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Archive for the ‘Mystery’ Category

Two Nights is a welcome departure from Kathy Reichs’ Temperance Brennan series and does not delve into the forensics of murder. Instead, you get an action packed story that keeps you reading.

TwoNights

Sunday Night has a troubled past as a child, as a marine (?) and as a cop. It is just such an upbringing that entices dowager Opaline Drucker to hire her. A year ago her daughter and grandson were killed in an explosion at a Jewish girl’s school in Chicago. Her granddaughter, Stella, disappeared. The only sign of her existence was an attempt to access a bank account that only Stella and Opaline knew about. There has been no solution to the case, despite the ongoing Chicago P.D.  investigation.

Deep in her gut, Sunday thinks Stella is still alive. Because of her own troubled childhood, she feels a kinship with Stella, which is the only reason to leave her isolated island home in Charleston and head to Chicago.

Sunday criss crosses the country following leads, some of which are hunches as opposed to real leads. She butts heads with local law enforcement…of course. Her methods and demeanor are unconventional, but that is the appeal of Sunday Night. The ancillary characters are interesting characters as well, just adding to the appeal.

I’ll let you find out for yourself why the book is called Two Nights. I’ll let you find out for yourself how the case is resolved. But, I’ll warn you, once you start reading you may not want to put Two Nights down. Kathy Reichs has put together a good story.

As an aside, this new character for Reichs works well for her, unlike Renee Ballard, Michael Connelly’s new protagonist in The Late Show who, for all her rebelliousness, doesn’t generate the excitement that Sunday Night generates. Given the choice, you know which one I’d pick. Let’s hope Sunday Night appears in more books by Kathy Reichs.

 

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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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Kiewarra, Australia has been going through a two year drought when Aaron Falk returns for the funeral of his former best friend, Luke, his wife Karen and their young son Billy. Aaron and his father slunk away twenty years earlier when the town inhabitants accused them of being involved in the death of sixteen year old Ellie Deacon, Aaron’s friend. However, no one was ever arrested and convicted of murdering her.

TheDry

Times haven’t changed much in twenty years. The drought has made emotions fragile and the thought of Luke using his shotgun on himself and his family is understandable, if not condoned. However, the town’s new police detective Raco feels that things are amiss and with the help of Falk, a Federal Police Detective, starts questioning the events leading up to the triple murder/suicide.

Memories and grudges last a long time in Kiewarra and most people recognize and remember Aaron, not too fondly, and some will not even talk to him. News travels fast in this small town and soon everyone is aware of the ongoing investigation, even though they all believe the case is closed.

In The Dry, Harper makes the devastation and desolation caused by the drought palpable. She ably brings up the events of twenty years ago, juxtaposed with current events, the lives of sixteen year old kids juxtaposed against their current adult lives. She shows the meanness that existed all those years ago doesn’t go away over time.

I will say that I guessed ‘who dun it’ about two thirds of the way through the book, not because of any lapse in Harper’s story. It was half lucky guess, half logic. Several (two) people told me that they thought the book lagged a little in the middle but I didn’t find it so. It gripped me from the beginning. I liked the main protagonists and although I could see them as the initial installment in a series, I’m not sure how that would work, being the setting is in a small town…unless they both move to Melbourne (Falk already lives there).

The Dry is a good story and Jane Harper is now on my radar. I’ll be looking for future books by her.

 

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Private Detective Roxane Weary is the daughter of the late Police Officer Frank Weary. Weary was a hard driving, hard drinking detective and since his death nine months earlier, Roxane (with one ‘n’) has started following more in his footsteps, especially with the drinking.

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Her good (sober) brother, Matt, recommends her to Danielle Stockton, whose brother Brad was convicted of murdering his girlfriend Sarah’s parents and is on death row. The execution date is two months hence. Brad has, for fifteen years, denied any wrong doing and the only person who can corroborate that, Sarah, has been missing all these years. Good at finding things, Roxane is charged with finding Sarah, who Danielle swears she saw in town two weeks earlier.

Unfortunately, Roxane screws things up more than she recovers things, the alcoholic haze she lives under not helping her much. Her thought processes are mush at times and her theories go awry. Her credibility lessens, as does her popularity. But, of course, there is more than meets the eye, otherwise there would be no story.

The Last Place You Look, Lepionka’s debut novel, has the right amount of action, self pity, family discord. Despite, or because of, all her faults readers will immediately like Roxane. Her drinking is a problem. Her love life is a mess. Her life is a mess, actually. Positive comparisons to her father leave her ambivalent because in some ways she wants to be like him and in others she certainly doesn’t.

The story line is plausible and keeps readers reading. There was one part towards the end in which I was afraid for her. Now that takes a lot and says a lot.

All in all, The Last Place You Look is an admirable debut and I, for one, am looking for more adventures with Roxane Weary.

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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.
TheLateShow
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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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.

House

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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Only Louise Penny (or Armand Gamache) could correlate the death of a Surete Academy professor in Montreal with a map drawn during the first world war that was found in the walls of Gavri and Olivier’s bistro in Three Pines. And it works, to some extent.

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While performing renovations on their bistro, Gavri and Olivier uncover, in the walls, a map of Three Pines. It’s not just any map. It’s got a snowman on it. It’s got pyramids that don’t exist. It is extremely detailed and it is determined that it is an Orienteering map, one of the first. (If you don’t what orienteering is, which I did not, read the book or look it up.)

After nearly dying while exposing vast corruption in the Surete, Chief Inspector Gamache has to decide what to do next. Recuperating in Three Pines, though an idyllic location, is not enough to keep Gamache satisfied. He has had several offers but ultimately decides to run the Surete Academy du Quebec. Cadets have been ruthlessly trained to use brawn before brain, producing an overly aggressive, less compassionate, potentially corrupt police force. His goal is to root out corruption and brutality but he surprises everyone by keeping Professor Serge Leduc, a sadistic, manipulative professor and a main cause of these brutal graduates.

When Leduc is found shot to death in his academy rooms and a copy of Three Pines map is found in his night table, shadows are cast on four cadets, as well as Gamache himself. It is up to his protege, Isabelle Lacoste, and his son in law to solve the murder and exonerate his name.

As with all Louise Penny/Armand Gamache books, the remarkable cast of Ruth and her duck, Rosa, Myrna, Clara, Gavri and Olivier, and Gamache’s wife, Reine-Marie, take major roles.  It is their eccentricities that make the book. Gamache comes off as too goody-goody, too ethically superior to everyone else, almost God-like…a bit too much. But the action and the characters propel this novel forward. Also, as with all Armand Gamache books, it is a good read. It is a welcome addition to a fun series.

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