Friday, September 25, 2020
Saturday, September 19, 2020
DI Winter Meadows has returned to the village where thirty years earlier the murder of one girl and the serious injuries of a second girl proved a devastating event for a small village.
Winters went to school with both girls and had a crush on Gwen, the girl who survived. Gwen had no memories of what happened that day, and the person responsible was never found.
Gwen, now married with two adolescent children, has begun having flashbacks to the day of the murder. Nothing consistent, a brief image at best, but the possibility of further memories may put her life at risk.
Winter Meadows re-opens the case, hoping to discover who killed Bethan and attacked Gwen. A number of suspects are unhappy about further investigation into the case and may not want Gwen to remember.
The conclusion was not what I expected. I liked the characters and the setting--this may be a new series for me. As a first book in a series, the introduction of characters is almost as important as the mystery.
Police Procedural/Mystery. 2014. Print length: 259 pages.
Attica Locke has become one of my favorite writers, and this article gives so much information about her family and her books. Why Did My Black Ancestors Never Leave Texas.
Bibliotherapists and Ann Cleeves
Thursday, September 17, 2020
Set in the same world as Thorn, Theft of Sunlight features Rae, daughter of a horse rancher. Alyrra, the betrayed princess turned goose girl, is now about to marry the prince. But although Alyrra plays an important role, she is not the protagonist this time.
Rae, who limps as a result of a club foot, has come to the palace to visit her cousin and been drafted into becoming an attendant to Alyrra. Rae agrees because she has a purpose of her own--finding out who is behind the stealing of children and selling them into slavery.
Despite the handicap of a club foot, Rae pursues the dangerous task of discovering the how and the who behind the thefts of children. Another one of Khanani's wonderful female protagonists, Rae is defined by courage and persistence.
Danger and suspense keep the pace quick. Who to trust? How deep is the conspiracy?
My only problem--waiting for the next book. Recommended!
I'm reviewing this early since the publication date is so far away, but will mention it again in March, 2021.
YA/Fantasy. March 23, 2020. Print length: 528 pages that absolutely flew by!
Monday, September 14, 2020
Inspector Treadles accused of murder? Two dead bodies and Treadles in a locked room. The two men are connected to his wife's business, and the inspector won't defend himself. Things aren't looking good.
Treadles, a traditional man, has had problems with his wife's inheritance of a large manufacturing concern. Not only is she now the chief source of income, but she has insisted in actually managing the company. The Victorian mindset of the man being the breadwinner and protector has caused some strife between husband and wife.
The Victorian tradition of patriarchy and male authority is the reason Charlotte has to operate as a factotum of Sherlock Holmes. It is only as a personal assistant to the fictitious Sherlock that Charlotte and Mrs. Watson are able to succeed in their investigations. Never doubt, however, that these two women are as capable as any man.
There is such fun in Charlotte's odd (and autistic?) personality, her love of cake, and her rather fantastic taste in clothing (her Christmas dress almost puts Lord Ingram's eye out). The truly feminine combined with Charlotte's ability to defy tradition and succeed in a paternalistic society by subterfuge lends even more whimsy to the books.
Each book builds on the other, so start with the first one, A Study in Scarlet Women, to get the full pleasure of how Charlotte becomes Lady Sherlock.
Read in June; blog review scheduled for Sept. 14.
Historical Mystery. Oct. 6. Print length: 362 pages.
I love these stamps, but imagine Charlotte and Mrs. Watson in feminine attire, although Charlotte does, on occasion, assume a male disguise. :)
Thursday, September 10, 2020
Fran's elderly parents demand her presence every weekend and in addition to the long drive, she is expected to cook, clean, take care of the garden, and answer each request from crotchety parents who belittle her and depend on her.
At work, after driving back after a long, debilitating weekend, she is trying to cover her job and that of someone else as well. Exhausted and barely able to keep things together, Fran is struggling.
Mark Turner, colleague and friend, gets Fran a two-year-old case that will allow her some relief from trying to do too much. Mark has long been a friend, and it is clear that they care for each other...and that the caring could develop into something deeper.
The case Fran is working concerns a woman brutally attacked and left for dead. She remains in a vegetative state which has been pronounced permanent. Will Fran be able to determine who assaulted the woman?
I liked the plot and Fran's developing relationship with Mark Turner. As their friendship deepens into something more, each is able to offer support to the other, even as they are unsure about whether the other feels the same way.
While I liked the Kate Powers books, I like these characters better. Thanks, Cathy, for comment that gave me the heads up on this series. :) Oh, and for New Tricks, which I am enjoying.
Read in August.
Police Procedural. 2006. Print length: 396 pages.
I've read a couple of books by Allison Brennan, and each one has been fast-paced and suspenseful. On the minus side, the books are full of characters from previous books in the Lucy Kincaid series. Nevertheless, the books can be read as stand-alones.
from description: Two years ago, FBI Agent Lucy Kincaid put psychopath Elise Hansen Hunt in juvenile detention for her role in an organized crime syndicate. Now eighteen, Elise has been released with a clean slate, and plans to take her revenge by making Lucy’s life hell. The plot begins with Lucy’s husband Sean Rogan, who has been arrested for a murder he most certainly did not commit.
Cold as Ice is certainly as suspenseful as the other books I've read.
Strange how worried I can be for characters--when I know that in the end, things will work out. Nevertheless, I worried about Sean, feared Elise, and cheered all efforts to make sure the characters I cared about turned out OK. :) Brennan knows how to ratchet up the tension and keep her readers on edge.
Read in August; blog review scheduled for September 10.
NetGalley/St. Martin's Press
Suspense/Thriller. Oct. 27, 2020. Print length: 480 pages.
After the vicious murder of his wife and daughter, Charlie Parker is pursuing the killer. He ends up in Arkansas where young black girls have been brutally murdered, wondering if the same killer was at work. Even after deciding the murders were not by the same man who killed his wife and daughter, Charlie decides to help when the Police Chief asks.
This is a more straight forward murder investigation without some of the supernatural elements in most of the novels, but the book is every bit as engrossing as Charlie reveals the depth of corruption of a powerful family.
Connolly's writing is always haunting and suspenseful, and I enjoyed this glimpse into the way Charlie Parker moves from the hunt for the man who killed his family to using his skills as a former NYPD detective to solve other murders.
Recently, I found this:
Should you read John Connolly’s Charlie Parker novels? For me, the answer is an unqualified “yes”. They are intriguing, entertaining and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. A complete list is here. My only tip would be that although the first book, Every Dead Thing, was a big hit, I found it hard to get into, with an immense amount going on and multiple plot lines. The second book, Dark Hollow, worked better for me; and the third, The Killing Kind, kept me up late to find out what happened next. So if you are a Charlie Parker novice, you may want to consider not starting with the first book in the series. Indeed, if you read Every Dead Thing later, once you’ve become familiar with the protagonist, it will give you the dubious pleasure of learning exactly what ghastly fate befell Parker’s wife and child in the opening chapters of the series. (Source)
The prologue of the first novel almost made me put the book down. I think the idea of beginning with any of the other novels in the series would be better. The evil in the Charlie Parker novels is papable, and it is the supernatural that makes them bearable, giving the reader and out, the evil isn't real. (The Dirty South is a departure in the lack of the supernatural.)
In 2014, I read The Wolf in Winter, for the R.I.P. Challenge and then went back and picked up all that I'd missed. Now, I'm always on the lookout for more.
If you are planning on Carl's R.I.P. Challenge this year, try Dark Hollow or any of the later novels in the series, but buckle your seat belt--good vs evil is a frightening experience.
Read in June. Blog review scheduled for Sept. 10.
Police Procedural/Thriller. Oct. 20, 2020. print length: 448 pages.
Tuesday, September 08, 2020
When young Daniel Whitman is killed at a high-school party, the community is ripped apart. The death of Sanctuary's star quarterback seems to be a tragic accident, but everyone knows his ex-girlfriend Harper Fenn is the daughter of a witch--and she was there when he died.
VV James weaves a spellbinding tale of a town cracking into pieces and the devastating power of a mother's love. Was Daniel's death an accident, revenge--or something even more sinister?
As accusations fly, paranoia grips the town, culminating in a witch-hunt...and the town becomes no sanctuary at all.
America is a melting pot, but tradition remains an influence on all of us regardless of our origins. Some traditions and cultural influences are positive, and some are difficult to adapt to a new country. I loved the characters and their efforts to do the best they could for themselves and for those they love--and as we all know, it isn't always easy. From generation to generation, regardless of our points of ancestral origin, ideas and beliefs have to be adjusted.
Well-behaved Indian Women excelled at showing the choices necessary for both mothers and daughters as they struggle to make the best of their lives.
Read in August.
Women/Culture. July 14, 2020. Print length: 385 pages.
Sunday, September 06, 2020
Still Life has cold case DCI Karen Pirie involved in two cases. A traffic accident ends up revealing a skeleton in a van in a garage that has been there for at least ten years. As Karen and Jason investigate, they believe the body belongs to one of two women. However, in the midst of this investigation, Karen is sent to the Firth of Forth where a body has been discovered--connected to another cold case.
Juggling two cases, Karen must also deal with the release from prison of the man who killed her lover.
As usual, McDermid writes an absorbing tale with characters who have decided personalities of their own. Jason Murray, Karen's DC, is gaining confidence and is a loyal subordinate, and a new and interesting character is Daisy, who shows promise for future books.
In the last chapter, after both cases have been wrapped up, comes the change that has affected us all: the virus "that had been a whisper on the wind" as Karen, Jason, and Daisy investigated "had taken firm root in Scotland." All three "were warned of the lockdown that was to begin in the morning. They'd be working from home, whatever that meant in practice." What a conclusion. The case wrapped up, but their lives on hold.
I'm hoping McDermid will write a book dealing with Karen's team and crime during lockdown.
Read in June; blog review scheduled for Sept. 6.
Police Procedural/Cold Case. Oct. 6, 2020. Print length: 448 pages.
Wednesday, September 02, 2020
She knows immediately that the killer is local and not the man they've been chasing, but she still feels some responsibility to aid in the investigation.
This is Nikki's first return to Stillwater in 20 years. After her parents were murdered, Nikki couldn't wait to finish high school and leave town, which is one personal complication for Nikki. Another is that the man convicted of her parents' murders has drawn the attention of the Innocence Project and a number of townspeople have joined in support and want his conviction overturned. Nikki still believes he is guilty, but the situation adds complications.
Nikki has to confront the past and the present even as she tries to discover who killed Madison and Kayleigh--and in a surprising development, whether the murder of the two girls is in any way connected to the murders of her parents.
The Girls in the Snow has a lot of potential as a new series. I look forward to Nikki Hunt's next case.
Read in August; blog review scheduled for Sept. 2, 2020.
Police Procedural. Oct. 19, 2020. Print length: 347 pages.
Friday, August 28, 2020
A Fatal Thaw opened with a chilling murderer randomly shooting and killing with abandon. Sadly close to the kind of thing we have become accustomed to hearing about and as horrifying and difficult to understand.
from description: "Soon, nine people will be dead, seemingly the victims of a random act of violence—until a routine ballistics test reveals that one of the murders was anything but random."
One madman and one murder of opportunity disguised as part of the madman's killing spree. Kate and Mutt (wolf/huskey mix) step in to investigate.
Again, the glimpses into the culture of the Alaskan wilderness and indigenous people are informative and entertaining. The potlatch (ceremonial feast) organized by Kate's grandmother was a beautiful and touching event as various tribes honored the deceased.
Shugak packs so much into these books and does it so skillfully: characterization, plot, and setting are so adeptly blended that the reader feels truly immersed in the story.
Dead in the Water has Kate undercover on a crabbing boat from which two young men have gone missing.
In addition to the mystery of what happened to the young men, the dangers and financial rewards of fishing and crabbing in Alaskan waters is made perfectly and frighteningly real.
"These conditions add up to the deadliest occupation in the United States -- 128 per 100,000 Alaskan fishermen perished on the job in 2007, 26 times the national average [source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health]. Fishing deaths also make up about a third of all occupational fatalities in Alaska each year."
and "Crab pots and crab pot launchers are common sources of injuries. Fishermen get caught up in the coil lines. Working at the edge of the boat also puts them at risk of being swept off the deck and falling overboard."(source)
Also neatly intertwined with the plot is a history of the Aleut tribe and why they were removed from their original homes on the Aleutian Islands during WWII when Japanese troops occupied the islands of Attu and Kiska. The information about the Alaskan Scouts, a fascinating part of the defense of Alaska during the war was new to me.
"It wasn’t easy to become an Alaska Scout. The qualifications were stringent, and Castner handpicked them all—trappers, hunters, fishermen, dogsledders, miners, and prospectors. He also chose Native Alaskans—Aleuts, Eskimos, and American Indians. “They have one thing in common,” he said. “They’re tough.” (source)
Learning by reading fiction is the easiest and most memorable way to absorb history. Well, it works for me because I can't resist checking things out.
This time Kate is on the North Slope investigating drug-related deaths. She has personal grievances against the Prudhoe Bay oil company, but as she learns more about how the company operates, she is impressed with the amenities for workers who must spend much of their time in the far north and its deadly cold.
Not my favorite, but still very good!
Next up is Play with Fire, and I am making an effort to delay ordering it. I can feel myself weakening, however.
Tuesday, August 25, 2020
from description: "Koli never planned to set foot outside his small village. He knew that beyond its walls lay a fearsome landscape filled with choker trees, vicious beasts and Shunned men. But when he was exiled, he had no choice but to journey out into this strange world where every moment is a fight for survival.
Interesting (and surprising to me) was the addition of a second voice. Spinner, Koli's friend in Mythen Rood who married a Rampart, begins a second narrative about what happened in Mythen Rood after Koli's exile. While her experiences are vastly different from those of the group headed toward London, they are just as fascinating and informative.
I've been a fan of M.R. Carey since The Girl with All the Gifts, and I've appreciated both books in this new trilogy. Now, a wait for the final book. I do hate waiting.
Read in May; blog review scheduled for Aug. 25.
Post-Apocalyptic. Sept. 15, 2020. Print length: 480 pages.
Monday, August 24, 2020
From the description: THE CASE
Boys are being abducted, abused, and murdered on her patch, and Kate feels intense personal and professional pressure to catch those responsible. Are her colleagues being deliberately obstructive or simply dragging their feet? Who is behind the vile crimes?
Set in the 90's in Birmingham. Kate is being subjected to bullying by a member of her new team. She isn't exactly surprised, but is reluctant to take it to her superiors. When her new boss realizes the problem, he wants to do something about it, but Kate realizes that there are better ways than lodging a complaint. She wants proof that won't look as if she is a weak woman, and she wants to get on with finding the culprit abusing the young boys.
The main problem with the first books is the format. They don't allow for chapter separation and there are some abrupt changes of setting and characters that require adjustment.
I liked Kate and had questions about her boss. He seems genuine, but his interest in Kate is a little too personal.
Police Procedural. 1998/2020.
A brief acquaintance with a businessman on a flight ends up with Kate giving him her card and agreeing to perhaps have dinner sometime. Original title was Power Games.
When Alan Grafton is found dead of an apparent suicide, Kate is shocked. She is also angry as a message intended for her that Grafton left was "mislaid." Was it suicide or murder and could Kate have prevented his death if she had gotten the message?
The bullying continues with an additional target, a young Pakistani woman who has recently joined the team.
I'm still uneasy about Graham Harvey, Kate's boss. He's married, but is attracted to Kate. He also is a little ambiguous in his responses. Sometimes supportive, sometimes harsh. And again--married.
Police Procedural. 1999/2020
Murder by Arson has Kate shifting from her CID team to a temporary assignment with a special murder investigation squad. The original title was Power Games which is actually more accurate. In fact, I like all of the original titles better.
After an early morning tennis lesson, Kate discovers the body of a member in the dressing room. What initially appeared to be a heart attack on a healthy middle-aged woman, turns out to be murder.
More complications arise, both personal and professional.
Good News: "The Texas Department of Public Safety announced the promotion of three Texas Rangers to the rank of captain.
I think Attica Locke would be pleased with these promotions. If you haven't read her Highway 59 series featuring Texas Ranger Darren Mathews, you are missing an opportunity. Try Blue Bird, Blue Bird !
Friday, August 21, 2020
from description: Getting snowed in at a beautiful, rustic mountain chalet doesn’t sound like the worst problem in the world, especially when there’s a breathtaking vista, a cozy fire, and company to keep you warm. But what happens when that company is eight of your coworkers…and you can’t trust any of them?
The two caretaker/hosts Erin and Danny meet the members of a tech company who have gathered for a week of skiing and some important business decisions.
From the beginning, an awkwardness and differing opinions are evident among the guests. Then Eva, one of the group, goes missing on a closed slope and an avalanche isolates the group in the chalet. Well, you know from the title what happens next.
Told from two points of view, the book moves from the quarrels and divisions among the tech group to suspicion, distrust, and fear.
I didn't care for Turn of the Key, Ware's last book, but I enjoyed this one.
Read in May. Blog review scheduled for Aug. 21, 2020.
Suspense/Mystery. Sept. 8, 2020. Print length: 384 pages
Ann Cleeves always gets my attention and keeps it. Her skillful plotting and her vivid depictions of Vera in action are something I look forward to.
Blizzard-like conditions contrive to make Vera Stanhope miss the right turn-off on her way home. As she drives through the snow, she spots a car off the road. When she stops to check, she finds the driver side door open and a toddler in the back seat. With no sign of the driver, Vera takes the toddler her with to the closet house, which happens to be that of estranged relatives. The wealthier and more sophisticated Stanhopes have a dinner party in progress, and despite her reluctance, Vera has no choice but to interrupt it.
Sitting in the kitchen, checking with the police, Vera is shocked when the little boy's mother is found dead by a neighboring farmer who arrived on a tractor to pick up his daughters who were acting as waitresses for the Stanhope dinner.
The Darkest Evening kept me engrossed throughout, and I sped right through it, a little annoyed with my husband's interruptions in the afternoon. :)
Two slight changes from previous books made me like it even more. Of course, Vera is a bit unkempt and she is brusque with her colleagues, but she is a sharp and observant detective. It is particularly interesting to see the way Vera sees Joe and Holly--her team, and the way they view her.
The Darkest Evening is the 9th in the series, but can function as a stand-alone. Ann Cleeves has another winner in this one. I recently saw this quote about Vera and found it apt:
"... one of the most appealing fictional detectives to emerge since Andy Dalziel got into his stride..."
Martin Edwards, Spinetingler Magazine
NetGalley/St. Martin's Press
Police Procedural/Mystery. Sept. 8. 2020. Print length: 384 pages.
Tuesday, August 18, 2020
Claire's anger and behavior after her daughter's death has led to her being labeled as unhinged, but she can't let that stop her from trying to stop Simon.
from description: "Sloane Wilson left the LAPD to work as a “sin eater,” a contractor for hire who specializes in cleaning up inconvenient situations—situations which, for whatever reason, are better handled outside the law."
When Simon hires Sloane to make his problem go away, she takes a personal dislike to Claire from Simon's description. She determines to befriend Claire, however, and through plans A, B, or C make Simon's problem disappear.
Although a little put off by the erroneous interpretation of the term "sin eater," I became involved with the way the novel played out and the secrets that came to light.
Historically, a sin eater was hired to take food and drink when someone died, symbolically taking on the deceased's sins. In the novel, Sloane interprets being a sin eater as a fixer who is paid to clean up a client's mess--I see the connection, but it is so opposed to the traditional idea, which is the idea of sacrificially taking on the sins of a deceased to ease their way into heaven. A fixer makes problems go away for convenience.
Read in April. Blog review scheduled for Aug. 18.
NetGalley/ Penzler Productions
Mystery. Sept. 1, 2020. Print length: 288 pages.
Sunday, August 16, 2020
From description: The young warrior and bard Liobhan has lost her brother to the Otherworld. Even more determined to gain a place as an elite fighter, she returns to Swan Island to continue her training. But Liobhan is devastated when her comrade Dau is injured and loses his sight in their final display bout. Blamed by Dau's family for the accident, she agrees to go to Dau's home as a bond servant for the span of one year.
There, she soon learns that Oakhill is a place of dark secrets. The vicious Crow Folk still threaten both worlds. And Dau, battling the demon of despair, is not an easy man to help.
Darker than the first novel as Liobhan is treated ill as a bond servant and Dau is denied adequate care. Dau's older brother Seanan is a nasty piece of work.
Now waiting for the third book!
Read in June; blog review scheduled for Aug. 16.
Fantasy. Sept. 1, 2020.
Perhaps the penultimate novel in this series about Crispin Guest, the London Tracker. :(
An odd couple, a body interred in a wall, a precious relic, a murder and further threats all woven in together as Crispin attempts to discover the guilty party. His own life has both satisfactions and potential problems.
I've enjoyed this series since the first book, and I'm sorry that the author is planning to end it. I do understand her reasons, but I will miss the intriguing mysteries and the well-developed and evolving characters. Westerson plans to end the series with the next book.
Read in June; blog review scheduled for Aug. 16.
Medieval Mystery. Sept. 1, 2020.
I'm not sure what his deal is, but Edgrr is becoming a computer problem. OK...he takes up half or more of the chair--I can deal with that. But his desk browsing truly annoys me, and he's fast and persistent.
Thursday, August 13, 2020
Magical sigils, dead apprentices, hobgoblins, curses, a battle seer, and lots of jokes about bollocks. The characters are interesting, the mystery a little forced.
Some of it was fun and funny, so seemed strained and overdone, but as the first in a new series, I enjoyed it and see potential.
Read in May. Blog review scheduled for
Scifi/Fantasy. Aug. 25, 2020. Print length: 336 pages
Margot Livesey's The Boy in the Field is a wonderful combination of complexity and simplicity. Three young people walking home from school discover an injured boy in a field.
Stabbed and left by the stranger who picked him up on his way home, Karel whispers a word which each three siblings hears differently. Karel recovers, thanks to the interventions of Matthew, Zoe, and Duncan, but the lives of all four young people are changed. One traumatic incident with lasting, but different effects.
Livesey's prose tenderly examines the rippling repercussions of the one violent attack. The crime is sort of an inciting incident, and the narrative quietly follows the three siblings and the victim through their adolescence. Family dynamics play a role as the four grow into adulthood.
I loved this book. It was not at all what I expected, but it will remain one of those memorable experiences of both narrative and elegant writing that lingers for some time.
Read in March. Review scheduled for Aug.
Literary Fiction. Aug. 11, 2020. Print length: 272 pages.
For you knitters: Yarn Bowl from Something Lucky 13