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Archive for the ‘Mysteries’ Category

Darren Mathews has been suspended as a Texas Ranger pending the results of an inquiry regarding his allegedly lying to a grand jury. Yet his FBI friend Greg Heglund, knowing that his interest would be piqued by it, told him of two murders in a small Texas town, the first a Black man from Chicago and second a local white girl. The local sheriff was making the former into a robbery/death and the latter into a domestic dispute of some sort. Knowing however, that the Aryan Brotherhood has a strong hold in the town, made for curiosity.

Mathews, despite having to turn in his badge, figures out he has about a day to drive, take a look and return. What he finds reeks of something other than a robbery gone awry. It is a town where everyone knows everyone else and everyone else’s business, where half the town is related to the other half, regardless of skin color and where secrets abound. Being a Black man nosing around, regardless of his law enforcement status, can be dangerous and even deadly.

I’d never read Attica Locke before, despite her book Black Water Rising being nominated for an Edgar Award. I’m sorry I waited so long. Bluebird, Bluebird is filled with musical references, something I love. It’s got colorful characters, both Black and white, many descendants of either slaves or slave owners…sometimes both. Geneva is the Black woman who, having experienced heartache, still mother’s everyone. Wally is the landed gentry whose family homestead dates back to the 1800s and who thinks he runs the town. (He might.)

There is the usual repartee between the rogue cop (Mathews) and his boss, the unheeded warnings and the rebukes. There is the credit starved FBI friend. There is the romance gone south. There’s drugs and beatings and racial tension of the south. In other words, all the ingredients of a good mystery. Bluebird, Bluebird, exceeding my high expectations.

 

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Kate Waters, a reporter, needs a good story. In this online world, this seasoned reporter is relegated to editing other reporters’ stories. The laurels of her previous great story wore off years ago.

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Angela Irving wants to know what happened to her newborn daughter. Leaving her in her crib in her hospital room after visiting hours and going off to shower, she returned to find the bassinet empty. That was 1975.

Emma Massingham????? is afraid the police will find out what she did and arrest her.

So, when a newborn baby’s bones are found under an urn on a concrete patio that is being demolished, everyone has an interest. Forensics determines that the bones are around 40 years old but the detritus around the body suggest it was buried 10 years later. Where could it have been for those 10 years?

The Child by Fiona Barton, author of The Widow (like those 2 word titles?) is a good read. It’s got an interesting premise. It’s populated with good, solid characters and it keeps the action flowing. Kate Waters also plays a role in The Widow and she’s a good character to build a series around. She’s the female equivalent of Bruce DeSilva’s Liam Mulligan, a reporter lamenting the fate of the newspaper industry, hard driving and undeterred.

If you want a good mystery that will keep you guessing, The Child is a good place to start.

 

 

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Celine, a woman who grew up privileged, is a sixty eight year old part time artist and part time private detective, taking mostly non-paying, “lost cause” cases in which she reunites separated families. She lives in Brooklyn with her second husband, Peter, who assists. He is very calm, very organized as opposed to her more emotional demeanor.

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Gabriella, a graduate of Celine’s alma mater, Sarah Lawrence college, came upon her name in an alumni periodical. Her father, a well known photographer, went to the Western U.S. for a photo shoot and disappeared when she was very young. He was presumed dead, when blood stains were discovered near the car he abandoned in a wooded area. However, Gabriella never had full closure and wants Celine to investigate.

Celine becomes intrigued and, of course, takes the case. Needing to travel to the Western U.S., she borrows her son’s mobile home and she and Peter take to the road.

Ostensibly a mystery, Celine is more a relationship story about Peter and Celine, their personalities, their idiosyncrasies, their love for each other. While there is some mystery and some danger, it’s her personality and her life story that are the draws in this interesting, well written, more literary novel.

I liked Celine so much, I’m contemplating reading Heller’s other novels, The Dog Stars and The Painter. I highly recommend Celine to everyone.

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LAPD Detective Renee Ballard was relegated to the ‘late show’, the midnight to 8 AM shift, after her allegation of sexual harassment against her supervisor, Lieutenant Olivas, was dismissed. Her former partner, Ken Chastain, did not back her up, although he saw the entire episode.
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On patrol with her new partner, Jenkins, one night they answer a robbery call in which an elderly woman fears that her credit card was stolen. Additionally they are called to the scenes of the brutal beating of a transgender prostitute and to a multiple shooting at a local club. Wile Jenkins is satisfied doing his eight hours and going home to his sick wife, Ballard is eager to perform real detective work and volunteers to officially pursue the robbery, while deciding to  investigate the other incidents on the sly, in the case of the shooting against Olivas’ direct order to ‘stay away’. Evidence prompts her to theorize that the shooter was a police officer and Ballard naturally assumes Olivas is the culprit…a dangerous path for her.
This is the start of a new police procedural series by Michael Connelly, creator of Harry Bosch. This lackluster entry pits the driven Ballard against a hostile Olivas. (I’m not going to say who wins.) An interesting character, Ballard is a tame female version of Bosch, caring and driven to finding the truth at all costs.
However, the quick and tidy solutions to the robbery and beating are anticlimactic. An early reference to Bosch was totally gratuitous. While the action builds in the second half, it is half-hearted.  while I’m sure Bosch and Connelly fans will clamor for Ballard, she’ll need a little more grit to survive.
P.S. It’s telling when the best character is Lola, the boxer mix dog that Ballard rescued!

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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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Alexander Carpenter, at his father Nelson’s request, takes on the case of convicted murderer, Willie Miller, who has been granted a new trial based on a technicality. The senior Carpenter, a retired judge, was the D.A. who handled the original case seven years earlier, where all the evidence pointed to a guilty Mr. Miller.

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Shortly after taking the case, Alex’s father dies suddenly. As Alex is cleaning out his boyhood home, he comes across a photo of a young Nelson and three other young man who rose to prominence. Alex is surprised that Nelson knew these gentlemen as young men. He’s even more surprised to find that his father has a next egg of $22 million tht he never touched, stemming from a one time payment of $2 million deposited around the time the photo was taken.

As Alex and his investigator, Laurie, delve into both the trial and the photo, Alex’s life seems to be in danger and he’s convinced that the photo and the retrial are related.

Open and Shut is the first in the Alex Carpenter 15 book series. I’m not typically a fan of the ‘humorous’ mystery but Rosenfelt is able to combine some humor with an interesting story, a reasonable amount of action and a dog. What more can you ask for? Alex is a ‘normal’ guy, unsure of himself, doing dumb things on occasion, totally out of his league when it comes to romance. He’s not cocky. He’s not a hero. He doesn’t beat up everyone who gets in his way. He’s self-deprecating.

While I may not make it my business to read every book in the series, I certainly will pick up another book in the Carpenter series and future books will be on my radar.

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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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