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Archive for the ‘Mystery’ 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.
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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Darktown by Thomas Mullen is listed as a mystery and although there is a mystery in it, the book is more about race relations in Atlanta in the 1940s. It takes place shortly after the end of WW II. As an experiment, the mayor of Atlanta has recruited eight Black cops to patrol primarily the Black neighborhoods. Although they wear uniforms and carry guns, their authority is quite limited. They can’t arrest white people. They can’t carry on an investigation. There are more ‘can’ts’ than ‘cans’.

Darktown.jpg

Enter Lucius Boggs and Tommy Smith, Black beat officers. One night walking their beat, they see a car driven by a white man strike a lamppost, causing it to tilt. There is a Black woman in the car as well. The driver continues on. Boggs and Smith call for white back up which arrives in the form of veteran Officer Dunlow and rookie Office Rakestraw. After a pursuing the driver and brief discussion, the driver is free to go. Boggs, Smith and Rakestraw are aghast that the driver was not given a ticket.

When his female passenger winds up dead the next day, intuition points to the driver of the car. However, no one seems inclined to pursue this line of inquiry. Boggs and Smith decide to investigate on their off hours. Rakestraw also starts a little investigation of his own.

The meat of Darktown is the hatred of the white officers of their Black coworkers, the hatred of whites against Blacks in general. The idea that the new recruits should be driven from the force, that they are not ‘real cops’ at all is evident from their separate office in the basement of the Black YMCA to their limited authority.

Darktown is some ways reminds me of Cop Town by Karin Slaughter which coincidentally enough takes place in Atlanta but in the 1970s and deals with the hiring of the first female police officers. While the hatred shown in Cop Town isn’t has bad as that shown in Darktown, the animosity was evident. I also find the similarity in titles interesting.

CopTown

So, to sum up..if you’re a mystery fan and interested in a little history on the side, both Darktown and Cop Town are worth a read.

 

 

 

 

 

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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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When Chief Public Prosecutor Sigurd Halvorsrud’s wife, Doris Flo, is found decapitated in the Halvorsrud living room with the Chief Public Prosecutor covered with blood by her side, things don’t look good for him. He also waited an hour before calling the police. He says however, that he did not commit this heinous crime but knows who did…Stale Salvesen, a man he’s never met and has no idea really what he looks like. Upon initial investigation, the link between  Halvorsrud and Salvesen is tenuous to say the least, and unfortunately for all involved, Salvesen can’t be found.

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As the weeks pass, little to no new evidence is uncovered but what is uncovered is harmful to the defendant. When a second decapitation is discovered and Halvorsrud’s fingerprints are in the room, he is re-incarcerated, having been released due to family health crises.

Throughout Dead Joker, Anne Holt interweaves potential red herrings such as child molestation, bribery, unethical behavior, etc.

According to Series.com, the Online Guide to Series Fiction, “Anne Holt is one of the most successful Norwegian crime writers.  Trained as a lawyer, Holt has worked in broadcasting as a journalist and anchor woman.  She also spent two years working in the Oslo police force before opening her own law practice.  She has written five novels in the Vik/Stubo series.  Johanne Vik is a Norwegian-American psychology professor and former FBI profiler. She is the divorced caretaker of a mentally challenged six-year old. Adam Stubo is an Oslo police inspector who is recovering from the deaths of his wife and young child.  Together they are a formidable team. Holt has also written a series of eight crime novels starring lesbian police officer Hanne Wilhelmsen.  Scribner seems to be releasing them in the U.S, but not in the correct reading order.  1222 (Scribner, 2011) is the second book in the series.  The Blind Goddess (Scribner, 2012, published in Norway in 1993) is the first.  It introduces Hanne and tells how she became paralyzed. All of Holt’s mysteries are well-written and suspenseful.They feature fully drawn characters and plenty of Scandinavian atmosphere.”

Dead Joker is the latest in the Hanne Wilhelmsen series, published in 1999 in Norway and 2016 in the U.S. Hanne Wilhelmsen is police officer extraordinaire! She is aided by a half dozen officers, one of whom is Billy T., her best friend. She is under a lot of pressure both personally and professionally, and as a result gets away with treating these coworkers quite shabbily. Dead Joker, however, is not really a police procedural in the vein of, say Icelander Arnaldur Indridason’s Detective Erlendur series. There was not a lot of procedure in the book.

Dead Joker concentrates on interpersonal relationships…between Hanne and her partner, Cecile, between Billy T and his soon to be wife, between Karen Borg, an attorney, and Hanne, etc. I cold keep going. However, having never read a Hanne Wilhelmsen book before, not knowing the backstory detracted from understanding what was going on, especially between Hanne and Cecile. As per Series.com, the “characters do seem fully drawn and there is plenty of Scandinavian atmosphere”, however, some backstory would be helpful for the uninitiated.

So, now I’m moving on to another Scandinavian (Icelandic) author, Yrsa Sigurdardottir. and her first book, Last Rituals. The books seem to be published in order in the U.S. and not with decades between the Scandinavian and U.S. editions. I’ll let you know how that goes.

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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.

WhoWatcheth

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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