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Archive for the ‘Mysteries’ Category

I am a Bruce DeSilva/Liam Mulligan fan so it saddens me to say that The Dread Line was disappointing. Liam Mulligan, newspaper reporter turned private investigator, is working on three cases simultaneously: a jewel robbery from a local bank, a person who sets live dogs on fire (how the heck DeSilva thought of that one is beyond me, but it’s sick) and performing a thorough background check on a potential NFL draft pick. None of these individually is overly interesting so the combination of the three doesn’t make them any better.

What I also found disconcerting was the time span on the book. The three cases took roughly nine months, which would be unusual for any case, especially a background check, no matter how thorough. And talk about contrived endings–the conclusion of each case was totally out of the blue.

The Dread Line contains none of the lamentations about the demise of printed newspapers, none of the repartee between Mulligan and his former boss/nemesis “Thanks Dad” Mason and none of the action or suspense that earned DeSilva an Edgar Award for best first novel for Rogue Island. The characters are shallow. The best characters are Brady and Rondo, the two dogs Mulligan rescues from an animal shelter. And while dogs are normally cute, they shouldn’t be the ones carrying the book.

So, unfortunately DeSilva does not live up to his potential in The Dread Line. I will anxiously await his next book in the hopes that he finds his groove again.

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For those of you who are fans of the Swedish TV movies in the Irene Huss series (very few of you, I’m sure, but you should be), if you’ve watched Episode 7, you’ve seen a scaled down and revised version of Who Watcheth. On TV it was called Anyone Who Watches in the Dark. Published in Sweden in 2010,  the book is only making its way to America in 2016.

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Two bodies have been discovered, the victims strangled with a commonly used cord, washed clean with some sort of detergent and wrapped in plastic. Forensics have found cat hairs on the tape around the plastic and some oil coating on the plastic as well. Initially, there seems to be no connection between the two victims other than the fact they are female and are in their mid-forties.

A search also uncovers a survivor of a similar attack who is able to describe the form of attack as well as some characteristics of the attacker-strong, smelly. Certain occurrences are common to the two murders as well.

Huss, Jonny Bloom, Fredrik et al of the Goteborg Police have their hands full.

A side story concerns acts of vandalism and violence against Huss and her family. Considering Huss has her hands full investigating the strangulations, she’s ill prepared for handling her own issues. This side story is given short shrift in the televised version of the story.

The ending of the story is actually one of my favorites and I’ll tell you I happen to like the TV ending better. Although they are very similar, they are not exactly the same.

 

 

 

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The Gray quintuplets have lived their whole lives on Whidbey Island, Washington. It seems like they are more a part of the island’s ether than merely its inhabitants. The four boys and one girl, named after Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack (Peter, Frank, Lawford, Sammy and Marilyn, aka Pixie), are an integral part of the community, performing search and rescue operations and owning the bloodhound with the best nose in the state.

Bazillionaire Rupert Shepherd’s family are weekend and summer residents, owning the adjacent land that separates the Grays from the sea. Ten year old Grant Shepherd is a constant Gray visitor, especially on Sunday nights, hiding to delay his trip back to the mainland. So when Grant is missing one Sunday evening, Rupert immediately suspects the Grays of having a hand in it. However, this is the one time Grant is not there. While no one knows where he is, Pixie was the last Gray to be with him, earlier that morning, stating he was afraid of something.

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Useless Bay  combines the perfect proportions of mystery and mysticism in this absorbing missing person story. While searching for Grant, Pixie communes with the long deceased Joseph Whidbey, skipper of the HMS Discovery, who in 1792 discovered the island bearing his name. There is an ample amount of search and rescue hampered by wind and driving rain, mystery as bodies are discovered, a touch of romance and a good dose of danger. Astute readers will figure out ‘who done it’ about two thirds of the way through the book, but that doesn’t dampen (yes, pun intended) the reading pleasure. Useless Bay is a perfect read for middle and high schoolers when the wind is howling outside and the rain is pounding against the windows. This is one of the few  teen mysteries I really liked.

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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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You’ll probably not find a bigger Peter Robinson fan than me so this review may be a tad biased. If that doesn’t bother you, then read on.

Peter Robinson’s Inspector Banks series never fails to please and When the Music’s Over is no exception. Like most (all?) books in the series, it tackles both a current case and a cold or older case. In this particular instance, Robinson also tackles the ethnic hatred that currently seems to be running rampant throughout our ‘civilized’ world.

Mimsy (Mimosa) Moffat, wearing nothing but her birthday suit,  was thrown out of the van that barely stopped into a roadside ditch. She was able to gather herself up and begin limping toward help. When another van appears, Mimsy thinks it’s her savior. Little did she know.

Fifty years after the fact, noted poet Linda Palmer accuses famous entertainer Danny Caxton of rape.This comes on the heels of several other prominent and newsworthy cases of ‘historical abuse’ that have been litigated. (Does Bill Cosby ring a bell?) Of course Caxton denies it, saying that he had enough girls who voluntarily bedded down with him that he didn’t need to rape anyone, especially an under-age girl. Over the decades, his conceit hasn’t abated.

While Detectives Annie Cabbot and Gerry Masterson investigate the former case, Banks and Winsome Jackman investigate the latter. Along the way, Cabbot et al encounter the tension between the Pakistanis who have emigrated to their locale and the local ‘indigenous’ inhabitants who hate the Pakis, as they are called. Banks and Cabbot have their hands full, clues to neither case abounding. As you know, however, these two detectives and their crackerjack teams will solve the case.

After having read my first Inspector Banks mystery, my vision of DCI Banks was not at all like the actor portraying him, Stephen Tompkinson. (I pictured him short and stocky.) However, after years of watching the BBC program (according to IMDB there is a 2016 series–hopefully it will air soon), he has become the epitome of Banks as has Andrea Lowe come to personalize Annie Cabbot. So, of course, I had to include their photos. (SPOILER: For those of you hoping to see these two get together like I do, it doesn’t happen in When the Music’s Over.)

The DCI Banks series has the perfect set of characters, plots, action, romance, etc. It would be an unsolvable mystery how any mystery fan could  have not read any of these books.

 

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The 12 episode series Detective Inspector Irene Huss is based on the novels of the same name authored by Helene Tursten. On a lark, I picked up a copy of the first book in the series when I was at Northshire Books in Saratoga in June and enjoyed it. When I found out about the TV series, my compulsive nature forced me to interloan the first three episodes.

At first I thought the video version was pretty light fare. Episode 2 is a VERY scaled down version of the first book in the series, the cover of which is shown above. But, I’ll tell you, by episode 4 or 5, the stories become pretty gruesome. I never thought about all the many ways serial killers can stalk and murder their victims. Yikes!!!! It is certainly living up to the high standards of its Swedish brethren.

What’s also nice about this series is that I’m meeting some old friends. Angela Kovacs (Irene Huss) was also on the Swedish version of Wallander as Ann-Britt Hoglund. Also, Dag Malmberg (Hans on The Bridge) plays Jonny Blom in Irene Huss. So, while I’m waiting for Series 3 of the Bridge to air or Series 2 of Mankell’s Wallander to arrive from another library, I can watch the last three episodes of Detective Inspector Irene Huss in anticipation of great things to come. (Note, after I wrote this, I started Episode 10 and decided to skip that one. Things are getting too close to the Huss family for my liking.)

T sum up, the Irene Huss TV series and the Irene Huss book series are worth your while. You should be forewarned that nine of the twelve TV episodes are based on the actual books.

 

 

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If you’re looking for a good, general, all around anthology of short story detective fiction then I’d recommend the Longman Anthology of Detective Fiction edited by Deane Mansfield-Kelley and Lois A. Marchino. It will give novice and experienced mystery readers a good foothold into detective fiction.

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The book is divided into three sections: The Amateur Detective, The Private Investigator and The Police. Each section begins with  a critical essay and commentary (which I skipped). There are also two appendices: Notable Annual Awards for Mystery and Detective Fiction and a Bibliography of Critical Essays and Commentaries.

But the heart of the book is stories. Each section contains stories by some of best authors, classical authors such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie and Edgar Allan Poe, pulp authors of the 1930s-1950s such as Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Ed McBain and current authors such as Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky and Peter Robinson.

There is a short author bio before each story, suggested books by the author and suggested read-alike authors. Granted, there are some great mystery authors not included in the anthology, but if all the greats were included it would be a thousand pages, just like Otto Penzler’s Black Lizard books.

The Longman Anthology of Detective Fiction is an entertaining way for mystery fans to spend some time. It also makes readers appreciate the art of the short story. Go for it.

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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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There’s a reason that Black Mask is/was the premier pulp mystery magazine for so long. It had the best. In the introduction to A Cent A Story! The Best from Ten Detective Aces, editor Garyn G. Roberts makes the case that Ten Detective Aces magazine was cutting edge at the time. Well, based on the 10 stories in this anthology, it is nowhere near cutting edge.

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Debuting in 1928 and originally entitled The Dragnet and changed to Detective-Dragnet Magazine and ultimately to Ten Detective Aces in 1933, Roberts states that “…a small detective pulp debuted which would in its own way substantially mold the form for detectives to come.” “…and for his dime, the reader got ten fast-paced mysteries, complete in each issue.” Only a cent a story!

True, the anthology does contain stories by some of the pulp greats: Norvell Page, Lester Dent, Frederick C. Davis. However, if you are looking for hard boiled mystery, gritty, noir, the stuff of Hammett and Chandler, you won’t find it in A Cent A Story! The stories are strange, off beat, which is OK. It just isn’t my cup of tea.

I love everything mystery pulp and am glad I read this, but if you’re a novice in the pulp mystery genre and want to start slow, I’d suggest The Black Mask Boys: Masters in the Hard-Boiled School of Detective Fiction edited by William F. Nolan with eight great stories or The Hardboiled Dicks edited by Ron Goulart.

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Tanya Pitts Dubois comes home one day to find her husband, Frank, lying at the base of the stairs, quite dead, with a big gash on his head. She decides that if she notifies the police and remains at the house until they arrive, she will be the most likely suspect. For various reasons, she concludes, this would not be a brilliant idea. So, she packs her bags and leaves.

For a book I contemplated not reading, I would have made a grave (no pun intended) error in not reading The Passenger because I couldn’t put it down. I am a big fan of Lisa Lutz and the Spellman series. However, I couldn’t get through Heads You Lose, her ‘joint venture’ with David Hayward. Plus, I’m not typically a fan of humorous mysteries, which I thought this was. I had put a reserve on the book and it arrived, I was between books and said “What the heck.” It was truly a smart move.

I’m not going to write any more about the plot. It will speak for itself as you read. You’ll love Tanya as you travel with her, as you read her emails and learn her history. The Passenger is a truly entertaining read.

 

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