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Rather Be the Devil by Ian Rankin

As Detective Inspector John Rebus, retired, talks to his medical examiner girlfriend, Deborah Quant, over dinner in the Caledonian Hotel restaurant, he recalls the murder there, over thirty years ago, of a young woman, Maria Turquand. The killer was never caught. With nothing but time on his hands, Rebus decides to investigate the case, imploring his former coworker, Siobhan Clarke to  bring him the cold case files.

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The day after Rebus chats with police officer, Robert Chatham, who years previously spearheaded a review of the case when new evidence was introduced, said Officer Chatham’s dead body was found washed up on shore, Rebus surmises it has something to do with his cold case.

How this cold case can be made to intersect with Clarke’s new assault and battery case perpetrated against known gangster Darryl Christie, only an experienced mystery writer such as Rankin can achieve.

Rather Be the Devil reunites Rebus with his co-workers, Clarke and Malcolm Fox. In addition, he meets up with his ‘friendly enemies’, Christie and Big Ger Cafferty. I haven’t read any of Rankin’s previous novels, so I was unfamiliar with the history of Rebus and his cohorts. While such knowledge wasn’t necessary to enjoy the book, it would have been nice. In addition, one arc of the story deals with issues surrounding Rebus’ health, which again, I had no familiarity.

The first 50 or so pages of Rather Be the Devil were a little slow, until the story got going. Then it was a reasonably fast read. The characters were well fleshed out, although I kept getting them confused with each other (Christie/Cafferty). The plot was interesting. Apparently Rebus never played by the rules, which he certainly does not in this episode.

While Rather Be the Devil was an enjoyable and satisfying read, I don’t know that I’d run out and start from the first book in the series (this is #21) or even line up to read the next in the series, if/when that is published. I think I’m more of a Peter Robinson/Inspector Banks fan.

In Sunlight or In Shadow is an anthology of short stories, each one based loosely or strongly on an Edward Hopper painting. As with all anthologies, some of the stories are good, some are less good and some I just didn’t like at all.

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Also, like all anthologies, some authors are well known (to me) such as Megan Abbott, Lee Child, Michael Connelly and Stephen King and some were unknown such as Jill Black, Nicholas Christopher and Craig Ferguson.

The stories average around 15 pages each and most are fast reading. For mystery fans, there are some series names making an appearance such as Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch whose story was clearly one of the better ones (which is rewarding because I haven’t loved the Bosch recent novels all that much).

However, the story I liked best was the last one, by Lawrence Block. the anthology’s editor, called Autumn at the Automat.

If you’re a Hopper fan, then you’ll enjoy seeing some of his paintings and reading how they’ve inspired the authors. If not, you’ll still enjoy some of the stories. The thing I like about short story anthologies, is that you can stop and start, skip or read, as you feel the urge. In Sunlight or In Shadow is definitely worth your time.

Run by Kody Keplinger

Agnes Atwood and Bo Dickinson make an unlikely duo. Living in the small town of Mursey, where everyone knows everyone else’s business, Bo has the white trash, slut reputation. Polar opposite is Anges, blind from birth, she is always accommodating, always good, never making a scene. But Bo is the only one who treats Anges like a normal person, not someone with a disability, so a strong friendship ensues.

So, when Bo’s meth head mother is arrested, Bo knows she is going into foster care, which is unthinkable to her. She needs to run and Anges agrees to accompany her, running from her over protective parents, who micromanage every step she takes.

Run by Kody Keplinger, author of The DUFF, is a story about friendship, fear, and freedom.

Although a road trip by two sixteen year olds is an unlikely scenario, the story does keep you reading as both characters are memorable in their own ways. Bo, who has thick skin and takes what the townspeople dish out, is really the opposite. Anges, on the other hand, who has never made a fuss, realizes that in order to gain the freedom she so desperately wants and needs, she might indeed have to raise her voice to be heard.

Keplinger doesn’t sugar coat the ending…mostly. It’s not downright depressing nor is it syrupy sweet. It’s satisfying…mostly. Keplinger was raised in a small Kentucky town and that small town-ness is permeates the book. It is a fast read, I read it in three days. You will no doubt root for these two brave women. Go for it.

Out of Bounds by Val McDermid

DCI Karen Pirie is still suffering from the recent lost of her policeman husband, Phil. She’s taken to late night long walks in the hopes that they would tire her out enough to enable her to fall asleep. It is on one of these walks that she meets of group of Syrian refugees warming their hands over a barrel with fire.

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When Ross Garvie overturns his stolen Range Rover, killing his three mates and putting himself in a coma, his DNA comes up with a ‘familial match’ to the 20 year old unsolved brutal rape and murder of Tina McDonald. Unfortunately, there are hindrances to DCI Pirie pursuing the owner of the original DNA, one of which being Ross’ comatose condition.

Gabriel Abbott, a man who has ‘issues’ is found dead on a park bench, a bullet in his head and the murder weapon in his hand. While the angle he would have had to use in order to kill himself is awkward, after some investigation the death is ruled a suicide. Although, not her case, Pirie can’t get the idea out of her head that Gabriel’s death is somehow related to the death of his mother, over 20 years earlier, when the small plane she was flying in blew up, disintegrating it and the three other passengers.

Out of Bounds, this third Karen Pirie outing (I didn’t know there were two others) is an arresting read (pun intended). Pirie and her one assistant, Jason “the Mint” Murray, tackle complex issues regarding dissemination of DNA information, try to accumulate more than circumstantial evidence in their investigations, and go against their fellow police officers and her superior officer in order to get at the truth. The ensemble cast of characters, although typical (the rogue Pirie, the inept Noble, the antagonistic Chief Superintendent Lees (aka the Macaroon) and the faithful sidekick “the Mint”) keep the story moving forward nicely.

All in all, Out of Bounds is a good read and, while I may not go back and read the first two books in the series, I will continue reading the series as more books are published.

P.S. This book stands nicely on its own.

 

When the wealthy Mrs. Atterby walks into Bertha Cool’s detective agency with her daughter, Mrs. Cunner, to discuss Mrs. Cunner’s wayward husband, Bertha is all ears. Although most detective agencies don’t handle domestic cases, Cool is not above airing someone else’s dirty linen and she’s got just the agent for the case, Donald Lam. Of course, as Lam investigates, he discovers Mr. Cunner is involved in more than just stepping out on his wife…and Lam has the bruises to prove it.

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The Knife Slipped, a long lost manuscript (there seem to be a lot of them cropping up nowadays) in Erle Stanley Gardner’s Cool and Lam series, apparently was supposed to be the second book in the series. I forgot that I had read another book in the series and wasn’t overly impressed.

Bertha Cool is a smart talking, obese broad who pretty much has no scruples. Unfortunately, she is way over the top, so if you’re into the believable, you’d be hard pressed to believe any of this.

Donald Lam appears to fall hard and fast for anything in a skirt. He doesn’t have much brain power, but for a skinny guy seems to take his beatings in stride.

*****SPOILER*****

The plot is totally outdated, as it deals with cheating on police and fireman civil service exams, which is not something I’ve heard much about recently.

Gardner was a prolific pulp mystery writer, but he wasn’t one of the best. He created unique characters for the times, but I can’t say that I really like Bertha Cool or Donald Lam. I wouldn’t go out of my way to read more of the series.

What Light by Jay Asher

The best way to describe What Light by Jay Asher is that it is suitable for one of those Hallmark or Lifetime Channel cheesy Christmas romance movies. So, the less said about it the better.

Synopsis: Sierra’s family owns a Christmas tree farm in Oregon. From Thanksgiving through Christmas they relocate to California to sell the trees. The farm and lot have been in the family for generations.

As a result of this lifestyle, Sierra has two sets of friends, one set in each state and gets emotional every time she has to leave one for the other. She’s also avoided entanglements in California, knowing she’s a short timer.

This year is the exception. She meets Caleb, a boy with a shady past. Her overly protective father, now has cause to be even more protective.

What Light is ready made for TV, cheesy plot, semi-tearjerker ending, set at holiday time. Quite the change from Asher’s overly serious, suicidal Thirteen Reasons Why. I had nothing else to read so I kept going, but luckily I’m not diabetic because the sugary sweetness of the book would have put me in a coma.

If you go for this sort of book (guilty pleasure or not), go for it. Otherwise read Sarah Dessen or Emory Lord or Morgan Matson.

The end.

Although The Warden’s Daughter is about a child growing up inside prison walls, the resemblance to Gennifer Choldenko’s Al Capone Does My Shirts ends there. The latter is a humorous book, with some serious overtones while the former is a sensitive look at a girl looking for a mother, with some humor included.

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Cammie’s mother sacrificed her own life to save Cammie, when she was just an infant, from being hit by a milk truck. Her mother pushed the carriage Cammie was in across the street, while taking the full impact of the vehicle. Cammie incurred only minor bruises.

Since then she and her father have had a series of ‘trustees’, responsible convicts, tend their house, cook their meals, dust and clean. At age 12, however, Cammie decides she needs a real mother and Eloda Pupko, the current trustee, is a good choice. Yet no matter how much she cajoles, schemes, manipulates, Eloda keeps her distance, remains aloof.

The story is told by Cammie when she is in her mid-60s (although it is not always apparent). It story evokes 1959, on the cusp of Cammie’s thirteenth birthday. American Bandstand and the songs of the late 50s play a big role and will bring back memories to those adults choosing to read The Warden’s Daughter.

But Eloda and Cammie, a confused twelve year old with flowing hormones which make her irrational at times, are the main characters. Eloda is the gruff but caring housekeeper and Cammie is the unhappy almost teen who gets excited one minute about her best friend, Reggie, getting on American Bandstand and the next is kicking all of her friends out of her birthday sleepover because one of them starts crying because she forgot to bring a toothbrush and her mother won’t let her use any but her own.

Jerry Spinelli, known for Stargirl and Love, Stargirl, always comes up with a good story. The Warden’s Daughter is sensitive and fun and shows there is a good side to everyone.