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Archive for the ‘Mysteries’ Category

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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I don’t know whether I didn’t enjoy The House of Fame, the third installment of the Nick Belsey series by Oliver Harris. It might have been because I read it in fits and starts (until I sped read — skimmed the last 100 pages) so I never got into the flow. It could be because it actually was disjointed and reading it in longer segments wouldn’t have helped. But, to me, it wasn’t a great book.

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Quick summary (which I don’t think is a spoiler): Nick Belsey is a disgraced cop who is under investigation. Trying to keep a low profile, he is living in a disused police precinct/court house. While no one is supposed to know he’s there, someone does because a woman knocks on the door looking for him. Her son, Mark, has disappeared and she would like Nick’s help in trying to find him. Of course, he accepts, low profile be damned.

In searching Mark’s room, Belsey finds he has an obsession with a young star, Amber Knight. So, Belsey goes to her mansion, gets in under false pretenses and poses as a private security guard.

Let’s stop here and say that one thing leads to another which leads to another and bodies start piling up. The House of Fame then veers off course and instead of exploring the life, stalkers and murders of the rich and entitled, goes down a totally different, relatively unbelievable road.

Belsey gets into and out of jams with ease. He outsmarts everyone. He poses as a cop, a private investigator, etc. He’s always one step ahead of everyone else.

The House of Fame was a Publisher’s Weekly Star book which always leads me to wonder what they see that I don’t but whatever it is, I’m blind to it. So, I say to you, there are some great mysteries out there. If you try The House of Fame and love it, I’m glad. But if you don’t love it, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

 

 

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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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DCI Karen Pirie is still suffering from the recent lost of her policeman husband, Phil. She’s taken to late night long walks in the hopes that they would tire her out enough to enable her to fall asleep. It is on one of these walks that she meets of group of Syrian refugees warming their hands over a barrel with fire.

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When Ross Garvie overturns his stolen Range Rover, killing his three mates and putting himself in a coma, his DNA comes up with a ‘familial match’ to the 20 year old unsolved brutal rape and murder of Tina McDonald. Unfortunately, there are hindrances to DCI Pirie pursuing the owner of the original DNA, one of which being Ross’ comatose condition.

Gabriel Abbott, a man who has ‘issues’ is found dead on a park bench, a bullet in his head and the murder weapon in his hand. While the angle he would have had to use in order to kill himself is awkward, after some investigation the death is ruled a suicide. Although, not her case, Pirie can’t get the idea out of her head that Gabriel’s death is somehow related to the death of his mother, over 20 years earlier, when the small plane she was flying in blew up, disintegrating it and the three other passengers.

Out of Bounds, this third Karen Pirie outing (I didn’t know there were two others) is an arresting read (pun intended). Pirie and her one assistant, Jason “the Mint” Murray, tackle complex issues regarding dissemination of DNA information, try to accumulate more than circumstantial evidence in their investigations, and go against their fellow police officers and her superior officer in order to get at the truth. The ensemble cast of characters, although typical (the rogue Pirie, the inept Noble, the antagonistic Chief Superintendent Lees (aka the Macaroon) and the faithful sidekick “the Mint”) keep the story moving forward nicely.

All in all, Out of Bounds is a good read and, while I may not go back and read the first two books in the series, I will continue reading the series as more books are published.

P.S. This book stands nicely on its own.

 

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