessary to enjoy the book, it would have been nice. In addition, one arc of the story deals with issues surrounding Rebus’ health, which again, I had no familiarity.

The first 50 or so pages of Rather Be the Devil were a little slow, until the story got going. Then it was a reasonably fast read. The characters were well fleshed out, although I kept getting them confused with each other (Christie/Cafferty). The plot was interesting. Apparently Rebus never played by the rules, which he certainly does not in this episode.

While Rather Be the Devil was an enjoyable and satisfying read, I don’t know that I’d run out and start from the first book in the series (this is #21) or even line up to read the next in the series, if/when that is published. I think I’m more of a Peter Robinson/Inspector Banks fan.

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When the wealthy Mrs. Atterby walks into Bertha Cool’s detective agency with her daughter, Mrs. Cunner, to discuss Mrs. Cunner’s wayward husband, Bertha is all ears. Although most detective agencies don’t handle domestic cases, Cool is not above airing someone else’s dirty linen and she’s got just the agent for the case, Donald Lam. Of course, as Lam investigates, he discovers Mr. Cunner is involved in more than just stepping out on his wife…and Lam has the bruises to prove it.

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The Knife Slipped, a long lost manuscript (there seem to be a lot of them cropping up nowadays) in Erle Stanley Gardner’s Cool and Lam series, apparently was supposed to be the second book in the series. I forgot that I had read another book in the series and wasn’t overly impressed.

Bertha Cool is a smart talking, obese broad who pretty much has no scruples. Unfortunately, she is way over the top, so if you’re into the believable, you’d be hard pressed to believe any of this.

Donald Lam appears to fall hard and fast for anything in a skirt. He doesn’t have much brain power, but for a skinny guy seems to take his beatings in stride.

*****SPOILER*****

The plot is totally outdated, as it deals with cheating on police and fireman civil service exams, which is not something I’ve heard much about recently.

Gardner was a prolific pulp mystery writer, but he wasn’t one of the best. He created unique characters for the times, but I can’t say that I really like Bertha Cool or Donald Lam. I wouldn’t go out of my way to read more of the series.

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I’m beginning to get into Nordic mysteries so when I saw Detective Inspector Huss by Helene Tursten (“first in the bestselling Swedish mystery series”) at Northshire Books in Saratoga Springs, NY, I had to do my civic independent bookstore duty and buy the book. It’s always best to start a series at the beginning, no?

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Prominent Goteborg, Sweden businessman Richard von Knecht plunges to his death right in front of his wife and son who were exiting their car. Initially, the fall was considered a “Society Suicide” but no one could fathom why the ever lively, fun loving von Knecht would jump. When medical examiner Yvonne Stridner concludes that it is homicide, not suicide, the Violent Crimes team, composed of Detective Superintendent Swen Andersson, Detective Inspector Irene Huss and a battery of policemen and women, are soon involved. Of course, initially, no motive for murder seems plausible, but as the team digs, things are not what they seemed.

My only Nordic mystery reading experience consists of the dark, brooding mysteries of Arnaldur Indridason’s Inspector Erlendur mysteries, which I love. My viewing experience consists of the excellent The Bron (The Bridge) which is also dark and both the British and Swedish versions of Wallander (of which the former is dark and the latter, not so much). Therefore, I expected a darker than normal book, which is not really what I got.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Detective Inspector Huss and would definitely read the eight or so books in the series, but it wasn’t as compelling as Inspector Erlendur. Huss is approaching 40 and is feeling the uncertainty that goes along with aging. She’s got twin daughters who are going through their growing pains. All of this complicates an already complicated investigation. The secondary characters are interesting in their own right. In television lingo, it is a good ‘ensemble’ cast, which is good because there is an associated Swedish TV series, starring Angela Kovacs who starred in the initial season of Mankell’s Wallander.

There’s enough swift moving action to keep readers interested. Huss runs into a bunch of unsavory characters including Hell’s Angels and friends of von Knecht (just because you’re rich doesn’t mean you can’t be unsavory).

The only thing I found offputting was the sexism exhibited by some of the police team. The book was written in 1998, so maybe it was merely my 2016 mentality, but it didn’t ring true.

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Luisa (Lu) Brant has just started her term as the first female state’s attorney of Howard County, MD after beating her boss in the election. The fact that she is the daughter of a previous, well respected state’s attorney certainly did not hurt her at election time.

It is January 5 and there is a murder that needs attention. Lu decides to try the case herself rather than delegate to a staff member because (a) there are few murders in the county and (b) there are some interesting aspects to the case. The victim is a middle aged women, killed in an apparent burglary. Her new rule is the attorney trying the case must visit the scene of the crime, so off she goes.

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In chapters alternating between the present narrated in third person and Lu’s childhood narrated in first person, Lippman connects the present to the past. Interestingly, the the titles of current chapters are merely dates while those of the past have actual titles such as Oh Brave New World That Has No Trees In It, relevant to the action in the chapter. Additionally the type fonts are different for present and past.

As Wilde Lake (the name of a lake near her home) progresses readers learn about Lu’s life, the loss of her mother soon after her birth, living with her father and her brother, 8 years her senior, the supposedly idyllic life in Columbia, MD, a planned community. Readers will contrast her solitude with her brother’s charm and outgoing character.

But there are dark sides to their lives as well and how those dark sides play into the murder is the meat of Wilde Lake. I will admit that the connection might be somewhat strained, but I enjoyed the journey. I found especially interesting Lu’s recounting her childhood. As I’m writing this, I’m realizing that Wilde Lake is more a character study than a mystery. There is little in the way of police procedural and forensics. It is more about the relationships of the characters. The story of Lu’s past has a more ‘literary’ feel to it than the present day chapters.

I will tell you that I only read (or tried to read) one other Laura Lippman book, Hush, Hush , a Tess Monaghan mystery, and made it through only 100 pages. So the fact that I finished this one and enjoyed it is certainly worth noting.

So, now that I’ve taken you around in circles, I’ll conclude by saying that I did enjoy Wilde Lake and do suggest you read it, not for its mystery but for its character study.

 

 

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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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