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Friday, January 30, 2015

Lamentation by C.J. Sansom

Lamentation: (Matthew Shardlake #6)

I haven't read all of the books in this series, but the ones I've read have been excellent, and this one kept me fascinated throughout.

Matthew Shardlake, lawyer and hunchback, has seen many changes during the reign of Henry VIII.  Currently heretics and Protestants with radical views are being hunted, tortured, and burned at the stake even as the vicious Henry's health declines.  As the book opens, Shardlake is forced to attend the burning of Anne Askew and two other heretics, a gruesome task.  

When summoned to the aid of Catherine Parr, Henry's sixth and final wife, Shardlake is enlisted to discover a manuscript the queen has written that could easily result in a charge of treason--and there are many who hope to have that happen.  The corrupt and complicated atmosphere of the court is a treacherous mine-field that even those of highest position must navigate.  Not only the queen, but her family, friends, and sympathizers could be brought down, and finding someone to trust in this maelstrom of conflicting religious and political views becomes a formidable undertaking.

Shardlake, whose attachment to Catherine Parr is a kind of unrequited love, will put himself and his friends in danger as he devotes his energies to protecting the queen.  (Whenever  I read about the Tudor period, I'm again aghast at the intricacies and danger associated with the time.  Bloody Mary, Henry's daughter, is well known for her persecution of Protestants, but often overlooked is Henry's persecution of both Catholics and Protestants.)  Almost everyone at court looked for political advancement, yet any misstep could lead to death, not only of the accused, but of family and friends.  

As usual, Sansom does a terrific job with historical facts and atmosphere, with well-rounded characters, and with interesting subplots.   Highly recommended.

NetGalley/Mulholland Books

Historical Mystery.  February 24, 2015.  Print version:  656 pages.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz

Moriarty

I love Sherlock Holmes pastiches and have read many, including Horowitz's The House of Silk.    While many loved House, it was kind of meh for me.   It involved me enough to want to finish, and yet didn't spark any real concern for the characters or deep interest in the plot.  

In Horowitz's most recent novel, he asks the question: What if Moriarty had survived the Reichenbach Falls?  After all, Sherlock Holmes did.  In Horowitz's version, the story is narrated by Frederick Chase, an American Pinkerton agent. Chase arrives at the Falls and meets Athelney Jones, the Scotland Yard Inspector.  Chase informs Jones that he believes an American crime boss had arranged to meet Moriarty and combine their resources.  (And Devereux, the American, is supposed to be even more evil than Moriarty.)

Jones and Chase pursue this possibility, working together to find Devereux.  Plenty of people die some gruesome deaths as the evil Devereux attempts his takeover of Moriarty's criminal machine.

Athelney Jones, who in the original stories by Doyle is a bit of a bumbler, has a different character in Horowitz's version.  He is upright and sincere and his been working diligently to improve his skills by studying Holmes' methods.

Why didn't this appeal to me?  Well, some of the plot did,  yet something was lacking, something kept me from becoming completely immersed in the novel.  The choppy style?  The sense of being deliberately misdirected?  The twist that was not altogether unexpected and felt too manipulative?

Some other Holmes' pastiches that I've liked better:

The Revenge of Moriarty and The Return of Moriarty by John Gardner -- Gardner is one of the best at this kind of thing.  I need to read more of his work on Holmes.

Death on a Pale Horse by Donald Thomas -- Captain Moran is the villain with Holmes and Watson in pursuit.

The Revenant of Thraxton Hall:  The Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle by Vaughn Entwhistle -- not too serious, but fun!

Library Copy.

Mystery/Sherlock Holmes.  2014.  304 pages.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Two by Nicci French

Land of the Living  

Abbie Deveraux wakes up to find herself in the dark, bound and hooded, and unable to think clearly.  Her captor ruthlessly relates what has happened to his previous victims, but he is no hurry to finish the job.  Abbie finally manages to escape, only to find that no one believes her story.  

In addition to her inability to convince the police about what happened, Abbie can't remember much of the time leading up to her capture.  She begins interviewing her friends about the days immediately preceding her captivity, trying to reconstruct what led to her horrifying experience with a psychopath.

Realistic?  Well, no.  Compelling and suspenseful?  Oh, yes.

Library copy.  Read in Dec.

Suspense/Mystery.  2003.  432 pages.



The Red Room

Kit Quinn is a clinical psychologist who is asked to evaluate Michael Doll, but during the evaluation, Doll becomes extremely agitated and ends up slashing Kit's face.

Later, Doll is arrested as a suspect in the murder of a young woman, and a reluctant Kit is again called in.  Despite her unease about the disturbed Michael Doll, Kit isn't sure that he is guilty of the murder.  The relationship between the police is pretty antagonistic, but Kit believes the murder of the young run-away may be connected to two previous murders.

This novel may be part of the inspiration for the husband and wife writing team known as Nicci French to develop their more recent Frieda Klein series (Blue Monday, Tuesday's Gone, Waiting for Wednesday).

I wasn't entralled with The Red Room for several reasons, but I have enjoyed the three books I've read in the Frieda Klein series.  

Library copy.  Read in Jan.

Suspense/Mystery.  2001.  384 pages.  

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Little Black Lies by Sandra Block

Neurologist Sandra Block has a winner in her debut novel Little Black Lies

 Block has created a sassy protagonist in Zoe Goldman, a resident in a psychiatric ward in Buffalo, New York.  Zoe cares about her patients, but her own life is a little complicated--the mother who adopted her at four-years-old has dementia, and Zoe and her brother are deeply saddened as their mother loses more and more of her memory.  Zoe's former lover has moved, and their relationship may or may not survive, and Zoe's childhood nightmares have returned with a vengeance.  

Then a sociopath, who as a teenager murdered her mother, arrives on her ward, and Zoe finds herself more curious about her own birth murder and what the confusing nightmares about a fire might mean.  Her adoptive mother, however, either can't remember or refuses to relate much information.  The love between  Zoe and her adoptive mother is obvious, but the lack of information and/or misinformation about Zoe's birth mother eats at her.  Are Zoe's nightmares a result of her mind trying to give her a warning?


I received Little Black Lies from NetGalley, and wasn't sure what to expect.  It was such a pleasant surprise to find myself immersed in characters and narrative.  I look forward to more from Sandra Block.


NetGalley/Grand Central Publishing/Hachette

Mystery/Psychological.  Feb. 17, 2015.  Print version:  352 pages.    



Sunday, January 25, 2015

Dr. Death by Lene Kaaberbol

Doctor Death

Madeline Karno is the daughter of the coroner in a small French village in 1894.  
When  seventeen-year-old Cecile Montaigne is found dead, her parents refuse to allow an autopsy, but from a surface examination, no cause of death is evident.  However, in the young woman's nostrils, Madeline's father discovers a type of parasite usually found in dogs.

Madeline is only allowed to assist her father in small ways because his work is not considered suitable for women. In fact, even he is affected by social views of his work as a pathologist, and despite Madeline's interest in science, he keeps her secluded from some aspects of his work.


When the priest who kept vigil over the girl's body is murdered more questions arise, and Madeline seeks answers.  


I mentioned this book a while back, but wanted to mention it again closer to publication.  If you like historical mysteries, you may want to add this one to your list.  It has some unexpected twists.  And although the book is complete in itself, there is a final development that makes me eager to discover what lies ahead for Madeline.

From my previous post:   Lene Kaaberbol is the co-author of several novels with journalist Agnete Friis, including The Boy in the Suitcase which won a number of awards:
The New York Times Book Review Notable Crime Book of 2011; Strand Magazine Critics Award Nominee; Indie Next List November 2011 Pick; Barry Award Nominee for Best First Novel; Harald Morgensen Award for Best Danish Thriller of the Year; Glass Key Crime Fiction Award Nominee
 She has also written a number of children's fantasy novels and won the Nordic Children's Book Prize in 2004.
I was surprised to see that she has written so much for children.  

Read in December.  Blog post scheduled for Jan. 25, 2015.

NetGalley/Atria Books

Historical Mystery.  Feb. 17, 2015.  Print version:  304 pages.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Three More by Tami Hoag

I reviewed Tami Hoag's Cold, Cold Heart recently.  I'd only read one previous novel by her (The Ninth Girl),but I enjoyed them both.  So on a library visit, I checked out the first three in the series.


Ashes to Ashes (Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska Bk. 1)    

When a serial killer known as the Cremator turns from killing and burning prostitutes to the daughter of a billionaire, the hunt for the killer takes a more public and energetic turn.  

Kate Conlan, a former FBI agent and current victim/witness advocate, is called in to work with a frightened and reluctant young girl, who stumbled away from the latest murder scene. The billionaire father of the victim has friends in the FBI and manages to get Special Agent John Quinn, hot shot FBI profiler, involved in the case.  Kate Conlan and Quinn have history, and Kate is not at all happy with his addition to the team.

Kate is a feisty, determined woman, and her introductory scene is a memorable one.  From then on, I was definitely in her corner.

Kovac and Liska are secondary characters, but well-rounded and sympathetic.  The two detectives ground the series, even as other characters take the lead.  

Plenty of twists, brisk pace, lots of witty repartee.  Couldn't wait for the next one.

Read in Dec.; review scheduled for Jan.

Library copy.

Crime/Police Procedural.  2000.  576 pages.



Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska get much more attention in this second installment.  Both detectives evolve personally as the reader learns more about them.

When an Internal Affairs officer is found hanged in an apparent suicide, Sam is particularly disturbed because Andy Fallon is the son of a department legend, Iron Mike Fallon--and Iron Mike was something of a mentor to Sam early in his career.

Suicide, accident, murder?  Kovac and Liska find evidence of corruption, cover-up, and connections to both recent and decades old cases.

The clever banter continues, as does the development of secondary and minor characters.  The ability to populate a novel with "real" people is one of Hoag's skills in this series.  Minor characters are not simply pawns to help advance the narrative; they feel like genuine individuals even if their roles are small.

Read in Dec.

Library copy.

Crime/Police Procedural.  2002.  512 pages.





The brutal murder of a mother and her two young foster children leads to the arrest of Karl Dahl.  When Judge Carey Moore rules against the inclusion of Dahl's prior criminal record, prosecutors and police are enraged.  Then Dahl escapes, and Judge Moore finds her life in danger, even as she must deal with the scathing comments and threats from everyone who believes Dahl is guilty.  Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska, assigned to protect the judge, now need to apprehend Dahl.

In the meantime, Judge Moore is coming to some unpleasant realizations about her husband, and one of the cops on the original case goes rogue, determined to get the man he believes responsible for the gruesome murders.  The sub-plots tie together, sometimes in unexpected ways.

Another exciting and fast-paced installment in Hoag's series featuring Kovac and Liska.

I've now read all the books in this series, although I did have to go back and pick up these first three after reading the two more recent entries.  Hoag switches back and forth between featuring the detectives and letting them slide into the background while other characters receive the focus.  However, whether or not Sam and Nikki take precedence or make token appearances, this is a great series.

Library copy.

Crime/Police Procedural.  2006.  570 pages.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Satan's Lullaby by Priscilla Royal

 I've been reading Priscilla Royal's Medieval Mysteries for about a year now.  Below are the eleven books in order:  

Wine of Violence
Tyrant of the Mind
Sorrow without End
Justice for the Damned
Forsaken Soul
Chambers of Death
Valley of Dry Bones
A Killing Season
The Sanctity of Hate
Covenant with Hell
Satan's Lullaby 

I've read seven now, including her latest, Satan's Lullaby.  It was a surprise to find Satan's Lullaby offered by NetGalley; previously, I've either purchased the ebooks or checked out library copies.

It goes without saying that I have enjoyed the series, so I was excited to get the latest one for free, but I do need to catch up on the ones I've missed.

Plot:  Tyndale Priory is a double house (more information about this is included in my review of Wine of Violence).   The Prioress Eleanor Wynethrop is informed that the Abbess Isabeau  has sent her arrogant brother Father Etienne Davoir to inspect the priory "from its morals to its roofs."  Eleanor knows there is a reason for this inspection to be carried out by someone as eminent as the Abbess' brother, but she is unable to discover what that reason may be.  Then Father Davoir's favorite secretary is murdered....

If you enjoy historical mysteries, you may enjoy this series which gives a great deal of insight into the life of the religious during the tumultuous 13th century.  Royal does an excellent job with characters and historical information.

Read in November.  Blog post scheduled for Jan. 22, 2015.

NetGalley/Poisoned Pen Press.
    
Medieval Mystery.  Feb. 3, 2015.            

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Two by Alexandra Sokoloff

Huntress Moon (The Huntress/FBI Thrillers Bk 1) 

I received this egalley from NetGalley; originally published in 2012, Huntress Moon and Blood Moon (Book 2) are being republished this month.  

FBI Agent Matthew Rourke watches the undercover agent he is supposed to meet killed by a truck as he crosses the street.  Something about the death doesn't sit well with the agent, even though the truck driver is as horrified by what happened as everyone else.  It is the woman who followed directly behind his undercover agent that bothers Rourke.

Rourke puts out some internet feelers with law enforcement and discovers two other cases where a woman matching the description has been seen near two other "accident" scenes.

Is the woman a serial killer?  If so, she is a genuine rarity.  What about the men who were murdered or had fatal accidents?  Although not readily apparent, it seems each of them had committed despicable acts.  Is the woman a vigilante? 

As Rourke continues his investigation, he discovers the woman's identity and her tragic background--and a strange connection he shares with her.  The plot also has a supernatural element.

The writing is less than stellar, the characters are thin, used to propel the story but lacking any genuine depth, the pacing is uneven, and the plot is pretty unbelievable.  That said, most of the reviews are extremely positive.  Go figure.

And go figure that I read the whole thing and then read the sequel.

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer

Suspense/Paranormal.  Print length:  372 pages.  



Blood Moon (The Huntress/FBI Thrillers Bk 2)     

The Huntress is still at large.  More background is revealed. 

Who was/is The Reaper?  Someone was murdering entire families twenty-five years ago then the murders stopped abruptly.  The murderer was never identified.  Now, the killings have begun again.

The Huntress (Cara) was five when her family was killed and is the only one who survived The Reaper.  In the other families, neither parents nor children were left alive.  

Of course, this second book in the series has no conclusion, but the third book should be published soon.

For whatever reason, I didn't find the books nearly as good as many others did, but they did keep me entertained for several hours.  Although I love crime and mystery novels, this is a sub-genre that really didn't grab me enough to look for the third book.     

 NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer.

Suspense.   Jan. 15, 2015 (first publication, 2013).  Print length:  318 pages.

Nightfall Gardens and Generation V

Nightfall Gardens by Allen Houston.  Supposed to be for a younger audience, but the novel seems a bit dark and grotesque  for the younger age range, and for an older YA audience, the lack of characterization might be a problem.  I found it hard to care about any of the characters, and this is the kind of novel that demands that you care about the danger the young people are in. 

 There are frightening experiences and grotesque and sinister characters that only elicited an intellectual response (from me),  but not an emotional one.  For macabre atmosphere and monsters are nightmarish, and yet the protagonists don't truly engage emotionally. I simply couldn't feel the appropriate concern for the characters despite the frightening circumstances.  The author mentions a reader as young as ten, so maybe my evaluation isn't the best, but I won't be reading more in the series.  Goodreads reviews are very positive, but I found it disappointing.

Neat cover, though.


"The beginning of a Harry Potter-esque series for those 
who prefer gross-out horror to magical whimsy."
 - Kirkus Reviews


Purchased.

YA/Horror.  2013.  249 pages.



Generation V  by M.L. Brennan.   Moves back and forth from an effort at being sincerely horrified at evil and just plain shallow--with attempts at humor.  Characters are thin and not particularly likable. Again Goodreads reviews are overwhelmingly positive, but I wasn't much impressed with plot or writing.

NetGalley.  

YA/Paranormal/Urban Fantasy.  2013.  319 pages.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Monday's Lie by Jamie Mason


Monday's Lie      

I loved Jamie Mason's Three Graves Full and was delighted when NetGalley offered another opportunity to  indulge in another quirky adventure by Mason.

Dee Aldritch's mother Annette was a covert operative with the CIA.   Both naturally and through training, Annette had some unusual skill sets which helped her accomplish her missions and keep her alive.  

On the other hand, when she was home, she was a mother devoted to her children.  She did all the things a mother does to keep her kids happy and healthy, but she also went a step further.  Annette played "spy games" with her kids, teaching them to be truly aware of their surroundings.  

After a trip to the supermarket, on the way to the car:
..."heads up!  We're playing.  Five points:  What was the man two places behind us in line wearing?"
"A tan sweater," I'd say.
"Black shoes with tassels," Simon would crow.
"Five bonus points for each item in his basket you can name."
"Vanilla ice cream."
"Itch ointment."
"Baked beans."
"Three cans of tuna.  Do I get fifteen points for that one?"
The games made Dee and Simon more observant and increased their short term memories.  They were fun, and they were useful.  

The story opens with a prologue, a flashback to the time when Dee was thirteen and Simon eight.  After a frightening event in the middle of the night, Annette abruptly left for seven months, and Dee became aware that her mother's job was dangerous and could take her away at any time.  Her reaction to this episode was to seek the normal, the mundane, and when she fell in love, it was with a man who would keep her on a path that would avoid surprises.  

Then came Monday's lie, and Dee found herself remembering the childhood games and re-evaluating the last few years of her marriage.  The skills her mother taught her might now be necessary to save her life.

The book goes back and forth in time both in memory and in episode as Dee contemplates the complexities of her situation.

Highly recommended.

Read in Oct.; blog post scheduled for Jan. 19, 2015

NetGalley/Gallery Books

Mystery.  Feb. 3, 2015.  print length:  304 pages. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Reckoning by Jane Casey


Early in 2014, I received an egalley from NetGalley of The Burning by Jane Casey.  It was an excellent police procedural, the first in a series featuring Maeve Kerrigan.

The Reckoning is the second book in the series.  This time, Maeve is partnered with the brash (and completely politically incorrect) detective Josh Derwent.  The case they are investigating involves the gruesome murders of three sex offenders, and Derwent does all he can to make things uncomfortable for Maeve. 

The characters are well-drawn and the plot has tension and twists in regard to both the murders and the characters.  Maeve must not only put up with the offensive Derwent, but also with the attitudes of some of the other men in her department.  

When the team manages to interrupt the torture of the latest victim, it turns out that an influential crime boss has been targeting the men because he believes his fourteen-year-old daughter has been abducted by a pedophile who groomed her online.

Gritty, but compelling, the novel has a romantic angle.  Maeve and another detective have tried to keep their relationship under the radar, but their affair is revealed in a way that is a threat to more than the careers of the two.

The Reckoning is intense and difficult to put down.

Library copy.

Crime/Police Procedural.  2012.  382 pages.




Wednesday, January 14, 2015

AWOL

After all of the Christmas rush and activities and the same with New Year's, I came down with a sinus infection and have gotten seriously behind in reviews.  All I've done in the past two weeks is read and sleep.  Fortunately,  I've had a number of reviews scheduled, but now I must try to catch up with both reading blogs and writing reviews. 

The next few days will be busy with reviews as I attempt to cover December and January books.  Whew!  I'm tired even thinking about it.

Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman by Tessa Arlen

Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman is a country house mystery set just prior to WWI.  Lady Clementine Montford has been planning her annual summer ball with the aid Mrs. Jackson, her capable housekeeper.  

When Teddy Mallory, the dissolute and corrupt nephew of her husband is murdered, Lady Montford fears that her own son may be implicated.  Joining forces with Mrs. Jackson (definitely beyond the social boundaries of the time), Lady Montford steps beyond gender boundaries as well.  While certainly not in favor of the methods of the suffragettes, she does consider herself as capable of being more than a wife and mother, and she will do her best to find the guilty party.

Edwardian details--social, political, and cultural--abound in the novel.  And although both Mrs. Jackson and Lady Montford venture outside of their comfort zones, they remain products of their times and circumstances.

I found it interesting to see the prominent views of the time clearly articulated by even the protagonists; neither Mrs. Jackson nor Lady Montford are rebelling or fighting for women's rights.  Both are truly uncomfortable with the roles they feel forced to play.

This is a debut novel by Arlen, and it will be interesting to see how the lady of the manor and the housekeeper develop in future novels.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books

Historical Mystery.  Jan. 6, 2015.  Print version:  321 pages.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Butterfly Kills by Brenda Chapman

In February, I read Cold Mourning by Brenda Chapman and really liked the characters and the Canadian setting (reviewed here).  

I jumped at the chance to read Butterfly Kills, a new mystery featuring Kala Stonechild and Jacques Rouleau.  Rouleau has moved to Kingston and is now head of the Criminal Investigation unit there.  Distracted by his father's illness, confronted with a brutal murder and a spousal rape, the short-staffed Rouleau feels fortunate that the very detective he would like to hire shows up in Kingston.

Kala Stonechild agrees to help on a temporary basis. Partnered with Paul Gundersund, Kala shifts from the murder of university student Leah Sampson to the spousal rape case of Della Munroe as needed.  Both cases take interesting turns, and the self-contained, aloof Kala finds herself becoming more comfortable with her partner as the cases proceed.

Rouleau's role in this novel is much diminished, but surprisingly, his character grow more interesting.  Both Kala and Gundersund have personal issues that keep them involved in situations wider than the investigations.

Even the minor characters gain a degree of complexity, and the plot(s) (which have elements pulled from real life) kept me involved and slightly on edge.  I'm glad to say that this second novel in Chapman's series was as engrossing as the first!

read in July; blog post scheduled for Jan. 12, 2015.

Crime/Police Procedural.  Jan. 31, 2015.  Print length:  376 pages.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Two by Lisa Gardener

 Crash and Burn by Lisa Gardner was a NetGalley ARC that I enjoyed.  The novel was suspenseful, so I checked out two more by Gardner from the library.


Catch Me   

 Charlene Rosalind Carter Grant is afraid that she will be murdered.  She even knows the date. One of her two best friends was killed on January 21, two years previously.  The next year, on January 21, Charlene's other best friend was murdered.  Charlie anticipates confronting the same killer and has spent the year training to survive.  Days before the 21st, Charlie meets Detective Warren outside of a crime scene and asks her to investigate her (expected) death. 

Initially, D.D. is skeptical; she is already involved in a case in which a killer appears to be targeting pedophiles.  She has also just returned after maternity leave and has a baby that is keeping her up most of the night.  D.D. already has a lot on her plate and isn't at all sure that Charlie will be murdered.  

It is difficult to be certain who is targeting Charlie or why, but Gardner keeps the suspense building and has several interesting topics (pedophiles and cyber grooming, Munchausen by Proxy, domestic violence).

Although part of a series, the plot doesn't depend on having read any of the previous books. What was a little distracting was the references to characters in her other series (she has at least 3 crime series in addition to all of her stand alones).  If you've read all of her series, this might be something you'd appreciate, but I haven't so reference to just on or two characters would have been sufficient.

Read in Dec.  Library copy.

Crime/Suspense.  2012.  400 pages.

Say Goodbye       

This one was a little too dark for me.  The child abuse theme seems pretty consistent with Gardner.

Truthfully, if this had been the first one I read, it probably would have been the last.  I wasn't overly impressed with characters or plot, but it was suspenseful.

  From Booklist
In the latest Kimberly Quincy thriller, the FBI special agent is five months pregnant. Most women might be thinking about taking things a bit easy, but not Quincy: not only is she still working full time but she also stumbles into what might be the biggest case of her career (and, as regular readers know, she has already tackled a few big ones). A serial killer is targeting young women. This in itself isn’t so unusual, but here’s the twist: he is, or so it appears, using spiders as murder weapons. Kimberly is convinced she is on the trail of a psychopath, but without any bodies or hard evidence, she is having a difficult time convincing her superiors she isn’t on a wild-goose chase. In her last few novels, especially Gone (2006) and the excellent Hide (2007), Gardner has really hit her stride, and this one, if not her best, will surely be a surefire hit for her fans—and, in fact, for all readers who likes their thrillers suspenseful, fast paced, and just a little creepy (OK, a lot creepy). --David Pitt

Read in Dec.  Library copy.

Crime/Suspense.  2008.  370 pages.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

The Ghost Shift by John Gapper

The Ghost Shift      

Description:   In the tradition of Gorky Park, John Gapper's new thriller takes readers inside the secretive and dangerous world of modern China, as a young woman makes a haunting discovery, €”one that forces her to choose between duty to her government and a desperate desire to learn the truth about herself.    

Song Mei works for The Commission for Discipline Inspection that deals with corruption among the Party elite.  When she is summoned by Lang Xiaobo, "the Wolf," to a fish pond in the middle of a banana field to view a body, Song Mei is confused.  This doesn't fall into her job description.

What the Wolf wants Song Mei to see, however, is almost incomprehensible--the body of the young woman looks exactly like Song Mei.  Shocked, Song Mei realizes that she had a sister, a twin, that she never knew existed.  Raised in an orphanage, Song Mei never knew her parents, much less that she had a twin sister.  The discovery is a momentous one, and she is determined to find out more. 

Song Mei begins a covert investigation into the death of her mysterious twin that leads to the factory where her sister worked, an unusually high number of suicides,  dangerous political espionage, and an ex-CIA agent.

A well-written and compelling novel that puts the reader in the middle of the sticky web of China's political and industrial system.  Whom to trust?  What secret machinations are just under the surface?  What secrets can Song Mei uncover about her own past.  

Recommended. 

Read in Sept.; blog review scheduled for Jan. 1, 2015.

NetGalley/Random House/Ballentine

Mystery.  Jan. 20, 2015.  Print length:  320 pages.   

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Just City by Jo Walton

The Just City              

A puzzled Apollo is confused when Daphne turn herself into a tree.  Why would she do that? Didn't she want to mate with him?  When he asks his sister Pallas Athene, she tells him that regardless of how many women might have wanted to mate with him in the past, obviously Daphne did not.  

He tells her that it is a game.  He chases a woman, catches her, and mates with her.  That is the way it has always been, it's fun, a kind of mutual foreplay.  The women have always desired him--so what's up with Daphne hating the idea so much she would rather be a tree?

Athene tells him that although Apollo had chosen Daphne:
"... she hadn't chosen you in return.  It wasn't mutual.  You decided to pursue her.  You didn't ask, and she certainly didn't agree. It wasn't consensual.  And, as it happens she didn't want you.  So she turned into a tree,"  Athene shrugged.
Apollo considers this--the idea of volition and equal significance.  Still a bit confused about these ideas, he tells Athene that he has been considering spending some time as a mortal. He realizes there are some things he could learn.

Perfect timing.  Athene has been considering a surprising experiment.  Some people throughout time have prayed to Athene to set up Plato's Republic.  She has decided where and some ideas about how to go about it.

Apollo decides he will become a mortal and be a part of this grand scheme.  

And so begins the idea of the Just City as Plato described it (mostly).

The beginning chapters are a little slow as characters are introduced and some basics of the plan for organizing the city are put in play.  And at first, I thought the book was going to be a treatise about the place of women over time, their rights, their abilities, societies limitations, but it expands to raise questions about...well, about all the big questions people have.  What is just, what is good, what is right--almost any philosophical question people wonder about is considered.

Mortals are mortals, however, and agreement isn't always easy; even the gods are not always right in their beliefs and efforts.

I ended up reading this as if it were nonfiction, not rushing through the book eager to find out what happens, as I do with most fiction.  I'd read a chapter and stop and think-- sometimes stopping several times within a chapter to "voice" my own opinion about the topics and about how things were proceeding.

Highly recommended if you are interested in mythology and/or philosophy!

Read in Oct.; blog post scheduled for Dec. 30.

NetGalley/Macmillan-Tor/Forge

Philosophical Fiction.  Jan. 13, 2015.  print length:  368 pages.  

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Fourth Rule of Ten by Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay

The Fourth Rule of Ten

I've read all of the Rules of Ten now, thanks to NetGalley.

Book description:  Ex–Buddhist monk, former LAPD detective, and current private investigator Tenzing “Ten” Norbu knows Bill Bohannon as many things: loving husband, devoted father, police administrator, former partner, and best friend. But then an uninvited guest from Bill’s past upends the Bohannons’ Fourth of July barbecue....

Ten finds himself disappointed in his best friend, trying to unravel a human trafficking organization, traveling to Sarajevo, and finally, hopeful about the return of an old flame.

Of course, there are the recurring voices of Ten's old friends from the Tibetan monastery and frequent references to Buddhist philosophy as he attempts to untangle all the twists in this tale.  

How does an ex-monk manage his philosophical beliefs with the violence often required in his role of private investigator?  

I really like this series, but although I enjoyed this latest installment, this is not my favorite.

NetGalley/Hay House

Mystery/Action.  Jan. 5, 2015.  Print length:  344 pages. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Recent Reads



Crash and Burn by Lisa Gardner is a review I will save for later, as it isn't to be released until February, but I am going to mention that I liked it a lot, and just returned from the library with a couple more books by Gardner.  Crash and Burn is a page-turner from NetGalley.

My name is Nicky Frank. Except, most likely, it isn’t.  

Nicole Frank survives a car crash...that may not have been an accident.  In fact, Nicky has had several mishaps recently, and Sergeant Wyatt Foster finds a number of things problematic about Nicky's accidents.

An intriguing mystery with lots of suspense; I can't wait to get started on my library copies (Say Goodbye and Catch Me) from two different series by Gardner.
  
NetGalley/Penguin Group

Mystery/Suspense.  Feb. 3, 2015.  400 pages.


The Red Room:  A Risk Agent Novel by Ridley Pearson is the third in a series featuring John Knox and Grace Chu, operatives for Rutherford Risk, but this is the first one I've read.  Hmmm.  Knox and Chu are assigned to a case/mission that is considered NTK (Need to Know), and nobody seems to know much.  Danger-Escape-Danger-Escape, and so on. 

I gather that fans of Pearson's other series were not impressed with this one, and I can see why.  Maybe I'll try one of his other books at some point, but this one didn't do much for me.

Library copy.

Thriller?  2014.  400 pages.


Last year, I received The Ninth Girl by Hoag from NetGalley.  The suspense and the characters both appealed to me, so when the publisher offered Cold, Cold Heart, the latest from Tami Hoag, I was up for it!

The detectives I liked in the previous novel make only a brief appearance in this one, but the mystery and suspense are every bit as engrossing.  Dana Nolan was an aspiring television reporter before her abduction by a serial killer.  (Her abduction is mentioned in The Ninth Girl as a kind of side-bar.)  Her horrific injuries include brain trauma, and even after a long recovery, she struggles with the after-effects of her experience.  There was the Before Dana, beautiful, cheerful, confident, and going places.  And there is the After Dana, suffering from the effects of PTSD and brain trauma, scarred, dealing with gaps in long and short term memory, and angry.

The residual problems from her brain injury feel real and watching Dana struggle with her memory is intense in itself, but as Dana finds focus in her determination to discover what happened to her high school friend who disappeared the summer of their senior year, the tension increases. What happened to Casey?  What she an early victim of the serial killer who later abducted Dana?

Just a warning, though, the prologue is violent; it sets the scene for the injuries (physical and psychological) that Dana will have to live with after escape.

Another compelling suspense novel from Tami Hoag.

NetGalley/Penguin Group/Dutton

Suspense/Mystery.  Jan. 13, 2015.  390 pages.





The Second Guard  from NetGalley won't be published until April, and my review will be scheduled for closer to that time, but it was a YA fantasy from Disney-Hyperion that I enjoyed.


Another NetGalley offering that I'll review later, Doctor Death is a historical mystery by Lene Kaaberbol.  Kaaberbol is the co-author of several novels with journalist Agnete Friis, including The Boy in the Suitcase which won a number of awards:

The New York Times Book Review Notable Crime Book of 2011
Strand Magazine Critics Award Nominee
Indie Next List November 2011 Pick
Barry Award Nominee for Best First Novel
Harald Morgensen Award for Best Danish Thriller of the Year
Glass Key Crime Fiction Award Nominee


She has also written a number of children's fantasy novels and won the Nordic Children's Book Prize in 2004.

Set in 1894 in Varbourg, France, Madeline Karno is the daughter of an early forensic pathologist and assists her father when he deems it appropriate.  Not even her father feels that a young woman should be involved in some of the aspects of his work.  A mysterious death of a young girl, the murder of a priest, and several unusual characters.  

NetGalley/Atria Books

Historical Mystery.  Feb. 17, 2015.  304 pages.