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Archive for the ‘Mystery’ Category

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’.

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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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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.

UselessBay

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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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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Luisa (Lu) Brant has just started her term as the first female state’s attorney of Howard County, MD after beating her boss in the election. The fact that she is the daughter of a previous, well respected state’s attorney certainly did not hurt her at election time.

It is January 5 and there is a murder that needs attention. Lu decides to try the case herself rather than delegate to a staff member because (a) there are few murders in the county and (b) there are some interesting aspects to the case. The victim is a middle aged women, killed in an apparent burglary. Her new rule is the attorney trying the case must visit the scene of the crime, so off she goes.

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In chapters alternating between the present narrated in third person and Lu’s childhood narrated in first person, Lippman connects the present to the past. Interestingly, the the titles of current chapters are merely dates while those of the past have actual titles such as Oh Brave New World That Has No Trees In It, relevant to the action in the chapter. Additionally the type fonts are different for present and past.

As Wilde Lake (the name of a lake near her home) progresses readers learn about Lu’s life, the loss of her mother soon after her birth, living with her father and her brother, 8 years her senior, the supposedly idyllic life in Columbia, MD, a planned community. Readers will contrast her solitude with her brother’s charm and outgoing character.

But there are dark sides to their lives as well and how those dark sides play into the murder is the meat of Wilde Lake. I will admit that the connection might be somewhat strained, but I enjoyed the journey. I found especially interesting Lu’s recounting her childhood. As I’m writing this, I’m realizing that Wilde Lake is more a character study than a mystery. There is little in the way of police procedural and forensics. It is more about the relationships of the characters. The story of Lu’s past has a more ‘literary’ feel to it than the present day chapters.

I will tell you that I only read (or tried to read) one other Laura Lippman book, Hush, Hush , a Tess Monaghan mystery, and made it through only 100 pages. So the fact that I finished this one and enjoyed it is certainly worth noting.

So, now that I’ve taken you around in circles, I’ll conclude by saying that I did enjoy Wilde Lake and do suggest you read it, not for its mystery but for its character study.

 

 

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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.

MissingPresumed

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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