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Archive for the ‘Mystery’ Category

Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner picks up where her debut novel Missing, Presumed leaves off. Manon Bradshaw has adopted twelve year old Fly (from the previous book) and moved back to Huntingdon, living with her sister and nephew Solly. When a finance executive is stabbed to death in a local park, Fly is charged with the murder, even though there is no evidence to support the charge. He was seen walking in the park at the time of the murder and his footprint was found in some blood on the ground.

Manon, five months pregnant, is obviously beside herself, bemoaning the move which was theoretically to benefit Fly by getting him out of his old neighborhood. Barred from participating in the murder investigation, she of course, does so anyway, along with hired attorney Mark Talbot.

There are a lot (a lot) of twists and turns in Persons Unknown, that’s for sure. And it is a good read. However, it is short on solving the mystery and long on Manon’s bemoaning her fate: single, pregnant, tired, not keeping Fly safe in his new environment…and the list goes on. So, here you have the plusses and minuses. Do what you will.

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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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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.

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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.

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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.
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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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